A pair of fundraisers One's rooted in remembrance, the other in hope, and both offer chances -- organized chances -- for some righteous partying. In the first, Houston's monied set extends an appreciative hand to the young family of Ruben Lopez, the volunteer firefighter who died trying to rescue a victim from a burning house; the Red Hots, firefighting musicians all, and free-flowing champagne are just two more reasons to support this no-necktie event. The brand-spanking-new Mission Burritos hosts the second, a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. Get your fill of big ol' burritos, libations and the twangy-rockin' sounds of East Tennessee's Insta-Gators, fresh from a show at the Satellite Lounge. 6-10 p.m. Ruben Lopez benefit, Parvizian Oriental Rugs, 3303 Kirby Drive, 621-7000; American Lung Association, 7:30 p.m. Mission Burritos, 2245 West Alabama, 880-5293. Both are $20 per person.
The Aging of America We're living safer, healthier and thus longer lives -- roughly 25 years longer than our turn-of-the-century forefathers could expect. Does it mean that we'll each have, on average, an extra 25 years of going to work, walking the dog and deciding what to watch on TV each night? This daylong conference for health-care professionals and plain folks examines the financial and medical challenges facing an aging society. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sheraton Astrodome Hotel, 8686 Kirby Drive, 522-8552. $50 in advance; $75 at the door; $35 for seniors and students.
Ballroom Dancing Photographer Phyllis Hand has established her reputation documenting high society, and in her latest project, she captures the upper echelon at its athletic best. Her black-and-white photos of ballroom dancing, Houston-style, are on display at benjy's now through the end of March. Artist's reception, 6-9 p.m. benjy's, 2424 Dunstan, 522-7602. Free.
Carlos Mencia In the next six months, Carlos Mencia plans to become a multimedia star. He's already funny on-stage in two languages; his American Recordings debut, Judge Carlos, is due for release this spring; he's working on a sitcom with Disney; and he's in the pre-production stages of his own cartoon series -- something along the lines of Life with Louie with an accent. Mainly this award-winning comedian is an outspoken cuss who believes that "the truth makes people laugh." Get your tickets early. 8 p.m. tonight and Sunday; 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 1952 West Gray, 524-2333. $8.50-$13.50.
Second Annual Midcentury Modern Market The midcentury covers the time from the Depression to disco, but it's been unified for this market's sake under the heading of "modern." Here, the word means cleanliness of line, simplicity of form and economy of material. Look for these qualities in goods from furniture to fashion, and from dealers located in Arkansas, Austin and right here at home. The preview party is tonight, and party guests get first dibs on the goods. Benefit preview party, 6-8 p.m.; regular hours, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Benefit, $15; market admission, $4. Lawndale Art & Performance Center, 4912 Main Street, 528-5858.
Les Brown Brown has been down -- abandoned at birth, raised by a woman alone in a Miami ghetto, relegated to special education classes -- and now he's up so high that a quick rundown of his achievements could trigger bouts of depression in folks who've done less with their relatively privileged lives. But as a highly successful motivational speaker and author, Les would never let your self-esteem suffer on his account. Not if you pay him, he won't. Tonight, he tells his audience "how to shake off mediocrity and live up to their greatness." 7:30 p.m. 2929 Unity Drive, 787-3490. $20.
Ms. Gulf Coast Leather Proof that Houston is world class: Whip-wielding dominatrixes have flocked here from all the adjoining Gulf Coast states, all hoping to be crowned Ms. Gulf Coast Leather. In conjunction, a full day of seminars is scheduled for Saturday at Mary's. Topics include novice issues, S&M and spirituality, long-term leather relationships and women's issues. Demonstrations include the proper technique for using a single-tail whip and another on duct tape in play. The weekend's activities culminate with a pageant at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Venture-N, then winds down with a brunch at noon Sunday at the same location. Registration is from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. today, and includes an introduction of the contestants and judges and an auction to raise funds to get the contest winner to the finals in Washington D.C. Venture-N, 2923 Main Street, 661-9829, e-mail email@example.com. $35.
Waiting for Godot In 1995, Infernal Bridegroom Productions made good with Endgame. Now, they're taking another shot at Beckett with Waiting for Godot. Director Jason Nodler says he'll make no attempt to soft-sell the Irish absurdist; the production is built around the playwright's tragicomic view of life as a cosmic vaudeville act. Greg Dean and Charlie Scott star. 8 p.m. Through March 29. Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan, 935-2008. $9.99.
City Dreams The MFA's Arabian Sights series is winding down, but not without another look at Syrian cinema. In City Dreams, Muhammad Malas presents a semiautobiographical account of 1950s Syria: a military dictatorship falls, new elections are held, the Suez War breaks out and Arab unity seems within reach. All this weighty material is filtered through the eyes of a young boy whose attentions are divided between his widowed mother and the hubbub on the streets of Damascus. 9:40 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5; $6 if you come early for the first feature.