One Image, One Question: January 30, 2019

By Edward M. Bury, APR

Some topics — sports, politics, popular culture — have widespread interest among the public at large, while others often are relegated to the fringes.

But when extreme weather becomes the focus, everyone takes notice.

A few months from now, this view from the back porch of our Avondale home will be much, much more inviting.

It’s that way here in Chicago and across much of the Midwest. Dangerous, unprecedented arctic cold has descended, dropping air temperatures to minus 20 degrees (or colder) and wind chill factors to minus 50 in some areas.

The technical term is polar vortex.

News reports shout caution — stay indoors, bundle up if you have to go out, help those in need, limit the time spent exercising your dog. We hear lots about the impact of the cold, its dangers, its causes and, unfortunately, its often devastating results on people, animals, buildings, cars, the economy and the environment.

That bring us to the question of this post: What does “cold” sound like?

To answer that question, earlier today (air temperature was minus 18), I ventured outside for around 15 minutes. What I heard this bright, sunny and frigid day was an almost eerie quiet. It was as if we surrendered to something we could not really control.

I recall three cars passed down our block during my short sojourn outside, and I encountered one man walking his dogs, hurriedly, I must add.  That’s it.

To the north, I could see jet planes heading to O’Hare International Airport, but of course, I could not hear any sounds.

Now back in our warm home, I’m encouraged by reports of a nearby laundry staying open to temporarily house those with no warm place to go, and ride share company Lyft offering no-cost rides to the many shelters set up in Chicago.

Later, I may venture out to listen again to the sound of cold.

 

Balancing the National Chaos: Two Images of Washington

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

A short visit to the nation’s capital this week provided a first-hand perspective on the chaos taking place in Washington and across the nation as the federal government shutdown over a planned boarder wall drags on and on, without a glimmer of an impending resolution.

To illustrate this perspective, note the two images — both taken from my room at the DuPont Circle Hotel — that accompany this post.  It’s my intention that these perspectives will somewhat metaphorically provide insight into the nation today.

Metro Washington was battered by a significant winter storm that impacted travel, but also left the city — and nation — blanketed in indecision.

The top image was taken Sunday in mid-afternoon as bands of snow fell across the city and surrounding areas.  The weather created challenges for travelers arriving at Reagan National Airport, people taking the Washington metro transit system and pedestrians, as the snow and ice made it difficult to walk, much less pull a suitcase across sidewalks that had yet to be shoveled.

In town to attend a transportation conference, I learned firsthand of travel nightmares, closed museums and attractions, and lives of federal workers and many others disrupted. An Italian restaurant near my hotel, where I had planned to enjoy a light dinner and glass of wine, had closed early. Other restaurants in the normally bustling neighborhood were open but not crowded. There was a sense that evening that Washington was hunkering down, that it almost was under siege due to the forces of nature and a government that did not fulfill its obligation to its citizens.

But on Monday morning, the bands of snow moved east, resulting in clear skies. Crews had been dispatched to clear away snow and ice, making basic mobility much easier and less dangerous than 12 or so hours before.  The WMATA Red Line train I took to the Convention Center was crowded, efficiently transporting people to jobs, appointments and events.  Later that evening, crowds descended on the Capital One Arena to take in a hockey game.  As noted in the second image here, the city had shrugged off obstacles and stood resilient. Things appeared to be “back to normal.”

As the shutdown enters its 27th day, the question remains: How many times can Washington figuratively brush off winter snow and clear sidewalks while some 800,000 workers wait for resolution and a paycheck?

Brilliant blue skies over the mid-rise office buildings across DuPont Circle made for a more inviting and optimistic perspective on Monday morning.

Other recollections on my 48 hour sojourn:

  • My Tuesday morning trip on the Yellow Line back to Reagan Airport offered a glimpse of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial as the train crossed the Potomac River. My thoughts turned to the nation these Founding Fathers built, and whether the ideals they formulated were crumbling.
  • From the American Airlines concourse, I counted around a dozen construction cranes in the distance, testimony that new developments, business and commerce will continue while the government stalemate dragged on.
  • The lines to get a cup of coffee at the Starbucks near the TSA checkpoint were longer than the lines required to pass through security. Was this an anomaly? A result of fewer travelers due to the shutdown?  Luck?

And, finally an aside of sorts. While at a reception Monday evening near the Convention Center, a colleague noted that Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren was present, dining with her husband, glasses of beer before them. As unobtrusively as possible, I approached their booth. The Senator smiled, turned and extended her hand.  She demonstrated a firm handshake.

“Hello Senator,” I said. “Wishing you success in the campaign ahead. We’re here for a transportation conference.”  “Transportation is very important to the nation,” she said. I wholeheartedly agreed, bid the couple farewell, and they quietly enjoyed their dinner and evening together.

What’s On My Calendar in 2019

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

This handy calendar offers motivation, prompts, wisdom and more. Who knows: Maybe one of my quotes will be on the 2020 edition.

Looking back at the holiday season passed, I was fortunate to receive some outstanding gifts, from the intangible (moments shared with family and friends) to the tangible (a couple of six packs of some really good beer).

But assuredly, the most poignant — and hopefully most useful — gift found under the proverbial tree was a desk calendar.

As noted in the accompanying image, my calendar will offer “Inspiration, writing prompts & advice for every day of the year.”

By reading this post, it’s readily apparent that I write stuff, from commentary on public relations, politics and popular culture to travelogues and people profiles. With a career in public relations, marketing and journalism spanning (yes, hard to believe) four decades, there are a lot of other genres I could include within print digital and broadcast.

Back to the present, the most challenging writing projects completed recently were required assignments in my pursuit of a master’s degree in English. For the Theory, Rhetoric and Aesthetics course completed in December, I submitted a paper, “The Growth of a Post-Truth World in Modern Society.

To summarize the essay: Exceptionally challenging and equally rewarding, as I had to analyze early twenty first century perceptions of truth and falsehood while balancing beliefs presented by Plato and a twentieth century thinker. Heady stuff, indeed.

For the spring 2019 semester, I pivot resoundingly in another direction: Novel workshop.

Yes, I will begin — and hopefully finish — a novel by May. What’s the plot? Who are the characters? What do I hope to accomplish?  We’ll find out in a few months.

Should I need inspiration, I will read, savor and gain from the messages displayed on the little calendar on my desk. Then, I’ll get back to work.