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There is definitely something on the Soupster’s mind.
Originally published March 22, 2007
“Two hundred and forty-seven eggs, wreck `em,'” the waitress called to the short-order cook in the Soupster’s dream about Spring.
In his dream about Spring, the Soupster sat at a breakfast counter that hadn’t existed in Our Town for years. Two large dark-haired men sat on either side of him. Both men wore Tlingit regalia and eagerly tore into herring eggs, mounded into a large pile on a plate before each.
“Pass the soy sauce?” asked the man on the left and the Soupster, still dreaming, did.
“Eggs for you, Soupster?” asked the waitress, her hand on her hip.
“Uh, two, over easy,”
“Two eggs?” said the waitress, her eyebrows arching with disbelief. “Just two?”
The waitress looked over at the men, who, like her, tried to keep from laughing. “You want seal oil with your two eggs?” she said, collapsing in hysterics.
Next, the Soupster dreamed he walked through a park of totem poles and old-growth trees. The Soupster peered into the forest, where he could see figures moving. They were bunnies and chicks — more specifically, children dressed as bunnies and chicks — a score of them, bent over and peering under salmonberry bushes and behind spruce and hemlock trunks.
“I’ve found one!” a cute blue rabbit called out, pulling out from under a skunk cabbage a small hemlock bough covered with herring eggs died in different colors.
“Me, too,” called another youngster, this one dressed as a duckling, holding aloft a similar prize. Cries of success came from hither and yon.
At that moment, the two men from the restaurant reappeared and grabbed the Soupster by the arms. The Soupster’s body stiffened and the men held him parallel to the ground, as they would a plank of wood. They continued down the forest path, the Soupster strangely calm for someone who was being kidnapped. The men carried the Soupster down to the beach and placed him in a small, open boat. Then they rowed for a time.
Despite the unexpected recent turns of the Soupster’s life – or should he say “dream life” – he felt a calm from believing that all this strangeness was a good sign. A sign of something good. Something like Spring?
The Soupster could hear the men placing the oars back in the boat. They grabbed the Soupster, hoisted him up, tipped him over and plunged his head into the cold water. They held him there. In his dream, the Soupster had no sense of the amount of time he hung upside down in the water. Then someone jostled him. Four arms brought the Soupster up sputtering. His hair was filled with herring eggs, which poured, as well, down over his shoulders.
“Sorry, Soupster,” said the first of the two men from the boat and restaurant. “We thought you were a hemlock bough.”
“A real `egg head'” said the second man. “That’s the Soupster!”
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The Soupster talks about nicknames and writing.
Originally published March 27, 2008
The Soupster sat on the big rock behind the library, staring at a departing fishing boat outlined by the setting sun, reminded again that Our Town could look glorious. “We should all be painters,” he muttered to an invisible audience. Then, he heard a voice.
“Soupster,” said Rocky “Stallion” Bilbao — whose name sounded like “Rocky Balboa” and, since Bilbao was of a slight stature, he was naturally called “Stallion” after the “Italian Stallion,” according to the perverse rules of nicknames — “you’re muttering.”
“My father used to mutter,” said the Soupster. “So did me Mutter.”
“Hah!” said Rocky. “Say Soupster, why do you call me `Stallion?’”
“You know the rules of nicknames,” said the Soupster, who thought he was stating the obvious.
“Your name sounds like Rocky Balboa’s and you don’t look at all like a boxer, so you get a boxer’s nickname. Like naming a really big guy `Tiny.’”
“But my name is Bilbao, which is a city in Spain that has a famous art museum,” Stallion said. “So why don’t you call me `Art?’”
“Guggenheim?” asked the Soupster.
“Garfunkle?” countered Stallion.
“No, Guggenheim!” the Soupster pressed.
“Why would you want to call me Garfunkle Guggenheim?” asked Stallion.
“Guggenheim is the name of the museum!” said an exasperated Soupster. “Art Garfunkle was the taller half of that folk singing duo.”
The two men shuffled pebbles with their feet for a moment. “Soupster,” Stallion said finally. “You know how you’re always making me read your little stories? How come you never ask me to write one?”
“That’s not a bad idea,” said the Soupster. “Do you think you’d would want to?”
“I would,” said Stallion. “Especially if you paid me for it.”
“Okay, how’s this,” the Soupster proposed. “If you or anybody wants to write an Our Town column, the story would have to be between 450 and 500 words long, and it must connect with life in Our Town and the people of Our Town. We’ll pay $50 if we run it in the Soup.”
“You should make sure you’re in the story,” said Stallion. “You have to be a character. You should make that one of the rules… Say, Soupster, how do I know you’re serious?”
“If I was serious, I’d put it in the Soup,” said the Soupster.
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The Soupster takes a road trip.
Originally published February 22, 2007
“Road Trip!” the Soupster cried, as he opened his eyes Friday morning.
