Move over, Manolo Blahnik: There's a new shoe in town that's both comfortable on your feet and easy on your budget. The "Easy Spirit Comfort Squared Sole Savers" team is visiting Kiener Plaza today (Seventh and Market streets), and the group is toting free Easy Spirit shoes for the ladies of St. Louis. Free! Shoes! And before you start thinking that only frumpy shoes will be offered, check out the Comfort Squared shoe line at www.easyspirit.com; it includes some sensible shoes, but also some smart heels and sandals (all of which are probably more comfy than those half-the-rent puppies you're wearing right now). To get the freebies, all you have to do is drop by the shoe tent from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., get a free foot massage and exchange your old soles for a pair of new ones! And did we mention these shoes are free?! Yay!
Thursday, May 5
Early on in Alexandra Fuller's Scribbling the Cat, Fuller notes that "war is not the fault of soldiers, but it becomes their life's burden." For the next 200 pages, Fuller attempts to figure out the best way to carry that burden as she travels deeper into her native Africa with K, a charming and tortured ex-soldier who killed and slaughtered and did something even worse during the brutal Rhodesian war -- an act committed nominally so that people like Fuller and her family could live in relative peace. Fuller recounts her journey back in time with K in vivid, crisp prose that reveals all the beauty and horror of Africa, often simultaneously. What Fuller finds is that the end of war does not signal the onset of peace, for either the victors or the victims. Fuller reads from her extraordinary book at 7 p.m. at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731). Admission is free.
Friday, May 6
Attention procrastinators (and partiers): Downtown St. Louis' Kiener Plaza -- the place at Seventh and Market streets that brought you free shoes on Wednesday -- offers a free Cinco de Mayo celebration today (a little late), courtesy of Hispanic Festival, Inc. of Greater St. Louis (314-837-6100 or www.hispanicfestivalstl.com). The Rhythm Masters bring the Latin sounds to this party while you eat and drink Latino fare and browse arts and crafts. The festival runs from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., but Mayor Slay won't be there until noon -- expect him to dance and eat aplenty right along with you upon his arrival.
And if timeliness is important to you, of course you can celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Thursday, May 5 -- at John D. McGurk's Irish Pub (1200 Russell Boulevard; 314-776-8309). Why not? The pub's hosting a free charitable celebration, featuring entertainment and snacks, on its patio from 5:30 to 8 p.m.; plus, half the proceeds from McGurk's sales that day go toward the Guardian Angel Settlement Association to help the group continue to assist the poor. Visit www.guardianangelsettlement.org for more information.
Saturday, May 7
Take your average Catholic church picnic. Now multiply it by a hundred and factor in a great sense of relief, and you have the St. Pius V Picnic. After being shortlisted by the Archdiocese of St. Louis as a soon-to-be-closed church, St. Pius V (3310 South Grand Boulevard; 314-772-1525) narrowly avoided the ax just in time to celebrate 100 years of existence. So this weekend its members get it on as hard as a Catholic parish can, what with a new Pope and all. The par-tay starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 6, with carnival rides, game booths, concessions (south-side concessions, mind you) and the music of Old Man Joe. Festivities resume at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7, with a parade (look! Alderpeople!), more concessions, and the music of Red Eyed Driver (at 7 p.m.). And a beer tent. Admission is free, and you don't have to be Catholic to have a good time.
Sunday, May 8
Look, normally Night & Day Global Industries doesn't make it a practice to give you homework, but this week you're getting some. The redoubtable Webster Film Series presents three nights of essential musical documentaries, and any one of them is worth seeing. The Punk-A-Muck program wraps up on Sunday, May 8, with Jem Cohen's Instrument, a years-in-the-making look behind the scenes at Fugazi, one of America's most vital voices of dissent on just about everything. Fugazi's big no is preceded by Dave Markey's excellent 1991: The Year Punk Broke (on Saturday, May 7), a weirdly funny look at the burgeoning popularity of previously second-tier grunge band Nirvana as the lads from Aberdeen open for the much-more popular (at the time) Sonic Youth in Europe. The chaotically beautiful The Decline of Western Civilization kicks the program off on Friday, May 6. Penelope Spheeris' crucial film captures Los Angeles' nascent punk scene just as it bulked itself up to hardcore, thanks to Huntington Beach favorites Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. For one generation, this was the birth of cool. Each film starts at 8 p.m. at 470 East Lockwood Avenue (314-968-7487) and costs $5 to $6, but you can buy a weekend pass for $10 and see all three.