My 'Secret' Day With President Obama
Don't Worry, Friends. My Visit With Obama Will Not Change Me At All!
SPECIAL NOTICE TO: Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security. If your highly-trained agents are reading this, ‘thanks so very much!’ And in all honesty, this is fiction, but the subject that I am writing about is not outside of the realm of possibility. Just giving you an American heads-up. The fair thing to do. (I wrote this because I didn't have the guts to be a rebel and publish this story without this disclaimer. KA.)
Let me see now. Oh yeah. It was a week ago last Wednesday. Or was it Thursday? Funny how we can forget those highly-important dates especially when powerful people include you, an average citizen, in their lives if only for a day.
I was just sitting in the living room of my simple, three bedroom, one bath, home of simple suburban-design, on a Wednesday. Yes, I will stick with Wednesday, when my phone rang which is a rarity because no one of any intelligence calls me. For anything. Or any reason. Well, I have to tell the truth. Once in awhile a telemarketer phones me to sell me some discreet pills for men that will do wonders for, well, you know. And maybe my wife who works at Walmart, Hamilton, Alabama, but outside of these parties, I am glad to receive NO phone calls.
I picked up the phone and answered, “Hello.” A man’s deep voice asked, “Knock. Knock”
Taken back, I didn’t let this man’s voice intimidate me. I responded, “Who’s there?” The deep voice said, “Barack!” “Barack who?” I asked--softly chuckling to myself. “Not Barack ‘who,’ but President Barack Obama, that’s who--haw, haw, haaa, ha!” “Barack! You rascal! What’s going on, sir?” I respectfully-asked.
Now-President of The United States, Barack Obama, was known for his prankish phone calls back when I knew him in Chicago where he served as Senator. Today, President Obama hasn’t lost that sharp sense of humor that made him the odds-on favorite in the 2010 Presidential Election.
“Ken,“ Barack said. “You don’t have to call me sir, but thanks for the respect. I find that (some) people don’t respect me as much as they did when I went into office,” he continued with sadness in his voice. I was feeling very sorry for Barack about now, but just as a tear was forming on my cheek, he threw me a curve when he asked, “I just thought you’d like to come to Washington and just, hang out today,” he said as if he lived next door to me. I didn’t have time to think about his question before he said, “Hey, Ken, just come casual and I’ll send Air Force One to meet you. Cool?” “Sure, Mr. Pres . . ., I mean, Barack. Why not?” I replied with the giddiness of a school girl experiencing her first crush on a male classmate named, “Tom.”
Naturally I was excited about spending the day with my good friend, Barack Obama, the first African American in history to serve in the Office of The President of The United States. What to wear? Just what do I wear to Barrack’s (white) House, was plaguing my mind because let’s face it. President and Mrs. Obama, (I call her Michelle), are the two most-powerful people on the earth and both are fashion-plates. I didn’t see anything in my cramped closet that would come near being nice enough to hang out with Barack. I then remembered what he said, ‘just come casual,‘ so I decided on just a simple sports shirt, slacks, and sneakers. Just maybe if President and Mrs. Obama would not look at me too close, I might just get away with my everyday clothes.
In the past, I have told you that I live in a small town, Hamilton, Alabama, which is bigger than the fictitious Mayberry of Andy Griffith fame, but way smaller than our nearest city, Birmingham, Alabama. I said that to say this. Our airport in Hamilton cannot accommodate an airliner such as Air Force One, so I asked by good friend and Alabama Crimson Tide football fan, Richard “Big Boy” Gann if he would be so kind as to let me pay him to take me to the Birmingham International Airport. Gann said, “Sure, Ken. No problem.” Gann is a big-hearted guy. That’s how he gained the nickname, “Big Boy.” I was grateful that Gann was in a generous mood, for he only wanted to eat at Baumhauer’s Wings Sports Grille in Hoover, Alabama, a town near Birmingham, as payment for taking me to meet ‘my good buddy,’ Barack Obama.