The Soupster knew Our Town and the realities that imposed. But he had decided, just before closing his eyes Thursday night, that he was in the mood for a road trip and would take one despite those realities.
First, to equip himself. He was glad he had a hybrid car – he got about 40 miles per gallon in the winter with studded tires and the heater blaring – twice the fuel efficiency of other similar-sized cars. The tank was about half full – that should do it with plenty to spare. He gathered a good flashlight, flares, a space blanket. several meals-ready-to-eat and a copy of John McPhee’s “Coming into the Country.” All this went into the emergency kit.
Then he spent 20 minutes poring over his music – some Ella Fitzgerald, the Beatles and, for the magnificent curving roadway near the end of the drive, Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
After donning comfortable clothes and soft-soled driving shoes, the Soupster looked nostalgically around his kitchen. He knew he’d be back. Still, the road had its mysteries and did one ever really know for sure? “Only one way to find out,” he said to no one in particular and began his road trip by heading south.
“At 970 meters high, the long-dormant volcano,” the Soupster had read in his guidebook “rivals or even exceeds Mt. Fuji in beauty.” The day was clear and Mt. Edgecumbe snow-capped. The guidebook said that the mountain had last erupted about 2,000 years ago. Reluctantly, the Soupster gave back in to the lure of the road.
The miles flew by. The Soupster’s stomach grumbled, protesting the quick coffee he’d had in place of real breakfast. “Well,” he thought, “what’s better than road food?”
He picked a café with a wide menu, ordered heavily and scarfed every bite. No need to eat again till he reached his destination.
He headed east, toward the sun. Here, the Soupster’s driving skills were tested as he passed through a construction zone (double fines!) into a hold-up of traffic as a huge tractor lumbered well below the speed limit.
At last, he broke free of the traffic onto lovely open road. He eased through curves and inclines, wondering if he could ever talk Our Town into hosting the Grand Prix. He felt as free as a cetacean bursting through the water into bright sunlight, like – yes, like the humpbacks bubble feeding right there! – the Soupster pointed to where he had watched those whales a decade earlier.
Aaron Copland’s music caressed him all the way down the last few miles of road, past industry, onto dirt track. Finally, he could go no further. He had reached the end.
He crawled out of his car and walked off his stiffness. The Soupster loathed getting back into the hybrid so soon, but he saw no other choice but to turn around and hit the pavement. Bummer, he’d already seen that country! Next road trip, he promised himself, he would drive one way and maybe fly back.
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The Soupster contemplates the relationship between the Northern Lights, cold & rain
Originally published November 3, 2011
“When was the last time you saw the Northern Lights over Our Town?” the Soupster asked his friend Rudy, as the two men reclined on the porch at the back of Rudy’s house. Rudy was a high school science teacher and an observant man, and the Soupster valued his opinion.
“Seems to me like a long while ago,” Rudy agreed.
The angle of the yard gave the two men a good view of the night sky. Passing clouds exposed a few isolated stars now and then as they talked.
“Maybe four or five years since one of those real light shows that have you muttering `I can’t believe what I’m seeing,’” said the Soupster. “And the next day everybody is talking about the Northern Lights wherever you go.”
“If people did not see the Northern Lights, then you have to explain what you were doing up in the middle of the night,” Rudy laughed.
“This is true,” said the Soupster.
“You know what the police say,” Rudy quoted. “Anybody up at 3 a.m. is probably up to no good.”
“This is also true.”
“I was busted by my kid,” said Rudy. “I woke her up early one morning for her to see a really good Northern Lights. She was cold and never fully woke up. Her mother complained big-time and said, `What kind of father are you?’ So the next time we had Northern Lights I didn’t wake her up and the kid was mad and said `Why didn’t you wake me up?’”
The Soupster laughed and sank down deeper into padded chaise. “Well, there’s the Wet Alaska and the Cold Alaska,” he said. “In Cold Alaska, they see the Northern Lights regularly.”
“My experience,” said Rudy “is that Wet Alaska may not be colder than Cold Alaska, but it can feel colder. I once saw a Fairbanks college kid in shorts, at a dry 20 below and I bet he would not do that here on a windblown night of freezing rain.”
“It’s not unusual for a West Coast state to have two completely different climate zones,” said the Soupster. “There’s wet western Washington and western Oregon, each state turning drier and hotter as you go east.”
“Of course, California, like Alaska, is split more North and South,” the Soupster said. “Deserts down South and forests up North.”
“The opposite of here,” said Rudy. “Great swaths of Interior Alaska get so little precipitation the area qualifies as a desert. Then we have this huge temperate rain forest here in the South.”
“You’re a smart guy,” said the Soupster.
“As long as you do not count the mistakes,” said Rudy.
(ED NOTE: Some folks’ wish to send a little of Sitka’s abundant rain down to Northern California, thankfully, came true on Friday 11/23 – the rain did help to nearly extinguish the wildfires, though, sadly, has also slowed the work of searchers.)
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