A Burger Fundraiser to help send the Lady Wolves to State! March 18th, 1pm (until sold out) @ The Channel Club Blanco Burgers, Fries & Drinkl Credit ...
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We want to encourage you to check out 14 Miles: Dispatches from an Island in Alaska. 14 Miles is an experiment asking universal questions about democracy, geogr...
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We're excited to announce upcoming screenings of Uprivers, a newly completed 30 minute documentary made in partnership with Artchange. Uprivers is the story ...
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Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Southeast Stands Up Against Youth Tobacco Use National Kick Butts Day, March 21, 2018 Students at all over Southeast Alaska...
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Renée Jakaitis Trafton, the chef-owner of the Beak Restaurant, will teach the fifth class in the Sitka Kitch‘s new class series, Seasonal Cooking, from 6-8:30 p...
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2nd – 5th grade students are invited to register for a free after-school cultural education workshop to discover the cultural significance of the tináa and cons...
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Sitka Community Land Trust announces its next regular meeting for Monday, March 19th from 6:00-8:00pm. The meeting will be held at Harrigan Centennial Hall, Roo...
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Sitka National Historical Park, (March 8, 2018) Sitka National Historical Park has extended the vacancy announcement to March 16 for hiring two (2) seasonal Mai...
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Are you looking for help or inspiration making your regalia? Do you want to learn about beadwork? Sitka National Historical Park, in partnership with the Sitka ...
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The Sitka Health Summit Coalition's monthly Wooch.een (working together in Tlingit) Health Networking and Learning Lunch will be from noon – 1:30 p.m. on Friday...
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The Sitka School District announces that there will be no school for all students March 12 through March 16 due to spring break. All school offices and the Dist...
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The Sitka Historical Society announces a speaker’s series for the run up to the Grand Opening of the New Sitka History Museum located in the Harrigan Centennial...
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The Island Institute is teaming up with SAIL to offer Wednesday Writing Workshops in February and March! Every Wednesday (from 5-7pm) from February 7th to March...
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Historic Preservation STA seat, Local Emergency Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Committee, and Tree and Landscape Committee. Interested persons may...
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COAST GUARD LICENSE CLASS IN SITKA. 6 PACK TO 100 GT MASTER. APRIL 4-13. $800. WE FURNISH ALL BOOKS AND SUPPLIES AND DO THE TESTING FREE. CALL KAREN 907-738-699...
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The Soupster wonders who was pulling his leg.
Originally published March 13, 2008
The truth is, the Soupster was already in a terrible mood when he stopped at the store on his way home. And when he walked from his car to the front door of the supermarket, the Soupster made the mistake of looking up at the big roadside message board. He froze, muttered to himself and jumped to conclusions.
“Don’t,” the sign read and the Soupster, absurdly, took the message personally.
“Don’t what?” he growled. “Just spewing negativity with complete abandon? Typical. That’s the trouble with the world. Everywhere it’s `Don’t!’”
The Soupster took hold of the door handle, but then let go of it, took a step back and turned to face the sign. Like a person with one of those cell-phone earpieces, he spoke to the air.
“Look at that,” he said, his voice loud enough for passersby to hear, and pointing to the empty ladder up to the road sign. “Nobody is even there! They just put `Don’t!’ in your face and then they walk away – probably on one of their frequent breaks. `Don’t what?’ I’d like to know.”
The Soupster stopped spouting long enough to see a woman carrying a grocery bag give him a pitying stare and a wide berth.
Inside the store, he tried to ignore the “0 trans fat” and “Gluten free” signs. The “fortified with Omega-3” and “Acidophilous added” did not make him feel any more positive. A funk is a funk is a funk.
The Soupster tried to raise his spirits by remembering a pretty little city park he had once come across during travels in the Lower 48. A sign at the entrance had said: “Picnic, fly a kite, rollerblade, sunbathe, jog, dance” and so on. All the things you were supposed to do, instead of the “No dogs!” and “Keep Out!”
And his mood did lighten, buoyed as well by the checker’s friendly interest in what he was buying. But when the Soupster walked out the door, he saw the road sign had changed.
“Don’t Go Home,” it now said.
The Soupster got back into his car, stunned. “Don’t Go Home?” He was going home. Until now, he had been perturbed. But on the road back to his house, the Soupster felt angry.
“What kind of sick joke is that store playing on people?” “Is it even possible the sign was meant specifically for me?” “Why shouldn’t I go home?” The Soupster’s mind raced.
