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Comments Off on Our Town – November 29, 2018

Our Town – November 29, 2018

| Northern Lights, Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather, Winter | November 29, 2018

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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Comments Off on Our Town – November 15, 2018

Our Town – November 15, 2018

| food, Holidays, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Thanksgiving | November 15, 2018

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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Comments Off on Our Town – November 1, 2018

Our Town – November 1, 2018

| Fall, Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather | November 1, 2018

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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Comments Off on Our Town – October 18, 2018

Our Town – October 18, 2018

| Animals, Cats, Guest Written, Kara Kesanooksisk, Our Town, Owls | October 18, 2018

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.

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

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 4, 2018

Our Town – October 4, 2018

| Animals, Cats, Dogs, Guest Written, Our Town, Relationships, Rose Manning | October 4, 2018

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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Comments Off on Our Town – September 20, 2018

Our Town – September 20, 2018

| Bicycles, Elections, Our Town | September 20, 2018

By hook or by crook, the Soupster makes it to the ballot box.

Originally published Sept. 23, 2010

“There it is!” the Soupster cried when he saw the watch he had lost last Christmas, fallen between the washing machine and the dryer. He should have thought of looking between the appliances – from there he had at other times retrieved single socks, misplaced mail and some multi-legged critters with segmented exoskeletons.

The watch was a nerd delight with a big time face and a tiny calculator. He loved it: the Soupster was great at addition, but anything more complex gave him a headache. He glanced at the watch as one of the digital numbers changed. It still worked!

A knock at the door and the Soupster opened it, to find Keith Undermeyer standing outside astride his new hybrid on-road/off-road bicycle, with a meaty plank mounted on the rear bumper as a cargo carrier. He had one bike helmet on his head and another cradled in his arm. The Soupster fastened the watch to his wrist.

“You gonna vote, Soupster?” Keith asked.

“Of course,” the Soupster said.

“Got a bike?”

“Well, I was probably just going to dri….” The Soupster started.

“Well, you are probably going to ride your bike there now,” said Keith, cutting him off and tossing him the helmet. “Go get your cycle.”

The Soupster retrieved his ancient Schwinn 5-speed and met Keith out by the road, already starting off. The Soupster tried to catch up with his nimble friend, but no matter how hard he pedaled, the distance between the two men grew larger.

Something was wrong. Even the Soupster was faster than the top speed he now attained. He stopped and examined his bike. His rear tire was nearly flat! No wonder!

A speck in the distance now, Keith turned around. The speck got bigger. The Soupster looked at his recovered watch to see that it was a few minutes to 8 – WHEN THE POLLS CLOSED!

Keith pulled up.

“I have a flat, you’ll have to take me on your bike,” said the Soupster.

“What’s your hurry?” said Keith, but the Soupster just jumped up onto the meaty cargo plank. “Let’s go!” he said.

Keith shook his head, but dutifully pulled off. With the greater weight he was slower, but still fast. The Soupster mentally egged him on. The polls were going to close! They would miss out on voting!

At the polling station, the Soupster jumped off the back of the bike and was opening the doors even before Keith stopped moving. He stepped inside, breathless.

“Made it!” the Soupster said triumphantly.

“Actually, there’s still an hour,” said the woman checking IDs and taking signatures.

“But the time…” said the Soupster, showing her his watch.

“Your watch is wrong,” said the nice lady. “When’s the last time you checked it?”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 6, 2018

Our Town – September 6, 2018

| Cruise Ships, Foreign Countries, Our Town, Philippines, Tourists, Triplets | September 6, 2018

Stylish gal has the Soupster seeing triple.

Originally published August 12, 2010

As the Soupster walked past the base of the O’Connell Bridge, he heard the low rumble of a cruise ship’s small boat, lightering passengers ashore. The first off the boat – a tall, raven-haired young woman — was so striking the Soupster couldn’t help but notice her. Her attire was as striking as her looks – thin black leggings and pink, shaggy Ugg boots. Although the sun was shining, she also wore a light blue rain jacket emblazoned with the cruise ship’s logo.

