The Misanthrope High school theater is usually not much fun for anyone except the kids involved and perhaps their loving parents. But unlike most high schools, the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts -- still going strong after 26 years of starry-eyed kids dreaming of the big time -- offers bang-up performances by young people who spend most all their waking hours perfecting their art. This weekend, see what the energy of youth can bring to Moliere's The Misanthrope and its very funny mix of hypocrisy, flirtation and truth. The director has chosen a smart contemporary translation by poet Richard Wilbur -- a good omen for what's to come tonight on stage. 6 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other dates and times.) HSPVA, Black Box Theatre, 4001 Stanford, 942-1966. $7.
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.
The Real Westheimer Street Festival For all you folks out there who've been wanting the original, true-blue version of the Westheimer Street Festival, the one that actually takes place on Westheimer, here it is at last! See the provocative, the imaginative and the downright peculiar sights that make Montrose -- Houston's inner-city mecca of individuality -- the wondrous place it is. If you're feeling grateful, you can sign a card to the mayor, thanking him for all he's done for the city. Or get gleeful on the Ferris wheel. And if it's parking that's kept you away, take a dollar shuttle from lower Bagby or Milam over to Westheimer. As you roam the sidewalk and pavement of lower Westheimer, expect vendors, music, face-painting, palm-reading, back massages, fuchsia hair, tattooed bodies, Velveeta cheese nachos, geegaws and doodads galore. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Oct. 18 and 19. Westheimer between Helena and Waugh, 522-6548. Free.
Whole Human Expo CenterPoint, a nonprofit organization devoted to holistic health, is entering its 11th year of teaching touchy-feely arts such as aromatherapy, reiki, reflexology, tai chi, yoga, handwriting analysis and astrology. To celebrate its health and longevity, CenterPoint is holding a super-size Health Expo this weekend. About a hundred exhibitors are expected, and you're invited. Hear mini-lectures, watch acupressure demos, have a "visionary portrait" made, meet healers, put your fingers in smelly creams, rub crystals on your temples, nibble vitamins, have your mercury level tested, and meet other needs you didn't know you had. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., CenterPoint Project, 7621 Westview Dr., 688-7224. $2.
Operation Pacific Fury This weekend, Operation Pacific Fury "invades" Galveston's East Beach in an effort to re-create what happened in the Pacific Islands during World War II. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Admiral Nimitz Museum has rallied representatives of the Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Seabees to stage the mock military operation. More than 200 ground troops, WWII-era tanks, armored and amphibious vehicles, fighter planes and bombers will all come together in what's bound to be a strange and dramatic history lesson. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 18, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 19, East Beach, Galveston. Call (800) 580-9218 for information or 629-3700 for tickets. $5; $3, students; free, children under 6.
The Pain of the Macho As part of the tenth anniversary celebration of the Hispanic Performing Arts Series, standup comedian and actor Rick Najera performs his one-man play. The comedian and actor has written for such irreverent shows as In Living Color, The Robert Townsend Show and Fox's Culture Clash. In this equally irreverent show, Najera portrays a group of "quintessential Latin lovers" who tell their woes and triumphs in a series of punchline-riddled monologues. Variety called him one of the "50 creatives to watch"; take your chance to see him live today. 3 p.m. The Museum of Fine Arts, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 743-2841. $4.
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Moonlight Bicycle Ramble Close your eyes and see it: You're pedaling on a rusty Schwinn, under an October moon, deep into the night as dew descends over parked cars and oily puddles. The pavement, dark and glimmering, sighs beneath your tires. You're picturing the Annual Houston Moonlight Bicycle Ramble. Of course, there will also be a gajillion other bikers, and they'll undoubtedly make tons of noise, laughing and talking and being generally jolly as they wind their way through 20 miles of our lovely city in the wee morning hours of a Houston-damp Sunday. Your registration fee gets you a T-shirt, a route map and a one-year membership in the Houston Area Bicyclist Alliance (HABA); it benefits the Houston Child Helmet program as well as HPD's bicycle police officers. Such a deal: Get exercise, meet new people, experience the romance of a dark Southern city in the early morning and help little children all at the same time. Registration starts at 11 p.m.; the ramble begins at 2 a.m. In front of the George Brown Convention Center, 1001 Convention Center Blvd., 729-9333. $20.
Maynard Ferguson Great jazz trumpeters have a way of becoming almost mythical, and Maynard Ferguson is a great jazz trumpeter. The Chicago Tribune said of the veteran soloist that "his trumpet remains instantly recognizable, a larger-than-life soprano almost as flexible as the human voice." Ferguson made a name for himself in the pop world when he recorded "Gonna Fly Now," the theme song for Rocky and a top ten single. See him tonight with his big band. 7:30 p.m. Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Ave., 869-8427. $15$29.
The Swiss Banking Controversy: A Legal Response to a Moral Dilemma Should the Swiss have served as bankers for the Third Reich? And what are the banks' responsibilities regarding accounts started by victims of the Holocaust? At the behest of groups such as the World Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League, Switzerland's banks are attempting to address those issues. Tonight, the Holocaust Museum Houston hosts a roundtable discussion on the Swiss banking controversy and the legal, moral and ethical issues of survivors' litigation against the banks. The impressive list of panelists includes Richard Chesnoff, a senior reporter at U.S. News & World Report; Kenneth Jacobson, assistant national director of the Anti-Defamation League; Marc Cohen, counsel for the Swiss Bankers Association; and Alphons Mueggler, consul general of Switzerland. 7 p.m. Holocaust Museum, 5401 Caroline. For reservations, call 743-2201. $20.
Way Cool Retro-Wear Cocktail Party Been hankering for the days when cocktail hour meant drinks with evocative names? When you could knock back a tequila sunrise, a sloe gin fizz or a Manhattan? Fiamma Grill, the host of this anachronistically named cocktail party (did anyone utter the words "way cool" before 1993?), invites you to dress up in your finest from the '60s and '70s and imbibe the old-time cocktail of your choice. Singer Maria Johnson provides the way-back dance music, and you can nosh on the complimentary pizza and (here's another anachronism) tapas. 7-9 p.m. Fiamma Grill, 8503 Westheimer, 787-9399. Admission free. Cash bar.