Join us for an evening steeped in the rich colors, flavors, and sounds of Morocco and nearby lands when we bring Marrakech to Main St. at the 2019 Annual Chambe...
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AMHS Summer 2019 Schedule is Open for Booking – The Alaska Marine Highway System released its 2019 summer schedule. Reservations are available for booking at Fe...
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Registration for Summer Camp 2019 NOW OPEN. MULTIDISCIPLINARY CAMP DATES Elementary Camp, June 10-14 – for students entering 1st through 6th grade for the...
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The Soupster Lives!
Guest Written by Rose Manning (with input from Mike Helmrich)
“How ya doin’?” said Max-the-Dog to his human friend Irish Lil, as they stood chatting by the post office.
“Well, Max,” said Lil, “I’m getting back to Our Town after being in ‘America’ for eight weeks. Seven weeks in Michigan and one in California. Both were 100 degrees in the shade, with a daunting amount of mugginess. I tell you, when I walked off that plane into the grand, fine mist of Our Town I even considered kissing the damp ground. But, even with all that joy, when I heard about the writer dying it made me want to cry. That’ll teach me to go roamin’!”
“I hardly knew him, Max. I only met him twice in person. How could it have hit me so hard? The writer was kind. He was witty and nice. You know, I’m a bit of a writer, too,” said Lil.
“That so, Lil?”
“The writer laughed at my writing and even published some of it. That really tickled me.”
“I know what you mean,” said Max. “I liked him, too. And my wife, Kitty, really liked his writing. One time, he wrote a story about the two of us, when we met the Soupster – I was sitting in my truck, waiting for Kitty to come out of the sandwich shop.”
“Well,” said Lil, “I remember the first time I met both the writer and the Soupster. It was in the grocery store parking lot. There I was, in the front seat of a kindly Our Townsperson who’d agreed to give me, carless newbie, a ride. While I was waiting, I pulled a Soup from between the seats and read ‘Our Town.’ First, he made me smile, then chuckle and, finally, laugh right out loud. And I thought, ‘Yep, this town is going to be just fine for me, with people like you in it.’
Max replied, “You know, the writer had respect for everyone – he met them right where they were. He saw no problem with me and my wife, even though we are different breeds. Dogs, cats. Even telemarketers. And his sense of humor – quirky, for sure, but with lots of underlying truth. My wife Kitty loved the one about, ‘Cats have staff.’ That’s true – I’m her staff. She also loves the mystical stuff, like the time he talked about the ‘Wise Old Man’ – cats do like the mystical.
“What about the Soupster, Max? Did he pass away, too?”
“The Soupster? Oh, no! Soupster’s still around. Why, I saw him the other day, talking to Sam Grace out in front of our-doctor-the-vet’s office. That’s what I mean – the writer understood everyone. Soupster is a cat man through-and-through, and Sam – well, he’s definitely a dog man. And there they were, jabberin’ away like old friends.”
Lil agreed. “The writer gave me perspective, made me see Our Town in a new light and raised my spirits, too. I still imagine him slipping around corners, taking mental notes of humorous human habits, just to entertain, and maybe now, I guess, cause the occasional angel to raise the occasional eyebrow.”
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By hook or by crook, the Soupster makes it to the ballot box.
Originally published Sept. 23, 2010
“There it is!” the Soupster cried when he saw the watch he had lost last Christmas, fallen between the washing machine and the dryer. He should have thought of looking between the appliances – from there he had at other times retrieved single socks, misplaced mail and some multi-legged critters with segmented exoskeletons.
The watch was a nerd delight with a big time face and a tiny calculator. He loved it: the Soupster was great at addition, but anything more complex gave him a headache. He glanced at the watch as one of the digital numbers changed. It still worked!
A knock at the door and the Soupster opened it, to find Keith Undermeyer standing outside astride his new hybrid on-road/off-road bicycle, with a meaty plank mounted on the rear bumper as a cargo carrier. He had one bike helmet on his head and another cradled in his arm. The Soupster fastened the watch to his wrist.
“You gonna vote, Soupster?” Keith asked.
“Of course,” the Soupster said.
“Got a bike?”
“Well, I was probably just going to dri….” The Soupster started.
“Well, you are probably going to ride your bike there now,” said Keith, cutting him off and tossing him the helmet. “Go get your cycle.”
The Soupster retrieved his ancient Schwinn 5-speed and met Keith out by the road, already starting off. The Soupster tried to catch up with his nimble friend, but no matter how hard he pedaled, the distance between the two men grew larger.
Something was wrong. Even the Soupster was faster than the top speed he now attained. He stopped and examined his bike. His rear tire was nearly flat! No wonder!
A speck in the distance now, Keith turned around. The speck got bigger. The Soupster looked at his recovered watch to see that it was a few minutes to 8 – WHEN THE POLLS CLOSED!
