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Comments Off on Our Town – April 23, 2020

Our Town – April 23, 2020

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

The Soupster has springtime dreams of being on the water.

Originally published April 18, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Got that right,” said Culver.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 23, 2019

Our Town – May 23, 2019

| Airport, Animals, Boats, Fish, Our Town, Travel, Visitors | May 23, 2019

The Soupster chats with an heir to Jane Goodall.

Originally published May 24, 2001

The Soupster stretched out his legs in the molded airport seat, prepared to meditate, nibble on TicTacs and wait for the plane to land. But a visitor appeared beside him, a white-haired fellow who carried a Nat Geo with chimps on the cover.

“Is it Dunkirk? I wondered,” said the fellow, interrupting the Soupster’s reverie.

“I beg your pardon?” said the Soupster.

“I was taking my early morning constitutional, and I saw the most curious thing – throngs of boats heading under the bridge. I’ve never seen so many boats heading out at one time!”

“It’s the Salmon Derby,” said the Soupster.

“A pinkish hat?” said the anthropologist incredulously.

“No, no,” said the Soupster. “It’s a big fishing contest that’s held every year. Everybody from the luckiest fisherman to the most accursed, tries his or her luck to catch the biggest king salmon and net the biggest prize, which has been beaucoup cash. Plus, bragging rights.”

“Ah, yes,” said the anthropologist. “A spring fertility festival. The ritual rewarding of the most successful harvester to ensure everyone’s enthusiasm for the long season ahead. I once worked with a group of people whose `prize’ was given for digging up the largest tapioca root.”

“Who are you calling a tapioca root?” said a voice from the wall above the anthropologist, who turned in the direction of the sound.

The voice belonged to a 70+ lb. king salmon mounted on a plaque. His pointed face jutted out and lips moved like any number of audio-animatronic singing fish. The anthropologist, therefore, did not realize he was in the presence of an authentic airport poltergeist.

The Soupster, however, backed up a few steps and watched passively.

“Interactive,” said the anthropologist, indicating the fish. “Very clever.”

“I’m very attractive,” said the salmon, peering down on the anthropologist’s spreading Male Pattern Baldness. “Which is more than I can say for vous.”

“You speak French?” said the anthropologist.

“I speak salmon,” said the king salmon. “You call it what you want.”

“You seem confident, firm in your role,” the anthropologist told the king salmon. “Rooted.”

“Well, I’m mounted to this plaque,” the wisenheimer king salmon said. “But I wasn’t always.

“Once, I roamed the North Pacific with packs of my friends, thousands of miles past undersea wonders too numerous to utter. I’ve seen orcas cresting at sunset in Prince William Sound, great pods of stellar sea lions off Point Hope. I swam strong and free for seven long years,” and here the fish chuckled, “until I met up with a crafty denizen of the surface. A sly fisherman and former school principal who knew just how to lure a seven-year old. We won the Salmon Derby together that year back in the last century. Well, the money is spent, I’m mounted up here and it’s all a stale old fish story now.”

“Any regrets?” asked the anthropologist.

“Well, if I hadn’t been caught, I’d’ve had kids,” said the salmon. “You know us salmon. We like to have 100 million of them each!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 25, 2019

Our Town – April 25, 2019

| Boats, Fishing, Our Town, Visitors | April 25, 2019

The Soupster hears about the “Mad Captain”.

Originally published April 21, 2005

The Soupster mistook for a friend the stranger to Our Town he saw occupying a bench above the harbor.

“You look just like him,” the Soupster apologized, when he got closer. “This guy you look like has lived in Our Town forever.”

“I’m Richard Labb,” said the stranger, shaking the Soupster’s hand. “Visiting, er, Your Town, from Canada on a tour of the Inside Passage. Except Your Town is not very Inside anything, is it?”

“Sounds like you just took a boat trip,” guessed the Soupster.

“A fishing charter,” said Labb. “Before today I thought I had pretty good sealegs. But twice on the charter I made a personal contribution – over the side – to Davy Jones.”

“Rough charter?” the Soupster said.

Labb laughed, a touch maniacally. “You don’t know Captain Leonardo?”

“I don’t” said the Soupster.

“He has strange rituals that he insists his customers perform on board,” Labb said.


“After we left the harbor and were heading out – as soon as we got by those big rocks near the airport runway – Captain Leonardo insisted that I and the three other clients on board remove our socks and allow him to lock the socks up in a little box he kept by the helm,” Labb said.

