Thursday, Jan. 21st at 6pm @ Assembly Chambers – there will be a Special Assembly Meeting. Selected agenda items are listed below. The Complete Agenda & ...
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The Sitka Community Land Trust will hold its Annual Meeting Saturday, January 30th, 1-4pm, on a Zoom call. The public is encouraged to attend. The SCLT is a ...
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DISPATCH & RECORDS CLERK - SPD looking for individuals to join our Dispatch and Records Clerk team by providing essential services for our citizens. $20.98 ...
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BUILDING ATTENDANT – Harrigan Centennial Hall looking for positive, energetic and self-motivated individuals who enjoy working with the public. Possess great cu...
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Ocean Wave Quilters meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, via Zoom. Monthly meetings - September through June - are open to all, members or not. Those wishing to pay...
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Sealaska Heritage Institute for the first time is offering its cultural orientation program to elementary & secondary school teachers, support staff & a...
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SHI Virtual Lecture Series: Exploring the origins and earliest presence of Indigenous people in Southeast Alaska to be presented in January & February, 202...
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Did you know that Sitka Monthly Grind has a YouTube channel? You can watch our past & future videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5-mkTv6g581-...
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Saturday, January 16th at 3:00pm - New Exhibition: "Tradition, Innovation" The Friends of Sheldon Jackson Museum will host an opening reception/ artist talk fo...
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Did you have a productive garden or catch a lot of fish this year? Did you struggle with how to save the food so it doesn’t go bad? The University of Alaska Fai...
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Sealaska Heritage and UAS are offering the following online courses in Spring 2021: Indigenous Performing Arts 1:30-4:30 pm, Fridays, Jan. 11-May 1 Instructo...
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Wednesday, Feb. 24th - The Sitka Public Library and the Friends of the Library are hosting the Sitka Spelling Bee from 7-8:30pm. We are providing early notice t...
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Saturday, Jan. 23 from 8am-3pm at NSRAA (1308 Sawmill Creek Rd.) - The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) will offer a Mariner's First Aid &...
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Tuesday, Jan. 12th at 6pm @ Assembly Chambers – there will be a Regular Assembly Meeting. Selected agenda items are listed below. The Complete Agenda & s...
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Thursday, January 21st at 7pm via Zoom, the public is invited to hear Sitka photographer Ernest Manewal speak and show slides from his travels in Ethiopia. T...
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The Soupster longs for a merry little Christmas
By Rachel Ramsey
“BAGH!” Liz exclaimed, tossing her hands up. Frazzled, she didn’t notice her friend at the other end of the long, fluorescent-lit aisle of Our Town’s hardware store.
“Liz?” the Soupster turned his head, recognizing her voice. “Friend, is that you!?” he asked in surprise. It was! Though they hadn’t crossed paths in many, many months, they recognized one another’s mask-muffled voices.
“Soupster! Gosh,” she laughed, “How in tarnation are you?” The two friends smiled large beneath their masks, approached nearer, stopping short at 8’ apart (yet feeling as near as ever). They didn’t share a bubble, so they were both giddy at the chance to briefly share an aisle.
Liz’s big eyes brightened, tired though they were. Soupster saw the exhaustion, the strain of months and months of life disrupted.
“Not too shabby, honestly.” he replied, as overhead, the holiday shopping music bellowed out a surreal Kenny-G-meets-Black-Sabbath hybrid version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Feeling Liz’s tender energy and wishing he could give her a hug, the Soupster gently motioned his head upward, “Say, what do you think of this version?” he asked.
“You know, Soupster, this song has always been a holiday favorite of mine, though this one’s a bit much.” she admitted.
“Mine too.” The Soupster agreed. Some-times we ‘hang a shining star upon the highest bough’. Other times we ‘muddle through somehow’ and, occasionally, we do both.” He sighed.
“So true. How many holiday tunes do you know that both acknowledge the melancholy – missing loved ones during the holidays – yet remain hopeful and optimistic?”
The Soupster began to mentally shuffle through the hundreds of holiday tunes residing in his memory.
Liz continued, “Judy Garland’s version is the best – my heart cracks when I hear it. She was the queen muddler. Though Sinatra found the lyric depressing and had it re-written, which is why we can ‘have it both ways’ but we rarely do. Seems artists pick one and stick with it.”
