Today's Valentine's Day is planets away from the simple pagan festival of Roman origin that allowed boys to draw a girl's name from a love urn. Now the day is celebrated with gifts of lingerie, long-stemmed roses and, oh no, chocolates in heart-shaped boxes with garish flowers on top.
If you're looking for something different to do this year, here are 14 suggestions:
1.The Walters Art Gallery has collected sculpture, chocolate tortes, orchestra rhythms and more chocolate for tonight's "Dessert and Dancing." Shades of Blue Orchestra will play while dance instructor Ted Hines and partner Donna Ellis lead dancers. In between desserts, guests may preview an upcoming exhibition. Tickets are $45. Call (410) 547-9000, Ext. 313.
2.From the people who brought you hair-covered toiletries and painted chairs come "artist-made love objects" -- things like romantically themed jewelry and erotic coloring books. Maryland Art Place's "Romantica/Erotica Sale" continues today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers cards, beaded bracelets and more. MAP is at 218 W. Saratoga St. Call (410) 962-8565.
3.Then tonight, MAP's basement nightspot, the 14Karat Cabaret, having a special "Valentine's Day Cabaret," featuring the New York-based musical trio "Trigger;" Tony Baloney, "Baltimore's Lover Boy," and the Valentine Girls. Admission is $4 and the doors open at 8 p.m. The show will be repeated tomorrow night. Call (410) 962-8565.
4. For those drawn to musical ruckus, the 8x10 offers local musicians the Shameless Mooks. Billed as playing "an original blend of beat-ska-rock," they promise to pull you onto the floor for dancing with your lover. Tonight's show starts at 10 at 8-10 E. Cross St. Admission is $5. Call (410) 625-2001.
5. As conductor David Zinman describes tonight's all-Russian concert, "If the Schnittke is challenging, the Rachmaninoff is like dipping into a box of wonderful chocolates . . ." The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will feature works by Alfred Schnittke and Sergei Rachmaninoff at 8:15 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. Tickets are $12 to $28, box seats $40. Call (410) 783-8000.
6. Exploring the urgency and sexual tension of young love, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater will perform "Dance at the Gym," along with other modern dance works, at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre tonight at 8. Tickets, which range in price from $27 to $40, are available at the Mechanic Box Office at Hopkins Plaza or from TeleCharge at (410) 625-1400.
7.The Takacs Quartet, which originated in Budapest, has a zig-zagging career that now includes world tours and teaching in Colorado. Along the way the four men have received a loan of the 17th century Amati strings. Tonight at 8 the quartet will perform pieces from Schubert and Haydn at the University of Maryland Center of Adult Education, University Boulevard and Adelphi Road, College Park. Tickets are $17, $14.50 for seniors, and $5 for students. Call (410) 403-4240.
8.Few things are more romantic than a romantic movie. And few movies are more romantic than George Cukor's 1936 screen version of "Romeo and Juliet," with John Barrymore as Mercutio. The film will play tonight at the Orpheum Cinema in Fell's Point, 1724 Thames St. Also showing will be "It Happened One Night," directed in 1934 by Frank Capra, at 9:40 p.m. Admission is $4.50 for a double feature. The twin bill will be repeated tomorrow night, with matinee showings tomorrow and Sunday at 2 p.m. for $3. Call (410) 732-4614.
9.If you want to stay home and watch movies, Michael Bradley of Baltimore's Video Americain suggests "A Guy Named Joe" and "Elvira Madigan." Cary Grant devotees will want to swoon over "An Affair to Remember" and "Indiscreet," the 1958 version. Also look for "The Return of Martin Guerre" with Gerard Depardieu and, of course, "Casablanca."
10.For some love-ballad listening tomorrow, try the "Valentine's Extravaganza" at the Palladium with Jennifer Holliday, whose new album is "I'm on Your Side," and Tony Terry, known for songs like "Lovey Dovey" and "She's Fly." Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with hors d'oeuvres served from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Between acts, there will be a spring fashion show. The Palladium is at 2900 Liberty Heights Ave. Tickets are $25. Call (410) 367-6863.
11.Local jazz clarinetist Kenny Davern and his friends on guitar, bass and drums will entertain tonight at the King of France Tavern, 16 Church Circle, Annapolis. At 7, he will perform a dinner show, complete with champagne for $100 a couple, and a show only for $15. Again at 10, he will present a show for $15.
Call (410) 269-0990 for seating times and reservations.
12.Banjoist Lynn Morris has a song called "Love Grown Cold," which one-ups the classic he-done-me-wrong tune. But love is not all thorns, as seen in Morris' new album "The Bramble & the Rose." Tonight at 8, the Lynn Morris Band will play Texas-flavored folk, country and bluegrass at the Catonsville Community College Theatre. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12.50 at the door. Call (410) 235-2522.
13. To join in some ballroom, Latin, big-band and social dancing, head for tomorrow's Valentine's Dance at the Clifton Dance Studio and Ballroom, formerly called the Starlight Ballroom, 10176 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. Swing and waltz on their large floor from 9 p.m. to midnight, and take a break with free sodas. Tickets are $8. Call (410) 465-8383.
14. The finale of the dinner and dancing event "Love, Passion & Romance" offers a live peek into an actual wedding. Lured by the gift of a weekend honeymoon in Atlantic City, the couple decided to forgo the courthouse and instead will wed before your eyes. As you dance, local musician Lloyd Marcus will perform his love songs and debut his new album. Tickets, which include dinner, beer and wine, are $25. The event will be held at Columbus Gardens, 4301 Klosterman Ave., off Belair Road. Call (410) 789-3326.