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One of these days it won't rain or be 100 degrees, so be prepared with something to do

Thursday | 02

Telling Tales

Harvey Pekar Fête at Coventry's Big Fun

As a longtime Coventry resident and business owner, Steve Presser had a cordial but superficial relationship with American Splendor author Harvey Pekar. So when Pekar expressed interest in writing about him three years ago, Presser was stunned. "I was blown away that he would even think of me, let alone write about me," says the owner of Big Fun. Turns out, Pekar — always a champion of the common man — was fascinated by Presser's struggles with the former Dottie's Diner, a pair of vintage dining cars Presser had transported, restored, and turned into an ultimately unsuccessful Lee Road restaurant. "Harvey knew it had been an emotionally and financially destructive period for me, and he wanted to do a story about the hows and whys," Presser says. That turned into a larger story about how Presser bounced back from the misfire, expanding Big Fun and "sort of rising from the ashes." As Pekar's health declined, Presser doubted the story would ever be published. "And that would have been okay. Just talking to Harvey was my 15 minutes of fame." Happily, Huntington, West Virginia "On the Fly" was finally released in April; Presser's story is one of the chapters in a graphic novel that Suzanne DeGaetano of Mac's Backs bookstore calls "prime Pekar." To celebrate the posthumous release, Presser and DeGaetano are holding a gathering tonight at Big Fun. "We'll talk, we'll tell stories about Harvey, and we'll eat cake," says Presser. "Harvey loved eating!" The party is free and goes from 7 to 9 p.m. at 1814 Coventry Rd. in Cleveland Heights. Copies of the book will be available for purchase. — Elaine T. Cicora

Funny Stuff

The Improv's Jumpin' With Arnez J

A sobriquet like "the black Jerry Lewis" could be hard to live up to. But not for comedian Arnez J. Even his colleagues find him hilarious: Everyone from Russell Simmons to Shaq have featured him in their comedy specials, where he's demonstrated a, um, unique blend of comedic chops and gymnastic moves, some of which he learned during a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters. This weekend the comic brings his show to the Improv. Expect anything from the guy — from simple prancing about whilst cracking wise about his family to jumping head-first into the stage while riffing on the differences between the races. He'll be performing six shows tonight through Sunday, all of which are for the 21-and-over crowd. Get your $25 tix online at clevelandimprov.com or by calling 216-696-4677. The Cleveland Improv is at 1148 Main Ave. inside the Sugar Warehouse Entertainment Complex.— Maxwell Hayden

Hot Dog!

Eating Contest Comes to Cleveland

For the first time ever, an official qualifying round for the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Championship is being held in our hometown; it all goes down today at 12:30 p.m. on the Grand Staircase of downtown's Tower City. The contest pits local champ Scott Bickel— perhaps best known for downing every appetizer on a local chain restaurant's menu in one sitting — against one of the top-ranked appetites in the world: Chicago's Pat "Deep Dish" Bertoletti. For his part, Bickel has been preparing for the match for almost a year, battling everything from his innate gag reflex to some serious jaw injuries. "For most people, this is just about stuffing their face," Bickel told Scene in January. "I'm doing it for a bigger cause ... to restore the city's energy and motivation, and bring media attention to the city." The winner of today's match goes on to the international contest in Coney Island, where the annual chowdown draws as many as 40,000 fans. It's free, it's fun, and it's a chance to cheer Bickel and Cleveland on to hot-dog victory. Tower City is at 230 West Huron Rd. downtown. — Cicora

Fancy Folk

Get Plaine & Saucy with Apollo's Fire

Members of the famed Baltimore Consort team up with Jeannette Sorrel and the Apollo's Fire Countryside Players for Plaine & Saucy, a series of six musical romps through the British Isles; performances are set for various local venues tonight through Tuesday, June 7. No stuffy chamber music, here: The concerts are lively renditions of English, Scottish, and Irish pieces ranging from haunting lute songs to driving reels and bawdy ballads. Among the musicians: internationally acclaimed soprano Nell Snaidas, local hammered dulcimer virtuoso Tina Bergman, Apollo's Fire member Kathie Stewart on wooden flutes, and Baltimore Consort members Ronn McFarlane (Grammy-nominated lutenist), Mindy Rosenfeld (harp and flute), and Mark Cudek (guest director, guitar, and cittern). Tonight's concert is at Happy Days Lodge, 500 West Streetsboro Rd. in Peninsula. Tickets are $20 to $40; snag them by calling 216-320-0012, or at apollosfire.org. — Cicora

