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Comments Off on Our Town – June 14, 2018

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!”

27 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – May 31, 2018

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.

27 total views, 1 today

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.”

52 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – May 3, 2018

Our Town – May 3, 2018

| Animals, Automobiles, Cats, food, Our Town | May 3, 2018

The Soupster presents his evidence to the court.

Originally published May 19, 2011

The Story Behind the Story

The Soupster chattered happily to everyone he saw in the store as he bought a quarter pound of Bavarian ham to use to bribe the all-black, long-haired shelter cat the Soupster hoped to adopt. He was on his way to the animal shelter for a visit.

The Soupster believed there was a tribe of long-haired cats in Sitka – usually sporting big neck ruffs, ear tufts and plumed tails – that were almost dog-like in the way they interacted with humans, yet kept their feline independence intact.

The Soupster had lost such a kitty during a January cold snap and had put the word out for another. Pierre (nee 8-Ball) had lost his owner, who couldn’t take him when she had to leave town suddenly. A clever animal shelter person correctly deduced that 8-Ball needed the Soupster, and vice versa.

But having only once been introduced to Pierre briefly, the Soupster needed to formally propose that he and the cat initiate a trial co-habitation.(ed. note: You have to talk this way about cats.) The Soupster thought he would have a better chance to convince 8-Ball that he should change his name to Pierre, if the Soupster was offering Bavarian ham as he proposed the idea.

But what about the humans at the animal shelter? The Soupster noticed some fresh- baked croissants that a person would have to be comatose not to love. Five of the croissants neatly filled a cellophane-topped box. Still chattering happily, the Souspter paid for his loot and left the store.

The Soupster put the big box of croissants on the flat top of his car, opened the door and got in. It wasn’t until he was turning onto the state road and the box flew off the top of his car that the Soupster remembered putting the croissants up there.

(ed. Note: The rest of the story in “Condensed Soup” is basically true, although, obviously, croissants do not explode in a way reminiscent of late adolescence. We would like to thank those motorists (and one biker) who went to great pains not to run over the croissants spread out over the road. The Soupster managed to retrieve all five croissants, dust them off and eat four himself. One croissant and the box did not survive.)

66 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – April 19, 2018

Our Town – April 19, 2018

| Environment, Gardening, Guest Written, Our Town, Rachel Ramsey, Seasons, Spring | April 18, 2018

The Soupster learns what goes around comes around.

Originally published April 19, 2012

“Morning, Sunshine!” I greet the Soupster as he slides into the passenger seat.

“Uh-huh,” he replies groggily. Accepting my offer of liquid incentive, he adds, “Quad shot creamy, dreamy choco-caffeine delight, my favorite. Thanks.”

The Soupster adjusts his sunglasses to the morning sun. At 8am on this Saturday it’s the offer of my gardening genius and willingness at his disposal that helps him brave the hour.

“I know it’s early. Be glad I didn’t try dragging you out earlier! Garage sale-ing is serious business in Our Town – you don’t even know!” I laugh and pull out of the drive.

“First stop – across town. The hunt for garden treasures begins. It’s springtime for the Soupster in Our Town…” I belt out, energized by the sun.

“Springtime in Our Town – herring return, citywide spring cleanup, sunshine….”

“If we’re lucky,” I interject.

“Which apparently we are. Remember the good old days of roadside spring cleanup?” the Soupster asks.

“Afraid not. How’d that work?”

“Folks would toss their junk onto the side of the street. And I mean in a BIG way. Anything and everything you can imagine. Gardening supplies, even! Stuff that people didn’t want to haul off themselves. For one weekend, crews would work like mad hauling all this stuff away. And as they worked their way around town, others did the same, keeping ahead of the crews to salvage what was usable.”

“Wow! Nobody appreciates the value of thriftiness like folks in Our Town. There are so many ways for goods to come and go around here – the White E, radio stations, the newspaper, online venues, the Soup,” My list ends with a swish of the wrist, deferring to my friend.

The Soupster jumps in. “Word of mouth! Friends. Friends of friends. Anyone who learns you need what they’re lookin’ to unload.”

“Once I was walking my baby downtown and an absolute stranger chased us down. She had a fancy Italian stroller she used when she nannied. Not only did she hook me up, she delivered it. Even our strangers can be most generous!” I chuckle.

