I-45 blues A few Best Of issues back, we named the Pierce Elevated the Best Road to Drive On, partly in appreciation of the bumps experienced at freeway speeds. The thrill is no more, since as of 12:01 a.m. today and for the next seven months that beloved and heavily used section of Interstate 45 is closed for reconstruction: northbound lanes will be under repair for the first several months, then crews switch to the southbound lanes. Motorists who have idled away their time in traffic jams on that stretch of road might fancy picking up a jackhammer and joining the construction crew to relieve a bit of their frustration; a more positive approach might be to delight in the opportunity to see more of the city while seeking alternate routes.
Jack and The Future Is in Eggs Both are billed as "against-all-odds stories of romance, tragedy and, above all, production." In the former, young Jack is overly attached to his overstuffed armchair, which irks Mother Jack, Father Jack and mean sister Jacqueline; they go to great and humorous lengths to rescue him. The latter tale is a follow-up. This stab at absurdist theater a la Eugene Ionesco is presented by Infernal Bridegroom Productions. Preview tonight, 8 p.m. Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan, 520-7080. $5.99.
More shopping Kitchen & Company is opening its newest store in the Houston area. Today, while perusing the kitchen superstore, shoppers are invited to take in a demonstration by Jacques Fox, executive chef at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management; or to get a lesson in cake decorating from wedding-cake czarina Camilla Chiara; or to taste food prepared by Junior Leaguers (whose organization will benefit from a portion of today's sales proceeds). Freebie alert: The first 25 people to post their materialistic desires with the gift registry will receive a pair of Marquis by Waterford toasting flutes. Westhill Village Shopping Center, 7601 Westheimer, 789-1129.
Steve Allen: Humor and Healing The prolific Steve Allen will, in his own witty way, discuss the role of humor in the healing process. This is an opportunity to see a TV legend in person, and to gain insight while busting a gut. 7:30 p.m. Unity Church of Christianity, 2929 Unity Drive, 787-3490. $25.
Holiday art sale Glassell students have been hard at work perfecting their craft, and now they offer their wares as potential gifts for your loved ones. Paintings, drawings, watercolors, photographs, ceramics, sculptures and jewelry are all for sale. 5-8 p.m. today; 10 a.m.5 p.m. Saturday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose, 639-7500.
Nenette et Boni and J'ai Pas Sommeil When Claire Denis made her directorial debut with the autobiographical work Chocolat, she was heralded as a fresh talent. Now the cutting-edge director has a few more films under her belt, three of which are showing as part of the MFA's French Films in December series. The director herself will present Nenette et Boni, the Locarno Film Festival winner about sibling rivalry and a mother's death, and J'ai Pas Sommeil (I Can't Sleep), a true-crime drama about a man and his lover who together murdered more than 20 Parisian women in the mid-'80s. Begins at 7:30 p.m. tonight (other films and times listed in Thrills, Film & Video). MFA, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5, single feature; $6, double feature.
Pharoah Sanders This "titan of the tenor saxophone" (as Down Beat dubbed him) will perform tunes from his new Message from Home. A native of Little Rock, the home he refers to is not Arkansas, but rather Africa, where he recently traveled. His new music is said to shatter the wall between jazz and African music forms; tonight he performs with his quartet and an African percussionist. 8 p.m. Presented by Da Camera at the Wortham Center, Cullen Theater, 500 Texas. For tickets, call 524-5050. $14-$29; discounts for seniors and students.
America's Smithsonian The mother of all pop culture exhibits hits town today -- and adds a little history to the mix. The largest museum exhibit ever put on the road includes Barbara Bush's inaugural gown, Judy Garland's ruby Oz slippers, Alan Shepard's Mercury capsule, Abraham Lincoln's top hat and... well, you get the drift. Nearly 300 artifacts and icons are on tour from their home at our nation's capital. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenue of the Americas. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, through January 28. Tickets are free and available on a first-come, first served basis; advance tickets may be ordered by calling (800) 913-TOUR at least five days in advance, though a $3.50 service charge applies. Groups of 20 or more can reserve free advance tickets by calling Jill Chappell at (202) 786-2706.
Annual Candlelight Tour of the East End Historic District Travel Galveston aboard a horse-drawn carriage on this tour of five historic homes plus one church. The homes were constructed between 1880 and 1931 and have been restored; in fact, one is now a bed and breakfast. Tickets for the home tour (as well as this weekend's production of A Christmas Carol) are available at the Grand 1894 Opera House, (409) 765-1894. $12.
A Collage of Choreography An evening of contemporary dance choreographed by a slew of gifted and flexible local talents, as presented by the Jewish Community Center dance department. Choreographers include Juliet Hicks, Darby Boyd, Rob Davidson and Sophia Torres.8 p.m. JCC, Kaplan Theatre, 551-7255. $10.
Sarah McLachlan KRBE/104 FM's acoustic concert series concludes with an intimate performance by the sincere Sarah McLachlan, yet another performer with a huge Internet following. 6 p.m. Art Institute of Houston, 1900 Yorktown. Tickets are free; the catch is you have to be the right caller at the right time to get yours -- and only 100 tickets will be issued. Call the station, 266-1000, for details.
Dickens on the Strand Fact and fantasy mingle on the island this weekend as Galveston celebrates Queen Victoria's London -- a period when bad food and worse teeth were the norm, as the promoters dare to point out. Among the new features this year is Frogmore Pond, a synthetic ice rink (made of silicon-coated polymer that won't melt) where Victorian-themed ice shows, including "candle dances," will be performed. There's also plenty of shopping, parades, costumed characters and more. Gerald Charles Dickens, great-great-grandson of the author and festival namesake, is the special guest. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. today; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (281) 280-3907. Dickens on the Strand admission, $8; dress for the occasion and get in free.
