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Cheers!

Here's to Hotel Congress: The historic downtown hotel was named one of the best bars in America by Esquire magazine in the latest edition, which noted that "oddballs and rebels and holy drunks from all over the Southwest flock to the Hotel Congress, where little has changed since Dillinger used it as his hideout."

Oddballs and rebels and holy drunks? Hey, we hit the trifecta!

Hotel Congress owner Richard Oseran says it's the mix of different crowds that makes the bar so great.

"You may have a crowd in the Tap Room that's different from the crowd in the café that's different from the crowd in the club, and they all just gather together as they cross paths in the lobby in a fabulous, wonderful celebration of life," Oseran says. "As the owner of the place, I can't tell you how entertained I am on a regular basis."

On a less happy note, Hotel Congress is fighting a lawsuit related to Dillinger Days, the annual celebration of the capture of bank robber John Dillinger by Tucson police in 1934. Indiana resident Jeffrey Scalf, whose grandmother was Dillinger's half-sister, claims that under Indiana law, he holds a trademark to all things related to John Dillinger.

Oseran is baffled by the idea that any law that would allow a person to lay claim to all references to a public figure--especially since the downtown festival, which has been going on since the early '90s, celebrates the capture of Dillinger, not the criminal himself.

"I don't see how somebody can wrap their arms around history and say you have to be licensed to use the name Adolph Hitler or John Dillinger or Wyatt Earp or Geronimo," Oseran says. "We're not going to knuckle under."

Oseran has managed to get the suit moved from Indiana state court to federal court here in Tucson. He says he hopes to get the whole mess dismissed before he has to pay much more in legal bills.

Oseran says he's heard that the Indiana law was passed "as a business plan for an Indiana law firm. I don't know that that's true, but somebody in Indiana solicits people all over the country to comply with the statute and get their rights registered."


Mars or Bust

The Phoenix Mars Lander, built by the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, made its way from Tucson to Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The lander could launch aboard a Delta II rocket as soon as Aug. 3.

"This is a critical milestone for our mission," press-released UA professor Peter Smith, principal investigator for Phoenix. "Our expert engineering team has completed assembly and testing of the spacecraft. The testing shows our instruments are capable of meeting the high-level requirements for the mission."

The Phoenix, which is supposed to land on the Martian north pole, is equipped with a multitude of sensors, including cameras, microphones and a robotic arm that can dig beneath the soil in an attempt to scoop up ice and determine whether Mars has the right conditions for life.


Pumped

The statewide average of a gallon of gas climbed four cents to hit $3.079 last week, which is about a nickel below Arizona's all-time high of $3.131 per gallon, according to AAA Arizona. The good news: Down here in Baja Arizona, our average price of $2.984 per gallon is the lowest in the state.

AAA Arizona also warned that an increasing number of total idiots--our word, not theirs--are leaving their kids and/or pets locked in their cars with the windows rolled up. The organization said it responded to 988 calls to unlock cars with a kid or a pet trapped inside in 2006, a 17 percent increase over the previous year. And that's just coming from folks who belong to AAA.

Our friends at AAA remind us that in Arizona's scorching heat, it takes only minutes for the temperature in a closed car to climb higher than 160 degrees.


Fried

Speaking of scorching heat: The temp topped 100 degrees for the first time this year at 1:44 p.m. on Friday, May 11. The forecast called for highs just below 100 this week.

More by Jim Nintzel

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