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Comments Off on Our Town – August 15, 2019

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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Comments Off on Our Town – February 14, 2019

Our Town – February 14, 2019

| Automobiles, Crazy Theories, Our Town, Travel | February 14, 2019

The Soupster takes a road trip.

Originally published February 22, 2007

“Road Trip!” the Soupster cried, as he opened his eyes Friday morning.

The Soupster knew Our Town and the realities that imposed. But he had decided, just before closing his eyes Thursday night, that he was in the mood for a road trip and would take one despite those realities.

First, to equip himself. He was glad he had a hybrid car – he got about 40 miles per gallon in the winter with studded tires and the heater blaring – twice the fuel efficiency of other similar-sized cars. The tank was about half full – that should do it with plenty to spare. He gathered a good flashlight, flares, a space blanket. several meals-ready-to-eat and a copy of John McPhee’s “Coming into the Country.” All this went into the emergency kit.

Then he spent 20 minutes poring over his music – some Ella Fitzgerald, the Beatles and, for the magnificent curving roadway near the end of the drive, Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

After donning comfortable clothes and soft-soled driving shoes, the Soupster looked nostalgically around his kitchen. He knew he’d be back. Still, the road had its mysteries and did one ever really know for sure? “Only one way to find out,” he said to no one in particular and began his road trip by heading south.

“At 970 meters high, the long-dormant volcano,” the Soupster had read in his guidebook “rivals or even exceeds Mt. Fuji in beauty.” The day was clear and Mt. Edgecumbe snow-capped. The guidebook said that the mountain had last erupted about 2,000 years ago. Reluctantly, the Soupster gave back in to the lure of the road.

The miles flew by. The Soupster’s stomach grumbled, protesting the quick coffee he’d had in place of real breakfast. “Well,” he thought, “what’s better than road food?”

He picked a café with a wide menu, ordered heavily and scarfed every bite. No need to eat again till he reached his destination.

He headed east, toward the sun. Here, the Soupster’s driving skills were tested as he passed through a construction zone (double fines!) into a hold-up of traffic as a huge tractor lumbered well below the speed limit.

At last, he broke free of the traffic onto lovely open road. He eased through curves and inclines, wondering if he could ever talk Our Town into hosting the Grand Prix. He felt as free as a cetacean bursting through the water into bright sunlight, like – yes, like the humpbacks bubble feeding right there! – the Soupster pointed to where he had watched those whales a decade earlier.

Aaron Copland’s music caressed him all the way down the last few miles of road, past industry, onto dirt track. Finally, he could go no further. He had reached the end.

He crawled out of his car and walked off his stiffness. The Soupster loathed getting back into the hybrid so soon, but he saw no other choice but to turn around and hit the pavement. Bummer, he’d already seen that country! Next road trip, he promised himself, he would drive one way and maybe fly back.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 3, 2018

Our Town – May 3, 2018

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

The Soupster presents his evidence to the court.

Originally published May 19, 2011

The Story Behind the Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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