My neighbor is running for president
Barack Obama? Oh sure, he's just a guy from the next block over.
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I've eaten at the Medici, too – where the servers are now wearing "Obama Eats Here" T-shirts – and so I think I'm one-tenth of my way to the White House. Of course, I would wait until Obama were done with it.Skip to next paragraph
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When Michelle Obama cites her favorite restaurant (Calypso Cafe) and bookstore (57th Street Books), I know where those places are, and I love them, too. Michelle and I have never been spotted in any of these establishments at the same time, but it's sort of like we have, because we're not talking about Macy's or Bennigan's – these are local, independent businesses defined by the people who support them.
It feels as if everyone in Hyde Park has an insider's view on a phenomenon most people have only experienced through a television screen or inside a football stadium (and literally, we do: If I could just get past the secret-service detail, I could look in the man's window).
My father likes to tell people that his neighbor Barack calls him all the time, when, what he really means is, someone from the campaign has called again and asked him for just a little more money on Barack's behalf.
And I found myself grasping for my own little piece of the candidate, too, on this recent trip home, over-excitedly asking a few too many friends, "Do you want to see Obama's house?!" Because, you know, I know where it is."
My father, my friend Allison, and I walked over one Sunday afternoon just to see how close we could get and exactly what would happen.
We took the more residential back road, 50th Street, and I was sorry that we hadn't thought to bring a stroller, or a dog, something that would give more credibility to our "we're just out for a walk" cover story.
"Excuse me, can I help you?" The man, in khakis and a burgundy button-down shirt, walked over from a Chicago Police Department car blocking the end of Obama's street.
"Oh, can we not go down here?" we asked. Turned out, Obama was actually home ("in residence," as they say), and this guy was secret service.
"Aren't you supposed to be wearing sunglasses?" my father asked. The agent pulled out a pair of dark shades to humor us and explained that agents usually adopt the wardrobe style of their protectees. I pictured Obama coming out to his porch to get the newspaper in the same khakis and burgundy shirt.
The agent was surprisingly nice, but not nice enough to let us continue on our walk. And so we turned around to go home – "we live just right around the block," we explained, because this distinguished us from the Obama gawkers who aren't from Hyde Park, who aren't his neighbors, just out on a Sunday afternoon stroll down the street where Obama just happens to live.