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Comments Off on Our Town – October 6, 2016

Our Town – October 6, 2016

| Animals, Dogs, Our Town | October 6, 2016

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The Soupster and four colleagues view the astounding

Outside the supermarket, the Soupster occupied the driver’s seat of his car. He waited impatiently for his friend Ted to emerge with the cold drinks the two men had been craving since spending the afternoon cutting and hauling firewood.

He looked at the car’s clock, calculating the time that Ted would take chatting with the checkout person.

In the black SUV parked to the right, a regal-looking dog — maybe some Afghan hound in the blood? – sat in the driver’s seat and peered back at the Soupster. The Afghan looked royally bored.

Up and to the left, a Pug-faced mixed-breed dog also sat in the driver’s seat of his owner’s small hatchback, watching the sliding front door of the market with grim intensity for his human to appear.

In the pickup parked perpendicular, two barking Shih Tzu resembled animated stuffed toys. Their sturdy little legs were propped against the pickup’s window and they barked in perfect unison at landing ravens, passing humans and nothing in particular. The tiny dogs also stared at the supermarket door, waiting for their personal human to emerge.

“Where’s Ted?” thought the Soupster — picturing himself checking his watch and tapping his foot – although he actually slouched in his seat and looked again at the dashboard clock.

The Pug-faced dog had moved to the passenger seat for a better view of the front door. The Afghan regarded that same front door and yawned. The Shih Tzu had switched to a first-one-then-the-other style of yipping, probably to husband their resources for what was turning out to be a longish haul.

They were all trapped, the Soupster thought, regarding his plight and that of his canine peers. All vibrant organisms in tin cans waiting for their rescuers. In the Soupster’s case, he was held by his social bond with Ted. The dogs were even more inextricably bound in their metal prisons, having neither thumbs nor car keys.

Did that make Ted and the dog owners prison-keepers, thought the Soupster?

As people filed in and out of the front door, the Pug-faced dog jumped excitedly back and forth between driver and passenger seats. The Shih Tzu switched back to barking in unison. Even the Afghan joined in with low howling.

“Oh, my,” said the Soupster.

Then a white station wagon pulled into an open parking spot. While the dogs kept up their din, the driver of the white wagon stepped out of his door and opened the rear hatch. Inside was a golden retriever-mix dog. The driver patted the dog on the head, then turned and went into the store – AND LEFT THE REAR HATCH OPEN.

The Afghan was so aghast, it ceased howling. The Shih Tzu, too, were silent, although they still moved their tiny mouths. Only the Pug retained his voice and grunted with scores of questions.

The golden retriever wasn’t tied in. The hatch was open. His owner was gone. Why didn’t he bolt?

The Soupster – and, he imagined, the dogs – pondered the question. Why didn’t the retriever bolt?

But then Ted was in the car with the drinks.

“Long line, sorry,” Ted said, popping his can top, taking a long swallow and registering the Soupster’s far away expression. “See anything interesting?”

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Whole Soup – October 6, 2016

| Whole Soup | October 6, 2016

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 22, 2016

Our Town – September 22, 2016

| Crazy Theories, Fall, Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather | September 21, 2016

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The Soupster gets Saturated.

Originally published September 7, 2006

Thick drops of rain beat a brisk rhythm on the aluminum roof over the covered area of Suzie’s porch where the Soupster sat. All summer long, the Soupster had bravely faced the preponderance of precipitation and the rarity of sunny days with humor, understanding and flexibility. But there and then — against the roof over his head — fell the one big raindrop that caused the barrel to overflow, like the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the Soupster finally became Saturated.

In his last lucid moment, the Soupster had been thinking about a short story written more than 50 years before – a very unscientific science fiction story about a group of astronauts who crash land on Venus – the planet. On Venus, as in Our Town this summer, it rains constantly, proposed the story’s author, Ray Bradbury. And, like the Soupster, the four astronauts who survive the crash set out bravely into the constant rain to find a Sun Dome, which is just like it sounds — an Industrial Strength Light Bulb Beach. Without finding the dome, the astronauts would go mad from rain pounding constantly against their skulls.

“Here’s your hot chocolate,” said Suzie, appearing on the porch with two steaming mugs. “No marshmallow in yours.”

The Soupster regarded Suzie with as much recognition as he would one of the astronauts on Venus. Through the pounding between his ears in time with the hammering of the rain against the roof, he could not make out what she was saying.

