At the Roundup, we call him "Joe in the Alley," because whenever anyone steps into the alley behind the newspaper's palatial offices for a nicotine break, there he is, always, without fail.
But we could just as well call him "Joe in the Parking Lot," because whenever anyone steps out the front door of the newspaper's palatial offices, there he is, always, without fail.
Or we could call him "Joe in Circle K" or "Joe in the Swiss Village Cafe," because he is always in those places, too seemingly at the same time he's in the alley and the parking lot.
If you've lived in Payson longer than 15 minutes, you've no doubt met Joe in the Alley. He's the guy who looks like the world's happiest, friendliest Hispanic leprechaun.
If Lucky Charms cereal were a product of Mexico, Joe in the Alley's picture would be on the front of the box.
Based on our own limited and very unscientific poll, Joe qualifies as Payson's most visible resident ... whether on foot (his usual mode of transport) or cruising alongside the Beeline on his three-wheeled bike, whether flashing his toothy grin or popping his upper dentures halfway out of his head to amuse friends, frighten children and befuddle strangers.
Because Joe likes making, um, abstract jokes more than he enjoys the art of linear conversation, piecing together Joe's life and times from his own oral history is no easy task. But as you will almost certainly agree, we gave it a stalwart effort.
Q: What's your last name, Joe?
Q: How old are you??
Joe: I forgot. I was born on March 24, 1924. So I guess I'm 77.
Q: You don't look it. How do you manage to stay so young looking?
Joe: Women keep me young! Hey, honey! (Joe waves at someone in the distance.
His visitor turns around to see that no one is there.) Ha! Got you! (Joe convulses with laughter.)
Q: Where were you born?
Joe: In the hospital, I think. Ha ha! Got you again! I was born in Los Angeles. And I grew up in San Diego. I didn't know my father and I didn't know my mother. I didn't even have a grandma. I was raised by the county. Or maybe it was the city. No, the county.
Q: Have you ever been married?
Joe: Oh, yeah! Got married in San Diego.
Q: Did you have any children?
Joe: No, but my wife did! Ha! Got you again! I have two daughters, Marie and Cindy. I don't hear from them much, though.
Q: What kind of work did you do in San Diego?
Joe: I did all kinds of work. I was in construction. I was a dishwasher. I worked in a cannery. I was in the Merchant Marines. Hey, baby! (Joe waves at someone in the distance. His visitor turns around to see that no one is there.) Ha! Got you again! (Joe convulses with laughter.)
Q: How did you end up in Payson?
Joe: The snake man here.
Joe: The snake man here.
Q: The snake man?
Joe: No, they sneaked me in here! Gringo! No sabe Ingles?
Q: How long ago did they sneak you in here?
Joe: Three or four years ago. I like it here sometimes, sometimes no. It's beautiful, but people drive like crazy here. They throw bottles out of their cars, you name it. It's a good thing they're not throwing grenades!
Q: I agree. Payson would not be such a nice place if people threw grenades.
Joe: I'm thinking about going back to San Diego. I could get a job anywhere I like. They don't pay enough here. Hey, chiquita! (Joe waves at someone in the distance. His visitor turns around to see that no one is there,) Ha! Got you again! How many times are you gonna fall for that trick? (Joe convulses with laughter.) How did you ever get a job at a newspaper, anyway?
Q: The snake man here.
Joe: That would explain it, yeah.