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President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio June 14, 2012. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Hope: once audacious, now a little more cautious, always delicious.

Three and a half years ago I tasted hope, and it tasted like a snickerdoodle. Those were the days of the Barack Obama feeding frenzy surrounding the inauguration -- the smorgasbord of merchandising, marketing hope as the main ingredient.

Back then, you couldn't swing a defeated Republican without hitting Obama bobbleheads, buttons, "Yes We Can" openers and the iconic "Hope" posters with Obama gazing upward with an optimistic yet determined expression as though he were looking toward the future or maybe at really big, horrifying spider on the wall behind the photographer and hoping someone would squish it before it lunged onto his shoulder. No, it was the future. Definitely future.

There were also many edible offerings, such as the bubble-gum-flavored Obama soda, and loaves of bread with his visage stenciled on top in cocoa powder. The latter was a little fuzzy and could have resembled any number of people -- kind of like when someone makes a grilled cheese sandwich and the butter pools in such a way that it could possibly be the Virgin Mary and the sandwich is not eaten but sold on eBay. No, it was Obama. Definitely Obama.

And then there was the sweet, sweet canvas of that snickerdoodle cookie, the new president's smile aglow in royal icing, his hair a sparkle of brown sugar crystals. I can't recall where I got the cookie, but it was pretty good.

The tastes are a-changin'


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Alas, those cookies have long since crumbled, and now as the East Bay prepares for Obama's visit on Monday -- first at a tech-company, then a dinner in Piedmont, then an evening fundraiser at the Fox Theatre in Oakland -- hope tastes more like a bacon cheeseburger.

Not that that's a bad thing. It may not be as sweet. It may not be as delicate and flaky. But it's meatier. More substantial. And after a huge helping of heavy issues on his plate for nearly four years (which is probably, like 347 in presidential time -- have you seen all that gray?), Obama could probably use a little protein. Couldn't we all.

The cheeseburger to which I refer is the Barack Burger -- on the menu from now until the election at Catered To You, 1711 Telegraph Ave., just a block from the Fox. Owner Teena Johnson is a big fan of the prez, and designed this special 1/3-pound beef patty with bacon, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese in his honor. She has also crafted a Michelle Burger -- similar, but with a more healthful turkey patty and avocado. "Oh, I could not do a regular burger with bacon for Michelle, with her being so health conscious," Teena said. "She would not approve."

The burgers -- possibly with little American-flag toothpicks, if Teena can find them -- are $10 each with $2 of that going to the re-election effort, which won't be hard to deliver since the local campaign HQ is directly across the street.

Where is the love?

Such patriotic and entrepreneurial spirit seemed surprisingly lacking last week as I strolled the Fox's neighborhood to see if anyone was sprucing up for the visit. I mean, no matter one's political bent (Mitt Romney is also stumping in the Bay Area this weekend, in Woodside and SF), you'd think Oakland would want to capitalize on Obama capitalizing on Oakland. Like maybe nearby bars would have drinks named The Oval Office, Ale to the Chief or the Pennsylvania Avenue Sidecar. I asked at Flora. No themed menus. I asked at Van Kleef's. They had no plans. I got no response from the Fox itself about any gussying or touch-ups. Guess info about new potted plants might be considered a security risk.

At least the folks at Rudy's Can't Fail Café were excited and want Obama to try their signature milkshake, the Shakin' Jesse: chocolate ice cream with Peet's espresso and Guinness Stout. "I think he'd like that," said manager Doug Smith.

And at Bibliomania, that fab used-book store facing the Fox, Jean Kapp Van Fleet is happy to have Obama come over and shop. "He might be interested to know we have one of the largest black studies sections with out-of-print, hard-to-find books," she said. They also have a vast collection on social movements and political economy, in case some of the protesters want to stop in.

Yes, as the love-in proceeds inside the theater, it will likely be a protest-fest outside. There will be people demanding a jobs-creation program, those calling for an end to increased military spending, other calling for an end to cuts to education, protesting government surveillance of citizens (although it's not really the government's fault everyone bares their souls on Facebook -- fish in a barrel, people) and, since Obama will be smack in the middle of Oaksterdam, there will be those protesting the fed's recent raids of medical marijuana clubs. The president probably won't be bringing the DEA this time, but I doubt he'll peek into the Oaksterdam Museum either.

Sigh. Let's just chill out and have a cheeseburger.