Widowed persons service The American Association of Retired Persons has support groups for "widoweds" -- widows and widowers. The trauma of losing a spouse can all but destroy the survivor. Widowers, I was raised to believe, cannot function without a mate, so they immediately marry the first woman who bats her eyes and spend a lifetime of savings on gaudy jewels -- real jewels -- for the bimbo. (That was Mom's version.) Widows, without the guiding hand of their husbands, immediately buy a new wardrobe and spend a lifetime of savings on trips around the world. (Dad's version.)
Those are not, of course, always the responses, but it is true that being widowed forces people to deal with their intense personal grief and the nightmare of trying to build a new life. This AARP program has received a tremendous response -- within a few weeks 350 people called. The program has grown from three groups to nine, and they are looking for facilitators and meeting places to add more. Young widoweds meet at 10 a.m. Thursdays, St. Paul Presbyterian Church, 7200 Bellaire Blvd.; daytime support meetings, 1:30 p.m., St. Paul Presbyterian Church, 7200 Bellaire Blvd.; evening support meetings, 7:30 p.m., Bellaire Presbyterian Church, 5001 Bellaire. Call 774-6845 for details about meetings or facilitator training sessions.
Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools In a lecture with the same title as his book, author Jonathan Kozol will do more work toward making Americans face the problems in our schools. The education activist will appear as the keynote speaker for the "Excellence and Equity in Education" conference. A panel discussion follows Kozol's address. This program is open to the public. 9 a.m.-noon, University of Houston Hilton, Grand Ballroom, entrance 1 off Calhoun, 529-3305. Free.
The 23rd Houston International Festival Sbandieratori, flag-wavers from Sansepolcro, Italy, herald the beginning of the festival's outdoor celebrations, stages and markets. There is no way to see it all -- the outdoor action covers 20 blocks downtown, features almost 2,000 performers, food and, of course, beverages so no one gets parched tromping from event to event in the bright spring sun. Do your best to see as much as possible.
Italy is the honored country this year, so Italian paintings and prints are on display downtown at Texaco Heritage Plaza, Tranquillity Park and the First Interstate Bank Plaza. Commedia dell'arte masks are up at the public library, and "Scala Diva" is in the Wortham Center foyer. Beppe Gambetta, Peppino D'Agostino and Italian jazz artist Enrico Rava will play on the Italy '94 Stage, sharing time with Pupi Siciliano and Teatro Tascabile si Bergamo -- who dance on stilts. Then, too, there will be all-American foods and crafts, and Viva Tejano foods and crafts, and Oriental delights and African jewelry and Cajun waltzes. The festival continues through May 1. The best bet is to take a bus downtown, as parking is well-nigh impossible. For day-to-day details and information, call 654-8808.
Meet master mountain climber Lou Whittaker Whittaker, the first to lead a successful expedition up the "north col" route up Mount Everest, will present a slide show and lecture about his adventures up high and often in hideously cold climes. The 64-year-old climber has done all the major climbs, plus a few unique exploits. In addition to planning his own expeditions, Whittaker works to promote mountaineering and to educate enthusiasts. 7-9 p.m. Whole Earth Provision Company, 6560 Woodway, 467-0234. Free.
Oblivion Meet Catwoman and Mr. Sulu! The WorldFest-Houston film festival brings reels and platters of fine new art and little gems like this. Director Sam Irwin has generally behaved himself, having worked with Brian DePalma on conventional spookies and producing Sticky Fingers for Melanie Mayron and Catlin Adams. Out on his own, Irwin directed Guilty as Charged, with Rod Steiger and Lauren Hutton.
Oblivion again shows Irwin's gift for getting the talent together. Incredible Hulk comic-book writer Peter David did the screenplay; Pino Donaggio, composer for Don't Look Now, made the music. This sci-fi Western also features the unique talents of George Takei (he gets to be "Doc" this time), Julie Newmar (the definitive Catwoman, this time in another feline role) and former Michael Jackson dancer Musetta Vander (who learned to use a bullwhip for the film). These stars, and Sam Irwin, will be present for a Q&A after the movie. Show up with a hang-dog look and one hand behind your back. Say, "I'm lookin' for the man who shot my paw." Midnight. Landmark Saks, Post Oak Pavilion, 965-9955. Those who didn't buy Buff of VIP passes have to pay $6.
Children's Art Car Workshop Piles of gewgaws, plastic toys, beads and mess; glue; a fine automobile; and children. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Actually, it's a herald of spring -- the Art Car Weekend is coming! Ah, the ball, this year with Joe Ely, and the parade. The most idiosyncratic celebration of our rugged individualist, always-driving culture. Give the tads of today a chance to be a part of the longest Art Car Parade yet. Underage artists can be in the parade too, as their internal-combustion engine collaborations roll grandly along with inspired vehicles like Tom Kennedy's Our Lady of What We Have in Common, a bus designed as a bandwagon for those who would put aside pesky differences and enjoy the universals. The art car kids, one hopes, will have a bonding experience and learn lessons more durable than even Duco cement. Today and tomorrow. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Kid's Block, Houston International Festival Grounds.