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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 – 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 – July 12, 2018

Our Town – July 12, 2018

| Animals, Crazy Theories, Dogs, Our Town | July 12, 2018

The Soupster copes with unpleasant memories.

Originally published May 8, 2014

“You hate my dog!” Laura overheard through the library stack. “You revile my pooch.”

Laura the Librarian, with an armful of books, turned the corner, “Soupster?” she said “Is that you?”

“Uh, oh,” the Soupster said. “Was I talking out loud?”

“Something about dogs?” said Laura. “Something about hating dogs?”

The Soupster reddened. “I am a confirmed animal lover,” he said guiltily. “I actually like dogs third best, right after cats and Australians.”

“Then why did you say you hated your dog?” said Laura.

“It’s just an expression I use to control my bad thoughts,” the Soupster answered.

“Stay there,” said Laura, as she tipped the books in her arms onto a nearby empty shelf. She smoothed her blouse and gave her shoulders and head a little shake. “Now,” she said to the Soupster, “Tell me what on Earth you are talking about.”

The Soupster looked around to see if anyone else was listening. “Well,” he said, lowering his voice, “When I say, `You hate my dog,’ it really has nothing to do with dogs, or hatred, or even you, for that matter.”

“You know, when a person has a memory of something that didn’t turn out so well?” the Soupster went on. “And when they figure out what they should have done that would have worked out fifty times better? Or when they remember something somebody once said and only now can they think of the perfect thing they should have said back then?

“I don’t have these problems,” said Laura,

“Consider yourself lucky, then,” said the Soupster. “But my mind sometimes gets locked in kind of negative territory. My saying, `You hate my dog’ breaks me loose.”

“Tell me Soupster,” said Laura. “how did you come up with saying you hate your dog… er… my dog? Oh, you know what I mean.”

“Well,” said the Soupster, “It started a long time ago with the old saying, `Love me, love my dog.’ That morphed into `Hate me, hate my dog.’ Finally, just, `You hate my dog.’”

“Fascinating, your noggin,” said Laura.

“Show me the noggin what ain’t,” said the Soupster.

“Well, your noggin, especially, ain’t ain’t,” Laura said.

“You hate my dog!” said the Soupster.

“Wait just a minute,” said Laura. “Didn’t you just finish telling me that all this had nothing to do with me or dogs or hatred or dog hatred or anything?”

“Ooops,” the Soupster said.

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 22, 2018

Our Town – February 22, 2018

| Crazy Theories, Guest Written, Our Town, Rose Manning | February 22, 2018

The Soupster talks and listens.

I was cornered! I had to be quick. I grabbed my books and papers and scurried out of my cozy winter spot in the library. The new glass walls made it hard to be invisible.

Talking Joe was heading straight towards me. Joe was long and lanky and words spewed out of him like a manic fountain pen. Like a lot of Our Towners this time of year, he hunted down people to visit with.

An interesting man, Talking Joe. Curious and self-educated, he looked at old things in new ways and gave you ideas to mull over for days. He often sounded like the speculative science talks on the radio.

“Hi, Soupster!” Joe hailed just when I thought I was in the clear. “Soupster, have you ever noticed – Our Town is yellow?”

“Yellow? Do you mean faint of heart? Scared? Cowardly?”

No, no, Soupster. Just yellow. Well, maybe orangey-red, but it looks like a big ‘ole pumpkin patch.”

“How so, Joe?”

“Well, Soupster. It runs the gamut from burnt umber to the palest yellow to rooftop red.”

“Burnt umber? What is that, Joe?”

“Umber, I’ve read, is a natural brown earth pigment with oxides. When heated, the color becomes more intense and is called burnt umber.”

“And then, Soupster, have you noticed we have miles and miles of yellow ‘No Parking’ curbs? How do they pick these colors? Do they discuss them at assembly or is it just the paint on sale that month?”