“It was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles;” Bradbury had written, “it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and by the ton.”

The Soupster looked blankly at Suzie and then out into space.

“Oh, for goodness sakes,” muttered Suzie. Born and raised in Our Town, she knew just what to do when someone became Saturated. She set down the two steaming mugs on a wooden table away from the Soupster, so he would not, in his helpless state, burn himself.

Suzie went room-to-room in her house and gathered up an armful of lamps: table models, clip-ons, three-way bulbs, lanterns and reading lights. She brought it all out under the covered area of the porch, along with two extension cords and several power strips.

While she did, the Soupster continued his nightmare of tramping through the jungles of Venus in the blinding downpour. “(The rain) shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes,” wrote Bradbury. “It rained a solid, glassy rain and it never stopped.” The rattling and thumping on the roof drowned out Suzie’s grunts as she hooked up the complicated bank of lamps and power strips, all aimed at the Soupster.

“Now!” she shouted above the din and threw a switch that bathed the entire covered area of the porch in warm yellow light.

The Soupster leaped to his feet. “The Sun Dome!” he cried. “I made it!”

“Goodness gracious – there’s no Sun Dome,” said Suzie. “You’re on the porch at my house. You just got Saturated. Now drink your hot chocolate.”

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Whole Soup – September 22, 2016

| Whole Soup | September 21, 2016

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 8, 2016

Our Town – September 8, 2016

| Elections, Our Town, Politics | September 8, 2016

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The Soupster thinks about matriarchs.

Musing on an evening stroll, the Soupster considered several of Our Town’s matriarchs — women who used an alchemy of creativity, smarts and grit to hold their extended families together and nudge or shoulder their brood toward success.

Some of these women looked bent from the weight of their responsibilities. But others seemed to thrive on their influence and importance – exuding, if not youth, a strong vitality.

Our Town’s patriarchs tended to get more attention, the Soupster mused again. Meanwhile, the matriarchs did their work while being paid 80 cents to the dollar. Surely, a more noteworthy achievement?

Strolling by the post office, the Soupster thought of the female postmasters who kept open this vital artery to the Lower 48. He passed by the former site of his former favorite breakfast place, where the griddle person, waitress and owner had all been women.

Then, he remembered the wives and daughters of men who passed away at the helm of the family business. These women had to learn very quickly to be the boss. Women who had no idea they would become bookkeepers or property managers. No idea they would raise rabbits or pilot boats.

Sometimes these women, when still only girls – were the ones in their families to step up to the plate, if their parents became infirm or unreliable. How many schoolgirls hurry home after classes every day to care for their younger siblings? No sports teams or student council for them.

Younger siblings can be a joy, but they are adult responsibilities. And maybe raising children is not an appropriate job for a girl at a time of life when she might need to be a bit selfish. Good training for a future matriarch, however, the Soupster mused yet again.

Then, Mack the Rogue — a local lothario — turned the corner. Mack knew the Soupster and was happy to drop the lothario act when the two men were together. For one thing, Mack stopped using his fingers to twirl the ends of his mustache.

“Soupster! Big Buddy!” Mack practically shouted, going full bore into Monster Truck racing mode. “When is it going to stop raining?”

“Stop?” the Soupster called back. “The rain hasn’t even started yet. It’s practically still summer.”

“Say, Mack,” he continued, a little quieter, “you know any matriarchs? I was just musing about matriarchs.”

“My mother was a matriarch,” Mack said, quieter still. “She had three younger brothers and she kept them all in line.”

“We need both the patriarchs and the matriarchs,” the Soupster said. “We need all the help we can get to hold things together.”

“That’s why Hillary Clinton running for president is definitely a good thing,” Mack the Rogue said. “Like her or hate her, the presidential candidates should get better from this point on, because we doubled the pool of people who are able to run.”

“Right on, Rogue,” said the Soupster. “Right on.”

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Comments Off on Whole Soup – September 8, 2016

Whole Soup – September 8, 2016

| Uncategorized, Whole Soup | September 7, 2016

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Whole Soup – August 25, 2016

| Whole Soup | August 24, 2016

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 25, 2016

Our Town – August 25, 2016

| Gardening, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | August 24, 2016

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The Soupster hears about a woman whose quest to become a real Alaskan involves getting dirty.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan

Hunched over a large garden pot, examining the contents closely, Jo poked at the mixture of soil and peanut shells.

