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Comments Off on Our Town – June 18, 2020

Our Town – June 18, 2020

| Children, food, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, School | June 18, 2020

The Soupster gets to hear a nine-year-old’s point of view.

The Soupster was talking on the phone with an old acquaintance of his, who had worked at the City Offices for many years. It was the weekend, and they were chatting just before their respective supper deliveries arrived. His friend Sharon & her granddaughter, who lived with her, were getting pizza, and the Soupster was getting sushi.

Suddenly, Sharon said, “Oh, oh, there’s the doorbell – I have to answer it. Zeylinn, please come and talk to the Soupster while I go answer the door. That’s a big help!”

Soupster:  Hi, Zeylinn! Thanks for talking to me. I have known your grandma for many years. She was just telling me about how you have been attending school remotely.

Zeylinn: Yeah, I just finished last week. Whew, it was hard sometimes.

Soupster: So, you are nine, and you just finished – what – third grade? Who was your teacher?

Zeylinn:  His name is Mr. Burrows and he’s really nice. It’s not his fault – the remote school is just difficult. Sometimes it is hard to get online for the morning meeting. And hard to stay online.

Soupster:  Yeah, I know what you mean.

Zeylinn:  I usually like school and really like reading, but the online reading we had to do was hard, because a lot of the time the questions didn’t make sense. They didn’t match up to what we were reading about, and the answers weren’t in the reading.

Soupster:  I get that – when I was in Middle School, we had some assigned reading which was kind of boring and the questions didn’t make much sense, either. Normally, what’s your favorite part of school?

Zeylinn: Music and Library. I like all kinds of music and I play guitar and keyboard.

Soupster:  Oh, that’s cool. I’ll bet you miss Library, but you still get to pick out books and read, though?

Zeylinn:  Oh, yeah, we just had a Book Fair on the last day before Spring Break, and I got three books – well, comics, actually – I am really getting into comics. Two of them are Babysitter’s Club and the other one is called “Guts.” But they’re all by the same person – here, I’ll read you her name, “R – a – I – n – a. T- e – l – g – e – e – m – e – I – e – r. Raina Telgemeier.”

Soupster: Oh, it’s funny – I have heard about her. She tells stories and draws pictures from her own life. She lives in San Francisco. I guess they have to stay home there as much, or even more, than we do in Our Town. Yup, it’s been hard, sometimes. What are you planning for this summer?

Zeylinn: Well, sleeping in for one thing. And then, we’re probably going to get a pool and go to the beach. Oh, and I really LOVE art – I do lots of pictures with watercolors and pastels. Well, there’s my grandma, I better go help her with the pizza – nice talking to you, Soupster!

Soupster: You, too, Zeylinn. My sushi just got here. Say bye to your grandma for me?!

96 total views, 6 today

Comments Off on Our Town – June 4, 2020

Our Town – June 4, 2020

| Animals, Dogs, Guest Written, Kathy Ingallinera, Our Town | June 4, 2020

The Soupster remembers when he could sit down over coffee with a friend and discuss the wisdom of dogs.

Originally published June 19, 2008, Submitted by Kathy Ingallinera

I turned the corner and reined in my dog, Solly, on her 16-foot retractable leash. Up ahead I could see a woman walking with her dog and I didn’t want Solly too far away and out of control. “Oh, it’s Cody. You know Cody,” I said to my four-legged companion as she pulled on the leash and strained to get closer to the other dog.

“Hi, how are you?” I said in passing to the woman.

I heard her speaking to her dog as I walked by. “That’s Solly. You’ve met Solly before.” She guided the older collie, as she waved at me and shouted, “Have a good day.”

“You too. Come on, Solly, I have to get to work.” We headed back towards home.

“Here comes Bach!” I looked at Solly but it was obvious that she had seen Bach before I did. Her eyes brightened and she yanked at the leash, looking back at me to tell me to hurry up.
As Bach and his person got closer, Solly and I crossed the street so the dogs could interact. “Hi Bach, how are you?” I bent over and scratched the old black lab on his head and offered him a treat.

Bach’s owner bent over, patting his thigh, calling softly to my dog. “Come here, Solly.” When both dogs were done sniffing, we went our separate ways calling, “Have a good day,” to each other.

We ran into several other dogs and their humans on the walk. I called dogs by their names and exchanged pleasantries with their owners.

After work I stopped by a café strategically located behind a local bookstore. I pulled a chair up to a round table to engage the Soupster in some repartee.

“Good afternoon Soupster. I’m doing a survey. Do you have a dog?” He nodded yes.

“Do you walk your dog?” I asked.

“Most days.”