“I don’t know, Joe, maybe folks are just seeking brightness. In deep winter here, the forests, mountains and oceans are mostly black, topped by dark gray clouds. Maybe people are trying to add an artificial sun to the landscape.”

“Yeah, Soupster, we all need variety – for example, I have to admit St. Michael’s Cathedral is the little non-pumpkin jewel of downtown.”

“Good things to think about, Joe. Anything else on your mind today?” I asked as I strolled toward the silent sanctuary of my truck.

“Oh, all kinds of things. Like why are the streets so quiet at night? I hardly ever hear anyone cussing or yelling anymore. Maybe it’s too cold to make noise.”

Joe seemed more lonesome than usual today. Ever since his wife passed, he’s been trying to reconnect with friends and neighbors. She was definitely the social glue of the pair. Things got even harder for Joe when his card-playing buddy Ralph moved south to be near grandkids. Talking Joe needed a listener now more than ever.

Sometimes, we all just need to shut up and listen better, and maybe the season will seem kinder and warmer.

“Okay, Joe, see you around,” I said as I started my engine.

“Soupster?”

“Yes, Joe?”

“I was wondering – why does our town have so many flat roofs? Just asking,” I heard him say.

I pulled away from the yellow curb, slowed down and called back, “Get in the truck, Joe, and tell me what you think about the flat roofs.”

Submitted by Rose Manning

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 21, 2017

Our Town – September 21, 2017

| Crazy Theories, Our Town, Visitors | September 21, 2017

The Soupster plays the Name Game.

Originally published Oct. 8, 2009

The Soupster plopped onto the bench outside Harrigan Centennial Hall Building to rest his aching dogs (feet), swelling inside his normally spacious clogs. Combating Global Warming by walking more helped his heart and reduced his carbon footprint, the Soupster thought, but it seemed to be increasing his regular footprint.

A man and two women spilled out the door, laughing and poking at each other. They noticed the Soupster and stepped over.

“You from here? We love this town!” one woman erupted and her two friends nodded briskly.

The Soupster remembered that Convention Season had started on the (ahem) heels of the Running of the Boots.

“We’re from the Helen Mull Society,” volunteered the other woman.

“Who’s Helen Mull?” the Soupster asked..

“Not `who’ – `what,’” the man corrected. “It’s an acronym for the Hyphenated Last Names Making Up Luminaries Society. HLN-MUL.”

“Helen Mull, get it?” said the first woman. “Like me. My maiden name was Greta Pierce and I married Lawrence Brosnan. So now I’m Greta Pierce-Brosnan. Get it?”

“Bob Haas-Cartwright,” said the man, leaning forward to shake the Soupster’s hand. “Great little town you’ve got here.”

“Wow,” I can’t believe you have a whole society devoted to this,” said the Soupster.

“Oh, it’s very engrossing,” said the other woman. “For instance, Bob and I were only allowed into the Society two years ago when the rules were relaxed.”

“Oh, yes,” she continued. “Originally, the spelling of the hyphenated last name in question had to match the luminary’s precisely. Like Pierce-Brosnan’s name does. Then, they decided to allow names that only sound the same, using a standard American English pronunciation. Like Bob Haas-Cartwright.”

“And you are?” asked the Soupster.

“Sharon,” she said. “Oh, Sheehan-LaBoofe. Sharon Sheehan-LaBoofe. Sorry. It’s a mouthful, I admit.”

“Well,” said the Soupster. “Sheehan-LaBoofe is not the same as Shia LeBeouf, even in sound.”

“This year,” Pierce-Brosnan said, ignoring the Soupster’s comment, “we’ve been discussing whether plurals should disqualify or not. We’ve had applications from a Johns-Wayne, an Adams-Corolla and a Walters-Hickel. Oh, you should like that one!”

“I envy the founding members like Gerald Winston-Churchill,” Haas-Cartwright said to no one in particular. A young woman came out the door and Pierce-Brosnan shrieked with delight.