Friday | 03

Inner Space

Learn Feng Shui at Ohio Design Centre

Today's public presentation at the Ohio Design Centre features feng shui master Connie Spruill, director of education at the Feng Shui Institute of America, discussing how to balance your home's energies to bring good health and fortune to your life. As a decorating tool, feng shui is even older than HGTV: Based on the Taoist vision of nature, the theory has been sprucing up space for more than 3,000 years. Spruill's presentation will focus on the whys and hows, along with a checklist for improving the energy flow within your own little kingdom. Included in the talk: the symbols in environments that can impede success, how furniture design can cause chronic pain and illness, and steps to rearrange your rooms to effect change and harmony. The talk is at noon. Cost is $10. Register at 216-831-1245 or online at ohiodesigncentre.com. Afterward, stick around to browse the center's exclusive showrooms filled with furniture, accessories, lighting, and rugs that may or may not impede your chi. The Ohio Design Center is at 23533 Mercantile Rd. in Beachwood. — Kelly Maile

Gallery Hop

Art Walks Resume in Little Italy

Today marks the first of this year's Little Italy Art Walks, three full days of wining, dining, strolling, and shopping your way through the galleries of the historic hood. All artist studios will be open with exhibits, and guests will have a chance to meet visiting creative types from around the world and around the corner. Among the featured venues, be sure to check out the Pennello Gallery, showcasing rare Chinese double-walled ceramics by local artist Tracy Ameen, who will be demonstrating her esoteric art form. Meantime, take in the festive streetscapes, complete with alfresco dining and live traditional music.The Art Walk is free and continues through Sunday; today's hours are noon to 9 p.m. Historic Little Italy is located along Mayfield Road between University Circle and Cleveland Heights. Valet parking is available. To find more info, call 216-421-1717 or go to clevelandlittleitaly.com. — Maile

Rockin' on the River

Music & More in Cuyahoga Falls

It's been 25 years since the launch of Northeast Ohio's longest-running and most highly attended outdoor concert series, Rockin' on the River in Cuyahoga Falls. Filled with music, beer, food, and plenty of alfresco fun, the summer-long series of Friday-night concerts not only offers a handsome setting along the banks of the Cuyahoga River, but some of the most intriguing people-watching in the region. This weekend's musical lineup includes the Rascal Flatts tribute band Broken Road, local performers the Blue Ticks, and country-leaning Caliber. Don't worry if you can't find a front-row seat: This year, the performances will be displayed on three big-screen TVs lowered from the top of the stage. Rockin' on the River happens from 5 to 11:30 p.m. tonight and every Friday through August 26. Admission is free; kids under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. For more information, visit rockinontheriver.com. — Maile

Saturday | 04

Family Fun

Bowling for Rhinos

If you've got nothing else to bowl for, bowl for the rhinos. Only five species remain of the exotic mammal, and for 21 years the Cleveland Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers has held a Bowling for Rhinos fund-raiser to help protect them. So far, they've donated more than $90,000 to aid the endangered beasties. So take your game to the lanes tonight and personally help save a rhino or two. Your $15 registration fee ($25 at the door) gets you three or more games, along with shoe rental, pizza, pop, and snacks. Also on the bill: a silent auction, prizes, and entertainment. All donations go straight to rhino sanctuaries in the coffee countries of Kenya, Java, and Sumatra. "It's one of the easiest ways to do something for conservation," says Heather Strawn, event coordinator. "It's 15 bucks, it's fun, there's no pressure about anything, and it's easy." Register online at clemetzoo.com or in person at the Zoo's Administration Building. Pins start falling at 6:30 p.m. and continue until midnight at Cloverleaf Lanes, 5619 Brecksville Rd. in Independence. For more information call 216-661-6500 ext. 4439. — Courtney Kerrigan

Outdoor Doings

Grow, Baby, Grow!