“And do you run into others walking their dogs?” I continued.

“Yes, again. Am I going to win a prize?”

“No. Do you know the names of the dogs you run into?”

“Usually. What are you getting at?”

“One more query. Do you know the names of their owners?”

“No – not unless they’re neighbors…”

“Aha! I am NOT the only one. I realized today I know the names of the dogs in my wide neighborhood, but not the names of the owners. Why do you suppose that is?” I reached over and swiped the rest of his treat.

“I don’t know, but now I have to buy another raspberry bar,” he mumbled as he headed back to the counter.

I followed him. “I am going to introduce myself to my dog’s dog-friends’ people when I meet them from now on. Well, maybe on the second meeting. Don’t want to rush things. Hey, Soupster, thanks. This one’s on me,”

129 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – May 21, 2020

Our Town – May 21, 2020

| Guest Written, Our Town, Rachel Ramsey, Small Town Stuff | May 21, 2020

The Soupster and his friend appreciate junk.

Submitted by Rachel Ramsey

As a rule, the Soupster didn’t make a point of answering the phone before 11am, unless he happened to be awake and feel so inclined. When his land line rang shortly after 9 he caught it on the third ring. His pal Brandy’s husky voice greeted him from the other end.

“Good morning – you’re up?” Brandy chuckled. Her voice resonated with jittery excitement. The Soupster tried to respond, only to be cut off.

“As one Our Towner who lives sans social media to another, I had let you know that piles of ‘FREE Take Me’ stuff are popping up all over town.”

The Soupster cleared his throat and replied, “Finally, we’ve returned to the tried and true, rudimentary small-town way of Help-Yourself-Odds-&-Ends piles. I’m in, Brandy, and ready in 20.”

Her van was a hybrid of sorts, though not an electric kind. It had, over the decades, been reconstructed and refurbished piece by piece from salvaged parts of other vehicles, from doors to bumpers and beyond. Brandy fiercely maintained it was an ever-changing functional work of art.

“Better hop in back,” Brandy piped out the window. “Gotta mind our distancing.”

Humming Johnny Cash’s One Piece At a Time, the Soupster hopped into the van, careful not to slam the door too hard. His homemade mask boasted a blue and yellow pattern of Snoopy’s Fonz-insipred alter ego.

“I knew you were good for it!” Brandy laughed through her violet mask. “And thanks for remembering the door. She’s fragile.”

“So what stuff have you seen?” the Soupster inquired, his curiosity bubbling.

“Ribbed PVC hose, an old wooden birdhouse, bedding,” she began. “Awkward, funky-looking metal cabinets. Oh, and sawdust! All sorts of stuff, though I haven’t even begun – I wanted to partner up first,” she explained.

The Soupster said, “Well, ‘one’s man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ and I’m sure folks think thrice about what they pitch in the garbage, and what they put out for the taking.”

“I’d expect so – sometimes the junk you find is just the junk you’re looking for,” Brandy agreed.

“Maybe some of this oddball junk could be used for a project. Kids could make art or science projects with only the materials found roadside,” the Soupster mused.

“Like the cooking shows where they work magic with only the ingredients provided – yes, that’s a fine idea, Soupster, but why only kids? Adults need creative projects too.”

They pulled over near a church, where a family’s mound of garage sale storage boxes had been neatly set up.  The pile yielded a Snoopy snow globe for Brandy and a brown and green, seemingly hole-less tarp for the Soupster.

“It’s a good sign.” she giggled, shaking the globe and directing her eyes at the glitter-swirled Snoopy. “Now, how about that project idea?”

“I’m sold. Let’s snag that birdhouse you mentioned and add a disco waterslide!” the Soupster chuckled. “What better way to keep Our Town’s perfectly usable junk out of a landfill?”

“Now, that is creative thinking,” Brandy concurred.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 7, 2020

Our Town – May 7, 2020

| Holidays, Mother's Day, Nicknames, Our Town | May 7, 2020

The Soupster learns it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

Originally published May 6, 2004

“Soupster!” called Joey the Liar from the far side of the street. Joey was so named because everything he said was a lie.

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” said Joey as he settled his big frame across from the Soupster. “I was worried I would miss you.”

“Hi, Joey,” said the Soupster, who knew Joey was tough to deal with, everything he said being a lie. “What are you doing these days?”

“Same, but different,” said Joey. “Once in a while.”

“Have any plans for the weekend?”

“I thought I’d call my mother for Mother’s Day and all,” said Joey.

“She doesn’t live here?” asked the Soupster.

“Reno,” said Joey. “She’s a stage star in the casinos. She could have gone to Vegas but she wanted my younger brothers and sisters to have a more normal life, which she has found in Reno.”

