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Joe's Neighborhood

32 years


joes1Thirty-two years. That’s a long time even without doing the dog-years calculation. How exactly do we measure 32 years? Let’s see, if you add one year, you’d be old enough to have four gospels written about your teachings and life. If you add eight years, it would be the beginning of all those jokes about aging and perhaps a coffee mug proclaiming you’re 40 Years Young. If you subtract 11, you could buy your first beer. And if you add 33, you’d make the cut for the Senior Citizen Discount at the Hy- Vee Deli. Did that clarify things?

Let’s try measuring with this guy — Sgt. Vince Valdez, a cop with the Des Moines Police Department for 27 years. What has he acquired in those 27 years? Well, he’s got a radio. And that’s a gun strapped to his belt. Those stripes on his arm mean he’s been around the block a few times. His beat is in fact the neighborhood block — he’s a member of the Neighborhood Patrol Unit.

Not so long ago he followed up on a complaint in his assigned neighborhood and busted a meth house. Not a TV meth house, but a real meth house. This guy is not pretend.

So, is that it? Do we look at the toys and professional deeds and say that is the measure of those years? That certainly can’t be the whole answer. Shall we go a little deeper?

You could measure his boxing years as a young man. Golden Gloves. Not bad. But that’s every cop in Des Moines. And, let’s face it; does he flip tractor tires with Jason Statham? I don’t think so.

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joes2How about his five years cutting and styling hair at his shop in the extinct Commodore Hotel? I have to admit that’s impressive, but I don’t think that’s going to land him opposite Shawn Johnson on “Dancing with the Stars.” Not to mention, he probably cut your mom’s or grandma’s hair. That’s troublesome.

Or, his career as a singer, bass player and percussionist with various local groups, most recently Tony Valdez and the Large Band? Certainly interesting, but isn’t everyone and their mother now finding their inner artist by discovering that $59.95 karaoke machine at K-mart?

Then there’s Vince’s career as a videographer. Besides a great video for historical Valley Junction, he’s done several recent ones for Day of the Dead at the Art Center. Big deal, right? But, come on, didn’t you just do an awesome video of your stomach and wiggling toes with your iPhone? Now, that is videography.                 

Where does that leave us on our scale of the years?

“I’m crazy about my wife,” Vince told me.

What? Vince — the guy who takes down meth houses — is crazy about his wife? I asked for a photo. Here’s what he gave me:

Is that the Art Center Rose Garden in the background? Did Vince take a picture of his wife in the Art Center Rose Garden? Lord, he’s a hopeless romantic, crazy about his wife.

“How long have you been married?” I asked. “Thirty-two years.”

There’s your measure. 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:

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