The Soupster hurried around Castle Hill and up Lincoln St., already late for a lunch date at the home of his good friend Oscar. Oscar had scored some wonderful ivory king and had recently invested in a spendy gas barbecue. The Soupster, whose B-B-Q efforts always ended in crumbly salmon tasting of starter fluid, savored the thought of dining with an expert grillsman.

The Soupster was supposed to meet Oscar near the Filipino food take-out stand, Adobo Abode. (ed. note: Try the refrain of the song “Winchester Cathedral”)  But as the Soupster neared the Abode, he was struck dumb. Standing by the stand, halfway through eating a plate of pancit and lumpia, stood the same woman he had seen moments ago, just arriving on shore. Same long hair, same pink boots, same cruise ship raincoat.

“Soupster!” It was Oscar, across the street, calling from the window of his truck. “I forgot to get any lemons,” he continued at high volume, including all the people on the street in his conversation.

The Soupster hurried across Lincoln and got into Oscar’s pickup. “See that woman across the streets? The one with the dark hair and the blue raincoat?”

“Well, the tourists are sure getting better-looking,” said Oscar appreciatively. “But what’s with the boots? You think she’s a Sherpa?”

“I think she’s in style,” said the Soupster.

Oscar pulled away from the curb and worked his way down the crowded street, stopping several times to let tourists cross or to finish taking a photo. He turned onto the main road.

As the Soupster pondered how the woman on the boat got to the Adobo Abode faster than he did, Oscar turned into the grocery store parking lot. “Surely she couldn’t have gotten there fast enough for her to order, pick up and finish half of one of the Abode’s heaping plates?” the Soupster thought.

He followed Oscar toward the store, only to be struck dumb again. The same woman – raven tresses, Ugg boots — emerged from the entrance, carrying a full bag of groceries in her arms.

“What the…” said the Soupster, and then — determined to solve this mystery – he approached the young woman.

“Eh, Miss,” he said, “I’ve seen you three times in the last 15 minutes.”

The woman laughed. A cab pulled up next to them. In the back seat sat two identical versions her, one with her hair still tousled from the wind on the boat, the other with a small piece of pancit stuck to her chin. The woman laughed again, this time right at the Soupster. She got in the cab.

Oscar caught up with the Soupster. “Triplets,” he marveled, as the cab pulled away.

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 23, 2018

Our Town – August 23, 2018

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, Our Town | August 23, 2018

The Soupster hears a runner’s monologue.

Guest Written by Lois Verbaan

“Another thing I love doing in Our Town,” Jo mused, “is the Alpine Adventure Run.”

The Soupster raised his eyebrows and looked through the steam rising from his mug. “Good for you!” he exclaimed. “An 8-mile run over the mountains isn’t a walk in the park. The extent of my racing involves getting coffee before noon,” he laughed. “How was the run?”

“Super fun! Lots of exercise, amazing scenery, and a two-hour, one-way conversation with no one to interrupt or disagree,” Jo replied.

“Talking to yourself for 2 hours?” the Soupster asked.

“Well, technically, thinking to myself” Jo said. “Picture this: You arrive at the beginning of the race and find yourself surrounded by the fittest people in Our Town, suddenly wishing you’d overslept. Before you know it, the starting gun is fired, and your thoughts are racing faster than your feet…

…Oh no! Why does it always feel like a full sprint at first? Okay, pace yourself. Look at all these people beside the road cheering us on. I wonder if I know anyone? Yep! Better pick up the pace so they won’t suspect I’m actually dying — right here in front of the grocery store.
 
…Okay, here we go. Start of the trail. You’ve got this. Tree root, mud, slippery planks – repeat! A runner slowing ahead. ‘Passing on the left! Cool tattoo!’ Hmmm, someone is not a happy camper. Time for positive self-talk: ‘I feel steady and grounded. I run with confidence. I am Zen.’
 