“Is this true?” asked the Soupster.

“Not entirely,” said Joey. “Before Reno, she lived with me in Chicago, where she was a meat cutter at a huge plant. All her skirts had blood dripping down the front of them. It was a long time before I found out that hamburgers didn’t come out of my mother’s pockets.”

“Joey,” I really don’t have time for this,” said the Soupster.

“All right, she’s quite normal,” Joey said. “She lives in Bothell and works in a bottling plant…”

“Joey! A Bothell bottler?” said an exasperated Soupster.

“Brunette, too,” said Joey. “My mother is the spitting image of Betty Crocker and Donna Reed. She played the piano and there were always fresh flowers, even in winter. My favorite time was waking up Sunday mornings and smelling the bacon frying downstairs. Sticking my head out into the cool room from under the warm blanket. The smell of bacon.”

The Soupster almost believed him. “I almost believe you, Joey,” said the Soupster. Joey, who knew of his reputation, took no offense.

“I wouldn’t want you to do that,” he said.

“So, really,” said the Soupster. “About your mother? You wax so poetic and range so far afield that you sound like a wistful orphan. Are you an orphan?”

“Absolutely not!” said Joey the Liar.

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 23, 2020

Our Town – April 23, 2020

| Boats, Our Town, Seasons, Spring | April 23, 2020

The Soupster has springtime dreams of being on the water.

Originally published April 18, 2002

The Soupster haunted the docks the last few April days, studying skiffs. With no prior symptoms to warn him, the boat bug had bitten him squarely and he mightily suffered its effects.

The Soupster tried his best, and for the most part succeeded, in following the advice of the wise old fisherman, who had once said:

“You don’t want a big boat, Soupster. What you want is a skiff and a good motor. Everything else, for you, would be just a bigger hole in the water.”

Even possibly an inflatable, the Soupster thought. Like a hard-bottomed inflatable on a trailer. A steering station, of course, he always thought. Who doesn’t like to look ahead to where they are going?

“Hey, Soupster,” called Culver, striding purposefully from the large boat part of the marina. “A skiff would not be enough for me,” he crowed. “I take my family in comfort. You know, Soupster, the whole five of us are bonding on that boat.” He pointed to the “Blue Hope” – a diesel trawler. “Last night my wife read to me and the kids from David Copperfield. Hey, what did you do with my crazy family?”

“Me, I’m just looking for a little taxi to drive myself around a bit on sunny and flat days,” said the Soupster. “You know when the water looks like you could just lay out flat on the surface and take the sun.”

“A mosquito can do that,” Culver said. “Water has enough surface tension that a mosquito can just stand on it. Like a solid surface to them.”

“The meek of the Earth,” said Soupster. “Or the most obnoxious – depending on whether you are in dense forest and it’s sundown or not. Meek… How about the green moss poking through the snow? Moss is like very meek and also the first green thing each Spring.”

“I de-mossed my lawn last year,” Culver said. “Amazing stuff, moss. There’s no roots holding it down. You can peel it back like a carpet. Which I did, last summer – peeled a truckload of moss off my lawn. I used a thatch rake – you know, those meaty looking rakes. Got the thatch rake tines underneath the moss and peeled it up just like a carpet. Moss is beautiful stuff really.” He shook his head.

“I was looking for a thatch rake!” said the Soupster. “I looked all over town and couldn’t find one. Not one. Can I borrow yours?”

“Sure,” Culver said. “Amazing about Our Town. Big as it is, we can still run out of things. Like thatch rakes. And even milk.”

“Never run out of boats, though,” said the Soupster, indicating the massive harbor and its hundreds of denizens.

“Got that right,” said Culver.

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 9, 2020

Our Town – April 9, 2020

| Guest Written, Our Town, Poems, Relationships, Relatives, Vivian Faith Prescott | April 9, 2020

The Soupster gets a poem from a friend.

Submitted by Vivian Faith Prescott

Look, bright yellow stalks emerge from warm muck.
I bend to inhale their familiar scent.

Behold, an old man is ambling down the hospital hallway,
masked, gloved and gowned, while nurses and doctors applaud
his slow return to the world.

My feet press the dry roadside grass and I step over the ditch.
See the red branches on the blueberry bushes, note
a bud’s first pink blush.

Look, we peer out the narrow window at our daughters and
grandchildren, holding signs: We miss you. We love you.
Rainbows and hearts and I try not to weep.

Today, and every morning for days now, with wing-sound
and honk, a pair of Canada geese fly by our porch.
We’ve name them after our airline flights: there goes
flight 64 and 65.