“How we find what we need in Our Town is pretty remarkable. Hey,” he says, pointing to a green truck at the side of the road. “It’s Tony.”

We pull over to find Tony’s truck almost overflowing – an old canoe, tires, a cracked bird bath, a trellis, a bulky mass of seine net.

“Please tell us you’re heading to the dump this fine morning, Tony,” I jibe, eyeballing the treasure trove of garden possibilities resting in his truck bed.

“Yup. Y’all don’t happen to need any of this, do ya?” Tony asks. The Soupster and I look at each other and smile.

“We sure do! Follow us.”

Hopping back in the car, I pull a U turn with Tony close behind. I have to laugh, “Pretty remarkable, indeed. SCORE!”

Submitted by Rachel Ramsey

89 total views, 0 today

Comments Off on Our Town – April 5, 2018

Our Town – April 5, 2018

| Animals, Cats, Dogs, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships | April 5, 2018

The Soupster meets an interesting couple.

Originally published July 25, 2002

The dog, a dark brown Labrador retriever, looked as dignified as any dog ever has while sitting in the driver’s seat of a car and the Soupster said so out loud.

“Thanks,” the dog called half-absently, resting its paws on the sheepskin covered steering wheel of the blue and grey pickup truck parked outside a key Our Town place for sandwiches and drinks.

The Soupster ambled over to the truck cab’s open window. “You talk?”

“I’m supposed to listen, right?” said the dog. “I hear that all day from your kind.”

“You drive, too?” the Soupster asked.

“You think the truck would have a better chance of parking by itself than I have of handling a 3/4 ton vehicle,” the dog sneered. “Tell me you don’t think that.”

“You probably hear this a lot,” the still-stunned Soupster sputtered, “but I can’t believe I’m talking to a dog.”
“Go ahead,” said the dog. “Ask me.”

“Ask you what?” said the Soupster.

“If a police officer pulled me over, which license would I give him?” the dog said. “That’s what you were going to ask, right?”

The Soupster’s cheeks turned bright red. “Actually, I was thinking about what kinds of music you listen to when you drive.”

“`Bark, the Herald Angels Sing’ and “Oh, Dem Bones’” said the dog, curling its lips to approximate a smile. “And my favorite movies are `Riding In Cars With Dogs” and “10 Things I Smell About You.”

“Do you…?” started the Soupster, but the dog cut him off.

“Yes, I stick my head out the window when I drive, to answer your question,” the dog said. “And, yes, I – like all dogs – will get mad if you blow on my nose. Why do dogs like one and not the other? I don’t know. We just do.”

The Soupster stared at the dog, absolutely speechless.

“I used to run with a sled team out of Skwentna,” the dog continued. “Then I decided I should get behind the wheel, instead of me being the wheels.”

“Regrets?” the Soupster asked.

“For a while, I had this recurring dream of scaring a bunch of cats in the crosswalk. Make ‘em scatter good,” said the dog, again approximating a smile. “If I do that now I’ll lose both my licenses! Oh, here’s my wife.” The dog started the engine.

The dog’s wife, a cat, carried a foot-long sandwich in her mouth.

The dog scrunched up his nose. “Oh, no,” he said. “She got tuna again! Tuna and mayonnaise and no veggies. I like veggies. She really doesn’t know the meaning of `to share.’”

“If you hate cats so much, why did you marry one?” said the Soupster as the cat slipped in the truck cab on the other side with the sandwich.

“I’m a patient creature,” said the dog, dropping the truck into reverse and backing away from the Soupster with a comradely, if unseen, swipe of his tail.

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 22, 2018

Our Town – March 22, 2018

| Our Town, Shopping, Small Town Stuff, Spring | March 22, 2018

Chickens and Eggs?

Originally published April 4, 2002

The Soupster juggled in his arms: a half gallon of milk, some donuts, a box of cereal, bananas and a jar of salty Greek olives. He had come in for the donuts and unconsciously filled his arms with items as he wandered around the store, greeting the large number of people he knew.

Then he got in line.

“Soupster,” said Stevarino, the shipwright, next in line, whose real name was Stefan. “Could you hold my stuff, too, while you got so much in your arms.”

