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Comments Off on Our Town – August 15, 2019

Our Town – August 15, 2019

| Automobiles, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 15, 2019

The Soupster muses about “silver linings”.

Originally published September 9, 2004

Even a reliable car will die if you don’t put gas in it.

As the Soupster drove toward downtown, the dreaded “check engine” light of his car flicked on. A moment later, all the other little icons on his dashboard lit up — the oil light, the battery light, the low fuel light. These symbols are called “Idiot Lights” because if you neglect a problem until they go on, you’ve waited too long. To keep track of the gas, you get not just a light but a whole gauge. So, if you let your car run out of gas, you’re a super idiot.

The Soupster’s sedan rolled to a stop.

Now, if you run out of gas on this country’s great prairies, you could be forgiven. If you happen to miss the “Next Gas 42 Miles” sign on Route 80, you could be forgiven. But it’s pretty hard to forgive running out of gas in Our Town – on land at least.

So, the Soupster did not forgive himself as he pulled over to the side of the road on a Thursday afternoon, right at quitting time.

He had no sooner shut off the car than someone came by. A jogger. With a baby in a skookum three-wheeled, all-terrain stroller.

For a second, the Soupster thought the jogger would be mad at him for parking too close to the pedestrian path, but she immediately offered the use of her cell phone. So, the Soupster called his friend Don and asked him to bring some gas.

The Soupster thanked the jogger, who jogged happily off. Replaced then by a cloud of dust, as a huge pick-up pulled in, practically dislodging chunks of asphalt with its outsized tires. The Soupster’s friend Moe’s son Larry.

“Need help?” he asked, and the Soupster explained that gas was on the way.

As Larry pulled out, Curly and Jo, who the Soupster had been meaning to call, pulled over. And, seeing the others, Adam and his little son Abel pulled over and joined the group.

“Which of you needs help?” Adam asked, and Jo laughed when they were told, “Neither! But thanks!”

Curly and Jo went back to their car, but the Soupster stood by the roadside, signaling that he was okay to the half dozen acquaintances who passed by.

Then, on the other side of the road, the Soupster’s Absolute Worst Enemy stopped and asked if he needed help. When told the Soupster was out of gas, AWE went round to the back of his car and emerged with gas-can-and-triumphant-smile.

The Soupster felt beads of sweat drip down his neck. Do you accept help from your Absolute Worst Enemy? What is the rule?

Mercifully, the arrival of Don’s Jeep kept the Soupster from having to answer that. He called to AWE, “Thanks, but I’m okay now!” with real relief.

Don handed the Soupster a full gas can. “Boy, wanna see everybody you know?” the Soupster said. “Just run out of gas in Our Town, on the side of the road, at quitting time!”

32 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – August 1, 2019

Our Town – August 1, 2019

| Guest Written, Music, Our Town, Rachel Ramsey, Radio, Recycling | August 1, 2019

The Soupster riffs with a jazzy friend.

Guest Written by Rachel Ramsey

The Soupster was perusing his favorite thrift shop’s assortment of kitchenware when he heard his name from across the shop.

“Soupster! I’ve been thinking of you all week!” He recognized the joyful voice of his pal and fellow jazz fan, Liz, who approached him excitedly through the crowd.

“Oh yeah? What kind of trouble are you cookin’ up, dear?”

“Ain’t Misbehavin’, Soupster.” Liz replied. “Have you seen the recently discovered short video clip of Louis Armstrong as a young teenager?” Liz knew the Soupster liked his jazz early and hot. Nothing later than 1929 was his jazz preference.

“I did catch that! A New Orleans newspaper boy flashes his grin, and experts have agreed it is likely Armstrong. 104 year-old video – very cool, indeed.”

“Well I’ve been on a solid Armstrong kick since seeing that clip, buddy, and ever since I feel I’ve got the world on a string!”

Liz’s laugh was as infectious as her joyous and kind, ear-to-ear smile – freely shared with all she encountered. Not unlike Satchmo himself, the Soupster thought. Determined to replace his shabby compost bucket, he continued to eye the goods.