Look, the young woman is sewing a thousand cloth masks,
and a grown daughter sits outside a care home in a flowerbed
talking to her mother through window glass.

See the man is in his shop fabricating a face shield. See
the family dancing and drumming on a dock next to the ocean.
See the stranger dropping a box of groceries off on a porch.

A nurse aid brings water to a bedside. See the mailman opening
the street-side mailbox, placing a letter.

There’s a purple bud on the devil’s club and fat robins flit
around the neighbor’s grass near the outdoor rabbit pen,
and around the corner comes a parade

of elementary school teachers, each in their own sign-draped cars,
beeping horns, waving, cheered by students and parents
on the side of the road.

After days of herring snow and a few more days of sunshine,
the popweed plumps up on the beach. Everything is ripening,
and my elderly father sighs—We’re used to living
with the tide coming in and going out. We’re patient people.
We can do this.

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 26, 2020

Our Town – March 26, 2020

| Animals, Dreams, Graphic Stories, Guest Written, Herring, Lois Verbaan, Our Town | March 26, 2020

197 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – March 12, 2020

Our Town – March 12, 2020

| Our Town, Shopping, Small Town Stuff | March 12, 2020

The Soupster witnesses a redemption.

Originally published March 6, 2003

The grocery store was packed. The Soupster had to walk sideways down the Canned Tomatoes aisle to pass the shopping carts parked on the left and then on the right. Unusual for Our Town, a long line of shoppers waited impatiently at the checkout stand.

When the Soupster finally got to the front of the line, he saw the reason for the delay. The young woman at the cash register was as overcareful with each transaction as a cat pacing the rim of a steamy bathtub.

She meticulously rotated each food item in her hand to find the UPC code, then drew the item across the scanner with a kind of dreamy slowness. She smiled individually at each person in line, looking for validation, then, with effort, picked up the next food item. The Soupster shifted his weight from one foot to the other. So did everyone in the steadily growing line behind him.

People had started to clear their throats, when a man in his 30’s with a badge that said “Asst. Mgr.” swept up behind the counter next to the cashier.

“Kathy! You are to call for help when the line gets this long,” he said in a theatrical whisper, meant for everyone to hear. “You should never let the line get this long, Kathy!”

“Ma’am,” the Asst. Mgr. said over-solicitously to the woman behind the Soupster. “All of you, come with me,” he pointed to the entire line and they moved with him to another checkout stand.

The young cashier’s face reddened. Only halfway through his transaction, the Soupster stood alone now before her. She went back to her slow-motion scanning of the Soupster’s few items. Meanwhile, the first members of the Asst. Mgr.’s line were already picking up their grocery bags and walking out the door.

“Sorry,” Kathy said, looking downcast.

“No problem,” said the Soupster. “First day on the job?”

She nodded. “Probably going to be my only day,” she said and, indeed, the Asst. Mgr. was shooting daggers her way, hidden behind the bland smile he showed his customers.

“Keep at it,” said the Soupster.

“I said DON’T RUSH ME!” came a loud, deep voice from the other register. The Soupster and the young cashier turned.

A very large man loomed over the Asst. Mgr., who was pinned against the back wall of his checkout station. The man slammed down his wallet and leaned forward in the direction of the Asst. Mgr. who looked extremely flustered and ready to bolt.

“Manny,” called the young cashier, as she left her workstation and slipped in next to her trembling co-worker. “Manny, Manny, Manny, cool your jets,” she laughed and poked the big man in the chest. Manny laughed. The Asst. Mgr. visibly unstiffened.

The cashier returned to the Soupster. She looked a lot happier than a minute before. “Will there be anything else, Sir?” she asked sweetly.

“I think you got your job back, Kathy,” the Soupster answered.

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 27, 2020

Our Town – February 27, 2020

| Crazy Theories, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Youth | February 27, 2020

The Soupster meets someone he will remember for the rest of his days.

Originally published May 10, 2001

Sweat dripped from the Soupster’s brow as he grabbed a final fingerhold of rock and hauled his body up over the precipice. He worked his chest, his hips and legs over the sharp edge to safety. He let out an enormous sigh of relief. The 5 1/2 climb had been the most arduous of his life. But he had made it! Over the ledge of rock that led to the place where the wise old bearded man lived, the one who would tell him the secret of the universe. Or at least what the Soupster should do over the next several weeks.

A well-worn path led directly from the rock’s edge, so the Soupster took it. He knew lots of people had preceded him to the wise old bearded man’s lair, but still the experience reeked of discovery. Up ahead he saw the shallow cave he’d heard of, where the wise old man dispensed his wisdom. Feeling humble, the Soupster removed his high-tech climbing gloves and boots, and walked inside.

