Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from meeting “Ask a Mexican” columnist Gustavo Arellano to watching hummingbirds take flight at the Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[September 9–September 15]
Gustavo Arellano, the editor of the alternative newsweekly OC Weekly, in Orange County, California, has written weighty commentaries against skinheads and powerful stories about priests in the Catholic Church who have been accused of pedophilia, but his claim to fame is his nationally syndicated “Ask a Mexican” column, a platform for debunking Latino stereotypes using low-brow satire. “Playing the idiot has been going very good for me,” Arellano said. He wears yet a third hat, as evidenced by his new book, Taco U.S.A.: How Mexican Food Conquered America, in which he combines his Ask a Mexican humor with the culinary insight he developed as a food critic. Arellano will speak about the book in San Antonio on Wednesday, where, he said, they make top-notch flour tortillas. Part of his talk will focus on the roots of Mexican food in America. Arellano claims the cuisine gained popularity at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, was fully integrated into the mainstream after the fast-food commodification of tacos in the 1950s and was Americanized in the ’70s with the invention of fajitas. As for which state has better Mexican food: Texas or California? “The Mexican food inventions that have come out of Texas have been far more influential and numerous than in California,” Arellano said. “Though, I’ve got to say that California is catching up.”
University of Texas at San Antonio, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m., gustavoarellano.net
Tall Tech Tale
Literary nonfiction is subject to intense scrutiny in this era of fabricators like Stephen Frey and Jonah Lehrer. Mike Daisey, the New York monologist, came under fire earlier this year when egregious liberties were identified in his performance of “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” on the radio show “This American Life.” Daisey’s tragicomedy, which he has resurrected in the wake of the fallout and is bringing to the McCullough Theatre, juxtaposes the Apple guru’s life with how people now increasingly view their own lives through the lens of technology. Daisey based his spoken-word performance on real events and visits to the factory cities where these products are made, but, according to him, “The controversy revolved around what I personally observed and what I gleaned from reports, and how I converted it into theater.” Daisey’s revamped version of “Steve Jobs” omits the six contested minutes of the two-hour monologue, but he has added himself as a character in the story. “I am a noted fabulist, and perhaps nothing I am saying is true,” Daisey said. “Perhaps your devices were made by Oompa Loompas.”
University of Texas at Austin, Sept. 13-15, 8 p.m., mikedaisey.com
A Czech Celebration
Caldwell is one of those Central Texas towns that reveres its Czech heritage, and its Kolache Festival, now in its 28th year, has been the grandest celebration of this culture. There, the Czech national anthem, “Kde Domov Mùj?” (“Where Is My Home?”), will be sung more than once, most likely inspiring non-Czechs under the influence of the plentiful offerings of kolaches, divine old-world pastries with jams and meats in the center of a doughy medallion, to attempt to learn the foreign lyrics. The Shiner Hobo Band, the polka and waltz group that formed after World War I and became the house band at the Spoetzl Brewery, will be among the entertainment capped by a kolache-eating contest.
Downtown, Sept. 8, 9 a.m., burlesoncountytx.com
Sighting an energetic hummingbird can convert a passive birdwatcher into an avid ornithologist. The bird’s tiny wings flapping at rapid-fire speeds give the impression of mid-air suspension. And if seeing just one hummingbird inspires awe, then imagine the feeling you can get at the Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza Open House, observing thousands of hummingbirds migrating south to Mexico and Central America. The viewing might even trigger an urge to sign up for the “adopt a hummingbird” program, which helps educate on the habitat and preservation of this small bird that has a big hold on man’s imagination.
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, Sept. 8, 8 a.m., gcbo.org
The Horses & Hats Polo Benefit is an opportunity for Texans who scoff at the outlandish hats at the Kentucky Derby to don their preferred 20X beaver-skin Resistols with gold-plated decorative bands and celebrate a day of sport presided over by Ameer Jumabhoy, the international polo star who attends Rice University.
Houston Polo Club, Sept. 9, 3 p.m., snowdropfoundation.org
Attending Grulke Fest, the benefit concert for Brent Grulke, the Austin music impresario who died recently from complications during oral surgery, is a way to repay the debt for the countless bands you discovered at South by Southwest, the annual musical festival Grulke had curated.
ACL Live, Sept. 8, 6 p.m., acl-live.com