“Frankly, Soupster, I cannot stop referencing Armstrong song titles, and it’s driving my kids a bit batty. But I’m entertained, and honestly, I can’t help lovin’ dat man!” Their combined robust laughter filled the shop, turning only a few tourists’ heads.

“Good for you, Liz,” the Soupster chuckled. “Since his career spanned 50 years, that should keep you going strong for quite a while, though if you’re not careful, Someday you’ll be sorry. Before you know it, your hubby will be bombarding you with all the Zappa lyrics you’re oblivious to.”

Grateful that her fellow jazz lover grokked her silly joy, Liz giggled, “We’ve a fine romance, Soupster and It takes two to tango!”

“Aha! There it is!” The Soupster triumphantly exclaimed while pulling from the top shelf a 3-gallon bucket. “Have any shows on the horizon, Liz?” he asked. Liz was a volunteer at their community radio station.

“Sure do – I’m on tomorrow afternoon. Though I did miss my last slot,” Liz explained, “I caught a bug.”

“Gut Bucket Blues?” joked the Soupster.

Liz laughed, “Not quite. Speaking of buckets,” she pointed to the Soupster’s score, “What gives?”

“Well, it’s too good to be true, but I need this because my old Bucket’s got a hole in it. No lie.”

Liz couldn’t help herself, “What can you say – You’re just a lucky so and so.”

The Soupster paid for his bucket and began to mosey out of the crowded shop. He spotted the clouds above parting in the north, allowing sunbeams to permeate through the thinning overhead.

He turned around and called out, “I’m beginning to see the light, Liz! It’s on the sunny side of the street!”

Liz’s enormous smile returned as she laughingly shot back, “What a wonderful world!”

70 total views, 0 today

Comments Off on Our Town – July 18, 2019

Our Town – July 18, 2019

| Animals, Eagles, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships | July 18, 2019

The Soupster shares his learning about eagle feathers.

Originally Published July 24, 2003

The first time the Soupster passed his neighbor Gem, she was standing behind her push mower in the middle of her small lawn. The Soupster waved and Gem cocked an eyebrow and shook her head.

The second time the Soupster passed, Gem was standing in exactly the same spot, with exactly the same quizzical look on her face.

“Gem?” asked the Soupster, strolling over. “You okay?”

“Soupster!” said Gem, as if snapping from a trance. “Look here,” she said, pointing down.

The Soupster did as asked and spied first Gem’s boots, then the head of the push mower and finally – obviously the object of Gem’s attention — two bald eagle feathers, one white and one brown, lying in the grass.

“I can’t mow over them, Soupster, they’re so beautiful,” Gem said. “But if I pick them up I’ll be guilty of a federal crime!”

“Calm down, Gem,” said the Soupster.

“But Soupster, nobody is allowed to possess bald eagle feathers!”

“You’re right, Gem,” the Soupster said. “There are laws against possessing any of the parts, including feathers, of bald and golden eagles. Live or dead. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever touch the feathers.”

The Soupster bent over and picked the feathers up. The white one was fine and delicate, with a bit of down at its base, fluffy and ready to fly away on the merest breeze. The brown feather was more substantial, its firm stalk suggesting the heft of a writing quill.

“Native Americans and scientists are allowed to petition for eagle feathers – or other parts,” said the Soupster. “For ceremonial or scientific reasons. There’s a place in Colorado – the National Eagle Repository – and another one called The National Wildlife Repository, that are run by the federal government. They will hold onto any animal parts people are not legally allowed to possess – from skins from bears unlawfully hunted to lizard skins not allowed in the U.S. and seized by Customs.”

“Wow,” said Gem.

“My friend at Fish and Wildlife says there’s a six-month waiting list of thousands of Native Americans who have applied for eagle feathers,” the Soupster continued. “For other parts, the wait can easily be a couple of years. Maybe these feathers could go to someone on the list.”

