Press Picks

july 7
Wine Train to Galveston Take the wine train to Galveston -- this is a fine idea. Trains are wonderful. Really. Maybe you think this sounds like a hokey pick, but even for those benighted babes to whom the words "Orient Express" or "Midnight Flyer" or The Great Train Robbery or Jimmie Rodgers mean nothing, trains -- even in the Amtrak age -- are wonderful. One can drink and smoke and enjoy the scenery and meet people, be devastatingly clever and then sleep it off on the last leg of the trip, arriving rested and ready for... well, ready. Trains are great for falling in love, or for plotting murder. There's something about a train, and the rocking motion isn't all of it. Neither is the privacy or the sense of escape. Passenger trains, like champagne, are something that civilized people instinctively, even gonadotropically, require.

This jaunt leaves from League City, a fairly desolate small-town spot that feels like singing brakeman territory, and this trip is somehow part of the Lunar Rendezvous Festival. Even crackpots who think the moon landing was faked should go -- they'll make for interesting conversation in the club car. This special trip on the Texas Limited departs at 6 p.m. from the League City depot. Call the Bay Area Museum for more information and reservations; you must dial 1 plus the area code! (713) 532-1254 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. $75.

july 8
And Then There Were None This Agatha Christie mystery, which you might have read as Ten Little Indians, is set in a spooky, isolated house. Ten strangers, odd people all, with nefarious pasts and odd longings, have been summoned -- but by whom? and for what? One by one they all come to bad ends, in Dame Christie's elegant suspense style. These deaths follow a nursery rhyme theme -- Christie, like all good British mystery writers, knew how to enjoy a grisly jape. This spine-tingling murder mystery is part of the Alley Theatre Summer Chills festival and features the usual suspects of the Alley company: Jeffrey Bean, James Black, John Feltch, Paul Hope, Charles Krohn, Karen MacDonald, Christianne Mays, Alex Allen Morris, Charles Sanders, Dustin Smith and Shelley Williams. Opening tonight. Thru July 17. Tue.-Thu., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Alley Theatre, Large Stage, 615 Texas Avenue, 228-8421. $15.

july 9
Introductions '94 For those who've been meaning to get more culture -- you know, see art and such -- Introductions '94 might be the ticket. The Houston Art Dealers Association, a group whose livelihood depends upon art being appreciated, has been sponsoring these little scavenger hunts for 15 years. Thirteen galleries are involved, each "introducing" artists whose work hasn't been seen much, even by die-hard gallery goers. Looking at art isn't so difficult. The first step is to figure out what you like. Later, you can learn about techniques and media, maybe read a few books and pick up some history. Just make sure you don't become one of those people who haven't been excited about art in a coon's age but still attend every opening for the cheap wine and tawdry gossip.

The galleries participating in Introductions are all conveniently located in either the Museum or Upper Kirby districts. The first gallery opens at 10 a.m., but it's not necessary to visit all the galleries in a particular order or on a particular day. Actually, since many of the receptions overlap, there's no real point in trying to see all the art in one fell swoop. The Introductions '94 brochure lists all the participating art spaces plus a few non-participants for good measure, and has a map. To get yours, check with any of the galleries listed as part of Introductions '94 under Art Openings in this paper's Thrills section.

Dog Days of Summer Hot on the heels of Introductions, DiverseWorks has its annual membership party. The 11-year-old alternative art space had a Dog Days party last year that was a huge success, so once again they're offering the coolest party "just when you thought the heat was unbearable." Live music, food and friendly art fans will be prominently featured. Attendees will not be required to pony up $20-$250 for membership. 7-9 p.m. Brasil, 2606 Dunlavy. Call DiverseWorks for details, 223-8346. $10.

Robert Earl Keen Jr. Drat that Lyle. He done gone Hollywood and tried to rise above his raisin' and won't sing "Fat Babies Have No Pride" for anything. If it weren't for the one or two brave souls -- such as Robert Earl Keen Jr. -- who continue to sing the music of my people I'd crawl off to some other land and become a Texpatriate. God help me, I'd go to Belgium. Or Cleveland.

Robert Earl Keen Jr. is, when it comes to hitting specific notes and holding them, not all he might be. However, he has three names (Earl is borderline, but Robert is not a serial-killer name) and a Jr. Redemption enough in my book. If you want more, he be having goldy curly hair and writes songs like he could do no other. Novelty songs, such as "Swervin' in My Lane"; goof bluegrass, like his version of "Bluegrass Widow"; damn fine I-got-tears-in-my-ears-from-lyin'-here-drinkin'-beer-thinkin'-of-you bar tunes; bad-boy ballads such as "Goin' Down in Style"; and genuine heartbreakers about life and human frailty that make any decent human being want to sit in the dark with only a faithful dog, listening to a CD spin and howling along. Then there's the chilling "The Road Goes on Forever," with its perfect meter and telling observation. A good old country and western story-song told with an accuracy and compassion we haven't seen since Sherwood Anderson wrote short stories about little nobodies in the Midwest. Robert Earl Keen Jr. probably has a song about fishing. Probably one freshwater and one salt. The former Front Porch Boy plays two shows: 8 & 10 p.m. Advance tickets are available; call and tell them your credit card number. Brazos Bottom Bar & Grill, 7010 FM 762, 341-5210. $12.

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