Don't you just hate it when you drop by your mom's house for a routine visit, maybe a bowl of chicken soup and a little chat, but instead you find that she's been brutally murdered? Damn. What's even worse is when someone tries to kill you when you stumble onto the crime scene. If this sounds like your visits home, you'll definitely want to check out Jeff Abbott's new book, Panic, which he'll be discussing and signing at Murder by the Book this week. In Abbott's eighth highly acclaimed crime novel, young filmmaker Evan Casher not only finds Mom murdered when he returns to Austin, but discovers his entire life is a carefully constructed lie. Before he knows it, he's on the run from a powerful organization bent on offing him, as he flees the Texas Hill Country for New Orleans, London and then Miami. (At least old Evan's well traveled.) Abbott signs and discusses Panic at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, August 27. 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8957 or visit www.murderbooks.com. Free. -- Scott Faingold
Act up at the Theater District Open House
New Yorkers love to brag about Broadway and the city's thriving theater scene -- and rightfully so. But here's a little factoid you can whip out the next time you're visiting Chelsea: Houston ranks second only to NYC in the number of theater seats in a concentrated downtown area. Get some more fuel for your Houston vs. Big Apple debate at the 12th annual Theater District Open House. You'll bounce from spots like the Alley Theatre (615 Texas) and the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (800 Bagby) and meet performers, try on costumes and go behind the scenes of your favorite venues. You can also nosh on grub from downtown eateries at the "Taste of Downtown" and participate in the Theater District Open House Scavenger Hunt for swag. Try doing that on Broadway. Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, August 28. For information and a schedule of events, call 800-446-8786 or visit www.houstontheaterdistrict.org. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Crashing the Party
"Why don't I crash more fashion shows?" I wonder as I'm hanging at Fashionably Loud. More than 300 über-hip, nattily attired and perfectly coiffed locals have shown up for this glitzy event in the garage of Momentum BMW in Midtown. The soiree is the love child of Fashion Group International and the Downtown Alliance Young Leaders, so basically it's a lot of hot young professionals mixing and mingling while they watch hot young models strutting around in couture by hot young designers.
I'm trying to look cool, so I've been keeping my head low. (Mainly because I keep nearly slamming my head into the BMWs jacked up on hydraulic lifts.) Soon, an announcer tells us that the show's about to begin, noting, "If it's too loud, you're too old!" -- something I've never actually heard anyone young say.
The rock-funk band Friends of the Enemy takes the stage and rocks the house. The guys, who are dressed like the Beastie Boys in the "Sabotage" video -- ugly ties, polyester pants, short-sleeved dress shirts and all -- are a hilarious contrast to the statuesque models who strut down the runway in duds by local designers. The crowd's into it, and the models are grinning, winking and occasionally even tripping (which only makes them hotter in my pathetic eyes).
By the night's end, I'm a near-expert on local fashion. I really dig Michelle Ngo's flowing designs. And I love the dramatic, almost mariachi-inspired themes of Silvio Ortega's line (especially the midriff-revealing stuff). But to me the star is Alex Chapman, whose metallic, sparkling creations are all accented by peacock feathers neatly tucked in the models' tops or on their heads. After the show, I go to compliment the visionary designer, who's holding court in the middle of the floor.
Unfortunately, he never hears my praise, as I'm tragically stopped short by a head-on collision with an SUV. -- Steven Devadanam
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Take a Day "Off"
With the airlines raising ticket prices, exploring the country's natural beauty via IMAX films is definitely a cheaper vacation option. See our land from sea to shining sea in the "Hats Off to America!" series. Some of the titles for your traveling pleasure: Texas: The Big Picture, Alaska: Spirit of the Wild, Adventures in Wild California and Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets. Sadly, there won't be any flight attendants to bring a Bloody Mary to your seat -- but at least there's no turbulence. Runs through September 30 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive. For tickets and a schedule of screenings, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $4.50 to $7. -- Bob Ruggiero
Each spring, the folks from Southwestern Trail Riders stir up city pride (and a mess o' traffic congestion) with their annual rodeo procession. They're saddling up again this weekend for Gail's Annual Trail Ride. You can dance, drink and camp out Friday night, then at 2 p.m. Saturday, you'll hop on a horse or into a covered wagon for a five-hour ride through various southeast Houston neighborhoods. The event is BYOB, which begs the question, Can you drink and ride? "Well," says organizer Gail Cunningham, "I have gotten drunk on a horse." Yee-haw! Festivities begin at 6 p.m. Friday, August 26, and run through Saturday, August 27. Rump Shakers Barn, 4200 Fuqua. For information, call 713-734-5770. $4 to $7; free for kids 12 and under. -- Steven Devadanam