By Roberta Rampton
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Helicopters whirling overhead, a phalanx of New York police officers on scooters to shoo away tourists, and about 50 anxious Secret Service agents fanning out in front, to the sides, and to the rear.
That is how you take a Saturday stroll in Central Park when you are the president of the United States.
President Barack Obama - who has often chafed at the confines of his office - was in Manhattan this weekend, trying to spend some time with his daughters and show them a good time in the big city.
With 18 months left in office, Obama is both working hard on a long to-do list of things he wanted to accomplish as president, but also looking forward to the next chapter of his life, when he can move around with more freedom.
Saturday was not the first time Obama has tried to break though the bubble of security and officialdom that surrounds him to try to do something ordinary - a mission that is almost impossible despite the power of his office.
But it was the first time in years he has managed to take a stroll though Central Park, in the city where he studied at Columbia University in the 1980s.
In 2012, after four years in office, Obama spoke wistfully about the loss of anonymity and spontaneity that comes with the job.
At a campaign event before his re-election, he recounted a scheme he hatched to use a fake mustache to take a walk and get a hot dog on a beautiful day in Manhattan - an idea the Secret Service quickly nixed.
"I said, 'You know, I just desperately want to take a walk through Central Park again, and just remember what that feels like,'" he recalled.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Tom Brown)