Honoring an American Worker This Labor Day 2018

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Throughout the summer months, the man in this photo brings refreshment — and certainly a little bit of joy — to people in our Avondale neighborhood and beyond.

His name?

I don’t know; but when I hear the sound of bells breaking the silence of an afternoon, I frequently race out of the house to purchase a few lime, mango or strawberry frozen treats. Given his weathered face and hands, it’s apparent that this American worker logs a long day.

This American Worker more than likely will be on the job this Labor Day.

On a bike ride earlier this summer, I witnessed the man with his cart a good mile-plus north of our home. He is employed by the Paleteria Arco Iris, a shop located a few blocks north of us on Belmont Avenue. In researching this post, I learned that a paleteria is an “ice lolly vendor,” and a paleta is a Mexican ice pop.

We’ve purchased frozen bars from the store in the past, but I prefer to get mine from this man, who’s always very cordial, always very welcoming. His job is simple: Stroll the sidewalks and sell a little happiness for $1 or $1.50.  Yes, he performs this task with dogged persistence and pride.

Too often, we only recognize those titans of the American workforce — those women and men who make headlines or have jobs deemed important or vital to the economy or society. Often, those performing the menial or less-skilled jobs frequently fall under the proverbial radar.

So, on Labor Day 2018, I offer a salute to the Paleta Man, who assuredly will be on his rounds today, and to all American workers who are unheralded or forgotten.

Later, I will listen for the sound of the bells, signaling happiness in the form of a flavorful frozen treat. And, I will savor the ice pop, knowing that with the decline of summer days, the Paleta Man will be done for the season.

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Labor Day posts have been published on the PRDude blog over the years.  Here are a few:

 

 

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Marvelous, Madcap Munich: Words and Pictures

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Where to start with an account of our recent trip to Germany’s third-largest city?

First, words about Munich, the Bavarian capital and gateway to the Alps.  Here are some random thoughts jotted down in my journal.

Outside the Munich visitors center in the heart of Altstadt.

Overall Impressions:  Munich is a thoroughly modern metropolis with much of its centuries-old architecture and history intact. It’s a multicultural place, also very orderly and remarkably clean, especially given the throngs of people strolling its streets and plazas. Church towers, especially the twin domed spires of the Frauenkirche, dominate the skyline rather than modern office buildings. Quiet places, like small, well-maintained parks, were easy to find.  People were respectful — most didn’t even jaywalk! While in Munich, this Chicago guy knew he was in a much, much different place.

Beverage and Food:  Yes, there is beer available everywhere — in the famous bier gartens, in restaurants, in the outstanding Viktualienmarkt outdoor market and in the Hauptbahnhof train station. The beer tastes really good; but we also sampled wines from Germany and nearby Italy, and many venues featured gin-focused cocktails. And, we certainly dined on sausages and kraut, and enjoyed snacks of big pretzels.  All were delicious, but some of our best meals were had in Italian restaurants or outdoor venues. A highlight: Braised beef with fresh vegetables, whitefish and sausages with goat cheese at an outdoor wine festival in the Odeonsplatz.  We also favored soups from a vendor in the Viktualienmarkt.

Transportation: As a transportation guy, I found Munich’s public transit network of UBahn, SBahn, trams and buses exceptionally clean, safe, whisper-quiet, fast and reliable, although navigating the system required thought and patience.  Munich transit operates on the honor system: There are no turnstiles at the subway stations, and tram and bus operators don’t ask for a pass or ticket. (Better buy one, as it’s a 60 Euro fine if you’re caught.)  We traveled using a day pass that cost 12.8 Euros for the day — for both of us.  And, then there’s bikes; Munichers take their biking seriously and travel on bike lanes installed between the sidewalk and street.  Most ride well-equipped cycles with fenders, lights, racks and bells. I did not see a hipster-favored fixie while in Munich.  Motorized vehicles leaned sharply (as you’d expect) toward German manufactured-cars and trucks, especially BMWs.

The Outdoor Spaces:  As noted, there are plenty of green spaces between the 18th and 19th century plazas within most neighborhoods of Munich. But two stand out for their size and prominence. One day, we took the the UBahn to the Olympia Park, site of the 1972 Summer Games.  We visited the impeccably-maintained grounds, with its iconic space needle-like tower, on a flawless Sunday afternoon while a carnival was underway. From an outdoor bar near the site’s lake, we enjoyed our drinks while people boated or piloted paddle boards along the shoreline. At the nearby BMW Museum, we fantasized over gleaming sedans and sports cars. Getting back on the UBahn, we made our way to the Englische Garten — Munich’s large urban park. This is an example of an urban oasis that works:  Harmony of man and nature, with walking and biking paths, a river with waterfalls, vast open spaces, stands of trees and — you guessed it — a beer garden!  On our visit, we were serenaded by a traditional German band while enjoying our beverages.  Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of our Sunday in the park: Everyone was respectful, everyone was courteous.

