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QUEER AS FOLK. We must be getting close to Gay Pride Month. There are scads of events just this week.

On Thursday, April 17, at 7 p.m., listen to an evening of storytelling. Outright Radio, heard locally on KXCI 91.3 FM, is a national, public-radio project based here in Tucson. Each year, the series features the stories of queer folks--some more uncommon than others. Some of this year's pieces focus on Arizona residents. Ann & Bonnie Jones plumb the depths of their relationship in a show called Why Am I Still Single/Why Am I Still Married? Tucson's Hannah Blue Heron and Maurice Grossman talk about their lives--both old and queer. Writer Rob Zonfrelli reveals his irrepressible feminine ways in Butches, Femmes and the Question of Gender. And the series host, David Gilmore shares his post-Bay Area experiences in Leaving the Gay Ghettoes.

"Live" radio listening takes place at Wingspan Community Center located at 300 E. Sixth St. It's free and open to the public. Call 624-1779 for details. (Full disclosure: I helped found this project years ago, and know many of the folks involved, although I no longer work on it.)

On Friday, April 18, at 7 p.m., come out laughing as the Phoenix-based Bas Bleu Productions celebrates 10 years of comedy performances in a benefit for Wingspan.

The tour boasts an all-star line-up of national comedians including Vickie Shaw, a recovering SOB (Southern Baptist); Susan Jeremy, a leading actress in the Broadway show P.S. 69; and Georgia Ragsdale, the Texan comedienne who's been performing for more than 12 years.

The three laugh it up at Pima Community College's Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road. Get your tickets for $15 at Wingspan, Antigone Books or Bentley's. Call Wingspan for all the details at 624-1779.

On Thursday, April 24, at 6 p.m., the last of the trilogy of queer artists visits Tucson in a lecture series titled Race, Gender, Sexuality and Identity in Visual Art. It's hosted by the UA's Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Studies.

Ernesto Pujol is a Cuban-American living in Brooklyn. He's a conceptual artist who describes himself as a cultural worker, producing objects, photographs and installations about memory, masculinity and whiteness. His lecture takes place at the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Building auditorium, located at the corner of Mountain Avenue and Speedway Boulevard. It's free and open to all. Call 621-1239 for details.

HORNS A-TOOTIN'. From its inception in 1998, the Presidio Quartet has thrilled audiences throughout Arizona and Mexico with dynamic performances marked by precision, warmth and humor.

Presidio's eclectic repertoire includes classic French works, arrangements of well-known jazz standards and offerings from the contemporary quartet literature.

The four musicians bring a wealth of energy and artistry to the ensemble. Soprano saxophonist Greg Armstrong has appeared with the Sonora Quartet, the Tucson and Albuquerque symphony orchestras and in numerous theater, radio, television and film productions. Daniel Bell's alto sax performing has been heard in numerous bands, including the jazz saxophone quartet SaxMania, which he founded. On tenor sax, Mike Keepe performs throughout the Southwest with the classical piano and saxophone team The Rodriguez and Keepe Duo. And the sole woman in the group, Lisa Hunter, toots the baritone sax. Her involvement in other groups includes the Pride of Arizona Marching Band and UA's Wind Symphony.

The Presidio Quartet performs on Friday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m., at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. Advance tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Get them at the door for $15 and $12. For all the details, call 795-4469.

POWER IT UP. For the ninth year in a row, the Earth Day Festival invites you to navigate your "vehicle" without a gas-guzzling motor.

Here's your chance to get creative. Power your motor via solar, electric, propane or natural gas. Better yet, use your own two legs and pedal all the way. Festivities take place at Armory Park and the Tucson Children's Museum on South Sixth Avenue between 12th and 13th streets.

Check out the display of environmental-friendly products. Learn about recycling and water conservation programs. The RUMBA--Re-Used Materials Become Art-- display features unique artwork created by kids. And all the alternative-energy vehicles from the parade end up at Armory Park for display all day.

Anyone can join the parade--businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, clubs, professional organizations, youth groups and individual families. Even send the company mascot to march around like a fool.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. Displays are open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and it all happens on Saturday, April 19.

A bit further south, Earth Day, Bisbee-style, starts at 11 a.m. and goes until 5 p.m. at the city park on Brewery Gulch in Old Bisbee. They'll have booths featuring WaterWise, the Cochise County Recycling Program and the Center for Biological Diversity. There's even a solar oven demonstration.

Music and drumming happens all day. At 10 a.m. at St. Patrick's Church, the first annual Procession of the Species struts out of the church to the city park. The procession features large puppets, windsocks and costumed creatures and perambulates to the four elements of earth, water, fire and air. (Only in Bisbee.)

