Those of us who gathered along Washington Square West at the intersection of Washington Place early Friday evening made our own fun as we stood patiently waiting for a glimpse of the special guests. After hearing a little earlier the helicopters fly over and then the sound of police sirens, I had a hunch that President Obama and the First Lady were somewhere in the neighborhood. I walked over to the park, and sure enough, a crowd was gathering at the aforementioned intersection. It was quickly determined that the First Couple had chosen Blue Hill, an elegant but unpretentious restaurant that emphasizes fresh seasonal food, for dinner before heading to see a Broadway play.
For two hours, while the couple dined inside, we watched the slow and deliberate motions of the New York police officers and Secret Service personnel as they worked to keep us in line. Much attention was directed toward the heavily-armed men and the suited men from the Secret Service. All wore ear pieces, maintained a look of cool and calm, and in general, lived up to what we think of Secret Service from the movies. Our own New York police officers outwardly showed more humor with the assembling crowd, as they're accustomed to humoring us.
Standing around for two hours waiting for some sign of the First Couple to emerge from the restaurant created the condition that any little thing could be a source of amusement. When the group of Secret Service guys in the van rolled up one of the tinted windows, part of our group made audible sounds of disappointment, and when they rolled the window back down, it was greeted with cheers. Mostly we just chatted with one another about the restaurant, the circumstances of us being there, or how one of the suited Secret Service members never moved. We all enjoyed the low passing of an NYPD helicopter and another incident when a guy obliviously drove his bicycle into the intersection before being stopped.
Two hours later, as the sun was going down, a roar rose up from the crowd. In the middle of Washington Place, a couple of figures moved quickly to an open car door, and if we didn't blink, we could see the friendly and familiar wave. Then the entourage headed west to Sixth Avenue and up to Broadway where other crowds gathered to greet the Obamas at the theater.
Walking home, I thought how lucky I was to live in an historic neighborhood in which the First Couple chose to dine, how I'd seen the President speak at the park in late September of 2007 when he was a candidate and how much his life had changed. For most people, going out to dinner doesn't require that much fire power. Nearing home, I passed by on the sidewalk the singer Tony Bennett who was out strolling with a friend. He looked really good and had on a handsome tan suit. It was back to normal life in the Village.
Image by Walking Off the Big Apple, May 30, 2009.