Two doors from his house, the Soupster pulled over to the side of the road. “Even if the sign has nothing to do with me, it is irresponsible to make people wonder if something is wrong at their home,” the Soupster stewed.
“That’s mean,” he decided and turned his car around in the direction of the store. The Soupster wasn’t sure who he was going to talk to or what he was going to say to them, but he was going to say something to somebody to straighten the responsible parties right out!
But as he neared the store, he realized at once that he would do none of that. For the sign had changed again.
Now it read: “Don’t Go Home Until You Try One of Our New Mango Shakes!”
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The Soupster talks and listens.
I was cornered! I had to be quick. I grabbed my books and papers and scurried out of my cozy winter spot in the library. The new glass walls made it hard to be invisible.
Talking Joe was heading straight towards me. Joe was long and lanky and words spewed out of him like a manic fountain pen. Like a lot of Our Towners this time of year, he hunted down people to visit with.
An interesting man, Talking Joe. Curious and self-educated, he looked at old things in new ways and gave you ideas to mull over for days. He often sounded like the speculative science talks on the radio.
“Hi, Soupster!” Joe hailed just when I thought I was in the clear. “Soupster, have you ever noticed – Our Town is yellow?”
“Yellow? Do you mean faint of heart? Scared? Cowardly?”
No, no, Soupster. Just yellow. Well, maybe orangey-red, but it looks like a big ‘ole pumpkin patch.”
“How so, Joe?”
“Well, Soupster. It runs the gamut from burnt umber to the palest yellow to rooftop red.”
“Burnt umber? What is that, Joe?”
“Umber, I’ve read, is a natural brown earth pigment with oxides. When heated, the color becomes more intense and is called burnt umber.”
“And then, Soupster, have you noticed we have miles and miles of yellow ‘No Parking’ curbs? How do they pick these colors? Do they discuss them at assembly or is it just the paint on sale that month?”
“I don’t know, Joe, maybe folks are just seeking brightness. In deep winter here, the forests, mountains and oceans are mostly black, topped by dark gray clouds. Maybe people are trying to add an artificial sun to the landscape.”
“Yeah, Soupster, we all need variety – for example, I have to admit St. Michael’s Cathedral is the little non-pumpkin jewel of downtown.”
“Good things to think about, Joe. Anything else on your mind today?” I asked as I strolled toward the silent sanctuary of my truck.
“Oh, all kinds of things. Like why are the streets so quiet at night? I hardly ever hear anyone cussing or yelling anymore. Maybe it’s too cold to make noise.”
Joe seemed more lonesome than usual today. Ever since his wife passed, he’s been trying to reconnect with friends and neighbors. She was definitely the social glue of the pair. Things got even harder for Joe when his card-playing buddy Ralph moved south to be near grandkids. Talking Joe needed a listener now more than ever.
Sometimes, we all just need to shut up and listen better, and maybe the season will seem kinder and warmer.
“Okay, Joe, see you around,” I said as I started my engine.
“I was wondering – why does our town have so many flat roofs? Just asking,” I heard him say.
I pulled away from the yellow curb, slowed down and called back, “Get in the truck, Joe, and tell me what you think about the flat roofs.”
Submitted by Rose Manning
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The Soupster chats up a night owl – well, not really an owl.
Our Town is a tolerant place, the Soupster thought, but it takes time.
He thought about Vladimir, who was standing in front of him in line at the bank. Vladimir had first come to town with not much English, no money and strange nocturnal habits. But the foreign man stayed through a whole winter, the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree in Our Town, and after that people took him seriously, even if they kept their distance.
This afternoon, near closing time, Vladimir looked terrible – always pale, he now had enormous black circles under his eyes. He slumped forward as though his arms were too heavy for his shoulders.
The Soupster caught Vladimir’s eye. “Gee, Vlad, you look awful,” the Soupster said, “like death warmed over.”
Vladimir chuckled, not altogether friendly. “Und you, Zoupster, you zmell like death needs a zhower,” he said, in his strong accent. “But you are accurate. I am zleep deprived. I am too active.”
Vladimir’s nocturnal habits were well known to everyone – the man slept all day and stayed up all night. And on the edge of Solstice in Our Town, night occupied most of the clock.
“I’m sympathetic, Vlad,” said the Soupster. “In the summertime — when the days last nearly till midnight and start again a couple of hours later? — I run myself ragged. It seems like every night at 10 p.m. or so, I think of some new project that needs doing that second.”
