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Press Picks

july 7
Wine Train to Galveston Take the wine train to Galveston -- this is a fine idea. Trains are wonderful. Really. Maybe you think this sounds like a hokey pick, but even for those benighted babes to whom the words "Orient Express" or "Midnight Flyer" or The Great Train Robbery or Jimmie Rodgers mean nothing, trains -- even in the Amtrak age -- are wonderful. One can drink and smoke and enjoy the scenery and meet people, be devastatingly clever and then sleep it off on the last leg of the trip, arriving rested and ready for... well, ready. Trains are great for falling in love, or for plotting murder. There's something about a train, and the rocking motion isn't all of it. Neither is the privacy or the sense of escape. Passenger trains, like champagne, are something that civilized people instinctively, even gonadotropically, require.

This jaunt leaves from League City, a fairly desolate small-town spot that feels like singing brakeman territory, and this trip is somehow part of the Lunar Rendezvous Festival. Even crackpots who think the moon landing was faked should go -- they'll make for interesting conversation in the club car. This special trip on the Texas Limited departs at 6 p.m. from the League City depot. Call the Bay Area Museum for more information and reservations; you must dial 1 plus the area code! (713) 532-1254 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. $75.

july 8
And Then There Were None This Agatha Christie mystery, which you might have read as Ten Little Indians, is set in a spooky, isolated house. Ten strangers, odd people all, with nefarious pasts and odd longings, have been summoned -- but by whom? and for what? One by one they all come to bad ends, in Dame Christie's elegant suspense style. These deaths follow a nursery rhyme theme -- Christie, like all good British mystery writers, knew how to enjoy a grisly jape. This spine-tingling murder mystery is part of the Alley Theatre Summer Chills festival and features the usual suspects of the Alley company: Jeffrey Bean, James Black, John Feltch, Paul Hope, Charles Krohn, Karen MacDonald, Christianne Mays, Alex Allen Morris, Charles Sanders, Dustin Smith and Shelley Williams. Opening tonight. Thru July 17. Tue.-Thu., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Alley Theatre, Large Stage, 615 Texas Avenue, 228-8421. $15.

july 9
Introductions '94 For those who've been meaning to get more culture -- you know, see art and such -- Introductions '94 might be the ticket. The Houston Art Dealers Association, a group whose livelihood depends upon art being appreciated, has been sponsoring these little scavenger hunts for 15 years. Thirteen galleries are involved, each "introducing" artists whose work hasn't been seen much, even by die-hard gallery goers. Looking at art isn't so difficult. The first step is to figure out what you like. Later, you can learn about techniques and media, maybe read a few books and pick up some history. Just make sure you don't become one of those people who haven't been excited about art in a coon's age but still attend every opening for the cheap wine and tawdry gossip.

The galleries participating in Introductions are all conveniently located in either the Museum or Upper Kirby districts. The first gallery opens at 10 a.m., but it's not necessary to visit all the galleries in a particular order or on a particular day. Actually, since many of the receptions overlap, there's no real point in trying to see all the art in one fell swoop. The Introductions '94 brochure lists all the participating art spaces plus a few non-participants for good measure, and has a map. To get yours, check with any of the galleries listed as part of Introductions '94 under Art Openings in this paper's Thrills section.

Dog Days of Summer Hot on the heels of Introductions, DiverseWorks has its annual membership party. The 11-year-old alternative art space had a Dog Days party last year that was a huge success, so once again they're offering the coolest party "just when you thought the heat was unbearable." Live music, food and friendly art fans will be prominently featured. Attendees will not be required to pony up $20-$250 for membership. 7-9 p.m. Brasil, 2606 Dunlavy. Call DiverseWorks for details, 223-8346. $10.

Robert Earl Keen Jr. Drat that Lyle. He done gone Hollywood and tried to rise above his raisin' and won't sing "Fat Babies Have No Pride" for anything. If it weren't for the one or two brave souls -- such as Robert Earl Keen Jr. -- who continue to sing the music of my people I'd crawl off to some other land and become a Texpatriate. God help me, I'd go to Belgium. Or Cleveland.

Robert Earl Keen Jr. is, when it comes to hitting specific notes and holding them, not all he might be. However, he has three names (Earl is borderline, but Robert is not a serial-killer name) and a Jr. Redemption enough in my book. If you want more, he be having goldy curly hair and writes songs like he could do no other. Novelty songs, such as "Swervin' in My Lane"; goof bluegrass, like his version of "Bluegrass Widow"; damn fine I-got-tears-in-my-ears-from-lyin'-here-drinkin'-beer-thinkin'-of-you bar tunes; bad-boy ballads such as "Goin' Down in Style"; and genuine heartbreakers about life and human frailty that make any decent human being want to sit in the dark with only a faithful dog, listening to a CD spin and howling along. Then there's the chilling "The Road Goes on Forever," with its perfect meter and telling observation. A good old country and western story-song told with an accuracy and compassion we haven't seen since Sherwood Anderson wrote short stories about little nobodies in the Midwest. Robert Earl Keen Jr. probably has a song about fishing. Probably one freshwater and one salt. The former Front Porch Boy plays two shows: 8 & 10 p.m. Advance tickets are available; call and tell them your credit card number. Brazos Bottom Bar & Grill, 7010 FM 762, 341-5210. $12.

