Chicago, Nov.24 : Close friends of US President-elect Barack Obama believe that the man they knew and were quite familiar with, has undergone a change since he won the elections on November 4. They hope he can find comfort in Washington, a city he has never embraced.
The Washington Post quotes close friend and political mentor Terry Link as recalling the time when at least once a week, Obama and he were on the telephone, but now, he says plain old Barack has been replaced by Mr. President Barack Obama.
According to the paper, Obama's home in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood has become a compound guarded ever more closely by bomb-sniffing dogs and Secret Service agents who peer through binoculars at neighboring rooftops.
When he travels around the city, it is in an armored limousine and 20-car motorcade, so he has mainly stayed bunkered at home or a downtown transition office.
Last week, Obama told one friend that he felt "a little boxed in."
This is only the beginning of the transformation that awaits the president-elect and his family.
In two months, they will move into a sterile house in a unfamiliar city where they have never felt particularly comfortable.
Friends say Obama is savoring these final weeks in Chicago and spending as much time as possible with his family before he takes the oath of office on January 20.
During his political rise, Obama led a normal life that included a run on the treadmill early in the morning, an evening meander through 57th Street Books, a date with his wife Michelle, at one of their favorite restaurants, or a session of basketball at a gym downtown.
His friends say that establishing some kind of similar comfort zone is critical to Obama's success in Washington.
"Look, there are just certain things that he can't do anymore, or he can't do as easily, and that's going to be hard," the Washington Post quoted Marty Nesbitt, Obama's closest friend in Chicago.
"The objective is to just make sure that things stay as similar to the way they used to be as they can. The same routines, the same conversations -- that's what he wants," Nesbitt adds.
The Obamas have said they will personalize the White House by buying a dog and hosting sleepovers for their daughters. Friends expect them to occasionally spend time back in their Hyde Park home and take annual vacations to Hawaii.
For almost five years now, Obama has lamented the way his public rise has infringed upon his personal space, calling it the most painful drawback of high-profile public service.
On the night of his election, Obama questioned whether it was necessary to speak to a crowd of 200,000 in Grant Park behind two panes of protective glass, agreeing to the arrangement only after staffers convinced him that it was.
Although his staffers continued to party into the early hours, Obama was home before 2 a.m. He awoke by 8 the next morning, dressed in a sweatshirt and a baseball cap, and rode to the gym in a friend's apartment building for his regular morning workout.
Obama has relinquished many things since his election. Only three times has he left home after dark since Election Day. He traveled with his wife to a friend's house to celebrate adviser Valerie Jarrett's 52nd birthday.
One night, the couple went to dinner at Spiaggia's, a stylish and expensive Italian restaurant where the Obamas traditionally celebrate Valentine's Day over a quiet meal.
This time, Secret Service agents guarded the perimeter and a crowd gathered and snapped pictures of the Obamas on their way back to the motorcade.
And on Saturday night, he went to parties at the homes of Nesbitt and Penny Pritzker. He played basketball with friends Sunday afternoon in Hyde Park.
Obama's typical day as president-elect follows a routine that is necessarily spare: breakfast at home with his daughters, a trip to the apartment-building gym, six or seven hours at his downtown transition office and the evening at home. He usually enters buildings through underground parking garages and almost never ventures outside.
He no longer visit his Hyde Park barbershop to see the man who has cut his hair for 15 years. Now his barber, Zariff, comes to him. Gone are lunches at Medici, where servers still wear T-shirts that read "Obama Eats Here." Now, if anything, Obama carries in, although on Friday he allowed himself a rare liberty: a trip to Manny's Coffee Shop and Deli. "I'm just glad to be out," he said.
A close friend from Chicago, Mike Strautmanis, who worked for Obama in the Senate, worries about the change in cultures.
"The one thing about Chicago as compared to Washington is that most relationships in Washington are fundamentally based on politics either currently or building things for the future." he said. "I think what he wanted is a few relationships that didn't have that subtext," Strautmanis says.
As president, Obama's first option is to bring some of those relationships to Washington with him.
His mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, is expected to move into or near the White House and continue to help raise her grandchildren, whom she often supervised during the 21-month campaign. Some people in Obama's inner circle expect Nesbitt to move to Washington with his physician wife, Anita, and five children, but Nesbitt said he has not had time to even consider the possibility of transplanting.
Several other Obama friends and associates -- all of whom now receive a deluge of resumes and inauguration ticket requests from near-strangers -- said they either are considering moving to Washington or will move if asked.
"You know, if he calls and asks me to be the head custodian, I still don't think I could say no," Link said. "If he needs me, then I'm going to be there. For a lot of us friends, our first interest is going to be looking out for him and just helping him get adjusted however we can."