Hi friends and family,
It turns out there were no national emergencies and our meeting at the White House with Chuck Close and President Obama went extremely well.
We were picked up by Chuck, Sienna and Chuck's nurse, Tyice (sp?) at the Willard Hotel (we are not staying there; just meeting there). Then we drove across the street to the White House. There we had to pass thru about 5 different security gates. At the first gate, Tyice was turned away. She couldn't even drive the van onto the grounds. She had not been previously cleared. So Sienna took over and we drove to the next gate, which was maybe 10 yards further. There a guard came out with a German Shepherd and walked a rotation around the van, the Shepherd sniffing it from all angles.
It's really cold in Washington. Chuck passing in front of the Treasury Department and one of the gates.
We passed the dog test and another gate slid down into the road, allowing us to drive thru. At that point we were able to park with a number of other vans and SUVs, some of them with Obama stickers. We got out of the van into the DC cold, where we waited patiently at another gate while the guards checked our credentials once more. We walked down a path next to the Treasury Department and turned into another guardhouse, which then, after more checking of papers, scanning etc, led directly into the White House.
This is the beautiful waiting room.
Chuck and Meaghan, one of the people running the re-election fundraiser campaign.
"Our" room is ready ("The Map Room").
Sienna, Chuck's partner, an excellent photographer and talented artist. We were told in emphatic terms that we were not allowed to photograph the president in the White House.
But we could photograph his tapestry. When Obama walked in he said he thought it was kind of scary to see himself that big.
After unpacking we had a bit of a wait till the great man arrived.
Don enthroned in a replica of a chair once owned by George Washington. They had some of the original chairs in the room; same red damask, slightly faded.
Manny, Chuck's righthand man, and Chuck. Beth, Chuck's other irreplaceable assistant had to hold down the fort in NY and could not be with us at the White House.
After a couple false alarms ("We have movement; he's on his way." It turns out he was moving somewhere else), Obama walked into the room with a few secret service. Famous big smile, he seemed like an old friend. He greeted Chuck, whom he knows, and came over to me. I told him that we were from Oakland. He replied "I love Oakland." Good response, but I bet he says that to all the home towns. I said everybody in Oakland and all of the artists, when I told them I might be seeing Obama, said, "Give him a hug from me. We love Obama." He said, "Well, you better give me a hug, then." So I hugged Obama from all of you (in my mind, everybody who is getting this email) and he hugged me back. Awesome!
He very efficiently signed all the prints he was supposed to sign and all of the tapestry labels. He made a couple cracks about the new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's signature and said Lew is going to have to do something about changing it. Obama has a great signature, by the way, and so does Chuck, so the signatures look great on the prints and on the labels. They don't devalue them, as Obama has joked Jack Lew's signature might do to the currency.
Pretty much of a respectful silence was maintained while Obama was signing. It's difficult for anyone to try to field questions and carry on a conversation while signing a number of pieces which have to be signed perfectly. It was so tempting to pull out an iPhone and snap a photo. Too bad it makes that ostentatious clicking sound.
After signing, I did manage to tell him that we drive a Volt which we power with solar panels. And Don mentioned that we have not filled up in over 2500 miles, which is true. In fact, we have not filled up that car yet. I thanked him for the federal tax credits. He seemed pleased. Don told him that the artists loved him. Manny got a hug, too, something about his grandmother wanting to give Obama a hug. Apparently, this is the path to an Obama hug. Actually, Manny's grandmother wanted him to give Obama a hug and a kiss. Obama said he'd hug him, but declined the kiss. And that was it; he was out the door to his next important meeting or task. We found him to be absolutely charming.
Chuck signing one of the huge prints.
Didn't manage to get a photo of Don with Obama, but did get one of Don cuddling up to Bo, the family dog. This photo taken right after Bo had been licking Don's face. So Don must have some Obama family DNA now.
We may get some photos from the official photographer. I hope so. If so, I'll send some, but probably will not be right away.
Love from DC,
Era and Don