Gem stepped away from the mower. She took the feathers from the Soupster’s hand and studied them. “It’s amazing to think,” she said, “the something people all over the country might wait months or years for is fluttering onto my lawn.”

“Americans who come upon eagle feathers are asked to mail them to the repository,” the Soupster explained. “My friend says that in Our Town, we should just turn them over to our state Fish and Game folks and they’ll see they get to the right place.”

“Thanks, Soupster. I can go back to mowing now,” Gem said. “Anything I can do for you?”

“Well, Gem,” the Soupster said. “After you finish your lawn, how about you come over and finish mine?”

72 total views, 2 today

Comments Off on Our Town – July 4, 2019

Our Town – July 4, 2019

| Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Shopping | July 4, 2019

The Soupster has a “bird” sighting.

Originally published May 6, 2010

The Soupster awoke to the sound of birds – early birds. He heard a number of cars pull into the neighborhood. The engines stopped and car doors creaked open. Next came excited squawks and warbling calls, as the early birds recognized each other and descended on their destination.

“Lydia’s Moving Sale!” The Soupster’s eyes popped open and he leaped from his bed.

His beloved long-time neighbor was re-locating to Hawaii to be with her son Hank and his family, who had already remodeled their lanai into an apartment. A couple of years earlier, Lydia’s daughter-in-law Jackie had come into an inheritance, so Hank had closed his not-so-successful Our Town nautical pest extermination business (“Swimming Rats Our Specialty”). Having misjudged their opportunities in the 49th State, Hank and Jackie had decided to give the 50th a whirl.

The Soupster quickly donned his clothes – grateful for the new 21st Century rule that men no longer needed to comb their hair – and hurried over to Lydia’s.

His neighbor’s modest home was overrun with early birds. But of course! For Lydia had had the temerity to put an ad in the previous evening’s newspaper: “Aloha Moving Sale! Everything must go! Items free or you set the price. 9am-1pm. No early birds.”

Nothing inflamed an early bird’s lust for cheap but serviceable household items like those last three words. “No early birds?” he thought. “Really, Lydia?” He looked at his watch. It was just past 8:30.

At the front door, Lydia was negotiating with one of the early birds, who held a DVD player and a lamp. The early bird held cash, but Lydia pushed his hand back. “It’s okay to take them for free,” she insisted.

“I’m sure you could use the money,” said the bird, placing a $50 bill in her hand and hurrying out the door.

“It’s been like this,” said Lydia, acknowledging the Soupster. “I tell them they can have the stuff for free. I must look pitiful or something, because they keep forcing me to take money.”

“Why don’t you want to take money?”

“I feel like I should pay them,” said Lydia. “To take this stuff away. You know how much you accumulate in 30 years? I was going to take everything to the White Elephant, but do you know how many trips that would have made? This way the buyers come right to me. Cuts out the middleman.”

Lydia turned her attention to a bird holding a sewing basket, a coffee maker and two tin buckets. More early birds arrived as the Soupster surveyed the scene. Lydia’s household was being demolished peck by peck, as surely as ravens worrying a dead salmon.

But Lydia seemed happy, the Soupster surmised. “Hey Lydia, what are you going to spend all this unexpected money on?” he asked.

“Oh, it all goes to the White E.,” said Lydia. “Do you know how much trouble this is saving me? By cutting out the middleman??”

89 total views, 2 today

Comments Off on Our Town – June 20, 2019

Our Town – June 20, 2019

| Animals, Bears, Eagles, food, Neighbors, Our Town, Ravens, Relationships | June 20, 2019

The Soupster contributes to French Enlightenment.

Originally published June 26, 2003

Before the strolling Soupster even reached the bend in the road, he heard three things: the treble- triples and quads of bald eagles, the more purposeful caws of ravens and the baritone of his  neighbor, Jean-Pierre, spouting loud, angry French.

