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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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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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