…I hate stairs. I hate stairs.
 
…Phew! The ridge at last. This sweat dripping in my eyes stings. Goodbye sunscreen. Another runner. Should I make noise, or be stealthy? ‘Whoo-hoo! Whoo-hoo! Keep your eyes peeled in case of bear!’ Yep, that got his attention! I should have had that second pancake for breakfast.
 
…Oh WOW! Sun illuminating bright green foliage and flowers all around me: Fireweed, lupine, dogwood. And look! OH. MY. GOSH. I am in heaven. I love these clouds filling the valleys, and the snow-capped peaks poking through.
 
…Eyes on the trail! Concentrate. Is anyone catching me? No, don’t look back. Enjoy the journey. Be grateful. Run to your own rhythm.
 
… Yes! Heading down. Lean forward and use gravity. Tray tables upright and locked. Good work, knees! Thank you, ibuprofen! On the road, let’s sprint to the finish just around this curve. Whoops! Just around the next curve. Nope. Next curve, for sure. WHERE ON EARTH IS THE FINISH LINE?? 
 
…I hear cheering. What a crowd! Some speed now would be nice. Hello, legs? Are you two listening?

So that’s how it went for two hours and one minute, Soupster!” Jo laughed.

“Well, I broke out in a sweat just listening to all that,” the Soupster said. “How are you feeling today?”

“Great, other than a few aches and pains everywhere below the waist – and the voice in my head is a little hoarse,” said Jo with a smile.

“Ah, I see,” the Soupster replied. “Best get a few days’ rest. It’ll do you both a world of good.”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 9, 2019

Our Town – August 9, 2019

| Craftsman, Neighbors, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships | August 9, 2018

The Soupster chats with some “guys”.

Originally published June 4, 2009

Guy had worked the order counter at the lumberyard for the past 20 years, after spending an equal amount of time working out in the field. Examples of his handiwork stood all over Our Town. And stand they did – even after decades of salt-encrusted gales, Guy’s decks, fences, sheds and garages stood strong while much newer structures succumbed to rot. Guy knew how to make things shed water and not trap it. And that, as the poet said, makes all the difference.

“Hey guy!” Guy said to the new builder who had come into the store just about every other day for the better part of the last three weeks. Guy greeted everybody with “Hey guy!” — which was his personal joke.

The newcomer chuckled obediently. “Hey, Guy,” he answered. The new contractor had won a federal contract to refurbish some government structures and planned to be in Our Town for a month. With him hailing from sunnier climes, the rain had put a serious damper on his spirit. He was homesick.

“What’ll it be?” asked Guy, already feeling sorry for the newbie. He didn’t know Our Town’s unspoken rule that you had to be here at least 6 months or through a winter before people started taking you seriously.

As the new contractor reeled off his needs, Guy nodded, but didn’t write anything down. He didn’t have to. Guy had a prodigious memory – big enough to store and retrieve detailed knowledge of just about every building that went up. He remembered who did the work, who paid for the work and how the work went. He remembered what materials they’d used. He automatically remembered all of what his customer had just asked for.

Then Larry the shipwright, showed up to order ironwood and hydraulic hoses and fittings. As the new contractor waited for his order, Guy rang up Larry’s stuff. Larry’s wife, Felicity, lounged in a nearby chair.

After high school, Guy and Larry had fixed up a classic troller and hand-trolled together for two summers. Then they had that close call. Larry was the seadog and went right back out. Guy started making a living fishing for nails. The two friends grew apart. Well, not so far apart that Guy didn’t introduce Larry to Felicity, who was Guy’s cousin through his mother.

