[Editors Note: Due to variable conditions beyond our control this post is arriving late to cyber time. On behalf of life, we apologize.]
] Art on the wall where our next President gets his hair shortened
B_lue bird skies and slightly warming temperatures greeted us this morning as we woke up on the outskirts of China Town in Chicago. Icicles dripped and sparkled in the early morning sun, as the snow became perfect for sculpting, packing and throwing. Shaking off a weird and late night in the bowels of the Windy City, our momentum was slow to build. Just before noon we were driving to the south side of Chicago, navigating the hustle and bustle of Obama's beloved Hyde Park neighborhood. _
Within minutes of exiting the highway, we passed through a patchwork of broke down ghettos, thriving University of Chicago student enclaves and visibly wealthy stretches of stoic, strong Brownstone townhouses lining winter frosted streets. Unlike prior Presidents who called fortified rural ranches or multi-million dollar coastal compounds home when they weren't at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the President-Elect is from the City. His house, well protected by road closures and nearly a dozen of Chicago's finest even though it's owner is more than 1,000 miles away, sits on the edge of a college campus and is just a few minutes walk away from a tasty little joint called Ribs and Bibs. Even better, Obama's barbershop of the past 14 years, the Hyde Park Hair Salon, is less than two blocks away from his front door on Greenwood Street.
_ Finger licking good_
Looking to dig the vibe in this former stomping ground of folks like Muhammad Ali and Hugh Hefner less than 48 hours before its most famous current resident is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America, the Obama Express went off the rails today and traveled by foot, mini-van and a surprisingly spacious 2-door Pontiac as we made our way around some of Obama's favorite Hyde Park haunts.
After getting a driving tour of the area from Almarie Wagner (a dear friend of Kodiak's Aunt Fran who has known Barack and his wife for the past decade), we took to the streets, eventually winding up at Obama's barbershop. Located in the heart of the Hyde Park 'hood for the past 81 years, the barbershop is as much about community as it is about shortening your hair. And now, thanks to Obama's new job, it is also a bit of a tourist destination. Chatting while tuning up the fade on a regular, shop owner Ishmael Alamin, talked fondly about another one of his regulars. "We are proud, man, real proud." he beamed before adding, "But it has been pretty busy lately- all sorts of people asking for the Obama Cut. We even had a tour group in here this morning."
] Ishmael Alamin tunes up another happy customer at the Hyde Park Hair Salon
From the Salon we walked around the corner to the Valois Cafeteria- a cash only eatery that specializes in things like macaroni and cheese, Spinach Pie and all day breakfast. A local favorite with a motto of "See your food", Valoi's is celebrated as an Obama chow stop. Several employees explained that the man who will soon be the leader of the Free World, even after his political star had risen, continues to bring his family in for lunch so much that they had to name a sandwich after him.
_ The view above Valoi's_
And then, about a block for Voloi's was, the old Baskin Robbins ice cream shop, currently vacant and for lease, where, according to Wagner, Obama and Michelle shared their first kiss. "It is too bad they closed down," lamented Almarie as we drove by, "Can you imagine how popular they would be now?"
] One of Chicago's finest questions the weird California long hair taking a picture of Casa Obama
Currently, we are back at the train station, watching playoff football and waiting for our 17-hour overnight ride to Washington to depart. With any luck, by lunchtime tomorrow we will in Obama's new 'hood, hanging out with millions of like minded Americans on the eve of a day that will no doubt enjoy an entire chapter of its own in the history books of the future. Oh yeah, and if you needed any more evidence of a mystical, mojo rising, tomorrow also marks the national observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Let the flat iron steaks sizzle and the eastern states blur by in our window- the Obama Express rolls on:
_ Within 3 minutes of being in this place, we were involved in a heated debate about who would win in a showdown between Superman and Spider Man. Though many good point were raised, the overall consensus was that, unless Spidy had some "kryptonite webs going", he was a dead man_