Vessels LeConte & Aurora both Offline - LeConte (requires) more extensive repairs than originally anticipated. AMHS (has brought) Aurora into drydock in...
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Sunday, November 17, beginning at 5pm @ Centennial Hall - The SCS Wild Foods Potluck! Sitka Conservation Society will host our annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sund...
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Waterfront Double Lot for Sale - Location: Pelican mid-town. $140,000 or Best Offer … Must Sell. Call 907-735-2291 Ken Wolff or Royce Mattson Block 15, Lot 3 (7...
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New Taxi & Tour company in Sitka. If you need a taxi for a short ride; multiple errands run; or you want me to do an errand for you, give me a call. Credit ...
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1) Medicare Open Enrollment starts Oct. 15 - go here for info: www.medicare.gov/plan-compare/ 2) Alaska Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment is Nov. ...
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The Soupster contributes to French Enlightenment.
Originally published June 26, 2003
Before the strolling Soupster even reached the bend in the road, he heard three things: the treble- triples and quads of bald eagles, the more purposeful caws of ravens and the baritone of his neighbor, Jean-Pierre, spouting loud, angry French.
After retiring from a large bicycle manufacturer in Paris, Jean-Pierre had built a sailboat and headed out to sea. Six years later, with a wife he’d met in Phnom Penh and a son born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Jean-Pierre came ashore in Our Town and declared it “Ze Heaven On Zis Earth!” The son was married himself now and living Outside. The wife had moved back to Cambodia to be with her family. But to Jean-Pierre, Our Town was still “Heaven on Zis Earth.”
Well, maybe not today.
Today, Jean-Pierre was in a furious competition with some ravens to return the contents of his trash can to their rightful place before the black birds pulled the items out again. As to who was winning, it was a toss-up.
In the hemlocks surrounding Jean-Pierre’s trash-strewn driveway, bald eagles watched the action from a dignified distance. Not so the ravens, one of which swooped low enough to knock Jean-Pierre’s cap off. Then the bird glided smoothly to the rim of the can, cackled happily and grabbed a piece of melon peel.
“Yo, Jean-Pierre,” the Soupster called. “You can’t win a battle against those odds. Let me help you.”
The Soupster tipped the scales some in Jean-Pierre’s favor. The ravens may have given the Soupster slack because he truly loved ravens. Or because he was not French. Whatever, they flew back up into the hemlocks and started harassing the eagles.
“What got this stuff all over, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster asked.
“I zink it was ze bear, mon Zoupster,” said Jean-Pierre. “It may have been ze land otter, but I don’t zink zo. I zink it was ze bear.”
“Did you keep your trash in your garage until pick-up day like you were supposed to?” asked the Soupster.
“Oui! Yes!” said Jean-Pierre. “Always!”
“Did you put any fish or meat in the can that might have smelled strong and attracted the bear?”
“Sacre bleu!” Jean-Pierre said. “My freezer needed repair. I thought for just a little while it would be all right. You are right, Zoupster. It was ze smelly fish zat attracted ze bear!”
“Not such a “heaven on zis Earth” if you have to watch your garbage so closely, eh, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster teased.
“Au contraire, Zoupster!” Jean-Pierre said. “Zis is nature. In nature, zere is always zometing to capitalize on a mistake zat any creature makes. Nature, she is very efficient, no?”
“Yes,” the Soupster said.
“And, Zoupster,” Jean-Pierre concluded, as the two men hoisted upright the now-filled can. “We are zo lucky to live right with nature. With nature right on our doorstep. In our driveway. C’est magnifique, no?”
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The Soupster chats with an heir to Jane Goodall.
Originally published May 24, 2001
The Soupster stretched out his legs in the molded airport seat, prepared to meditate, nibble on TicTacs and wait for the plane to land. But a visitor appeared beside him, a white-haired fellow who carried a Nat Geo with chimps on the cover.
“Is it Dunkirk? I wondered,” said the fellow, interrupting the Soupster’s reverie.
“I beg your pardon?” said the Soupster.
“I was taking my early morning constitutional, and I saw the most curious thing – throngs of boats heading under the bridge. I’ve never seen so many boats heading out at one time!”
“It’s the Salmon Derby,” said the Soupster.
“A pinkish hat?” said the anthropologist incredulously.
“No, no,” said the Soupster. “It’s a big fishing contest that’s held every year. Everybody from the luckiest fisherman to the most accursed, tries his or her luck to catch the biggest king salmon and net the biggest prize, which has been beaucoup cash. Plus, bragging rights.”
“Ah, yes,” said the anthropologist. “A spring fertility festival. The ritual rewarding of the most successful harvester to ensure everyone’s enthusiasm for the long season ahead. I once worked with a group of people whose `prize’ was given for digging up the largest tapioca root.”
“Who are you calling a tapioca root?” said a voice from the wall above the anthropologist, who turned in the direction of the sound.
The voice belonged to a 70+ lb. king salmon mounted on a plaque. His pointed face jutted out and lips moved like any number of audio-animatronic singing fish. The anthropologist, therefore, did not realize he was in the presence of an authentic airport poltergeist.
The Soupster, however, backed up a few steps and watched passively.
“Interactive,” said the anthropologist, indicating the fish. “Very clever.”
“I’m very attractive,” said the salmon, peering down on the anthropologist’s spreading Male Pattern Baldness. “Which is more than I can say for vous.”
“You speak French?” said the anthropologist.
“I speak salmon,” said the king salmon. “You call it what you want.”
“You seem confident, firm in your role,” the anthropologist told the king salmon. “Rooted.”
