The Vasquezes' house guest rose on his own Thursday morning, bounding out of his room about 6 a.m. with a cheery "Good morning!"
Good thing too, Gloria Vasquez thought to herself. Because how, after all, does one wake up the vice president of the United States?
Next thing she knew, Al Gore joined her and her husband, Emilio "Ed" Vasquez, at the dining room table, where he took several hearty helpings of eggs frittata before heading off to Cudahy to spend a day at the school where Emilio serves as principal.
"We had a really good conversation, like you would with a friend over breakfast," Gloria Vasquez said. "At first, it was kind of awe-inspiring. But he's a very real person, a personable guy."
Their suburban Western Avenue home had been a frenzy of activity since Gloria and Emilio got the news that Gore would be spending Wednesday night with them as part of an ongoing effort by his presidential campaign to tout the vice president's education agenda.
They knew the presumptive Democratic candidate for president was coming to Los Angeles County this week to spend a day at Emilio's school, the Elizabeth Learning Center. They knew Gore wanted to spend the night with a local teacher, as he's done several times in the last two months.
But it was only Monday that Gloria Vasquez, the principal of Glendale High School, came home to find a message on the answering machine from one of Gore's aides.
Close to Burbank Airport
The Vasquezes had been selected to host the vice president--mostly because their Glendale home is close to the Burbank airport that Gore was flying into late Wednesday night. She was told the campaign's advance staff would be coming to see their house and the Secret Service would check out the neighborhood.
"Oh my God," Vasquez thought. "He's coming here? Do I have time to paint the house and put in new carpet in two days?"
At Vasquez's request, students in the catering class at Glendale High made a breakfast for Gore ahead of time, ready to be reheated Thursday morning. But because the Vasquezes were told to be discreet, the students only knew that they were cooking for "a special visitor."
The menu: vegetable and sausage eggs frittata, zucchini bread, fresh fruit, fresh orange juice and freshly ground Kona coffee.
"I'm a good cook," Gloria said sheepishly. "But I'm a little nervous."
The only thing more nerve-racking, she told her husband, would be if Martha Stewart were coming to spend the night.
"I think my wife is going to have a nervous breakdown," Emilio joked Wednesday.
Fifth to Host Vice President
The Vasquezes are the fifth family to host Gore in the last few months. So far, the vice president has slept in children's rooms several times. In one home, he slept under G.I. Joe sheets. At others, posters of teen stars Britney Spears, 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys decorated the walls of his rooms.
The Vasquezes, who have two grown children, have a spare room to lodge guests, so they didn't have to stick Gore in a teenager's room. Sleeping quarters for the vice president were a corner room with windows that look onto the front and side yard, a mirrored, sliding-door closet, a wicker desk with a television and VCR, a treadmill and three wall hangings that feature a cruise ship, a street in Paris and a ballet.
The Vasquezes' guest room just had a small wicker daybed. So they decided to rent a full-size bed for their 6-foot-1 guest.
Wednesday morning, as the vacuum cleaner roared over the orange carpet, the Vasquez phone rang. It was Peggy, one of her best friends. Gloria Vasquez couldn't contain herself any longer.
"You can keep a secret, right?" she asked Peggy, trying to keep her voice even as she confided the vice president's pending visit. "Yeah, it's pretty fabulous. . . . Yup, he's just by himself. Tipper isn't coming. . . . Oh, I don't know that I'll get invited to the White House."
After a long day of campaigning in Washington; Jacksonville, Ark.; and Dallas, Gore flew into Burbank about 11 p.m.
About 11:15, a helicopter whirred overhead and eight motorcycles, followed by a long motorcade, pulled up in front of the Vasquez house.
The vice president stepped out of a shiny blue Suburban and greeted the Vasquezes, who were waiting outside. "Thank you for sharing the hospitality of your home," he said. Before going inside, Gore greeted neighbors crowding the sidewalk.
Inside, the vice president joined Gloria and Emilio on the overstuffed couches in the living room. For about 40 minutes, the two longtime educators chatted with Gore about their schools, teacher incentives and equitable pay. He asked them about their backgrounds and told them Tipper is a photographer.
"He's really easygoing, really attentive," Emilio said. "You get a real feeling of sincerity from him."
About midnight, after a tour of the house, the vice president retired to his room. "I could see he was a little bleary-eyed," Emilio said.
The next morning, after breakfast, Emilio escorted his guest to school, where he spent the entire day on the Cudahy campus.
Gore was a charming house guest, the Vasquezes said. He even cleared his breakfast plates--although he didn't make his bed.
That's OK, Gloria Vasquez said. She wants to put a sign over the rumpled sheets: "Vice President Al Gore slept here."