Memorial Day 2017: A Perspective From a Changing Logan Sqaure

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

Memorial Day 2017 dawned gloriously a few hours ago in Chicago, prompting a short excursion on foot through the somewhat deserted streets of our neighborhood.

This monument to fallen Logan Square heroes stands out amidst a changing neighborhood — and symbols of commerce.

Some advice: Take advantage of quiet times during holidays, especially those in the warm weather months, by strolling or biking in places familiar or new. You’d be surprised what may come to light in the hours you can claim as your own.

My walk today took me to the monument pictured in these images. It’s on Fullerton Avenue at Fransisco Avenue in Logan Square, and it honors those who lost their lives in “the great global war.”

There are 45 names on the now weathered bronze plaque at the base of the flag pole, which bears the U.S. stars and stripes and a flag honoring POWs.  Five red geraniums offer a little natural beauty, and someone later added a “V” for victory marker.

All of the names listed are men, save one, a woman (I presume) named La Donna.  All were residents of Logan Square around the turn of the 20th century, and all gave their lives in World War I.  All lived in a very different Logan Square.

Look close and you might be able to read all 45 names on this plaque.

Within steps of the monument, one can readily ascertain how the neighborhood has changed: A new cannabis dispensary, a hip coffee shop, a ramen noodle restaurant, art galleries and bars designed look like someone’s hideout.

In a sense, these American heroes — and the many who were killed over the decades while on duty — helped preserve the democracy that allows a neighborhood like Logan Square and others in Chicago and elsewhere to evolve and nurture these new business enterprises.

To some, bars that sell $8 glasses of beer and restaurants offering $14 bowls of soup are examples of gentrification; but from another perspective, it’s an example of the free-market economy we, as Americans, enjoy.

I hope others visit this little Logan Square monument this Memorial Day, even for a few minutes.  Then, patronize the local establishments, those made possible through the unselfish valor of others who lived here long ago.

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The PRDude has addressed Memorial Day in other posts:

 

 

 

 

 

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A Super Way to Start This Super Bowl Sunday

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

Perhaps it’s not an exciting way to start off Super Bowl Sunday, February 7, 2016.

A view of northbound Milwaukee Avenue, my favorite street in the world.

A view of northbound Milwaukee Avenue, my favorite street in the world.

But here’s what I did on this unseasonably warm and pleasant morning: I went for a long walk in the neighborhood and stopped for a cup of coffee at a new, independent shop just off Milwaukee Avenue, my favorite street in the world.

Sounds innocuous, uneventful, even predictable, right.

Not so.

My stroll and stop at the Bow Truss shop on Kedzie Avenue gave me an opportunity to break away from my Sunday morning routine of coffee on the couch with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and gain some more insight on the changes taking place in and around Logan Square.

My view from the corner stool on a warm-for-February Sunday morning.

My view from the corner stool on a warm-for-February Sunday morning.

While sitting at the Bow Truss counter, I overheard a conversation between the barista (who hailed from a small town in northern Michigan) and the two guys next to me — one from Toronto, the other from France.  All three had been in Chicago for a short time, all were happy to be here, and all looked forward to learning more about the city.

Using my keen powers of observation (remember, I used to be a reporter), I ascertained that other patrons of the establishment, which was a scary bar back in the early 1990s, also moved to the neighborhood recently; they selected Logan Square because it’s become a very desirable place to live and work, and drink good coffee, too.

Ah, great coffee in a real glass mug!

Ah, great coffee in a real glass mug!

And, as illustrated in the adjacent image, I brought along some of today’s Sunday newspaper to read while I enjoyed the excellent coffee and relaxed atmosphere.

 

Bow Truss is just one of the seemingly dozens of new establishments bringing vitality and diversity to Logan Square. More restaurants, bars and even a brewery will open along Milwaukee Avenue in the near future.

These changes, which are leading to dramatically higher rents and housing prices, come in the wake of what some call “gentrification,” or a process where lower-income residents and business get priced out by newcomers.

And, there’s certainly validity in that perspective.

But Bow Truss replacing a long-gone seedy tavern called the Big O is a reflection of many factors, like market dynamics, the economy and shifting demographics.

