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!”
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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!”
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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.
“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!
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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!
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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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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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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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The Soupster takes a road trip.
Originally published February 22, 2007
“Road Trip!” the Soupster cried, as he opened his eyes Friday morning.
The Soupster knew Our Town and the realities that imposed. But he had decided, just before closing his eyes Thursday night, that he was in the mood for a road trip and would take one despite those realities.
First, to equip himself. He was glad he had a hybrid car – he got about 40 miles per gallon in the winter with studded tires and the heater blaring – twice the fuel efficiency of other similar-sized cars. The tank was about half full – that should do it with plenty to spare. He gathered a good flashlight, flares, a space blanket. several meals-ready-to-eat and a copy of John McPhee’s “Coming into the Country.” All this went into the emergency kit.
Then he spent 20 minutes poring over his music – some Ella Fitzgerald, the Beatles and, for the magnificent curving roadway near the end of the drive, Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
After donning comfortable clothes and soft-soled driving shoes, the Soupster looked nostalgically around his kitchen. He knew he’d be back. Still, the road had its mysteries and did one ever really know for sure? “Only one way to find out,” he said to no one in particular and began his road trip by heading south.
“At 970 meters high, the long-dormant volcano,” the Soupster had read in his guidebook “rivals or even exceeds Mt. Fuji in beauty.” The day was clear and Mt. Edgecumbe snow-capped. The guidebook said that the mountain had last erupted about 2,000 years ago. Reluctantly, the Soupster gave back in to the lure of the road.
The miles flew by. The Soupster’s stomach grumbled, protesting the quick coffee he’d had in place of real breakfast. “Well,” he thought, “what’s better than road food?”
He picked a café with a wide menu, ordered heavily and scarfed every bite. No need to eat again till he reached his destination.
He headed east, toward the sun. Here, the Soupster’s driving skills were tested as he passed through a construction zone (double fines!) into a hold-up of traffic as a huge tractor lumbered well below the speed limit.
At last, he broke free of the traffic onto lovely open road. He eased through curves and inclines, wondering if he could ever talk Our Town into hosting the Grand Prix. He felt as free as a cetacean bursting through the water into bright sunlight, like – yes, like the humpbacks bubble feeding right there! – the Soupster pointed to where he had watched those whales a decade earlier.
Aaron Copland’s music caressed him all the way down the last few miles of road, past industry, onto dirt track. Finally, he could go no further. He had reached the end.
He crawled out of his car and walked off his stiffness. The Soupster loathed getting back into the hybrid so soon, but he saw no other choice but to turn around and hit the pavement. Bummer, he’d already seen that country! Next road trip, he promised himself, he would drive one way and maybe fly back.
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The Soupster contemplates the relationship between the Northern Lights, cold & rain
Originally published November 3, 2011
“When was the last time you saw the Northern Lights over Our Town?” the Soupster asked his friend Rudy, as the two men reclined on the porch at the back of Rudy’s house. Rudy was a high school science teacher and an observant man, and the Soupster valued his opinion.
“Seems to me like a long while ago,” Rudy agreed.
The angle of the yard gave the two men a good view of the night sky. Passing clouds exposed a few isolated stars now and then as they talked.
“Maybe four or five years since one of those real light shows that have you muttering `I can’t believe what I’m seeing,’” said the Soupster. “And the next day everybody is talking about the Northern Lights wherever you go.”
“If people did not see the Northern Lights, then you have to explain what you were doing up in the middle of the night,” Rudy laughed.
“This is true,” said the Soupster.
“You know what the police say,” Rudy quoted. “Anybody up at 3 a.m. is probably up to no good.”
“This is also true.”
“I was busted by my kid,” said Rudy. “I woke her up early one morning for her to see a really good Northern Lights. She was cold and never fully woke up. Her mother complained big-time and said, `What kind of father are you?’ So the next time we had Northern Lights I didn’t wake her up and the kid was mad and said `Why didn’t you wake me up?’”
The Soupster laughed and sank down deeper into padded chaise. “Well, there’s the Wet Alaska and the Cold Alaska,” he said. “In Cold Alaska, they see the Northern Lights regularly.”
“My experience,” said Rudy “is that Wet Alaska may not be colder than Cold Alaska, but it can feel colder. I once saw a Fairbanks college kid in shorts, at a dry 20 below and I bet he would not do that here on a windblown night of freezing rain.”
“It’s not unusual for a West Coast state to have two completely different climate zones,” said the Soupster. “There’s wet western Washington and western Oregon, each state turning drier and hotter as you go east.”
“Of course, California, like Alaska, is split more North and South,” the Soupster said. “Deserts down South and forests up North.”