“Or even better,” Pierce-Brosnan said, taking the new girl by the arm. “This is Barbara Alexander, who hopes to join Helen Mull next year.”

“Hello,” said the Soupster.

“Next year,” said Pierce-Brosnan, “after she gets married to Lou Baranof. Get it?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 4, 2017

Our Town – May 4, 2017

| Crazy Theories, Nicknames, Our Town | May 3, 2017

The Soupster hears lies?

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

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

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

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

“Have any plans for the weekend?”

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

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

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

“Is this true?” asked the Soupster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Absolutely not!” said Joey the Liar.

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 6, 2017

Our Town – April 6, 2017

| Crazy Theories, Our Town, Villages | April 5, 2017

The Soupster experiences people who gained expertise during childhood.

As an astounded Soupster gawked, little Antoinette Curtis hoisted up a bag of soil that weighed nearly as much as she did, walked the ten yards from the hardware store with it and then placed the bag in the rear of the Soupster’s hatchback. She then performed the same maneuver two more times with two more bags. She was not breathing heavily.

Antoinette was small, but in that wiry way that sometimes belies great physical strength in men. The Soupster, the recent recipient of a back injury, truly enjoyed watching the unlikely occurring before his eyes.

“You’re stronger than you look, Toni,” the Soupster marveled.

“That’s ‘cause I’m from Port Alexander,” Toni said, as she worked.

“Something in P.A.’s drinking water that makes you strong?” asked the Soupster.

“My father made me strong,” Toni said. “Hauling a lot of fish and crab into the boat over the years made me strong. My brother…”

“Your brother made you strong?”

“Hoisting him back into the boat about once a month did,” Toni said. The Soupster bid Toni Curtis farewell.

At the grocery store, the Soupster stood in the checkout line in front of Gene Burnett, a well-regarded small engine mechanic. The Soupster put six cans of cat food onto the moving belt along with his other items.

“Six cans at 89 cents each,” the Soupster said aloud.

“Five dollars and 34 cents,” Gene said immediately.

“They used to be 83 cents each,” said the Soupster.

“Four ninety-eight,” said Gene lickety-split.

“Where’d you learn to multiply?”

“I’m originally from Kake,” said Gene. “We had a teacher there for a few years who was obsessed with multiplication. Made us memorize the multiplication tables way past 12 times 12. Me and some of my friends got really good at it.”

“You sure did,” said the Soupster, as he bid Eugene adieu.

Outside, the Soupster pondered these talented people who’d come to Our Town from other Southeast settlements and enriched our lives.

The Soupster was jolted from his reverie by two dogs fighting in the bed of a pickup truck. They had gotten their leashes tangled. The dogs howled, snarled and cried as they struggled to get free and blamed each other for their predicament. They sounded ferocious.

Then, a burly man wearing XtraTufs and suspenders fearlessly approached the fighting dogs. He straightened their tangled leashes and got them both wagging their tails.

Watching, the Soupster thought, what Southeastern town had produced such a gifted peacemaker? He approached the man and complimented him.

“There must have been a lot of dogs where you grew up,” said the Soupster. “What Panhandle village do you hail from?”

“Panhandle?” said the man, confused. “I hail from Springfield, Illinois.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 22, 2016

Our Town – September 22, 2016

| Crazy Theories, Fall, Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather | September 21, 2016

The Soupster gets Saturated.

Originally published September 7, 2006

Thick drops of rain beat a brisk rhythm on the aluminum roof over the covered area of Suzie’s porch where the Soupster sat. All summer long, the Soupster had bravely faced the preponderance of precipitation and the rarity of sunny days with humor, understanding and flexibility. But there and then — against the roof over his head — fell the one big raindrop that caused the barrel to overflow, like the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the Soupster finally became Saturated.