Hopefully, those who want to live in Logan Square will still be able to do so. I’d welcome to overhear their conversation about the neighborhood the next time I break my Sunday morning routine.

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I’ve written about Logan Square (and Avondale, where we live) before. Here are some past posts.

 

 

 

 

 

Fixies, Tats and Fedoras: In Search of Hipsters, Part 2

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

Last time, we reported on primary research conducted to better define the urban creature known as The Hipster.

In this post, The PRDude offers followers insight as to where to find Hipsters in his rapidly gentrifying Avondale neighborhood and surrounding communities like Logan Square, and what’s perhaps the epicenter of hipsterism — Wicker Park/Bucktown.

Not sure, but there’s probably an app — or someone is developing one right now — that will let users identify venues of hipsterism in major metro markets around the nation.  Or, just do it the old-fashioned way and search for Chicago “hipsters” on Foursquare.

Otherwise, if hipster hunting, here are three sure-fire places you’ll fine them:

Longman & Eagle, perhaps the most "hipster" of hipster eateries. Yes, those are fixies parked in front.

Longman & Eagle, perhaps the most “hipster” of hipster eateries. Yes, those are fixies parked in front.

Eateries. Yes, most people call them “restaurants.”  But some how, “eateries” has more hipster panache.  Look for eateries with single-syllable names, especially those that have nothing even remotely related to food.  Establishments with ampersands in the name are common hipster gathering spots, and a telltale trait is the line to get a table.  As far as type of cuisine, hipsters are not very choosy: As long as the food costs more than it should and bone marrow — in several forms — is on the menu.

Craft Cocktail Lounges. The companion to hipster restaurants,

This may look like any upscale tavern; but this is the interior of Billy Sunday, a certified hipster craft cocktail lounge.

This may look like any upscale tavern; but this is the interior of Billy Sunday, a certified hipster craft cocktail lounge.

craft cocktail lounges (don’t call them “bars” or “taverns”) serve cocktails that truly are out of the ordinary.  Ingredients along the back bar include Sac’Resine, Blackstrap Rhubarb Bitters, Milanese Fernet and other stuff only a handful of people on earth truly can comprehend.  You’ll know you’re in an authentic hipster craft bar — I mean lounge — if the bartender — I mean mixologist — is bearded, has sleeve tats on both arms and wears a vest; and if your cocktail averages $15.

Milwaukee Avenue. Known by some as “The Hipster Highway,” this diagonal arterial thoroughfare has evolved (or devolved) into a linear microcosm of hipster culture.  One will find the requisite eateries and craft cocktail lounges on or near this North Side street, and there’s always a perennial parade of hipsters on fixies out for adventure. I’ve observed several shops that sell fedoras.

No self-respecting hipster would be caught dead or alive in a K-Mart.

No self-respecting hipster would be caught dead or alive in a K-Mart.

And, from another perspective, here are three places where you probably won’t find Chicago-area hipsters.

  • Schaumburg. Would be hard to ride a fixie on a busy four-lane highway like Golf Road.
  • K-Mart.  It’s possible this national retailer sells hipster staples, including fedoras. But I think the Blue Light Special might be a turnoff.
  • McDonald’s. Yes, there often lines at the world’s largest restaurant, but they move quickly in most cases. Plus hipsters deplore dollar menu items.

This tongue-in-cheek commentary was meant to amuse, as I have no qualms with hipsters. Like other preconceived demographic groups — hippies, preppies, yuppies for instance — they probably don’t exist.

Besides, I’ve never heard of anyone defining themselves as a hipster. Have you?

 

Fixies, Tats and Fedoras: In Search of Hipsters, Part 1

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

As all strategic public relations professionals know, conducting research drives communications plans. Primary research, or the studies you conduct yourself — can and should — offer insight needed to craft a plan that helps realize realistic goals and produce measurable objectives.

For the past several months, The PRDude has been conducting primary Hipster man and womanresearch of sorts into a unique sub-species of human: The urban hipster.

The purpose, of course, is to craft a plan to build greater awareness for and acceptance of hipsters and hipsterism in and around my humble Chicago neighborhood of Avondale and its sister ‘hood, Logan Square.

