Okay, we in San Francisco think we are one of the leading metro centers in America. After all, by most counts, we are the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country. I’m still willing to fight anyone who says we don’t have one of the best art/music/opera/culture epicenters in the U.S. But today was a crash course in learning that a “Metropolitan Area” is not the same thing as a Big City. San Francisco is a small (although lovely) town surrounded by a “Metropolitan Area”. Chicago is a Big City. Biiiiig Biiig City. Until very recently, when a former mayor who shall not be named got in bed with big contractors, San Francisco had a building height limit of something around 8 stories. Now we have a few high rises, but they are so obvious, everyone tells direction by pointing to a tower and saying, “Walk toward that tower.”

Silly me, I thought I could navigate that way in Chicago. After all, I’m staying at the Chicago Sheraton and Towers. So I could walk all around the town and find my way back just by scanning the horizon for the tower. (Which, if it were like San Francisco, would have the name helpfully emblazoned on the top.) Guess what? All the buildings are towers. You can’t even see my tower between all the other towers. I know this because I walked for miles and miles down admittedly beautiful Chicago avenues. I walked down Madison. I went through something called the Jewelry District. I walked through what I’m convinced was the setting for the movie Saint Elmo’s Fire (Demi Moore and Rob Lowe were long gone). I landed in a really interesting place called Millennium Park. At which point I discovered that most Chicagoans are very, very friendly and anxious to give you directions. Except they don’t have a clue where anything is. Luckily I met a security guard with an iPhone who found out I had somehow strayed 5 miles from my hotel. (Which was amazing as the restaurant I went to was only a mile from the hotel.) At that point, hailing a cab was the better part of valour. But I certainly got my money’s worth out of Chicago tonight. Even as I confronted the fact that I thought I was a San Francisco hipster and I’m just a kid from the sticks.

The iPhone can do a lot. But it cant capture Chicago lightning storms from the back of the airport shuttle.

The iPhone can do a lot. But it can’t capture Chicago lightning storms from the back of the airport shuttle.

Okay, let me backtrack. So far — just hours into this junket — I already felt as if I were having a real Chicago experience. I landed in O’Hare, just in time for the scariest thunder/lightning/hail storm the Midwest could produce. I can’t decide what was more disconcerting. The ferocity of the storm or the fact that this was precipitation in summer. Nope, don’t have that in Sonoma. My camera was in the airport shuttle’s trunk, so I was reduced to trying to snap shots of lightning with my iPhone. And I seem to have brought the wrong connectors. So what’s taken into the iPhone, stays in the iPhone for this trip.

Met with an old college friend who is now so important and so mysterious, she will henceforth be referred to as Greta Garbo.

Met with an old college friend who is now so important and so mysterious, she will henceforth be referred to as Greta Garbo.

So let’s step way back. One of the best things about this Blogher Conference is that it’s not going to be all about Blogging. First thing scheduled was meeting with a good friend from college (who was Maid of Honor at my wedding). We’d dropped out of each other’s lives for awhile so it was good to be back in touch. Especially since she is a good friend to have. I’m keeping her identity under wraps because, well I’m not exactly sure what she does, but I’m pretty sure that if she goes on vacation or sneezes or gets a cold and has to take NyQuil, Corporate America comes to a shocking standstill. So for the sake of this blog (and our floundering economy), let’s just call her Greta Garbo. Well, Greta had some hair-raising tales to tell of her recent years. Again, no details, but I’m writing the “ripped from  today’s headlines” Law & Order script the story deserves. But on a lighter note, she’d easily fit into the clothes we used to share in college. And those clothes would be all hers. (Because I can’t fit in them anymore.) She also had the wisdom to take me to a proper steakhouse with aged beef. It was the kind of place Frank Sinatra would have patronized. I should have had the Martini. But I figured after little sleep, the dehydration of flight, etc. that might be a bad move. Turns out it was wise to forgo the Martini given that I would be wandering the streets of this toddlin’ town for hours afterwards.

It’s almost a shame to plunge into all that blogging stuff tomorrow after this introduction. I think I’d rather be walking the streets of Chicago. But I did have an exciting celebrity moment. As I ran into the elevator with five minutes to shower, change and get a cab to the restaurant, a long-haired redhead got out. I’m convinced it was The Pioneer Woman. If I’d had even a few more minutes, I would have reminded her that we are Twin Ranching Sisters With Absolutely Nothing In Common. And we are supposed to discover we are BFFs this weekend.

Well, there’s always time at the session she’s moderating.

Just a few more interesting things about Chicago:

1. All the cabbies seem to be from West Africa.

2. They all think Obama is in town.

3. One told me he was staying at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.

4. I’m pretty sure he was NOT invited to BlogHer ’09. (Maybe Michelle was.)

Two more pictures of Left Coast Cowboys’ BlogHer Experience: The Lost Hours:

Millenium Park was the coolest thing Ive seen since the Olympic Village in Beijing.

Millennium Park was the coolest thing I’ve seen since the Olympic Village in Beijing.

And then there were the parts of the City that looked like something out of 19th Century Paris.

And then there were the parts of the City that looked like something out of 19th Century Paris.