In his last lucid moment, the Soupster had been thinking about a short story written more than 50 years before – a very unscientific science fiction story about a group of astronauts who crash land on Venus – the planet. On Venus, as in Our Town this summer, it rains constantly, proposed the story’s author, Ray Bradbury. And, like the Soupster, the four astronauts who survive the crash set out bravely into the constant rain to find a Sun Dome, which is just like it sounds — an Industrial Strength Light Bulb Beach. Without finding the dome, the astronauts would go mad from rain pounding constantly against their skulls.

“Here’s your hot chocolate,” said Suzie, appearing on the porch with two steaming mugs. “No marshmallow in yours.”

The Soupster regarded Suzie with as much recognition as he would one of the astronauts on Venus. Through the pounding between his ears in time with the hammering of the rain against the roof, he could not make out what she was saying.

“It was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles;” Bradbury had written, “it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and by the ton.”

The Soupster looked blankly at Suzie and then out into space.

“Oh, for goodness sakes,” muttered Suzie. Born and raised in Our Town, she knew just what to do when someone became Saturated. She set down the two steaming mugs on a wooden table away from the Soupster, so he would not, in his helpless state, burn himself.

Suzie went room-to-room in her house and gathered up an armful of lamps: table models, clip-ons, three-way bulbs, lanterns and reading lights. She brought it all out under the covered area of the porch, along with two extension cords and several power strips.

While she did, the Soupster continued his nightmare of tramping through the jungles of Venus in the blinding downpour. “(The rain) shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes,” wrote Bradbury. “It rained a solid, glassy rain and it never stopped.” The rattling and thumping on the roof drowned out Suzie’s grunts as she hooked up the complicated bank of lamps and power strips, all aimed at the Soupster.

“Now!” she shouted above the din and threw a switch that bathed the entire covered area of the porch in warm yellow light.

The Soupster leaped to his feet. “The Sun Dome!” he cried. “I made it!”

“Goodness gracious – there’s no Sun Dome,” said Suzie. “You’re on the porch at my house. You just got Saturated. Now drink your hot chocolate.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 14, 2016

Our Town – July 14, 2016

| Crazy Theories, Movies, Our Town | July 14, 2016

The Soupster speaks of movie stars among us.

“Kudos to our local movie theater!” a smiling Soupster thought as he emerged from the out-the-road cinema. He stepped out of the dimly lit lobby and squinted at a near-Midnight Sun. It was a beautiful Our Town summer day — at 10 o’clock at night.

The Soupster had just seen the very latest in end-of-the-world-blockbusters. Bringing top movie hits to Our Town at the same time they were being promoted in the South 48 was an accomplishment for which theater management should be thanked, he thought.

Back in the day, only a limited number of expensive film prints were made. The big and heavy reels of actual celluloid film made a slow round of theaters all over the country, starting with the huge population centers and working downward toward smaller towns – say one with 9,000 souls perched on a rock.

Those big and heavy films didn’t make it as far as Our Town until weeks — sometimes months – after all the promotions for that film had ended. It seemed then like the theater got the film right before it was due to be released on DVD (VHS tapes in those days). Now, practically as soon as a new movie is announced, the film is being shown in Our Town.

That’s because movies today are most often distributed over the Internet, just like other information. They can also be shipped in preloaded onto a storage device. Theaters then download the film for exhibition via a digital projector.

“Hey, Soupster!” called Lucy Coral, a well-known local cinephile.  “How did you like ‘DinosaurNado: Apocalypse”?

“A whole lot of drooling and big, sharp teeth,” the Soupster said. “But I liked the film.”

“I think that Liam Helmsworth is hot,” Lucy said, referring to the film’s lead actor. “Wouldn’t mind if he would show up on a cruise ship and I could follow him down Lincoln St.”

“Did you ever notice that Don Freed, the pharmacist, looks like a lot like a 45-year-old Helmsworth?” asked the Soupster.

“Noticed?” said Lucy. “Let’s just say when ever my doctor prescribes medicine for me, I perform my happy dance.”

“Is Don Freed the Liam Helmsworth of Our Town?” the Soupster asked.

