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Officially, most mayoral aspirants still deny that they’re queuing up for the 1998 election. But if his performance at the Palisades Fourth of July parade is any indication, At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil is a master of positioning. The annual shindig draws politicos from across the city to bask in the attention of the area’s politically insatiable residents. This year, council chair-to-be Linda Cropp looked stiff waving from her red convertible. Ward 2’s Jack Evans walked, along with his wife and his ever-photographable triplets. Ward 3 representative Kathy Patterson shared the small back seat of her open Saab with Ward 8’s Sandy Allen. Mayor Barry wore a Stars and Stripes tie and handed out balloons. Brazil, meanwhile, had the best seat in the house, beaming in a cherry 1960 Bonneville convertible behind a Dixieland band and alongside Miss District of Columbia 1997, Sonya Gavankour. Why did D.C.’s first Miss America hopeful in eight years ride with Brazil? According to program director Betty Hemby, she was just looking for a car. Substitute “mayor” and you’ve got the beginnings of a rationale for Brazil’s campaign.

Fiscal austerity has never been one of Mayor Barry’s strong points on the job. But outside the office he appears a pillar of frugality. In May, Barry plunked down a measly 5-percent tip on a $100 check at a K Street NW restaurant, as reported by Washingtonian magazine. Recently, Barry’s wife trumped his miserly habits, allegedly leaving a whopping 3-percent gratuity on a $60 tab at another local eatery. According to servers at B. Smith’s restaurant in Union Station, Mrs. Barry’s regal entrance regularly incites a small stampede among the wait staff, as servers scramble to avoid taking her table. One server says she refuses to wait on Cora Masters Barry because she often makes haughty demands with a string of special directions. Another waitress tells of a co-worker’s first day, when “the new girl” had the unlucky job of informing Cora that the kitchen was out of lemonade. Mrs. Barry reportedly retorted, “Do you have lemons? Do you have sugar? Do you have water?” and decreed that a fresh batch be made. When you’re handed lemons…

After wading through 450,000 fellow travelers last Friday, you laid out the blanket due south of the Monument and popped open the cooler. Lemmesee: Snapple, Diet Coke, iced tea. Like a lot of hapless attendees, you probably left your six-pack at the gate, where park police had confiscated everything from Summit Ale to Budweiser. Even nonalcoholic brews didn’t make the cut. “What do you mean, I can’t even keep Sharps?” asked one incredulous Mall rat. The cop pointed to the fine print, which indicates that the near-beer contains microscopic amounts of alcohol. In March of this year, the U.S. Park Service settled on a new no-alcohol policy for the monument grounds—not on the Fourth, or the fifth or sixth for that matter. Maj. James J. McLaughlin, spokesperson for the park police, isn’t feeling a bit nostalgic for the keggers of yore. “Last year on the Fourth of July we had 11 assaults on the monument grounds. This year we had none. Zero. This time around, the lines at the porta-potties were short. Last year, we had people urinating all over the place.” One guy, snagged at the checkpoint, argued the ineffable link between Independence Day and an ice-cold beer. “Don’t worry, buddy,” replied one cop, “you can always get drunk on liberty.”