After retiring from a large bicycle manufacturer in Paris, Jean-Pierre had built a sailboat and headed out to sea. Six years later, with a wife he’d met in Phnom Penh and a son born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Jean-Pierre came ashore in Our Town and declared it “Ze Heaven On Zis Earth!” The son was married himself now and living Outside. The wife had moved back to Cambodia to be with her family. But to Jean-Pierre, Our Town was still “Heaven on Zis Earth.”

Well, maybe not today.

Today, Jean-Pierre was in a furious competition with some ravens to return the contents of his trash can to their rightful place before the black birds pulled the items out again.  As to who was winning, it was a toss-up.

In the hemlocks surrounding Jean-Pierre’s trash-strewn driveway, bald eagles watched the action from a dignified distance. Not so the ravens, one of which swooped low enough to knock Jean-Pierre’s cap off. Then the bird glided smoothly to the rim of the can, cackled happily and grabbed a piece of melon peel.

“Yo, Jean-Pierre,” the Soupster called. “You can’t win a battle against those odds. Let me help you.”

The Soupster tipped the scales some in Jean-Pierre’s favor. The ravens may have given the Soupster slack because he truly loved ravens. Or because he was not French. Whatever, they flew back up into the hemlocks and started harassing the eagles.

“What got this stuff all over, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster asked.

“I zink it was ze bear, mon Zoupster,” said Jean-Pierre. “It may have been ze land otter, but I don’t zink zo. I zink it was ze bear.”

“Did you keep your trash in your garage until pick-up day like you were supposed to?” asked the Soupster.

“Oui! Yes!” said Jean-Pierre. “Always!”

“Did you put any fish or meat in the can that might have smelled strong and attracted the bear?”

“Sacre bleu!” Jean-Pierre said. “My freezer needed repair. I thought for just a little while it would be all right. You are right, Zoupster. It was ze smelly fish zat attracted ze bear!”

“Not such a “heaven on zis Earth” if you have to watch your garbage so closely, eh, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster teased.

“Au contraire, Zoupster!” Jean-Pierre said. “Zis is nature. In nature, zere is always zometing to capitalize on a mistake zat any creature makes. Nature, she is very efficient, no?”

“Yes,” the Soupster said.

“And, Zoupster,” Jean-Pierre concluded, as the two men hoisted upright the now-filled can. “We are zo lucky to live right with nature. With nature right on our doorstep. In our driveway. C’est magnifique, no?”

92 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – June 6, 2019

Our Town – June 6, 2019

| Environment, Nan Metashvilli, Our Town, Poems | June 6, 2019

 

134 total views, 2 today

Comments Off on Our Town – May 23, 2019

Our Town – May 23, 2019

| Airport, Animals, Boats, Fish, Our Town, Travel, Visitors | May 23, 2019

The Soupster chats with an heir to Jane Goodall.

Originally published May 24, 2001

The Soupster stretched out his legs in the molded airport seat, prepared to meditate, nibble on TicTacs and wait for the plane to land. But a visitor appeared beside him, a white-haired fellow who carried a Nat Geo with chimps on the cover.

“Is it Dunkirk? I wondered,” said the fellow, interrupting the Soupster’s reverie.

“I beg your pardon?” said the Soupster.

“I was taking my early morning constitutional, and I saw the most curious thing – throngs of boats heading under the bridge. I’ve never seen so many boats heading out at one time!”

“It’s the Salmon Derby,” said the Soupster.

“A pinkish hat?” said the anthropologist incredulously.

“No, no,” said the Soupster. “It’s a big fishing contest that’s held every year. Everybody from the luckiest fisherman to the most accursed, tries his or her luck to catch the biggest king salmon and net the biggest prize, which has been beaucoup cash. Plus, bragging rights.”

“Ah, yes,” said the anthropologist. “A spring fertility festival. The ritual rewarding of the most successful harvester to ensure everyone’s enthusiasm for the long season ahead. I once worked with a group of people whose `prize’ was given for digging up the largest tapioca root.”

“Who are you calling a tapioca root?” said a voice from the wall above the anthropologist, who turned in the direction of the sound.