A parade, tasty food, reggae, ska and a cappella music and drumming, even a Maypole--it must be spring.

For details about the Tucson Earth Day Festival, call 770-3816, or 432-3726 for the Bisbee festival.

The beauty of a single blade of grass. What part of the house serves as welcome mat, playground and exercise in conspicuous consumption all in one?

It's the revered lawn. Whether voyeurs of the green stuff (as most of us are in the desert) or experienced mowers, the iconography of this verdant carpet is embedded in our psyches.

This American Lawn is a traveling exhibit of artworks exploring issues fertilized in our own yards. To artists living in wet climates, the lawn is a symbol of youthful play, freedom and tranquility. For us desert rats, the lawn is a contradiction to the natural environment--it's more icon than living entity.

How did the lawn become so important to the American way of life? A group of artists tries to figure this out. Their work ranges from a wearable set of silver grass jewelry rings to a metal sculpted video installation. Found objects, a metallic patch of greenery and even photography documenting the mundane explore the theme. The artists hail from around the country. Their work, on loan from the Mesa Contemporary Arts, varies from elegant to humorous. They're all trying to get to the kernel, if you will, of what the American lawn means to them.

Come meet some of the obsessed artists at a reception on Saturday, April 19, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Museum of Contemporary Art, located at 191 E. Toole Ave. Questions? Call 624-5019.

FILMS, NOT FEAR. Most of us try to get through back alleys with alacrity, despite our mothers warning us not to even walk down them.

Jerseyboy Productions actually stays put right in the middle of the verboten throughway behind Bison Witches Bar parking lot to show independent films.

For its fourth year running, the Back Alley Film Festival offers a bunch of flicks on Saturday, April 19, beginning at 7 p.m. Previous festival successes and the production company's current film project--Idleheist (all shot in and around Tucson)--have afforded the film company the opportunity to expand its horizons and include international work.

All films are projected on the big screen--a whitewash of the side of a Fourth Avenue building measuring 30 feet by 50 feet. Films screen until midnight, and the local band Ozlo and a DJ provide the musical entertainment. Drink specials are on tap.

The festival is free, but donations won't be turned down. Bison Witches Bar is located at 326 N. Fourth Avenue.

See you in the back alley.

LOVE, MEDIEVAL-STYLE. My Heart Doth Dance: Love, Marriage and Transgression in Medieval Times offers a glimpse into 1,000-year-old true love stories. Oh, and a bit of gossip, too.

UA's Special Collections presents an exhibit of rare and limited edition books. Letters reveal the love story of Abelard and Heloise. Tomes display the experiences of the Troubadours. The Crusades, the Arthurian Romances, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales--all celebrate the literature of love in the Middle Ages.

One of the treasures on display is a volume of the Biblia de San Luis in facsimile pulled from the Special Collections vault. It's an illuminated Bible, created in Paris in the early 13th century, given by King Louis IX of France to Alfonso X of Spain. More than 4,500 miniatures created with paint, gold and pigments similar to those used in the original make this facsimile beautiful as well as an accurate view of the apparel, customs, games, love relationships and beliefs of the time.

It wasn't all rosy just because it took place long ago. There was plenty to gossip about.

The show opens this week with a lecture on Tuesday, April 22, at 7 p.m., with Dr. Albrecht Classen. He's a medievalist and professor in German studies at the UA. Hear his talk at the Special Collections located in the Main Library on Cherry Avenue and the University Mall.

The exhibit stays up through June 11. Hours (through May 17) are Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. From May 18 on, hours are weekdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Metered parking is available in the visitor's lot adjacent to the Main Library.

For information, call 621-6423.

A POET'S POET. From the literati offering praise for the work of Peter Sacks, you can surmise that his poetry is stellar.

Robert Creeley says of Sacks' poetry that his is "an extraordinary meld of acute perception and formal resource." Fanny Howe notes that "each page is both an arrival and a departure, an incorporation of what is out there with what is internal, an imprint that stirs you simultaneously to the arrival and to the tragically lost."

Peter Sacks has written several books of poetry--In These Mountains; Promised Lands; O Wheel--and has won the 2001 Contemporary Poetry Series Competition. He's had work published in The New Yorker, The Yale Review and The New York Times Book Review among others. His critical works include Woody Gwyn: An Approach to the Landscape and The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats that received the Christian Gauss Award.

Peter Sacks reads from his new work, Necessity, on Wednesday, April 23, at 8 p.m. It's part of the nearly complete Spring Visiting Poets and Writers Reading Series hosted by UA's Poetry Center. The free reading and reception that follow take place at the Modern Languages Auditorium located below Second Street near Mountain Avenue.

Call 626-3765 with questions.

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