Our Town

A closer look at Sitka businesses, artists, events, topics and more!

Our Town – June 2023

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The Soupster “Discovers” a New World.

The Soupster approached the garage sale on foot.

He totally did not need more accoutrements, but there was something to be said for Saturday morning entertainment and Our Town’s promotion of the second “R” in RRR.

The homemade cardboard signs had said, “starting at 7am sharp.” And the sprawling yard of the grammar school teacher’s parents was a perfect site.

The Soupster had dressed in careful layers. He prepared for rain, sun, wind, or anything in between. There was some furniture that looked sturdy and like it had a lot of life in it still. But, he absolutely did not have room for any more big items.

Then, he spotted four matching wine glasses – that was more like it! He’d had some long-stemmed glasses over the years but they had broken, and he was now down to just two – a giant one and a tiny one.

Next, he wandered over to a shelf of children’s books. Intriguing, but… no young children to share them with now. There were also a few CDs on the shelf – mostly 80s folk-rock-pop and something called “How to Start a Stamp Collection.”

Suddenly, between two dusty jewel cases, he saw a wedge of something gold-colored and pulled it out – “Paul Rosenthal Plays Bravura Variations on Alaska’s Flag Song (with Doris Stevenson on piano).”

The Soupster smiled. “This is amazing! I remember Doris. She played with Rosenthal a lot.”

“Oh, yeah, they were two of the original founders, weren’t they?” said a high, sweetly cracking voice above his right shoulder. The Soupster looked up to see a tall, slim, purple-haired figure, with a down of reddish fuzz on their chin.

“Those patriarchs and matriarchs were great,” said the purple and red individual. “And you can’t beat Zuill – I love when he just pops up around town. But now they also have a bunch of young musicians from The New World Symphony, right?”

The Soupster stared at the multi-colored creature, whose words seemed like another language.

“Oh, hi. I should introduce myself. My name is Leslie Leslie. Well, that’s my stage name. I’m a Vista volunteer.” The voice careened from soprano to bass and back again.

“Howdy,” said the mesmerized Soupster. “What were you saying about The New World Symphony?”

“Oh, it’s a music academy down South, and they send up student players every summer. It’s good to have new blood, you know. It keeps the arts fresh and lively.”

“Makes me think of that famous piece by Dvořák,” muttered the Soupster. “He really believed in ‘the new world’ – folk, Native American and African American themes – he was riveted by them and liked to capture their spirit in his music.”

“Well, then,” said Leslie, “he sounds a lot like these new musicians. They also want to bring a freshness to old favorites. It keeps the world moving forward.”

“You know, you’re right, Leslie… Leslie?”

The Soupster gathered and paid for his wine glasses and CD.

Then went home, and immediately added five songs by the new “New World Symphony” to his playlist.

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Our Town – May 2023

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The Soupster questions his sanity.

The drive-thru coffee line looked pretty long, thought the Soupster, but based on past experience he knew it would move along quickly. He was always amazed at how the drive-up baristas could be so warm and friendly AND efficient – all at the same time.

As he waited, the Soupster used his little notepad and favorite gel pen to start a list of errands.

Then, just as he was getting into his list-making groove, out from the coffee shop walked a giant shrimp juggling a hot drink and a scone, both in his right claw.

The Soupster scrubbed his eyes, quickly looked around and wondered, “Is anyone else seeing this?”

The pumpernickel-colored Subaru ahead of him drove off. He got his 12-oz. house coffee with 1 packet of raw sugar – then proceeded on to the Post Office.

“Oh, yay,” the Soupster said to himself as he removed his mail from the box – there was a package slip amongst the magazines and pleas to donate money. He joined the line, humming to himself, and looked forward to enjoying his green apple jelly beans, which he could never find here in Our Town.

Gazing out the post office window, where moments ago had been brilliant sun, he now saw a mini cyclone of hail. Oh well, it was that changeable time of year.

Then, though the flurry of pellets, he saw the front door open, and a gargantuan green dinosaur walked in, schlepped over to the wall, and dropped a letter in the slot marked “All Other Mail” – then pivoted 180 degrees and walked out.

This time, the Soupster looked frantically on every side – surely, someone else was seeing this??? Or perhaps he was just starting to lose his mind?

Next stop was the auto store for a new pair of windshield wipers, and then, the hardware store for a package of boat toilet paper and a box of #2 screws.

Fortunately, no more strange sightings.

Okay, he was starting to feel less discombobulated now. Maybe it had just been some trick of the light, refracting itself through the ice crystals of the hail pellets. Maybe he wasn’t going crazy after all.

The Soupster headed back downtown, dreaming of the fresh mushrooms and feta he would get to put on his dinner salad. He gazed down the road. Oh darn, the light ahead had turned red and there was a little bunch of traffic backing up.

“What’s going on?” he wondered. There was no ship in town, so why the traffic?

“Oh, no…” he moaned to himself. Was that, could it be… more giant animals in the distance?? Then, as he got closer, the figures became clear.

He knew them! He knew these characters!

It was “Smokey the Bear” and then came “McGruff the Crime Dog” arm-in-arm with “Woodsy Owl.” They were all crossing the street (in the middle of the block, of course).

Starting to suspect just what was happening, the Soupster made a left into the driveway for Our Town’s Main Hall. And there, big as life, right in front of him, was a giant crab holding a sign:

1st Annual Our Town Mascot Convention

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Our Town – April 2023


The Soupster attempts to go shopping.

The Soupster edged his tiny car into the space marked “compact only.” He was looking forward to picking up a few varied things he needed at home. Fortunately, he’d made a list, and had room at home, since he’d just taken a load of equally varied things to the secondhand store.