“The opposite of here,” said Rudy. “Great swaths of Interior Alaska get so little precipitation the area qualifies as a desert. Then we have this huge temperate rain forest here in the South.”
“You’re a smart guy,” said the Soupster.
“As long as you do not count the mistakes,” said Rudy.
(ED NOTE: Some folks’ wish to send a little of Sitka’s abundant rain down to Northern California, thankfully, came true on Friday 11/23 – the rain did help to nearly extinguish the wildfires, though, sadly, has also slowed the work of searchers.)
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The Soupster groks that everybody is thankful for something.
Originally published November 18, 2010
Greta, aged two, drooled onto the sitting Soupster’s left calf as she clung to him. Across the tidy living room of his friend’s house, Brandon-the-pre-teen regarded the Soupster with a suspicious boredom.
“Nice of you all to invite me for Thanksgiving,” the Soupster told Brandon, who grunted.
The Soupster could hear clattering from the kitchen and the excited voices of Corey and Barb, the parents of Greta and “Don” as he liked to be called.
“Okay,” yelled Corey, who looked like George Clooney, but sounded like Gilbert Gottfried. “Thanksgiving feed bag in the deen-ing room!”
“When I heard you were planning on spending Thanksgiving alone, I said `This is a Crime Against Soup!’” Corey said, as the Soupster and the children gathered around the well-decorated table, with Greta lifted up into her high chair.
“Didn’t I say that, honey,” Corey yelled out, “That the Soupster spending Thanksgiving alone was a crime against soup?”
“You did indeed,” Barb called back.
Corey filled everyone’s glasses with cider, even Greta’s tippy cup. Then Barb appeared from the kitchen holding a platter. “Here’s the `bird,’” she said.
The Soupster stared at the item on the platter she placed in the middle of the table. It looked vaguely like a turkey, but there was no brown skin and the flesh was wrong.
“It’s fish!” said Barb and Greta called out “Fiss!”
“It’s Halmoncod,” corrected Corey, who pointed with his carving knife. “The white meat is halibut, the dark meat is salmon and the Parson’s nose is black cod.”
“The posterior,” explained Barb.
“But before we eat this Halmoncod, we should all say what we are thankful for,” Barb continued. “I’m thankful that the Soupster could be with us.”
“And I’m thankful that Barb let me do something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Corey. “Go to Freezing Man.”
“Freezing Man?” said the Soupster.
“Like Burning Man, except it’s on the tundra,” said Corey, evoking the weird tribal ritual and art show that occurs annually in the Nevada desert. “Instead of making a giant statue out of wood and then setting fire to it, like they do at Burning Man, we bring discarded car and truck tires from all over Alaska and make a giant bear statue. Then we wait for it to get cold enough to make the tires brittle and we pelt the giant bear with stones and sticks until it shatters.”
“I have to ask,” said the Soupster. “Sounds like it needs to be at least 50 degrees below zero to get the tires that brittle. But at Burning Man, a lot of people are naked.”
“At Freezing Man, too,” said Corey. Then he saw the Soupster’s astonished expression.
“Underneath our parkas, Soupster, underneath our parkas!” he said. “We’re not crazy.”
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The Soupster hears about seasonal remedies.
Originally published December 1, 2016
There was a long line of people waiting at the airport, but none of them were flying that day. Instead, they waited to submit their names in the annual Customer Commensuration Event, where the airline awarded pairs of unrestricted tickets to three writers of the best essays titled, “Why I Need to Leave Our Town This Fall.”
Ah, autumn in Our Town, the Soupster thought, as he waited in line clutching his essay. A dark and wet autumn in Our Town, indeed. Like trouble piling on itself, the rain caused there to be more rain.
“It doesn’t rain, it pours,” a wise man once said.
“Oh, it gets better after Thanksgiving,” said Shirley “Bo” Burley, standing behind the Soupster and reading his mind. “Once the Christmas lights go up and cut the gloom, our mood lightens, too.”
“True, Bo,” said the Soupster. “To me, the absolute worst is the day after they change the clocks and instead of it getting dark at 5pm, which you’ve just gotten used to, it’s dark by 4pm, which is an unreasonable time for it to get dark.”
“Never lived up north, have you?” Bo asked.
“No,” said the Soupster.
“Wimp!” said Bo. “How would you like to go through a couple of months when the sun doesn’t make it over the horizon?”
“You’re just determined to lighten up my mood, aren’t you, Bo?” said the Soupster.
“Here’s a good `Coping with the Fall’ story,” said Bo, barreling on and accepting the Soupster’s implied consent. “You know Cleon, the computer guy?”
The Soupster nodded.