Keith pulled up.
“I have a flat, you’ll have to take me on your bike,” said the Soupster.
“What’s your hurry?” said Keith, but the Soupster just jumped up onto the meaty cargo plank. “Let’s go!” he said.
Keith shook his head, but dutifully pulled off. With the greater weight he was slower, but still fast. The Soupster mentally egged him on. The polls were going to close! They would miss out on voting!
At the polling station, the Soupster jumped off the back of the bike and was opening the doors even before Keith stopped moving. He stepped inside, breathless.
“Made it!” the Soupster said triumphantly.
“Actually, there’s still an hour,” said the woman checking IDs and taking signatures.
“But the time…” said the Soupster, showing her his watch.
“Your watch is wrong,” said the nice lady. “When’s the last time you checked it?”
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Stylish gal has the Soupster seeing triple.
Originally published August 12, 2010
As the Soupster walked past the base of the O’Connell Bridge, he heard the low rumble of a cruise ship’s small boat, lightering passengers ashore. The first off the boat – a tall, raven-haired young woman — was so striking the Soupster couldn’t help but notice her. Her attire was as striking as her looks – thin black leggings and pink, shaggy Ugg boots. Although the sun was shining, she also wore a light blue rain jacket emblazoned with the cruise ship’s logo.
The Soupster hurried around Castle Hill and up Lincoln St., already late for a lunch date at the home of his good friend Oscar. Oscar had scored some wonderful ivory king and had recently invested in a spendy gas barbecue. The Soupster, whose B-B-Q efforts always ended in crumbly salmon tasting of starter fluid, savored the thought of dining with an expert grillsman.
The Soupster was supposed to meet Oscar near the Filipino food take-out stand, Adobo Abode. (ed. note: Try the refrain of the song “Winchester Cathedral”) But as the Soupster neared the Abode, he was struck dumb. Standing by the stand, halfway through eating a plate of pancit and lumpia, stood the same woman he had seen moments ago, just arriving on shore. Same long hair, same pink boots, same cruise ship raincoat.
“Soupster!” It was Oscar, across the street, calling from the window of his truck. “I forgot to get any lemons,” he continued at high volume, including all the people on the street in his conversation.
The Soupster hurried across Lincoln and got into Oscar’s pickup. “See that woman across the streets? The one with the dark hair and the blue raincoat?”
“Well, the tourists are sure getting better-looking,” said Oscar appreciatively. “But what’s with the boots? You think she’s a Sherpa?”
“I think she’s in style,” said the Soupster.
Oscar pulled away from the curb and worked his way down the crowded street, stopping several times to let tourists cross or to finish taking a photo. He turned onto the main road.
As the Soupster pondered how the woman on the boat got to the Adobo Abode faster than he did, Oscar turned into the grocery store parking lot. “Surely she couldn’t have gotten there fast enough for her to order, pick up and finish half of one of the Abode’s heaping plates?” the Soupster thought.
He followed Oscar toward the store, only to be struck dumb again. The same woman – raven tresses, Ugg boots — emerged from the entrance, carrying a full bag of groceries in her arms.
“What the…” said the Soupster, and then — determined to solve this mystery – he approached the young woman.
“Eh, Miss,” he said, “I’ve seen you three times in the last 15 minutes.”
The woman laughed. A cab pulled up next to them. In the back seat sat two identical versions her, one with her hair still tousled from the wind on the boat, the other with a small piece of pancit stuck to her chin. The woman laughed again, this time right at the Soupster. She got in the cab.
Oscar caught up with the Soupster. “Triplets,” he marveled, as the cab pulled away.
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The Soupster hears a runner’s monologue.
Guest Written by Lois Verbaan
“Another thing I love doing in Our Town,” Jo mused, “is the Alpine Adventure Run.”
The Soupster raised his eyebrows and looked through the steam rising from his mug. “Good for you!” he exclaimed. “An 8-mile run over the mountains isn’t a walk in the park. The extent of my racing involves getting coffee before noon,” he laughed. “How was the run?”
“Super fun! Lots of exercise, amazing scenery, and a two-hour, one-way conversation with no one to interrupt or disagree,” Jo replied.
“Talking to yourself for 2 hours?” the Soupster asked.
“Well, technically, thinking to myself” Jo said. “Picture this: You arrive at the beginning of the race and find yourself surrounded by the fittest people in Our Town, suddenly wishing you’d overslept. Before you know it, the starting gun is fired, and your thoughts are racing faster than your feet…
…Oh no! Why does it always feel like a full sprint at first? Okay, pace yourself. Look at all these people beside the road cheering us on. I wonder if I know anyone? Yep! Better pick up the pace so they won’t suspect I’m actually dying — right here in front of the grocery store.