They may flood your lawn and ruin your cookout, but at least the spring showers have had one positive effect: Our local vegetation is amazingly lush. The Cleveland Metroparks is celebrating that bright side with its annual Farm and Garden Day. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Garfield Park Nature Center, you're invited to hang out with farm animals, learn how to make a quilt, sample fresh fruits and vegetables, and even build a scarecrow for your garden (brains not included). Admission is free, but some activities, including horse-drawn wagon rides, carry a small fee. The Nature Center is at 11350 Broadway Ave., just off the Broadway Avenue entrance to the Garfield Park Reservation in Garfield Heights. Call 216-341-3152 or visit clemetparks.com/events/farmgarden.asp to learn more. — Hayden

Dancing Wheels

Gloria Gainer Gets Down at the Agora

Break out the leg warmers and shoulder pads: Tonight we party like it's 1980 with the Cleveland dance troupe Dancing Wheels. The festivities kick off at 8 p.m. at the Cleveland Agora, with a multimedia presentation and performances showcasing the history of the 30-year-old company, an integrated group of professional dancers formed on the principle that dance should be shared by people with and without disabilities. The premiere performance of the company's new production Dancing on a Dream follows, featuring '70s icon Gloria Gaynor (yes, that Gloria Gaynor) belting out what else than "I Will Survive." Later, the party moves to the ballroom for a cake and champagne dance party where a disco ball, a sunken dance floor, and local '80s tribute band the Breakfast Club will hark back not only to the early years of the dance company but also to the heyday of the historic Agora (5000 Euclid Avenue). Be sure to wear some throwback duds for that '80s costume contest! General admission tickets for the performance and after-party are $30; VIPs can lay down $100 for all that, plus a 7 p.m. pre-party and cabaret seating at the show. All proceeds benefit the company's educational and outreach projects. Learn more at dancingwheels.org or call 216-432-0306. — Lydia Munnell

Mystery Man

Les Roberts Visits Visible Voice Books

Local mystery writer Les Roberts will speak and autograph copies of his newest book, The Cleveland Creep, tonight from 7 to 8 p.m. at Tremont's Visible Voice Books. The mystery is the newest title in Roberts' Milan Jacovich series, and finds the fictional private eye — a former KSU football player and ex-cop with a taste for kielbasa and Strohs — delving into the twin worlds of pornography and animal abuse. A prolific writer, Roberts is the author of 25 books, including 15 starring the iconic Cleveland P.I. His mystery writing career followed a 24-year stint in Hollywood, where, among other things, he served as the first producer of The Hollywood Squares. A native of Chicago who considers Cleveland his "spiritual home," Roberts now resides a few miles south of here in Stow. Tonight's book signing and talk are free and open to the public; copies of The Cleveland Creep ($24.95) will be available for sale. Visible Voice is at 1023 Kenilworth Ave.; call 216-961-0084 or visit visiblevoicebooks.com for more info. — Cicora

Mixed Martial Arts

Fight Night in the Flats!

It's time again for Fight Night in the Flats, the biggest annual mixed martial arts showcase in town, produced by the Cleveland-based North American Allied Fight Series. Tonight's card includes six professional bouts and six amateur preliminaries. And lest you think only boys get to mix it up, please note: The main event is the title showdown between 125-pounders Jessica "Evil" Eye and Aisley "Ash the Bash" Daly. The undefeated Eye, a Parma native, made her MMA debut right here three years ago; it was the first-ever women's match for NAAFS. "Last year at this show, Jessica made her pro debut," says NAAFS' Kim Singleton. "This year, she's up for the title. It's a great story about a great girl!" Watch the next chapter unfold tonight at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, on the west bank of the Flats. Doors open at 5, and the first bell is at 6. Tickets start at $30; snag 'em online at fightnightintheflats.com, by phone at 330-280-8442, or at Discount Drug Mart. — Cicora

Sunday | 05

Old World Partying

Polka With the Pirates!

