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The Soupster riffs with a jazzy friend.
Guest Written by Rachel Ramsey
The Soupster was perusing his favorite thrift shop’s assortment of kitchenware when he heard his name from across the shop.
“Soupster! I’ve been thinking of you all week!” He recognized the joyful voice of his pal and fellow jazz fan, Liz, who approached him excitedly through the crowd.
“Oh yeah? What kind of trouble are you cookin’ up, dear?”
“Ain’t Misbehavin’, Soupster.” Liz replied. “Have you seen the recently discovered short video clip of Louis Armstrong as a young teenager?” Liz knew the Soupster liked his jazz early and hot. Nothing later than 1929 was his jazz preference.
“I did catch that! A New Orleans newspaper boy flashes his grin, and experts have agreed it is likely Armstrong. 104 year-old video – very cool, indeed.”
“Well I’ve been on a solid Armstrong kick since seeing that clip, buddy, and ever since I feel I’ve got the world on a string!”
Liz’s laugh was as infectious as her joyous and kind, ear-to-ear smile – freely shared with all she encountered. Not unlike Satchmo himself, the Soupster thought. Determined to replace his shabby compost bucket, he continued to eye the goods.
“Frankly, Soupster, I cannot stop referencing Armstrong song titles, and it’s driving my kids a bit batty. But I’m entertained, and honestly, I can’t help lovin’ dat man!” Their combined robust laughter filled the shop, turning only a few tourists’ heads.
“Good for you, Liz,” the Soupster chuckled. “Since his career spanned 50 years, that should keep you going strong for quite a while, though if you’re not careful, Someday you’ll be sorry. Before you know it, your hubby will be bombarding you with all the Zappa lyrics you’re oblivious to.”
Grateful that her fellow jazz lover grokked her silly joy, Liz giggled, “We’ve a fine romance, Soupster and It takes two to tango!”
“Aha! There it is!” The Soupster triumphantly exclaimed while pulling from the top shelf a 3-gallon bucket. “Have any shows on the horizon, Liz?” he asked. Liz was a volunteer at their community radio station.
“Sure do – I’m on tomorrow afternoon. Though I did miss my last slot,” Liz explained, “I caught a bug.”
“Gut Bucket Blues?” joked the Soupster.
Liz laughed, “Not quite. Speaking of buckets,” she pointed to the Soupster’s score, “What gives?”
“Well, it’s too good to be true, but I need this because my old Bucket’s got a hole in it. No lie.”
Liz couldn’t help herself, “What can you say – You’re just a lucky so and so.”
The Soupster paid for his bucket and began to mosey out of the crowded shop. He spotted the clouds above parting in the north, allowing sunbeams to permeate through the thinning overhead.
He turned around and called out, “I’m beginning to see the light, Liz! It’s on the sunny side of the street!”
Liz’s enormous smile returned as she laughingly shot back, “What a wonderful world!”
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The Soupster shares his learning about eagle feathers.
Originally Published July 24, 2003
The first time the Soupster passed his neighbor Gem, she was standing behind her push mower in the middle of her small lawn. The Soupster waved and Gem cocked an eyebrow and shook her head.
The second time the Soupster passed, Gem was standing in exactly the same spot, with exactly the same quizzical look on her face.
“Gem?” asked the Soupster, strolling over. “You okay?”
“Soupster!” said Gem, as if snapping from a trance. “Look here,” she said, pointing down.
The Soupster did as asked and spied first Gem’s boots, then the head of the push mower and finally – obviously the object of Gem’s attention — two bald eagle feathers, one white and one brown, lying in the grass.
“I can’t mow over them, Soupster, they’re so beautiful,” Gem said. “But if I pick them up I’ll be guilty of a federal crime!”
“Calm down, Gem,” said the Soupster.
“But Soupster, nobody is allowed to possess bald eagle feathers!”
“You’re right, Gem,” the Soupster said. “There are laws against possessing any of the parts, including feathers, of bald and golden eagles. Live or dead. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever touch the feathers.”
