Over a Barrel Some people don't like Halloween, and would rather avoid dressing up, fighting the crowds, and dealing with public drunkenness and hooliganism. Short of staying home, though, there aren't many local entertainment alternatives except for ... the Grand National Rodeo, Horse, and Stock Show! People will be dressed in western costumes and in some cases as clowns (clown-phobes, you've been warned), but otherwise this is about as far removed from Halloween as things get. The rodeo's official opening ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday night; today's events include livestock judging, hunters and jumpers, Agricultural Youth Day, and a performance by country singer Toby Keith (at 7:30 p.m.). The rodeo continues through Nov. 8: Highlights include Merle Haggard Nov. 1 and Sheepmen's Day Nov. 6. Doors open at 9 a.m. and all events are held at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, Daly City. Admission is $10-25; call 469-6065.
Long Time Coming Missed Jon Spencer last weekend? There's always P.W. Long and Reelfoot, a band of punks who mess with the blues in similarly noisy fashion. Detroit native and former Mule singer/guitarist Preston Long put together his second Touch and Go album, Push Me Again, with Jesus Lizard guitarist Mac McNeilly and Hairwash bassist Dan Maister. Things got ugly from the get-go, with the dirty boogie of "Signifyin' Honkey" on into "Eagleeye," where slide guitar gets the metal treatment in Long's raspy-voiced account of love gone wrong. Since Mssrs. McNeilly and Maister have other commitments, Long and Mark Boyce, who played electric piano and organ on the album, are touring with a Georgia rhythm section -- Bubba Rhinestone open for them at an all-ages barbecue show at 5 p.m. at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $5; call 621-4455.
Southern Gossip As a prelude to next week's Bay Area Book Festival, the San Francisco Bay Area Book Council is sponsoring a handful of local literary events including "A Couple of Bastards Out of Carolina," an onstage conversation between Bastard Out of Carolina author Dorothy Allison and Tales of the City serialist Armistead Maupin, native South and North Carolinians, respectively. They'll talk about their Southern upbringings vs. their California adulthoods, their experiences coming out, and some of their favorite books beginning at 7 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $20-75; call 392-4400. Additional events include actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis in conversation Nov. 4 and Cokie and Rebecca Roberts Nov. 5; call 392-4400 for tickets and more information.
Re: Joyce Harrowing emotional scenes and episodic violence interrupt otherwise ordinary lives in Joyce Carol Oates' stories. The prolific author, a two-time Nobel Prize nominee, has gotten into the head of a serial killer with her novel Zombie and slogged through the complexities of human relationships in the short stories of Will You Always Love Me?, delineating heartbreak with meticulous, powerful prose. Oates hasn't limited herself to novels, although she has written 25 of them, and short stories, which have been published in collections outside her own. Plays, literary criticism, essays, volumes of poetry, and the libretto to an opera version of her novel Black War are part of her canon. Her latest works include a short story collection, The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque, and Marya, a novel about an emotionally complex artist. Oates will talk about those pieces and what's involved in becoming a quadruple literary threat beginning at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.
In the Cards Tranny psychics will be reading the cards, answering queries about love lives and election results tonight at a full-moon release party for the new Cosmic Tribe Tarot. The deck and accompanying book, with text by Eric Ganther, was created by visual artist Stevee Postman, who gives archetypal images a techno-pagan spin. His Queen of Wands is a nude snake charmer with flaming locks and multiple tattoos; his Wands are long, vine-covered arms that shoot up from the ground toward a peach tree; all the landscapes are vividly surreal. A live band and DJ Logos add to the mystical ambience at the reading, which begins at 7 p.m. at 111 Minna Street Gallery, 111 Minna (at Second Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 387-3843.