Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama Sightings Not That Novel Anymore

“For residents of the twin-towered Regents Park, home to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students at the nearby college, Obama sightings just aren't that novel anymore. Since election-day, the president-elect has made this building's ground-floor gym a near-daily stop, often starting his day with an hour-plus workout here. Obama's dedicated exercise regimen, perhaps only rivaled among politicians by the current occupant of the White House, has made the Regents Park one of the city's new Obama landmarks, and resurrected speculation that he may not just be hitting the Precor but also holding secret meetings during his trips to the gym. Obama has been working out at the gym regularly since he started his campaign in 2007, and his presence, even after winning the presidency, has become old hat. An Obama transition spokesman did say that the president-elect liked the gym because it's just a few minutes by car from his Hyde Park home. Jeff Martin, who helps oversee Regents Park's security operation and closed the side gate where Obama's fleet exited, said he knew why Obama picked the building as his home gym. ‘I do, but I can't tell you,’ he said. Are others in the building allowed in while Obama is working off the calories? ‘I can't tell you,’ he repeated, after a pause. Martin, who said he has only seen Obama ‘on the cameras’ in the building's security office, would allow, however, that the facilities are ‘better than average,’ in his estimation, though he doesn't use them himself. ‘I have to climb the stairs here every day,’ he said. ‘that's my work-out.’ The South Lakeshore Drive property originally was home to an early 20th century resort called the Chicago Beach hotel and also once served as the home to the 5th Army's headquarters. Besides its convenience to the University of Chicago, the complex also markets views of the city that former resident Saul Bellow, perhaps the city's most prized literary name, is quoted on their website calling ‘the best thing about Chicago.’ A glimpse at the gym, stolen after building supervisors offered a polite but firm ‘no comment,’ reveals a collection of in-demand new workout machines, including elliptical machines, stair-climbers and a row of stationery bikes with a view out onto Lakeshore Drive and Lake Michigan. One graduate student at the bus stop said she had exercised alongside of Obama on one of the treadmills before he won the election and even chatted with him for a moment, telling the then-candidate that she was a big supporter. ‘He's working out, so you don't want to bother him,’ explained the student, who declined to give her name. Jagdish Patel has been working the check-out line at the ‘Market in the Park’ convenience store inside the apartment complex for years, but said he had never laid eyes on Obama. ‘He hasn't come in; he only goes to gym,’ said Patel.”

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