…Okay, here we go. Start of the trail. You’ve got this. Tree root, mud, slippery planks – repeat! A runner slowing ahead. ‘Passing on the left! Cool tattoo!’ Hmmm, someone is not a happy camper. Time for positive self-talk: ‘I feel steady and grounded. I run with confidence. I am Zen.’
…I hate stairs. I hate stairs.
…Phew! The ridge at last. This sweat dripping in my eyes stings. Goodbye sunscreen. Another runner. Should I make noise, or be stealthy? ‘Whoo-hoo! Whoo-hoo! Keep your eyes peeled in case of bear!’ Yep, that got his attention! I should have had that second pancake for breakfast.
…Oh WOW! Sun illuminating bright green foliage and flowers all around me: Fireweed, lupine, dogwood. And look! OH. MY. GOSH. I am in heaven. I love these clouds filling the valleys, and the snow-capped peaks poking through.
…Eyes on the trail! Concentrate. Is anyone catching me? No, don’t look back. Enjoy the journey. Be grateful. Run to your own rhythm.
… Yes! Heading down. Lean forward and use gravity. Tray tables upright and locked. Good work, knees! Thank you, ibuprofen! On the road, let’s sprint to the finish just around this curve. Whoops! Just around the next curve. Nope. Next curve, for sure. WHERE ON EARTH IS THE FINISH LINE??
…I hear cheering. What a crowd! Some speed now would be nice. Hello, legs? Are you two listening?
So that’s how it went for two hours and one minute, Soupster!” Jo laughed.
“Well, I broke out in a sweat just listening to all that,” the Soupster said. “How are you feeling today?”
“Great, other than a few aches and pains everywhere below the waist – and the voice in my head is a little hoarse,” said Jo with a smile.
“Ah, I see,” the Soupster replied. “Best get a few days’ rest. It’ll do you both a world of good.”
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The Soupster chats with some “guys”.
Originally published June 4, 2009
Guy had worked the order counter at the lumberyard for the past 20 years, after spending an equal amount of time working out in the field. Examples of his handiwork stood all over Our Town. And stand they did – even after decades of salt-encrusted gales, Guy’s decks, fences, sheds and garages stood strong while much newer structures succumbed to rot. Guy knew how to make things shed water and not trap it. And that, as the poet said, makes all the difference.
“Hey guy!” Guy said to the new builder who had come into the store just about every other day for the better part of the last three weeks. Guy greeted everybody with “Hey guy!” — which was his personal joke.
The newcomer chuckled obediently. “Hey, Guy,” he answered. The new contractor had won a federal contract to refurbish some government structures and planned to be in Our Town for a month. With him hailing from sunnier climes, the rain had put a serious damper on his spirit. He was homesick.
“What’ll it be?” asked Guy, already feeling sorry for the newbie. He didn’t know Our Town’s unspoken rule that you had to be here at least 6 months or through a winter before people started taking you seriously.
As the new contractor reeled off his needs, Guy nodded, but didn’t write anything down. He didn’t have to. Guy had a prodigious memory – big enough to store and retrieve detailed knowledge of just about every building that went up. He remembered who did the work, who paid for the work and how the work went. He remembered what materials they’d used. He automatically remembered all of what his customer had just asked for.
Then Larry the shipwright, showed up to order ironwood and hydraulic hoses and fittings. As the new contractor waited for his order, Guy rang up Larry’s stuff. Larry’s wife, Felicity, lounged in a nearby chair.
After high school, Guy and Larry had fixed up a classic troller and hand-trolled together for two summers. Then they had that close call. Larry was the seadog and went right back out. Guy started making a living fishing for nails. The two friends grew apart. Well, not so far apart that Guy didn’t introduce Larry to Felicity, who was Guy’s cousin through his mother.
Enter the Soupster, who chatted with Larry and Felicity and went through the whole “Hey guy!” routine with Guy. Shirley, Guy’s wife, had taught beginning piano to the Soupster’s niece, who now worked as a concert accompanist. Felicity had recommended the music school at her old college to the Soupster’s niece — where the girl received a nice scholarship — even though Felicity had gone there for nursing. Guy had built the Soupster a shed that was still watertight after 33 wet winters. Larry sold him fish.
Guy’s two-way radio buzzed, signaling that the new contractor’s order was ready.
“Friendly place,” the visiting builder said. “I know how it goes from my hometown. The guy at the lumberyard there knows everybody, too.” Then, he paused and indicated the Soupster, Larry and Felicity, who were still chatting. “That’s got to be unusual, though. The fact that the customers know each other so well. That’s got to be rare.”
Guy considered his loquacious friends. Actually, the scene he surveyed happened nearly every day at the order counter at the lumberyard. Then, Guy remembered Our Town’s “Six Month Rule.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he fibbed. “Rare, indeed.”
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