My Favorite Summer Place

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

The front porch of our Avondale home is where you’ll often find me these months of summer.

The summer, at least here in Chicago, has been sultry and scorching, the sun frequently scintillating from the blue sky often void of clouds.

Yes, the days of June and July of 2018 have been marked at times by record heat, tropical dew points and often fierce, drenching thunderstorms that swept across the metropolitan area, leaving flooded roadways, shattered tree limbs and a reminder that the forces of nature can often prevent the even emboldened from venturing out from the safety of a covered roof and air conditioning for very long.

And, it’s only the first week of July.

Still, there’s much to revel about in summer, much to savor. Like finding a favorite summer place.

Mine is depicted in the image above, the front porch of our Avondale home.  There, on the corner of two one-way streets, I can observe or appreciate:

  • The evolution of our neighborhood, from decidedly diverse and middle class to increasingly youthful, Caucasian, artsy and professional.
  • People in motion, on foot, on bicycles, on skateboards, on scooters and pushing carriages. People walking dogs, people with arms outstretched, their eyes and attention directed to a handheld.
  • The flight and calls of all sorts of birds — robins, cardinals, sparrows, grackles, crows, finches and, this being Chicago, pigeons.
  • The emergence of fireflies and the symphonic sounds of cicadas, unseen but yet there.
  • Vendors selling frozen desserts from push carts, including the Hispanic man with the tanned skin who knows I prefer the lime popsicle.
  • Peaks from the sun coming through the trees to the east in the morning, and the remaining rays of light to the east at dusk.
  • The opportunity to read without a light, not caring if my mind wanders off the page, the result of a distraction by the world around me.

In essence, simple things, aspects of the world around me punctuated by the perspective provided by positioning my posterior on my modest perch.

Bring on more heat. I don’t care. It’s always cool in my favorite summer place.

Now, what’s yours?

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Have a little more time? Then read my essay, “The Greening of Avondale,” written in fall of 2017 for a Non-Fiction Writing Workshop class.

 

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Building on My Foundation in Non-Fiction Writing: Fall Master’s Class Remembered

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

Another semester. Another class. Another step closer to achieving a milestone in life.

Our little piece of mortgaged America located in Avondale, the focus of my essay.

That summarizes an important part of what took place this fall of 2017. Specifically, I completed another graduate-level class, one more academic chess piece so to say toward earning my Master’s degree in English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

This fall, I joined 11 other student scholars in the “Non-Fiction Writing Workshop,” a course that allowed participants to submit essays, memoirs, journal contributions and other written works as part of the required assignments.  Each class, two works were presented, analyzed and read aloud in segments or entirely.

The professor, himself a very successful author of non-fiction, novels and short stories, encouraged discussion and criticism — but primarily the constructive kind.

My classmates presented poignant, compelling stories of growing up in parts of the nation and under familial dynamics much, much different than mine. Some revealed much more about themselves, their lives and personal relationships than I ever would, except perhaps in fiction.

I respected everyone and their abilities, and I believe I grew as a writer after absorbing the works presented each Monday night.  A community of sorts evolved: Writers charged with keeping the craft and art of the written word advancing through compositions centered on our own experiences and abilities, beliefs and perspectives.

My essay contributions were driven by what I know best: Chicago.

The second and more substantial of the two essays is titled The “Greening” of Avondale, a perspective on the Chicago neighborhood we’ve lived in for 17 years.

Your thoughts on this work are welcomed. And, if you want to read more of my “scholarly” works, please visit my website.

By the way, I earned an A this semester!

 

 

One Image, One Question: September 24, 2017

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

As this post is about to be published, the temperature outside here in Chicago this Sunday in September, the first official weekend of autumn, is 88 degrees.

Yes, 88 degrees this late in the season.

Do you have a favorite spot to observe the changes around you?

Hey, that’s a bit less July-like than the record breaking mid-90 degree temperatures recorded here and around the Midwest the past few days.

But enough weather talk.

The image above was taken on our front porch, where Susan and I sit often during the warm months to read, drink coffee (and sometimes wine or beer) and watch activity in the neighborhood.

By this time of year, opportunities to enjoy the outside on the porch dwindle.  But, not today.

From this perch, we’ve observed many somewhat subtle but significant changes to Avondale. Most specifically — the people.

Avondale’s proximity to downtown Chicago and public transportation, great housing stock and relative affordability has attracted families and a younger demographic.

Okay, the neighborhood is becoming gentrified.

We observe this in three quantifiable ways:

  • Rising prices for housing, meaning less affordability for many, including long-standing residents.
  • A reduction in gang-related activity, which was prevalent when we moved to Avondale 17 years ago.
  • An increase in people walking dogs! (I’m not kidding; being on a corner, we are at the dog walking crossroads.)

So on today’s question:

Where and how do you observe changes within your community?

Time to get back outside to continue this research. Real autumn weather will be here. Someday.

 

 

Memorial Day 2015: A Memorial Close to Home

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

This Memorial Day 2015 morning, I set out for a walk in our Avondale neighborhood seeking exercise and inspiration.

I got both.

My hour stroll along quiet, empty streets took me north along Milwaukee Avenue north past Diversey Avenue, where I could observe first hand the changes taking place in our little corner of Chicago.

The next time you're in Avondale, take a moment to visit St. Hyacinth. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

The next time you’re in Avondale, take a moment to visit St. Hyacinth. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Some old storefronts, once home to mom-and-pop shops, were getting a facelift and new businesses were opening up. Old frame structures on the side streets were replaced by modern homes, adding a new dimension to some blocks.  Improvements — or call it gentrification — was happening beyond the Logan Square apex.

Then I got to St. Hyacinth Basilica and found the inspiration for this post.

There, in a small garden, next to a statue to commemorate Pope John Paul II, was a memorial to men of the then predominantly Polish parish who died and served in World War I. The handsome stone marker was dedicated in 1924, four years after the war ended.

There were 499 men from the parish who enlisted and were sent to Europe — the place where they or certainly their ancestors were born — to fight in the “war to end all wars.” Twelve of the men — 11 with Polish surnames and one Italian (I think) — did not make it home.

The memorial to men from the parish who served -- and died -- in World War I commands a prominent place on the parish grounds.

The memorial to men from the parish who served — and died — in World War I commands a prominent place on the parish grounds.

(Unfortunately, of course, we’ve not found a way to end all wars.)

I sat in the garden for a while and read the names of the men who died on the battlefield and the inscriptions. Their sacrifice allowed their families to continue to live in America in peace and build lives here.

What I realized this Memorial Day is that there probably are thousands of small memorials, like the one at St. Hyacinth’s,  to those servicemen and women who died in places far from their homes.

What I hope is this: That along with the large, public ceremonies that will take place in America on Memorial Day 2015, that someone visits the smaller places, too.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired, just like I was earlier today.

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Want more Memorial Day inspiration from The PRDude? Please read this 2013 post.