CHICAGO — A couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama headed to the Hyde Park Hair Salon for a trim. He greeted the staff and other customers and plopped down in the same chair in front of the same barber who has cut his hair for the last 14 years.
But when he wanted a trim this week, the Secret Service took one look at the shop’s large plate-glass windows and the gawking tourists eager for a glimpse of the president-elect and the plan quickly changed. If Mr. Obama could no longer come to the barber, the barber would come to him and cut his hair at a friend’s apartment.
Life for the newly chosen president and his family has changed forever. Even the constraints and security of the campaign trail do not compare to the bubble that has enveloped him in the 10 days since his election. Renegade, as the Secret Service calls him, now lives within the strict limits that come with the most powerful office on the planet.
He has chosen to spend this interval before his Jan. 20 inauguration at his home in Hyde Park, which has in some ways been transformed into a secure fortress for his protection. After two years of daily speeches and rallies, he has retreated into an almost hermitlike seclusion, largely hidden from public view and spotted only when he drops his two daughters off for school or goes for a workout at the gymnasium in a friend’s apartment building.
“This is a tremendous personal transition, as well, far beyond what anyone could imagine,” said Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois state treasurer and a close friend. “Little things, like going to the gym, going to the movies, going to dinner with his wife, none of that will ever be the same again. Things that we take for granted.”
Mr. Obama is putting off the change as much as he can by remaining in Chicago during the transition. “I am not going to be spending too much time in Washington over the next several weeks,” he told someone in a telephone conversation overheard by reporters on his chartered plane heading back to Chicago after a White House visit on Monday.
Indeed, he was on the ground in Washington less than four hours for his tour and talk with President Bush. Mr. Obama has yet to take a vacation since the election, as he works on selecting a White House staff, building a cabinet and formulating policies. But friends and aides said he was also using this time to concentrate on his family before moving to the most famous address in the nation.
“It’s always just the two of them,” said Tony Mantuano, the chef and co-owner of Spiaggia. “Now it’s just the two of them and 30 Secret Service agents.”
The personal considerations coincide with political calculation as well. By remaining in Chicago, it may be easier for him to avoid becoming drawn into decisions by the departing administration and may accentuate the sense of change when he returns to Washington as the new president. He will not be around, for example, for the global economic summit meeting starting Friday, nor for the lame-duck Congressional session next week.
But the trappings of his life are increasingly presidential. Although he does not yet have access to Air Force One, he now rides in an armored government limousine, complete with the war wagon and other motorcade vehicles zipping through red lights with traffic blocked. Although the Secret Service long ago set up concrete barriers around his house here, they expanded their perimeter by several blocks after the election and brought in explosive-sniffing dogs.
“It’s changed,” said Mesha Caudle, 45, who lives a block from the Obamas. “It’s a little inconvenient, just a little, when you have to go around three blocks to go one block. I don’t mind, though, because I got the president I voted for. If the price is a little inconvenience, that’s O.K.”
The Obama house, bought for $1.65 million in 2005, is a stately mansion in the middle of the racially and economically diverse Hyde Park-Kenwood area near the University of Chicago, shielded by trees, not to mention the phalanx of Secret Service agents and Chicago police officers. The neighborhood is a mix of grand homes, aging but well-tended brick houses and dilapidated buildings. Across the street, renovated condominiums start at $190,000. Just blocks away, some houses are boarded up.
Most modern presidents have had a ranch, farm or estate easily isolated from the community around it. Mr. Obama is the first since Richard M. Nixon to be elected while living in a urban neighborhood, and Mr. Nixon soon sold his New York City apartment and retreated during his presidency to exclusive getaways in Florida and California. Mr. Obama, by contrast, is expected to keep his Chicago home.
The streets around Mr. Obama’s home have been closed to outside traffic. Residents show picture identification at checkpoints as officers scan lists of pre-cleared people. The K.A.M. Isaiah Israel synagogue across the street gave the Secret Service a list of 2,000 members and regular visitors, who are checked by metal detectors before services. “It’s actually not as big a deal as it may appear,” said Linda Ross, the temple’s executive director.
A property manager trying to rent $750-a-month apartments three doors down from the Obamas said applicants, janitors and contractors all must be cleared. “The day after he made his speech in Grant Park, things changed dramatically,” said the property manager, whose boss told him not to give his name to reporters. “Before they had Chicago police around his house and it was barricaded. The day he became president-elect, they moved the barricades three blocks out.”
For Mr. Obama, it means no more casually stopping by the Medici for pastries or heading over to Valois for lunch or window shopping with the girls at 57th Street Books, at least not without elaborate preparation. He did manage to take his wife, Michelle, on Saturday night to Spiaggia, a four-star Italian restaurant in downtown Chicago, where the future president loves the wood-roasted scallops.
The Obamas have been going to Spiaggia with its lakefront view for years for what they call “date night,” including on their anniversary last month and Michelle’s birthday earlier this year. “It’s always just the two of them,” said Tony Mantuano, the chef and co-owner. “Now it’s just the two of them and 30 Secret Service agents.”
His day starts with breakfast with his daughters, aides said, and he has taken them to school a few times. For his daily workout, he uses the gymnasium at Regents Park apartment building where his friend, Mike Signator, lives. He later heads to transition offices set up in the Kluczynski Federal Building and receives daily intelligence briefings. He could be interviewing cabinet candidates, but no one will say.
“He seems to be very, very focused on the transition,” said his friend, John W. Rogers Jr. chairman of Ariel Investments, who lent office space to Mr. Obama until the federal space was available. “It doesn’t seem to have changed him at all. He’s the same relaxed, in-control, engaging Barack that he’s always been. I’ve been struck by that, that it hasn’t shifted him.”
Perhaps no one knows that kind of thing more than a man’s barber. Mr. Obama’s barber, Zariff, 44, who goes by one name, went over to Mr. Signator’s apartment on Tuesday to give Mr. Obama his usual $21 cut and said his longtime client still seemed the same. As he walked in, Zariff remembered, he called him “Mr. President,” and Mr. Obama laughed.
“He’s looking a lot more presidential now; he walks a little different,” said Zariff, who himself has become a local celebrity and is thinking about opening a shop in Washington. Mr. Obama is no longer the guy strolling around the neighborhood.
“I think he misses that a lot,” Zariff said. “But that’s the price of fame.”