“Looking for something?” a voice called out from the sidewalk. It was the Soupster, out for his evening stroll.

“Hey, Soupster! I’m checking the moisture level,” Jo replied.

“Trying to grow peanuts?” the Soupster asked.

“Nope, the peanut shells were in the compost. Went through a peanut stage about 6 months ago…think I was depressed…sat at home eating peanuts night after night. What I’ve got growing here is lettuce babies and I’m trying to decide if they need to be watered. It’s hard to tell on a drizzly day. I mean, it looks damp, but it could just be surface moisture.  I would hate to be responsible for either starving or drowning these little suckers. Given my track record, I’m probably not qualified to be their mom. No offence, babies,” Jo said, directing her attention to the pots. “I actually wanted kale, but being the end of summer, it was already sold out.”

“Yeah, kale is the way to go in Our Town,” the Soupster agreed, “unless you’ve got some fancy greenhouse thing going on or a guaranteed slug-free garden.”

“So, Soupster, I hope you like lettuce, because in 45-60 days, generous donations will be coming your way,” Jo chuckled, scanning her 6 pots of soil.

“How about making lettuce sauerkraut?” the Soupster suggested.

“Funny you should say that, Soupster. I’ve just done a canning and pickling course and we actually learned to make sauerkraut!” Jo said.  “In fact, there’s a jar of it fermenting in my laundry as we speak, nestled between 4 crock pots, a pair of winter boots and several kayak spray skirts. Fermented cabbage is supposed to be super good for you… something about gut health affecting brain function via the vagus nerve,” she mumbled.

The Soupster raised his eyebrows. “So, you decided to branch out and try something other than hiking and bike riding?” he said, feigning shock.

“Yes, Soupster, precisely. I’ve got to be more well rounded if I’m going to be a real Alaskan.  Well, to be fair, I have crossed some things off the list” Jo announced. “I’ve made jam, cut black cod collars, owned three pairs of Xtratufs, done a few off-trail mountain hikes and kayaked to the Lighthouse. So really, all that’s left now is to find a second-hand fish tote to use as a hot tub, learn how to can salmon and wait for my lettuce babies to be born.”

“At this rate, you’ll be a Sourdough in no time,” the Soupster laughed. The sky had darkened and it was starting to rain. “You can probably quit your soil moisture check now, and I’d better get going. And, by the way, congratulations on the babies, hope their birth goes well and see you in six weeks with some salad dressing!” He winked.

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 11, 2016

Our Town – August 11, 2016

| Downtown, Ghosts, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 11, 2016

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The Soupster witnesses the meeting of the living and the dead.

Originally published Aug. 14, 2008

Nearly everyone was pleased with the blossom and tree-filled visions of Betsy and Lawrence Brooks, writ large in the municipal flower beds and green strips in Our Town. The Soupster would have said every single person in town was pleased, but as a scientific observer of human behavior, he left the door open for a few oddball Nature haters.

Only Lawrence actually worked for the city — as a gardener and landscaper — but Betsy could usually be found working alongside him, just not for pay. One irascible codger of the supervisory variety tried to shoo Betsy away for insurance reasons, but Lawrence had enough moles at city hall to call ahead if the codger was afoot and Betsy would temporarily vaporize.

They were an exceptional team. Lawrence, red-green colorblind, compensated by refining his sense of line and contrast, Betsy handled color decisions and was a top-flight plant nurse. After more than four decades, the couple were as much of a local institution as any of the buildings they beautified. So when they decided to skedaddle South to be closer to the grandkiddies, and after they promised to visit often, the city honored the Brooks with their likenesses set in a brass memorial in their favorite garden on Lincoln St. “Lawrence and Betsy, landscapers,” their plaque read, “1960-2002.”

Ambling downtown, picturing a mocha milkshake and skewer of grilled king salmon, the Soupster saw an older tourist staring gravely at the Brooks’ memorial. “Sad, isn’t it,” said the man, as the Soupster came alongside.”So young.”

“Come again?” asked the Soupster.

“But a delight to see city gardeners so exalted,” the man continued. “I myself own a landscape firm in Los Angeles. We are forgotten there among the glitz and bling and blather.”

“I don’t think you understand…” said the Soupster.

“Of course I do!” insisted the tourist. “I more than anyone know of the power of living plants. They have the ability to heal the wounded soul. To watch things grow is to embrace life!”

“Sure but…” the Soupster tried to say, but the older man cut him off.

