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The Soupster sees people who bite off and chew.
Originally published April 24, 2014
Sitting with Chavez outside Harrigan Centennial Hall Building, the Soupster could feel his friend’s distress radiate out like static electricity. Chavez shook a Funny Times newspaper at the Soupster with vigor. “How dare they `dis’ Our wonderful Town!” he said. “Look at this!”
Chavez pointed to a particular cartoon in the newspaper. Funny Times is a monthly collection of cartoons and humorous essays from all over the country. Chavez’s finger tapped a four-panel job that “dissed” the federal government for making embarrassing announcements only in places so remote, so forgotten, that no one would ever hear. Places like Minden City, Michigan; Bellows Falls, Vermont; Skaneateles, New York; and Sitka, Alaska.
Sitka, Alaska?? A place so forgotten, so remote that the federal government could make a major announcement and no one would ever hear? Our Town? Chavez didn’t think so!
Nor did the Soupster. “That’s troubling,” the Soupster said. “Because Our Town is about as famous as you can get for its size.”
“James Michener announced that he was going to write his novel `Alaska’ right here,” said Chavez.
“Well, how about October 18, 1867?” countered the Soupster. “The whole Castle Hill thing. People have sure heard about that. This is definitely not a place so forgotten and so remote that no one ever hears anything.”.
Chavez tried to agree, but he was drowned out as the main doors on the Centennial Hall Building swung open and about a dozen people poured out. Some held Rib-eyes, some held Sirloin Tip, some held T-bones and one held a Porterhouse.
“Who are they?” asked the Soupster.
“Steakholders,” Chavez said proudly. “These people are discussing the thorniest issues that face Our Town and coming up with creative, collaborative solutions.”
“Symbolic,” Chavez said. “They’re not afraid to get into the meat of issues, right down to the gristle and bone.”
“A little extreme,” opined the Soupster as the Steakholders disbursed, “nonetheless admirable.
“We need these guys,” said Chavez, “You see…”
But Chavez was drowned out as the Hall Building’s doors again parted and a second crew of people exited. This time each of them held a short and pointy wooden stick, the kind you would use to secure a tent to the ground.“
And them?” asked the Soupster, as that crowd moved on.
“A group of different stakeholders,” said Chavez.
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The Soupster copes with unpleasant memories.
Originally published May 8, 2014
“You hate my dog!” Laura overheard through the library stack. “You revile my pooch.”
Laura the Librarian, with an armful of books, turned the corner, “Soupster?” she said “Is that you?”
“Uh, oh,” the Soupster said. “Was I talking out loud?”
“Something about dogs?” said Laura. “Something about hating dogs?”
The Soupster reddened. “I am a confirmed animal lover,” he said guiltily. “I actually like dogs third best, right after cats and Australians.”
“Then why did you say you hated your dog?” said Laura.
“It’s just an expression I use to control my bad thoughts,” the Soupster answered.
“Stay there,” said Laura, as she tipped the books in her arms onto a nearby empty shelf. She smoothed her blouse and gave her shoulders and head a little shake. “Now,” she said to the Soupster, “Tell me what on Earth you are talking about.”
The Soupster looked around to see if anyone else was listening. “Well,” he said, lowering his voice, “When I say, `You hate my dog,’ it really has nothing to do with dogs, or hatred, or even you, for that matter.”
“You know, when a person has a memory of something that didn’t turn out so well?” the Soupster went on. “And when they figure out what they should have done that would have worked out fifty times better? Or when they remember something somebody once said and only now can they think of the perfect thing they should have said back then?
“I don’t have these problems,” said Laura,
“Consider yourself lucky, then,” said the Soupster. “But my mind sometimes gets locked in kind of negative territory. My saying, `You hate my dog’ breaks me loose.”
“Tell me Soupster,” said Laura. “how did you come up with saying you hate your dog… er… my dog? Oh, you know what I mean.”
“Well,” said the Soupster, “It started a long time ago with the old saying, `Love me, love my dog.’ That morphed into `Hate me, hate my dog.’ Finally, just, `You hate my dog.’”
“Fascinating, your noggin,” said Laura.
“Show me the noggin what ain’t,” said the Soupster.
“Well, your noggin, especially, ain’t ain’t,” Laura said.
“You hate my dog!” said the Soupster.
“Wait just a minute,” said Laura. “Didn’t you just finish telling me that all this had nothing to do with me or dogs or hatred or dog hatred or anything?”
“Ooops,” the Soupster said.
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The Soupster listens to a man who really knows what vacation is.
Originally published July 29, 2004
It seemed like slow motion to the Soupster, watching Red bearing right down on him, then the larger man knocked the Soupster to the ground.
“Whoa, sorry there,” Red said. “I’m running on all gears like a headless chicken.”
“Summer is the busy time in Our Town,” the Soupster commiserated. “Why else would Alaskans take their vacations in the winter?”
Red nodded. “I work May through September and take the rest of the year off,” he said.
“You pack a whole year into four months,” said the Soupster. “but you pay for it on days like today.”
“Oh, it’s not the work,” Red sighed. “Work I learned to handle a long time ago. Up at 4 to get the boat ready, take guests out all day. I’m cleaning up the boat long after they’ve left. And then I find myself up until 10 answering snail mail and e-mails and doing the books.”
“So why are you so crazy now?” the Soupster asked.
“Locational hazard,” said the Soupster. “You move to a place as nice as Our Town and you discover relatives you never knew you had.”
“You bet,” Red agreed. “I knew we had my sister and her family coming up this month, but she ran into our cousin in Seattle and guess what? They decided on a whim to come up together! That makes nine people in my house. Bless them, they’re very self-directed. Still though, they want to be sure and visit with me every day and I just don’t have time.