On the way to Birmingham, I noticed that Gann was driving much slower than usual. In my excitement to meet my good friend, Barack, I might have irritated Gann a bit as I suggested, “Richard, can this car go over 65?” Gann scowled at me for a moment. Smiled and kicked it into overdrive. “What you so edgy for, Ken--you going to meet President Obama?” Gann said with a laugh. I said, “Yes, Richard. I just happened to be doing just that. Meeting my good friend, President Obama.” Gann was not aware that I knew Barack when we were both younger men in Chicago, Illinois. I wondered later why I hadn’t told Richard, also a good pal of mine, about my friendship with Barack. Gann didn’t argue with me as he threw in a Lynyrd Skynyrd CD and we listened to some vintage Southern Rock on our way to Birmingham.
“President Obama? Yeah right, Ken!” Gann eventually said between Lynyrd Skynyrd songs--Gimme Three Steps and Free Bird. “I’ve known you to come up with some ‘dillies,’ but meeting our president?” Gann added with curiosity in his voice.
“Richard,” I said. “If you were to pull off of this very interstate, I-22, (runs from Hamilton to Birmingham), I would tell you all about how I know President Obama, but you would probably just give it the horse laugh and not believe me,” I explained while searching for more vintage rock CD’s in Gann’s glove compartment.
Richard didn’t pursue the argument. I guess he was sold on the idea that even someone such as “I” could be friends with someone as powerful and popular as Barack Obama.
We arrived in Hoover, Alabama, the home of Baumhauer’s Wings Sports Grille in plenty of time for Richard to eat his usual two and a half pounds of hot wings with a gallon of sweet tea. Then it was off to the Birmingham International Airport for me to meet President Obama. Richard said that he had to get back to Hamilton, where we both live, so he asked if I would be okay in just waiting in the airport lobby to let him get on the road back home? I agreed. Shook Richard’s huge hand and bid him a safe trip. I heard him burp, very loudly, as he got back into his car. Must have been the massive amount of hot wings.
When you are waiting for someone, time seemingly goes from fast to slow in the wink of an eye. I sat down in the airport lobby to await the arrival of Air Force One to whisk me away from Birmingham all the way to Washington, D.C. Was I excited! I had never been on any Air Force One’s from any president of our country, but Barack is different from all the other presidents. He cares for me and the American public. And I had always told him, “You gotta be able to sell yourself before you sell the product in your suitcase, Barack.” And thankfully, he remembered my friendly advice.
Something must be wrong, I thought. Time is easing by and this can only mean that there was a national or international crisis that arose to keep my buddy, Barack, from coming to Birmingham to pick me up for our day of hanging out and just being the guys. No pressure. No deadlines. And no press. Talk about a utopia. This would definitely be that. Just Barack and me. I kept thinking, “have patience. Barack is a busy man. If he said he will come. He will come.”
To pass the time, I tested myself mentally to review some true, unknown facts about my buddy, my tardy buddy, President Obama:
• He is left-handed – the sixth post-war president to be left-handed
• He has read every Harry Potter book.
• He worked in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop as a teenager and now can't stand ice cream.
• His favorite snacks are chocolate-peanut protein bars.
• He ate dog meat, snake meat, and roasted grasshopper while living in Indonesia.
• He can speak Spanish.
• While on the campaign trail he refused to watch CNN and had sports channels on instead.
• His favorite drink is black forest berry iced tea.
• He promised Michelle he would quit smoking before running for president – he didn't.
I did this mental test to be on my toes in case anyone from the Secret Service, who always precedes the president on his trips to make sure that security measures are intact and it is safe for the president to continue to his destination.