“Still, it is nice to see the appreciation… at the end,” the tourist concluded sadly and slowly began to move away.

And, as these things will happen sometimes, Lawrence and Betsy Brooks — back to Our Town on one of their frequent returns and looking like two fit, tanned fiddles — came marching down the other side of Lincoln Street.

“There they are!” said the Soupster. “This is what I was trying to tell you.”

“Who?” said the confused tourist.

“Lawrence and Betsy Brooks!” said the Soupster, pointing.“Right there!”

Had they been in a cartoon, the tourist’s head would have spun completely around. He looked at the Brooks, then at their likeness on the plaque and then back to them, several times.

“Do you want me to introduce you?” the Soupster innocently asked.

As the older tourist hurried off, “You people are very, very strange,” the Soupster heard him say.

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Whole Soup – August 11, 2016

| Whole Soup | August 11, 2016

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 28, 2016

Our Town – July 28, 2016

| Downtown, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | July 28, 2016

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The Soupster finds the third time is the charm.

It’s a fact well-known by the people living in Our Town that other Our Town folk may play multiple roles in life and one never knows for sure what roles they might be. Your child’s skating coach could be also be your dentist. Your waitress, starring in the town melodrama, crumbles your pickup’s fender. Your elderly neighbor plays a swarthy villain in the same production and then bakes you Christmas fudge.

This is why Road Rage is not as endemic in Our Town as in other burgs. It’s just too fraught to hurl unkind words and gestures at someone who might turn out to be your sister’s boyfriend’s brother. The immediate release of tension does not feel good enough to overcome the dread of possibly making an enemy of someone you might badly need some day. You don’t want to flip any kind of bird at all at your cardiologist.

One fine summer day, the Soupster strode into a local hardware store, where he spied Carol Worthington buying towel racks for her bathroom. Worthington owned the local jewelry store and the Soupster needed to do some business with her. Carol was a serious recluse – she hired charismatic young people to run the front of the store, while she crafted sparkles in the back room.

Should the Soupster say hello? Certainly, if Carol was looking at him. But she wasn’t. Should he tap her shoulder? Before the Soupster even knew what he had decided, Worthington’s shoulder was tapped by him.

But it wasn’t Carol Worthington at all.

“Pardon me?” said the woman, a stranger.

“Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” said the Soupster, moving on.

At the clothing store, the Soupster thought he saw Carol Worthington again. Not wanting to make the same mistake, he regarded the woman from a distance.  Carol’s medium-length brown hair, the same bangs. The same mid-length kind of dress that Carol always wore, running shoes she called “trainers.”

The Soupster was both more confident in the details of his sighting and put aback by his recent case of mistaken identity. This time he didn’t need to tap. The instant he entered the woman’s personal space, the Soupster knew it wasn’t Carol.

“Can I help you?” said pseudo-Carol. “Do I know you?”

The Soupster slunk away. He kept his head down, lest he see another false Carol. His head felt light, as with a low blood-sugar level. He stumbled into the soda shop and grabbed a brown padded stool by the counter. He had no sooner ordered than a woman sat down next to him.

“Hi, Soupster,” said the real Carol Worthington, patting the Soupster on the arm. “We have business together, don’t we?”

Carol ordered a confection from the young man at the counter. She turned to the Soupster.

“What’s wrong with you?” Carol said. “Why do you keep looking at me like I’m a ghost?”

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Comments Off on Whole Soup – July 28, 2016

Whole Soup – July 28, 2016

| Whole Soup | July 28, 2016

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 14, 2016

Our Town – July 14, 2016

| Crazy Theories, Movies, Our Town | July 14, 2016

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The Soupster speaks of movie stars among us.

“Kudos to our local movie theater!” a smiling Soupster thought as he emerged from the out-the-road cinema. He stepped out of the dimly lit lobby and squinted at a near-Midnight Sun. It was a beautiful Our Town summer day — at 10 o’clock at night.

The Soupster had just seen the very latest in end-of-the-world-blockbusters. Bringing top movie hits to Our Town at the same time they were being promoted in the South 48 was an accomplishment for which theater management should be thanked, he thought.

Back in the day, only a limited number of expensive film prints were made. The big and heavy reels of actual celluloid film made a slow round of theaters all over the country, starting with the huge population centers and working downward toward smaller towns – say one with 9,000 souls perched on a rock.