He’d heard about The Transition that was happening at Our Town’s local “get-whatever-you-need” store. Would there be many changes? Transitions can be good things. His bank had transitioned recently.

Okay, first to the pet section for those treats his neighbor’s cat loved. Whoops, where was animal stuff?? Well, move on – fresh washers for his garden hose since things were warming up. Gardening should be right over here… whoa, where had that gone?? Hmmnn, small bags of seedling soil & veggie seeds to start in small peat pots? There were the pots, but where had the soil gone to??

Better shift to indoor needs. The Soupster had moved some furniture lately – what he needed now was those non-skid pads to put on the bottom. Furniture feet tips should be over here. Nope.

Well, how about a quart of off-white eggshell, to touch up that molding? And a 2-inch sash brush?? Where had the paint section gone to?? All right, let’s go upstairs. Two pillowcases and a soap dish. And colored pencils and a pad of drawing paper for when his great nephew came to visit. None of them where he expected, though.

All right, enough of trying to do it on his own – he’d better ask someone. Maybe one of those helpful, sharp-as-a-tack young associates.

So, the Soupster handed his list over to Ronnie. She’d grown up in Kake but now lived in Sitka and had helped him find lots of things over the years. Ronnie smiled, took him to all the new locations, filled his basket and even carried it for him! The two of them headed to the back cash register – also re-located.

But… just as they reached the register, the entire store went DARK!!

The Soupster was hungry and there was no use moping around here. He should get some lunch. Better leave the basket by the cash register and come back in a couple of hours. And that is exactly what he did.

When he got back two hours later, the door was locked and there was a sign that said, “Closed Due to Power Outage.”

So, the Soupster went home, had a good dinner of Black Cod from his freezer, walked to the church down the road and saw a free film about Ukrainian refugees. He slept the night solidly.

Bright and early the next morning, he returned to the “get-whatever-you-need” store.

Doors were open, lights were on, and there was a deliciously chaotic hum around the ground floor. Associates were hustling, moving, stacking. But, incredibly, there behind the back cash register was his lovely bright red plastic basket with all his items!! They had saved it for him!

Oh-oh, he still needed a slotted screwdriver. In his “miscellaneous drawer” the previous night, all he could find was a Phillips. Would they have the right size slotted screwdriver? Oh, would they?? And would it be where he remembered??

Hallelujah! There it was. Right where he expected!!

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Our Town – March 2023

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The Soupster chats with his boat.

Sitting in the waiting area of the auto center, book in hand, the Soupster was passing time while he got an oil change. Distracted by the people coming in to drop off their keys or beg for a last-minute appointment, the Soupster surmised that at least 75% of issues revolved around vehicle electronic systems.

“So, there’s this light on the dashboard which never goes out and is accompanied by this message about the tires being under-inflated, but they aren’t under-inflated – I’ve checked! And then, it goes on to say it’s safe to drive as long as I ‘don’t go over 80 mph’ – well, really!”

Another client moaned, “The windows will never go up and down when I push the buttons. Then, a message flashes up – something about the battery draining – but then it goes away. I would have looked in the manual, but I brought it in the house the last time my grandson was here, and I’m not sure where it is.”

“Oh, and my car just locks the doors whenever it feels like it, even if I have not pushed anything, so I always have to carry the fob with me!”

The Soupster, marveling at these exchanges, picked up a nearby boating magazine whose cover boasted an article entitled “How I converted my boat to electric.”

The article touted the many benefits of electrifying one’s boat – obviously, reduced fossil fuel consumption, but also using “high output alternators to load up to 9kW of power to the batteries, allowing on-board luxuries such as espresso and ice makers.” It also described how to “boost your boat’s energy by replacing existing batteries with high capacity lithium batteries with electronic battery management systems.”

Ah, yes, thought the Soupster – lithium ion batteries – those were the ones that you couldn’t mail or take on an airplane. Well, that made sense, thought the very drowsy Soupster, because it’s not like a boat ever had to travel on a plane.

But what kinds of messages might an  electronic management system on his boat emit?

“Are you sure you want to go to Tenakee Springs, Soupster? You know you have to go through Sergius Narrows and you can only do that at slack tide?? I could help with that, of course.”

“Yes, Bruce, I want to visit there and see some of my Tenakee friends – they are lovely people, and very innovative in emergencies.”

“But Soupster, I have heard that they don’t have any bathrooms.”

“Well, Bruce, they do have a lovely hot mineral springs public bath.”

“Remember, Soupster, you can’t eat any chips on your trip to Tenakee, because they could tweak your BP.”

“OK, Bruce, I will comply.”

“And you should definitely wear your inflatable suspenders, Soupster, both for safety, and because they compliment the color of your eyes!”

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Our Town – May 2022

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The Soupster learns a questionable memory aid.

“Yo, Ruth, how’s it goin’?” called the Soupster to his next door neighbor in his best booming helmsman’s voice.

“Well, Soupster, it’s goin’ okay, I guess, but I am feeling a little quiet right now. I was just thinking about my dad.”

“I remember your dad, Ruth  – he was quite a character.”

“That he was, Soupster. That he was. And I often start thinking about him this time of year, because he used to engineer some crazy ideas when everybody started gearing up for Spring and the fishing season.”

“I didn’t realize your Dad was a big fisherman.”

“He wasn’t,” said Ruth. “But what he was, though, was a big shopper. I used to love to go shopping with him, Soupster. Simple, plain old grocery shopping, or gift shopping, or anything, really.”