After extensive study, actually just looking around at people, I’ve identified these three key hipster traits:

1. Fixies. Or, to be precise, a fixed-gear bicycle.  Every self-respecting hipster rides a fixed gear bike, or some derivation thereof.  Breaks, gears and comfort are for nerds. Accoutrements include a stylish messenger bag and helmet color-coordinated to the bike.  Alternatives to the fixie: An Uber or Lyft app on the iPhone 6, Divvy membership and unlimited ride Ventra card.

Hipsters2. Tats. Self-explanatory, but with some provisions.  Hipsters opt for more subtle placement of ink on their bodies, although I’ve witnessed some with a full sleeve.  And never will a hipster let the tattoo artist work on hands or neck; that can hurt, I’ve been told.  As for designs, most prefer stars or other celestial objects and Japanese or Sanskrit messages that translate to phrases like “love, truth and identity.”

3. Fedoras. Every self-respecting hipster dons a fedora at some point during the week, especially when off to dine at restaurants that charge $13 for a bowl of soup and feature entrees made with lots of bone marrow (whatever that is). Why a hat my father once wore has become the de rigueur hipster dress accessory today remains a mystery.  Perhaps a fedora helps hide a premature bald spot better than a baseball cap.

Now kind readers, let me know if my casual research is on target with identifying today’s hipster.  And, watch for Part 2, where I point out some places in the neighborhood where hipsters are known to congregate.

How do I know where to look?  Fixies, tats and fedoras will show me the way.

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Want more on Avondale and Logan Square?  Here are some other posts to consider.

One More Thing About the Pending Closing of Hot Doug’s

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

The news yesterday was stupefying for Chicago aficionados of “encased meats” and those who enjoy long waits to get something to eat: Hot Doug’s, the so-called “sausage superstore,” will serve its last dog this fall.

The legendary Doug Sohn, behind the counter of his soon-to-be-shuttered hot dog "superstore."

The legendary Doug Sohn, behind the counter of his soon-to-be-shuttered hot dog “superstore.”

A collective wail spread through the food-loving community, a demographic that never ceases to amaze me with their quest for edible products that are unabashedly hip, generally expensive and usually requiring a lengthy wait to purchase.    This aptly-named Chicago online source even reports on the “reaction” by Chicago’s food community to the closing on what basically is an upscale hot dog stand.

I pray those who will crave a Hot Doug’s rattlesnake dog topped with fois gras will find a suitable alternative when the establishment shuts for good. (In the full disclosure department: I dined at Hot Doug’s once and recall the dog and fries were pretty good, but not worth the 45-minute wait.)

But back to the purpose of this post: Hot Doug’s is located in Avondale, and fortunately, media reports on the story — from both traditional and digital outlets — identify the establishment as being in Avondale.

This is Avondale!

This is Avondale!

Where’s Avondale?

It’s where I’ve lived the past 14 years, a neighborhood often overshadowed by its sister neighborhood to the south, Logan Square.  Avondale is what  Brooklyn is to Manhattan, what St. Paul is to Minneapolis: Grittier, edgier and perhaps to some, less cultured and less expensive.  Many never heard of Avondale, or just lumped the neighborhood in with its wealthier neighbor.

But perceptions — like real estate values — change over time, and Avondale is now hip. Read this Chicago Sun-Times piece for details.

Not to knock Logan Square: Susan and I lived in a wonderful apartment in a greystone on Logan Boulevard for eight years and were very content.  But it wasn’t ours, and when time came to purchase, we found a wonderful home  in Avondale — just a block north of the formal boundary between the two  neighborhoods.

In fact, we’ve been in our Avondale home a little longer than owner Doug Sohn has held down counter duties as Hot Doug’s.  So, we were pioneers of living in a neighborhood on the cusp of cool even before Mr. Sohn.

So, thanks Mr. Sohn for helping to build awareness for Avondale as the next bastion of hipness.  But remember, we were here first.

A Beatuiful Day in the (Logan Square) Neighborhood

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Today, this last day of July 2011, The PRDude will dispense, somewhat, from the rhetoric that has graced these pages (can I say that with a blog?) since September of 2009.  You loyal followers know that I began chronicling my job search and commenting on many topics related to public relations; then, the blog “transitioned” into whatever inspires me at a given time.