A few passersby wandered around in front of me. They looked like they were from a foreign country. Probably waiting to be picked up by friends and relatives. I looked at my watch and began to grow anxious. Obama was really late. For our ‘solitary important guy date,’ and I was almost ready to explode with frustration when the foreign-looking people in front of me, suddenly threw off their caps, fake horn rim glasses and lunged at me. I was, to say the least, concerned. I didn’t have any cash or valuables for them in case this was a mugging. I just tried my best to stay cool. Not make eye-contact and maybe they would leave me alone.
“Get on the ground! Secret Service!” the three muscular men and one muscular woman, all dressed in black yelled at me. Yes, you bet. I complied. Right then and there. No one in their right mind is going t challenge the American Secret Service.
“Your name is Ken Avery. You live in a small, Mayberry-type town of Hamilton, Alabama with a lot of famous brand-name restaurants, you are married, you maintained a C average in Hamilton High School and your underwear size is 16,” one of the gruff agents said to me--staring me in the face.
“Yes, sir,“ I said, “You are correct in all of your statements. I guess you want know . . .” I was interrupted by the lady Secret Service agent, “Lillie,” I think, “We know why you are here. Shut up and stand up so we can make sure that you are not carrying any guns, knives, utility knives, or nail clippers,” she ordered. By now, I confess. I was beginning to feel like a hold-up victim.
“Sirs, would you let “Lillie” be the one who frisks me, for I don’t get any perks at my age anymore?” I asked to the two male agents who only frowned at me.
“Lillie,” did an excellent job of frisking me and smiled, a little, when I whispered, “I sure love the scent of your federal government-issued Secret Service shampoo.” Actually, “Lillie” was not that bad looking with her brunette hair--full and falling on her shoulders. “Lillie” was Puerto Rican, I guess, for she was a golden tan--with the most beautiful, full, red lips, was in great shape and men, she had a great shape, let me tell you, but I didn’t want any trouble so I just kept my mouth shut.
“Stand still. Be quiet,” “Harold,” the lead Secret Service agent yelled. “He’s here,” he continued. And by the ‘he,’ it was my good buddy, my friend, Barack Obama. He did keep his word. Why did I ever doubt him?
My knees shook in excitement. My heart raced. My throat was dry. I then felt silly because this was ‘only’ Barack Obama, my dear friend. So what if he ran the most-powerful country on earth? He was still my buddy and I was excited. “Leon,” “Harold’s” second-in-command, leered at me and my European carry-all, which they had searched only to find my Kleenex in case I had an allergy attack, a half-roll of Tums for my occasional upset stomach and a 8 x 10 color photo of Obama that I had wrote the White House in 2008 and request be sent to my address. It had Obama’s name stamped on it. How I loved that picture of Barack in his honest, down-to-earth pose--smiling at the camera. It was stamped, “Good luck, Ken! Your bud, “O,” his nickname that I had given him years ago.
Secret Service agents, “Harold,” “Leon,” and pretty “Lillie,” escorted me, without handcuffs, to Air Force one where I started to climb the retractable stairs when “Lillie,” shoved me aside. “Sir! You must NOT go in front of us! It’s our job to make sure that the way is secure for President Obama to meet you!” she said in that soft and sensual Puerto Rican voice that I loved so well.
I obeyed “Lillie,” and the other agents and stood as still as an Oak tree. “Hey, guys, why do this--Barack and me are good friends?” I asked halfway knowing the answer ahead of time.
“Sir! Are all people from your town as ignorant as you, Ken? Huh?” “Leon,” who up to now had not had much to say, barked.
Luckily, nothing more was said as they helped me up from the tarmac where they had told me to lay while they inspected the stairs, doorway and surrounding areas to make sure it was safe for me to meet my buddy, Obama.
“Lillie,” went first and how I loved her walk, then “Harold,” the lead Secret Service agent with his second, “Leon,” with me in tow. I was so excited to be meeting my long-time buddy, Barack Obama, again. We had not seen each other since his days in Chicago politics where he single-handily brought reform to his district, cleaned up the streets and implemented many positive and needed educational projects.