“If I really don’t want to buy anything, I have to take a shopping cart,” chuckled the Soupster. “If my arms are free, I will fill them with groceries.”

“Primordial,” Stevarino said. “Grazing behavior – like cows in the pasture. Fulfilling the Prime Directive, as Captain Kirk used to say.”

“Speaking of philosophical,” said the Soupster, reaching into Stevarino’s cart and picking out a dozen free range eggs. “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Stevarino laughed.

“No, really,” said the Soupster. “I just spent most of Saturday helping this crazy woman put up a whole display of chicken-and-egg items in the big glass cases at the entrance to the library. Every item incorporates both a chicken and an egg. And thus, each item incorporates the question – `Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

“I think it depends on how you approach the answer,” said the always-philosophical Stevarino. “If you’re talking about genes, for instance, the egg came first. Something that was almost a chicken genetically – but not quite – laid an egg which would develop into something that was just barely a chicken in genetic terms. What grew from the egg was technically a chicken, while what laid the egg was not. The egg came first.”

“Or,” Stevarino continued. “A religious person would say the chicken came first. That even if God created the egg first, what He ultimately was creating was a chicken. The egg was just the means to an end. He had in His mind the plan for a chicken and the egg was just where He started the cycle of chicken creation.”

“I see,” said the Soupster. “What the question is really asking is not ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ but ‘which came first, the design or the creation?’”

“The Creation,” said Stevarino, “Don’t get me started.”

“You’re next, Soupster,” said Bess, the checker, a little loudly, since she knew she had to pierce her voice through all of the two philosophers’ ponderous thoughts.

“Gotta go,” said the Soupster.

“Oooh,” said Stevarino. “I’m having a Sitka moment. I can see about 18 people shopping, in line or working here and I know everyone’s first name. Where does that happen?”

“Only in Our Town, that I know of,” said the Soupster.

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 8, 2018

Our Town – March 8, 2018

| Our Town, Shopping, Small Town Stuff | March 7, 2018

The Soupster wonders who was pulling his leg.

Originally published March 13, 2008

The truth is, the Soupster was already in a terrible mood when he stopped at the store on his way home. And when he walked from his car to the front door of the supermarket, the Soupster made the mistake of looking up at the big roadside message board. He froze, muttered to himself and jumped to conclusions.

“Don’t,” the sign read and the Soupster, absurdly, took the message personally.

“Don’t what?” he growled. “Just spewing negativity with complete abandon? Typical. That’s the trouble with the world. Everywhere it’s `Don’t!’”

The Soupster took hold of the door handle, but then let go of it, took a step back and turned to face the sign. Like a person with one of those cell-phone earpieces, he spoke to the air.

“Look at that,” he said, his voice loud enough for passersby to hear, and pointing to the empty ladder up to the road sign. “Nobody is even there! They just put `Don’t!’ in your face and then they walk away – probably on one of their frequent breaks. `Don’t what?’ I’d like to know.”

The Soupster stopped spouting long enough to see a woman carrying a grocery bag give him a pitying stare and a wide berth.

Inside the store, he tried to ignore the “0 trans fat” and “Gluten free” signs. The “fortified with Omega-3” and “Acidophilous added” did not make him feel any more positive. A funk is a funk is a funk.

The Soupster tried to raise his spirits by remembering a pretty little city park he had once come across during travels in the Lower 48. A sign at the entrance had said: “Picnic, fly a kite, rollerblade, sunbathe, jog, dance” and so on. All the things you were supposed to do, instead of the “No dogs!” and “Keep Out!”

And his mood did lighten, buoyed as well by the checker’s friendly interest in what he was buying. But when the Soupster walked out the door, he saw the road sign had changed.

“Don’t Go Home,” it now said.

The Soupster got back into his car, stunned. “Don’t Go Home?” He was going home. Until now, he had been perturbed. But on the road back to his house, the Soupster felt angry.

“What kind of sick joke is that store playing on people?” “Is it even possible the sign was meant specifically for me?” “Why shouldn’t I go home?” The Soupster’s mind raced.

Two doors from his house, the Soupster pulled over to the side of the road. “Even if the sign has nothing to do with me, it is irresponsible to make people wonder if something is wrong at their home,” the Soupster stewed.

