Blues Music Festival '94 Enjoy the blues in the air-conditioned comfort of the Arena Theater. B.B. King, Little Feat (minus, sadly, the late, great Lowell George) and Dr. John. Should be worth the price of admission just to watch B.B. make his way down the aisle to the circular stage. Hoo-doo and pitchman Dr. John never fails to entertain -- who among us does not remember his sterling performance in Polynesian Town? There will also be a tribute to Muddy Waters. We're promised five hours of undefiled blues entertainment in the round. 7 p.m. Arena Theater, 7326 Southwest Frwy, 988-1020. $40, $54 & $80.
Fiestas Patrias Also known as Diez y Seis, this holiday could be thought of as the eve of Grito de Dolores, the struggle for independence from Spain. (Said struggle ended a decade later when the Pacto de Iguala was signed.) Pico's Mex-Mex will have an authentic party and live coverage of the celebration in El Zocalo square in Mexico City. Watching (on television) the Mexican president ring the original Bell of Dolores in the Palacio Nacional will be like watching (on television) the ball drop in Times Square. Before and after this big-screen televised event, Pico's will have live entertainment from Walter Suhr and Mango Punch. Special holiday menu from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. The whole shindig runs from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Pico's Mex Mex, 4527 Lomitas, 942-9955. $10 cover.
Balloons Over Alvin There is no rain date, and if the Fates do not cooperate, the Balloons Over Alvin will be a muddy field of sodden, pissed-off people standing around limp sacks of silk. However, if Clothos, Lachesis and Atropos bring clear weather, a glorious fleet of balloons will soar among the clouds. In 1993, 15,000 sightseers showed up in Alvin to gape heavenward as balloons wafted by. This year, the organizers expect more people and they have more stuff -- a "balloon glow," radio-controlled airplane demonstrations and a car show. September 16, 17 & 18. Daylight hours and then some. Alvin Community College, 3110 Mustang Road, Alvin, 388-4698.
Chris Rock Before he was known for Saturday Night Live, Rock was known in New York's comedy clubs, especially for his "I was born a suspect" bit. On stage, in clubs, at the tender age of 18 (and at 18, Rock looked, oh, 13, tops) he would do this bit: "I was born a suspect. Old ladies see me walk by, they dial 91 and then just wait for a reason to complete the call." Kind of set the tone for his angry, but not all belligerent, style. On SNL he was best known for "Nat X," a muddle-headed militant. The character effectively skewered his talk-show targets, and the type of talk-show host Nat X was supposed to be. Even during his success on the SNL, Rock did work in clubs, and not so he could hang out in the bar and be a big shot with all his comedy buddies. Lately, he's been a successful movie producer, too. Rock created, wrote and produced CB4. That non-mainstream comedy was number one at the box office the week it opened. Tonight at 8 & 10:30 p.m. and 7:15, 9:30 & 11:45 p.m. Saturday. Laff Spot, Behind TGI Friday's at FM 1960 and 249, 955-9200. $20.
Coastal Cleanup Hit the beach, and clean up. Summer's over, you've had your fun. Now, do right by the seashore. The day of civic duty is followed by Trash Bash parties up and down the beach. Today's the day. Call Texas Adopt-a-Beach for details, (800) 85-BEACH. Costs you nothing, earns you instant karma.
Growing Up in Africa Young Audiences of Houston present the first in the fall series of free, family programs. Storytelling, singing, dance and percussion from Convergence are all elements of this brisk, educational program. Convergence will play before the production Growing Up in Africa, a performance that chronicles an African child's life from birth through school graduation. Growing Up in Africa will be followed by a drawing sponsored by African Fashions and Imports. A Look-In, a behind the scenes tour of the technical tricks of theater, will be the final event of the morning. 11 a.m. Miller Outdoor Theater, 100 Concert Lane, Hermann Park. For more information, call 520-9267. Free.
Fiestas Patrias '94! The timing is a little off, but this celebration earns historical-accuracy points with a dramatic reading of the Grito de Dolores (Cry for Independence). This two-day festival will benefit Casa Juan Diego, a shelter providing food, housing, clothing, legal aid and job training to Hispanics in need. You don't have to think about the serious side, though. The festival has a petting zoo, a pony ride and pinatas for the kids. Magic Island magicians, an Elvis impersonator, mariachis, folkloric dancers and salsa, conjunto, country and Tejano music for adults. El Expreso Bus Co. will provide free shuttles from Gulfgate and Northline malls throughout the festival. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. today and noon -6:30 p.m. Sunday. Knights of Columbus 13-acre facility, 607 E. Whitney. $5, $3 children under 15.
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.