City of Class

Cleveland isn’t falling for the tequila trend.

Kem Odeon, 1295 Old River Road, the Flats 7:30 p.m. (sold out) and 10:30 p.m. Friday, December 26
Hipsters often lament Cleveland's willingness to jump on trends only after they've been stomped to death and buried. But Punch views this as unassailable evidence of our cultural superiority. Case in point: the latest trend careening through clubland, the $90 glass of tequila.

Yes, in cities supposedly way hipper than ours, tequila is gaining ground on scotch as a premium sipping drink among the cooler-than-thou crowd. At the top of the heap is 1800 Colección, which goes for 90 bucks a pour.

But here in Cleveland, people understand that $90 can buy a lot of things -- like an '88 Dodge Caravan, a trunkful of stolen CD players, or precisely 45 shots of Black Velvet at McCarthy's Ale House. Which means the tequila trend is having trouble catching on.

At the swanky Metropolitan Café in the Warehouse District, tequilas top out around a paltry $10. Down the street at Zibibbo, Patrón Silver is the best stuff on the shelf. Price tag: seven measly bucks.

Liquid Café seems to be leading the pack. There, you'll need $22 for a pour of Paradiso, which isn't much more than the steak dinner you'll mistakenly order at 3 a.m.

And most places are still serving it as God intended: in a shot glass, unless requested otherwise. But nobody ever does, says Zibibbo bartender Ryan Hurt. "Most people, when they're thinking of tequila around here, they're slamming it."

Along came a spider
When Saddam Hussein emerged from his spider hole with his hands in the air and his pistol in his lap, the military needed an interrogator instead of a coroner. So Punch called Ed Herman.

The Linndale native is a Republican candidate for Dennis Kucinich's congressional seat ("The War at Home," December 10). He also happens to be fluent in Arabic, having served as an Army interrogator in Afghanistan. Since he's the only guy in town who has talked bombs and football with real al-Qaeda punks, we asked Herman what he'd do if he were sitting across the table from Saddam. His strategy:

1. Know your shit. "It's very important that Saddam Hussein respect you. The interrogator cannot be seen as a lightweight. He needs to be an expert on both Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Once [Saddam] feels comfortable with you and he respects you, he'll be dying to boast about how he stayed in power so long."

2. Time is on your side. "It's gonna take months for him to feel comfortable enough to start talking. You have to be patient. He's not going anywhere."

3. Play nice. "You never forget that the person sitting across from you is a human being, just like you. It's an emotionally demanding job, because you have to appear to be friendly, when in fact you are disgusted by everything they are."

4. Hold your cards close. "You never want to let him know what you're looking for, and never let him know where the holes in our knowledge are. Never interrupt him. Just let him talk."

Dick problems
Few people have heard of Bruce Cobbeldick, the Bay Village mortgage salesman who's also running for Kucinich's House seat. And, considering his barely coherent press releases, you probably won't be hearing much more of him.

But Cobbeldick is trying to make a splash nonetheless. So he's filed a petition in federal court, challenging the legality of Kucinich's twin campaigns. The Republican believes Ohio law bars Kucinich from running for President and Congress at the same time. He also thinks Kucinich is wasting taxpayers' money by appearing on two ballots at once.

Problem is, Ohio law doesn't mean squat when it comes to federal elections, says Cleveland lawyer Dave Harbarger, who's handled election cases. "The federal courts resolved this issue in 1960," says the lifelong Republican. Back when Lyndon Johnson was running for Vice President and reelection to the Senate, the federal courts decided he could run for both at the same time. What's more, Harbarger says, the Ohio law Cobbeldick cites is actually known as "the sore-loser rule." It says that a candidate who fails in the primary can't run as an independent in the general election. But it doesn't say anything about a congressman running a vanity presidential campaign.

Which leads Harbarger to assess Cobbeldick's petition thus: "I don't think he has any possibility of success."