“I prefer to think of Liam Helmsworth as the Don Freed of the rest of the world,” Lucy said. “We have the original.”

“So when I say that Grace Greenwald is the Scarlett Johansson of Our Town, I should be saying that Ms. Johannson is the Grace Greenwald of the rest of the world.”

“That’s it,” said Lucy. “You got it.”

“For a long time I have surmised,” the Soupster surmised, “that what we have in Our Town is 9,000 originals that are replicated all over the world. Whereas we have just one of each of the 9,000 types of people. Your Helmsworth-Johansson theory dovetails perfectly.”

“You have quite a lot of theories,” said Lucy.

The Soupster tapped his forehead. “I have a mind like a steel trap,” he said.

“True, Soupster,” said Lucy. “An old and very rusty steel trap — but a steel trap nonetheless.”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 3, 2015

Our Town – December 3, 2015

| Crazy Theories, Our Town | December 3, 2015

The Soupster hears a theory about the former owners of discarded items.

Rosemarie wouldn’t have ever noticed the famous last name printed on the nametag, if Timmy’s hadn’t barfed all over his sleeping bag during a sleepover. Four kids sleeping on the floor of Timmy’s room. Timmy’s three friends took well to the macaroni and cheese casserole she had served them before the ice cream cake at dinner. Despite the menu being two of Timmy’s favorites, he hadn’t done as well keeping his mac and cheese and cake to himself once things got too rambunctious upstairs. But that’s probably all anyone wants to know about that.

The next morning after the boys had gone home, Rosemarie felt sanguine about Timmy’s accident, thinking that’s just what old sleeping bags obtained at garage sales were meant for – occasional laundering in a lot of soap and hot water. And that’s just the treatment the bag got.

Rosemarie removed a clean and fresh-smelling sleeping bag from her clothes dryer, located in the corner of her kitchen. The tumbling had turned the bag outside out. And then she saw the label bearing the name of one of Our Town’s most famous sons – a politician now, but a pro baseball draft pick in the years before that.

The sleeping bag must have been owned by that august individual as a child. Back when he was Timmy’s age – even though it was hard to believe the now-grown up and oversized famous former owner had ever fit in the smallish bag.

Rosemarie thought of all the things she had discarded, sold at garage sales or donated to the thrift store. Garments and household items that then rotated through how many Our Town families before finally coming to rest. How many spirits intermingling? Did these items retain any of their former owners? Does anything transfer to the new owner?

The phone rang. “Hi, Rosemarie!” It was the Soupster. “Want to go to some garage sales? Find some bargains?”

So, Rosemarie told the Soupster her theory that discarded items may carry with them some of the spirit of their previous owners. She watched a light snowfall through the kitchen window and waited for an answer.

“You know, I’m a fan of crazy theories, but this is a stretch,” the Soupster judged.

They chatted, but Rosemarie was still distracted. “Well, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to leave you alone right now, but I better get out to the sales before all the good stuff is gone.”

“I’ll be fine,” Rosemarie chuckled. “Happy hunting!”

Timmy came in next, bounding into the kitchen and grabbing a banana even before he stopped moving. “No wonder you’re hungry,” Rosemarie said. “You didn’t keep down any of your dinner.”

“Sorry, Mom,” said Timmy.

“S’ok,” said Rosemarie.

Timmy noticed his rejuvenated sleeping bag. “Oh, Mom, you got it so nice and clean.” He rubbed the bag to his face and took a deep appreciative sniff.

“Hey, Mom,” he said, without a pause, “My class is having elections next week and I was thinking of running for class officer.”

“That’s great,” Rosemarie said.

But Timmy was looking at the snowfall outside. “I wish it was spring,” he said. “I can’t wait to play baseball again.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 5, 2015

Our Town – November 5, 2015

| Crazy Theories, Our Town | November 4, 2015

The Soupster learns that three simple letters can protect a man from doom.

Originally published November 6, 2003

“I was saved, Soupster, but by which I do not know,” said Charles, a former college professor who now drank a lot of coffee. He had four tiny espresso cups arranged in front of him, two of them empty.