“He used to make house calls and one day, in the doldrums between Alaska Day and Thanksgiving, he got a call from that cute many-sided house out the road,” Bo explained.
“So Cleon strapped his small repair case to his bike and set out. Cleon loved his bike, but only a few minutes into his ride, he questioned his decision to take it. The temperature hovered right around freezing — depending on the microclimate Cleon traversed, the rain passed back and forth between liquid water and some snowish kind of thing. You know how it is, Soupster.
“As a shivering Cleon mounted the stairs to the house, he could hear music. Jimmy Buffett. Margaritaville. The door opened to a big, sweating guy wearing a toga. Inside, it was 90 degrees. There were people sprawled all over the sand-colored carpet. All their drinks had little bamboo umbrellas. A cardboard palm tree had been erected and a stuffed parrot perched on a corrugated branch.
Without a word, the big man showed Cleon into his office where a computer sat on the desktop. Cleon got to work. After about a half hour, Cleon stood up and stretched, another cyber problem solved.
Just then, the big man returned with a large can of tropical punch and two glasses. Cleon told him the machine was all fixed.
“Good job, fine fellow!” he said to Cleon. “I am the ruler of my Kingdom. I control the weather here. And now, thanks to you, I can also surf the Internet again!”
“So,” the man said with a wink. “When it rains, I reign.” He held up a glass and dispensed from the can of punch. “And when it pours, I pour.”
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Why not? – the Soupster enjoys a good cartoon.
By Kara Kesanooksisk
Would you like to create an Our Town?
The Sitka Soup would welcome an infusion of “new blood.” You may tell your story in words (450-500 of them), or as a graphic “cartoon” strip (probably four panels the size of those above). We would even consider a short, original photo essay with B&W photos. Your Our Town must be closely connected with the life of Sitkans, and the Soupster must make an appearance, even if it’s a brief one. If we run your Our Town, we’ll pay you $50.
Email your creation to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call 747-7595.
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The Soupster Lives!
Guest Written by Rose Manning (with input from Mike Helmrich)
“How ya doin’?” said Max-the-Dog to his human friend Irish Lil, as they stood chatting by the post office.
“Well, Max,” said Lil, “I’m getting back to Our Town after being in ‘America’ for eight weeks. Seven weeks in Michigan and one in California. Both were 100 degrees in the shade, with a daunting amount of mugginess. I tell you, when I walked off that plane into the grand, fine mist of Our Town I even considered kissing the damp ground. But, even with all that joy, when I heard about the writer dying it made me want to cry. That’ll teach me to go roamin’!”
“I hardly knew him, Max. I only met him twice in person. How could it have hit me so hard? The writer was kind. He was witty and nice. You know, I’m a bit of a writer, too,” said Lil.
“That so, Lil?”
“The writer laughed at my writing and even published some of it. That really tickled me.”
“I know what you mean,” said Max. “I liked him, too. And my wife, Kitty, really liked his writing. One time, he wrote a story about the two of us, when we met the Soupster – I was sitting in my truck, waiting for Kitty to come out of the sandwich shop.”
“Well,” said Lil, “I remember the first time I met both the writer and the Soupster. It was in the grocery store parking lot. There I was, in the front seat of a kindly Our Townsperson who’d agreed to give me, carless newbie, a ride. While I was waiting, I pulled a Soup from between the seats and read ‘Our Town.’ First, he made me smile, then chuckle and, finally, laugh right out loud. And I thought, ‘Yep, this town is going to be just fine for me, with people like you in it.’
Max replied, “You know, the writer had respect for everyone – he met them right where they were. He saw no problem with me and my wife, even though we are different breeds. Dogs, cats. Even telemarketers. And his sense of humor – quirky, for sure, but with lots of underlying truth. My wife Kitty loved the one about, ‘Cats have staff.’ That’s true – I’m her staff. She also loves the mystical stuff, like the time he talked about the ‘Wise Old Man’ – cats do like the mystical.
“What about the Soupster, Max? Did he pass away, too?”
“The Soupster? Oh, no! Soupster’s still around. Why, I saw him the other day, talking to Sam Grace out in front of our-doctor-the-vet’s office. That’s what I mean – the writer understood everyone. Soupster is a cat man through-and-through, and Sam – well, he’s definitely a dog man. And there they were, jabberin’ away like old friends.”
Lil agreed. “The writer gave me perspective, made me see Our Town in a new light and raised my spirits, too. I still imagine him slipping around corners, taking mental notes of humorous human habits, just to entertain, and maybe now, I guess, cause the occasional angel to raise the occasional eyebrow.”
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The Soupster chats with one busy mom.
Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.
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 email@example.com and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call: 747-7595.
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.
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.