“Let’s see…,” mused the Soupster, “Mel Torme, Bing Crosby, even Bob Dylan sings it both ways – muddling through the first verse and reaching the highest bough on the second.”
“Ella Fitzgerald, too!” Liz added. “Though when she belts it, even the muddling through is somehow upbeat, swinging and hopeful.” The sides of Liz’s eyes were lifted in smile.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was birthed during WWII, dark times to be sure.” The Soupster said.
“It’s really something that after 80 years this song still has the power to move us so,” said Liz.
Glad to feel Liz’s spirits lifting, the Soupster asked, “Worst version?”
“This one!” Liz shot back without hesitation and rolling her eyes with a chuckle.
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Happy Birthday, Maria, says the Soupster.
Originally published November 8, 2001
Hail pelted horizontally against the snug house that a fisherman friend of the Soupster’s had built for his family. Wind howled with gusts of 60 knots.
“Tell me the story about the pumpkins and the tuba, Poppa,” said Gwendolyne, the fisherman’s daughter, right then the snuggest person in the whole house. She was tucked in the bed her fisherman father had fashioned out of aromatic yellow cedar and her quilter mother had covered with colorful blankets.
The fisherman smiled: he had told her the pumpkin and tuba story many, many times, yet Gwendolyne kept asking for it.
“This young girl,” he began, “grew up on the roof of a house in a fancy city of hills and fog. And when the fog blew away, she could see many stars from the roof.”
As he told the story, the fisherman thought about being on the deck of his father’s boat as a youngster, watching those same stars over calm Northern waters. Him on deck, his father snoring below. “This girl went to a special school,” continued the fisherman, “where they taught you only two things. One was how to make food and share it with other children. The second was how to play a musical instrument.
“This particular girl loved to cut carrots. Although she was small, the teacher let her use an enormous knife. She made Julienne carrots, carrot salad and baked carrots stuffed with avocado and walnuts. Her classmates loved her.”
“Why did she play the tuba?” asked Gwendolyne, jumping ahead in the story.
“This particular girl thought the tuba was lonely because nobody else had picked it,” the fisherman said. “And she was also spirited and wanted to show how she could blow a big instrument even though she was small.”
“The same as she could use a big knife!”
“That’s right,” said the fisherman. “Every year, the whole class would get on a bus and travel to the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween and to make pies and roast the seeds.
“This particular girl loved going to the pumpkin patch. Even more than cutting carrots. The huge, round, shiny pumpkins with their dramatic green vines were new and exciting.
“Then, the girl went to a bigger school, where she learned to play the tuba better than anyone. And after years and years at the school, they let her teach other children how to cut things and how to share them.”
“And how to play musical instruments,” Gwendolyne reminded him dreamily.
“One day, when she was much older, this particular girl found a job as a teacher. What she didn’t know was that the job was in the very town with the pumpkin patch. Her very first day on the job, they had her take her tuba and play for the great-great-great grandchild of a pumpkin she’d met years before.”
Gwendolyne was asleep.
“After the fish is and iced in the hold,” the fisherman’s father had told him while they lolled on deck, under the starlight, “there’s always time to take a minute out of the rush. To think about who you are and what you’re doing. And who and what you love.”
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The Soupster thinks he has enlightened an unconscious friend
Originally published November 22, 2000
“I’m giving thanks for my brand new sportscar,” said the Soupster’s old friend Jake over the phone. “I bought it with the bundle I made investing in cell phones. It looks cool and gets me where I’m going in comfort. And it’s a babe-magnet!” he finished unrepentantly.
Sighed the Soupster, “You’re the same chauvinistic, materialistic scoundrel I knew decades ago. You know nothing about giving thanks.”
“I know a lot about cell phones,” said Jake.
“Thanks shouldn’t be for cell phones and fancy cars, it should be for the warm basics of life. Home and family and friends and good food. Here you are entering geezerhood and you haven’t grasped that simple fact.”
“Did I say I hit 120 miles per hour in the desert one day?”
The Soupster took a deep breath and re-phrased the exasperated question in his head before saying it aloud. “Where do you live?” he finally got out.
“In an apartment complex with a pool and a sauna and an exercise room and…” Jake began.
