Thursday, April 30th, was my first full day in Chicago. My intention was to go find Harpo Studios; I had mapped the nearly 2-mile route using Google before leaving home. But it was raining! And I didnâ€™t have my rain poncho with me.
I ducked out for breakfast at a bakery cafe that I had found the previous night while searching for a place for supper. Being alone in a strange city without a clue where to eat was somewhat unnerving. Iâ€™ve never been so relieved to find a Subway restaurant open!
After breakfast, the heavens opened up! I dashed back to the hotel lobby and pretended to read the USA Today - like I was interested in hearing yet more about swine flu or H1N1 virus or whatever they were calling it.
Watching the rain through the large windowed wall, I decided to make a break for it when the rain slowed to a drizzle. I didnâ€™t come all this way to stay inside, watching the rain fall; that was something I could do at home.
I headed out with the intention of buying a cheap rain poncho. Surely, a luggage store or a Target or Walmart or something like that would have one. I headed west. I guess I wasnâ€™t on the right street because I found no such store. I kept heading west, ignoring the drizzle.
Another decision was made when I came to the Randolph Street bridge: keep going! I knew I was heading in the right direction for Harpo Studios; I just wasnâ€™t sure how far North Carpenter Street was. And, I didn’t want to stop to pull out my map. Nothing screams tourist more than wandering around with a Google map!
The further west I went, the worst the sidewalk became. What the heck do Chicagoans do to their sidewalks? They were all cracked, broken and uneven. They were a stark contrast from the sidewalks on the eastside â€“ nicely maintained and fantastic curb cuts.
Bumping down one curb cut, one of my backup light covers popped out, which has never happened before. With traffic whizzing by, I wasnâ€™t stopping to pick up a piece of plastic.
I now understood why President Obama is creating jobs by pouring money into infrastructure improvements. Some of those uneven cracks are lawsuits waiting to happen! Wheeling along Randolph, the sidewalk became impassable â€“ and the area was becoming even more questionable.
I backtracked half a block and turned up West Michigan Boulevard â€“ much better in terms of sidewalk and perceived personal safety.
A couple of more blocks and I spotted it on the opposite corner: Harpo Studios! Just then the sun briefly peeked through and I had a moment on the corner of West Michigan and North Carpenter.
After admiring Oprah for years, I was now outside of the hub of the action! The one thing I admire most is how she has built her own media empire and how she uses cross-media promotion to keep it all going. Iâ€™d love to hear more about her business side of things and how she fits in everything. At what point did she start hiring people for help? What was her first big break?
I wheeled around the entire building, drinking in the moment.
People were lining up at the audience door for a taping. I was so tempted to try to get in, but I doubted Iâ€™d get far without a ticket. Besides, I looked like a drown rat and I was meeting deaf mom Karen Putz back at the hotel lobby at 3pm. I would have had no way to let her know I would be late because I was at an Oprah show taping. Next year! I was quite content with the experience I was having.
Heading in the direction of the front door, not that I was planning on going in (Iâ€™m not that brave!), I saw a uniformed man walking a shaven cocker spaniel. Sadie? Just then Gayle King stepped out of a limo, greeted Lady Sadie and entered the building. Damn, she IS tall! Ok, stay calm. Breathe.
I turned my attention to Sadie who was right there! The uniformed dog-walker indicated that she was looking to do her business â€“ on the tiniest patch of grass. (Grass in inner Chicago is extremely sparse.) Otherwise, Iâ€™m sure I would have patted her â€“ we were that close together. (Later, I thought I perhaps should have tried handing a copy of my autobiography to the dog-walker. Oh well.)
I left the adorable puppy do her thing and headed off to find Oprahâ€™s Boutique in the next block. Much to my surprise, the store was on a corner that did not have a curb cut - the only corner without a curb cut that I encountered on my pilgrimage. There was a nice wide ramp up to the store, but no curb cut to cross the street. I had to go along the street to the next curb cut and then backtrack a block to boutique. I understand that Oprah is not responsible for city works. However, surely some money could be found in that neighbourhood so that fans on wheels can safely get from Harpo Studios to Oprahâ€™s Boutique.
Once inside the boutique, I was amazed by the selection available. Another way Oprah has monetized her brand! With limited space in luggage, I chose one t-shirt with a subtle O â€“ purple, of course!
Content and satisfied, I headed back to Hotel 71 with enough time to towel dry before meeting Karen in the lobby.
People were amazed by my venture. Many of them had been to Chicago a few times or live in the area, yet had never taken time to do what I had done.
People, we live only once. Live without any regrets!
Oprah, I will be back in Chicago next May. I look forward to meeting you!If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.