A plaque marking the place where Barack and Michelle Obama shared their first kiss in 1989 in Hyde Park, Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson/ Getty Images
Baskin-Robbins has moved to a new locating a few doorways away. Standing behind a bank of ice cream on a cold day, cashier Bianca Smith, 29, expressed a sentiment true for many here: sorrow at Obamas departure and trepidation at what is to come. I wish he could run again for chairperson. Trump merely dont have any experience, especially campaign experience. He cant operate his own damned hotel and now hes going to run the world? Im kind of nervous.
Down the street is Valois ,~ ATAGEND a eatery that opened in 1921, another favourite Obama haunt. Today it has a menu poster that extol, President Obamas favorites, including NY steak and eggs for $9.95 and two flapjacks for $6.25. More photos adorn the walls. Sitting at the window on Monday was Herb Robinson, a property investor, wearing a shirt that combined four Chicago sports teams.
Robinson, 65, who worked on Obamas first campaign and was among the 240,000 people in Grant Park on election night, satisfied the president at Valois. He has an excellent memory and he recollected me from when I was campaigning for him, he said. People here wish he could stay, but he served two terms and thats the most a chairperson can serve.
But Robinson, too, is wary of the next chairwoman. I dont believe very highly of him. Hes a big liar, an exaggerator. America is definitely going to make a change for the worse. I dont trust him. I dont believe a word he tells. Full of shit. It astounded me how he got in.
Below street level, the low-ceilinged 57th Street Books ,~ ATAGEND meanwhile, is where Obama launched his two volumes. For the first, Dreams from My Father( 1995 ), only about half a dozen people turned up, according to urban legend. For the second, The Audacity of Hope, the crowd was more substantial.
The shop is part of Seminary Co-op Bookstores, of which Obama has been a member since the 1980 s. Its director, Jeff Deutsch, will be at the speech on Tuesday night. There are a couple of different Chicagos, he said. What Obama means to history is the best of the south side: a wonderfully diverse community that has deep roots and cares about ideas, justice, empathy, compassion. Hes been incredibly inclusive and thats been part of this community as well.
At Medici ,~ ATAGEND a eatery with faux medieval decor that promoted customers to write graffiti, one section of wall has been framed behind glass: it is signed, Malia Obama with a heart. The family used to dine here but not all todays patrons are fans. Diner Joel Smith, 65, a retired technologist, will not be watching the farewell address. Im glad hes run, he told. It was eight years of nothing.
Jobs have gone abroad, the countrys in a sad state militarily and hes promulgated all sorts of antisemitic policies. Why do you think Trump got elected? Now Obamas going to build a library in the park, so he can still rule and people will kiss his ring.
Strictly speaking, however, Obama will go back to what he was: a citizen.
Jon Arnold, 57, a journalist and historian, recalled a sighting in Hyde Park long before the world had heard the name Barack Obama. He was standing with a clipboard petitioning to be country senator. I said, There runs another sleazy legislator wholl never get anywhere.