“We had this game we used to play. Though it was more of a memory device, actually. Dad eschewed making lists. He would do anything to avoid making a list. So, when I was little, he came up with this alternate memory trick, so that we could remember what we were supposed to buy at the store.”

“Memory trick, hmmnn?” said the Soupster. “How did it work?”

“Well, on the way to the store, we would think of the things we needed to buy, and then we would identify the first letter of each thing. Finally, we would make a sort of word out of all the first letters.”

“Go on,” encouraged the Soupster.

“Okay, well here’s an example. Say we needed Milk and Apples and Tape and Eggs and – oh, say, razors (‘cause when I was a teenager I was religious about shaving my legs). So, then, the word we came up with could be ‘MATER’ – which is sort of a high-toned British word for mother.”

“That’s – errr – fascinating, Ruth. I’ve never heard of anything quite like it.”

“I don’t know about fascinating,” said Ruth. “But it was usually fun, at least when I was a kid.”

“But,” she continued thoughtfully, “Dad’s technique didn’t always work so well. I remember one, mid-May, I think it was, when we were going shopping down near the docks. There were just three things we had to buy. But we were walking and walking, for hours it seemed like, around the store, looking at the shelves. Because, you know, it seemed like everything fit into one of the letters.

“First was L,” she said. “We were passing by the many racks of ‘lures’ – could that have been it? Could ‘lures’ have been what we wanted? Or, wait – over there are flashlights. Maybe ‘lights’ was what we wanted? Or maybe ‘line’?? Spools and spools of different colored nylon and poly line.

“’Grrr… All right,’ said my dad. Let’s move on to the second letter. F. Fishing tackle? Here are all the tackle boxes – plastic, metal, you name it. Is that what we came for? Oooh, there’s the fluorescent hoochies – I love those. Maybe F stands for fluorescent? Gosh, I wish I could remember… And then, there’s letter number 3, which is S. Could that be for Spoons??’ he pondered.

“’Dad, Dad,’ I cried – ‘think of what you just spelled. What are those three letters? L – F – S!! We weren’t trying to remember specific items. We were trying to remember the name of the store!’”

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Our Town – April 2022

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The Soupster teeters on the brink.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan

“Pizza! Pizza!” called a familiar voice above the woosh of a high-pressure hose. An unruly dog rushed out at the Soupster from behind a cluster of – until five minutes ago – snow-covered salmonberry bushes.

“What on earth, Rick?!” the Soupster said, relieved as the dog’s barking lapsed into a series of warm, wet licks.

Rick looked down from the ladder he was on, leaning against his aluminum fishing boat.

“Ha!” Rick exclaimed. “I’ve been trying out my new theory, which is that even smart dogs are not actually responding to their name, but to the tone of your voice. Turns out Astrid comes to any name most of the time, and no name when defending life and property.”

“You out for a walk, Soupster?” Rick inquired.

“Yep, getting those 5,000 steps in,” the Soupster said. “And trying to adjust my attitude. I was just starting to love life again with last week’s good weather.”

“Yeah, it’s amazing what a few rays can do for you,” Rick admitted. “Anyway, more snow after teasingly great weather is hardly a surprise in our town.”

“Yep, brings in the herring,” the Soupster agreed. “Though lately, with climate change and all, who knows. Whatcha been up to, Rick?” he asked.

“Spring-a-rizing my boat” Rick replied. “Winterizing, springarizing… get it?” The Soupster chuckled. “Got a cabin trip next week,” Rick added. “Gonna get driftwood for the fireplace. Funny how we live in a forest but aren’t allowed to use the dead stuff in it,” he noted.

“Yep, the Tongass is the largest U.S. National Forest,” the Soupster said. “Twice the size of Massachusetts. And you know where I’d rather be living,” he laughed. “Anyway, the minute this snow has melted and the temperature’s tolerable enough to work outside for a while, I’ll be turning over garden soil and seaweed and creating slug hotels,” he pronounced.

“Slug hotels?” Rick repeated slowly.

“You know, free beer for the slugs. In a cup, in a hole near the new starts,” the Soupster said with a murderous glint in his eye. “Got to cover it with a bigger container, though, so the rain doesn’t dilute it. That would really be a waste of beer.”

“Well, let me know when the hotels are up and running,” Rick winked. “I wouldn’t mind visiting one of those watering holes myself,” he chuckled.

“Well, I’ll be off like a prawn in the sun” the Soupster said, glancing down at his watch to check his step count, as Rick turned on the high-pressure hose again.

Tiny snowflakes drifted through the air, turning into wet blobs as they hit his face, finding their way into the tops of his gloves and boots. Spruce branches sagged over the path, heavy with melting, dripping snow. Smoke coiled out of a nearby chimney and cars drove by, spraying slush.

In the distance, fuzzy charcoal islands hinted at a horizon that might be between a dark gray sea and a light gray sky. Hard to believe but spring was just around the corner.

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Our Town – December 16, 2021

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The Soupster makes (or invents?) a friend.

The Soupster thought he recognized the eyes of the mysterious woman he kept running into at different places, first at the secondhand store, then in various social/political Zoom groups.

It was at Our Town’s secondhand store where they first bonded, over a used large print copy of Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust book Night-Dawn-Day.

This time, he’d made up his mind to ask her name.

“Oh, you might not believe this,” she said, “but my name is Tirzah. I can spell if for you if you like. It’s from the Old Testament.”

“It does sound familiar,” admitted the Soupster.

“Tirzah was a town near Samaria,” said the tall woman, “you know, like in the story of The Good Samaritan? It goes back to the Bronze Age, was mentioned in the Book of Joshua, and, perhaps most famously, in The Song of Solomon.”

“That’s the – er, juicy one, right?” ventured the Soupster.

