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.
Texas Songwriters Salute Alejandro Escovedo is one of the fine entertainers who will perform free, out there in the open air. Rolling Stone judges his music "a Tex-Mex Astral Weeks." The moody-looking musician with the almost-shy stage presence defies categorization, even flattering similes. Escovedo often does a cover of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog," true, and he does a note-for-note lift from Kill City, but the very fact of doing a classic like that with a string section (he plays with female violinists and a cellist)... He's just so damn earnest and not the least bit sappy, and will probably spend the next decade right on the edge of stardom. See him with a very successful HSPVA grad, Sarah Hickman, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Jimmie Dale is... well, some people don't take to him right off. He can sound disturbingly old, and unnervingly eerie. Gilmore's serenely candid lyrics and compassionate warble combine to present the ethos of contemporary country. Or folk. Or bluegrass. Gilmore's tunes do any number of things musically, but what they are is raw-boned and reflective poetry. Country Stage, Lamar at Bagby. Escovedo 5:45, Sarah Hickman 7:15, Jimmie Dale Gilmore 8:30 p.m.
Just Friends Jazz greats George Shearing and Joe Williams perform together in Galveston. Shearing, who penned "Lullaby of Birdland," is responsible for more than 300 compositions. The British pianist can also handle the works of others with his own style. Joe Williams has sung jazz, ballads, blues and pop for 50 years. The two are indeed friends, which should make this union more exciting than the usual meeting of two legendary artists. 8 p.m. The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice, (409) 765-1894. $15, $27, $30.
Cruise for Wildlife This is a three-hour tour, but we don't expect any mishaps with this 101-foot yacht. This one's got good karma -- it's a cruise and wildlife watch to benefit Wildlife Rehab & Education, a nonprofit organization that mends the broken wings of seabirds and raises orphan critters. If you find a bird or animal in need of help, call 643-WILD. If you'd like to take the cruise, call 621-8143 or 332-8319. Launch at 4:30 p.m., Houston Yacht Club. $30, includes dinner.
Overcoming Adversity... A New Direction Stage and screen star Ben Vereen, author-slash-actress P.K. McCary and local talent join together for the first benefit for the Community Artists' Collective. The Collective, says executive director Michelle Barnes, "seeks to link the artistic process to the extraordinary potential for success that inner-city youth display. Our mission is to cultivate this inherent entrepreneurial drive, emphasizing the development of skills that involve problem solving and analytical thinking, decision making and goal setting." 4:30 p.m. Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre, University of Houston. Advance tickets through the Collective, 523-1616. $35. Further donations accepted.
Clit Notes Holly Hughes, nemesis of the NEA, known dyke and author of The Well of Horniness, has better things to do than focus on being controversial. Hunter is cute as a bug, smart as a whip and spunky, and somehow her intelligent, insightful take on life in these United States provokes people. How can this be? Every one of us has family of some sort, and sexuality, more or less, and a goodly number have held hideous jobs like waitressing at Red Lobster. Those are the simple subjects she tackles. So why does she create such a stir? Hughes bills herself as "the pre-eminent performance artist of southeastern Michigan," and now here she is in the great Southwest, advancing her "ten-point plan to advance lesbianism globally using song, dance and monologue." It's a one-woman show. Check it out. Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m., $12. Free writing workshop -- "wear loose clothes and clean undies" -- today at 2 p.m. Special Milam House benefit tonight, 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. $12.
Fellini scholar speaks Dr. Peter Bondanella is a former friend of the maestro, and a noted scholar of his films and of Italian culture and literature. Bondanella is the chairman of the Department of West European Studies and director of Western European Studies Center at Indiana University. Today he discusses the filmmaker and his culture. Bondanella will give his talk, The Birth of an Auteur: Federico Fellini's Artistic Origins, at 1 p.m. University of Houston, Main Library, George R. Brown room, fifth floor, entrance 1 off Calhoun. Bondanella will also present America's Italy: The Power of Images and Images of Power at, fittingly, the Italian Cultural and Community Center, 1101 Milford, 6 p.m. For more details about both talks, call 639-7530 or 743-3070.
LASSO'S Third Annual Latino Leadership Conference The Latin American Student Services Organization, mindful of its future, has organized a conference; guest speaker Marisa Rosazza of the Texas Catholic Herald will participate in the opening events. The festival will continue Wednesday with a program on higher education and successful Hispanic role models. Restaurateur Ninfa Lorenzo, Constable Victor Trevino and other Latin professionals will offer advice and encouragement. 10-3 p.m. University of Houston- Downtown, One Main Street, 221-8573. Free.
Sankofa Science fiction does social criticism -- in African-American director Haile Gerima's most recent film, a young black woman travels back in time to experience slavery. The rather obvious plotline is painstakingly developed into a rich and complex story. Oyafunmike Ogunlano, as the central character, handles her role so well that, when the crisis comes, there is no comfortable answer. The title is a West African term meaning "to reclaim the past in order to go forward." Gerima, the director of this study in passion and history, was born in Ethiopia and is currently a professor of film at Howard University. His lecture precedes the film -- meaning that viewers will have to find their own answers. The free lecture is at 4:30, a reception follows at 6:30 and Sankofa shows at 7:30 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University, entrance #8 off University, 527- 4853. $10.
Jackal Woman: Exploring the World of Jackals Take heart, fans of Wile E. Coyote and other hard-working scavengers -- Patricia Moehlman defends such creatures. Formerly a devotee of chimp woman Jane Goodall, Moehlman spent years on the Serengeti watching the silver-backed and golden jackals. Before publishing her book, the researcher published widely in books, journals and popular magazines such as National Geographic. Jackals, she finds, are not opportunistic scroungers that eat the rotting scraps left by better hunters; they're clever and brave predators in their own right. She brings stories of her favorite creatures, and slides showing their exploits, as part of the Houston Zoo's 1993-94 lecture series. Gate 5 opens at 6:30, presentation 7 p.m. Houston Zoological Gardens, Brown Education Center, Hermann Park, 529-2632. $8.