The agents did not enter the white door of Air Force One. Then a loud voice shattered the silence around the airport unloading area, “Kennnn! It’s you! You old dog!” said President Obama who almost ripped me into with his strong bear hug. “Nice to see you. You ready to hang out and have some fun?” he added. I was immediately in shock. This was President Obama. The man. The head man of our country--greeting me with a bear hug and dressed in khaki shorts that came to the knees, a dark blue, pull-over sports shirt and loafers without socks. When he told me casual, he meant it.
“Harold,” “Leon,” and pretty “Lillie,” were sent to the back of Air Force One while Barack and I relaxed in the passenger area where he does his work while flying from our country abroad or to do a great deed like picking me, an average man, up just to hang out with him. What a great guy!
I couldn’t wait to see the Oval Office. And the rest of the White House. I casually asked if “Lillie,” was assigned to the security detail for my visit to the White House. Barack had that devilish-look in his eye and said, “Now, Kennn! You know that you cannot touch her, but I can ask her, as a personal favor, to, as we will say in our report of your visit, ‘watch over you,’ while you are with me. That sounded great to me.
“How’s Pam and the Walmart thing, Ken?” Barack asked while handing me a cup of Community coffee.
“Fine, Mr. Pres . . ., I mean, Barack. Thanks for asking, “ I replied. The coffee was perfect. A man and his entire family could easily live on Air Force One for years. It was fully-stocked with good food, drinks, juices, breads and the ultimate in security devices. You name the security device and it was on Air Force One.
“What did Pam say about you ‘sneaking’ off to hang out with me today?” Barack asked with concern in his face.
“Now, Barack. You know Pam. She didn’t care, but if it had been, pardon me for saying this, former President Clinton, she would have hit the roof,” I explained while drinking more Community coffee.
With us both relaxed, we sat quietly for a few minutes while Air Force One made it’s way to Washington, D.C. I didn’t say anything to Barack, but I didn’t eat any breakfast and I was too ashamed to ask him for a snack. I guess after all these years of knowing him, I was still star-struck and in awe of this highly-intelligent leader of the United States. And how hard he worked to get where he is today. And his wife, Michelle, what a lady she is. Smart, witty and has a memory like a steel trap for statistics, figures, and dates. What a great team--Barack and Michelle Obama.
Air Force One landed and yes, “Harold,” “Leon,” and pretty “Lillie,” went first. The landing was perfect. No press around when Barack and I, along with the Secret Service agents walked down the stairs to Barack’s fully-secure black Mercedes-Benz limousine. Even the limo had to be secured by the agents, but Barack had dismissed “Harold” and “Leon,” and kept “Lillie,” who smiled as he quietly asked her to come along to as he told her, ‘watch out for Ken. This is his first time in D.C.’
We arrived at the secret entrance of the White House and walked to the Oval Office and was greeted by more Secret Service agents who secured the corridors for President Obama and me along with “Lillie,” who was actually watching me like a hawk--telling me to not touch the priceless artwork masterpieces in the hallways and looking almost flattered when I simply asked, “Say, Lillie, what does a man have to do to get an olive loaf sandwich around here?” She was not supposed to give in to her feminine side, but she let a small smile run across her full, red lips.
President Obama then sent all of his staff and all of the Secret Service agents away. Except “Lillie,” who stayed by the entrance and looked at attention--guarding our every move. Obama asked me what I wanted to do first. I said it was up him for he was, after all, the president. He suggested a “guy’s lunch” in the White House dining room. Yes, that was for me for my stomach was rumbling from hunger. I just knew that he heard it on Air Force One. I knew that “Lillie,” heard it growl for she looked away to pretend that the vulgar sound of my stomach growling didn’t really happen.
Our day was spent with a match or two of tennis with “Lillie,” as my partner and men, I almost fainted at how great she looked in that white tennis uniform and Barack teaming with Ms.Obama. Of course, “Lillie,” and I lost due to President and Ms. Obama being great tennis players. Barack can run longer since has licked his addiction to cigarettes. What a great guy--running our country and still finds time to conquer his own, human battles.