Enter the Soupster, who chatted with Larry and Felicity and went through the whole “Hey guy!” routine with Guy. Shirley, Guy’s wife, had taught beginning piano to the Soupster’s niece, who now worked as a concert accompanist. Felicity had recommended the music school at her old college to the Soupster’s niece — where the girl received a nice scholarship — even though Felicity had gone there for nursing. Guy had built the Soupster a shed that was still watertight after 33 wet winters. Larry sold him fish.

Guy’s two-way radio buzzed, signaling that the new contractor’s order was ready.

“Friendly place,” the visiting builder said. “I know how it goes from my hometown. The guy at the lumberyard there knows everybody, too.” Then, he paused and indicated the Soupster, Larry and Felicity, who were still chatting. “That’s got to be unusual, though. The fact that the customers know each other so well. That’s got to be rare.”

Guy considered his loquacious friends. Actually, the scene he surveyed happened nearly every day at the order counter at the lumberyard. Then, Guy remembered Our Town’s “Six Month Rule.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he fibbed. “Rare, indeed.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 26, 2018

Our Town – July 26, 2018

| Our Town, Politics, Small Town Stuff | July 26, 2018

The Soupster sees people who bite off and chew.

Originally published April 24, 2014

Sitting with Chavez outside Harrigan Centennial Hall Building, the Soupster could feel his friend’s distress radiate out like static electricity. Chavez shook a Funny Times newspaper at the Soupster with vigor. “How dare they `dis’ Our wonderful Town!” he said. “Look at this!”

Chavez pointed to a particular cartoon in the newspaper. Funny Times is a monthly collection of cartoons and humorous essays from all over the country. Chavez’s finger tapped a four-panel job that “dissed” the federal government for making embarrassing announcements only in places so remote, so forgotten, that no one would ever hear. Places like Minden City, Michigan; Bellows Falls, Vermont; Skaneateles, New York; and Sitka, Alaska.

Sitka, Alaska?? A place so forgotten, so remote that the federal government could make a major announcement and no one would ever hear? Our Town? Chavez didn’t think so!

Nor did the Soupster. “That’s troubling,” the Soupster said. “Because Our Town is about as famous as you can get for its size.”

“James Michener announced that he was going to write his novel `Alaska’ right here,” said Chavez.

“Well, how about October 18, 1867?” countered the Soupster. “The whole Castle Hill thing. People have sure heard about that. This is definitely not a place so forgotten and so remote that no one ever hears anything.”.

Chavez tried to agree, but he was drowned out as the main doors on the Centennial Hall Building swung open and about a dozen people poured out. Some held Rib-eyes, some held Sirloin Tip, some held T-bones and one held a Porterhouse.

“Who are they?” asked the Soupster.

“Steakholders,” Chavez said proudly. “These people are discussing the thorniest issues that face Our Town and coming up with creative, collaborative solutions.”

“The meat?”

“Symbolic,” Chavez said. “They’re not afraid to get into the meat of issues, right down to the gristle and bone.”

“A little extreme,” opined the Soupster as the Steakholders disbursed, “nonetheless admirable.

“We need these guys,” said Chavez, “You see…”

But Chavez was drowned out as the Hall Building’s doors again parted and a second crew of people exited. This time each of them held a short and pointy wooden stick, the kind you would use to secure a tent to the ground.“

And them?” asked the Soupster, as that crowd moved on.

“A group of different stakeholders,” said Chavez.

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 12, 2018

Our Town – July 12, 2018

| Animals, Crazy Theories, Dogs, Our Town | July 12, 2018

The Soupster copes with unpleasant memories.

Originally published May 8, 2014

“You hate my dog!” Laura overheard through the library stack. “You revile my pooch.”

Laura the Librarian, with an armful of books, turned the corner, “Soupster?” she said “Is that you?”

“Uh, oh,” the Soupster said. “Was I talking out loud?”

“Something about dogs?” said Laura. “Something about hating dogs?”

The Soupster reddened. “I am a confirmed animal lover,” he said guiltily. “I actually like dogs third best, right after cats and Australians.”

“Then why did you say you hated your dog?” said Laura.