“Yes, Zoupster,” Vlad said. “Und you turn Zummer Zolstice upzide down und you get Vinter Zolstice.”
“Or you’re in Australia,” the Soupster joked.
“Yes, you must jest, Zoupster,” said Vladimir. “It is in your nature. As it is in mine to move across nearly the whole world. To come to the New World and leave my Old World ways behind.” Vladimir lifted his arm to cover most of his face, leaving only his dark eyes.
The Soupster remembered that he found Vlad a touch over-dramatic. But he was glad to see the other man looking more alert and awake. Vlad moved to the front of the line.
“So what did you leave behind in the Old World, Vlad?” the Soupster asked.
“Now, my favorite drink is tomato juice,” Vladimir answered with a dark laugh, exposing an impressive set of teeth. “With an egg well beaten into it!”
The teller free, Vladimir took his place at the counter. Although the Soupster’s turn came a moment later, his business was briefer and the two men found themselves standing outside the bank at the same time.
The Soupster zipped his coat tight against his neck in the chill darkness. Vladimir’s deep breaths came out in puffs of icy fog.
“Maybe you should take it easy this evening,” said the Soupster. “Kick back.”
“Oh, don’t conzern yourzelf vith me, Zoupster,” Vlad said with a wicked smile. “I am always groggy ven first I vake.” Then he changed into a bat and flew off.
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The Soupster sees light being lent.
The knock on the Soupster’s door turned out to be Bob, the Soupster’s new neighbor, who wanted to borrow a flashlight. Bob needed to do some outdoor plumbing and, new to Our Town, he still felt uncomfortable about running electrical cords outside in the rain.
“Cleve,” the Soupster told Bob. “Cleve is your man.”
Cleve was another of the Soupster’s neighbors and known for his lights. Cleve had gasoline-powered pedestal klieg lights as well as key chain lights whose bulbs were guaranteed beyond eternity. Cleve had lights he could strap to his head, his shoulder, the crook of his arm and his shoes. He had old diving lights that ran on massive lantern batteries, one than ran on a fuel cell the size of a dime and one that you could crank to operate.
The passage between the Soupster’s house and Cleve’s ran through some thick brush, and the Soupster could see Bob cringing from the even deeper dark that cloaked the path.
“Light,” said the Soupster. “Can you even remember the middle of the summer, when it never got dark? We’re paying for that now.”
The light-starved Bob took up the conversation; after all isn’t food — or the opposite of it — the favorite subject of famished people? “The desert is dark, notably dark,” he said. “A winter I spent outside Shiprock, Arizona taught me that. But wet dark is somehow worse.”
“Wet dark is like double dark,” the Soupster agreed. “Can be dark on the ocean.”
“On a tour of Alcatraz prison, I volunteered to be locked in solitary confinement,” said Bob. “When they closed the door, that was the darkest I could imagine.”
“Cleve’s yard is equipped with motion-sensor lights all over the place,” said the Soupster. “Don’t be startled. I can show you where you can just wave your hand a little out in front of you and set off the whole array.”
On the edge of Cleve’s lawn, the Soupster waved his arm a little out in front of him and the whole area blazed into daytime. Awash now, the two men staggered, blinking, up the walk. Cleve was already at his front door, tipped off by the lights.
“Can Bob check out one of your flashlights to do some plumbing?” the Soupster asked, indicating the new neighbor.
“Sure,” said Cleve, who disappeared briefly. He came back with a three lights — a carabiner micro-light, a waterproof million-candlepower portable searchlight and about six feet of luminescent piping. “Use the piping for brightening up the area where you are working,” he explained.
As Bob stood examining the lights, the Soupster turned to Cleve. “Poor guy,” whispered the Soupster. “This is his first November.”
“He’ll do okay,” Cleve said. “It’ll soon be Thanksgiving and the city lights will go up on the utility poles and the people in the stores and houses will start decorating.”
“Can I borrow all three lights?” asked Bob.
“Better than cursing the darkness,” said Cleve. “For sure.”
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The Soupster visits the vets office.
Anton’s paws were a mess. The dignified long-haired jet-black Maine Coon cat hid a secret between his tufted foot pads – the sharp nails on his front paws grew in a tight circle and right back into the skin.
The veterinarian had spread Anton’s paw pads up to the light to show the Soupster the uncomfortable stuff his beloved cat walked upon. Traces of blood could be seen around the nails.
“I’m shocked he doesn’t limp or wince or something,” said the Soupster.