The voice belonged to a 70+ lb. king salmon mounted on a plaque. His pointed face jutted out and lips moved like any number of audio-animatronic singing fish. The anthropologist, therefore, did not realize he was in the presence of an authentic airport poltergeist.

The Soupster, however, backed up a few steps and watched passively.

“Interactive,” said the anthropologist, indicating the fish. “Very clever.”

“I’m very attractive,” said the salmon, peering down on the anthropologist’s spreading Male Pattern Baldness. “Which is more than I can say for vous.”

“You speak French?” said the anthropologist.

“I speak salmon,” said the king salmon. “You call it what you want.”

“You seem confident, firm in your role,” the anthropologist told the king salmon. “Rooted.”

“Well, I’m mounted to this plaque,” the wisenheimer king salmon said. “But I wasn’t always.

“Once, I roamed the North Pacific with packs of my friends, thousands of miles past undersea wonders too numerous to utter. I’ve seen orcas cresting at sunset in Prince William Sound, great pods of stellar sea lions off Point Hope. I swam strong and free for seven long years,” and here the fish chuckled, “until I met up with a crafty denizen of the surface. A sly fisherman and former school principal who knew just how to lure a seven-year old. We won the Salmon Derby together that year back in the last century. Well, the money is spent, I’m mounted up here and it’s all a stale old fish story now.”

“Any regrets?” asked the anthropologist.

“Well, if I hadn’t been caught, I’d’ve had kids,” said the salmon. “You know us salmon. We like to have 100 million of them each!”

120 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – May 9, 2019

Our Town – May 9, 2019

| Children, Holidays, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | May 9, 2019

The Soupster chats with one busy mom.

Originally published May 1, 2003

Connie’s three children scattered to the ice cream section of the store. Lugging an overflowing supermarket basket in the crook of her arm, she stopped at a display of high-priced garlic-stuffed Aegean olives where there happened to stand a Soupster.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he said, glancing toward the big freezers. “Your kids look happy.”

“They sure seem to be,” Connie nodded. “Strange, since I had them at work all morning painting the garden fence and all the porch railings.”

“Quite the day for it,” said the Soupster, this time doing the nodding.

And indeed, the Soupster’s pupils were just able to dilate again after a day of squinting at the nearly prehistoric sunshine of the morning. In Our Town, the infrequent Sun seems on rare days to have the quality of the Sun of an earlier Earth, before a protective atmospheric ozone layer had even formed. A sharp, almost painful amount of light, without the softening rain and clouds that usually roll their blanket over all.

“There’s such pressure to do things when the sun does come out,” he told Connie. “I mean you never know how long before you’re going to have the chance again.”

“Today was incredibly busy,” Connie said. “Woke up early. Saw the big yellow orb. Woke the kids. Fed them. Put them to work. Painting, painting, painting.”

“What was the rush?” asked the Soupster.

“Piano recital,” said Connie. “So – painted, painted, painted all morning. Then washed, washed, washed all three kids free of paint. Fed them again. Dressed them for the recital. Drove them to the recital. Soothed their stage fright. Listened attentively. Gave them a little critical, but 90 percent supportive feedback after they played.”

“Now you’re getting stuff to make dinner?”

“The ingredients,” Connie said. “The kids tell me `they’re’ going to cook me an `extra special’ Mother’s Day meal.”

“Which will end up twice as much work for you?” said the Soupster.

“You’re learning,” Connie laughed and punched the Soupster lightly on the bicep. He felt an overwhelming fondness for this hard-working Mom.

“Your kids don’t know your real Mother’s Day present was the piano recital?” said the Soupster as he bid his friend goodbye.

“Are you kidding, Soupster?” Connie said, pushing him away. “My Mother’s Day present was getting the fence painted!”

214 total views, 2 today

Comments Off on Our Town – April 25, 2019

Our Town – April 25, 2019

| Boats, Fishing, Our Town, Visitors | April 25, 2019

The Soupster hears about the “Mad Captain”.

