Thanksgiving Day Parade This parade with an inflated tom turkey, 400 cheerleaders and 200 costumed characters, will also feature 101 dalmatians. Let's hope the pups don't go chasing the Cat in the Hat balloon! Bring the kids and wear comfortable shoes. The parade winds past 25 city blocks, starting at Smith and Walker and concluding at Louisiana and Walker. Vendors will be selling breakfast snacks along the route. 9 a.m. For more information, call 468-6824, access code BANK, or visit www.chron.com/holidays. Free.
Hi/LO Houston Autorama Hey, why escape to the movies after dinner when you can ogle a Baywatch babe and see the original Rat Fink? Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, the artist responsible for the Rat Fink and innumerable custom cars, and bikinied blond Gena Lee Nolin are both special guests at the four-day auto show. (Nolin appears Saturday; the Texas Bikini Team will greet fans today.) Opens today, 5-10 p.m. Astrohall and AstroArena, Kirby at Loop 610. For more information, call 791-5006. $9.75, $4, children under 12; free, children under three.
Family fun with masterpieces from the Pierpont Morgan Library This weekend, the library offers a Discovery Tour of the biblio artifacts in "Masterpieces from the Pierpont Morgan Library." The exhibition includes fantastic hand-painted medieval manuscripts (back then, people had ideas about pig and deer that we may never fully understand; both the living and dead pigs and deer have facial expressions that defy modern interpretation), original drawings from children's books such as The Little Prince and composers' first pen-scratched scores of great works. There are drop-in workshops for budding artists all day, and at 2:30 p.m. Nanny "M" will lead a Beatrix Potter story time. 14 p.m., today, Saturday and Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. $3; $1.50 seniors, students and kids six18; free, kids five and under.
The Nutcracker More than 600,000 Texans have seen the Houston Ballet's Nutcracker -- more people than live in most Texas towns. This dazzling production is designed for the holiday crowd and features many dazzling effects along with the classical music and dance. The show opens today, 7:30 p.m., and continues through December 29. (All showtimes listed in Thrills, Dance.) Will there be a Nutty Nutcracker this year? Mark your calendar for December 29. Wortham Center, Brown Theater, Texas at Smith, 227-ARTS. $10-$60.
Christmas Party of One The A.D. Players are jumping on the comical-Christmas bandwagon, presenting the world premiere of a new musical-comedy about the sacred season. This six-story theatrical with book and lyrics by Ken Bailey and music by Gerry Poland has traveling salesmen, Santa Claus, thieves and other characters not found in the original nativity story. All this frivolity is in the service of a message of hope, but it's still a frisky romp. Opening 8 p.m. tonight. (Through December 31; other showtimes listed in Thrills, Theater.) A.D. Players Grace Theater, 2710 West Alabama, 526-2721. $19.
A Fertle Holiday! It wouldn't be Christmas in Houston without Radio Music Theatre's all-singing, all-silly show about a troubled family reunion of a big Texas family. The singing Fertle family from Dumpster, Texas, a whole clan that's played by only three actors, appear in RMT's own cabaret. Opening tonight, 8:30 p.m. (Through January 18; other shows listed in Thrills, Comedy.) 2623 Colquitt, 522-7722. $14. Reservations required.
Tolstoy Is Dead! A new play by local writer Elizabeth Gilbert, Tolstoy Is Dead! is in production at Commerce Street Arts Warehouse. Focusing on Tolstoy's devoted wife, Sonya, and her unwavering support of her husband's work, the play includes biographical anecdotes about the couple, such as the long hours Sonya spent copying her husband's nearly illegible novel manuscripts. Told as Sonya's story, the play revolves around one of the Russian writer's favorite themes: infidelity. It also includes characters from Tolstoy's short story, "Kreutzer Sonata." Directed by Vicki Weathersby, the show features veteran actress Edith Pross as Sonya and was selected as part of Stages's Women's Repertory Project. 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday through December 8. Commerce Street Arts Warehouse, 2315 Commerce Street, 788-0671. $9.99.
Downtown Houston Holiday Celebration Come see Bob, Elyse and whatever decorations she's devised for this year's holiday season. Church and community choirs will sing, and after Bob and the missus light the tree, a fireworks display lights up the night sky.5:30 p.m. City Hall, 901 Bagby. For more information, call 845-1111.
Galveston Artwalk They have them all weathers, and this Thanksgiving-weekend walk features a fine show by Oscar Earl Barbin at Barbin Gallery. The works and memorabilia on display are a tribute to the King, Elvis Aaron Presley. The pieces have never been shown before and at least one, a welded steel likeness of E, is well worth a look. Gallery reception and artwalk, 6-10 p.m. Barbin Gallery, 2301 Market Street, Galveston, (409) 762-1477.