“It’s just an expression I use to control my bad thoughts,” the Soupster answered.

“Stay there,” said Laura, as she tipped the books in her arms onto a nearby empty shelf. She smoothed her blouse and gave her shoulders and head a little shake. “Now,” she said to the Soupster, “Tell me what on Earth you are talking about.”

The Soupster looked around to see if anyone else was listening. “Well,” he said, lowering his voice, “When I say, `You hate my dog,’ it really has nothing to do with dogs, or hatred, or even you, for that matter.”

“You know, when a person has a memory of something that didn’t turn out so well?” the Soupster went on. “And when they figure out what they should have done that would have worked out fifty times better? Or when they remember something somebody once said and only now can they think of the perfect thing they should have said back then?

“I don’t have these problems,” said Laura,

“Consider yourself lucky, then,” said the Soupster. “But my mind sometimes gets locked in kind of negative territory. My saying, `You hate my dog’ breaks me loose.”

“Tell me Soupster,” said Laura. “how did you come up with saying you hate your dog… er… my dog? Oh, you know what I mean.”

“Well,” said the Soupster, “It started a long time ago with the old saying, `Love me, love my dog.’ That morphed into `Hate me, hate my dog.’ Finally, just, `You hate my dog.’”

“Fascinating, your noggin,” said Laura.

“Show me the noggin what ain’t,” said the Soupster.

“Well, your noggin, especially, ain’t ain’t,” Laura said.

“You hate my dog!” said the Soupster.

“Wait just a minute,” said Laura. “Didn’t you just finish telling me that all this had nothing to do with me or dogs or hatred or dog hatred or anything?”

“Ooops,” the Soupster said.

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 28, 2018

Our Town – June 28, 2018

| Boats, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Vacation | June 28, 2018

The Soupster listens to a man who really knows what vacation is.

Originally published July 29, 2004 

It seemed like slow motion to the Soupster, watching Red bearing right down on him, then the larger man knocked the Soupster to the ground.

“Whoa, sorry there,” Red said. “I’m running on all gears like a headless chicken.”

“Summer is the busy time in Our Town,” the Soupster commiserated. “Why else would Alaskans take their vacations in the winter?”

Red nodded. “I work May through September and take the rest of the year off,” he said.

“You pack a whole year into four months,” said the Soupster. “but you pay for it on days like today.”

“Oh, it’s not the work,” Red sighed. “Work I learned to handle a long time ago. Up at 4 to get the boat ready, take guests out all day. I’m cleaning up the boat long after they’ve left. And then I find myself up until 10 answering snail mail and e-mails and doing the books.”

“So why are you so crazy now?” the Soupster asked.

“Relatives.”

“Locational hazard,” said the Soupster. “You move to a place as nice as Our Town and you discover relatives you never knew you had.”

“You bet,” Red agreed. “I knew we had my sister and her family coming up this month, but she ran into our cousin in Seattle and guess what? They decided on a whim to come up together! That makes nine people in my house. Bless them, they’re very self-directed. Still though, they want to be sure and visit with me every day and I just don’t have time.

“Can you take them out on the charter with you?” the Soupster asked.

“Wouldn’t be fair to my clients,” Red said. “They’re paying top dollar for my full attention. Hunting fish is serious business.”

“So,” said Red, “I’ve got half a day I penciled out to do about a week’s worth of chores. Well,I’m walking to the bank today and what do you know — there’s my great-uncle Don in the middle of a walking tour. My father would never give me peace if I didn’t show Don the town, so there went my day to catch up.”

“Bet you’re looking forward to your vacation in two months,” the Soupster guessed.

“I’m not waiting that long,” said Red. “My sister goes back on the plane tomorrow and the cousin on the ferry the next day. Uncle Don is getting back on his cruise ship this evening. As soon as everybody leaves and I can get back to my regular 18-hour days, I’m gonna consider it vacation!”

