Moment in the Sun

Just look for the Christmas tree of human heads. It may sound like a morose directional detail, but it's often the most effective way of pointing a newcomer toward the otherwise camouflaged coffeehouse/bar now known as Helios. Owner Marianna Lemesoff changed its name from The Mausoleum in order to cheer up the place's dark goth image. With a new moniker (courtesy of the Greek god of the sun) came a new paint job, transforming the house from dismal gray to sunny, and more noticeable, yellow. Other changes include a small selection of food (empanadas) and an array of tequilas about a dozen bottles long.

One thing that remains the same, however, is Lemesoff's dedication to the development of new talent. An artist herself (the sculptures throughout the converted house are the work of Lemesoff and her ironworker artist husband, Nestor Topchy), Lemesoff uses Helios to aid others in their creative growth.

Tuesday nights recently opened to those hoping to fill the blues shoes of Muddy Waters and Lightnin' Hopkins. Looking to hear musical talent in a variety of disciplines? Thursday's free-for-all includes emcees working on their vocal flow, acoustic guitarists, rockers and even the occasional jug band. The killer application night, however, is Wednesday, the night of poetry.

Sure, some of the verse is marginal, but the number of talented writers and readers is tremendous. New faces show up every week for this standing-room-only event, but the amazing aspect of this open-mike session is the devotion of its regulars. Appearances by writers such as Native American poet Soldier Blue, with his tales of the "Ghost Road," and Howard Mikehael, dubbed "the gay poet laureate" by the evening's original coordinator, Doug Mayfield, keep the face of this six-year-old showcase a familiar one. Each week, a "spotlight" poet opens the show with an extended set. Current coordinator Mike Andrews attributes the event's success to the philosophy of keeping the show about poetry, free from the battling egos of burgeoning creatives.

For those who haven't had enough, the verse continues late into the night with an erotic poetry open-mike session following the regular readers. Like Gynomite, but open to both genders, the poetry readings explore the sensual and bawdy side of spoken word.

Change. It's the one constant in the universe. The shadowy Mausoleum has given way to sunny Helios. The days of gothic belly dancers are gone (sigh), or at least replaced by their brighter, more traditional, counterparts. But the Christmas tree of human heads? Some things remain the same.

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Eric A.T. Dieckman