Originally published April 21, 2005

The Soupster mistook for a friend the stranger to Our Town he saw occupying a bench above the harbor.

“You look just like him,” the Soupster apologized, when he got closer. “This guy you look like has lived in Our Town forever.”

“I’m Richard Labb,” said the stranger, shaking the Soupster’s hand. “Visiting, er, Your Town, from Canada on a tour of the Inside Passage. Except Your Town is not very Inside anything, is it?”

“Sounds like you just took a boat trip,” guessed the Soupster.

“A fishing charter,” said Labb. “Before today I thought I had pretty good sealegs. But twice on the charter I made a personal contribution – over the side – to Davy Jones.”

“Rough charter?” the Soupster said.

Labb laughed, a touch maniacally. “You don’t know Captain Leonardo?”

“I don’t” said the Soupster.

“He has strange rituals that he insists his customers perform on board,” Labb said.

“Really?”

“After we left the harbor and were heading out – as soon as we got by those big rocks near the airport runway – Captain Leonardo insisted that I and the three other clients on board remove our socks and allow him to lock the socks up in a little box he kept by the helm,” Labb said.

“Any explanation?” asked the Soupster.

“Said it would help us catch fish,” said Labb. “Leonardo also said that when he served sandwiches for lunch.”

“Sandwiches seem pretty normal,” commented the Soupster.

“He made us eat the sandwiches from the outside in, crusts first,” said Labb. “All the way around the outside of the sandwich until we had a little soft disk of the center left. Captain Leonardo watched us closely as we ate and made sure we all did it. `Important to catch the fish!’ Leonardo insisted.”

“A lot of people have odd rituals they use to attract fish, but Captain Leonardo does seem a bit like Captain Crunch,” admitted the Soupster.

“But the worst, the absolute worst, was Captain Leonardo’s constant rhyming and word games,” Labb said. “He did not shut up for one single second. When Captain Leonardo found out I was from Canada, he started calling me `Labrador Labb.’ When he found out I was a veterinarian, he asked me if I had ever tested the blood of a retriever. When I said I had, he went berserk.

“`Labb from Labrador’s Labrador retriever blood testing laboratory,’ chanted Captain Leonardo. `Labb’s Lab Lab Labs.’ After about half an hour, he made started making us all repeat, `Labb’s Lab Lab Labs.’ He had similar sayings for everyone else, too.”

“Well, you’re back on dry land now,” the Soupster said soothingly. “And you never have to take one of Captain Leonardo’s charters ever again.”

“Actually, I’ve booked a trip with him later in the summer to troll for coho,” said Labb.

“Why? Leonardo drove you crazy,” said the Soupster.

“I know,” said Labb. “But you should see all the fish we caught!

137 total views, 2 today

Comments Off on Our Town – April 11, 2019

Our Town – April 11, 2019

| Our Town, Seasons, Spring | April 10, 2019

The Soupster offers Springtime advice.

Originally published March 30, 2000

The Soupster had been dreaming a lot lately about doing chores.

He thrashed around in bed starting around 2am and imagined he was fixing the gutters on his house, cleaning the trash out of the culvert and washing the old salt crust off the bottom of his car before the poor thing rusted out completely.

The Soupster felt he needed to paint the part of his house that a big storm had peeled raw the previous winter. That nice drainage ditch that funneled water away from where everybody walks? Well, it needed to be re-dug. And somehow, a cat had gotten below the deck and left several calling cards.

Springtime chores, thought the Soupster, are the 180-degree opposite to New Year’s resolutions.

On the flush of a brand new year, people think big. Our expansive minds wander to-and-fro to find the perfect human we want to be. New Year’s resolutions are grandiose — and too often forgotten or not kept.

Springtime chores, on the other hand, are humble. Calling out to us each time we leave the house or apartment, every time we put the key in the ignition or pass a sign warning us that on Tax Day we also have to have our tires changed.

