Convention Beat: August 20, 2008 Archive

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Coney Island here we come!

Posted at 12:43 PM on August 20, 2008 by Tim Nelson (3 Comments)

DSC_6765.jpgIf you were walking down St. Peter Street about lunch time this afternoon, you might have made a rare spotting: the doors were open at the Original Coney Island Tavern.

There's a flier in the window that says they're going to start serving again next Friday, for the run of the Republican National Convention. A woman who said she was decendent of original owner Louis Arvanitis (I think it may have been Mary Ellen) was standing just inside the door, insisting the opening was imminent.

She steadfastly refused to elaborate, and closed the door again. But you can click on the picture at left to see the flyer in the window.

tavern.jpgThe restaurant is one of St. Paul's most storied landmarks. It's housed in a former Civil War armory on St. Peter street, dating back to 1858. It's been sitting, shuttered, between the Travelers building and the Minnesota Children's Musuem for at least 12 years, maybe longer.

It was the center of a preservation battle in 1999, when the then-St. Paul Co's. proposed expanding across St. Peter Street, and taking out the original Coney Island building and a slightly younger 19th-century neighbor. The Arvanitis family vowed to restore and reopen the family business, but the reopening has become nothing short of the stuff of legend.

Trust me: If you do nothing else to mark the occasion of the largest public event in Minnesota history, eating a dog at the Original Coney Island Tavern would be a fitting gesture.

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And now, a word from a past president

Posted at 3:02 PM on August 20, 2008 by Tim Nelson (3 Comments)

The big demonstrations outside the Republican National Convention are scheduled to start on Labor Day, but Martin Lombardo isn't waiting to make his feelings public.

The 65-year-old New Jersey native is literally on his knees on Kellogg Boulevard, praying to Jesus Christ for the Republicans, the people of St. Paul, Minnesotans, Americans and, well, just about everybody.

Aside from the "informational picketing" that the St. Paul cops are doing, he's the first convention-related demonstrator we know of.

washington.jpgOh, yeah, and he's doing it in a George Washington costume.

"The Lord has great concerns for this convention," he told me today. "And the Lord's will, we're parying will be done here. And that is the American rights that we inherited from George Washington and the founders of the Constitution will be protected, and we in this generation will hand the civil rights and freedoms that we have received down to our children... Individual rights, religious rights, have been encroached upon, and it must stop."

That's where the George Washington part comes in.

There's a lot more to his story, too. He says he moved to Rome 20 years ago and has spent much of that time personally ministering to Pope John Paul II. He's also handing out flyers for the "2008 United States Presidential National Non-Partisan Bible Vigil" in front of the White House on October 10, 11 and 12.

Like that event, Lombardo is planning to spend 12 hours a day in St. Paul, three days in a row, praying.

Click on the link below to hear a little more about his plans in St. Paul.

Lombardo has a foam pad to protect his knees from the concrete on Kellogg Boulevard, but he admits he's a little slow getting up and down. He got a diamond willow walking stick to help him get around, and he's using a freeway sign on Kellogg Boulevard to help him get up and down.

shoes.jpg.jpg"I kneel before the Lord three or four hours a day," he says. "I spend six hours a day with him. I spend most of my time on knees bowing before him, praying to him ,believing him an dtrusting him. And I have worn out many, many shoes because of the cobblestones. And even this cement is not good for good shoes."

Or pants?

"Yes," he says. "I wear them out, too. But it's all worth it."

Lombardo hails from Princeton, N.J., where he was a member of the borough council during his less colorful days. Locals I talked to today are quite familiar with Lombardo and say he and his George Washington outfit are not an uncommon sight in their town.

"Oh yeah," said an editor at the Princeton Packet newspaper. "We know him."


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