Those big and heavy films didn’t make it as far as Our Town until weeks — sometimes months – after all the promotions for that film had ended. It seemed then like the theater got the film right before it was due to be released on DVD (VHS tapes in those days). Now, practically as soon as a new movie is announced, the film is being shown in Our Town.

That’s because movies today are most often distributed over the Internet, just like other information. They can also be shipped in preloaded onto a storage device. Theaters then download the film for exhibition via a digital projector.

“Hey, Soupster!” called Lucy Coral, a well-known local cinephile.  “How did you like ‘DinosaurNado: Apocalypse”?

“A whole lot of drooling and big, sharp teeth,” the Soupster said. “But I liked the film.”

“I think that Liam Helmsworth is hot,” Lucy said, referring to the film’s lead actor. “Wouldn’t mind if he would show up on a cruise ship and I could follow him down Lincoln St.”

“Did you ever notice that Don Freed, the pharmacist, looks like a lot like a 45-year-old Helmsworth?” asked the Soupster.

“Noticed?” said Lucy. “Let’s just say when ever my doctor prescribes medicine for me, I perform my happy dance.”

“Is Don Freed the Liam Helmsworth of Our Town?” the Soupster asked.

“I prefer to think of Liam Helmsworth as the Don Freed of the rest of the world,” Lucy said. “We have the original.”

“So when I say that Grace Greenwald is the Scarlett Johansson of Our Town, I should be saying that Ms. Johannson is the Grace Greenwald of the rest of the world.”

“That’s it,” said Lucy. “You got it.”

“For a long time I have surmised,” the Soupster surmised, “that what we have in Our Town is 9,000 originals that are replicated all over the world. Whereas we have just one of each of the 9,000 types of people. Your Helmsworth-Johansson theory dovetails perfectly.”

“You have quite a lot of theories,” said Lucy.

The Soupster tapped his forehead. “I have a mind like a steel trap,” he said.

“True, Soupster,” said Lucy. “An old and very rusty steel trap — but a steel trap nonetheless.”

 

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Whole Soup – July 14, 2016

| Whole Soup | July 14, 2016

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 30, 2016

Our Town – June 30, 2016

| Jokes, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives | June 30, 2016

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The Soupster hears relatively bad puns.

It wasn’t easy to make the Soupster feel like the stuffy serious one, but Cousin Rob had always had just that effect on him.

“The great ferry Malaspina,” Rob pronounced, as soon as the first-time visitor to Our Town stepped off the ramp to meet up with Cousin Soupster. “The name derives from the Russian word for `bad spine’ right?”

“Actually, Malaspina is named after a glacier which is named after an Italian explorer named Alessandro,” said the Soupster.

“Then why isn’t the ferry named `Alessandro?’” asked Cousin Rob.

“That’s his first name,” said the Soupster.

“Anyway,” said Rob. “It’s so good to be in Alaska. `Alaska,’ that’s probably Italian, too. Italian for `everyone should ask.’”

The Soupster had been trapped in this routine before. His parents were very close friends with Rob’s. Cousin Rob was eight years older and, when enlisted as the Soupster’s babysitter, would torture him with bad puns. “Protuberance,” he remembered Rob saying, “It’s Latin for `professional potato-eating insect.’”

They passed the spiral white warning sirens along HPR and the Soupster heard himself falsely answering Cousin Rob’s innocent question of “What are those?”

“They’re fluorescent streetlights,” the Soupster jived. “They save a bunch of electricity and they last five times as long as a regular streetlight.”

They passed Maksoutoff St., which Rob guessed was Russian for “to force a businessman to remove his suit.”

At the airport, Cousin Rob had such crazy definitions for everything that the Soupster lost it.

When Rob pointed to the flashing yellow light the airline used to tell passengers their luggage was coming, the Soupster said, “It’s a tsunami warning beacon, Cousin Rob. This is important. If you ever see it go off, start running for high ground.”

“Tsunami, that reminds me,” said Cousin Rob and asked directions to the men’s room.

As he waited for his cousin to return, the Soupster thought about how churlish he had been. Cousin Rob was just excited and interested in Our Town and who wouldn’t be? The Soupster just needed to calm down and play the good host.

As if on cue, the rotating beacon starting spinning, spilling a yellow strobe light on everyone and everything. Cousin Rob ran up and grabbed the Soupster’s arm.

“Tsunami,” said Rob. “A Boston term meaning `take Norman to court.’

 

 

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