The conservative Weekly Standard earlier this summer raised its eyebrows at the first reports of liberal academics and aging '60s radicals lurking here: "Wow, what kind of neighborhood does Barack live in?"
And any number of media outlets have been through since, as if answering that question would define the man any better than the memoirs he has already written about himself.
For the locals, the thrill isn't the outside attention, but the intimate pride that comes with proximity to celebrity. It's not what does Hyde Park say about Obama, but what does Obama say about us? The possible future president chose to live where we live. He's raising his children where my parents raised me.
I've eaten at the Medici, too – where the servers are now wearing "Obama Eats Here" T-shirts – and so I think I'm one-tenth of my way to the White House. Of course, I would wait until Obama were done with it.
When Michelle Obama cites her favorite restaurant (Calypso Cafe) and bookstore (57th Street Books), I know where those places are, and I love them, too. Michelle and I have never been spotted in any of these establishments at the same time, but it's sort of like we have, because we're not talking about Macy's or Bennigan's – these are local, independent businesses defined by the people who support them.