“Yes! The lover in the Song of Songs compares his beloved’s beauty to that of Tirzah. On second thought, maybe my folks were a little bit crazy to saddle me with that moniker.”

“You sure seem to know a lot about that part of the world,” said the Soupster.

“Oh, that you’ll maybe have to blame on my parents, too. Not sure if it was the load of the name or what, but 50 years into my life I decided to go to divinity school.”

“What a bizarre coincidence,” the Soupster marveled. “I just read an article about women who want to be priests and what moved them in that direction. Fascinating, really. They all had different reasons, no two were the same.”

“Well, you and I should sit down together someday – like over a cup of tea, in a safely distanced fashion,” said Tirzah. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we found we had a lot to talk about.”

“Yes!” said the Soupster. “I have been dying to talk to someone about this new book – Orwell’s Roses. Rebecca Solnit, who wrote it, was evidently trying to work out why such a serious dude seemed to get so much pleasure from planting roses. Orwell – serious – I mean, I still have nightmares about parts of 1984. He seemed to devote so much public energy to exposing social ills and political injustices. Kind of a dark guy. But then, there were the roses.”

Orwell’s Roses, hmmnnn? Not so surprising, Soupster. There’s these disparate parts to all of us,” she mused. “Not conflicting really, though they may appear so on the surface.” She paused for a moment. “Sometimes people criticize one another – foolishly, I think – for spending time and energy on things that just give us pleasure. You know, like Mary Magdalene spending the so-called ‘expensive oil’ on Jesus’ feet? Sometimes, I think, it may do us incalculable good to use the ‘expensive oil’ to get ourselves the roses we love as well as the bread we need.”

“Maybe you’re right,” said the Soupster. “In the end, don’t we all need both bread and roses!”

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Our Town – November 18, 2021

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The Soupster looks through a spyglass.

Submitted by Nan Metashvili

Three old friends stood leaning against the Mariner’s Wall, looking over the harbour and all the tied-up vessels, companionably  shooting the breeze.  They were watching the clouds, the boats at their moorings, and chuckling at the antics of the seagulls. Just passing the time.

“Whoah! Look at that aim,” exclaimed Old Johnnie, as a gull deftly aimed his poop right down on the freshly swabbed deck of a tidy little sailboat.

“Harrarr! That one splatted on the entire deck!”

The Soupster, not exactly lurking, but also not taking part, wondered if they were always this childish.

Then their conversation veered into more sombre waters.

“I could do with a tequila, or a playa right now,” remarked Bozo Slim. He was apparently still caught up in the spell of Dia de Los Muertos, just celebrated a few weeks before. His lost wife was on his mind. So, these thoughts and hangin’ out by the Mariner’s Wall, readin’ the bricks – yeah, that sometimes got a fellow to remembering.

        For fishers who never came home.

Pickled Pete would have staunchly denied there was such a thing as a tear in his eye. He was just…remembering. Those who didn’t make it, and the time he almost didn’t.

        For Our Men Lost.

And spaghetti too? Chuckled ole Bozo, “Remember that time my boat went down, no warning at all?? I was just in the wheelhouse, cookin’ up some dinner and trying to rest from a hard day’s fishing – then we caught the big wave, the rogue wave, and that was it. I made it into my survival suit, hit the epirb button and leapt for the life raft. And as my old friend disappeared under the waves, I could just spy, as she went down, my pot of spaghetti simmering on the stove, no doubt still bubbling and smelling of oregano and garlic.

“Well, we’re still here” the men sighed, but they did feel a pang of loss for some good food gone down to a cold and dreadful fate.

        Safe Home. Raven Radio.

“Yup, we’re all here safe and thankful – ooh, look at that! Pretty close and danged disrespectful, that gull has no couth at all, I tell ya. He got his ole seagull poop right on Robert W.’s brick! Bob would not appreciate that, no-siree-Bob! Chuckles, all around.

Retired, no more fishing, no more seafood processing, gutting, catching, cleaning the gear, maintaining the boat. Just hang out and remember the good old days. Ah, remember her?

          Rocked the slime line.

Good one. Then they all fell silent. Hearts were heavy. Thanksgiving was coming, and whether or not you feasted, ate sparingly of a vegan feast at your daughter-in-law’s home, or sat alone, missing the ones you missed, they all knew they were pretty lucky.

          Celia S. Sailed the seas to freedom.

And as one, the three friends raised their imaginary glasses of margaritas to all the brave souls who venture across oceans seeking freedom.

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Our Town – October 7, 2021

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The Soupster glimpses a legendary creature.

Submitted by Nan Metashvili

It was not a particularly nice day. The autumnal equinox – “Mabon” say the Welsh – had passed and termination dust was sprinkled like powdered sugar on fry bread. The waves out at the beach were as perfect as joy sung in four-part harmony.

But it wasn’t a bad day, either. The grey skies shone like Qatari pearls. Seagulls were preening their feathers and seemed ready to break into an avian fandango.

By the beach, an intrepid band of surfers gathered, counting seconds, peering both at the waves and ( as modern surfer dudes do ) at the surfing apps on their mobiles.

Then, when the opportune time came, they waded out and dove into the chill waters, paddling like happy black labs, aiming to catch the perfect wave.

The Soupster, back on shore, shivered a bit at the thought of that cold water. Groups of watchers stood and cheered, as the swimmers stood aloft and rode the waves in. Or not. More than one dude or dudette lost their balance and went in.

The waves lasted and seemed to become higher and more perfect, and an air of exuberance and slight mania overtook the afternoon. On shore, fires were lit to heat coffee and grill fish, as the afternoon became an impromptu festival of magic, always tinged with the slight frisson of danger.