“Can you take them out on the charter with you?” the Soupster asked.
“Wouldn’t be fair to my clients,” Red said. “They’re paying top dollar for my full attention. Hunting fish is serious business.”
“So,” said Red, “I’ve got half a day I penciled out to do about a week’s worth of chores. Well,I’m walking to the bank today and what do you know — there’s my great-uncle Don in the middle of a walking tour. My father would never give me peace if I didn’t show Don the town, so there went my day to catch up.”
“Bet you’re looking forward to your vacation in two months,” the Soupster guessed.
“I’m not waiting that long,” said Red. “My sister goes back on the plane tomorrow and the cousin on the ferry the next day. Uncle Don is getting back on his cruise ship this evening. As soon as everybody leaves and I can get back to my regular 18-hour days, I’m gonna consider it vacation!”
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The Soupster remembers a determined little fellow.
Originally published August 22, 2002 and June 5, 2008
“Crash!” the Soupster heard as he stepped from the café, clutching a cardboard cup of java.
Across the street furious construction activity was under way – the systematic dismantling of portions of a large hotel for a major renovation.
This being Our Town, teams of workers scaled the building from ladders and scaffolding — working quickly to take advantage of an all-too-brief period between downpours and squalls.
“Crash, bang, ticka, ticka, bang!” sang the various fixtures and materials as they were removed and carted away, piled on the ground or, most musically, sent plunging through three long tubes that ran from the roof down to a dumpster. “Ticka, ticka, clack, clack, crash!” the tubes sang.
Striding purposely from one part of the site to another was Mel, who the Soupster still called “Little Mel.” Now six feet tall and 40 years old, “Little Mel” was the general contractor for the entire renovation. To the Soupster, however, “Mel” would always mean “Big Mel” – Little Mel’s late father, who had been the high school shop teacher.
Big Mel always had been surrounded by an army of students. Now Little Mel had his own army of tough and competent construction workers. As Little Mel moved among his worker-troops he exuded the confidence of a commander who does not need to argue but leads naturally.
It had been almost 30 years earlier to the day that the hotel was originally built, and the Soupster remembered seeing the two Mels back then. Father and son walking down the street toward their car. Little Mel, lugging inches off the ground a red fire extinguisher that was half his height and more than half his weight.
Big Mel had a much larger fire extinguisher in his arms. Father and son were carrying safety equipment back to the school.
Little Mel could make about five steps before he had to readjust the extinguisher’s position in his arms. The child had to pull with all his might.
“It’s okay to put it down,” said Mel. “I can’t believe how strong you are carrying it this far.”
“No!” said Little Mel. “I want to take it all the way!”
“Well, good job!” said Big Mel. “I am quite amazed!”
With another loud “Crash!” the Soupster was jerked back to the present.
Although he could not hear any voices from the construction site, he watched as one young worker strode angrily across the work site and confronted Little Mel. The young worker said something; Little Mel listened and nodded. As the young worker talked, he seemed to calm down. Little Mel kept nodding, then reached across and patted the young worker’s shoulder.
The young worker broke into a smile and Mel beamed back at him. They shook hand and the young man bounded happily back to work. Little Mel yelled something after him.
Through all the “bangs” and “ticka, tickas” and “crashes” the Soupster couldn’t make out what Little Mel had said. But he guessed it went something like “You sure are strong. Good job. I’m quite amazed!”
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The Soupster is called out on his talkativeness & put to the test.
Originally published July 12, 2012
Carrie told the Soupster he talked too much and her criticism stung. The Soupster knew he could go on and on – maybe a tiny, little bit? — but he didn’t know his friend had been suffering. And for “quite a while,” no less.
“I bet you can’t keep your conversation to a minimum even for one day,” Carrie threw down the gauntlet. “Not even for one whole day.”
“I can,” the Soupster insisted. “And I will!”
Today was the day. The first mission of the new, zip-lipped Soupster was to check the mail at the post office. As the Soupster strolled downtown, he had to duck into a few storefronts to avoid fellow chatterboxes who might stress-test his mettle.
“Soupman!” The call came from Charlie, a hiking buddy who, unfortunately, happened to be in a store the Soupster had judged free of customers. “Tell me what’s new with the Man in the Can?”
“Not much,” said the Soupster, wishing he could have thought of a one-word answer. “Gotta go,” he said slipping out of the store.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire? Two busfuls of visitors hit the sidewalk and poured around the Soupster like a human wave.
Hide in plain sight? The Soupster pulled his cap low on his forehead and attempted to avoid eye contact with the cheery migrants surrounding him.
No use! The Soupster felt his lapels being patted and looked down into the face of an older man wearing a tag that said, “Hi! I’m Horace!”
“Hi, I’m Horace,” he stated the obvious, grasping the Soupster’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “I’m new to these shores.”
“Hi, Horace,” said the Soupster.
“Yup, this is some different place,” Horace said. “Where’s all the big box chain stores? Don’t you have any big box chain stores?”
“Nope,” said the Soupster.
“Our bus driver said he was taking us all over town but we only went five or six miles one way and then seven or eight the other. That can’t be all the road you have.”
“Yup,” said the Soupster, zipping his lips so tight he could taste metal.
“And this rain I keep hearing about,” Horace plunged on. “It’s certainly not raining now. Is going to rain soon? Am I going to get wet? I mean, isn’t this town too nice to be built by people who get rained on every day?”
As the Soupster moaned silently, a beam of sunlight illuminated a break in the throng of tourists ahead. “Yup,” said the Soupster, shaking Horace’s hand. “Nope,” he added. And then the Soupster escaped.
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