The Day Trips: As much as we enjoyed Munich and its environs, we ventured on three day trips, using the Deutsche Bahn regional train system; like the local service in Munich, these trains were an outstanding value, comfortable and set-your-watch-on-time reliable. Our first excursion took us to Nuremburg, a walled medieval city around a two-hour ride north.  En route, we enjoyed vistas of farms and small towns. Upon arrival, we strolled through a gate and were enthralled by the charm of this city, bombed heavily during World War II, but remarkably restored. Susan was fascinated by the small shops, including one operated by a toy maker. Another day, we ventured east to Saltzburg, home of Mozart and flanked by the Alps, a river and lots of natural beauty. This Baroque gem in nearby Austria is defined by music, as one would expect. Unfortunately, we missed a classical performance, but enjoyed modern interpretations of songs by the Foo Fighters and Tom Petty at an outdoor festival. The views from the 900-year-old Hohensaltzburg Fortress  were truly breathtaking.  And, less than an hour away lies Augsburg, an historic smaller city that was founded by the Romans.  Augsburg was surprisingly cool and compact, with buses and trams that led us to the Fuggerei, the oldest housing settlement for the poor, the home of Mozart’s father and the most spectacular church I’ve ever entered — the Cathedral of St. Mary.

I could go on, but I encourage you to visit marvelous, madcap Munich. I’m sure you’ll cultivate memories that will endear long after you return home.

And, now, some pictures.  I’ve just selected a dozen. But visit my Facebook page to view more.

The Marienplatz blended people, history, modern retail, street music, and more — but no cars.

The Theatine Church on the Odeonplatz, one of many houses of worship within Munich.

While we failed to take in a classical performance, we enjoyed the musical stylings of street performers.

The freeway near the Olympic Park did not at all resemble the highways I’m used to driving.

The twin towers of the Frauenkirche are visible from many points throughout Munich. For us, they served as a point of reference.

Ah, if I only had access to a kitchen. Produce available at the Viktualienmarkt.

“The hills are alive, with the sound of music.” The view of Saltzburg from the Fortress.

The grand garden of the Nymphenburg Palace, the summer get-away for the Bavarian royalty. Not too shabby for a summer place.

A tranquil view of the river in Nuremburg. Hard to believe much of this city was destroyed; glad it was rebuilt.

Preparing to board a UBahn, or perhaps and SBahn.

Revelers at a street fair in the Sedlinger Tor neighborhood of Munich.

Prelude to our final meal in Munich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Question Posed in a Song Written a Long Time Ago

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

For decades, music has been a big part of my life.

I’ve played guitar and sung (arguably with relative competence) for some 50 years, at home, with the band Love House and during music classes.

For more than a dozen years, I contributed articles and reviews to music-based publications, most notably the Illinois Entertainer.

And, I’ve composed my own music.

Starting in the 1980s, I’ve written lots of rock, pop and blues songs, some 70 that I still have lyrics to and can remember the melody line.

The lyrics to the song within this post is especially poignant today.

Yes, I still love rock and roll and all that goes with it — the freedom, the expression, the emotions. But over the years, my personal musical pallet has embraced bluegrass, Western swing, jazz and even classical.  (Still can’t grasp opera, but can appreciate the work and talent involved.)

“Will I Still Be Rockin’ at 63” was written in 1985 or thereabouts.  I probably recorded this composition with my now-gone but well-used Tascam Portastudio, a marvel in audio engineering at the time, as it allowed unschooled enthusiasts like me a platform to record voice, guitar, drums and keyboards on a multiple track cassette tape machine, then mix the sounds to two-track.

In those days, arranging and recording songs in my apartment on Chicago’s northwest side, I felt akin to Todd Rundgren. It was just me, my instruments and gear, and my music.

Back in day, I first scribbled the lyrics to a song on a yellow legal pad or sheet of paper, then typed out the final version on my then trusty Smith Corona manual. These days, I still initially scribble lyrics to songs on paper. For some reason, I kept both the original handwritten and printed versions of this song.

 

Copyright, Edward M. Bury, August 2018.

As for the melody to this composition, perhaps I’ll record it the modern way — digitally of course — and post on my YouTube channel.

As for the question posed in the song, I guess I have 364 more days to determine the answer.

