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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

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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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Comments Off on Our Town – November 21, 2019

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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Comments Off on Our Town – November 7, 2019

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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Comments Off on Our Town – October 24, 2019

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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Comments Off on Our Town – October 10, 2019

Our Town – October 10, 2019

| Crazy Theories, Our Town | October 10, 2019

The Soupster runs into Avogadro’s Number.

Originally published October 16, 2003

“Ouch,” said the Soupster, as Dr. Gwen pulled on his arm to examine the skin above his elbow. “Don’t yank it off, Doc!”

“You’re a baby,” chided Dr. Gwen, hiking up the Soupster’s sleeve to get a better look. “But I’m glad you came to see me. Moles can signal something far more serious and should be checked by a professional.”

“What about mine?” the Soupster asked, obviously worried.

“You’re fine,” Dr. Gwen said. “It’s just a mole.”

“Whew,” exclaimed the Soupster.

Dr. Gwen chuckled. “You ‘re reminding me of a squirmy old patient from the Lower 48, Soupster,” she said. “In fact, you kind of look like him.”

“You know my theory,” said the Soupster, and Dr. Gwen nodded patiently.

“Every kind of person there is in the world is represented in Our Town,” the Soupster said. “Everyone in Our Town has a bunch of duplicates running around the world.”

“Everybody in the world, ” Dr. Gwen repeated.

“There are 9,000 people in Our Town, every one of them completely different,” the Soupster said, “And there can’t be more than 9,000 kinds of people in the world.”

“There’s 6 billion on Earth at present,” said Gwen. “That means 666,666.6 times as many people in the world as there are in Our Town. Each Our Towner then, is represented by more than half a million duplicates. Don’t you think you’d run into at least one of them on vacation?”

“Sounds likely,” the Soupster. “That is a lot of people — like a ‘mole’ of people — not like the mole on my arm, but the chemistry term – that’s a ‘mole’ too, isn’t it, Doc?”

“It is,” she answered. “A mole in chemistry is defined as the aggregate of 6.02 times 10 to the 23rd power — that’s 6.02 with 23 zeroes after it. But the number of people on Earth – 6 billion** — is only 6 times 10 to the ninth power — only nine zeroes after it. A mole of people would be 100 trillion times the number of people on Earth today. A hundred trillion times six billion people.”

“Wow, a mole is a lot of something, isn’t it?” asked the Soupster.

“Not always,” said Dr. Gwen. “A mole is a lot of units. But if those units are small — like molecules? For instance, see that half-filled bottle of hydrogen peroxide on the shelf? A mole of hydrogen peroxide molecules would weigh in at 34 grams. About an ounce.”

“Then, there’s the moles with big claws for digging underground,” the Soupster remarked idiotically.

“And moles can also be spies in the CIA or KGB,” Doc Gwen said, finishing her exam. “But the moles in chemistry are definitely more distinguished than those that grow on your arm or the ones that dig in the ground or infiltrate spy networks.”

“Why do you say that?” the Soupster asked.

“Among the four types of moles, only chemistry-type moles have their own holiday,” Doc Gwen said. “October 23 is Mole Day. It’s true. Look it up!”

**Ed. Note: When this Our Town was first published in 2003, the pop. of earth was six billion. Today, it is 7.7 billion.

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 26, 2019

Our Town – September 26, 2019

| Advice, Boots, Our Town | September 26, 2019

The Soupster endeavors to give accurate advice.

Originally published September 19, 2002

DEAR SOUPSTER: My boyfriend wears a size 9 men’s XtraTuf and I wear a men’s 7, which is the same as a woman’s 9. One day, I accidentally put on my boyfriend’s boots instead of mine and they felt incredibly comfortable. Now I wear them whenever he is away on business. I’m really confused.

SIGNED: ADDLED ON EDGECUMBE

DEAR EDGECUMBE: Have you considered the possibility that your feet are still growing? You did not state your age, but your comfortable access to your boyfriend’s boots indicates you’ve been together for a long time. It’s okay to walk in another’s XtraTufs, clogs, Romeos, moccasins or running shoes. Just make sure to wear clean socks.

DEAR SOUPSTER: What is a “suntan?”

SIGNED: DEEP WOODS JACK

DEAR JACK: Formally, a “tan” refers to the browning of the skin by exposure to the sun. In much of North America, the skin substance called melanin is not just an unused body feature, like an appendix. In some places, special lotion is spread on the body to protect it from the sun and avoid the dreaded “sunburn” – an especially intense form of “suntan.”

DEAR SOUPSTER: Is it more dangerous running with scissors in the rain?

SIGNED: DOING IT ANYWAY ON OSPREY STREET THOUGH MY MOTHER TOLD ME NOT TO

DEAR NOT TO: Yes, definitely.

DEAR SOUPSTER: My girlfriend has taken to wearing my boots. I know because when I get home from a business trip, the boots are all stretched out in funny places. She has her own boots, but she won’t wear them. Should I get her a new pair or give her these?