And then danger came. A wave broke early, and one person was caught wrong, and hurled away, under, looking broken and gone. Onlookers gasped and screamed, and those nearby began to swim towards where the surfer had last been seen. The sea was a barren emptiness, no sign of the missing surfer, merely an empty board being tossed about like a kelp strand. A sea lion poked its snout above the waves, then also disappeared.

The sky blackened, and dread held sway on the crowd. The Soupster frantically looked around, desperate for someone to do something. Anyone, do something.

And Anyone came. A sleek form came sliding over the sea, flippers graceful, form vibrating with power and radiating competent intent.

The form dove, and was away – oh, away under the sea – for heart-stopping moments. Then, like an underwater miracle erupting into dry air, the selkie resurfaced, and not alone. A limp and coughing dudette was brought to shore, and her friends raced to warm her, get her breathing and breathe again themselves. No one seemed to notice when her rescuer re-slipped underneath the water and was seen no more. The happiness was contagious, and a mood of euphoria swept over the group, weeping and fear gone. A longhaired girl began softly beating a drum, and humming.

From the cold waters of Orkney to the cold waters of Sitka, the tune is known. “I am a man, upon dry land, I am a selkie, in the sea…” The tune harmonized with the sound of the cold Pacific waters, and as the tide came in, folks moved away. The memory of the close call faded away with the scudding clouds, and only the memory of another fine surfing day remained.

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Our Town – September 9, 2021

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 The Soupster learns of a bizarre theory.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan

“That you, Fran?” said the Soupster, squinting into the sun as a figure ran towards him.

“Yep, Soupster,” Fran replied. “Good to see you! Enjoying this amazing day?” she asked.

“Sure am!” the Soupster said, as he stood up slowly, hands on his lower back as if to pack the discs back in. “Making the most of the weather before it turns on us. Already the leaves are falling,” he lamented. “Wait, wait, though – there’s something different about you, Fran…can’t quite put my finger on it…”

“Oh, yeah” Fran said, nonchalant. “Probably the effects of my Reverse Training Program,” she declared.

“Your what?”

“Let’s just say I’ve been extra goal-directed lately. Reverse training,” Fran said.

“So, what’s that about?” he asked.

“Well,” said Fran, “it all began a couple of weeks ago, on one of those rare blue days. So much blue that the only thing separating sea and sky was rocky islands and white surf. I was running in the 4K mountain race and didn’t even stop to admire the view. As my feet found their way up the trail, I was struck by how good I felt. And the whole race went like this. Until the end when I crossed the finish line and asked for my time.”

“And?” the Soupster prompted.

“Not good. I’d lost 15 minutes from last year,” she lamented, “which was 10 minutes slower than the one before that.”

“So that explains your false sense of awesomeness?” the Soupster chuckled.

“Eeeexactly,” Fran said. “You go slow enough, and anything can feel easy. That’s when I decided to take action and launch my Reverse Training Program. Basically, that means adjusting your training for an earlier time. Because you are training for an event that has already occurred, your expectations can be more modest,” she said, illogically.

“I see, I guess, ” the Soupster said.  “Just because we can’t turn back time doesn’t mean we can’t cover our tracks — or at least tidy them up. I’ve had similar thoughts. The other day, I saw myself in the library window, looking like a tree leaning a bit too far with the wind. I went in, checked out a book on backs and decided I’ve been walking the wrong way! Who’d have thought there was so much to something we’ve been doing since age one?”

“Are you sure you haven’t just been ducking to keep the rain out of your face?”

“Maybe,” Soupster replied. “Anyway, I’m gliding now, picturing myself as a Tanzanian, maybe, carrying water on top of my head.   Straight spine, shoulder blades back, chin tucked. It’s a lot to think about. I’m surprised I can get anything else done at the same time! But it helps with my vertigo, too.”

“Well, good luck with that,” said Fran.

“And, if I ever do carry a pail of water on my head, I won’t need to fill it at a well,” the Soupster said. “I’ll just walk around Our Town on a rainy day.”

“And I’ll be out there too, shaving minutes off my time in a race that I’ve already run!” Fran laughed.

“Happy reverse training!” the Soupster called out, as Fran turned and began jogging backwards down the path.

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Our Town – August 26, 2021

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The Soupster is bemused.

Submitted by Nan Metashvili

The Soupster gave a little jerk and looked around abashed, as if a small noise had woken him. A slight, um, snore. Had he actually nodded off and snored himself back to consciousness, here in public? Embarrassed, he looked around.

Slightly confused, befuddled, as though waking from a dream. Where was he?

It was so hard to tell these days; the eerie feeling of having Sitka’s normally bustling summer streets empty rather haunted him. And yet the Sitka roses were as usual in full blowzy bloom, St. Michael’s iconic steeple rose over the town center, and the locals in their stalwart brown xtratuffs were going about their business.  Ravens cawed, totem poles overlooked the town square and parks with their stoic faces, as if to say “The cheechakoes are still here? Thinking they could buy our land?”

And then, there was the added peculiar difficulty of trying to recognize your friends. Even your nearest and dearest pals could be mistaken for masked desperados!

Now, look at that kenspeckle one, fresh off the plane. Familiar? So hard to tell. A longlost foreign friend, maybe? Anything goes these days – the pandemic times are such a wonder. But that mask, emblazoned with a foreign flag – rays of blue and red coming from a sun shining over a couple of, what, Snow Lions? Hard to tell.

But you never do know, people come and go and then are gone in a flash. Like an old-time sac roe herring fishery, long awaited, then over before you can count all your 8 fingers. Or not happening at all.

