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Joe's Neighborhood

Good closing argument

1/2/2013

joes1OK, it is the dark and dreary days of January with the bulk of winter ahead of us. I know what you’re thinking. Yup, I overheard your conversation. You’re beginning again to lay out your crazy theory of Des Moines as a rest stop, aren’t you? You know what I mean. This is where you say that you just ran out of steam on your trek across the plains, and exhaustion left you on the banks of the Des Moines River — for what you thought was a bathroom break. And now you’re stuck. You can’t move on to satisfy your real dreams, which are clearly not in Des Moines. But you are just too tired to go forward. The Midwest has mired you in mediocrity. What a shame, too, when you arrived so talented and so good-looking.                

joes2Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps you do belong in the mountains, or at the ocean, or around creative, artistic people like yourself. But perhaps, just perhaps, you’re missing that Des Moines is akin to a closing argument. If the purpose of a closing argument is to walk the jury down the path until almost the end, and then let the jury walk the last few steps alone so that it can have the excitement and thrill and ownership of discovering the truth for itself, then Des Moines is a good closing argument.                 

You just called me crazy! Well, what about the copper crown? You know that funky one by James Ellwanger hovering over the southwest edge of downtown Des Moines.               

Whose head did you put the crown on? Does the copper tiara fit your boyfriend, your mother or the remainder of the Statute of Liberty? That’s the point, isn’t it? You get to walk the last few steps yourselves. You get to create. Or not. Your choice.                

joes3Still not convinced? OK, what about Balzac’s Coat? You know, Judith Shea’s work in the Sculpture Garden.             

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How did you fill up the coat? Did you put the portly Balzac back in the coat? Or did you imagine the coat draping that young, bony hipster who hangs out in the East Village? Or did you wrap yourself in that mysterious mantle? See, you decide. You get the thrill.               

OK, I’m going to give you only one more. Check out the work by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen:                

No, not really an umbrella, right? This large piece of whimsy is a gift from Des Moines to you. You get to see Robinson Crusoe or not. You get to imagine any scenario from the Lilliputians gazing up at Gulliver to Fred Astaire dancing in the rain. You get to complete the story. See, a good closing argument.                joes4

Are you buying this?                 

Don’t worry. Relax. I don’t quite buy the good-closing-argument theory either. On the other hand, what about the State-Fair-fried-pickles theory? CV

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.joesneighborhood.com.

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