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Joe's Neighborhood

Best loser — a new CITYVIEW Best of Des Moines category?

3/6/2024

CITYVIEW Best Beaverdale Area Store

Once again taking home Best Beaverdale Area Store … Beaverdale Books.

Runner-up: Back Country

We do love to compete, don’t we? Probably due to some Darwinian gamble about Bob and Jack outracing the T-Rex to the safety of a cave. The loser’s gene pool ended up as sushi, and the winner’s gene pool? Well, that’s us. Bob lost, we won, and now, as a result, we have professional hot-dog eating contests. Competition is in our blood. 

So, you may THINK you are a great worker, mother, father, son, daughter, friend or Best Beaverdale Area Store,  but … how do you stack up against the competition? Now there’s the real test of your value as a person, or your value as a business, or really, whether you have any value at all. 

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And don’t look behind the curtain at the negative arguments against competition. How can we tell the score if we don’t compare and judge and give prizes? As Dan Greenburg said in his 1966 book, “How to Make Yourself Miserable,” comparison is our go-to source for those special feelings of inadequacy. For example, Greenburg suggests comparing yourself with 8-year-old Mozart (he’d already written a symphony and three sonatas), or comparing yourself with 26-year-old Einstein (he had by then developed the theory of relativity), or superimposing your own face with the face on a Greek statue and measuring the difference (is that Adonis or Captain Crunch in the mirror?). Now that is the perfect mindset for judging and competition. There is a winner, and there is a loser. The message for you, my friend, is that you are either cutting the mustard or not. 

Now, in case you were wondering, I don’t cut the mustard. I am not a “winner winner, chicken dinner.” I lean more toward “loser loser, jello with canned peas at lunch.” Yup, the staple of my Catholic grade school cafeteria defines my personality. You are what you eat. And I eat jello with unusual vegetables embedded. See? Loser. I know that.

But what about Jay Cox-Kozel, the owner of Back Country in Beaverdale? Is he a loser?

Well, Jay Cox-Kozel is certainly winningly dapper — skinny jeans artfully torn, well-trimmed beard with matching glasses, leather ankle boots scuffed just so, and very fun-loving, mischievous eyes. Yup, this guy is up to no good, folks, which is probably why he is a do-gooder and nonstop giver of his time and energy to all things Beaverdale. He speaks up and speaks out and is wickedly sharp-tongued.

“Can you tell folks what you sell at Back Country?” I ask.

“Not much successfully.” Jay deadpans. Bada bing. 

“No, really,” I try again.

“We are an outdoor lifestyle and travel boutique with an emphasis on sustainability and ethical production. And if you can’t get your head around that, I don’t know how I can help you. It’s pretty straightforward to me.” Bada boom.

“So, Jay, you lost for the second time to Beaverdale Books as the Best Beaverdale Area Store in 2024. What do you think of that?”

“You have to consider who’s giving the award out — CITYVIEW. CITYVIEW is an entity that prints a print product, much like Beaverdale Books. Birds of a feather flock together. The good folks at CITYVIEW were looking out for their print brethren, part of the Big Print Media Cabal. So they stacked the deck in favor of the book store.”

Jay somberly stares at me.

“Really?” 

“There’s more. When you’re a bookstore, you can cater to every esoteric passion and subgroups. The bookstore has something for everyone. It is not an even playing field. And they have so many events — they host absolutely anyone. They’d host an author on the guide to left-handed herpetologists. And they engender so much passion and enthusiasm from every little subculture in the city.”

“So?” I say.

“Frankly, I think that’s cheating.” Jay shakes his head. “Really, we are the only legitimate candidate.” 

Jay smiles.

Jay wrote a sendup of Beaverdale Books last year when they beat Back Country. He is in good form again this year.

And what does he really think of Beaverdale Books?

“I’ve known the owners of the bookstore forever. We’ve all served the Beaverdale business community. We all support each other. I am so immensely proud of the bookstore. The way they persevered through the hard times, and the way they act as a community center is remarkable. They are a true community institution. Every person who works there is so passionate about literature and helping you find what you want. It’s got to be one of the best small businesses in the city. We are so lucky to have them here. And, listen, CITYVIEW gives us the opportunity to recognize them.”

There you go, straight from the horse’s mouth. Who better deserves the CITYVIEW BEST LOSER award than Back Country and Jay Cox-Kozel, who are clearly the WINNERS at losing.

Speaking of WIENERS, where is that professional hot-dog eating contest? n

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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