They are humble, but insistent. Chores murmur and pull at your socks as you walk by. They get louder the longer the days become, as March passes into April and April into May. And their voices can get mighty shrill if you ignore their early Spring call and postpone everything until summer.

The Soupster came up with a “How-To” guaranteed to get those chores done (by doing the opposite of New Year’s resolutions):

1. Do not throw a huge party for a million friends immediately before starting on your chores.
2. Go slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
3. Firm, steady pressure gets the job done.
4. Do not announce you are starting your chores by spinning colorful noisemakers.

New Year’s is the calendar start of the year and the time we make big deals with ourselves. But April, thought the Soupster, is the true start of the new year.

April really means that winter’s over. Easter, Passover, eager young shoots pushing through the soil, etc. April’s not the time for big deals, it’s for paying back debts already incurred.

So get out the paint brush!

167 total views, 3 today

Comments Off on Our Town – March 28, 2019

Our Town – March 28, 2019

| Jokes, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | March 28, 2019

The Soupster shops for shoes.

Originally published March 15, 2001

“See,” the Soupster said to the sales clerk. “It’s way too big.”

The Soupster dangled his foot in front on himself and, indeed, his shoe — a rubber-and-leather waterproof slip-on — threatened to fall to the carpet.

“I don’t understand,” said the Soupster. “Surely I’m not shrinking? I’ve bought this style of shoe for years — always a size 9.”

“And now the nine is too big?” the sales clerk tried to confirm.

“Look,” said the Soupster and with a mere curl of his toe let the shoe drop off completely.

“Maybe they got a different manufacturer,” ventured the clerk.

“Or maybe they decided on a different sizing system from another country where people’s feet are smaller,” volunteered a young man whom the clerk and the Soupster noticed now, holding a heavy black work boot in one hand and a pair of beige leather sandals in the other.

“Actually,” said the clerk, “in that country you imagine the resident’s feet would be larger. The Soupster’s shoe is too big, not too small.”

“When I first moved to Our Town,” said the Soupster, “everything seemed really small. The roads and stores and houses. Then, it was like I moved into some new area of consciousness and suddenly the road didn’t seem to end too soon at all. It ended at just the right place.”

“I know what you mean,” commented the sales clerk. “For the first five or so years I lived here it seemed like I was always feeling short of people. Because I kept seeing the same people over and over again. Then, like you say — some new level — and I realized that because I knew so much about everybody, there were actually more people in my life. Not less.”

“Wow,” said the young man. “I had this cousin once from Tacoma. He was younger than me. You know how when you don’t see someone for a while, like since they were a kid, they look really big the next time you see them?”

The Soupster and sales clerk both bit. “Yes,” they said.

“Well, this cousin of mine kept shrinking,” said the young man. “Every time I’d see him he’d look a little smaller. He was always small, but he started to get really, noticeably smaller.”

“Did you share your perception with him or anybody else?” asked the clerk.

“Nah, I didn’t want to bum anybody out,” said the young man. “You know, in case he really was shrinking. Maybe he was always standing behind a dining room table or a television or something. But however it happened, I started to see only the top half of him. Like from the waist up.”

“What happened then?” prompted the Soupster.

“He disappeared completely,” said the young man wistfully.

“You mean, he totally dissolved into nothingness?” said the shoe clerk.

“No, he went to college in Arizona,” said the young man. “And he started hanging around with a crowd way too crazy for me.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 14, 2019

Our Town – March 14, 2019

| Alaska Natives, Dreams, Fishing, Our Town, Seasons, Spring | March 14, 2019

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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Our Town – February 28, 2019

| Nicknames, Our Town, Storytelling | February 28, 2019

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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Our Town – February 14, 2019

| Automobiles, Crazy Theories, Our Town, Travel | February 14, 2019

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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Our Town – December 13, 2018

| Our Town, Seasons, Small Town Stuff, Travel, Winter | December 13, 2018

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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. 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. To submit: Email your creation to shop@sitkasoup.com and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call: 747-7595.

What is Our Town?

Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

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