No wise old bearded man. Instead, a kid with bad skin. The Soupster couldn’t really tell if the kid was male or female. “My uncle is getting audited by the I.R.S. and the rest of the family is at a condo in Boca Raton celebrating my cousin’s graduation from law school,” said the kid. “Any other wisdom I may dispense?”

The Soupster was flabbergasted. His legs and back ached from the climb, but his head ached more as he tried to make sense of the situation. “Well, I was going to ask you, you know, some Big Questions,” stammered the Soupster. “But, I mean, you’re probably not… qualified…”

“I’m plenty qualified,” said the kid. “I’m more qualified than anybody in my family, including my famous uncle. I’m qualified enough to know not to go to some stupid law school shindig in Boca Raton where it’s a million degrees.”

“Any, you know, Big Ideas, that I should, maybe, hear?” the Soupster attempted.

“No Big Ideas,” said the kid. “But here’s some little ones. How about stop saying ‘Send a Message’ and ‘Zero Tolerance’ when you are referring to children. That sit okay with you?”

“What’s your problem?” said the Soupster.

“My problem is that’s not language you should be using with your offspring,” the kid said. “`Sending a message’ is something the Godfather did when he left that horse head in the Hollywood producer’s bed. It’s something we do when we drop bombs. It’s bravado when you know you are the one with the power.”

“And `Zero Tolerance’ the kid continued, “is not possible to have. No matter how gross things are, you can always come up with a scenario where you would have to have some tolerance for the situation. And if anybody is going to find out the way to test that idea, it’s your kids.”

“I think you’re right,” said the Soupster.

“Of course, I’m right” said the kid, “My uncle is the wise old bearded guy!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 13, 2020

Our Town – February 13, 2020

| Guest Written, Housing, Library, Nan Metashvili, Our Town | February 13, 2020

The Soupster is thoughtful, hopeful & sad.

Submitted By Nan Metashvili

It was a typical Our Town day. Rain drizzled down, fog drifted around the forests like old spirits, and cold waves sloshed resolutely against the shore.

The Soupster was heading towards one of his favorite haunts, the library.

Though not as cozy as the old library, the new one still filled his needs. It was warm and dry, and its services were freely available to all. He would spend time reading the papers and check out a few books to feed his insatiable appetite for reading. With some amusement and no little sadness, he noted that 9.5 out of 10 people scattered around were reading, writing or playing on some sort of electronic device. Not many books to be seen, the old-fashioned kind, that is.

The smell of a brand-new volume to him was indescribable. He positively enjoyed the tactile sensation of turning pages, and the ease of flipping back to reread some passage. Many a time did he find it necessary to refresh his memory about some point mentioned 6 chapters ago. The Soupster was not shy about admitting he was getting on a bit and his little grey cells weren’t what they used to be. And he loved the elegance of choosing just the right bookmark to insert to keep his place. He had a whole collection of them.

As much as he loved reading books, there was also the social side of the library. No cold city institution, Our Town’s library was a lively place where friendships were formed and nurtured, where lonely after-school kids could safely hang out, and where even a few romances had happened. He could always count on finding a pal there to chat with.

As the Soupster picked up a recent nonfiction bestseller to sit and browse through, he noticed the person next to him. The two men both could sit there and gaze out at the unparalleled view of the ocean and small islands, the skiffs and trollers and sailboats going past. They could stay until closing time. They could use the bathroom.

But at closing time, the Soupster could go home to a comfortable and welcoming home, and the other chap obviously could not. Homeless was written all over him, from the shabby clothes, unwashed odor, and the look of sadness and fear in his eyes. Where will he go when the library closes? Out into the rain, and then?

The Soupster started to wonder why the town had to be so difficult for low income folks. Why could they not follow the example of some other communities around the country and take care of all their citizens?

Tiny houses, for example. He had lately been reading about places building tiny houses. Why did people crave McMansions anyway, when a smaller and adequate abode would do? Wouldn’t it be grand if Sitka could commit in a significant way to small and available homes?

The Soupster smiled sadly at the homeless man as the closing time lights flickered.

Then they both left the library.

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 19, 2019

Our Town – December 19, 2019

| Animals, Ghosts/Spirits, Guest Written, Nan Metashvili, Our Town, Ravens, Tourists | December 19, 2019

The Soupster and his companion regard a woman.

Submitted By Nan Metashvili

A bemused out-of-season tourist was wandering around town. She had made it as far as Totem Park and was enthralled with the eerie images high atop the poles. That looks like a Raven, she thought with awe, glancing from the carved image atop a pole, to the shiny black bird hopping around in the branches above her, and making sonorous clonking calls. The light rain did not seem to bother the tourist and the lack of any other people around also pleased her.

