By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Outside the airport's miniature version of Versailles Café, shrill screams of "Barack!" and "Obama!" ring out, and the candidate, while standing in line as a bearded, forbidding Secret Service agent purchases a bottle of water, is briefly engulfed by a now-familiar commotion.
A half-hour later, Puisseaux meanders through the sparsely populated halls of the Dolphin Mall. The hands of a woman managing a beauty products booth tremble when she sees the senator reading the ingredients on the back of one of her facial creams. A Dutch tourist asks the candidate if he knows where Outdoor World is. A few minutes later, when the Dutchman and his wife realize who he is, they nearly melt with excitement. "Super!" they yell in unison.
Puisseaux wanders into an FYE record store and silently contemplates the back of a Sex and the City: The Movie DVD. An employee, Zingah Wright, too excited to form much in the way of sentences, walks up to him carrying a cereal-box-sized, talking Obama doll. It's newly arrived merchandise. Puisseaux and the employee cradle his likeness as a camera flashes. While the doll prattles on about America's destiny, Puisseaux remains curiously tight-lipped.
On his way out of the mall, Puisseaux and entourage traverse a food court, where the frenzy hits its shrill apex. Hair-netted employees of Chinese-food stands call him by name, offering chunks of glazed chicken on toothpicks (he gracefully declines with a wave of the hand). A table of Sbarro-eating Republicans boos and flashes a thumbs-down signal. A pair of teenaged girls, flush with baby fat and the word Pink emblazoned across the rears of their velour shorts, jump up and down like they've met the lead singer of Maroon 5. "Oh my God! Thank you so much!" one screams as she captures Obama on her neon camera phone.
"We were at Denny's, eating," explains the girl, who just turned 18, "and then we got a call, like, 'Obama's at Dolphin!' We were like — "
"Oh my God!" assists her friend.
"I ran over here; I came running with my car," continues the first breathless girl. "I almost crashed, like, 50 people!"
But a young Trinidadian tourist, who gives her name only as Anna, has managed a brief conversation with her hero. Now she smiles coyly. "Tell him not to talk," she says. "He sounds Latin."
In the parking lot, suit jacket off, shirt-sleeves rolled up, Puisseaux smokes a Marlboro. He looks ragged and a bit exhausted.
An older Cuban woman, Sylvia Casas, is walking by with her grown son, Saul, and her granddaughter when her heart appears to stop momentarily. She approaches cautiously, and her eyes tear up as she explains to the smoking man. "I'm a citizen just yesterday, to vote for you. You touch my soul."
After a couple of photos, she skips off, her step lively. Saul Casas seems skeptical, but he doesn't say anything to kill his mom's buzz. "Barack Obama!" she screams to the sky, hopping like a woman 50 years younger. "I love you!"
Why is one of the most important people in the world holding court by a Honda Civic flanked by a scruffy entourage of four? At this moment, it doesn't matter. Sylvia Casas wants to believe.