Time Unplugged: Perhaps the Best Part of Summer 2018 Vacation

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

It’s the third week of August of 2018, and this is the first post of the PRDude blog.

Wonder why?

Striking a somewhat pensive pose before boarding Lufthansa flight 434 to ORD.

Well, from the attached image showing a pending flight from a foreign nation — and my somewhat disheveled and unshaven appearance — perhaps you ascertain that I have a solid reason for not contributing thoughts on public relations and other stuff: I’ve been away from Chicago.

Munich, the capital of Bavaria and a truly fascinating German city, has been my abbreviated home the past several days.

As you can expect, I’ll contribute a few “travelogue” posts on our vacation to this historic city, known for its culture, architecture, museums, parks and public spaces, food and — you guessed it — beer gardens, or more precisely biergartens.  (Yes, we visited a few.)  Along with our time in Munich, Susan and I boarded the local trains for day trips to Nuremburg, Saltzburg and Augsburg, fascinating destinations of their own.

But along with the sights, people, places and atmosphere, all enjoyable, enlightening and full of personal enrichment, one of the best aspects of our Summer of 2018 trip was this: I basically unplugged from digital communications.

Well, I sent a few emails from the hotel computer and kept up on how my Chicago Cubs were faring in this pivotal month of the 2018 Major League Baseball season.  But I stayed off of work email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. (Just realized that I really don’t use Instagram much anyway.)

My handheld spent its time in the hotel safe, and it still worked when we got back to Chicago last night.

For more than a week, I was able to experience marvelous Munich and its surroundings untethered to technology, free from the now incessant and seemingly unrelenting bombardment of instantaneous news, information and stimuli, now part of the world as we know it.

While many around me snapped selfies with centuries-old structures in the background, I just soaked in the charm of Munich. I not only plan to follow this unplugged vacation regimen during the next pleasure trip out of town, and hopefully on many, many days in between.

 

 

What Reading Moby Dick Taught Me About Life Today

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

By tomorrow, I will have finished reading one of the most heralded works of fiction in the annuals of American literature. For the past month of so, I’ve taken on Herman Melville’s monumental classic, Moby Dick, otherwise titled, The Whale.

Being engaged in a masterpiece like Moby Dick compels the reader to focus on one body of work.

As for my critique, that may happen in some form later this year, after I complete the next course in my “quest” (felt it appropriate to use such a superfluous noun, given the plot of the aforementioned book) for my Master’s degree in English. Upcoming this Fall: “English 507 Theory, Rhetoric, Aesthetics: Unthinking Signification.”

Taking on a novel, or any voluminous fiction or non-fiction work the size and scope of Moby Dick requires dedication and patience. The hardcover University of California Press edition I’m reading spans 577 pages and includes some informative illustrations of ships, big fish and the men who sail the ships in order to hunt big fish.

Furthermore, Melville’s prose is not what I would rank as “light reading.” Symbolism aside, this is serious, yet compelling, prose, as detailed in this passage from Chapter 42, “The Whiteness of the Whale:”

“But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and from more portentous — why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay the very veil of the Christian’s Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things most appalling to mankind.”

Someday, my prose may be this good. Someday. Maybe.

Now, let me direct this conversation to what reading Moby Dick has taught me about one aspect of life today. On my weekday commute on the CTA Blue Line, I observe fellow passengers and ascertain that they would not have the patience to read a novel, especially not a gargantuan work like Moby Dick. Most fellow passengers, not all, ride handheld in hand, dexterously swiping between Pinterest and texts, Facebook and Candy Crush Saga.

Do these folks — young and old — read novels or other long-form literature?  Will they ever? Will a significant number people from future generations only absorb information through images and videos, subheads and captions, texts and instant messages? And, perhaps more vitally, will they ever learn to savor reading a masterwork without responding to an incoming digital message?

Without question, psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists are studying this relatively modern phenomenon. Assuredly, there are plenty of options for conducting primary research, beyond the Blue Line el.

Now, as noted, I still have a few chapters to go. So, please don’t respond with the fate of Ahab, Ishmael and my favorite character Queequeg — much less the big white whale.

Of course, I could quickly consult my handheld and have the answer.  But, nawh! I prefer to savor and learn, page by page.

 

Three Places Vladimir Putin Should Visit in Washington, DC

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Russian President Vladimir Putin at an informal summit of CIS heads of state at the Novo Ogaryovo residence. (Credit Image: © Sharifulin Valery/TASS via ZUMA Press)

In a presidency fraught with seismic announcements, actions and adventures, the proposed invitation made last week by President Donald Trump to meet in the nation’s capital with Russian President Vladimir Putin was certainly among the most noteworthy.Hey

After all, relations between the two nations has not at all been rosy, so to say, given charges of meddling related to the 2016 general election. And, it’s been reported that Mr. Putin often resorts to very, very hardball tactics to combat political challenges.

