The Sitka Conservation Society will host its annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sunday, November 18, beginning at 5pm at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Please bring a dish...
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Intimately experience Sitka in a smoke-free Prius. Call (907) 747-8888. Call us for a destination ride of any length or go for a tour of our scenic Southeast Al...
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Looking for auto detailing in Sitka? Call or text 738-5673 for rates or to make an appt.
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Providing home deep cleaning, routine cleaning, car detailing, home organizing. 100% guaranteed customer satisfaction. Give me a call today and get your free qu...
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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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Soupster’s starlet-in-hiding and the wrongly accused charlatans.
Originally published November 6, 2014
The Soupster stepped out of the rain and into the lobby of Our Town’s airport to pick up an express shipment. He hoped that someday the animal heads and fish lined up along the front beam could be made animatronic, like something out of Disneyland. Visitors would take it as noteworthy, the Soupster surmised, if a 70-lb. king salmon winked at them and said, “Welcome to Our Town!” or “Please come visit Our Town again.”
The gangway swung open and passengers spilled out. The serious travelers flowed right out the front door, having whittled their fashion and toiletry needs down to carry-on size. The rest of the crowd oozed slowly toward the luggage carousel. At the front counter, the Soupster was told he could retrieve his package in a few minutes.
“Hi, Soupster!” said Skye Claire, sideling up next to him. Skye was a professional entertainer who holed up in Our Town periodically to hide from her adoring fans. “How’s my favorite purveyor of miscellaneous items soaked in rainwater?”
“And my best wishes to you, Miss Skye,” the Soupster said with a barely perceptible bow. “What’s new in the entertainment business?”
“I met a talking dog,” said Skye.
“I’m listening,” said the Soupster.
“So, I’m in the office of a talent agent in Seattle who’s trying out new acts for the annual Rainier Review,” she recounted. “I’m standing by the door filling out some contract forms, when the agent lets in the next act for an audition.”
“‘Spartacus, the Wonder Dog!’ trumpets the owner of a speckled black-and-white, longhaired,
medium-size hound. ‘Spartacus will now answer three questions.’”
“What was the owner like?” asked the Soupster.
“A bit forgettable,” said Skye. “Plus, me and the talent agent are busy staring at the dog.
“‘Spartacus,’ says the owner. ‘What do you call the material on the outside of a tree?’
“‘Bark!’ yelps the dog enthusiastically. The talent agent raises his eyebrows.
“‘Spartacus,’ says the owner. ‘Name a three-masted wooden cargo ship from the 19th century.’
“‘Barque,’ yips Spartacus. The agent crosses his arms and looks stern.
“‘Spartacus,’ the owner says a third time. ‘What is the best brand of root beer?’
“‘Barq’s’ Spartacus says.
“‘That’s enough, you charlatans!’ says the talent agent, who comes out from behind his desk and scoots both man and dog out of the office. I slip out with them. The agent goes back inside and slams his door.
“Spartacus looks up at his owner. ‘Henry Weinhard?’ Spartacus says. I almost fainted.”
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The Soupster presents his evidence to the court.
Originally published May 19, 2011
The Story Behind the Story
The Soupster chattered happily to everyone he saw in the store as he bought a quarter pound of Bavarian ham to use to bribe the all-black, long-haired shelter cat the Soupster hoped to adopt. He was on his way to the animal shelter for a visit.
The Soupster believed there was a tribe of long-haired cats in Sitka – usually sporting big neck ruffs, ear tufts and plumed tails – that were almost dog-like in the way they interacted with humans, yet kept their feline independence intact.
The Soupster had lost such a kitty during a January cold snap and had put the word out for another. Pierre (nee 8-Ball) had lost his owner, who couldn’t take him when she had to leave town suddenly. A clever animal shelter person correctly deduced that 8-Ball needed the Soupster, and vice versa.
But having only once been introduced to Pierre briefly, the Soupster needed to formally propose that he and the cat initiate a trial co-habitation.(ed. note: You have to talk this way about cats.) The Soupster thought he would have a better chance to convince 8-Ball that he should change his name to Pierre, if the Soupster was offering Bavarian ham as he proposed the idea.
But what about the humans at the animal shelter? The Soupster noticed some fresh- baked croissants that a person would have to be comatose not to love. Five of the croissants neatly filled a cellophane-topped box. Still chattering happily, the Souspter paid for his loot and left the store.
The Soupster put the big box of croissants on the flat top of his car, opened the door and got in. It wasn’t until he was turning onto the state road and the box flew off the top of his car that the Soupster remembered putting the croissants up there.
(ed. Note: The rest of the story in “Condensed Soup” is basically true, although, obviously, croissants do not explode in a way reminiscent of late adolescence. We would like to thank those motorists (and one biker) who went to great pains not to run over the croissants spread out over the road. The Soupster managed to retrieve all five croissants, dust them off and eat four himself. One croissant and the box did not survive.)
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The Soupster learns what goes around comes around.
Originally published April 19, 2012
“Morning, Sunshine!” I greet the Soupster as he slides into the passenger seat.
“Uh-huh,” he replies groggily. Accepting my offer of liquid incentive, he adds, “Quad shot creamy, dreamy choco-caffeine delight, my favorite. Thanks.”
The Soupster adjusts his sunglasses to the morning sun. At 8am on this Saturday it’s the offer of my gardening genius and willingness at his disposal that helps him brave the hour.
“I know it’s early. Be glad I didn’t try dragging you out earlier! Garage sale-ing is serious business in Our Town – you don’t even know!” I laugh and pull out of the drive.
“First stop – across town. The hunt for garden treasures begins. It’s springtime for the Soupster in Our Town…” I belt out, energized by the sun.
“Springtime in Our Town – herring return, citywide spring cleanup, sunshine….”
“If we’re lucky,” I interject.
“Which apparently we are. Remember the good old days of roadside spring cleanup?” the Soupster asks.
“Afraid not. How’d that work?”
“Folks would toss their junk onto the side of the street. And I mean in a BIG way. Anything and everything you can imagine. Gardening supplies, even! Stuff that people didn’t want to haul off themselves. For one weekend, crews would work like mad hauling all this stuff away. And as they worked their way around town, others did the same, keeping ahead of the crews to salvage what was usable.”
“Wow! Nobody appreciates the value of thriftiness like folks in Our Town. There are so many ways for goods to come and go around here – the White E, radio stations, the newspaper, online venues, the Soup,” My list ends with a swish of the wrist, deferring to my friend.
The Soupster jumps in. “Word of mouth! Friends. Friends of friends. Anyone who learns you need what they’re lookin’ to unload.”
“Once I was walking my baby downtown and an absolute stranger chased us down. She had a fancy Italian stroller she used when she nannied. Not only did she hook me up, she delivered it. Even our strangers can be most generous!” I chuckle.
“How we find what we need in Our Town is pretty remarkable. Hey,” he says, pointing to a green truck at the side of the road. “It’s Tony.”
We pull over to find Tony’s truck almost overflowing – an old canoe, tires, a cracked bird bath, a trellis, a bulky mass of seine net.
“Please tell us you’re heading to the dump this fine morning, Tony,” I jibe, eyeballing the treasure trove of garden possibilities resting in his truck bed.
“Yup. Y’all don’t happen to need any of this, do ya?” Tony asks. The Soupster and I look at each other and smile.
“We sure do! Follow us.”
Hopping back in the car, I pull a U turn with Tony close behind. I have to laugh, “Pretty remarkable, indeed. SCORE!”
Submitted by Rachel Ramsey
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