DENVER — On Tuesday, President Barack Obama's continuing quest to break free from the constraints of the White House brought him to a crowded pizza restaurant, a pool bar and face-to-face with a man wearing a horse head mask.
Shortly after arriving in Denver, Obama headed to the Wazee Supper Club for dinner with local residents who had recently written him letters. It was a carefully orchestrated event aimed at projecting an image of the president connecting with real Americans.
But after his meal, Obama decided to break from the script. He took off by foot down 15th Street, a cadre of anxious Secret Service agents by his side, and started shaking hands with the dozens of people who had gathered on the sidewalks.
There were kids eager for a picture with the president and adults who held up their hands for a high-five or fist bump. Then there was the man wearing the horse head. The reasons for his sartorial choice remained unclear.
Obama increasingly has been showing his frustration with the restrictive White House security bubble and referring to himself as a "bear on the loose." In recent weeks, he's been hitting restaurants in Washington and vowing to spend more time with the public outside of the nation's capital.
After his 10-minute stroll, Obama hopped back into his armored limousine for a short drive to his next destination, Wynkoop Brewing Co., which was founded by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The governor — a Democrat facing re-election this fall — was waiting for Obama inside. They headed to the bar where they ordered two Rail Yard Ales, then headed upstairs for a game of pool.
As Vanilla Ice's classic song "Ice Ice Baby" played in the background, Obama sank the eight-ball to claim victory over Hickenlooper. And on at least this occasion, Obama wanted to make sure the media were nearby.
He turned to the traveling press corps and said, "Did you record that?"