“That’s mean,” he decided and turned his car around in the direction of the store. The Soupster wasn’t sure who he was going to talk to or what he was going to say to them, but he was going to say something to somebody to straighten the responsible parties right out!

But as he neared the store, he realized at once that he would do none of that. For the sign had changed again.

Now it read: “Don’t Go Home Until You Try One of Our New Mango Shakes!”

186 total views, 2 today

Comments Off on Our Town – February 22, 2018

Our Town – February 22, 2018

| Crazy Theories, Guest Written, Our Town, Rose Manning | February 22, 2018

The Soupster talks and listens.

I was cornered! I had to be quick. I grabbed my books and papers and scurried out of my cozy winter spot in the library. The new glass walls made it hard to be invisible.

Talking Joe was heading straight towards me. Joe was long and lanky and words spewed out of him like a manic fountain pen. Like a lot of Our Towners this time of year, he hunted down people to visit with.

An interesting man, Talking Joe. Curious and self-educated, he looked at old things in new ways and gave you ideas to mull over for days. He often sounded like the speculative science talks on the radio.

“Hi, Soupster!” Joe hailed just when I thought I was in the clear. “Soupster, have you ever noticed – Our Town is yellow?”

“Yellow? Do you mean faint of heart? Scared? Cowardly?”

No, no, Soupster. Just yellow. Well, maybe orangey-red, but it looks like a big ‘ole pumpkin patch.”

“How so, Joe?”

“Well, Soupster. It runs the gamut from burnt umber to the palest yellow to rooftop red.”

“Burnt umber? What is that, Joe?”

“Umber, I’ve read, is a natural brown earth pigment with oxides. When heated, the color becomes more intense and is called burnt umber.”

“And then, Soupster, have you noticed we have miles and miles of yellow ‘No Parking’ curbs? How do they pick these colors? Do they discuss them at assembly or is it just the paint on sale that month?”

“I don’t know, Joe, maybe folks are just seeking brightness. In deep winter here, the forests, mountains and oceans are mostly black, topped by dark gray clouds. Maybe people are trying to add an artificial sun to the landscape.”

“Yeah, Soupster, we all need variety – for example, I have to admit St. Michael’s Cathedral is the little non-pumpkin jewel of downtown.”

“Good things to think about, Joe. Anything else on your mind today?” I asked as I strolled toward the silent sanctuary of my truck.

“Oh, all kinds of things. Like why are the streets so quiet at night? I hardly ever hear anyone cussing or yelling anymore. Maybe it’s too cold to make noise.”

Joe seemed more lonesome than usual today. Ever since his wife passed, he’s been trying to reconnect with friends and neighbors. She was definitely the social glue of the pair. Things got even harder for Joe when his card-playing buddy Ralph moved south to be near grandkids. Talking Joe needed a listener now more than ever.

Sometimes, we all just need to shut up and listen better, and maybe the season will seem kinder and warmer.

“Okay, Joe, see you around,” I said as I started my engine.

“Soupster?”

“Yes, Joe?”

“I was wondering – why does our town have so many flat roofs? Just asking,” I heard him say.

I pulled away from the yellow curb, slowed down and called back, “Get in the truck, Joe, and tell me what you think about the flat roofs.”

Submitted by Rose Manning

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 14, 2017

Our Town – December 14, 2017

| Our Town | December 14, 2017

253 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – November 30, 2017

Our Town – November 30, 2017

| Our Town, Seasons, Vampires | November 30, 2017

The Soupster chats up a night owl – well, not really an owl.

Our Town is a tolerant place, the Soupster thought, but it takes time.

He thought about Vladimir, who was standing in front of him in line at the bank. Vladimir had first come to town with not much English, no money and strange nocturnal habits. But the foreign man stayed through a whole winter, the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree in Our Town, and after that people took him seriously, even if they kept their distance.

This afternoon, near closing time, Vladimir looked terrible – always pale, he now had enormous black circles under his eyes. He slumped forward as though his arms were too heavy for his shoulders.

The Soupster caught Vladimir’s eye. “Gee, Vlad, you look awful,” the Soupster said, “like death warmed over.”