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Our Town – June 14, 2018

| Our Town, Small Town Stuff | June 14, 2018

The Soupster remembers a determined little fellow.

Originally published August 22, 2002 and June 5, 2008

“Crash!” the Soupster heard as he stepped from the café, clutching a cardboard cup of java.

Across the street furious construction activity was under way – the systematic dismantling of portions of a large hotel for a major renovation.

This being Our Town, teams of workers scaled the building from ladders and scaffolding — working quickly to take advantage of an all-too-brief period between downpours and squalls.

“Crash, bang, ticka, ticka, bang!” sang the various fixtures and materials as they were removed and carted away, piled on the ground or, most musically, sent plunging through three long tubes that ran from the roof down to a dumpster. “Ticka, ticka, clack, clack, crash!” the tubes sang.

Striding purposely from one part of the site to another was Mel, who the Soupster still called “Little Mel.” Now six feet tall and 40 years old, “Little Mel” was the general contractor for the entire renovation. To the Soupster, however, “Mel” would always mean “Big Mel” – Little Mel’s late father, who had been the high school shop teacher.

Big Mel always had been surrounded by an army of students. Now Little Mel had his own army of tough and competent construction workers. As Little Mel moved among his worker-troops he exuded the confidence of a commander who does not need to argue but leads naturally.

It had been almost 30 years earlier to the day that the hotel was originally built, and the Soupster remembered seeing the two Mels back then. Father and son walking down the street toward their car. Little Mel, lugging inches off the ground a red fire extinguisher that was half his height and more than half his weight.

Big Mel had a much larger fire extinguisher in his arms. Father and son were carrying safety equipment back to the school.

Little Mel could make about five steps before he had to readjust the extinguisher’s position in his arms. The child had to pull with all his might.

“It’s okay to put it down,” said Mel. “I can’t believe how strong you are carrying it this far.”

“No!” said Little Mel. “I want to take it all the way!”

“Well, good job!” said Big Mel. “I am quite amazed!”

With another loud “Crash!” the Soupster was jerked back to the present.

Although he could not hear any voices from the construction site, he watched as one young worker strode angrily across the work site and confronted Little Mel. The young worker said something; Little Mel listened and nodded. As the young worker talked, he seemed to calm down. Little Mel kept nodding, then reached across and patted the young worker’s shoulder.

The young worker broke into a smile and Mel beamed back at him. They shook hand and the young man bounded happily back to work. Little Mel yelled something after him.

Through all the “bangs” and “ticka, tickas” and “crashes” the Soupster couldn’t make out what Little Mel had said. But he guessed it went something like “You sure are strong. Good job. I’m quite amazed!”

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Our Town – May 31, 2018

| Our Town, Small Town Stuff, Sunshine, Tourists, Weather | May 31, 2018

The Soupster is called out on his talkativeness & put to the test.

Originally published July 12, 2012

Carrie told the Soupster he talked too much and her criticism stung. The Soupster knew he could go on and on – maybe a tiny, little bit? — but he didn’t know his friend had been suffering. And for “quite a while,” no less.

“I bet you can’t keep your conversation to a minimum even for one day,” Carrie threw down the gauntlet. “Not even for one whole day.”

“I can,” the Soupster insisted. “And I will!”

Today was the day. The first mission of the new, zip-lipped Soupster was to check the mail at the post office. As the Soupster strolled downtown, he had to duck into a few storefronts to avoid fellow chatterboxes who might stress-test his mettle.

“Soupman!” The call came from Charlie, a hiking buddy who, unfortunately, happened to be in a store the Soupster had judged free of customers. “Tell me what’s new with the Man in the Can?”

“Not much,” said the Soupster, wishing he could have thought of a one-word answer. “Gotta go,” he said slipping out of the store.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire? Two busfuls of visitors hit the sidewalk and poured around the Soupster like a human wave.

Hide in plain sight? The Soupster pulled his cap low on his forehead and attempted to avoid eye contact with the cheery migrants surrounding him.