SIGNED: GENEROUS ON EDGECUMBE

DEAR GENEROUS EDGECUMBE: By all means, buy her a new pair of XtraTufs, if that’s all it will take to solve your problem. But it may be that your girlfriend wants to wear only boots you have worn. How long are these business trips of yours? You must consider whether you want a big boot buy, or to change careers.

DEAR SOUPSTER: If it rains so much in Our Town, how come nobody uses umbrellas?

SIGNED: WET ON WACHUSETTS.

DEAR WET: We are using umbrellas. A little-known fact is that all outerwear worn in Our Town – coats, hats, gloves etc. – is in fact made from recycled umbrellas. If you see three Sitkans, you may be seeing cloth pieces patched together from two dozen umbrellas. They’re just not holding the umbrellas ballooned out over their heads.

DEAR SOUPSTER: Last week a couple stopped in my store on their way to take a business trip together and bought 20 pairs of men’s size 7, 8, 9 and 10 XtraTufs. They cleaned out my entire stock. They said they’d be back. I just wanted to call and say thanks.

SIGNED: BEMUSED ON LINCOLN STREET

DEAR BEMUSED: Glad to be of service.

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 12, 2019

Our Town – September 12, 2019

| Graphic Stories, Isaac Hophan, Our Town | September 12, 2019

The Soupster goes back to school.

Submitted by Isaac Hophan

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Our Town – August 29, 2019

| Children, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 29, 2019

The Soupster gazes into the future.

Originally published August 28, 2008

“I’m sorry, come again?” the Soupster apologized, his mind having wandered from the casual coffee shop conversation he was having.

“I was telling you about my new house addition, which is nearly done,” said Frank, sipping at the opposite side of the table from the Soupster. “I’ve been at it totally steadily for weeks now.”

“An old story, Frank,” said Donna, from an adjacent table, “You’re always up to something on that old shack.” Frank winced.

“A work in progress,” corrected the Soupster, trying to make peace. “What part of your house are you adding onto, Frank?”

“Well, it’s not exactly an addition, per se,” Frank admitted. “More like a kind of wanigan. And it’s on the garage, not on the actual house.” He stuck his face in his cup.

Donna looked triumphant, so the Soupster turned to her. How’s business for you?” he asked.

“You mean, with unreliable credit card access, unpredictable staff and tax and labor laws that change every five minutes?” Donna said. “Fine.”

“Happy to be coming to the end of the summer?” the Soupster asked.

“Yes and no,” Donna said. “I have some projects – remodeling and stock changes – planned for when I can get to them. Ultimately, it’ll be nice not to be overrun with tourists – sweet and plentiful may they always return in great numbers!” She rapped her knuckles on the wood tabletop for luck and the Soupster laughed.

“That business is a work in progress for you, too,” he said.

“Newspaper?” a boy of about 11 called out from the doorway.

“I’ll take one,” said Frank, rifling his pockets for change as the boy approached.

The Soupster had known the boy since he was a very little kid. A great feature of Our Town, the Soupster mused, was the chance to see kids grow up around you. Kids you aren’t responsible for, that you don’t have to fuss over.

This one the Soupster had seen win the Hoop Shoot, seen him grinning gap-toothed on the cover of the paper in front of a snowman. Had seen him wearing a fluorescent vest and picking up litter along the road. But, mostly, the Soupster had seen the boy fanning out from the mass of kids by the newspaper office with a stack under his arm, heading right for the likely customers loafing in coffee shops in the afternoon, like Frank, Donna and the Soupster.

The kid would be starting school again within days. He’d be in middle school now? Anyway, mused the Soupster, this boy would be graduating high school in the blink of an eye. And then the Soupster would be walking down Lincoln Street and some formidable-looking attorney or non-profit CEO, a guy in a construction helmet or accomplished artist, would accost him to say `Didn’t I used to sell newspapers to you in the coffee shop?’”

“Whatever are you thinking about now?” Donna asked, noting the Soupster’s furrowed brow.

“Works in progress,” the Soupster answered. “Works in progress.”

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Our Town – August 15, 2019

| Automobiles, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 15, 2019

The Soupster muses about “silver linings”.

Originally published September 9, 2004

Even a reliable car will die if you don’t put gas in it.

As the Soupster drove toward downtown, the dreaded “check engine” light of his car flicked on. A moment later, all the other little icons on his dashboard lit up — the oil light, the battery light, the low fuel light. These symbols are called “Idiot Lights” because if you neglect a problem until they go on, you’ve waited too long. To keep track of the gas, you get not just a light but a whole gauge. So, if you let your car run out of gas, you’re a super idiot.

The Soupster’s sedan rolled to a stop.

Now, if you run out of gas on this country’s great prairies, you could be forgiven. If you happen to miss the “Next Gas 42 Miles” sign on Route 80, you could be forgiven. But it’s pretty hard to forgive running out of gas in Our Town – on land at least.