Vladimir chuckled, not altogether friendly. “Und you, Zoupster, you zmell like death needs a zhower,” he said, in his strong accent. “But you are accurate. I am zleep deprived. I am too active.”

Vladimir’s nocturnal habits were well known to everyone – the man slept all day and stayed up all night. And on the edge of Solstice in Our Town, night occupied most of the clock.

“I’m sympathetic, Vlad,” said the Soupster. “In the summertime — when the days last nearly till midnight and start again a couple of hours later? — I run myself ragged. It seems like every night at 10 p.m. or so, I think of some new project that needs doing that second.”

“Yes, Zoupster,” Vlad said. “Und you turn Zummer Zolstice upzide down und you get Vinter Zolstice.”

“Or you’re in Australia,” the Soupster joked.

“Yes, you must jest, Zoupster,” said Vladimir. “It is in your nature. As it is in mine to move across nearly the whole world. To come to the New World and leave my Old World ways behind.” Vladimir lifted his arm to cover most of his face, leaving only his dark eyes.

The Soupster remembered that he found Vlad a touch over-dramatic. But he was glad to see the other man looking more alert and awake. Vlad moved to the front of the line.

“So what did you leave behind in the Old World, Vlad?” the Soupster asked.

“Now, my favorite drink is tomato juice,” Vladimir answered with a dark laugh, exposing an impressive set of teeth. “With an egg well beaten into it!”

The teller free, Vladimir took his place at the counter. Although the Soupster’s turn came a moment later, his business was briefer and the two men found themselves standing outside the bank at the same time.

The Soupster zipped his coat tight against his neck in the chill darkness. Vladimir’s deep breaths came out in puffs of icy fog.

“Maybe you should take it easy this evening,” said the Soupster. “Kick back.”

“Oh, don’t conzern yourzelf vith me, Zoupster,” Vlad said with a wicked smile. “I am always groggy ven first I vake.” Then he changed into a bat and flew off.

216 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – November 16, 2017

Our Town – November 16, 2017

| Fall, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons | November 16, 2017

The Soupster sees light being lent.

The knock on the Soupster’s door turned out to be Bob, the Soupster’s new neighbor, who wanted to borrow a flashlight. Bob needed to do some outdoor plumbing and, new to Our Town, he still felt uncomfortable about running electrical cords outside in the rain.

“Cleve,” the Soupster told Bob. “Cleve is your man.”

Cleve was another of the Soupster’s neighbors and known for his lights. Cleve had gasoline-powered pedestal klieg lights as well as key chain lights whose bulbs were guaranteed beyond eternity. Cleve had lights he could strap to his head, his shoulder, the crook of his arm and his shoes. He had old diving lights that ran on massive lantern batteries, one than ran on a fuel cell the size of a dime and one that you could crank to operate.

The passage between the Soupster’s house and Cleve’s ran through some thick brush, and the Soupster could see Bob cringing from the even deeper dark that cloaked the path.

“Light,” said the Soupster. “Can you even remember the middle of the summer, when it never got dark? We’re paying for that now.”

The light-starved Bob took up the conversation; after all isn’t food — or the opposite of it — the favorite subject of famished people? “The desert is dark, notably dark,” he said. “A winter I spent outside Shiprock, Arizona taught me that. But wet dark is somehow worse.”

“Wet dark is like double dark,” the Soupster agreed. “Can be dark on the ocean.”

“On a tour of Alcatraz prison, I volunteered to be locked in solitary confinement,” said Bob. “When they closed the door, that was the darkest I could imagine.”

“Cleve’s yard is equipped with motion-sensor lights all over the place,” said the Soupster. “Don’t be startled. I can show you where you can just wave your hand a little out in front of you and set off the whole array.”

On the edge of Cleve’s lawn, the Soupster waved his arm a little out in front of him and the whole area blazed into daytime. Awash now, the two men staggered, blinking, up the walk. Cleve was already at his front door, tipped off by the lights.

“Can Bob check out one of your flashlights to do some plumbing?” the Soupster asked, indicating the new neighbor.

“Sure,” said Cleve, who disappeared briefly. He came back with a three lights — a carabiner micro-light, a waterproof million-candlepower portable searchlight and about six feet of luminescent piping. “Use the piping for brightening up the area where you are working,” he explained.