The Soupster looked around the empty coffee shop. Besides the barrista, washing mugs out of earshot, the men were alone.

“You know Bluto, the pompous blowhard?” Charles said, blowing pretty hard himself. “I owed that man $1,000. You’d have thought it was the Hope Diamond the way he pursued me around Our Town. Showing up at social occasions with that ridiculous `I’m going to bite you’ look on his face.”

“Bluto has bitten people,” the Soupster remarked. “He almost bit me once.”

“I considered that,” said Charles. “Anyhow,” he continued. “Bluto was on my tail in a major fashion and I was doing my best to stay one step ahead of him. Which is not hard, Bluto being Bluto.”

“He’s not stupid,” said the Soupster.

“Nonetheless,” said Charles. “On a proverbial `dark and stormy night’ he finally caught up with me. Right outside the fishing supply store. There I was face-to-face with Bluto’s ugly visage. He held a bag, bulging with orange nylon and I thought he was going to brain me with it.”

Charles chugged the third of his espressos. “Bluto grabs me with his giant paws and squeezes hard,” Charles continued. “`Where is me $1,000, you barrel worm,’ Bluto thunders. `I don’t have it,’ I say weakly. `What’s that in your pocket?’ says Bluto. `That’s me, er, my mail,’ I say.” “So Bluto grabs the mail and rifles through. `Ahoy,’ he cries, holding up my Permanent Fund Dividend check. `This will do,’ Bluto says. “`But, Bluto,’ I muster the courage to ask ‘I owe you a $1,000, but that PFD is worth $1,100,’ I say. And Bluto, he agrees with me. Could have knocked me over with a feather. `An eleven hundred dollar PFD,’ the ogre says and laughs and thrusts his bulging orange bag into my chest.”

“And walks off,” Charles continued. “So I’m left there standing in the pitch-black cold rain, minus one PFD. I stare into the bag. And what is in there? A life vest! I take it out and put it on. It’s a nice life jacket, the kind with the big ring behind your neck and the large reflective patches on the shoulder so the Coast Guard can find you at night and pluck you out of the water.

“And as I’m admiring the jacket a car comes screeching out of the dark. And – this I swear – the car’s headlights pick up the reflective patches and the vehicle veers a second before running me down.”

“I see your dilemna,” said the Soupster. “You were saved by either a Permanent Fund Dividend or a Personal Flotation Device.”

“Yes, Soupster, yes,” Charles cried, lurching for his remaining coffee cup. “Which PFD saved me?”

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Our Town – September 24, 2015

| Crazy Theories, Old Timers, Our Town | September 23, 2015

The Soupster Visits A Mad Scientist.

Old Steve Parks lived in a dilapidated wooden structure facing a road that was a logging trail not long before (as opposed to New Steve Parks who lived in town). Folks wondered what went on, not so much in Old Steve’s house, as in the equally-dilapidated accessory building he called his shop.

The Soupster rolled up on the long gravel driveway, gave his bike’s kickstand a boot and knocked on the door. “Old Steve!” he called.

“Soupster!” called Old Steve from inside the shop. “Come on over!”

Old Steve met the Soupster at the shop door, wearing goggles and leather gloves. “I’m glad you’re here,” Steve said, “I need a hand.”

Steve’s request gave the Soupster a start – but in a good way. Old Steve, old irascible Steve, was brilliant and anyone who talked to him for even a moment knew it. Word was that Steve had a PhD in aeronautical engineering and electronics. Word was he had worked for NASA. Word was he had flamed out, took the proceeds from his patents, and moved out the road in Our Town.

Old Steve knocked his goggles onto his forehead and showed the Soupster deep into the spacious shop, which looked like a combination metal shop and chemistry lab. An eight-foot tall, conically-shaped object covered by a tarp was next to a ladder that reached up to the ceiling.