“Well, I’m mounted to this plaque,” the wisenheimer king salmon said. “But I wasn’t always.
“Once, I roamed the North Pacific with packs of my friends, thousands of miles past undersea wonders too numerous to utter. I’ve seen orcas cresting at sunset in Prince William Sound, great pods of stellar sea lions off Point Hope. I swam strong and free for seven long years,” and here the fish chuckled, “until I met up with a crafty denizen of the surface. A sly fisherman and former school principal who knew just how to lure a seven-year old. We won the Salmon Derby together that year back in the last century. Well, the money is spent, I’m mounted up here and it’s all a stale old fish story now.”
“Any regrets?” asked the anthropologist.
“Well, if I hadn’t been caught, I’d’ve had kids,” said the salmon. “You know us salmon. We like to have 100 million of them each!”
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The Soupster chats with one busy mom.
Originally published May 1, 2003
Connie’s three children scattered to the ice cream section of the store. Lugging an overflowing supermarket basket in the crook of her arm, she stopped at a display of high-priced garlic-stuffed Aegean olives where there happened to stand a Soupster.
“Happy Mother’s Day,” he said, glancing toward the big freezers. “Your kids look happy.”
“They sure seem to be,” Connie nodded. “Strange, since I had them at work all morning painting the garden fence and all the porch railings.”
“Quite the day for it,” said the Soupster, this time doing the nodding.
And indeed, the Soupster’s pupils were just able to dilate again after a day of squinting at the nearly prehistoric sunshine of the morning. In Our Town, the infrequent Sun seems on rare days to have the quality of the Sun of an earlier Earth, before a protective atmospheric ozone layer had even formed. A sharp, almost painful amount of light, without the softening rain and clouds that usually roll their blanket over all.
“There’s such pressure to do things when the sun does come out,” he told Connie. “I mean you never know how long before you’re going to have the chance again.”
“Today was incredibly busy,” Connie said. “Woke up early. Saw the big yellow orb. Woke the kids. Fed them. Put them to work. Painting, painting, painting.”
“What was the rush?” asked the Soupster.
“Piano recital,” said Connie. “So – painted, painted, painted all morning. Then washed, washed, washed all three kids free of paint. Fed them again. Dressed them for the recital. Drove them to the recital. Soothed their stage fright. Listened attentively. Gave them a little critical, but 90 percent supportive feedback after they played.”
“Now you’re getting stuff to make dinner?”
“The ingredients,” Connie said. “The kids tell me `they’re’ going to cook me an `extra special’ Mother’s Day meal.”
“Which will end up twice as much work for you?” said the Soupster.
“You’re learning,” Connie laughed and punched the Soupster lightly on the bicep. He felt an overwhelming fondness for this hard-working Mom.
“Your kids don’t know your real Mother’s Day present was the piano recital?” said the Soupster as he bid his friend goodbye.
“Are you kidding, Soupster?” Connie said, pushing him away. “My Mother’s Day present was getting the fence painted!”
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The Soupster hears about the “Mad Captain”.
Originally published April 21, 2005
The Soupster mistook for a friend the stranger to Our Town he saw occupying a bench above the harbor.
“You look just like him,” the Soupster apologized, when he got closer. “This guy you look like has lived in Our Town forever.”
“I’m Richard Labb,” said the stranger, shaking the Soupster’s hand. “Visiting, er, Your Town, from Canada on a tour of the Inside Passage. Except Your Town is not very Inside anything, is it?”
“Sounds like you just took a boat trip,” guessed the Soupster.
“A fishing charter,” said Labb. “Before today I thought I had pretty good sealegs. But twice on the charter I made a personal contribution – over the side – to Davy Jones.”
“Rough charter?” the Soupster said.
Labb laughed, a touch maniacally. “You don’t know Captain Leonardo?”
“I don’t” said the Soupster.
“He has strange rituals that he insists his customers perform on board,” Labb said.
“After we left the harbor and were heading out – as soon as we got by those big rocks near the airport runway – Captain Leonardo insisted that I and the three other clients on board remove our socks and allow him to lock the socks up in a little box he kept by the helm,” Labb said.
“Any explanation?” asked the Soupster.
“Said it would help us catch fish,” said Labb. “Leonardo also said that when he served sandwiches for lunch.”
“Sandwiches seem pretty normal,” commented the Soupster.
“He made us eat the sandwiches from the outside in, crusts first,” said Labb. “All the way around the outside of the sandwich until we had a little soft disk of the center left. Captain Leonardo watched us closely as we ate and made sure we all did it. `Important to catch the fish!’ Leonardo insisted.”
“A lot of people have odd rituals they use to attract fish, but Captain Leonardo does seem a bit like Captain Crunch,” admitted the Soupster.
“But the worst, the absolute worst, was Captain Leonardo’s constant rhyming and word games,” Labb said. “He did not shut up for one single second. When Captain Leonardo found out I was from Canada, he started calling me `Labrador Labb.’ When he found out I was a veterinarian, he asked me if I had ever tested the blood of a retriever. When I said I had, he went berserk.
“`Labb from Labrador’s Labrador retriever blood testing laboratory,’ chanted Captain Leonardo. `Labb’s Lab Lab Labs.’ After about half an hour, he made started making us all repeat, `Labb’s Lab Lab Labs.’ He had similar sayings for everyone else, too.”
“Well, you’re back on dry land now,” the Soupster said soothingly. “And you never have to take one of Captain Leonardo’s charters ever again.”
“Actually, I’ve booked a trip with him later in the summer to troll for coho,” said Labb.
“Why? Leonardo drove you crazy,” said the Soupster.
“I know,” said Labb. “But you should see all the fish we caught!
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