Arms and Race

When Manny Garcia returned from Vietnam in 1968, the young Mexican-American soldier had won a chestful of medals and the prestigious Purple Heart. But he'd become so disillusioned that he let the government know just how he was feeling -- by driving straight from Fort Bragg to the White House and chucking the whole lot of awards over the fence. "The Vietnam war lacked honor. It was a lie. That's why I threw all of that crap away," Garcia says today.

In Vietnam, Garcia found himself fighting both the Viet Cong and the racial prejudice of fellow soldiers and the army -- despite the fact that minorities were making vital contributions to the war effort. "Those who got the least from this country were giving the most," he says. Garcia relates his experiences in the autobiographical book Accidental Soldier; this weekend, he'll participate in the second annual Latino Book and Family Fair.

"Latino literature is undergoing a renaissance," Garcia notes. "And the most important aspect of this festival is it will encourage Latinos, especially young ones, to tell their own stories...rather than have those stories told for them."

The festival also will feature "villages" of exhibits focusing on careers, education and technology, children's activities, culture, travel, health and home ownership. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, October 11, and Sunday, October 12. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Convention Center Boulevard. For information, visit Free. -- Bob Ruggiero

Thrift Shopping

At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston bargain-basement sale, you can buy your aunt Mildred a museum-quality gift, but just be sure to keep the price to yourself. The event includes posters, books and other paraphernalia from MFAH exhibits dating back to 1997. Also up for grabs is museum display furniture, including what's been described as several Texas-themed "rustic tables." Perhaps you can even spring for both a book and something to display it on. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, from Thursday, October 9, to October 19. MFAH parking garage, 5600 Fannin. For information, call 713-639-7360. Free -- Greg Barr

FRI 10/10
War of the Romaines

The Caesar salad originated far from Rome and close to home. Caesar Cardini created the dish in 1924, on a night when his Tijuana was running low on his usual salad ingredients. The International Society of Epicures in Paris later named it the greatest recipe to come out of the Americas in 50 years. If you can't get enough of that drool-inducing concoction of lemon, garlic, cheese, pepper and a hint of anchovy, we suggest you attend the 19th annual Caesar Salad Competition. Top Houston chefs and restaurateurs will be whipping up their most creative Caesars for eating and judging. The price of admission includes salad, wine and more salad. 5 p.m. Friday, October 10. Doubletree Hotel Allen Center, 400 Dallas. For information, call 713-759-0202. $25. -- Lisa Simon

TUE 10/14
Guidance Counselor

Dear Abby doles out pithy advice in person

Are you confused, fed up or brokenhearted? Have you exhausted the patience of your friends, constantly seeking their unprofessional assistance? Perhaps you should let a member of the royal family of advice columnists have a crack at it. The Dear Abby column is in its second generation, having been handed down to daughter Jeanne Phillips from mom Pauline Phillips (identical twin sister of Esther "Eppie" Lederer, better known as Ann Landers). It's Jeanne who's bringing her wisdom to Houston. Yeah, your personal difficulties will be aired in front of an audience, but Abby won't give away your identity. Just try not to blush too hard when she discusses your question. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 14. Radisson Hotel, 8686 Kirby. For information, call 713-661-1022. $18. -- Lisa Simon

Gator Bait

Kachunga wrassles alligators, but he's no Crocodile Dundee. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride, Kachunga is a reputation, a name given to the person crazy enough to jump into an alligator tank and drag a 250-pound reptile on stage -- just so you can enjoy an informative, hands-on talk about the wonders of the prehistoric beast. "Kachunga and the Alligator Show" will be a daily feature at the Conroe Cajun Catfish Festival, along with a gumbo of other acts. 6 p.m. to midnight, Friday, October 10; 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, October 11; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, October 12. Texas on the Square in downtown Conroe. For information, call 713-220-2000 or visit $8. -- Keith Plocek

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