"Only egg whites, egg whites," the man replies, "for my cholesterol." Above the low neck of the man's T-shirt is a surgical scar, which Schwarzenegger notices. "I see. Are you staying away from carbs?" he asks.
Man: "Oh, yeah."
Governor: "Stay away from the potatoes too."
Man: "I stay away from [those] once in a while."
Governor: "Better to stay out of this restaurant."
Schwarzenegger reaches the table of two young women, Sarai Torres, 25, who promotes a nightclub called Seduction, and Sarah Willey, 27, a photography student. The women have moved to the same side of the table so they both can be in the TV shot.
"Do they have a beauty contest here? All these beautiful women," the governor says, shaking their hands.
The governor hands out bumper stickers, examines their meal and points to the women's toast: "You put a little too much butter on there." He then poses for pictures with the pair. A photographer says something about wide angle. "They don't need wide angle," Schwarzenegger says. "They are skinny."
The scene contrasts sharply with his work environment in Sacramento, where Schwarzenegger has suffused his office with unique energy. When he and his wife come in, aides rush, tension rises. The couple are unstoppable, spewing out ideas and moving on. They have brought an otherworldly quality to the cramped governor's office.
"Surreal," deputy chief of staff Cassandra Pye says about working for Schwarzenegger.
Just moving Schwarzenegger around takes far more people than with previous governors. In April, six police cars and three black SUVs shepherded Schwarzenegger 20 miles from the statehouse to an appearance at UC Davis to promote hydrogen-fuel vehicles. His communications director, a press aide, a speechwriter and personal assistant Clay Russell came along. Three Cabinet secretaries were there to greet him.
To prepare for the event, UC Davis assigned three staff people to set up the event for the better part of a week. The parking office was closed, temporarily displacing three staffers, so the building could be used for his arrival.
A week before, a seven-person advance team spent three hours at UC Davis, meeting with officials and touring campus sites. A deputy advance director made two follow-up trips there during the week. To build a stage, they enlisted a crew of 12. A dozen people brought out cars. GM and Ford sent corporate representatives to help set up. The fire department sent three people to inspect the fueling station, to which Schwarzenegger would drive a hydrogen vehicle. Davis police and campus security also were deployed the night before and during the appearance.
Schwarzenegger arrived on time for the 10:30 a.m. event.
It was over in 20 minutes.
Whenever Schwarzenegger is seen in public, it is like this. He has overturned the way people view the governor's office, both from inside his administration and out. One of his first acts as governor was to place a gold "ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER" over the marble "GOVERNOR" sign outside his Capitol office, like a star who insists on his name above the film title. Still, the change was helpful; hundreds of people line up every month to take pictures of themselves under the sign.
Schwarzenegger staff members, too, shake their heads in disbelief at the star-power world they have entered. Margita Thompson, his press secretary, has a story: She was raised in San Diego and Tijuana and worked for Larry King at CNN and in the West Wing of the Bush White House. But nothing she has ever done matches the day she rode in a camouflaged Blackhawk helicopter with the governor, staff and friends as they traveled from Israel to dine with the king of Jordan at his palace. She sent a BlackBerry message to her mother: "Mom, I'm on a helicopter on the way to have lunch with the king," traveling "where Jesus walked." Later, she flew on Schwarzenegger's private jet to Germany, ending the day celebrating with soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thompson says she told Schwarzenegger, "You've had an amazing life. He just said, 'I am very lucky.' "
After considering 1,270 pieces of legislation this year, Schwarzenegger offered the state some definition of his political philosophy: He is a traditional Republican when it comes to helping corporations and businesses, but has Democratic values on the environment, domestic partnership and gun control. There is very little surprising about any of it; Schwarzenegger seems a lot like most Californians. With a handful of exceptions--such as allowing free needles for drug abusers and granting food stamps to some convicted felons--his record looks not much different from Davis' and Wilson's.