From pork rinds to power boats, from 7:15 a.m. workday starts to spur-of-the-moment shopping jaunts, George Herbert Walker Bush already is setting a pace and a style far different from the man he will succeed.
The nation's 41st president is a man of aristocratic breeding and down-home tastes. He enjoys country music, dropping by Sears to buy power tools, jogging a mile or two. His drink of choice is a vodka martini, his idea of competitive sports is a good game of horseshoes, his suits are tailor-made.During his campaign, Bush often joked that one of his hardest tasks during eight years as Ronald Reagan's vice president was "keeping my charisma in check."
As Bush nears his inauguration, he has exhibited a salty, easygoing confidence that, if not everyone's idea of charisma, is at least sharply at odds with the onetime perception of him as awkward in public, whiny of voice, and wimpy in demeanor.
Bush still speaks in bursts and with a syntax that is often haphazard. He sprinkles his conversation with phrases such as "going ballistic" and "I'm not going to get all tense," and talks about "the drug thing" or the "Persian Gulf thing."
But Bush seems far more at ease with himself now and has exhibited a quick-wittedness, particularly in his dealings with reporters, that seemed to be missing in the past.
After avoiding regular contact with reporters during his campaign, Bush now admits that he relishes the give-and-take of news conferences, and has held a dozen or so of them since his election.
His humor is often self-deprecating, as when a reporter recently began a question: "Mr. Vice President. Do you ever stop to think - "
"Not often," Bush interrupted.
Bush, 64, said in a recent interview that he shared with wife Barbara upon rising one morning a few days ago a sudden revelation: "I feel excited about this job."
Bush has made it clear he intends to be up and about _ a prospect that must make the Secret Service nervous and which doesn't make reporters' jobs any easier.
"I'm not going to be isolated and cut off. Say I want to go buy a suit. I want to eat Peking duck. And I don't want to have to spend a lot of time worrying about where people are. I want to say, `I'm ready to go, let's go," he said.
Bush's forays into town are becoming legendary _ remindful of the unannounced trips President Lyndon Johnson used to take.
He buys bagels at a local delicatessen, makes frequent trips to a Washington men's shop to be fitted for suits, goes out himself to buy presents for his wife, and often drops by the local Safeway to pick up a few groceries.
Bush enjoys playing tennis with his family and with tennis pros, and as vice president and president-elect often dropped in unannounced at the gymnasium in the House Rayburn Office Building to work out with former colleagues.
He enjoys restaurants, often lingering for hours over meals with friends and guests.
In his beloved vacation home of Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush frequently takes unannounced walks through the village, patronizes local shops, takes his boat out for a spin, goes fishing, jogs through the neighborhood.
At his oceanside family compound, he uses one cottage as an office, where he does his own typing on an electric typerwriter set up at his desk.
On a recent visit, he shushed reporters asking him questions while he was fishing in a local river _ telling them not to scare away the fish. However, he admitted, he never caught fish at that particular spot anyway. So why did he return there? "I like to cast," he said.
While Bush seems certain to continue his visits to the family estate in Kennebunkport during warm weather, he has indicated he plans to spend a lot of time at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland; and is reportedly eyeing the purchase of a condominium in the Florida Keys, where he enjoys fishing.
The former oil industry executive, while claiming Texas as his adopted home, does not back away from his New England roots or his good fortune at birth, once joking that his forefathers had come on the Mayflower _ you could tell them because they all were holding Bloomingdale's shopping bags, he said.
But at the same time, he's a man who enjoys country music, watching rented video tapes and who sometimes drives around the Naval Observatory grounds, where the vice presidential residence is located, because he's chauffeured everywhere else.
Then there's the Bush family enthusiasm for sports _ from tennis to horseshoes. When Bush talks about a "six pack," he's not talking beer _ although he's been known to enjoy one on occasion _ but about wrapping successive horseshoes around the pole.
Bush once even suggested that horseshoes was "the national sport," and has hinted he plans to install a horseshoe pit on the White House grounds.
Bush, trim at six-foot-two, runs several times a week, usually doing about two miles at a time.
And, while he is known to enjoy fine meals in good restaurants, he also has a fondness for junk food _ downing pork rinds and smothering nearly everything in hot sauce, even tuna fish sandwiches.
The diet doesn't seem to have hurt his health. Bush has an enviable cholesterol count of 192.