The Soupster bent over and picked the feathers up. The white one was fine and delicate, with a bit of down at its base, fluffy and ready to fly away on the merest breeze. The brown feather was more substantial, its firm stalk suggesting the heft of a writing quill.
“Native Americans and scientists are allowed to petition for eagle feathers – or other parts,” said the Soupster. “For ceremonial or scientific reasons. There’s a place in Colorado – the National Eagle Repository – and another one called The National Wildlife Repository, that are run by the federal government. They will hold onto any animal parts people are not legally allowed to possess – from skins from bears unlawfully hunted to lizard skins not allowed in the U.S. and seized by Customs.”
“Wow,” said Gem.
“My friend at Fish and Wildlife says there’s a six-month waiting list of thousands of Native Americans who have applied for eagle feathers,” the Soupster continued. “For other parts, the wait can easily be a couple of years. Maybe these feathers could go to someone on the list.”
Gem stepped away from the mower. She took the feathers from the Soupster’s hand and studied them. “It’s amazing to think,” she said, “the something people all over the country might wait months or years for is fluttering onto my lawn.”
“Americans who come upon eagle feathers are asked to mail them to the repository,” the Soupster explained. “My friend says that in Our Town, we should just turn them over to our state Fish and Game folks and they’ll see they get to the right place.”
“Thanks, Soupster. I can go back to mowing now,” Gem said. “Anything I can do for you?”
“Well, Gem,” the Soupster said. “After you finish your lawn, how about you come over and finish mine?”
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The Soupster has a “bird” sighting.
Originally published May 6, 2010
The Soupster awoke to the sound of birds – early birds. He heard a number of cars pull into the neighborhood. The engines stopped and car doors creaked open. Next came excited squawks and warbling calls, as the early birds recognized each other and descended on their destination.
“Lydia’s Moving Sale!” The Soupster’s eyes popped open and he leaped from his bed.
His beloved long-time neighbor was re-locating to Hawaii to be with her son Hank and his family, who had already remodeled their lanai into an apartment. A couple of years earlier, Lydia’s daughter-in-law Jackie had come into an inheritance, so Hank had closed his not-so-successful Our Town nautical pest extermination business (“Swimming Rats Our Specialty”). Having misjudged their opportunities in the 49th State, Hank and Jackie had decided to give the 50th a whirl.
The Soupster quickly donned his clothes – grateful for the new 21st Century rule that men no longer needed to comb their hair – and hurried over to Lydia’s.
His neighbor’s modest home was overrun with early birds. But of course! For Lydia had had the temerity to put an ad in the previous evening’s newspaper: “Aloha Moving Sale! Everything must go! Items free or you set the price. 9am-1pm. No early birds.”
Nothing inflamed an early bird’s lust for cheap but serviceable household items like those last three words. “No early birds?” he thought. “Really, Lydia?” He looked at his watch. It was just past 8:30.
At the front door, Lydia was negotiating with one of the early birds, who held a DVD player and a lamp. The early bird held cash, but Lydia pushed his hand back. “It’s okay to take them for free,” she insisted.
“I’m sure you could use the money,” said the bird, placing a $50 bill in her hand and hurrying out the door.
“It’s been like this,” said Lydia, acknowledging the Soupster. “I tell them they can have the stuff for free. I must look pitiful or something, because they keep forcing me to take money.”
“Why don’t you want to take money?”
“I feel like I should pay them,” said Lydia. “To take this stuff away. You know how much you accumulate in 30 years? I was going to take everything to the White Elephant, but do you know how many trips that would have made? This way the buyers come right to me. Cuts out the middleman.”
Lydia turned her attention to a bird holding a sewing basket, a coffee maker and two tin buckets. More early birds arrived as the Soupster surveyed the scene. Lydia’s household was being demolished peck by peck, as surely as ravens worrying a dead salmon.
But Lydia seemed happy, the Soupster surmised. “Hey Lydia, what are you going to spend all this unexpected money on?” he asked.
“Oh, it all goes to the White E.,” said Lydia. “Do you know how much trouble this is saving me? By cutting out the middleman??”
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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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