As Bob stood examining the lights, the Soupster turned to Cleve. “Poor guy,” whispered the Soupster. “This is his first November.”

“He’ll do okay,” Cleve said. “It’ll soon be Thanksgiving and the city lights will go up on the utility poles and the people in the stores and houses will start decorating.”

“Can I borrow all three lights?” asked Bob.

“Better than cursing the darkness,” said Cleve. “For sure.”

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Our Town – November 2, 2017

| Animals, Cats, Dogs, Our Town | November 2, 2017

The Soupster visits the vets office.

Anton’s paws were a mess. The dignified long-haired jet-black Maine Coon cat hid a secret between his tufted foot pads – the sharp nails on his front paws grew in a tight circle and right back into the skin.

The veterinarian had spread Anton’s paw pads up to the light to show the Soupster the uncomfortable stuff his beloved cat walked upon. Traces of blood could be seen around the nails.

“I’m shocked he doesn’t limp or wince or something,” said the Soupster.

“Some cats can be pretty stoic,” the vet said, as he used small nippers on the cat’s claws, “Especially these Maine Coons.”

“Quite a back story, the Maine Coons have,” continued the medico. “They were supposed to have been the long-haired pets of Queen Marie Antoinette of France. She sent the cats to America, expecting to escape the French Revolution and come to America herself later on. Unfortunately, she waited until it was too late and got guillotined.”

“I’ve heard that,” said the Soupster. “The cats were released into the winter wilds of New England, where they mated with raccoons and developed their thick coats.”

“Well, that part isn’t true,” said the vet.

“Colorful, though,” the Soupster said.

“Anyhow, the placid nature and striking looks of these cats make them one of the most favored breeds in the U.S.,” the vet said. He stroked Anton’s head and then went back to nipping at his claws. “Few more minutes,” the vet said. Anton looked unperturbed, so the Soupster walked into clinic’s outer waiting room.

Sam Grace and his wife Judy sat there. A medium-sized black-and-white dog stretched on out the floor with his front feet on Sam’s boots.

“Nice looking dog,” said the Soupster to Sam. “What is he?”

“Miss Pepper is a mixed breed,” Sam said. “A shelter mutt.”

“She’s smart enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she had some border collie in her,” added Judy. “She knows so many words!”

“She knows the difference between the ball and the big ball, and she’ll bring you the big ball if that’s what you’re asking for,” said Sam. “Good girl,” he murmured as he reached down to scratch Pepper’s head. “Miss Pepper is here for her certificate of health. We want to take her traveling with us.”

“Do you have a dog here, too?” Judy asked.

“A cat,” said the Soupster. “Anton. Nice big healthy boy. Except he has front claws that get all ingrown. So I have to bring him in for a pedicure twice a year.”

“That’s very caring of you,” Judy said. “You sound like a good owner.”

“Owner?” said the Soupster, “No, no, no, no, no.”

“Huh?” asked Sam.

“Dogs have owners,” the Soupster said firmly. “Cats have staff.”

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Our Town – October 19, 2017

| Children, Money, Our Town | October 19, 2017

The Soupster recounts that there are three ways to skin a Permanent Fund.

“I’m going to become a parent,” Mick said to the Soupster as both met up outside a Lincoln St. bank. “And I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems and responsibilities of raising kids. I don’t think I’ll have any problem with religion, issues of brotherhood or with kids and crime – I know right where I stand and I know what I’m going to say. But how to deal with my kid’s Permanent Fund Dividend? That totally mystifies me.”

“I mean, it’ll be the kid’s money, won’t it?” he continued. “But it’s a lot of money for anyone to manage well, let alone a kid. A parent has to have a plan. What do you think?”

“Well,” said the Soupster, “There was this one family — despite the fact that they’re not rich, they put every PFD dollar for the kid into mutual funds. During the go-go 90’s. The family had some awful expenses, but they never, ever touched the kid’s PFD. When she was 18, the family had a big pile of money saved up for her and she ended up starting a rug business in Wrangell where her favorite Auntie lives. She’s doing very well there.”

“Sounds great,” said Mick. “But what if her family really got in a hole and they were going to lose their house or if somebody got really sick?”

