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In 1987 the work of a young cartoonist by the name of Chris Ware caught the eye of Art Spiegelman, then editor of the comics magazine Raw, who invited him to contribute. Spiegelman went on to win acclaim and a Pulitzer Prize for his Maus books, graphic novels based on his family's experiences in the holocaust; Ware, a Reader contributor, has won a number of awards for his Acme Novelty Library comics, starring such sad sacks as Rusty Brown, Jimmy Corrigan, and Quimby the Mouse. An opulent, all-comics issue of McSweeney's guest edited by Ware and featuring an installment of Spiegelman's 9/11-themed "In the Shadow of No Towers" just hit the streets to wide acclaim. Today at 4:30 the two artists will have a free public conversation at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis in Chicago; Michael Rooks, formerly of the MCA and now a curator at Honolulu's Contemporary Museum, will moderate. Call 773-834-3403.

This week the Greater State Street Council removed the spent tulip bulbs from planters along State to make way for summer flowers. Today gardeners can pick them up for free; with proper storage and care the bulbs can bloom for years to come. The bulbs, packaged by the dozen, will be given away from noon to 3 (or until they run out) at Pritzker Park, State and Van Buren in Chicago. Call 312-782-9160.


Today, in addition to the usual pineapple chunks on toothpicks and bite-size brownie bits, Whole Foods in Deerfield is offering a free session with author Charles Graybar, a former corporate executive who says he accessed a portal while meditating a decade ago and got into contact with an advanced spirit who helped him discover the meaning of life. Now he raises horses and writes self-help books for people who want to take the same path. He'll discuss and sign his latest, Calm Amid Chaos: An Executive Guide to Reducing Stress Through Meditation, this morning at 10. The store's at 760 Waukegan in Deerfield; call 847-444-1900.

It's Indiapalooza today at the Zee TV Heritage India Festival. Besides more than 100 vendors hawking colorful clothes, jewelry, and fabric paintings, there will be a troupe demonstrating ghumar and other traditional dance styles from the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan, plus puppetry and special kids' activities like mehndi henna tattooing and kite making. And then there's the food-you can count on popular items like lassis, chicken tikka, and samosas in addition to more adventurous fare. For single South Asians seeking same there's a singles meeting that promises a "face-to-face introduction in a safe, comfortable and informal surrounding." The festival runs from noon to 9 today and noon to 7 tomorrow at Soldier Field, 1410 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago. Admission is $5 each day (free for kids under 6); the singles event is $30. See

It ain't the Seine, but an evening canoeing along the cleaner-than-ever Chicago River with dinner provided by Brett's Cafe Americain could be quite romantic. Chicago River Canoe and Kayak offers Moonlight Dinner Paddles every Saturday throughout the summer. The excursions put in at 7:15 from Clark Park, 3400 N. Rockwell in Chicago, and head up to River Park at Argyle and back-it's about four miles round-trip. Tickets are $36, and you must reserve in advance; call 773-704-2663. The outfitter also offers daytime outings and lessons; see for more info.


At this year's Bike the Drive, the annual event that gives bicyclists the chance to enjoy fabulous views of the skyline from a Lake Shore Drive free of cars, both northbound and southbound lanes will be open to riders for the first time. The ride kicks off at 5:30 AM from Upper Hutchinson Field, at the southwest corner of Columbus and Balbo in Chicago; cyclists should plan their routes and start times carefully, as they must be off the road by 10:15. But they don't need to go straight home: from 8 to noon they can relax with music and food at a postride party at the starting point. Advance registration is required; register online until noon on Saturday at (which also offers safety and equipment tips) or on Friday between 11 and 2 at Bally's, 1455 W. Webster (773-929-8114). It's $35.

Don't expect to find Elvis's or Marilyn's John Hancocks at the first midwest show of the Professional Autograph Dealers Association today-the stock runs more toward folks like Oscar Wilde and FDR. Dealers from around the country will show letters, documents, signed photos, and books from luminaries in the arts, sciences, politics, and more. In addition, manuscript-preservation experts from the Graphic Conservation Company-which has worked with the Art Institute and the Chicago Historical Society-will demonstrate conservation techniques. The show runs from 9 to 5 in the Consort Ballroom on the 16th floor of the Westin Hotel, 909 N. Michigan in Chicago. Admission is $5; call 312-944-3085 or see for info.


A traditional Memorial Day parade, featuring the Lane Tech ROTC marching band, starts today at 10 from 5739 N. Clark in Chicago and proceeds north to Rosehill Drive, then west to Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood. Afterward there will be a Civil War reenactment in the cemetery's Veterans Memorial Rose Garden, complete with cannons and muskets. Call 773-561-5940.

It's ladies' night tonight at the Girlie-Q Variety Hour, a melange of spoken word, burlesque, striptease, and drag featuring activist pom-pom girls the Lickety Split Cheerleaders, the performance group Mouthy, and former Sister Spit members Len Plass and Cooper Lee Bombardier (who now run San Francisco's Junkyard Books, a small publisher of GLBT writers), among others. It's from 8 to midnight at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo in Chicago (312-362-9707), and cover is $10. You must be 21 or over.



The Ravinia season doesn't officially start until next weekend, but tonight's bargain preseason performance by Concert Dance, Inc. is a chance to get a jump on it. Artistic director and choreographer Venetia Stifler's multidisciplinary collaborative program includes Chicago Sketches, with architectural slides by Frank Vodvarka; Songs and Dances, performed to art songs by Rorem, Schubert, and Strauss with vocal and piano accompaniment; and the premiere of a commissioned piece to music by Dvorak (part of the "One Score, One Dance" series), played by pianist Mikhail Yanovitsky and musicians from the Steans Institute. It starts at 8 in Bennett Gordon Hall on the Ravinia grounds at Lake Cook and Green Bay roads in Highland Park. Tickets are $5; parking is free. Call 312-337-6543.


Here's your chance to nose around the bulging cabinets and dusty shelves of the Field Museum: previously a members-only affair, this year the Behind-the-Scenes Event allows all comers to view rare animal specimens in the museum's collection, watch taxidermy in progress, and talk to scientists. One exhibit, "Indiana Jones, Scientist or Graverobber," explains archeologists' data-collection techniques; another offers an outline of how exhibits are prepared. There's also music, arts and crafts, and dancing for kids. The event runs today through June 4 from 5 to 10 PM at the museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago (312-922-9410). Tickets are $20, $10 for children.


Two writers tell their tales tonight at a reading entitled Fish Sliming in Alaska, Fire on the South Side. Casey Sanchez will read from his essay "As Bad as It Gets, As Good as It Comes" (published in the anthology The Clear Cut Future), about a summer spent working 15-hour days in an Alaskan salmon cannery and surviving on Heath bars and painkillers. Luis Aguilera grew up in southwest-side McKinley Park. His 2000 memoir, Gabriel's Fire, recounts his scrapes with racist white gangs and a slimy priest as well as an affair he had with a teacher when he was 13. It starts at 7 at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia in Chicago (773-227-4433). Donations are requested.


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