Holiday Musicales Moody Garden is into the Dickens on the Strand vibe, and the holiday season, too. Saturdays through Christmas, the park invites area choirs to perform adjacent to a 25-foot tree made of 900 poinsettias; performers today are from Blinn College, Katy Junior School, College of the Mainland and Alvin Community College. Dress Victorian-style and get in free to the Queen's Greenhouse at Kew (a.k.a. the Rainforest Pyramid); enjoy grub from a special menu for the "Queen's Late Night Supper"; or pose for photos in front of the poinsettia tree. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. 1 Hope Boulevard, Galveston, (800) 582-4673. $6.
Battle Stations 1944 More than 80 history buffs will reenact the events that occurred as the Battleship Texas was prepared for the Iwo Jima invasion during World War II. This is a chance to tour the only battleship to serve in both world wars and to converse with uniformed WWII sailors and Marines. Presented by the San Jacinto State Historical Park and the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredricksburg. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. today and Sunday. Call 479-4412 for more information. $5, adults; $2.50, children six18; free, children five and under.
Annual Movie Poster Sale The River Oaks Theatre is once again parting with remnants from recent features -- both American-made independents and foreign releases -- and some classics. This is a chance to get keepsakes from some of your favorites, or nab a gift or two for a movie buff on your holiday shopping list. Noon4 p.m. today and Sunday. 2009 West Gray, 444-FILM (number 037).
Gingerbread Nights Maybe some of you creative mothers out there have decided to construct a gingerbread house this holiday season. Kudos to you. Jim Miles, however, is a professional and wasn't content to stop with a single-family dwelling. The executive chef of the Houstonian has incorporated 250 pounds of flour, 300 pounds of sugar, 30 pounds of butter, 300 pounds of powdered sugar and 400 pounds of candy into an entire Alpine village, which is on view as of today in the Great Room Lobby. Admire his achievement, then, from 5:30-10 p.m., head over to the hotel bar for holiday drink specials; toast the world's overachievers and take a moment to relax before you embark on the frenzy that is holiday baking. The Houstonian Hotel, 111 North Post Oak Lane, 685-6763.
Finit Kaput Party After serving up art and learning opportunities to more than 35,000 grown men and women this year, the Orange Show is calling to a close yet another successful season. The party tonight features music by Texas Johnny Brown and Christmas yummies such as wassail and cookies. Plus, revelers get to make their own holiday cards. 7-11 p.m. The Orange Show, 2402 Munger, 926-6368. $7.
Blues for Food Some of Houston's best blues and zydeco acts are uniting today for a very worthy cause: food -- food for the needy and food for you! Bring canned and nonperishable goods to the Shakespeare Pub for a day of free barbecue and music from the likes of Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Wildred Chevis, Wilbert Thibodeaux, the Zydeco Dots, Mary Thomas and more of Shakespeare's esteemed regular performers. Big Roger Collins is the host, and donations benefit the Houston Food Bank. 2 p.m.-2 a.m. 14129 Memorial Drive, 497-4625.
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Neuter two for the price of one The Fund for Animals Spay and Neuter Clinic is again offering responsible pet owners the chance to have their beloved kitties spayed or neutered at a discounted rate -- buy one, get one free. Surgeries are performed by appointment Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays in December; act now, promoters say, before breeding season begins. 1603 Shepherd. For an appointment, call 863-0010. $15, neutering (for boy cats); $25, spaying (for girl cats).
Window of Opportunity: The Texas Show Oh boy, we've got two chances to set our eyes on Joe Ely this month. Still riding high on his wonderful 1995 CD Letter to Laredo and probably sporting a new Christmas sweater or some such, Ely will play December 2627 at Rockefeller's. Can't wait? See earlier shots of him as taken by photographer Tracy Hart. Hart's exhibit is a salute to the great state of Texas. She specializes in architecture and artists. Besides the stalwart old buildings of downtown Houston, Austin and Galveston, she also captures fleeting moments, such as Stevie Ray Vaughan funning with Ely backstage at Fitzgerald's. 1-6 p.m. Heights Gallery, 1438 Herkimer, 868-9606.
The Wall That Heals A half-scale traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial lands in Houston today. Alongside this wall-like monument, which stretches to nearly 246 feet in length, will be a display of memorabilia left at the permanent memorial in Washington, D.C., in remembrance of the soldiers listed on the wall. Through December 15. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Hermann Park, near Miller Outdoor Theatre. For more information, call the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, 227-3100. Free.
Yuletide at Bayou Bend The gracious museum is decked out for the holiday -- though sometimes, to be historically correct, that means doing nothing at all. The Murphy Room, for example, is decorated in the spirit of 17th-century New England, where Puritans, by law, didn't celebrate Christmas -- no tree, no nothing -- until said law was repealed in 1681. But fret not: By the time you get to the 18th-century rooms, you'll see enough greenery, candles and ribbons to get you into the Christmas mood. Through January 3, with special tours and family events scheduled throughout the holiday season. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; last admission at 3:30 p.m. 1 Westcott Street, 639-7750. $10; $8.50, seniors and students; $5, children ten-18. $1.50 audio tour charge for little shavers who haven't yet celebrated their tenth birthday.