Today, on a sun-kissed Sunday, I’ll provide you with a travelog of sorts.  What follows is a snapshot in pictures taken on my trusty Blackberry Curve featuring an hour spent strolling through Chicago’s coolest neighborhood — Logan Square.

First, being an ethical public relations practitioner, I will offer this disclosure: We live in Avondale, the neighborhood just north of Logan Square.  But we did live in a beautiful greystone two-flat on Logan Boulevard, so I deem myself qualified to offer these images and commentary.

Every Sunday from June to October, hundreds gather along a stretch of Logan Boulevard to enjoy the Farmer's Market. Everyone's welcome. People show off their tats and dogs while shopping.

Visitors can purchase lots of good stuff to eat -- from locally grown vegetables and produce to breads, meat, honey and more. But why oh why didn't some farmer offer watermelon! It's July!

Food vendors have taken over part of the south lawn and offer lots of prepared good stuff to eat. It's like a hip food court.

And, we have entertainment! Here there young guys perform old-time music with passion and drive. They don't know any Metallica. I checked.

At the nearby Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, I caught these guys playing avant garde jazz. A great way to enjoy my cappuccino.

And, what's an Arts Festival without some art! A nice piece, but probably would not fit into our living room. Plus, it might frighten the cats.

Homes like this mansion, once owned by a prominent local business family, can be found throughout Logan Square. I've been inside the home many times. It's as awesome as you could imagine.

So, I hope the images above provide a little “good PR” for my neighborhood.  (I know: I live in Avondale. But we’re splitting proverbial hairs here.  Plus my friends who sell houses still market Avondale as “Logan Square.”)

Logan Square has history and culture.  It contains the best-preserved sections of Chicago’s famed “Emerald Necklace” boulevard network.  It’s still relatively affordable and ethnically diverse. Much of the bad crime — gang wars and drug traffic — has been diminished.  Cool restaurants, bars and shops have opened.  And, we have artists.  Lots of artists.

Where other parts of my home city of Chicago have hit someplace below bottom, Logan Square has charged ahead — offering a little piece of America to immigrant families, people like me who work in nice offices, entrepreneurs who have a vision of something new to offer,  and yes, the artists.

Today, a few hundred miles to the east, the men and women we elected to run our government are close to a resolution on raising the debt ceiling.  They could have been out this spectacular Sunday, enjoying the time outside, or even taking in a simple American pleasure like visiting a local farmer’s market or arts festival.

A note to the President, members of the House and members of the  Senate: The next time a “crisis” looms on the horizon, fix it then.  You guys and gals are missing out on some of the things that really makes this country great.

Three Months Later, And It Snowed Today

Well, the sun also rose today, the start of the third month since I became unemployed.  And, winter made a debut, leaving the first few flakes of snow. But perhaps “unemployed” is not at all the right word.

Since being let go from my former full-time position in public relations, my days are a whirlwind of activity:  Networking initiatives;  responses to posted jobs; calls, emails and research into places I’d like to work at; more project work than I imagined; volunteer work on behalf of the Universal Accreditation Board and the Chicago Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America; learning more about the increased role of Web 2.0 in public relations and business; meetings and more meetings.

Perhaps I’ve forgotten something?

Oh yes.  I still take my morning walk, usually after 9 a.m. when the streets in our Chicago neighborhood are quiet.  Those with “real” jobs are at work, leaving the thoroughfares of Avondale and Logan Square to me, a few joggers and others out for a stroll.   There’s a certain tranquility in mid morning on these streets, framed by century-old stone and frame homes, some quite grand and stately.

Newer parts of the city can’t match the sense of permanence we have here. Generations ago, this part of Chicago was built up by developers who sold two-flats and single-family homes primarily to European immigrants.  They stayed for decades, raising families and building futures.  Most moved away in the 1960s and 1970s; but their presence will forever be defined by what’s left, the streets where I walk each morning.

It’s late now.  I look forward to waking up some seven hours from now to a new day filled with challenges and activity, another day searching for an opportunity where I can contribute my skills in public relations, another day of being “unemployed.”  And, another day to walk the streets I have all to myself.