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Spiritually ravenous, the pair spent 10 days in a Buddhist monastery, separated from their possessions, separated from each other, discouraged from making eye contact, and left to meditate and fast.
They went on to Saipan, Bangkok, India and Rome. They bought a Volkswagen camper in Amsterdam and traveled to Spain.
Gorton returned to the United States and to his hard-hitting political work. Some of his acquaintances had warned him he’d lose momentum or gain a reputation for being unreliable by taking off to travel around the world. But he made more money in 1986 than he’d ever made before, and took off again in 1987.
“George is an interesting person who periodically wants to do his thing,” Golding says. “If you wanted George and his talents, you accepted George as he was.”
As stressful as the discrepancy was between trying to be peaceful, meditative, caring for others in the odd-numbered years and running cutthroat campaigns and negative commercials in the evens, Gorton held onto both.
“I balance my life in extremes,” he says.
Even now, Gorton’s friends in the spiritual world don’t understand how he’s a Republican political consultant. The political people he runs with “can’t understand what the hell I’m doing in the spiritual world,” he says.
But to the closest of his associates, his spirituality informs his work.
“I think that the fact that George has demonstrated this extraordinary prowess in the world of politics and business, it is not mysterious to me at all that he also demonstrated this extraordinary prowess in the world of formlessness,” Barlin Gorton says. “What’s extraordinary about George is that he can see the connection.”
The Emergence of a Long-Lost Son | In 1989, Gorton returned home from a trip and heard the voice of his high-school sweetheart, Linda Kooiman, on his answering machine. That wasn’t unusual. The two checked in on each other a few times a year.
“Hi, George, how are you?” she said.
“Fine,” he replied.
“Would you like to talk to your son?” she asked.
She passed the phone to Steven Moore, a 21-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma. Gorton heard his voice and couldn’t breathe.
Gorton knew he had a son, but didn’t expect to ever meet him. When Kooiman was pregnant two decades earlier, she asked the 21-year-old Gorton if he wanted to get married. He refused. “I was a young man in a hurry,” he says. They put the baby up for adoption.
“I didn’t have any framework for him,” Gorton says. “I didn’t know whether I should say I love you. I wanted two minutes to pull myself together.”
Moore had just been through this ordeal days earlier when Kooiman tracked him down. “For me it was just like, another parent? Bring it on,” he says.
Moore told his new father that it would be fine. After a couple of minutes, Gorton asked if he could call Moore back the next day after collecting himself.
The two got along famously. Moore came to California a few months later to meet Kooiman, and visited San Diego to spend some time with Gorton. Father and son looked each other up and down — the ponytailed, motorcycle-riding Amnesty International volunteer and journalism major, and his father, a Republican political consultant.
They sat across a table from each other for hours, discovering similarities seen and unseen.
Moore played the trumpet; Gorton played the trumpet. Moore lettered in one sport, wrestling; Gorton lettered in one sport, wrestling. And even more specific — Moore had tickets to a Rolling Stones concert and didn’t go; Gorton had tickets to a Rolling Stones concert and didn’t go.
“What do you say to this person who you’ve just met who’s your father?” Moore says. “There’s this sense of closeness. We both noticed at the same time that we were doing the same gestures. This person I’ve just met is mirroring me!”
Moore returned to California for an internship on the 1990 Wilson campaign for governor.
“It’s almost like cheating, you know,” Gorton says. “You get all of this extra love and you didn’t have to do anything for it.”
Moore’s adopted father had died when he was 15. “I was sort of in the market for a father figure,” Moore says. “George ended up being a big-brother figure.”
Barlin Gorton gave birth to a son, A.J., the summer after that first phone call. With Wilson’s 1990 gubernatorial win, the couple moved to Sacramento with the transition team, and bought a motor home to travel the western United States in the odd-numbered 1991.
But as Gorton’s career stretched towards its pinnacle, Barlin Gorton placed greater priority on staying home with A.J. They divorced in 1992.
Unlike with Moore, Gorton has played a significant role in A.J.’s youth. He’s been known to campaign in San Diego in the morning, fly up to Arizona for one of A.J’s football games, and fly back to continue campaign operations that evening.