Yet Cobbeldick, despite his most unfortunate name, remains undaunted. "I feel confident I'm not wasting the court's time."

Attention, shoppers
Earlier this month, the governor's office announced the "fifth annual Scent of Hope tradition," whereby Hope Taft "delivered 200 bags of potpourri to the Ohio Statehouse Museum Gift Shop" to kick off sales for this much-anticipated holiday tradition.

Besides being, well, a little creepy -- ask people to smell your wife, and you're getting into restraining-order territory, Bobby -- naming the potpourri after the first lady deprived residents of scents more befitting the state's image. Suggested alternatives:

· Scent of FirstEnergy: a refreshing mix of laundered money and dirty politicians, perfect for dangling from the rearview mirror of your private jet.

· Scent of Futility: captured from the rarefied air of the Browns executive suite.

· Scent of Campbell: Odorless, after cost-cutting required the removal of several hundred ingredients.

· Scent of Departure: A delightful mix of gas and exhaust fumes, harvested from U-Hauls crossing into Kentucky.

Trumbull's miracle cure
Mike Whitney, president of the Trumbull County Area AIDS Task Force, sold a record number of tickets to the World AIDS Day commemoration at the Hippodrome bar in Warren. It was a remarkable feat -- considering that there is no AIDS in Trumbull County.

That's because the county refuses to set up testing for the illness, says Whitney. Which meant that, until 2001, people had to go to Cleveland or Akron to get tested. Which meant that no cases were showing up in Trumbull. Which allowed one county official to tell Whitney, "There is no AIDS here."

It's a novel approach to public health. Under the same philosophy, Ohio could be the first cancer-free state simply by shutting down all the hospitals and driving patients to Michigan. But, alas, no one appreciates visionaries anymore. The Youngstown Health Department is now crossing the border to provide testing twice a week.

Under cover of darkness
Except when running for reelection, congressmen find it bad form to rip the hallowed institution in which they serve. You've seen C-SPAN: With all their "esteemed gentleman" this and "respected colleague" that, these guys put up a better front than Buckingham Palace.

But Lorain Congressman Sherrod Brown is subverting etiquette. In a recent op-ed piece titled "Democracy crumbles under cover of darkness," Brown cited numerous examples of controversial votes occurring on Fridays, at hours when no one will notice what's going on: veterans' benefits cut at 2:54 a.m., Head Start cut at 1:57 a.m., President Bush's "Leave No CEO Behind" tax cut passed at 1:56 a.m. The recent bill radically revising Medicare was passed at 5:55 a.m.

It was an unusually sharp and readable take. But folks in Missouri had a better chance of reading it than those in Brown's district. The Lorain Morning Journal ran the piece, but the only major daily to carry it was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Oddly, it wasn't offered to The Plain Dealer or the Akron Beacon-Journal, says Brown's spokesman, Ted Miller, "mainly because we've been run on those pages before."

Unfortunate. With Dennis Kucinich making a spectacle of himself, Ohio Democrats need all the encouragement they can get.

Rare win for media
In these days of rampant media-bashing, Punch is encouraged by any sign that journalists might someday overtake lawyers and child pornographers on the ladder of social status. So we cheer the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board for issuing a get-out-of-budget-cuts-free card to the high school journalism program.

The district is facing a $5 million deficit, but the school board has moved the journalism program out of harm's way. Teacher/adviser Tim Scasny credits his students' unusually committed parents with securing the reprieve. Journalism Parents Organization members were relentless, he says, speaking at school-board meetings and writing letters about the wide range of skills students learn in the program. (Scasny's classes have included Presidential Scholars and a handful of students who scored a perfect 1600 on their SATs. This year's editor-in-chief of the school paper is headed for Harvard.)

"I'm humbled," says Scasny, though he remains "cautious."

In the meantime, a few more kids will learn about the exciting careers to be had within the vast left-wing conspiracy. Now that's something we can all get behind.

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