So, the Soupster did not forgive himself as he pulled over to the side of the road on a Thursday afternoon, right at quitting time.

He had no sooner shut off the car than someone came by. A jogger. With a baby in a skookum three-wheeled, all-terrain stroller.

For a second, the Soupster thought the jogger would be mad at him for parking too close to the pedestrian path, but she immediately offered the use of her cell phone. So, the Soupster called his friend Don and asked him to bring some gas.

The Soupster thanked the jogger, who jogged happily off. Replaced then by a cloud of dust, as a huge pick-up pulled in, practically dislodging chunks of asphalt with its outsized tires. The Soupster’s friend Moe’s son Larry.

“Need help?” he asked, and the Soupster explained that gas was on the way.

As Larry pulled out, Curly and Jo, who the Soupster had been meaning to call, pulled over. And, seeing the others, Adam and his little son Abel pulled over and joined the group.

“Which of you needs help?” Adam asked, and Jo laughed when they were told, “Neither! But thanks!”

Curly and Jo went back to their car, but the Soupster stood by the roadside, signaling that he was okay to the half dozen acquaintances who passed by.

Then, on the other side of the road, the Soupster’s Absolute Worst Enemy stopped and asked if he needed help. When told the Soupster was out of gas, AWE went round to the back of his car and emerged with gas-can-and-triumphant-smile.

The Soupster felt beads of sweat drip down his neck. Do you accept help from your Absolute Worst Enemy? What is the rule?

Mercifully, the arrival of Don’s Jeep kept the Soupster from having to answer that. He called to AWE, “Thanks, but I’m okay now!” with real relief.

Don handed the Soupster a full gas can. “Boy, wanna see everybody you know?” the Soupster said. “Just run out of gas in Our Town, on the side of the road, at quitting time!”

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Our Town – August 1, 2019

| Guest Written, Music, Our Town, Rachel Ramsey, Radio, Recycling | August 1, 2019

The Soupster riffs with a jazzy friend.

Guest Written by Rachel Ramsey

The Soupster was perusing his favorite thrift shop’s assortment of kitchenware when he heard his name from across the shop.

“Soupster! I’ve been thinking of you all week!” He recognized the joyful voice of his pal and fellow jazz fan, Liz, who approached him excitedly through the crowd.

“Oh yeah? What kind of trouble are you cookin’ up, dear?”

“Ain’t Misbehavin’, Soupster.” Liz replied. “Have you seen the recently discovered short video clip of Louis Armstrong as a young teenager?” Liz knew the Soupster liked his jazz early and hot. Nothing later than 1929 was his jazz preference.

“I did catch that! A New Orleans newspaper boy flashes his grin, and experts have agreed it is likely Armstrong. 104 year-old video – very cool, indeed.”

“Well I’ve been on a solid Armstrong kick since seeing that clip, buddy, and ever since I feel I’ve got the world on a string!”

Liz’s laugh was as infectious as her joyous and kind, ear-to-ear smile – freely shared with all she encountered. Not unlike Satchmo himself, the Soupster thought. Determined to replace his shabby compost bucket, he continued to eye the goods.

“Frankly, Soupster, I cannot stop referencing Armstrong song titles, and it’s driving my kids a bit batty. But I’m entertained, and honestly, I can’t help lovin’ dat man!” Their combined robust laughter filled the shop, turning only a few tourists’ heads.

“Good for you, Liz,” the Soupster chuckled. “Since his career spanned 50 years, that should keep you going strong for quite a while, though if you’re not careful, Someday you’ll be sorry. Before you know it, your hubby will be bombarding you with all the Zappa lyrics you’re oblivious to.”

Grateful that her fellow jazz lover grokked her silly joy, Liz giggled, “We’ve a fine romance, Soupster and It takes two to tango!”

“Aha! There it is!” The Soupster triumphantly exclaimed while pulling from the top shelf a 3-gallon bucket. “Have any shows on the horizon, Liz?” he asked. Liz was a volunteer at their community radio station.

“Sure do – I’m on tomorrow afternoon. Though I did miss my last slot,” Liz explained, “I caught a bug.”

“Gut Bucket Blues?” joked the Soupster.

Liz laughed, “Not quite. Speaking of buckets,” she pointed to the Soupster’s score, “What gives?”

“Well, it’s too good to be true, but I need this because my old Bucket’s got a hole in it. No lie.”

Liz couldn’t help herself, “What can you say – You’re just a lucky so and so.”

The Soupster paid for his bucket and began to mosey out of the crowded shop. He spotted the clouds above parting in the north, allowing sunbeams to permeate through the thinning overhead.

He turned around and called out, “I’m beginning to see the light, Liz! It’s on the sunny side of the street!”

Liz’s enormous smile returned as she laughingly shot back, “What a wonderful world!”

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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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