AIA Tour of Downtown The American Institute of Architects believes that there are at least 50 buildings and public spaces downtown deserving of the public's attention. The Houston Chapter offers guided walking tours. The tromps around downtown are full of fun facts to know and tell and are squired by handy docents who will answer any questions. Reservations are required. 2 p.m. The tour group meets in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 1200 Louisiana. For information, call 622-2081 during business hours. $3, free for children 12 and under.
Heroes of the Unexpected Daniel J. Boorstin, who has more literary laurels than you can shake a stick at, will talk about heroes of the unexpected. Boorstin is no spring chicken and he's been busy 'bout all the time -- earning "double first" degrees at Oxford, running the Library of Congress, holding office as senior historian at the Smithsonian Institution, winning a Pulitzer Prize and writing books about history, art and the nature of our kind. His next book, scheduled to hit the shelves in November, breaks his tradition by having a not-obviously scholarly title: Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected. Boorstin, in his own rigorous, unflinching way, specializes in the unexpected. 5 p.m. Stude Concert Hall, Alice Pratt Brown Hall, Rice University, 285-5157. Free.
Cockrell Butterfly Center Many people plan festive, educational weekend outings at the museum. Too many people plan festive, educational weekend outings at the museum. During the month of July, 107,324 people planned to -- and did -- visit the Cockrell Butterfly Center, and most of them stopped by on the weekend. In mid-August, The Wall Street Journal reported that the CBC is the number two tourist attraction in Texas, and is closing in fast on the Alamo.
Those who haven't seen the butterflies yet are frequently people who planned a festive, educational weekend outing to the museum and then quickly changed their plans when they saw the long lines, or even the parking problems. Impatient people, your time has come. No one will be at the museum today. Quiet as a tomb and no lines. September is the off-season; school has started, but schools are not yet ready for field trips. Take advantage.
The butterflies are waiting for you. (The exotic creatures quickly adapt to life in Houston, and frequently cluster near the air conditioning vents.) The center is warm, like a real rain forest, but you can recover by wandering through the still, cool corridors of the museum. Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., noon-6 p.m. Houston Museum of Natural Science, Hermann Park, 639-4600. Cockrell Butterfly Center admission: $3, $2 seniors and children under 12. Regular museum admission: $2; $1.50 kids. Museum admission not required for Butterfly Center.
Benefit for "Kids with Cansur" Jason Gaes, underage author and cancer survivor, will speak at a double-benefit luncheon. Camp Mak-A-Dream and Bellaire's Caring for Children charities get the money. Attendees get the benefit of Gaes' wisdom. At six-years-old, Gaes was struck with Burkitt's Lymphoma. At seven, he wrote My Book for Kids with Cansur: A Child's Autobiography of Hope to cheer other children in similarly grim predicaments. A generous and levelheaded writer, Gaes offers some comforting thoughts on death, an aspect of cancer frequently, and conspicuously, not mentioned by survivors. People with excellent attitudes die of cancer every single day. (Now 14, Gaes continues to share his royalties with the American Cancer Society.) Gaes is a tough kid, having survived not only cancer, but also Jerry Springer and Regis and Kathie Lee. 11:30 a.m. J.W. Marriott Houston Galleria Ballroom. $30 per person, or $500 for a table of ten. For reservations, call 668-9293.
Edward Hirsch and Richard Howard The Margarett Root Brown Houston Reading Series begins with two profs from the UH Creative Writing Program. Hirsch and Howard also happen to have new books of poetry printed and ready for the reading public. Earthly Measures, Hirsch's fourth collection, has earned rave reviews, although it has not yet won him another Rome Prize from the American of Institute of Arts and Letters or a second National Book Critics Circle Award. Howard has recently put two new selections in bookstalls: Like Most Revelations, a book of poems, and Henry James: Collected Travel Writings. Neither has, sadly, garnered a second Pulitzer for Howard. But he is known for dramatic readings and can perhaps put his suffering to good use. 8 p.m. Brown Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet. For details, call 743-3013. $5 donation requested, but not from seniors or students.
National Library Card Sign-Up Month The Houston Public Library, Channel 26 and Leaps and Bounds want parents to take their kids into the local branch library and get them a card. Heck of a deal. You can't beat it with a stick. Kids get a library card and free pencils. (The pencils are so they won't have to use those never-sharpened golf pencils stored by the Dial Cat terminals.) The Houston Public Library has a gazillion books, more than 30 branches and an outreach center. The Houston Public Library offers almost anything in print, texts from Mr. Penny's Circus to arcane works on the lost civilization of Mu, stored in an orderly fashion for you and your family. All you have to do is fill out a form. This is the least you can do for your kid. This afternoon, Tammie Lynn from FOX Kid's Club will be hosting the sign-up at the Jungman Branch. 3 p.m. 5830 Westheimer, 789-7211. For more information, or to find out which branch is closest to you, call 236-1313.