“It’s a retractable roof,” said Old Steve, pointing to the area above the ladder. “I need your help to open it.”

He posted the Soupster next to a large metal hand crank, then climbed the ladder and starting banging with a hammer.

“Metal is so unyielding,” the Soupster said.

“Not as much as some people,” Old Steve called.

“How so?” the Soupster asked.

“Well,” Steve drew a long breath, “you can bang on metal and you can reroute electricity, but with people sometimes you’re stuck with what you have.”

“You’re on to something, Steve,” said the Soupster. “Scientists used to believe that it was tool-making or something technological that caused the brains of our far-ago ancestors to grow big. Now, a lot of them theorize that it was navigating complicated social relationships in those ancient groups that caused our ancestors’ brains to grow.”

With a last slap of the hammer, Steve forced the mechanism loose. “Now turn the crank,” he called, which opened a four-foot square in the shop roof.

Old Steve clambered excitedly down the ladder and grabbed the tarp. He pulled it off to reveal an eight-foot tall silver cylinder.

“You going to space, Steve?” the Soupster asked.

“Not in this,” said Steve. “This is a model for testing. I’m having a problem modulating the temperature of my liquid oxygen fuel, and the pitch-and-yaw controls are all screwy. Any suggestions?”

The Soupster looked blank.

“But don’t let me waste your time, Soupster,” said Old Steve. “You save your big brain for those social situations. I can handle this.” He lifted a screwdriver and started opening a panel. “After all, it’s just rocket science!”

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Our Town – August 27, 2015

| Crazy Theories, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Travel | August 27, 2015

The Soupster hears confessions from a lover of Our Town.

Originally published Oct. 24, 2006

“Because it feels so good when I stop,” Grant — sitting with the Soupster at the sushi bar — tried to say while cramming his mouth with Alaska roll.

“Feels so good when you stop what?” said the Soupster, who had been distracted by the sushi chef’s artful chopping of a huge geoduck clam.

“Well – a long time ago – I used to mean living in Our Town,” said Grant, signaling to the chef to prepare some geoduck for them.

“Really?” asked a skeptical Soupster. “You hated it here that much?”

“When I first moved here the smallness of Our Town got to me,” said Grant. “Having just a few choices for everything – I became bored with that pronto. I came here in the Coast Guard – from Governor’s Island in New York harbor. With all due respect — Lincoln Street ain’t Times Square.”

“Seems like we have everything we need here,” said the Soupster defensively.

Grant ignored him. “And the rain,” the former Coastie said. “The constant rain drove me insane. All the time. The summer I transferred here was like this summer. I came to Our Town in May and waited until early November for more than a single dry day in a row. And actual sunny days? I have a one-armed buddy who could count them for you.”

“Kept my sense of humor, though,” Grant continued. “I remembered the old joke about the man hitting himself in the face. You heard it?”

The Soupster shook his head.

“A man is hitting himself repeatedly in the face,” said Grant. “His friend is horrified. `Why ever would you do that?’ asked the friend. Says the first man, `Because it feels so good when I stop!’

“That’s the way I felt. I loved Our Town, for those first few years.” said Grant. “Cause it felt so good when I went back to civilization. To the United Contiguous Lower 48 states.”

“I never felt that way,” said the Soupster, who had lived in Our Town longer than most professional baseball players had walked the earth. “Those first few years, I wanted to drag everyone I knew up here to live. I got over that, though.”

The sushi arrived. Both men loved the delicate taste of geoduck neck meat – like butter melting in their mouths – and neither spoke while they attacked the plate. Our Town was one of the few places this side of China and Japan where the giant clams made it to the menu.

Grant stopped chewing, spoke first.

“I don’t feel that way anymore,” he said. “Over the years, each time I returned to Our Town from a trip Outside I grew happier and happier to be home. Our Town came to be normal for me, just the right size. Now, there’s only one good reason I ever like to be in the Contiguous United States.”

“You mean…?” asked the Soupster.

