OFF BEAT WAS a couple of Budweisers into an afternoon Twins game at the dome a few Saturdays back when our ears pricked up at a familiar refrain: "Purple pride, purple priiiidde." Wait, we thought, isn't this baseball? Is there no reprieve from Viking-philia? The rally cry was coming from a peanut vendor decked out in Vikings garb who was unnerving preadolescents with off-kilter carnie shtick. We noticed a distinct Texas drawl and a used-car salesman's patter, which reminded us more than a little of Vikings owner Red McCombs. Ever on the prowl for a scoop, Off Beat asked the vendor for his card. He insisted we first fork over $3.50 for a bag of peanuts and then offered this witticism: "What do you call seven rabbits walking in reverse? A receding hare-line." Okay, we groaned, but we have to ask--you wouldn't happen to know the owner of our fair state's football team, would you? "Kenny McCombs," replied the vendor, extending a hand, "the youngest of the McCombs brothers of San Antonio, Texas." Naturally Off Beat set out to track down McCombs the younger, only to discover from a Metrodome vending manager that the nut salesman is actually one Ken Kube, the 61-year-old erstwhile mayor of West St. Paul. "Well, Red McCombs looks a lot like me, or I look like him," Kube confirms. "I just decided to go with it. Red's just a good old Baptist boy. I say, 'Hey, he's my brother in Christ.'"
EARLIER THIS MONTH, Utne Reader executive editor Craig Cox released the premier issue of the Minneapolis Observer (www.mplsobserver.com). The e-mail publication is a compendium of various Minneapolis stories that Cox feels have been overlooked or underplayed by the Star Tribune in its effort to please readers from Anoka to Apple Valley. For example, the first issue chronicles a recent violent flare-up between African-American and Somali youths in Currie Park on the West Bank that resulted in three people being shot. Also featured are oddball political tidbits (two city council candidates in the Ninth Ward are named Lucky) and a collection of quotations from decades past. "For quite a few years I was toying with the idea of starting a daily newspaper that actually covered the city of Minneapolis," says Cox, a onetime City Pages editor. "The problem, of course, is that nobody in their right mind would fund it." Cox hopes subscribers will pay $12 a year to receive the weekly newsletter. In the first three days after announcing the venture, Cox says that he received a dozen subscriptions. Happy though Off Beat was to get the inaugural Observer, we have to administer a minor wrist slapping: Cox reported that a recent City Pages issue featuring Prince on the cover garnered no takers when it was put up for bid on eBay (see Off Beat, August 8). Four suckers bade, and the paper sold for $10.50--almost enough to subscribe to the Observer.
He's Holding Out on Us
OFF BEAT'S IN a funk over James Lileks. Three days a week we gloss over his "Back Fence" column in the Star Tribune, which makes it disconcerting to punch up Lileks's personal Web site, www.lileks.com, and discover the discourse of an intelligent man with an eye for the arcana that makes life really interesting. Recently Lileks posted an essay and photos of the post-World War II Richfield neighborhood recently demolished to make way for Best Buy's new corporate campus. Not all of the aging suburb's residents were thrilled to help the cause of commercial progress, he observes: "No matter," Lileks writes. "When you're a go-go local government that wants a nice shiny corporate campus instead of simple single postwar homes, you just wake the Eminent Domain golem, inscribe the word 'Progress' on his clay forehead, and watch the people flee." Pretty sweet stuff. Now why can't we get that in our daily newspaper?