july 10
Slavic Heritage Festival Polkas! Pirogi! Pivo! Non-stop music and dancing and all the fat-filled, perfectly spiced food you need, really need. Oh! With Top 40 music and microwaved meals, this modern mallbilly life destroys our souls, and here is a festival that may save us all, Slavs or not. Croatian, Czech, Polish, Slovene and Ukrainian friends have all joined to bring us this happy day -- and to benefit the Mishop Morkovsky Student Scholarship. The lucky St. Thomas student receiving this year's funding will be honored at the festival.

What have Croatian, Czech, Polish, Slovene and Ukrainian people in common? This particular festival honors Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who were responsible for the conversion of many Slavic groups. (A mass on Saturday is the festival's first event.) This festival also features a booth, and fabulous food, from members of the Bosnian Slavic Moslem community. The Sound Connection, winners of the 1994 Horizon Award for Best New Texas Polka Band, will play. (By the way, this is Houston's oldest ethnic festival. Surprised?) 11:30 a.m. University of St. Thomas, Jerabeck center, on West Alabama near Montrose. $2 admission.

Second Sunday Pickers Guitarist Louise Auclair once again hosts this informal acoustic concert, promoted as an opportunity "to have a hot time while staying cool as a cucumber." Good ol' Martin de Vore tells us, "Listening to lively music in a cool natural setting is a good way to prepare for the increased temperatures of summer." "Increased temperatures" is a kind way to describe the sweltering heat of a humid Houston summer, but the music is as lively as advertised. The Second Sunday Pickers informal folk concerts feature music from different genres and periods. Bring an instrument and join in. 2-4 p.m. Jesse H. Jones Park and Nature Center, 20634 Kenswick Drive, 446-8588. Free.

july 11
Reebok Jimmy Connors Hard Court Challenge/Houston Junior Open This five-day tournament is part of a global effort that has the lofty goal of bringing at least 10,000 children from all over the Earth into the wonderful world of tennis. The Houston Tennis Association has rounded up 700 local youngsters ready, willing and able to compete in regular, championship and super-championship categories. Any who do especially well may go on to the world final in Hong Kong. Kids who might not be ready for such high-profile, aggressive playing can take part in the free tennis festival. This pre-games play functions as the tournament kickoff and as a big tension-releaser for nervous kids about to compete. People on the grounds may have the opportunity to see how they score in a variety of not-exactly-tennis games.

Tournament play will be at several locations around town through July 15. The center of activity, and the site of the free tennis festival, is the Southwest Tennis Center. The free festival is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. 9506 S. Gessner. Call the Houston Tennis Center for more information, 524-3027.

Grammar at Work Not for the innocent, the eager or the doomed, this is about making words work for workers. As Rush Limbaugh often says, how you speak affects how others see you, or words to that effect. This class could pave the way for job advancement, "hone collegiate writing" or provide personal enrichment. Grammar at Work is a non-credit review of basic grammar and writing skills designed for members of the job force and for older students. Four Mondays, beginning today. 7-10 p.m. Houston Community College northeast campus at Northline Mall. For details call 688-2022 and ask for course no. CRN55669. $47.

july 12
Texas Fathers for Equal Rights The whole name of this group is Texas Fathers for Equal Rights, Wives and Grandparents Coalition, and it recognizes not only that divorced people are a fast-growing demographic, but also that everyone in a child's life is affected by the choices of either parent. Family court judges have the most say in these dramas; therefore, TFER has the notion that the voting public should get a look at the judicial candidates before they end up on the bench. Today, TFER presents a public forum for the 308th Family Court candidates -- Georgia Dempster (R) and Robert Hinojosa (D) -- and for those who wish to serve in the 309th -- Sherri Cothrun (D) and John Montgomery (R). 7:30 p.m. Civil Courthouse, room 310, 301 Fannin. For more information call 932-6933. Free and open to the orderly public.

july 13
Superstars of Tomorrow Come see children who are, prior to puberty, far more talented than you will ever be, and who have the opportunity to win valuable prizes to boot. K-Arts classical radio is having a little noon music with prodigies and brown-bag lunches. The superstar of these little superstars is eight-year-old David Gil, who has done that Mozart thing on Good Morning America and Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, as well as on concert stages throughout the civilized world. Gil made his formal debut at the very tender age of four. Some kids can't walk well enough to cross a stage at that age, but our boy was tickling the ivories with the Houston Symphony as a featured guest during the Mozart festival. He has soloed with the Symphony at least twice since, and now here he is in the Cullen Center lobby. David Gil is joined by 12-year-old pianist Katherine Quan and 14-year-old pianist Sarah Gavan. Bring a little nosh, or purchase a pre-packed brown bag for $4. Noon-1 p.m. Cullen Center, 1600 Smith. Free.


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