My challenge in the United States was to try to see President Obama without coming across as some crazy stalker.

Perfectly sane guy looking for the President just to say hi.

Perfectly sane guy looking for the President just to say hi. The O’Mansion is the place behind the concrete road decorations.

The media were saying that Michelle Obama was in Chicago, the same city I was visiting, so I figured that if she were  there, perhaps her doting husband would be too.

This was when an American-born guy of Filipino extraction with the colourful name of Phos Rivera made his entrance. He shows people around his home town, all organised for free by the Chicago Greeter Association. “I’m taking you to Barack Obama’s neighbourhood,” said Phos.

We went in a stretch limo, the kind some pedantic people call a bus. We reached our stop and walked down East Hyde Park Boulevard and there was the Obama house, bought in 2004 for $1.65m from sales of his autobiography Dreams From My Father. Black vans of the secret service were next to the mansion. Concrete barricades were in place. A couple of squad cars were over the road near us.

I got ready to wave to the President in case he wanted somebody to beat in a basketball one-on-one, but the only communication was a sign on a railing warning that anybody walking past it consented to be searched. It was obvious the Man wasn’t home.



We moved on around the corner and down the street to a small strip mall where there was a plaque, complete with a cute photo that marked the spot where young Barack had his first kiss with Michelle. The inscription read: “On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.”

Phos then led me to a nearby barber shop where they have glassed off the chair of their most famous client, now the president. I needed a trim so barber Jaron Wallace did the honours. I was a man on a mission so I didn’t wait around to see if my chair would also get shrine treatment (“Here once sat a strange guy sounding like the Crocodile Hunter”).

That sane guy again who claimed he needed a haircut and wanted to pose in front of the President's glassed-off chair with Jaron (left) and Chief Dude.

That sane guy again who claimed he needed a haircut and wanted to pose in front of the President’s glassed-off chair with Jaron (left) and Chief Dude.

A few minutes later I was in the Valois restaurant, Mr Obama’s former breakfast cafeteria. I ordered sausages and grits from a menu boasting a list of presidential favourites.  But the man himself was not in the house.

I farewelled Phos, thanking him for getting me so close to my goal. I flew to Boston on the next stage of my quest.  President Obama was once a student there. The universe obviously wanted me to meet Barack because, without any planning, Jay Holmes, arrived to fill up the tank for the heating oil at the home where I was a guest.

In 1987 Jay had rented his basement flat to “Barry” Obama as he was then known. After his former tenant had become president, Jay, now 71, was tracked down and interviewed by the national media.

Landlord of the young Barry Obama has been knighted for services to a future he is Sir Tanks.

Landlord of the young Barry Obama has been knighted for services to a future he is Sir Tanks.

Asked about his famous ex-tenant, Jay was concise: “He always paid his rent.” Now Bob pays Barack– with taxes from his business called Sir Tanks-a-Lot. I was soon in presidential proximity just up the road in Durham, New Hampshire. The problem was I found out too late that the President was at an event in nearby Concord. I couldn’t get there in time. Close but, um, no cigar.

My last chance was in Washington DC. The president would surely be there trying to convince Congress to at least agree on something. I walked up to the Capitol and, after strolling around to the back of the building, I almost tripped over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who was walking towards an entrance.  No doubt about it — I recognised him from TV. ‘Hey, Harry, I’m looking for the president—any idea where he might be?” That was the question I should have asked.  But in fact I was struck dumb with surprise at being within a couple of metres of one of the biggest political players in the USA. By the time I had come to, Harry was gone.

Capital place, the capital, but I found Harry, not Barry.

Capital place, the Capitol, but I found Harry, not Barry.

But having seen him I thought anything was possible. I felt I was getting closer to Captain Cool. Near the White House, I was chatting to a security guy on a gate, when I heard the sound of helicopters. “Could that be Mr Obama?” I asked.

Mr Muscle smiled: “I am not allowed to say.” There were three helicopters that first seemed to land behind the building and then take off again—so fast I couldn’t snap them with my camera. I like to think that President Barack Obama was looking down from his perch in the chopper, grinning, pointing at me and mouthing the words: “Nice try, Aussie!”

Where's Barry?

Where’s Barry?