How do you like them knishes?

Nowadays they’re saying it’s not good to scoop up all the silver darlings, stuff about food chains, ecosystems and sustainability. True! True! “The climate crisis is here and I care!” the Soupster said to himself, because at heart he was an intelligent and honest man. He could see what was happening all around him.

Common sense, too bad it ain’t so common, he chuckled to himself. But all that serious stuff started to make him sleepy again. Then, wide awake, because it all made sense.

The Soupster stretched and yawned, and stomped in a puddle, just to prove to himself he was still a kid at heart. He smiled at an overhead eagle and bent to sniff a rose or two. Gotta take time to smell the roses, he always believed.

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Our Town – July 15, 2021

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Our Town – June 17, 2021

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The Soupster contemplates losing (and finding).

The Soupster stopped holding his breath when he finally heard the voice on the other end of the line. The gravelly tones belonged to his childhood chum and second cousin twice-removed, Arturo “Mike” Mikelson. The two men had not had a good gab fest in a couple of years or more.

Mike had bought some land in Arkansas, near the Missouri border, in the early aughts, thereby exercising the limits of the Soupster’s ability to keep track of him.

“Mike, how are you doing?” the Soupster just kept himself from shouting.

“Well, getting’ older, like we all are. I am lucky, I guess, nothing in particular to complain of – regarding my physical health, that is.”

“But…?” asked the Soupster.

“But, cuz, I’ve got to say… I’m getting a little concerned about my memory and losing things.”

“Do you remember when we were kids and used to have adventures in the empty lots and furthest reaches of the overgrown back yard?

“Oh, my yes,” said Mike. “My favorite memory is being in the playhouse and setting up those scenes with the little figures.”

“What kinds of things are you forgetting, Mike?”

“Well, it’s stuff like where I put something or what I said five minutes ago.”

The Soupster thought for a moment. “It must have been hard, losing Joseph,” he finally said. “How long has it been now since he passed?”

“Seven years,” said Mike.

“And you had been together since when? For ages, hmmnnn?”

“We met at the San Francisco Pride march in 1978,” said Mike softly. “And we never looked back. In ’79, we walked out for Halloween dressed as our cats, René and Aimée. The boy had a tuxedo and the girl was a mostly white Calico. I still talk to Joseph every day,” he admitted, even more softly.

The Soupster was silent. Then he said, “What about this memory thing, Mike? It’s just minor stuff, right?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s like – where did I leave my notebook? And it’s not like I haven’t been doing it for years – in one way or another. There was that time I bought the two plaid mail order shirts for Joseph and lost them for six months between the washer and the dryer. The most recent example is a Netflix DVD that I just found after a year. You know, the familiar red envelope?”

“What movie was it?” asked the Soupster.

The Bridge on the River Kwai.

“I remember that one,” said the Soupster. Sir Alec builds a railroad bridge in Southeast Asia – to appease his Japanese counterpart, Sessue Hayakawa. And William Holden blows it up. Peppy song, though.”

“Well, I think the song’s what most folks remember, in the U.S. anyway.”

“We just had a local guy speak who had visited – Thailand, maybe, and former-Burma, around where the real railroad bridge was – about 10 years ago as a college student. He told all about the building of the railroad, and how sad it was – hundreds of thousands of people died in the building of that railroad.”

“Well, cuz” said Mike, “I guess maybe how you remember something depends on your point-of-view.”

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Our Town – June 3, 2021

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Our Town – May 6, 2021

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The Soupster appreciates a melding of holidays.

Tulip and daffodil greens poked tentatively out of damp soil, eyeing the Soupster, who relaxed on a bench overlooking the harbor.

Rays of sunshine teased him into a summer’s dream of palm trees and golden beaches in faraway places.

Suddenly, a cold breeze snapped him back to the present, as a large shadow obscured the sun.

“Greetings on this fine morning, Soupster!” a familiar voice rang out. “Amazing weather, huh?”

“Morning!” the Soupster replied cheerily, feigning recognition at the dark silhouette. “How’re you doing?” he asked, stalling for time. The Soupster called it the “30-Second Recognition Rule” in which he allowed 30 seconds before admitting he did not know someone. Any longer and you were trapped forever into pretending you knew each other.

“Dave!” he suddenly blurted. “Yes… a beautiful morning. What brings you out?”

“A memorial stroll between showers” said the other man wistfully.


“Well, I’ve dedicated this walk to the memory of the tourists who start turning up and wandering around Our Town at this time of the year,” Dave said.

“I miss the new faces and matching jackets, disposable rain ponchos, and inappropriate fur boots and hats,” he said.

“Yep, the Rona’s been a bummer,” the Soupster said. “But in Our Town we are privileged to be so far ahead of the curve with vaccinations that I feel we’re in a holding pattern, circling until the rest of the world are ready for us to land.”

“Yeah” Dave added. “Have to admit I’ve had a hankering to get off the rock for some time now… Anyway, I’m too busy to leave,” he declared.

“Busy? With what? The Soupster enquired.

“Designing a leprechaun trap,” Dave said.

“What on earth for?” the Soupster asked.

“Well, with St Paddy’s day out of the way, I figure there’re a lot of under-engaged leprechauns looking for a purpose in life,” Dave said.

“What would you do with a leprechaun if you caught one?” the Soupster asked.

“Check its pockets for loose gold. What else?”

“Hmm. Don’t recall anything about trapping in the ‘Recover Your Social Skills in 30 Days’ podcast I’ve been listening to,” the Soupster chuckled.

“Ahh, that’s not all,” Dave added. “Can you think of a more useful or original Mother’s Day gift than a leprechaun?”

