Off Beat

Burning Bush

THE BATTLE BETWEEN George W. Bush and Al Gore would appear important enough already--nobody holds national conventions for an auditor's race, after all. But now a psychic is warning that far more than the Oval Office is at stake in this year's presidential election. In an e-mail release sent to news outlets nationwide, Fargo resident Linda Polley maintains that Jesus Christ has informed her that "if Al Gore and Hillary Clinton are elected to the posts they are seeking He will never, ever return to mankind again." According to Polley, the Savior has already departed Earth, leaving someone called "Lord Peter" in charge. And if Gore emerges victorious, He'll never come back. Not inclined to take Polley seriously? The 49-year-old psychic caused a bit of a stir in the ether a year ago when she announced that John Lennon had channeled her a song from beyond the grave. "The tune, 'Listen to the Angels,' has been analyzed by a Nashville musicologist who reports it sounds enough like Lennon's past work that he can't rule out divine intervention," the Wireless Flash News Service reported at the time. Not possessed of any psychic gifts of our own, Off Beat got in touch with Polley the old-fashioned way, dialing her up at the trailer home she shares with her husband George, a restaurant kitchen worker and fellow seer. Besides the obvious lack of personality, what's so wrong with Gore, we wanted to know. "He's associated with Bill Clinton, who is a demon," Polley replies. Fair enough. And how's that John Lennon stuff coming along? Any more songs? "I've been e-mailing with a [record] producer about putting together an album," reports Polley, who says she now has more than 15 Lennon-channeled tunes. Next we called DFL delegate Mary McEvoy and told her that Lord Peter is sending an urgent message to all Democratic representatives heading for the convention in L.A. to nominate someone other than Gore. "Hold on, lemme check my e-mail," says she. Tony Sutton, executive director of the Minnesota Republican Party, says he's buoyed by the prospect of the Kingdom of God backing Bush but figures Polley's revelation turns up the heat on the GOP. "Every political hack will tell you that every election is the most important one ever," Sutton notes. "But I guess this one really is."

Rockin' in the Free World

THE SCHWIETZ SALOON has been serving up cold beer on Payne Avenue since 1900. Its patrons are such loyal consumers of fermented beverages that some of them have their names engraved on plaques at the bar. "When you walk in, if everybody doesn't know you, they will by the time you leave," declares Maureen Mariano, who bought the bar in 1995 with her husband Steve. But every year about this time, as sure as the dew point rises, Mariano finds herself debating noise pollution at municipal meetings rather than dispensing drafts at her bar. The controversy involves the Harvest Festival, the East Side's annual three-day block party, held this year on the weekend of September 14-16. "It's kinda like homecoming for East Side people," Mariano explains, "a big reunion for anyone who went to Johnson, Harding, or Hill Murray." Schwietz Saloon is at the epicenter of the festivities, and each year it applies to the city for a so-called sound-level variance to host live music in its parking lot from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. And every year a handful of neighbors attempt to block it. The neighbors claim that they can hear the music from as far as a mile and a half away, and that it poses a threat to their kids' academic well-being. This year the variance was debated at several meetings of the District 5 Planning Council, and later at a St. Paul City Council meeting. Both eventually bestowed their blessing. "I have kids," Mariano says with exasperation. "They're here with us that evening. I gotta tell you, it's never affected their school life."

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