As she strolled – following her local Japanese custom of “forest bathing” – her worries eased and a feeling of contentment and rightness dawned. Yes, the giant cedars were soothing and the chattering of Ravens made perfect sense.

Then she approached an open area, with signs explaining that it was the site of a great battle. Many years ago the Tlingit people, in their fort of young saplings, had fought against the Russian occupiers of their lands. A feeling of admiration and solidarity came over her as she read about Katlian and his battle against the foreign invaders. Her own people, the Ainu in the far north of Japan, had met with similar troubles.

But then out of the corner of her eye, she saw a strange little creature. Very strange. A creepy feeling started to rise up from her very kidneys, and little tingles of fear grew, like spiny prickles of sea urchins on bare feet. The creature seemed not quite human, with whiskers long as sorrow, a furry, pointy face and teeth as sharp as ignorance. It leered at her.

Fat rain filled clouds crossed the sky; it grew dark and she became more and more uneasy.

A soft chortle of laughter then caught her attention, and she turned to see two shadowy figures climbing up from the rocky beach to the path under the trees. “Psst! Nels!” called the Soupster, “is that a Kushtaka over there? Making funny faces at that poor lady who is getting worried?”

Rain drips on spruce boughs
Berry bushes wait for sun
The surf crashes on.

With easy laughter, the two waved at her, and although the rain then came, rather heavily, it seemed the air was lighter. She glanced back at the Kushtaka, which no longer seemed frightening. It seemed more like a rather special kind of sea creature, one with rich fur and incredible swimming skills. She even smiled at it, and it seemed to smile back.

With a loud caw, the nearby raven flew off. As it took flight, an ebony feather floated to the ground. Bending over to retrieve it, the tourist noticed that it had come to land beside a tiny carved star and a miniscule wooden dreidl. “Wā” she cried.

The soft laughter from the shades on the shore faded.

She stood in the rain holding the three gifts and commented to herself
“Sitka really is very peculiar little town, but I like it.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 5, 2019

Our Town – December 5, 2019

| Bridge, Friends, Our Town, Toys | December 5, 2019

With help from a friend, the Soupster sees Our Town with fresh “eyes”.

Originally published November 30, 2006

“Know what I found today?” Marcie said to the Soupster, as the two strode up the sidewalk on the Japonski Island side of the O’Connell Bridge.

“What?” asked the Soupster, on the rare recent day when it wasn’t blisteringly cold. His chin down into his coat, the Soupster was enjoying the spread of warmth on his chest when he breathed. He wasn’t really listening.

“3-D glasses!” Marcie said. “At the bottom of the pantry, beneath all the vole traps and old fishing net. Cardboard with cellophane lenses. One red and one blue lens. Must be fifty years old if a day!”

The Soupster uttered not a peep.

“Remember those old 3-D horror movies, like `House of Wax?’ asked Marcie. “Vincent Price?”

No response.

“`House of Wax’ was the first major studio motion picture in 3-D,” said Marcie. “And just about the last.”

Still nothing.

“Although a lot of big actors, directors and producers got their start in horror films. Like Charles Bronson was in `House of Wax.’ Must’ve been his big break – at that time he was doing nothing but TV episodes. Played Igor in `House of Wax,’ under the name he also used when he did the TV stuff – Charles Buchinsky.”

“Buchinsky,” came the Soupster’s voice, as though from the vast beyond. “Isn’t Matt Dillon portraying him in some new movie?”

“That’s Charles Bukowski. Bukowski is a Beat writer from Los Angeles,” Marcie said. “Soupster, are you all there today?”

“No, I’m listening,” the Soupster lied. “3-D. I heard you. 3-D. Like my old Viewmaster.”

“Say what?” said Marcie, so the Soupster added, “That may be before your time.” The Soupster had a few years on Marcie.

“Kids toy, looked like plastic binoculars?” prompted the Soupster, but Marcie shook her head.

“You put these round paper disks in the device — the disks contained about a dozen pictures each,” he continued to explain, as the two denizens of our town neared the crest of the bridge. “It was really a fancy slide viewer. Very 3-D. But you could buy these wonderful collections of disk sets like `World Cities’ or `Big Cats’ or `World’s Fair.’ I used to spend hours looking at these scenes and dreaming about seeing them for myself some day.”

This time it was Marcie’s turn not to listen. She stopped abruptly and stood perfectly still, except for her jaw, which slowly gaped open.