“You might be onto something, Dave” the Soupster said. “After all, these little folks are always cheerful, mischievous but hardworking, and have lots of money. What more could a mother want?” he laughed.

“Exactly!” Dave said. “I think leprechauns would sell like Fourth of July fry bread on Our-Town-for-Sale.”

“They’re supposed to be shoemakers. Imagine if we could train them to make Xtra-Tuffs!” the Soupster laughed.

“That would be epic!” Dave agreed.

“Anyway, nice seeing you Soupster, I’d better be off,” he said. “I don’t have long to get this off the ground before someone like Jeff Bezos corks me.”

Adding “I’m Leonard, by the way,” as he strolled off into the sunshine with a spring in his step.

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Our Town – April 8, 2021

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Our Town – March 11, 2021

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The Soupster has a candid conversation.

The Soupster came upon Frank at the stone benches behind the library.

“Shalom, Soupster,” said Frank, his low voice muffled even more by the flowered cotton mask he wore.

“What are you up to, Frank, on this fine morning, or at least, this tiny little break in the weather?”

“Not much,” said Frank. “Just recovering a bit from waking up in the middle of the night to watch a Zoom multi-media presentation from Hamburg.”


“Yup, although people were Zooming in from everywhere – Japan, Moldavia, even St. Petersburg. They wanted to hear the music and watch the mimes. I even danced a bit alone in my living room,” admitted Frank.

“Wow, Moldavia,” marveled the Soupster. “And here you are, in little Our Town. What is it about this spot, Frank?” he wondered.

“It’s like a kind of an outdoor church, Soupster. I mean, it’s peaceful, you have the ocean and the trees, and you’ve got wifi. What more does it take to make a church?” he chuckled.

“You look tired, though, Frank. Your eyes look tired.”

“Well, I am, kinda, Soupster. Though whether it’s because of my crazy hours, my crazy dreams, or my sporadic avoidance of red meat, I cannot say.”

“Tell me about your ‘crazy’ dreams, man,” said the Soupster.

“This most recent bout started with a book I’ve been reading whose main character was thought to be a ‘holy fool’ by some street people.”

“What the dickens is a ‘holy fool’?”

“Oh, it’s an old character – in the humanities, you could say, who tells truth to power yet manages to survive by playing the fool. Sometimes they hear voices. Other times, they announce the return of spring.”

“Oh, I think I have seen pictures of that last one,” said the Soupster. He scratched his head, then replaced his baseball cap. “I am picturing a guy wrapped in a bunch of leaves, with vines growing around his body and even out of his mouth?”

“Exactly,” said Frank. “The Green Man. Other times,” he continued thoughtfully, “the character can be physically modest, even awkward, gangly, stumbling around to make a joke. Or the opposite – physically agile and nimble, like a kind of Ninja. In fact, their whole performance or truth-telling is kind of Ninja-like.”

“Sometimes, they leave us gifts,” Frank said quietly, “and we may not even realize we’ve received a gift until after they are gone.

“Well, Frank, as me sainted Mam used to say,” said the Soupster in his best Irish accent, “the best gifts are those not known by the giver or the receiver.”

“You got that right, Soupster.”

And Frank closed his eyes, the better to feel the rays of the weak winter sun on his face.

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Our Town – February 11, 2021

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The Soupster encounters a mysterious, loving couple.

By Nan Metashvili

Jingling coins in his pocket, with a rose in his heart, the Soupster strolled along Lincoln St., rubbernecking appreciatively.

“Flâneuring in your own town!” he mused, and the friendly smile on his face caused a passing couple to smile back at him.

They all stopped, right there, to exchange names and chat. Maria and Marko were visiting Sitka for the first time and wanted to experience something other than the usual tourist things.

The Soupster agreed, and so to tune in to local life, he suggested they sit on the wall for a while.

“Come summer, these streets will be thronged with people from all corners of the world. The scent of Sitka roses will tickle your nostrils. Halibut cheeks and life-saving chocolate milkshakes will sell like hotcakes. High spirits’ll roll out of the P. Bar like a flock of seagulls gobbling herring eggs in the spring. But in February – ah, February – it’s dark, cold and rainy. Today’s sunshine is not normal.”

Just then, to prove his point, a pouting cloud obscured that improbable sun, so they rose and meandered on.

They admired the Pioneer Home’s grace. When notes of a lively Slavic kolo drifted from Raven Radio, Marko danced a few steps. “Music from my homeland,” he marvelled. His wife placed a loving, ebony-hued hand on his arm, and they danced together along the sidewalk. Their Serbian/Brazilian moves were sensual and heart-warming. “Not bad for octogenarians,” thought the Soupster.

Nearing the ANB Hall, they saw posters announcing festivities for Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.

“Who?” gulped Marko.

“Oh, our famous Alaskan activist. Elizabeth Peratrovich. Ḵaax̲gal.aat. A lionhearted Tlingit woman who refused to accept discrimination and injustice. Who worked and persevered, and in 1945 got an anti-discrimination bill passed in the Alaska territory, long before the rest of the country. Racial hatred and Jim Crow practices had plagued this land, and she bravely stood up for what is right.

“Why,” he chuckled, “you know what she said when the white guy senators referred to natives as ‘savages’? She took ‘em right down.

She said, ‘I would not have expected that I, who am “barely out of savagery” would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.’”

The trio reflected on the vagaries of human behaviour. Love should be able to conquer all, but sometimes people need to be reminded. To be reminded that hate should have no place in the constitution. As an inter-racial couple, Maria and Marko had faced their share of obstacles. As they rested, admiring the posters, Marko was suddenly weeping.

