Rhino Celebrates Poetry

RHINO The Poetry Forum 2014

Evanston is home to Rhino Poetry, a regionally and nationally recognized annual collection of poetry from new and established writers. The last Friday of every month they hold a poetry reading with featured poets as well as open mike time for those willing to share works in progress and new work. The Friday readings are usually held at Brothers K Coffeehouse at 500 Main Street, a venue I frequent often and an unofficial ‘hub’ of the Main Street corridor. One of my friends planned to read some of her poems on April 25 and I decided to attend.

This was my first poetry reading and I had no idea what to expect. It was fascinating and thought-provoking. I challenged myself to really listen to the spoken words delivered by their creators; the breadth of creativity among the 50 or 60 people in the coffeehouse was humbling. So many published authors! The atmosphere was friendly, welcoming and very supportive. The open mike time showcased probably a dozen writers and followed by Ralph Hamilton presenting the Paladin Award to Allison Joseph, director of the Young Writers Workshop, an annual summer residential creative writing workshop for high school writers. She also holds the Judge Williams Holmes Cook Endowed Professorship at Southern University of Illinois and is the poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, among her many accomplishments.  Allison read some of her poetry and it was fantastic.  Next up was Rochelle Hurt reading from her poetic novel, The Rusted City, “a coming-of-age fable set in the haunting dreamscape of the Rust Belt, where industrial corrosion becomes a funhouse mirror of personal loss.”  I only heard a few pages, but it is powerful and gripping.

Push your boundaries and comfort level: experience one of Rhino’s poetry readings in the future.

A Movie Star in Our Midst

One of the first friends I made in Evanston was Bindy Bitterman, owner of Eureka! Antiques and Collectibles.  Both the store and Bindy were the subject of my first blog post.  To know Bindy is to love her. Bindy taught me about ephemera, introduced me to steampunk and regaled me with stories about Chicago and Evanston history. Little did I know she is also a movie star.

A newly released documentary, Finding Vivian Maier, is getting a lot of critical acclaim. The movie is about an odd Chicago-area nanny who photographed thousands of rolls of film, all of them never developed, hoarded them away, and the man who rescued them at auction and brought to the world’s attention a captivating body of work. The film’s website and Facebook pages brim with information about the collection, the movie and its reclusive subject. Bindy knew Vivian and participated in the movie, as this scene from the trailer shows.  

Scene from Finding Vivian Maier

Bindy Bitterman, a star in the making.

The movie is currently playing at Chicago’s Century Centre and Highland Park’s Renaissance Place. Bravo, Bindy!


Tagmaster: Last Plant Standing

Just behind the U.S. Post Office on Main Street lies Tagmaster, the only remaining manufacturing business still residing in Evanston. (Current zoning laws prevents the construction of new factories.)  I recently attended a factory tour and was amazed by what was taking place in my (virtual) backyard.

The family owned business, founded in 1949, is a leader in the promotional products industry and sells to distributors, not the general public. With more than 500 products in inventory and over 200 regular and seasonal employees, Tagmaster can add a company logo and tagline to almost anything: pens, notebooks, bags, water bottles and more.

The factory is bright and very clean, and many of the employees are cross-trained to increase efficiencies and prevent bottlenecks.  Most of the workforce has the kind of long tenure one never hears about anymore—10 years, 20 years, 35 years and more. It’s a union shop with a family vibe; the current president, Cary Shevin, is the son of the founder and still active in the business.

Product safety is a big concern in the industry, and one Tagmaster takes very seriously, especially since many of the products available for sale are imported from overseas.  Each manufacturer of origin is monitored, products are evaluated constantly and quality control standards are stringent.  To assist in this effort, Tagmaster invested in a portable XOS Materials Analysis machine. The whole thing is about the size of a carry-on suitcase, but it opens up to reveal a platform (second photo). The item being evaluated—I subjected my business card holder for analysis—is placed directly on the platform. In less than five minutes after the door closed, an outside screen (third photo) lights up with detailed measurements of every chemical element in the object. I found out my metal business card holder consists primarily of copper, but also contains chromium, the element highlighted in red. In the U.S., chromium is prohibited in products marketed to children.

Tagmaster is a vibrant neighbor along the Main Street corridor. It’s responding proactively to rapid economic and technological changes and seems to be thriving. Here’s to another 65 years!

Jewel by the Lake: The Mary and Leigh Block Museum


This gallery contains 7 photos.

Last week I took advantage of two wonderful programs at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum. Both were free, fascinating and one-time only events. They prove the Block’s amazing riches nestled right here in our community and accessible to … Continue reading