“Any explanation?” asked the Soupster.

“Said it would help us catch fish,” said Labb. “Leonardo also said that when he served sandwiches for lunch.”

“Sandwiches seem pretty normal,” commented the Soupster.

“He made us eat the sandwiches from the outside in, crusts first,” said Labb. “All the way around the outside of the sandwich until we had a little soft disk of the center left. Captain Leonardo watched us closely as we ate and made sure we all did it. `Important to catch the fish!’ Leonardo insisted.”

“A lot of people have odd rituals they use to attract fish, but Captain Leonardo does seem a bit like Captain Crunch,” admitted the Soupster.

“But the worst, the absolute worst, was Captain Leonardo’s constant rhyming and word games,” Labb said. “He did not shut up for one single second. When Captain Leonardo found out I was from Canada, he started calling me `Labrador Labb.’ When he found out I was a veterinarian, he asked me if I had ever tested the blood of a retriever. When I said I had, he went berserk.

“`Labb from Labrador’s Labrador retriever blood testing laboratory,’ chanted Captain Leonardo. `Labb’s Lab Lab Labs.’ After about half an hour, he made started making us all repeat, `Labb’s Lab Lab Labs.’ He had similar sayings for everyone else, too.”

“Well, you’re back on dry land now,” the Soupster said soothingly. “And you never have to take one of Captain Leonardo’s charters ever again.”

“Actually, I’ve booked a trip with him later in the summer to troll for coho,” said Labb.

“Why? Leonardo drove you crazy,” said the Soupster.

“I know,” said Labb. “But you should see all the fish we caught!

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 28, 2018

Our Town – June 28, 2018

| Boats, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Vacation | June 28, 2018

The Soupster listens to a man who really knows what vacation is.

Originally published July 29, 2004 

It seemed like slow motion to the Soupster, watching Red bearing right down on him, then the larger man knocked the Soupster to the ground.

“Whoa, sorry there,” Red said. “I’m running on all gears like a headless chicken.”

“Summer is the busy time in Our Town,” the Soupster commiserated. “Why else would Alaskans take their vacations in the winter?”

Red nodded. “I work May through September and take the rest of the year off,” he said.

“You pack a whole year into four months,” said the Soupster. “but you pay for it on days like today.”

“Oh, it’s not the work,” Red sighed. “Work I learned to handle a long time ago. Up at 4 to get the boat ready, take guests out all day. I’m cleaning up the boat long after they’ve left. And then I find myself up until 10 answering snail mail and e-mails and doing the books.”

“So why are you so crazy now?” the Soupster asked.


“Locational hazard,” said the Soupster. “You move to a place as nice as Our Town and you discover relatives you never knew you had.”

“You bet,” Red agreed. “I knew we had my sister and her family coming up this month, but she ran into our cousin in Seattle and guess what? They decided on a whim to come up together! That makes nine people in my house. Bless them, they’re very self-directed. Still though, they want to be sure and visit with me every day and I just don’t have time.

“Can you take them out on the charter with you?” the Soupster asked.

“Wouldn’t be fair to my clients,” Red said. “They’re paying top dollar for my full attention. Hunting fish is serious business.”

“So,” said Red, “I’ve got half a day I penciled out to do about a week’s worth of chores. Well,I’m walking to the bank today and what do you know — there’s my great-uncle Don in the middle of a walking tour. My father would never give me peace if I didn’t show Don the town, so there went my day to catch up.”

“Bet you’re looking forward to your vacation in two months,” the Soupster guessed.

“I’m not waiting that long,” said Red. “My sister goes back on the plane tomorrow and the cousin on the ferry the next day. Uncle Don is getting back on his cruise ship this evening. As soon as everybody leaves and I can get back to my regular 18-hour days, I’m gonna consider it vacation!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 18, 2013

Our Town – July 18, 2013

| Boats, Our Town | July 17, 2013

The Soupster embraces negativity to achieve the Middle Way.

“You don’t want to not buy a boat right now,” Lars told the Soupster, as the two men met up in a light rain on dock finger G to look over some possibilities. “Don’t you think that I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t think it was a good idea?”

Despite the serious handicap of always using “the negative tense,” Lars was a crack salesman and mechanic for boats and boat motors. He knew his stuff and he always told the truth.