“From my own war-torn, tumultuous country to this chilly, beautiful land of eagles and ravens, home to this culture, this brave woman…”

He fell silent and the screams of eagles seemed to continue his story.

“My mother. Her maiden name was Peratrovich,” he finally concluded in a whisper.

The Soupster stood there with his hands in his pockets. He no longer jingled the coins. Instead, he withdrew them, and placed them in Marko’s hands.

Shining golden Elizabeth Peratrovitch dollars.

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Our Town – December 17, 2020

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The Soupster longs for a merry little Christmas

By Rachel Ramsey

“BAGH!” Liz exclaimed, tossing her hands up. Frazzled, she didn’t notice her friend at the other end of the long, fluorescent-lit aisle of Our Town’s hardware store.

“Liz?” the Soupster turned his head, recognizing her voice. “Friend, is that you!?” he asked in surprise.  It was! Though they hadn’t crossed paths in many, many months, they recognized one another’s mask-muffled voices.

“Soupster! Gosh,” she laughed, “How in tarnation are you?” The two friends smiled large beneath their masks, approached nearer, stopping short at 8’ apart (yet feeling as near as ever). They didn’t share a bubble, so they were both giddy at the chance to briefly share an aisle.

Liz’s big eyes brightened, tired though they were. Soupster saw the exhaustion, the strain of months and months of life disrupted.

“Not too shabby, honestly.” he replied, as overhead, the holiday shopping music bellowed out a surreal Kenny-G-meets-Black-Sabbath hybrid version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Feeling Liz’s tender energy and wishing he could give her a hug, the Soupster gently motioned his head upward, “Say, what do you think of this version?” he asked.

“You know, Soupster, this song has always been a holiday favorite of mine, though this one’s a bit much.” she admitted.

“Mine too.” The Soupster agreed. Some-times we ‘hang a shining star upon the highest bough’. Other times we ‘muddle through somehow’ and, occasionally, we do both.” He sighed.

“So true. How many holiday tunes do you know that both acknowledge the melancholy – missing loved ones during the holidays – yet remain hopeful and optimistic?”

The Soupster began to mentally shuffle through the hundreds of holiday tunes residing in his memory.

Liz continued, “Judy Garland’s version is the best – my heart cracks when I hear it. She was the queen muddler. Though Sinatra found the lyric depressing and had it re-written, which is why we can ‘have it both ways’ but we rarely do. Seems artists pick one and stick with it.”

“Let’s see…,” mused the Soupster, “Mel Torme, Bing Crosby, even Bob Dylan sings it both ways – muddling through the first verse and reaching the highest bough on the second.”

“Ella Fitzgerald, too!” Liz added. “Though when she belts it, even the muddling through is somehow upbeat, swinging and hopeful.” The sides of Liz’s eyes were lifted in smile.

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was birthed during WWII, dark times to be sure.” The Soupster said.

“It’s really something that after 80 years this song still has the power to move us so,” said Liz.

Glad to feel Liz’s spirits lifting, the Soupster asked, “Worst version?”

“This one!” Liz shot back without hesitation and rolling her eyes with a chuckle.

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Our Town – December 3, 2020

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Happy Birthday, Maria, says the Soupster.

Originally published November 8, 2001

Hail pelted horizontally against the snug house that a fisherman friend of the Soupster’s had built for his family. Wind howled with gusts of 60 knots.

“Tell me the story about the pumpkins and the tuba, Poppa,” said Gwendolyne, the fisherman’s daughter, right then the snuggest person in the whole house. She was tucked in the bed her fisherman father had fashioned out of aromatic yellow cedar and her quilter mother had covered with colorful blankets.

The fisherman smiled: he had told her the pumpkin and tuba story many, many times, yet Gwendolyne kept asking for it.

“This young girl,” he began, “grew up on the roof of a house in a fancy city of hills and fog. And when the fog blew away, she could see many stars from the roof.”

As he told the story, the fisherman thought about being on the deck of his father’s boat as a youngster, watching those same stars over calm Northern waters. Him on deck, his father snoring below. “This girl went to a special school,” continued the fisherman, “where they taught you only two things. One was how to make food and share it with other children. The second was how to play a musical instrument.

“This particular girl loved to cut carrots. Although she was small, the teacher let her use an enormous knife. She made Julienne carrots, carrot salad and baked carrots stuffed with avocado and walnuts. Her classmates loved her.”

“Why did she play the tuba?” asked Gwendolyne, jumping ahead in the story.

“This particular girl thought the tuba was lonely because nobody else had picked it,” the fisherman said. “And she was also spirited and wanted to show how she could blow a big instrument even though she was small.”

“The same as she could use a big knife!”

“That’s right,” said the fisherman. “Every year, the whole class would get on a bus and travel to the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween and to make pies and roast the seeds.

“This particular girl loved going to the pumpkin patch. Even more than cutting carrots. The huge, round, shiny pumpkins with their dramatic green vines were new and exciting.

“Then, the girl went to a bigger school, where she learned to play the tuba better than anyone. And after years and years at the school, they let her teach other children how to cut things and how to share them.”

“And how to play musical instruments,” Gwendolyne reminded him dreamily.

“One day, when she was much older, this particular girl found a job as a teacher. What she didn’t know was that the job was in the very town with the pumpkin patch. Her very first day on the job, they had her take her tuba and play for the great-great-great grandchild of a pumpkin she’d met years before.”

Gwendolyne was asleep.

“After the fish is and iced in the hold,” the fisherman’s father had told him while they lolled on deck, under the starlight, “there’s always time to take a minute out of the rush. To think about who you are and what you’re doing. And who and what you love.”

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