In One Ear (and Out the Other…)

I have a confession to make.  I used to write poetry.  I know!  Craziness, you say.  And besides, what is so wrong about poetry anyways?  Well, nothing.  Except most of my poetry was incredibly self-involved and angry, and no you can’t read it.  Most of my poetry is stored far away in a safe place where nobody shall look.  And so it shall stay.

But I used to read poetry on a stage.  At this place called the Heartland Cafe in Chicago.  They have this open mic that’s been running for over twenty years, second oldest open mic in the city.  I started hanging out there when I first moved into the City out of high school.  And though many things in my life have changed, the In One Ear open mic stayed a constant.  Now almost ten years later, I can still visit when I go back to Chicago and the place feels like home.  Walk in on any given Wednesday and I’ll recognize half the faces in the room.  The host, Pete Wolf, has been a stalwart friend for that entire time.  The place is like a family.

I cut my teeth on that stage, figuring out my identity both as an adult and as a writer.  I’ve had friends and enemies, drama and heartache, but mostly the memories are good.  Pete Wolf and the writers, musicians, poets and eccentrics that frequent the In One Ear will embrace anyone like a lost sibling.  The atmosphere is warm and inviting, the staff at the cafe are friendly and the Heartland has been a corner stone of the Rogers Park community for over 30 years.

Only now they are suffering the fate of many restaurants during the recession.  Food cost has grown exponentially, as well as the other weighty costs involved in running a restaurant, a bar, a theater and a performance space.  On top of that are the raised interest rates at the bank thanks to the bailouts, and the Heartland Cafe is in a pretty pickle.  It pains me to think I could lose a place like that and be halfway across the country.  Like not being able to visit a loved one that is severely ill.  But there is still a chance, with a little help from the Heartland’s extended family.

The Heartland Cafe is having a benefit October 11 and 12, to ask the community for support.  If you’re in Chicago, you should go.  If you can’t make it to the benefit, then at least stop by and have a drink or get some food.  See the In One Ear open mic on Wednesday nights at around 9:30pm.  If you aren’t in Chicago and you want to help, whether you miss the place or you just like the idea of it, you can donate.

Save the Heartland Cafe, save the In One Ear.