“Some cats can be pretty stoic,” the vet said, as he used small nippers on the cat’s claws, “Especially these Maine Coons.”
“Quite a back story, the Maine Coons have,” continued the medico. “They were supposed to have been the long-haired pets of Queen Marie Antoinette of France. She sent the cats to America, expecting to escape the French Revolution and come to America herself later on. Unfortunately, she waited until it was too late and got guillotined.”
“I’ve heard that,” said the Soupster. “The cats were released into the winter wilds of New England, where they mated with raccoons and developed their thick coats.”
“Well, that part isn’t true,” said the vet.
“Colorful, though,” the Soupster said.
“Anyhow, the placid nature and striking looks of these cats make them one of the most favored breeds in the U.S.,” the vet said. He stroked Anton’s head and then went back to nipping at his claws. “Few more minutes,” the vet said. Anton looked unperturbed, so the Soupster walked into clinic’s outer waiting room.
Sam Grace and his wife Judy sat there. A medium-sized black-and-white dog stretched on out the floor with his front feet on Sam’s boots.
“Nice looking dog,” said the Soupster to Sam. “What is he?”
“Miss Pepper is a mixed breed,” Sam said. “A shelter mutt.”
“She’s smart enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she had some border collie in her,” added Judy. “She knows so many words!”
“She knows the difference between the ball and the big ball, and she’ll bring you the big ball if that’s what you’re asking for,” said Sam. “Good girl,” he murmured as he reached down to scratch Pepper’s head. “Miss Pepper is here for her certificate of health. We want to take her traveling with us.”
“Do you have a dog here, too?” Judy asked.
“A cat,” said the Soupster. “Anton. Nice big healthy boy. Except he has front claws that get all ingrown. So I have to bring him in for a pedicure twice a year.”
“That’s very caring of you,” Judy said. “You sound like a good owner.”
“Owner?” said the Soupster, “No, no, no, no, no.”
“Huh?” asked Sam.
“Dogs have owners,” the Soupster said firmly. “Cats have staff.”
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The Soupster recounts that there are three ways to skin a Permanent Fund.
“I’m going to become a parent,” Mick said to the Soupster as both met up outside a Lincoln St. bank. “And I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems and responsibilities of raising kids. I don’t think I’ll have any problem with religion, issues of brotherhood or with kids and crime – I know right where I stand and I know what I’m going to say. But how to deal with my kid’s Permanent Fund Dividend? That totally mystifies me.”
“I mean, it’ll be the kid’s money, won’t it?” he continued. “But it’s a lot of money for anyone to manage well, let alone a kid. A parent has to have a plan. What do you think?”
“Well,” said the Soupster, “There was this one family — despite the fact that they’re not rich, they put every PFD dollar for the kid into mutual funds. During the go-go 90’s. The family had some awful expenses, but they never, ever touched the kid’s PFD. When she was 18, the family had a big pile of money saved up for her and she ended up starting a rug business in Wrangell where her favorite Auntie lives. She’s doing very well there.”
“Sounds great,” said Mick. “But what if her family really got in a hole and they were going to lose their house or if somebody got really sick?”
“Well,” said the Soupster. “I know another family. Every PFD the kid’s whole life went into paying for the continuing, everyday expenses of the family. With the PFDs and everything else, the father was able to get his college degree from distance learning. The mother took a year off to volunteer for her church in South America, which was her lifelong dream. When college came around for the kid, there was no money, but everybody pulled together and now both father and son have their degrees.”
“I don’t think I could do that,” said Mick. “I’ll want to make absolutely sure my kid has a leg up. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to take chances with such a valuable resource.”
“Well,” said the Soupster. “Then maybe this family’s story will help. I mean I’m not endorsing this, but this family just handed the cash over to their kid and let her do anything she wanted with it. From when she was about six years old on, anything that got into this kid’s head, she was able to finance. This is when the PFDs were $1,200 and $1,500 a check. One year this kid bought more than 100 stuffed animals, one for everyone in her grade. Another year, she spent her whole thing at Save the Children. She sent her parents on a cruise ship cruise and when her neighbors said they’d love to do the same, the kid sent them on a cruise the following year.”
“Well, I hope you don’t endorse that, Soupster,” said Mick. “What a wasted opportunity and a reckless plan for handling that poor child’s money. A poor investment in the future.”
“Well, I don’t know,” the Soupster. “That kid is now making a fortune designing fantasy-based video games in Seattle. And she just bought her parents a new boat!”
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