At age 44, Michael Stadther sold his banking-software company for millions, and retired soon after to upstate New York. For most people, that would be enough. But the entrepreneur, now 52, decided that he wanted to write a children's book, so he took two of his millions and published A Treasure's Trove. We know, there's no way that writing a story about enchanted bugs, trees and fairies should cost so much. A cool mil went to creating 12 jewel-encrusted insects, made from the likes of Kashmir sapphires and Burnese rubies, which readers can "find" if they decipher clues within the story. Twelve 18-karat gold coins redeemable for the gems are hidden in public places, within a day's drive for anyone in the continental United States. (The jewels, by the way, are on view February 19 and 20 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.) You have until 2007 to find the treasures, so push the little brats outta the way and press Stadther for clues at his book signing at 7 p.m. Friday, February 18. Barnes & Noble, Town and Country Village, 12850 Memorial Drive. For information, call 713-465-5616 or visit www.atreasuretrove.com. Free. Julia Ramey
Celebrate history at "A Tribute to Black Heritage"
As picturesque historical buildings and neighborhoods give way to cookie-cutter town homes and developments in our fair town, the Third Ward stands as a stalwart middle finger to all who would gentrify Houston's venerable old 'hoods. Today you can pay homage to the area and celebrate Black History Month at "A Tribute to Black Heritage." The reception features African-American-themed paintings and sculpture from the Community Art Collective and African dance from Kuumba House Dance Theater. More dance comes courtesy of New Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, whose boys' troupe Under His Wing and girls' group Willing to Follow will offer up some praise-inspired moves. Also, check out African attire modeled by the folks at the Worksource Youth Center and history lessons by kids from the U.S. Dream Academy, a group that fosters children of incarcerated parents. The party's on from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, February 18. The Third Ward Multi-Service Center, 3611 Ennis. For information, call 713-527-4005. Free. - Steven Devadanam
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
My Big Gay Wedding
"This is a day you'll all remember," says a grinning Jerry Simoneaux as he greets the gathering at Resurrection Metropolitan Church. "We have a couple who've been together for 30 years. And we have a lesbian couple who have a U-Haul parked around back."
I've made it just in time to watch 42 gay and lesbian couples tie the proverbial knot as part of National Freedom to Marry Day. There was the looming threat of protesters, but instead it's just friends, family, 20 clergy members from area churches and some media gathered together.
The men and women are young, old, black, white, Latino, Asian. Some are in tuxes and formal gowns; others are in jeans and pressed shirts. As a pair of ministers takes turns announcing couples' names and how long they've been together, they walk down the aisle to the altar to wash their hands (as a symbol of leaving the past behind) and light a candle. The last couple, LaTasha and Joy, get a huge cheer when it is announced that they've been together five years and between them have ten -- yes, ten -- kids.
Aside from the number of couples, it's just like any other wedding. We're all a little veklempt watching the couples holding hands and reciting the vows. And there's hardly a dry eye in the place when the Reverend Chris Chiles declares, "You may kiss your spouse," and then turns to kiss his own.
After the ceremony, we gather in the church's gymnasium for the reception. As people mill in line for the food and punch bowl, couples take pictures on stage under a "Just Married" sign. "We're celebrating each other and ourselves," Sergio says to me as he grabs his hubby, Chris. It's time to dance, and as we shake it, we all sing the lyrics to the Shania Twain tune "Man! I Feel Like a Woman." -- Steven Devadanam
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It is the one common denominator uniting the spheres of luxury, money and power. In Gold! National Treasure, Cultural Obsession, organizers for the Houston-exclusive exhibit promise the largest collection of gold objects and materials ever seen outside of P. Diddy's mansion, including a room completely covered in the heavy metal. Sections will explore its historical and social importance, along with screenings of the IMAX flick Gold Fever. See why silver just doesn't cut it, and get ideas for your jewelry (or teeth adornments) when the show opens on Friday, February 18. Through August 7 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, 1 Hermann Circle Drive. For tickets, information and a full schedule, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $3 to $12. - Bob Ruggiero
Grab a Cab
Ah, the good ol' days, when prostitutes roamed unchecked, Mohawks were vaguely fashionable and Martin Scorsese made movies that weren't three hours long. Reminisce with a midnight showing of Taxi Driver, in which a Vietnam vet-turned-New York cabbie (a much more slender Robert De Niro) befriends a young prostitute (a much less politically correct Jodie Foster) and takes it upon himself to cleanse the earth of "scum." Take care to leave your deranged and/or superliberal friends at home, however: The movie allegedly inspired John Hinkley Jr. to try to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Practice your best "You talkin' to me?" before midnight on Friday, February 18, and Saturday, February 19. River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray. For information, call 713-866-8881 or visit www.landmarktheatres.com. $6 to $8. -- Julia Ramey