The Polka Pirates came together back in 2005, during a period they hazily remember as The Summer of Polka. The 17-member crew knows its way around traditional-style Slovenian, Polish, and German polkas, and it spreads the oom-pah gospel at venues all over town. This afternoon at 3 it's Brothers Lounge's turn. The jolly good times will commence with a solo set from Pirate crewman Duffy O'Neil. Bring five bucks for admission, plus fun money for booty and booze. The Brothers Lounge is at 11609 Detroit Ave., just a mast's length short of the Lakewood border. For more information, visit brotherslounge.com or call 216-226-2767. — Hayden

Soul Soldiers

See the Exhibit for Free at WRHS

Admission to the Western Reserve Historical Society is usually $8.50. But for a few hours today, it's free. That savings is to encourage you to catch the final day of Soul Soldiers, a stirring exhibit telling the story of the Vietnam War's impact on the African-American community. The multimedia exhibit showcases nearly 200 artifacts from the war, including uniforms, dog tags, and soldiers' diaries, along with photographs, letters, and recruitment posters. In the background, a soundtrack of 1960s and '70s soul, jazz, rock, and gospel music provides an important reminder of how the war helped shape African-American culture. The freebie extends from 1 to 4 p.m. and includes light refreshments and a chance to hobnob with exhibit curator Samuel W. Black, who will host a 2:30 p.m. discussion. It all goes down at 10825 East Blvd. in University Circle. For more info, call 216-721-5722 or visit wrhs.org. — Cicora

Monday | 06

Big Buoy

Steamship Mather Launches New Hours

Sitting in the perpetual traffic jams on I-77, it can be easy to forget that Cleveland is a lakefarin' town, and that the giant freighters that once plied our choppy waters helped create it. Take, for instance, the circa-1925 steamship William G. Mather, a 618-foot ore, coal, and grain carrier that helped transform Northeast Ohio into a great industrial center. Since 1988, the ship has been permanently berthed at the East Ninth Street Pier on the North Coast Harbor. Now the property of the Great Lakes Science Center, the Mather has been thoroughly restored and serves as a maritime museum commemorating those days of ore, er, yore, when steel was king. On board you'll see its ginormous cargo holds, four-story engine room, and elegant guest quarters, along with the brass-and-oak pilot house. Summer hours began recently, making tours available daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is $6.95 for adults, and less for seniors, students, and members of the military. Tickets can be purchased at the Great Lakes Science Center box office (601 Erieside Ave.), by calling 216-694-2000, or online at greatscience.com, where you'll also find directions, parking instructions, and other important details. — Cicora

Tuesday | 07

Fresh Air

Walking Tour of Playhouse Square

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to meet legendary Cleveland DJ Alan Freed (who coined the term "rock & roll" while working at Playhouse Square), tonight could be your golden opportunity. So what if it's not Freed in the flesh? Local actors turn in convincing portrayals of Freed and other historic Clevelanders on tonight's Playhouse Square Neighborhood Walking Tour. Stroll along as they take you on a free guided walk of the downtown hood's history. Singles, couples, and smallish bands of roving tourists can present themselves at 6 p.m. in the State Theatre Lobby; groups of 10 or more are asked to call 216-771-1994 in advance. Although the tour is free, $5 donations are appreciated to keep the program running. Already have plans for tonight? Don't worry: The tour repeats every Tuesday through September 13. The State Theatre is at 1519 Euclid Avenue; visit historicgateway.org for more information. — Kerrigan

Wednesday | 08

Onscreen

A Fresh Flick at CMA

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring, the 2003 film by South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, earned a staggering "95 percent fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes, the online arbiter of all things cinematically spoiled. The story follows the life of a young man from his apprenticeship with a Buddhist monk through periods of darkness and violence. Ultimately he finds peace, and his life, like the seasons of the year, comes full circle. The flick is marked by its picturesque setting and cinematic qualities that mirror the Zen Buddhism that is such an integral part of the plot. Your chance to see it comes today when it screens as part of the Cleveland Museum of Art's Lure of Painted Poetry exhibit. It begins at 6:30 in the museum's Morley Lecture Hall and is subtitled in English. Cost is $9, or $7 for students, seniors, and CMA members. Tickets are available at the CMA ticket center right up until show time. For more information, visit clevelandart.org or call 216-421-7350. The museum is at 11150 East Blvd. in University Circle. — Munnell

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