Dance Video Drive-In This week, the fine folks of the Zocalo present a retrospective of Houston dance projects on video, including a film from a 1980s workshop. Well-known Houston dancers such as Sarah Irwin, Kelly Scott Kelley and Farrell Dyde are part of all this, and "surprises," not-necessarily-dance surprises, are promised. A genial social hour follows the show. 8 p.m. Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan, 861-2442. $5 per person; $10 per carload.
The Age of Discretion The High School for Performing and Visual Arts will present an original play about AIDS, specifically a play about youth in the era of HIV. Part-time HISD teacher Sharon Ferranti and her brother Jay, who's a composer, are the authors of this theatrical work. 2 p.m. today, World AIDS Day. Museum of Health & Medical Science, 1515 Hermann Drive, 521-1515, extension 124. The play is free, but reservations are required.
Se Habla Santa Sharpstown Center has a Santa on the payroll through the holiday shopping season, and because one of the traditions in our town is the Spanish language, a bilingual Santa will be in the center court today, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and subsequent Mondays, noon-6 p.m. Sharpstown Center, Southwest Freeway at Bellaire Boulevard, 777-1111. Free.
Casual Classics The Houston Symphony, perhaps eager to loosen up while the other musical groups in town are caroling like mad, presents a special show designed to put the fun back in fundamental compositions. Or something like that. In any case, conductor-in-residence and Woodlands fixture Stephen Stein is the host. Today's program features Christoph Eschenbach performing and conducting Beethoven's First Piano Concerto and Ravel's saucy Bolero, a musical work that became a Carole Lombard movie. 6:30 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $22.
Todd Rundgren Hello, it's him -- Rock Gsd, geek and tireless composer Todd Rundgren will be in Houston for one show only. He may perform works from his new release, The Individualist, an enhanced CD; he may sing novelty songs and talk about his pal Dr. Demento; he may even sing oldies. He has one of the most melodic voices in pop music and is a true digital pioneer, so his show could focus on any number of talents. With Todd, one can never be sure of anything except his ability to be interesting and thoughtful, and weird. As they say on the Internet, "Todd is Godd." 9 p.m. Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, 869-8427. $19 and $37.50.
Don't Mess with XMAS Video artist and underground filmmaker Ralf Armin presents a holiday showcase of unlikely films such as St. Louis Shoppers, Holiday and Don't Mess with Xmas. The program soundtrack comes from Ralph's latest musical project, Truth Decay. (Ralph was formerly with the Pain Teens and Culturcide.) 10 p.m. Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, 413 20th Street, Galveston, (409) 762-9199. $2.
Death Trip Across Texas Certain Press writers (and Thrills editors) have long planned a book along this theme, with a full-color photo spread of the mangy chihuahua named Queenie that one would no doubt meet on such a journey, but novelist James Crumley has a more organized and successful approach to celebrating the freakish bloodshed of this great state. Crumley, a Texas native, has written four novels and won prestigious awards such as the Dashiell Hammett Award for Best Literary Crime Novel, and now he's got a new book. Bordersnakes features beloved, and infamous, characters from his first four books, and is full of sassy prose and snappy plotting. Crumley signs Bordersnakes, 5-6:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 529-CLUE, e-mail mrdrbybkoNEOSOFT.COM, WWW.NEOSOFT.COM/~MRDRBYBK.
Teddy Bear Crusade Sammie Relford and the Friends Band will play and free snacks will be served as good people donate teddy bears and other toys for the Texas Children's Hospital crusade. All the toys will be given to sick children during the holidays. Collection, 611 p.m. Fiamma Bar and Grill, 8503 Westheimer. For more information, call 790-5006. Admission is one bear; cash bar.
A Holiday Christmas Concert Opera in the Heights is having its holiday music tonight. The Chamber Singers will perform "I Wander as I Wonder, " "The First Noel" and other beloved carols and the San Jacinto College North Chorale and Camerata Chamber orchestra will perform Bach's Cantata No. 61, Now Come, the Savior of the Heathen and other great music in the fine acoustics of the newly restored Lambert Hall. There will be a benefit auction for Opera in the Heights before the concert, and silent auction bids can also be placed at intermission and just after the show. 8 p.m. Lambert Hall, Heights Christian Church, 1703 Heights Boulevard (at 17th Street), 880-3619. $12 and $15; discounts for seniors and children.