The annual Downtown Stomp Around, presented by DiverseWorks, is a kind of aesthetic scavenger hunt. You plot your course through the gallery map, navigate the urban landscape with optimal efficiency, gulp some free wine and get a little culture. This year, though, the ante has been upped. Buffalo Bayou ArtPark will station various works en route, like little artistic Easter eggs, for participants to find. Simultaneous gallery openings include a Museum within a museum at DiverseWorks; FotoFest's " 'Hey, Listen to Me!' Writing Pictures," an exhibit of student photography and writing in commemoration of International Literacy Day; prints by self-taught Texas painter Valton Tyler at UH-Downtown; and exhibits at O'Kane Gallery, Inman Gallery and Travis Tower Lobby, among others.
Also look for public video installations and performances, including the mysterious Feel Good Clubhouse, which will be offering tantalizing "memberships" to lucky Stompers. If you arrive home without having joined up, well, you're a loser. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, September 8. For information and a full list of participating galleries, call 713-223-8346 or visit www.diverseworks.org. Free. -- Troy Schulze
Thai that Binds
Treat yourself to a feel-good weekend festival
The people of Thailand know a little something about having life turned upside-down by raging floods, so they're offering a helping hand this weekend with ThaiFest, which benefits the American Red Cross Katrina Relief Fund. You can experience Thai culture, food and sports, and check out a rare performance by the Royal Thai Dancers, a parade and a Thai fashion show. There'll also be entertainment by Thai classical musicians, a cooking demonstration stage, a Thai boxing demonstration, and Krabi Krabong (Thai martial arts) and Takraw (kick volleyball) demonstrations. Saturday's events culminate in a Thai candlelight vigil called Loy Kratong at City Hall's Reflection Pond. Sunday features a tribute to the United States in memory of September 11, 2001. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 10 and 11. Hermann Square at City Hall, 900 Bagby. For information, call 832-274-6866 or visit www.thaifesthouston.com. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Getting the Bends
My pulse is racing. I'm breathing heavily. I'm starting to really sweat. Damn, this is exactly the kind of thing I was trying to avoid. It's Labor Day, and in an effort to unwind, I've decided to try my hand (and back, and hamstrings) at a yoga class. It's part of Free Yoga Day -- studios and centers all over the world are offering free classes to the public in an effort to raise awareness.
I've joined more than 30 yoga enthusiasts -- mostly young, fit women, plus a few guys and even a family of four with two yoga-fied kiddos -- at Your Body Center in Montrose for an introduction to Ashtanga yoga. It's a sequence of movements and breathing, explains Andrew, our instructor. Yeah, yeah, I smirk to myself, let's get to the "ohhhm." Andrew starts us off with shoulder rolls, forward and back. Easy. Next, we stretch our arms, wrists and even our chins. No problem. Hot damn, I'm a yoga natural.
That's when Andrew kicks it up a notch. We go into a "sun salutation," bending our knees, squatting, bringing our hands over our heads and holding the position. (After several seconds, mine's more a plea to God than a salutation to the sun.) Then we move into the "downward dog" position, where we plant our feet and hands and bend our backs, making a triangle with the floor. "What's up, dawg?" I jokingly whisper to a fellow student, who ignores me. I'm obviously not pulling off the moves, though I am pulling nearly every muscle in my body. We hold poses and make "ha" sounds, which is easy for me because I'm gasping (the young kids are having no problems whatsoever, I notice). Finally, we stretch out on the floor.
Sucks for me. I came to relax and instead got a workout. Next year, I'll blow off steam the old-fashioned way: with a bottle of booze. -- Steven Devadanam
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Hell of a Ride
It seems a bit counterintuitive to participate in an activity that forces you to carry your bike on your shoulder, but that's the brutal logic behind cross-country mountain biking. Take that and mix it with classic bike racing, and you get a sport that's become a favorite among rugged twenty- and thirtysomethings, not to mention regular fodder for "extreme" deodorant ads. The documentary Pure Sweet Hell captures ugly -- and glorious -- footage of cyclocross competitions throughout North America and of 'cross luminaries Justin Robinson, Gina Hall, Barry Wicks and Rick Hunter. See why ten-speeds are for wusses at 8 p.m. Saturday, September 10. Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora. For information, call 713-868-2101 or visit www.cyclocrossfilm.com. $6 (proceeds benefit the Texas Cyclocross Association). -- Steven Devadanam
Not to shatter any deeply held illusions, but apparently exotic dancers are not, in fact, born with the ability to, like, make their tassels twirl. Turns out they must study and concentrate and, above all, practice, practice, practice to develop those hypnotic skills. Luckily for aspiring showgirls (and ambitious, er, laychicks wanting to give their boy- or girlfriends a private eyeful), veteran burlesque diva Satan's Angel will lead a ladies-only class in the fine art of orb oscillation at Helios this weekend. Go, baby, go! 10 a.m. Saturday, September 10. 411 Westheimer. For information, call 713-526-4648 or visit www.heliosrising.org. $50. -- Scott Faingold