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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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The Soupster groks that everybody is thankful for something.
Originally published November 18, 2010
Greta, aged two, drooled onto the sitting Soupster’s left calf as she clung to him. Across the tidy living room of his friend’s house, Brandon-the-pre-teen regarded the Soupster with a suspicious boredom.
“Nice of you all to invite me for Thanksgiving,” the Soupster told Brandon, who grunted.
The Soupster could hear clattering from the kitchen and the excited voices of Corey and Barb, the parents of Greta and “Don” as he liked to be called.
“Okay,” yelled Corey, who looked like George Clooney, but sounded like Gilbert Gottfried. “Thanksgiving feed bag in the deen-ing room!”
“When I heard you were planning on spending Thanksgiving alone, I said `This is a Crime Against Soup!’” Corey said, as the Soupster and the children gathered around the well-decorated table, with Greta lifted up into her high chair.
“Didn’t I say that, honey,” Corey yelled out, “That the Soupster spending Thanksgiving alone was a crime against soup?”
“You did indeed,” Barb called back.
Corey filled everyone’s glasses with cider, even Greta’s tippy cup. Then Barb appeared from the kitchen holding a platter. “Here’s the `bird,’” she said.
The Soupster stared at the item on the platter she placed in the middle of the table. It looked vaguely like a turkey, but there was no brown skin and the flesh was wrong.
“It’s fish!” said Barb and Greta called out “Fiss!”
“It’s Halmoncod,” corrected Corey, who pointed with his carving knife. “The white meat is halibut, the dark meat is salmon and the Parson’s nose is black cod.”
“The posterior,” explained Barb.
“But before we eat this Halmoncod, we should all say what we are thankful for,” Barb continued. “I’m thankful that the Soupster could be with us.”
“And I’m thankful that Barb let me do something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Corey. “Go to Freezing Man.”
“Freezing Man?” said the Soupster.
“Like Burning Man, except it’s on the tundra,” said Corey, evoking the weird tribal ritual and art show that occurs annually in the Nevada desert. “Instead of making a giant statue out of wood and then setting fire to it, like they do at Burning Man, we bring discarded car and truck tires from all over Alaska and make a giant bear statue. Then we wait for it to get cold enough to make the tires brittle and we pelt the giant bear with stones and sticks until it shatters.”
“I have to ask,” said the Soupster. “Sounds like it needs to be at least 50 degrees below zero to get the tires that brittle. But at Burning Man, a lot of people are naked.”
“At Freezing Man, too,” said Corey. Then he saw the Soupster’s astonished expression.
“Underneath our parkas, Soupster, underneath our parkas!” he said. “We’re not crazy.”
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The Soupster hears about seasonal remedies.
Originally published December 1, 2016
There was a long line of people waiting at the airport, but none of them were flying that day. Instead, they waited to submit their names in the annual Customer Commensuration Event, where the airline awarded pairs of unrestricted tickets to three writers of the best essays titled, “Why I Need to Leave Our Town This Fall.”
Ah, autumn in Our Town, the Soupster thought, as he waited in line clutching his essay. A dark and wet autumn in Our Town, indeed. Like trouble piling on itself, the rain caused there to be more rain.
“It doesn’t rain, it pours,” a wise man once said.
“Oh, it gets better after Thanksgiving,” said Shirley “Bo” Burley, standing behind the Soupster and reading his mind. “Once the Christmas lights go up and cut the gloom, our mood lightens, too.”
“True, Bo,” said the Soupster. “To me, the absolute worst is the day after they change the clocks and instead of it getting dark at 5pm, which you’ve just gotten used to, it’s dark by 4pm, which is an unreasonable time for it to get dark.”
“Never lived up north, have you?” Bo asked.
“No,” said the Soupster.
“Wimp!” said Bo. “How would you like to go through a couple of months when the sun doesn’t make it over the horizon?”
“You’re just determined to lighten up my mood, aren’t you, Bo?” said the Soupster.
“Here’s a good `Coping with the Fall’ story,” said Bo, barreling on and accepting the Soupster’s implied consent. “You know Cleon, the computer guy?”
The Soupster nodded.
“He used to make house calls and one day, in the doldrums between Alaska Day and Thanksgiving, he got a call from that cute many-sided house out the road,” Bo explained.