But then, hometown meetings between the leaders of these two world powers has happened before. In 1972, President Richard Nixon joined a summit soiree with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev of the Communist Party of the then Soviet Union.

So, perhaps the U.S. is due to invite a Russian leader to the White House.

Plans for the Putin visit this fall are still being finalized, and it’s certainly speculative that the visit will materialize. Should he commit to the trip, I offer suggestions on three places to visit while in Washington — should time allow between formal dinners, closed-door meetings and other “regular” agenda items.

  1. The International Spy Museum: Okay, this is a no-brainer.  During our 2016 vacation, Susan and I included a stop at this multi-level building on F Street containing “the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display.” Who knows: Perhaps Mr. Putin, a 16-year KGB employee, already has visited the museum.  Better yet, maybe some of the stuff on display was even used by Mr. Putin. Maybe he’ll even add personal stuff to the collection.
  2.  The Lincoln Memorial: Yes, there are lots and lots of compelling monuments, memorials and bronzed men on horseback on public display throughout Washington. But I would highly recommend that Mr. Putin stop by the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall and read these words above the gigantic seated marble figure of the 16th president. “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” In case Mr. Putin is not a student of history, the United States remains a union and a democracy. It will remain one forever, even if foreign powers attempt to surreptitiously alter elections.
  3.  The Big Hunt: International travel and formal meetings can take their toll. Mr. Putin may want to chill out with an adult beverage after the rounds of ceremony, news conferences and pomp and circumstance.  My suggestion: Stop by The Big Hunt, an unabashed dive bar and restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in DuPont Circle. I visit this establishment whenever I’m in the District because the Big Hunt is raucous and real, beers are plentiful and cheap and the conversation among patrons stimulating. I’m sure the locals would welcome a discussion with Mr. Putin over a glass of vodka. Hey, maybe he’d even buy a round!

Assuredly, I’m not an expert on all the most memorable, fascinating and cool places to visit in the District — although I have visited there at least 10 times over my lifetime. In fact, I published a retrospective piece inspired during my visit in January of this year and this travelogue post from the spring of 2016.

My plans call for a return visit to Washington in January of 2019. Wonder if the town — or the nation or the world — will change should the Russian leader, indeed, arrive this fall and leave his mark on Washington.

Now, it’s your turn: What venues in the District would you recommend?

 

 

 

 

 

Two Corporate Blunders That (Fortunately) Were Not (In All Instances) Labeled “Public Relations Disasters”

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

This space has remained stalwart in addressing occurrences of corporate operational or administrative mistakes that were unfairly categorized by the media as “public relations disasters” or better yet, “public relations nightmares.”

In a sound strategic move, Papa Johns will remove its founder from print marketing materials. Image courtesy of the New York Post.

The rationale, as I comprehend it: A company gets grilled when news breaks (and these days, news often is accompanied by a video account) that results in an embarrassment, loss of business or possibly a fine or legal action. This constitutes unfavorable media coverage or “bad PR.” Hence, the correlation — albeit inaccurate and unfair — to public relations.

Well, any reference to a “public relations disaster” was, remarkably, absent in some news reports I read in print or online of two recent corporate blunders:

  • Papa John’s International.  On a conference call, pizza chain founder John Schnatter uttered a racial slur, leading to his resignation as chairman of the board from the publicly traded company.  As a way to mitigate this crisis, the company also is removing Mr. Schnatter’s image from its marketing materials.  I’ll also bet Mr. Schnatter will no longer be featured in TV spots.
  • Build-A-Bear.  Yesterday, this company that allows kids to design and build their own stuff animal created pandemonium — and left a lot of kids and parents unfulfilled — when a “Pay Your Age Day” promotion drew overflow crowds at shopping malls across the nation.  Parents received $15 vouchers as an appeasement, and the company CEO promptly issued a video apology.

But, doing a Google search, yes, I found some references to “public relations crisis” in both stories noted above.

I had hoped the media would dissolve an instance of outright stupidity and callousness (Mr. Schantter) and one that failed to comprehend the consequences of a marketing initiative (Build-A-Bear) from the realm of having anything that originated with a strategic public relations plan.

Assuredly, the public relations teams for both organizations — departments that did not initiate what led to the negative publicity in both instances — will marshal its crisis communications plan in the days to come. Perhaps both companies will get some “good PR” in the future.