For the duo had reached the crest of the bridge’s graceful curve, revealing to their view a big chunk of the panorama that is Our Town. Always beautiful, the mountains on either side of Verstovia were expertly highlighted by white snow and dark forest, a drawing done in pencils. There was downtown, then town, then the inner ring of mere “hills” like Gavan, then simultaneously large and distant mountains crowding for every inch of the Soupster and Marcie’s view.

The Soupster stepped alongside his friend, pleased by the rapturous look on Marcie’s face. “Now, that’s 3-D!” he said.

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Our Town – November 21, 2019

| Darkness, Our Town, Seasons, Small Town Stuff | November 21, 2019

The Soupster helps a friend hunt for his wallet (back in ancient times, when Our Town had a “video store”).

Originally Published November 21, 2002

“I just can’t figure out where it could be, Soupster!” said Brian, sounding panicky. “It has my credit card, my driver’s license with my address and my Social Security card, with my Social Security number.”

“A truly dangerous combination,” commiserated the Soupster, as he scanned the ground for the black, checkbook length wallet Brian had said he was sure he had put in his jacket pocket when he left the house that morning.

“I know,” Brian moaned, “losing all that personal info sounds like a recipe for identity theft.” He looked at the quickly darkening late afternoon sky. “In a little while we’re going to need a flashlight.”

“Dark or not, you find things with your brain,” mumbled the Soupster.

“What?”

“You don’t find things with your eyes, you find things with your brain,” the Soupster repeated.

“You find things by remembering what you did and retracing your steps.”

“So where did you go today?” asked the Soupster, as the two men rounded the harbor.

“I went to the grocery store and the video store,” said Brian.

“That shouldn’t be hard to check,” the Soupster encouraged. “Let’s go look.”

At the grocery store the two men squinted before a huge amount of fluorescent light and a surprisingly lively social scene. A school theatrical event had just let out and everyone was getting snacks. Their search turned up nothing and Brian’s brain was dormant on the subject of the missing wallet.

“A friend of mine in college once lost her wallet at the “Pageant of Hugging” celebration at her school,” said the Soupster. “Of course, she got it back the next day after somebody found it and turned it in. Who could be mean enough to keep a lost wallet at the “Pageant of Hugging”?

“And if they were mean enough, the probably wouldn’t be caught dead at something called the
‘Pageant of Hugging’ anyway,” said Brian.

“Precisely,” said the Soupster.

At the video store: nothing. Brian’s brain remained dormant. The Soupster shuffled his feet. The wind blew a mournful howl. The Soupster felt hungry. He told Brian about one time at the gas station, leaving his wallet on the roof of his car and driving off in the rain. A sharp-eyed police officer spied the wallet on the road before anything inside even got wet.

“Let’s get something to eat,” the Soupster said. “Something soft because of my loose tooth. It looks like I’m going to need to a bridge.”

“The bridge!” shouted Brian. “I was on the bridge today!”

He ran ahead. The Soupster could not keep up but stayed close enough to see Brian bend down and pick up something black and checkbook-sized from beside the pedestrian walkway.

“Eureka!” Brian said, sprinting back to the Soupster and then grinning like a fool. “If you’re still hungry, I’m-a-buyin!”

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Our Town – November 7, 2019

| Craftsman, Our Town, Rain, Relationships, Relatives, Weather | November 7, 2019

The Soupster’s carpenter-friend is distracted by a “patriarch”.

Originally published November 4, 2004

“Hand me that laser level, will you,” the Soupster said to Charley, a carpenter friend who was helping him. “I want to do a professional job hanging these pictures.”

The phone rang. Looking at the display, the Soupster recognized the number of his old friend Zack, who worked with the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration as a meteorologist.

“Soupster!” Zack said. “My ship is in town for repairs for a few days. We’ve been out studying the weather.”

“I didn’t know NOAA was here studying the weather,” said the Soupster, who also didn’t notice Charley listening closely to his side of the conversation. “So, what’s NOAA’s forecast?” he prodded Zack.

The Soupster listened to the answer in silence and then said gravely. “That does seem like a lot of rain, even for here.”

Zack then described in detail the $300,000 NOAA was spending in Our Town, with another $3.9 million scheduled for the vessel’s shakedown in the spring.

“I hear ya,” said the Soupster. “NOAA is building quite a ship.”

If the Soupster had turned around, even for a second, he would have seen the stricken look on Charley’s face. But the next day, he noticed a change in Charley’s behavior. For one thing, the usually fastidious carpenter began missing nailheads and denting beams. After Charley started spending more time apologizing than working, the Soupster suggested that his friend go home.