If Lars wanted to sharpen his merchant chops further, he probably should have smiled once in a while. But smiles may fade over time. Lars didn’t. And even more importantly to customers whose very lives could hang on a misfiring spark plug or misfitting drain plug, Lars Boats & Motors brought those customers safely home without fail.

“Not a totally terrible track record,” Lars said. “At least not yet.”

Like malaria, the Boat Fever virus lies dormant in many in Our Town, only to flare up when conditions are favorable to it.

So it was with the Soupster, who had responded to his first taste of gloriously grilled Sitka Sound summer king salmon by thinking, “I gotta get a boat.” That taste came at the Soupster’s favorite restaurant. When he saw the price of his meal, the Soupster thought, “I really gotta get a boat!”

Another of Lars’ inborn sales skills was an excellent radar – if anybody was having Boat Fever thoughts, Lars knew just by looking at them. It was a little creepy actually.

“You want to be sure not to get the wrong boat for yourself,” Lars said.

“True,” said the Soupster. “If I was practical I would get a skiff and a trailer, or a good rubber boat.”

“But you don’t want anything too small,” Lars said. “But I don’t have to explain that you’re not the King of the World on some boat that’s way too big.”

“Well, I’m not thinking of grandiose,” said the Soupster, trying out “Lars Speak.”

“Just not something that’s all wrong for me,” he added.

Lars stroked his chin. “You may not like this idea, but let me not hold it back from you.

“Don’t,” said the Soupster.

“It’s never a good idea not to consider the middle,” said Lars. “You don’t want to be the boat pilot so worried about his investment he can’t enjoy himself. But you also don’t want to be someone so worried about not staying dry that you can’t go anywhere.”

“This one here would not be a bad choice,” Lars continued, pointing out a nice compact and solid-looking cruiser tied up nearby.

“The Middle Way,” said the Soupster. “Lars, you’re such a Buddhist.”

“I’m not,” Lars protested.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 31, 2012

Our Town – May 31, 2012

| Boats, Crazy Theories, Our Town | May 30, 2012

A seagull plunked a white gift on the dock railing near where the Soupster rested his arm – a near miss. “If humans could take a cue from the seabirds and be that casual about our process of elimination…” the Soupster thought out loud.

“Then there would be no “American Idol” or “Survivor,” said Sarah, stepping to the scene.

“Fine day,” the Soupster answered in greeting. “Whatsoever  bringeth  Miss Sarah harborward?”

Sarah laughed. “I was looking at boats to buy. I’ve got the boat bug.”

“Hole in the water where you throw money,” cautioned the Soupster. “And that’s after you throw a big wad to begin with.”

“I know, I know, she said. “I thought I had figured out how to beat that first part through magic, but it just didn’t work out.”

“Magic?” asked the Soupster, definitely interested.

“Well, positive thinking anyway,” Sarah said. “My crazy friend Ward got this book about positive thinking and he went around thinking positively about everything.”

“Oh, I definitely couldn’t do that,” said the Soupster, conscious of the depths of his cynicism.

“Ward appointed himself my fitness coach,” she continued. “My mental fitness coach.”

“It started with me wanting to lose five pounds to win a bet with my buddy, Jill,” Sarah said. “This was last winter and losing even five pounds is hard. Ward told me to imagine myself in a size 12 dress, so I did. I even went down to Lincoln Street and held a few up in the mirror and just ignored the stuff leaking out from the sides.”

“But it worked!,” she said to the Soupster’s questioning glance. “Then I told Ward I was getting behind on my bills and he said to imagine going up to my boss and asking for a raise. So I did that day and night for a month. And my boss just gave it to me, I didn’t even have to ask!”

“What about the boat bug?” asked the Soupster.

Here, Sarah chuckled and shook her head. “I told Ward and he had me studying brochures to envision exactly the boat I wanted. I figured 27 feet would be sweet with a forward berth. Good visibility. I wanted to sit up high in the pilothouse and have a stand- up head,”

“Not together!” joked the Soupster.

“Hah,” said Sarah. “Seriously, I named my boat Sarah Too. I imagined going out after work for quick spins. Picnics on islands, Fresh salmon steaks. Rocking to sleep on a gentle tide.”

“And one day, there was Sarah Too. The exact boat I had been imagining. Parked on a trailer in my neighbor’s driveway.”

“What did Ward say?” asked the Soupster.

“He blamed me,” said Sarah. “He said I was supposed to imagine the Sarah Too in my driveway!”

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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 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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