Mrs. Obama, I call her, Shell, suggested we all sit down in the Rose Garden and have some homemade lemonade. That sounded great to me. I was Parched. My casual clothes were drenched in sweat for Barack hadn’t told me to bring a pair of tennis shorts and shirt. Yes, I stood out alright in our tennis match. President and Ms. Obama, Shell, and “Lillie,” all dressed in their white tennis uniforms and me in my casual street clothes. Talk about awkward. Good thing that the White House photographer had been given the day off for I would have been seen in every newspaper, magazine, and newscast in America that Wednesday night. “Ken Avery, average American, stands out in tennis match with President,” the headlines might have said.
After a refreshing glass or two of homemade Country Time lemonade with Barack and Shell and of course, “Lillie,” Barack wanted to get up a game of touch football with his male staff members. They all dropped what they were doing, dressed for the game in sports clothes, and the game was on. It was said of the late President John F. Kennedy, when his family were enjoying leisure time in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, the inevitable game of touch football would come up. John was judged for his leadership abilities as president for how he played the position of quarterback. So was Barack who was the attentive, aggressive field general--throwing long and short passes to his team and swamping my team and I unmercifully. Barack can still do more than hold his own when it comes to challenges. If Barack believes that he can win, he will win. This is pure power thinking and it works well for Barack.
After the football game, Barack wanted for just him and I to retire to the quiet, air-conditioned den of the White House, a secret place unknown by the press and only known by the Secret Service, for us to watch some classic movies on his new HD home movie theater system that he designed and set-up by himself. He said while we walked to the den, “I miss doing thing with my hands, you know, Ken?” I replied that I wasn’t that talented in the field of manual labor so we kept walking.
We spent the rest of the afternoon watching, “The Secret of My Success“, with Michel J. Fox; “Platoon,” with Charlie Sheen; “Mrs. Doubt fire,” with Robin Williams and enjoying Ritz Cracker and Kraft cheese slices for snacks. What a fantastic day we had. I shall never, as long as I live, forget my day with President Obama.
Oh, President Obama did confide in me about his concern for the unemployment figures in our country; jobs being lost to foreign countries; the war(s) in Afghanistan and Iraq; high prices of gasoline and now groceries and how the Democrats, Republicans and Green Tea parties need to forge a feasible way to get along to let our country move forward.
And Barack did tell me a lot of his personal ideas that he has in how he is going to tackle the problems that we discussed. I cannot reveal what he said in this story due to my respect for my president and my friend, Barack Obama.
But this, I can tell you, friends, his ideas are going to “knock your socks off,” when they are put into action.
Yes, I did get the recipe from Ms Obama, Shell, for the tasty Ritz Cracker and Kraft cheese snacks and yes, very sadly, I did NOT come close to getting pretty Secret Service agent, “Lillie’s” number.
That was the only disappointment I had during the entire trip.
Okay, President Obama did halfway laugh and ask me as I boarded Air Force One to be flown back to Birmingham, “Ken, are you going to tell anyone about your day with me at the White House?”
“Now, Barack. You know me. Maybe my close friends on HubPages,” I said.
“HubPages? Who’s HubPages?” Barack asked halfway smiling. “Well, Ken, if you think your friends on HubPages can be trusted, I guess that will be okay,” Barack replied waving as I walked up the stairs to enter Air Force One.
Suddenly, Barack ran to the bottom of the stairs leading up to Air Force One. He motioned for me to come back down to see him.
He looked at me and asked, “Want to do this again? Say, next year, in 2012”
“Sure, Barack! Are you sure you will be in the White House?” I asked.
“Far as I know, Ken. Uh, do you know something that I don’t?” he replied as he shook my hand and walked away to his black Mercedes-Benz limo.
“Lillie,” was not allowed to come home to Hamilton with me.