And the following day, things didn’t get much better. For most of the morning Charley found ways to annoy the Soupster and slow the work. Charley seemed on the verge of saying something, but then so was the Soupster – on the verge of losing patience.

The phone rang in the next room and the Soupster picked it up. “Soupster,” said a cheery Zack. “My entire extended family has come to visit me on the ship while I’m in port!”

“That’s a quite a menagerie you’re bringing on board,” marveled the Soupster out loud.

“My two daughters, my parents, the two cousins and at least two other groups,” said Zack.

“Two by two by two by two,” said the Soupster. “Good luck with all those unpredictable creatures.”

Zack laughed. “Thanks!”

When the Soupster went back to the worksite, Charley was gone. And for the next two days, no Charley. As annoying as Charley had become, he made time go faster. The Soupster went to his friend’s house to find him.

He saw the light on in the biggest shed. He heard sawing and pounding inside. He walked in and saw Charley working on what looked like a huge floating tank.

“Charley, what are you doing?” the Soupster asked.

Charley pointed to the stout craft he was building. “Noah tells you it’s going to rain heavier, he’s building a boat and stocking it with animals! There’s something you’re not telling me, Soupster, and I’m getting ready for it!”

“That’s N-O-A-A,” said the Soupster. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”

“Oh,” said Charlie, and a long minute passed. “Well, see you tomorrow at work, then.”

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Our Town – October 24, 2019

| Dreams, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, Our Town | October 24, 2019

The Soupster recounts his “weird” dream in great detail.

Guest Written by Lois Verbaan

It was the time of the year when we get tired of being inside, yet outside, rain was falling so hard that even the newest rain gear was daunted.

“Do you suppose the other hikers made an earlier start?” the Soupster said, knowing he and Lola were probably the only ones in the forest right then.

“Let’s face it, we’re hard core,” Lola said, squinting through the droplets on her glasses.

The Soupster reached into his pocket and extracted a shiny red apple, bit into it and shook his head. “Disappointing,” he mumbled. “Floury.”

“Aah, expectations lead to resentment,” Lola said wisely.

“All that glitters is not gold,” the Soupster declared.

“How about, you can’t judge a book by its cover?” Lola winked. “Say, I ran into Fran downtown yesterday. She tried to convince me to go on The Library Show on Our Town Radio. The problem is, I don’t read much. Spend most of my time making stuff…or hiking in the rain.”

“Well, you Google, don’t you? “the Soupster asked. “What’s even considered a ‘book’ these days? You can find anything you need to know online. Does it cease being a book when you can see the person who’s delivering the info, like those YouTube videos? How do you think I know how to repair my washing machine, replace the rear window wiper motor in my car, and unclog the vent on the dishwasher?” the Soupster said.

“Okay Soupster, I get the picture,” said Lola, laughing. “I do read self-help books, but the minute I go public to discuss them, everyone will know what’s wrong with me.”

“Or themselves,” the Soupster said.

“True! Anyway, the best way to feel normal is to have weird friends,” Lola declared. “That’s why I like you so much, Soupster,” she joked. “Speaking of which, have you been doing any dreaming lately?” she asked.

“Glad you asked, Lola. I had a fabulous dream just last night. I dreamed that I woke up, made my bed and went into the bathroom to comb my hair. When I returned, I found the covers turned down with my laptop lying open by the pillows. Figuring a pixie was messing with me, I found a deck of cards and laid them out to spell the word PIXIE and left the room again. I came back to find the cards reorganized to spell the word DAVID, which I assumed was the pixie’s name. Then I saw him! Perched on the windowsill, he looked like Elf on the Shelf: About 18” tall, a red outfit and hat, ruddy complexion and round nose.

“He and I went to the grocery store where he gave me a bucket of gold, alarming the Scouts as I tipped it out on their bake-sale table.” Just then, the Soupster paused to dig in his pocket for a handful of sunflower seeds. Tossing them into his mouth, he instantly spat them out again. “Eeeww! Raw lentils!” he exclaimed. “I must have topped up my trail mix from the wrong jar in the pantry.”

“Or your elf friend is trying to change your teeth into gold… crowns,” said Lola. “After all, it is that weird time of year!”

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Would you like to create an Our Town?

The Sitka Soup would welcome an infusion of “new blood.” You may tell your story in words (450-500 of them), or as a graphic “cartoon” strip. We would even consider a short original photo essay with B&W photos. Your Our Town must be closely connected with the life of Sitkans, and the Soupster must make an appearance, even if it’s a brief one.

If we run your Our Town, we’ll pay you $50. To submit: Email your creation to shop@sitkasoup.com and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call: 747-7595.

What is Our Town?

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

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

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

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

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