Erik Slotboom is the new king of the local road geeks. Houston Freeways took two years to write, but freeway systems have been a lifelong obsession of the 36-year-old engineer and software developer. As a child, he was intrigued by the "spaghetti bowl" of roads at the U.S. 59 and Loop 610 interchange between downtown and his Sharpstown neighborhood -- the area's original suburban nightmare commute. According to Slotboom, traffic became so bad there during the early-'80s oil boom that he couldn't even get to school. He calls that era "the worst transportation crisis that any city in the U.S. has experienced in the post-World War II-era -- although people driving the Katy Freeway now might disagree." As bad as traffic may seem today, Slotboom says it's about average for American cities. "We're not among the worst," he says. "We're in the middle of the pack."
The author believes that since the 1948 construction of the Gulf Freeway, the "story of Houston, more than any other city, is the story of the freeway system." Freeways tells why we built where we did, who made the decisions, who profited, who lost -- and what's coming real fast down the turnpike (tollways, lots of 'em). Houston Freeways is available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Brazos Bookstore and River Oaks Bookstore for $34.95, or for $29.95 at www.houstonfreeways.com. -- Scott Nowell
At Least Twice as Nice
Fresh-faced identicals Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen recently graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. The headline: "America's Favorite Fantasy." Advertisers and other fantasists have been feeding us images of twins for years. But this weekend, Texan twins will take back the strange American gaze and focus on each other. The 2003 Texas Twin Round-up features rides, games, a Name That Twin game show, contests and performances by twin-led bands the Mickeys and the Gibbs Brothers Band. Attendance by beer commercial talent scouts is not guaranteed. Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, October 4. Sienna Plantation, 3777 Sienna Parkway in Missouri City. For information, call 281-499-5681 or visit www.twinstuff.com. $10 per set of twins. -- Lisa Simon
Wo Ist die Party?
Just to make things confusing, most of Oktoberfest in Munich actually happens in September, with only its last weekend taking place during the proper month. The story goes that the event was moved forward because of inclement weather in the Alps, but we suspect the Bavarians just couldn't wait to start drinkin'. The folks out in Fredericksburg keep it real: They celebrate during only the first weekend in October, even if that means sacrificing a lot of drinking time for the sake of a little linguistic accuracy. It's still a damn gutparty, complete with polka music, lederhosen and some of the best wurst this side of the Atlantic. 6 p.m. to midnight, Friday, October 3; 10 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, October 4; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, October 5. Downtown Marktplatz. For information, call 866-TEX-FEST or visit www.oktoberfestinfbg.com. $6 for adults; $1 for kids. -- Keith Plocek
We're Here, We're Druids
Pagans show their pride at Last Concert Cafe
Contrary to popular belief, paganism -- that ancient, nature-based religion -- isn't an evil, devil-worshiping cult. It's witchy and mystical, rife with symbols and deities, but certainly tame compared to, say, Scientology (the product of sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard's imagination). Pagans simply want to live in peace. Pagan Pride Day celebrates the autumn equinox, an occasion to give thanks to the earth. The hippie-friendly Last Concert Cafe will host the event, which includes pagan religious ceremonies, children's activities, food and the "magickal" sounds of GypsyFire, Solid Oak, Dana Davis, Ted Miller, Spoonfed Tribe and Canvas. So forget those awful horror movie scenes of ritualistic carnage. Not a single goat will be sacrificed at the event. Noon to midnight, Saturday, October 4. 1403 Nance. For information, call 281-286-8252 or visit www.paganpride.com. $5 donation benefits the Homeless and Orphaned Pets Endeavor. -- Troy Schulze
All That Jazz
It comes down to drawing fine distinctions between supernovas, but Wynton might just be the brightest star of the musical Marsalis family. Father Ellis is revered as a jazz legend, and brother Branford is best-known for his stint as the music director of The Tonight Show, but Wynton has nine Grammys and a Pulitzer under his belt, not to mention honorary doctorates from a dozen universities. He's currently the artistic director of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, which will play an outstanding array of original compositions and diverse arrangements at 8 p.m. Thursday, October 2. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For more information, call 713-227-4772 or visit www.spahouston.org. $29. -- Keith Plocek