“Well,” said the Soupster. “I know another family. Every PFD the kid’s whole life went into paying for the continuing, everyday expenses of the family. With the PFDs and everything else, the father was able to get his college degree from distance learning. The mother took a year off to volunteer for her church in South America, which was her lifelong dream. When college came around for the kid, there was no money, but everybody pulled together and now both father and son have their degrees.”

“I don’t think I could do that,” said Mick. “I’ll want to make absolutely sure my kid has a leg up. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to take chances with such a valuable resource.”

“Well,” said the Soupster. “Then maybe this family’s story will help. I mean I’m not endorsing this, but this family just handed the cash over to their kid and let her do anything she wanted with it. From when she was about six years old on, anything that got into this kid’s head, she was able to finance. This is when the PFDs were $1,200 and $1,500 a check. One year this kid bought more than 100 stuffed animals, one for everyone in her grade. Another year, she spent her whole thing at Save the Children. She sent her parents on a cruise ship cruise and when her neighbors said they’d love to do the same, the kid sent them on a cruise the following year.”

“Well, I hope you don’t endorse that, Soupster,” said Mick. “What a wasted opportunity and a reckless plan for handling that poor child’s money. A poor investment in the future.”

“Well, I don’t know,” the Soupster. “That kid is now making a fortune designing fantasy-based video games in Seattle. And she just bought her parents a new boat!”

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Our Town – October 5, 2017

| Dreams, Our Town | October 5, 2017

The Soupster learns that some dreams have gray linings.

Yet again, the Soupster couldn’t sleep. Every night, he closed his eyes and started snoring, only to find himself transported to the pilot house of a tug boat, hauling an over-stacked cargo barge northbound from Ketchikan to Skagway.

Soupster at the helm, the barge’s bulk sailed slowly through misty Southeastern darkness. The barge and tug were well lit, but droplets of mist hanging in the air absorbed and concentrated the light, rendering the shore invisible.

The result was a sense of moving, yet staying still. Much like driving a car on the endless flatlands of Kansas. The Soupster had been dreaming this dream, off and on, for the past fortnight.

The Soupster rose and padded through his dark house. His bum knee ached. He poured himself a glass of milk and drank it at the fridge, then returned to his bed. He started the mental calculation to decide which to have checked out first – his painful knee or his unrestful sleep. In the morning, he knew to take care of things from the head down.

The Soupster called the assistant of a hypnotist who happened to be visiting Our Town to drum up hypno-business on local call-in radio shows and classified ads

“I’m Dr. Magma’s hypno-sistant,” confessed Lonnie.

The Soupster made an appointment with Lonnie’s boss, Dr. Lorenzo Magma. In the surprisingly professional-looking temporary clinic, the Soupster told Dr. Magma the sad story of his sleeplessness.

“A cargo barge, hour after hour of slow churning,” commiserated Dr. Magma. “Sounds very bad.”

For treatment, Dr. Magma told the Soupster that he would take over piloting the barge every night in Kake.  Then, said the doctor, he would take the barge the rest of the way to Skagway and the Soupster could get some shuteye.

Dr. Magma’s cure worked. Each night, as the barge approached Kake, the Soupster felt a relaxation come over him and he awoke in the morning vastly more refreshed.

About a week later, the Soupster saw on the streets of Our Town a disheveled man who looked like he might keel over any second. With a start, the Soupster realized it was Bruce Willforge, the gunsmith.

“Bruce, you look terrible,” said the Soupster.

“I haven’t slept in two months,” Bruce admitted. “Every might I dream that I go to an elaborate banquet with everything in the world to eat and lots of clever entertainment and I spend all night gorging and partying.”

“I have just the man for you,” the Soupster said and told Bruce to make an appointment with Dr. Magma.

Willforge did make the appointment and did receive treatment, the Soupster found out when he saw the gunsmith the following week. Despite that, Willforge showed no improvement in his pallid mien.

“Bruce,” said the Soupster. “Do you still have to dance and stuff yourself with scrumptious food all night in your dreams?”

“No, Dr. Magma took that off my hands,” Willforge said.

“Then why do you look so terrible?”

“Because now, every night, I have to pilot a cargo barge from Kake to Skagway instead!”

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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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