Thomas Arvid paints pictures of the good life. In one, an abandoned table is littered with an empty wine bottle, glasses with a few sips left and a corkscrew. The viewer is free to insert himself into the painting, letting warm memories of eating, drinking and possibly even sex (why else didn't anyone clear the table?) take over. No wonder Arvid has made such a name for himself. US Art magazine named him one of the "top 25 artists you should know." And the wine industry loves him -- it couldn't ask for a better public relations campaign. Arvid's paintings hang in wineries, and he's been featured in Wine Spectator magazine. See the self-taught artist's works at Off the Wall Gallery. Then break out a bottle. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 5085 Westheimer. For information, call 713-871-0940.
Friday, March 7:
How delightful. Dos Chicas Theater Commune is putting on a "domestic abuse comedy." The work, called Where's My Dinner, Bitch?, was penned by Houston playwright Bob Morgan. In the self-described "feminist" play, the abused women of Jackson County band together, and soon thereafter their men start turning up dead. These Thelmas and Louises set up camp in a women's shelter and, after hooking up with the lesbian manager of a makeup company, become its star saleswomen. If that's not enticing enough for you, how about this: The play contains bad words and nudity and isn't suitable for the kiddos. 8 p.m. today and Fridays and Saturdays through March 22. Pay-what-you-will performances Monday, March 10, and Monday, March 17. 411 Westheimer (upstairs from Helios). For information, call 713-201-0193. $10; $6 for students and seniors.
Saturday, March 8:
Mardi Gras is a time to indulge one's vices. For a few glorious days, you're supposed to light up that cigarette and drink that 20th hurricane. But one vice is conspicuously missing from the Galveston festivities: gambling. Not to worry, though. At Sam Houston Race Park's Mardi Gras Party, you can satisfy all your lowest cravings at the same time. Bet on live Thoroughbred races while gulping down hurricanes (the park's offering a special on them) and sucking that nasty juice from crawfish heads. There's a good chance you'll catch some beads, but an even better one that you'll put your money on the right horse and win a million dollars. We swear. Gates open at 5:30 p.m.; races start at 7 p.m. 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway West. For information, call 281-807-RACE or visit www.shrp.com. Admission: $3 for adults, $1 for seniors, free for children 12 and under.
Sunday, March 9:
While we're on the subject of alcohol, let's take a moment to appreciate the Irish. Man, do they know how to drink. And as the pints go down, the songs fill the pubs. Sadly, that joyous tradition has never really taken hold in these parts. But, as a special pre-St. Patty's Day treat, you can clap your hands to the tunes of the Irish Pops and Cherish the Ladies right here in town. They'll be singing classics like "Danny Boy" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and step-dancing too. Of course, Jones Hall isn't exactly a pub, but at least there won't be any secondhand smoke. 7:30 p.m. today; and 8 p.m. Thursday, March 6, and Saturday, March 8. 615 Louisiana. For tickets and information, call 713-224-7575 or visit www.houstonsymphony.org. $25 to $79.
Monday, March 10:
If you're sick of your life, don't sit around waiting to win the lottery. Make a change, just like Texan author Oscar Casares did in 1996. The onetime advertising exec wrote three short stories, decided he wanted to be a full-time writer and walked into his supervisor's office and quit. Then Casares -- who grew up listening to his uncles' stories about love and betrayal, Brownsville-style -- spent seven long years honing his craft, learning the difference between telling a story and writing one. The determined author's efforts have paid off; he just published his first collection of short stories, Brownsville. Today, Casares reads works that just might piss his uncles off (apparently they expected to come off as heroes). Bonus: The author's sister, who runs Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen, is catering the event. 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-521-0701 or visit www.brazosbookstore.com. Free.
Tuesday, March 11:
One of the reasons Heyd Fontenot paints naked people is that you rarely get to see ordinary folks without their clothes on. For him, models and porn stars don't count because they're much too at ease in their birthday suits. In one Fontenot painting of a nude dude, which you can see at the artist's exhibition, "Suite Pink," at Lawndale Art Center, the subject's hands are behind his head, as if he were a Playboy model. Fontenot thinks that society's prescribed gender roles are BS, and he breaks them down not only with his paintings but with his short video works, which have been collected together in It's No Way for a Decent Man to Live, playing at 7 p.m. today at Lawndale. Also screening are two music videos shot by Fontenot for the bands Ed Hall and Sincola. "Suite Pink" runs through Saturday, March 15. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. 4912 Main Street. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit www.lawndaleartcenter.org. Free.
Wednesday, March 12:
If you're disturbed by Fontenot's gender-bending works, don't be. These days, there are plenty of real problems to be worried about -- like our fast-dissolving civil liberties. "Reasons of State," Houston artist Fernando Castro's exhibit at The Station, explores the conflict between the individual and the government. The works might not have hit home a couple of years ago, but they do now. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, through April. 1502 West Alabama. For information, call 713-529-6900 or visit www.artcarmuseum.com.
Anyone who's ever worked in the restaurant biz can tell you that it's the busboys, not the owners, who really know what's going on. The owners come in, mess around in the kitchen, bullshit with the customers and leave. And why not? Starting a business takes years of hard work, but if the place succeeds, it'll eventually run itself. And once that happens, the owner gets to play golf all day and watch the dough roll in. Find out how to become one of these geniuses today at the Houston Business CrossRoads program, "Houston Business: Starting - Expanding - Acquiring." Yeah, it costs $99 to attend the session, but as they say, it takes money to make money. 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Ramada Plaza Hotel, 7611 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-932-7495 or visit www.servicesca.org/crossroads.htm.