No use! The Soupster felt his lapels being patted and looked down into the face of an older man wearing a tag that said, “Hi! I’m Horace!”

“Hi, I’m Horace,” he stated the obvious, grasping the Soupster’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “I’m new to these shores.”

“Hi, Horace,” said the Soupster.

“Yup, this is some different place,” Horace said. “Where’s all the big box chain stores? Don’t you have any big box chain stores?”

“Nope,” said the Soupster.

“Our bus driver said he was taking us all over town but we only went five or six miles one way and then seven or eight the other. That can’t be all the road you have.”

“Yup,” said the Soupster, zipping his lips so tight he could taste metal.

“And this rain I keep hearing about,” Horace plunged on. “It’s certainly not raining now. Is going to rain soon? Am I going to get wet? I mean, isn’t this town too nice to be built by people who get rained on every day?”

As the Soupster moaned silently, a beam of sunlight illuminated a break in the throng of tourists ahead. “Yup,” said the Soupster, shaking Horace’s hand. “Nope,” he added. And then the Soupster escaped.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 17, 2018

Our Town – May 17, 2018

| Animals, Dogs, Jokes, Our Town | May 17, 2018

Soupster’s starlet-in-hiding and the wrongly accused charlatans.

Originally published November 6, 2014

The Soupster stepped out of the rain and into the lobby of Our Town’s airport to pick up an express shipment. He hoped that someday the animal heads and fish lined up along the front beam could be made animatronic, like something out of Disneyland. Visitors would take it as noteworthy, the Soupster surmised, if a 70-lb. king salmon winked at them and said, “Welcome to Our Town!” or “Please come visit Our Town again.”

The gangway swung open and passengers spilled out. The serious travelers flowed right out the front door, having whittled their fashion and toiletry needs down to carry-on size. The rest of the crowd oozed slowly toward the luggage carousel. At the front counter, the Soupster was told he could retrieve his package in a few minutes.

“Hi, Soupster!” said Skye Claire, sideling up next to him. Skye was a professional entertainer who holed up in Our Town periodically to hide from her adoring fans. “How’s my favorite purveyor of miscellaneous items soaked in rainwater?”

“And my best wishes to you, Miss Skye,” the Soupster said with a barely perceptible bow.  “What’s new in the entertainment business?”

“I met a talking dog,” said Skye.

“I’m listening,” said the Soupster.

“So, I’m in the office of a talent agent in Seattle who’s trying out new acts for the annual Rainier Review,” she recounted. “I’m standing by the door filling out some contract forms, when the agent lets in the next act for an audition.”

“‘Spartacus, the Wonder Dog!’ trumpets the owner of a speckled black-and-white, longhaired,

medium-size hound. ‘Spartacus will now answer three questions.’”

“What was the owner like?” asked the Soupster.

“A bit forgettable,” said Skye. “Plus, me and the talent agent are busy staring at the dog.

“‘Spartacus,’ says the owner. ‘What do you call the material on the outside of a tree?’

“‘Bark!’ yelps the dog enthusiastically. The talent agent raises his eyebrows.

“‘Spartacus,’ says the owner. ‘Name a three-masted wooden cargo ship from the 19th century.’

“‘Barque,’ yips Spartacus. The agent crosses his arms and looks stern.

“‘Spartacus,’ the owner says a third time. ‘What is the best brand of root beer?’

“‘Barq’s’ Spartacus says.

“‘That’s enough, you charlatans!’ says the talent agent, who comes out from behind his desk and scoots both man and dog out of the office. I slip out with them. The agent goes back inside and slams his door.

“Spartacus looks up at his owner. ‘Henry Weinhard?’ Spartacus says. I almost fainted.”

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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.

Want to submit a piece for Our Town?

Contact us with your idea or completed piece. Our Town’s must be 450-500 words long, take place in or near Sitka and the Soupster must make an appearance, however brief.

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