Kailua abuzz for Obama's arrival
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By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mary Vorsino
As workers cut grass, brought in poinsettias and cleaned the beach yesterday at the upscale Kailua enclave where Barack Obama will arrive this afternoon to spend the holidays with family, neighbors and those who frequent the stretch of shoreline were abuzz over the prospect of catching a glimpse of the president-elect.
"We're very, very excited. It's amazing," said Richard Myerscough, 43, of Vancouver, British Columbia, who is vacationing with family in a home two doors down from the compound the Obamas are renting. Myerscough, who was enjoying the beach fronting his rental yesterday despite overcast skies and brownish, murky water from recent rain, added that he and his family will give Obama his space.
"We're certainly going to give him his peace and quiet," he said.
Linda Friend, of Melbourne, Australia, who was walking on the beach in front of the Obama vacation home yesterday, said she is also looking forward to seeing the president-elect in person.
"There is definitely a buzz in the air" about his visit, said Friend, who is staying with family in Kailua. "I'm probably going to look for him," she added, with a laugh.
Obama and his family are scheduled to arrive in Honolulu today about 3:25 p.m. They will spend their 10-day break in the Islands in a sprawling, beachfront property on the far-end Kailuana Place, which apparently will be cut off to all but local traffic during his visit.
Yesterday, barriers were brought in to the roadway as Secret Service crews prepared for Obama's visit. And gardeners who were called at the last minute to cut grass along the length of Kailuana Place were told to be out of the area by 10 a.m. today because the street would have to be secured.
There is only one way into the small neighborhood where Obama will be staying. And at the entrance to the area sits an unused guard shack that likely will be manned.
The stretch of Kailuana Place where the Obamas will be staying runs along the Kawainui Channel.
Yesterday, the neighborhood was quiet — but for a flurry of activity around the Obama vacation home, where people were bringing in flowers, pressure-washing the driveway, cutting back foliage and clearing the beach of any trash or debris.
On the street, Art Doctolero and his landscaping crew rushed to cut back grass and trim palm trees that line Kailuana Place. Doctolero, who is in charge of maintenance with Pua Lani Landscape Design, said he was called in at the last minute to do the trimming and mowing. Yesterday afternoon, he worried about whether his crew would be able to finish in time.
"It's a big job," he said, pointing to the grass that needed trimming down the length of Kailuana. "It's got to look nice."
NO PUBLIC EVENTS
The vacation is meant as a quick reprieve for the president-elect and as a time to mark the death of his grandmother. Obama has no public events on his schedule, sources have said, but does plan to honor his late grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died Nov. 2 at age 86, two days before Obama won the presidency.
Michelle Yu, police spokeswoman, would not discuss details on how traffic could be affected during Obama's visit. She would only speak generally on traffic control, saying, "Police will try to minimize the impact on traffic."
Obama, his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha, will stay in the Kailuana property with family friends. The property includes three homes that wrap around a swimming pool.
A few beachgoers made a point to walk past the property yesterday. At least one person in the neighborhood was told that the section of beach in front of the Obama home would be closed off during his visit.
Friend's sister, New York resident Susan Vogt, said the Obamas picked a peaceful neighborhood to spend Christmas.
"I'm excited that he's coming here. I think it's wonderful," Vogt said. But she added that it's too bad that the Obamas will be looking out on a brown, murky stretch of Kailua Beach.
"It's a shame," she said.
Roberto Di Frassineto, whose family is staying with Myerscough's family in the vacation home near the Obama compound, said that despite the brown water there is plenty to enjoy on the stretch of Kailua shoreline. He also said that although the multimillion-dollar compound where Obama is vacationing is by no means humble, it is also not over-the-top.
"It's very down to earth," Frassineto said.
Obama was most recently in Hawai'i in October to visit Dunham, who raised him for much of his youth.
He last stayed in Kailua in August, when he took a weeklong vacation with his family.
During that trip, Obama hit many of the major tourist highlights on O'ahu, such as the USS Arizona Memorial, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl and Hanauma Bay, and threw in lots of typical local activities that included bodysurfing at Sandy Beach, having shave ice with his daughters and squeezing in a couple of rounds of golf.
Obama was born in Hawai'i and graduated from Punahou School.
He has routinely made Christmas visits to the Islands but missed a trip last year because of his campaign schedule.
Reach Mary Vorsino at email@example.com.