“So Cleon strapped his small repair case to his bike and set out. Cleon loved his bike, but only a few minutes into his ride, he questioned his decision to take it. The temperature hovered right around freezing — depending on the microclimate Cleon traversed, the rain passed back and forth between liquid water and some snowish kind of thing. You know how it is, Soupster.
“As a shivering Cleon mounted the stairs to the house, he could hear music. Jimmy Buffett. Margaritaville. The door opened to a big, sweating guy wearing a toga. Inside, it was 90 degrees. There were people sprawled all over the sand-colored carpet. All their drinks had little bamboo umbrellas. A cardboard palm tree had been erected and a stuffed parrot perched on a corrugated branch.
Without a word, the big man showed Cleon into his office where a computer sat on the desktop. Cleon got to work. After about a half hour, Cleon stood up and stretched, another cyber problem solved.
Just then, the big man returned with a large can of tropical punch and two glasses. Cleon told him the machine was all fixed.
“Good job, fine fellow!” he said to Cleon. “I am the ruler of my Kingdom. I control the weather here. And now, thanks to you, I can also surf the Internet again!”
“So,” the man said with a wink. “When it rains, I reign.” He held up a glass and dispensed from the can of punch. “And when it pours, I pour.”
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Why not? – the Soupster enjoys a good cartoon.
By Kara Kesanooksisk
Would you like to create an Our Town?
The Sitka Soup would welcome an infusion of “new blood.” You may tell your story in words (450-500 of them), or as a graphic “cartoon” strip (probably four panels the size of those above). We would even consider a short, original photo essay with B&W photos. Your Our Town must be closely connected with the life of Sitkans, and the Soupster must make an appearance, even if it’s a brief one. If we run your Our Town, we’ll pay you $50.
Email your creation to email@example.com and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call 747-7595.
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The Soupster Lives!
Guest Written by Rose Manning (with input from Mike Helmrich)
“How ya doin’?” said Max-the-Dog to his human friend Irish Lil, as they stood chatting by the post office.
“Well, Max,” said Lil, “I’m getting back to Our Town after being in ‘America’ for eight weeks. Seven weeks in Michigan and one in California. Both were 100 degrees in the shade, with a daunting amount of mugginess. I tell you, when I walked off that plane into the grand, fine mist of Our Town I even considered kissing the damp ground. But, even with all that joy, when I heard about the writer dying it made me want to cry. That’ll teach me to go roamin’!”
“I hardly knew him, Max. I only met him twice in person. How could it have hit me so hard? The writer was kind. He was witty and nice. You know, I’m a bit of a writer, too,” said Lil.
“That so, Lil?”
“The writer laughed at my writing and even published some of it. That really tickled me.”
“I know what you mean,” said Max. “I liked him, too. And my wife, Kitty, really liked his writing. One time, he wrote a story about the two of us, when we met the Soupster – I was sitting in my truck, waiting for Kitty to come out of the sandwich shop.”
“Well,” said Lil, “I remember the first time I met both the writer and the Soupster. It was in the grocery store parking lot. There I was, in the front seat of a kindly Our Townsperson who’d agreed to give me, carless newbie, a ride. While I was waiting, I pulled a Soup from between the seats and read ‘Our Town.’ First, he made me smile, then chuckle and, finally, laugh right out loud. And I thought, ‘Yep, this town is going to be just fine for me, with people like you in it.’
Max replied, “You know, the writer had respect for everyone – he met them right where they were. He saw no problem with me and my wife, even though we are different breeds. Dogs, cats. Even telemarketers. And his sense of humor – quirky, for sure, but with lots of underlying truth. My wife Kitty loved the one about, ‘Cats have staff.’ That’s true – I’m her staff. She also loves the mystical stuff, like the time he talked about the ‘Wise Old Man’ – cats do like the mystical.
“What about the Soupster, Max? Did he pass away, too?”
“The Soupster? Oh, no! Soupster’s still around. Why, I saw him the other day, talking to Sam Grace out in front of our-doctor-the-vet’s office. That’s what I mean – the writer understood everyone. Soupster is a cat man through-and-through, and Sam – well, he’s definitely a dog man. And there they were, jabberin’ away like old friends.”
Lil agreed. “The writer gave me perspective, made me see Our Town in a new light and raised my spirits, too. I still imagine him slipping around corners, taking mental notes of humorous human habits, just to entertain, and maybe now, I guess, cause the occasional angel to raise the occasional eyebrow.”
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