This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, January 1

Come on ride the train, choo-choo ride it. Happy new year, y'all, and welcome to the future of Houston. Despite the fact that folks have been mindlessly turning left in front of the new light rail on its test runs down Main, causing minor accidents and slow-downs, METRORail's opening today is proceeding as scheduled, and rides up and down Main are free. You can sit back feeling citified, and, since your hands are free, write down your New Year's resolutions. Don't forget the one about actually using the rail. 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Friday, January 2, through Sunday, January 4. Main and Fannin streets between downtown and south of Reliant Park. For information, call 713-635-4000 or visit Free.

Friday, January 2

Perhaps you still have out-of-town guests hanging around, or are just back from being away yourself, and you're feeling the need to celebrate what's unique about our town. We can hardly think of a better way to embrace that essential Houston-ness than visiting the Art Car Museum. After all, the art car movement was born in Houston, and it's only here that on any given day of the week you could find yourself stopped at a light next to a glitter-covered Jeep. At the museum, you can read up on the movement's history and see the cars parked inside. Be sure to check out the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir car, which is covered in those singing novelty sea bass -- reprogrammed to perform in unison. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. 140 Heights Boulevard. For information, call 713-861-5526 or visit Free.

Saturday, January 3

In the mood for a rarely seen gem of the American stage, dusted off and made new? The story lines in the 1917 musical Oh, Boy! show how mistaken identities and misunderstandings between friends have been laugh-getters since long before Jack Tripper tripped across a soundstage. A man has married his girlfriend in secret and fears breaking the news to his wealthy Quaker aunt, on whom he -- and now his bride -- are financially dependent. The two arrive home from their nuptials to find a bachelor friend using their apartment for a party. A showgirl on the lam breaks in and asks the party-thrower to hide her. She assumes the identities of both the bride and the maiden aunt as the evening wears on, and the bride's father gets involved as well, but not to worry: Everything will be neatly wrapped up by the time the curtain rings down. 8 p.m. Main Street Theater, 4617 Montrose. For information and tickets, call 713-524-6706 or visit $20 to $30.

Sunday, January 4

If you haven't yet made the time to see "The Heroic Century: The Museum of Modern Art Masterpieces," you're in luck. Today is the exhibit's last day in Houston, its only U.S. stop, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has extended its viewing hours. Featuring modern and contemporary art, it's like a live walk through an art history textbook, with works from heavy hitters Matisse, Picasso, Giacometti, Kandinsky, de Kooning and Pollock. And if you know van Gogh's The Starry Night from only gazing at the poster as you fell asleep every night of your freshman year, go see it -- it's way more impressive and interesting in person. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information and tickets, call 713-639-7300 or visit $5 to $12.50.

Monday, January 5

Rice University graduate Diane Golomb Levi's current installation "Vulnerable" obliges the viewer to participate in the work. Entering the gallery where her chiffon-and-wire sculptures hang is like walking into some strange yet oddly familiar interior space, where you feel welcomed but still a little creeped out. The sculptures' size and drape make you feel as though you've been shrunk down and are getting to see the inside of something you'd normally be too big to see. The blousy, pocked surfaces are reminiscent of skin, turning you, the viewer, into a crawling mite, perhaps? Or an attacking mosquito? The delicate material also reminds us of formal dresses. Under there, you could be a child clinging to Mother's legs as she prepares to leave you for an adult evening out, or perhaps just a frat boy doing the "gator." 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit Free.

Tuesday, January 6

The planetarium has changed since you were a kid. These days, you'll find more inside the dome than a static map of the night sky and the occasional Pink Floyd laser light show. New technology has ushered in a high-def, 3-D experience, but you still get to tilt all the way back in your chair to watch. The latest show at the Burke Baker Planetarium is all about Mars, the fourth rock from the sun and our nearest planetary neighbor. Spacecraft are making their way to Mars as you read this, and trust us, Mars is about to become very hip. Get a jump on all the fourth-grade space geeks by learning about how meteorites pounded the red surface for millennia, opening huge canyons and raising volcanoes. Will we someday colonize the Red Planet? Dream the well-informed dream. 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. One Hermann Circle Drive. For information and tickets, call 713-639-4629 or visit $3 to $5.

Wednesday, January 7

What sport is cheap and easy and encourages the consumption of beer and fried snacks? Why, bowling, of course. You can get your Big Lebowski on on any day of the week at the Palace Bowling Lanes. Rent some sweet two-tone kicks, make that junior-high joke about eight-pound balls, knock back some brewskis and have a good old time. League play is on today from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., so if you go around those times, be prepared to play the far outer lanes or spectate from the bar. The full-service kitchen offers your standard fare: jalapeño poppers, cheese sticks, pizza, burgers and hot dogs. Just remember to wear socks, because that disinfectant they use stings a bit. 8 a.m. to midnight. 4191 Bellaire Boulevard. For information, call 713-667-6554. $3.75 per person, per game; $2 shoe rental.

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Lisa Simon