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George W. Bush's life after the White House, down there in Dallas

May 19, 2009 | 11:00 am

Former President George W. Bush at Elliott's Hardware Store on Maple Street in Dallas  

To hear some tell it, George W. Bush is having a rough adjustment to civilian life.

In Newsweek, Bill Minutaglio reports that Bush, seen above at Elliott's Hardware Store on Maple Avenue, has taken to calling young supporters. One 14-year-old was invited to visit the Bush home in Dallas and "ask me anything you want." According to the kid's grandmother, the two chatted for 90 minutes.

Then there's the time, about a month after leaving the White House, when Bush dropped in to see students at Pershing Elementary School. He asked if the children knew who he was. One replied, "George Washington!" To which the 43rd president of the United States replied, "George Washington Bush." When a parent asked him to consider working at the school's haunted house carnival, Bush replied, "I'd make a good ghost."

But friends insist that the former president is busy and happy. "Every time I talk to him or have been around him, he has been very up," said Nolan Ryan, the baseball legend and Friend of George.

He's started giving speeches -- regaling an audience of businesspeople in Calgary, Canada, at a $400-a-plate luncheon. And in China recently he talked of the pleasures of walking his dog Barney in the Preston Hollow neighborhood. He's also reportedly raised millions for his presidential library at Southern Methodist University, also in Dallas.

In late May, he and President Clinton are set to appear in a two-hour "moderated conversation" before an audience in Toronto.

And, like most every president since Ulysses S. Grant, Bush is writing his memoirs. He has said repeatedly that he thinks history will judge him more kindly than the contemporary public, which gave him approval ratings from the low 20s into the low 30s on leaving office.

Still, Newsweek recounts, a 19-year-old Texas Christian University student was stunned when his cellphone rang with a call from Bush.

Patrick Bibb said the former president was calling to thank him for selling "Welcome Home George & Laura" signs to folks in the neighborhood; Bibb charged $20 per sign and used the profits to defray tuition costs.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Associated Press