Burning the Days Famous for the intelligent, quiet prose with which he has constructed five lovely novels, James Salter has now written a well-reviewed memoir, Burning the Days. His life has been full. After spending time in Korea as a fighter pilot, where he crash-landed B-17s while engaged in combat, he became a novelist and screenwriter. His life as a screenwriter, which was full of famous folks, included plane-hopping with the likes of Robert Redford and meeting a mistress of King Farouk. Salter lusted after her; in his book he says that he "liked her generosity and lack of morals -- they seemed close to an ideal condition of living -- and also the way she looked at her teeth in the mirror as she talked." Hear him read and have him sign your copy of his book tonight. 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701. Free.
Macbeth Houston Grand Opera opens its 43rd season with two great names in Western civilization -- Giuseppe Verdi and Will Shakespeare -- and with blood, sex and power. In this contemporary interpretation of Verdi's Macbeth, Catherine Malfitano sings the role of nasty Lady Macbeth, who pushes her "weakling" husband to achieve power at any cost. In addition to all the blood and guts, a coven of witches complicates the story. In the pit, Simone Young, the second female conductor in HGO's history, takes the podium. 6:30 p.m. lecture by Dr. Nancy Bailey on Macbeth's history; 7 p.m. performance. (See Thrills, Music for other dates and times.) The Wortham Theater Center, Brown Theater, 500 Texas, 227-ARTS. $20-$175.
River Oaks Garden Club Pink Elephant Sale It all started back during World War II. In an effort to make "bundles" for Britain, the ladies of River Oaks got together to sell produce from local gardens, along with hard-to-find used items, in a sale known then as the River Oaks Green Market. Houston shoppers quickly realized that when buying used stuff, it's a good idea to buy it from the rich -- and 47 years later, the River Oaks Garden Club's Pink Elephant Sale is still going strong. This weekend, you can snag those River Oaks castoffs, including clothing, furniture, plants and all the really good junk of yard sales. The proceeds don't go to England any more; they benefit the community right here in Houston. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct 17, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 18, Metropolitan Multi Service Center, 1475 West Gray. Free.
TSU 50th Anniversary Celebration: The African Tribute Texas Southern University has been around for 50 years, and it's ready to celebrate that fact. One of the festivities is presented this weekend by the African Community Organization. After a banquet dinner, get out on the dance floor while DJs spin African/disco music all night long. 7 p.m. Texas Southern University, Student Life Center, 3100 Cleburne, 739-1368. $40 plus cash bar.
High Noon Talk about high concept: This modern dance piece is loosely based on the 1950s film in which Gary Cooper, a sheriff in a quandary, stays brave and true and decides to meet his destiny head-on. In this dance version, the gender roles are reversed; Marshal Kane is played by a woman (Jennifer Lawson) who must learn to face her demons. 8 p.m. Oct. 17 and 18, Tomball Intermediate School Auditorium, 723 Main Street, Tomball, (281) 351-1712. Free.
Halloween Magic Halloween Magic raises money for AIDS charities by having riotous good fun. Over the years it's offered such plays as Montrose Boulevard, The Phantom of Montrose and A Streetcar Named Montrose -- all outrageous spoofs of serious shows. This year Halloween Magic is back with How to Succeed in Montrose Without Really Trying; its oddball plot draws from Mary Tyler Moore, The Beverly Hillbillies and 101 Dalmatians. Find out if Mary and her friends can save station WGAY from certain doom and, at the same time, avert the plans of the cruel Ramona Desdemona Villanova DeVil. Saturday evening begins with a cocktail buffet and a silent auction; Sunday's event begins with a brunch. 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18, 12:30 p.m. Oct. 19, Texas Medical Conference Center, 2151 Holcombe, 226-2342. $75, Oct. 18; $40, Oct. 19.
Garden Tour Of course the dreary, gray days of fall are when everyone starts dreaming of their fine spring gardens. And if that's not so, it should be. To that end, the Upper Kirby District Foundation is offering tours of several of Houston's more imaginative and fully realized amateur gardens. See both vegetable and flower gardens. Learn which perennials will survive the drought-and-deluge cycles of the Houston summer. Meet with members of conservation groups, who'll provide you with information, at several gardens. Best of all, jump-start your horticultural imagination so you can think ahead to those March evenings when the daffodils are blooming. 1-5 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19. A map comes with your ticket, which can be purchased at any of the following addresses: MeredithO'Donnell Fine Furniture, 2992 Kirby; Mister Car Wash, 3100 Kirby; Avalon Diner, 2417 Westheimer; Antek's, 2425 Kirby; Cities, 1900 Westheimer. For information, call 524-8000. $10.