“Wait,” said the Soupster. “Forget all the extras. Just concentrate on your apartment. Your place. Now, concentrate on the bed and you sleeping snugly while a howling gale roars outside.”
“I love that feeling,” Jake admitted.
“The sports car doesn’t give you that kind of feeling, right?”
“A different kind of feeling,” Jake agreed.
“The pool and the exercise room and all that stuff are like one of those blue novelty lights,” said the Soupster. “They don’t really give off warmth.
That cozy bed feeling you’re remembering is timeless and placeless. You could be back home and be a kid again. You think only about the slightly colder pocket of air surrounding your feet at the end of the blanket. And you wonder whether you should poke them out into the even colder room air or scrunch them together into a heat-producing ball.”
“Scrunch them together,” said Jake. “What I actually like,” he confessed, “is when you scrunch the arch and heel parts of your feet together, but you also try and get the cool blanket to fold in between as many toes as you can.”
“But, what I really, really like,” he continued, “is when you’re in bed, under the blanket that’s folded between as many toes as you can, and you remember — you remember — that’s there’s something you wanted to do. Not like you left a candle burning or something having to do with safety. Like you left the cookies open in the living room and the dog will probably get into it overnight and throw up and you’ll have to clean that up in the morning. But you don’t care because it’s so warm under the blanket and you’ve got at least six toes folded into the cool parts.”
“A much better Thanksgiving thought than your ego-pumping car, right?” asked the Soupster, temporarily triumphant.
“Right-o, buddy,” said Jake. “As a babe magnet, this warm blanket-candle-toe stuff slams that ole car right out of the ballpark! Thanks!”
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(Ahead of his time) the Soupster hunkers down.
Originally published November 7, 2013
The Soupster was not damp, but everything outside the walls of his house couldn’t have been soggier. In Our Town “Fall” might better be called “Thrown At” because the rain and/or hail of the season seems propelled downward by a force greater than mere gravity.
The Soupster was feeling bored and lonely, so he was happy when Carla called from Minnesota. “Bored and a little lonely, but dry,” the Soupster said when Carla asked how he was.
Carla chattered on about her kids Josh and Rebecca and husband Josh, and her going back to college online. Then, she said “Oops, I’m getting Call Waiting, must be Becca, I’m supposed to pick her up. Can you hold?”
The Soupster did. Switching to speaker phone, he wandered toward his back porch, where the part covered by a fiberglass roof played wonderful rhythms as it hailed. The sound rose and fell like the aural equivalent of those birds whose flocks turn on a dime: sheets of sound, rippling and turning.
Carla came back on, “Sorry, Soupster,” she said. “That was Becca, who needs another half hour before I get her. So you’re lonely and a little bored?”
“Actually, bored and a little lonely,” said the Soupster. “This is a rough time of the year, weather-wise.”
“Tell me about it,” said Carla. “I’m an Our Town girl. Remember, you just have to make it to Thanksgiving. Then the holiday lights go up and you start talking to friends. And then it’s New Years and you notice the light coming back a little more.”
“Oh, I hate to do this,” Carla blurted, “But I’m getting another call. Will you hold again?”
The Soupster did. The hail slacked off. A shaft of sunlight pierced the gray sky, came through the window, and fell upon a bookshelf, where there lived a ceramic planter in the shape of a fish with enormous crimson lips. Carla had given the Soupster the fish two decades earlier, after he helped her move. This was before kids and even before husband Josh.
Next to the fish was a half-scale raven carved out of wood. Steve Jessup had given the Soupster the raven after the Soupster took Steve’s parents out on his boat. Next to that, an entire dog family stretched out on their papier-mâché couch – a gift from somebody. Above the dogs nestled signed copies of all the books by Our Town’s writers over the years.
The Soupster touched the arms of his sweater – knitted by Giselle for his birthday. In the pantry were jars of sockeye and jams, all canned by various friends. If he wanted, he could gaze around his living room at the paintings and sculptures created by friends. Or he could pop in a CD cut by one of Our Town’s bands.
Carla came back on the line. “I can see why you feel lonely,” she said. “I keep abandoning you.”
“You know, I don’t feel lonely,” said a satisfied Soupster, taking in his surroundings. “Not anymore.”
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