Grant nodded. “Because it feels so darned good when I stop!”

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Our Town – October 9, 2014

| Animals, Crazy Theories, Our Town | October 9, 2014

The Soupster does monkey business.

“Books about monkeys?” the Soupster asked Bobbi Lincoln, who was walking out of Our Town’s relief pitcher library while our starting pitcher library undergoes renovations.

“Indeed,” said Bobbi, an animated wisp who seemed to switch perches effortlessly. “I’ve been thinking a lot about monkeys. Monkey see, monkey do.” She held three books about monkeys.

“Have you ever heard that if you put enough monkeys at enough typewriters, one of them will type the Sitka phone book?” the Soupster quipped.

“I’ve heard they type King Lear,” said Bobbi. “Besides, what’s a typewriter?”

“Ha, ha,” said the Soupster. The Soupster liked Bobbi, which he indicated with a broad smile. Bobbi indicated her mutual affection by quick head movements. She switched perches again.

“We are so lucky to have a back-up library,” said the Soupster.

“I just found out the library moved,” said Bobbi. “I don’t know how it escaped me. I’m spending too much time online, obviously.” She tilted her head.

“The news must have reached the hundredth monkey,” said the Soupster.

“What?” asked Bobbi, standing on one foot.

“So there was supposedly this group of islands, each island with a different group of monkeys living on it with no contact between any of the groups,” explained the Soupster. “And the monkeys had to eat dirty sweet potatoes – don’t ask me why. And then one of the monkeys on one of the islands figured out how to wash the sweet potatoes. The other monkeys on that island imitated the first monkey and washed their potatoes too.”

“According to the theory,” the Soupster continued, “when the hundredth monkey on the first island washed his sweet potatoes, monkeys on the other, unconnected islands started washing theirs, too.”

“Sounds like a fruity theory,” said Bobbi.

“You’re right,” said the Soupster. “The theory is hockey pucky scientifically. But it does have an element of truth. When ideas reach a critical mass, they do seem to take on a life of their own and emerge at the same time from seemingly unconnected groups.”

“Of monkeys?” chirped Bobbi, switching perches.

“Could be monkeys,” said the Soupster.

“I gotta go,” said Bobbi. “Lots of monkeys today,” she called as she flew off.

“That’s why we measure ‘em in barrels!” the Soupster called after her.

 

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Our Town – August 28, 2014

| Crazy Theories, Our Town | August 28, 2014

The Soupster participates in an annual ritual.

Originally published Aug. 23, 2007

The air was thick in Harrigan Centennial Hall for Our Town’s annual lottery. How could it not be? The choosing of nine people to have the worst luck in town for one calendar year? The lottery had been a local feature for longer than anyone remembered.

These were the thoughts the Soupster thought, shared by his fellow townsfolk, as he sought a seat in the crowded auditorium to wait for the drawing of the unlucky nine.

The Soupster knew his name was in the black box on a stand in the middle of the stage, under a spotlight. As were the names of all the adults in Our Town. Mr. Summers, the moderator, droned on in his official voice the lottery’s rules.

Then the Soupster spied Hutchinson, the new news reporter, holding back in the shadows, his long notebook open and his pen poised.

The Soupster motioned the scribe into the empty seat beside him. “You know you’re not part of the lottery until you’ve been through a winter,” the Soupster whispered to Hutchinson. “So you can relax.”

“What do you all do to the people whose names are picked?” Hutchinson whispered back.

“It’s nothing we do,” answered the Soupster. “The bad luck just happens. They wash their car and it rains. Things get busy at work and a bunch of relatives will descend on them. If there’s a nail in the road, they’ll drive over it. The store will run out of milk five minutes before they arrive.”

Hutchinson looked alarmed, so the Soupster continued. “The unluckies know enough to avoid firearms, fishing hooks and jetskis for the duration, so serious injuries are rare. It’s more the annoyance. They’ll forget to make important phone calls. They’ll put their garbage cans out after the truck has already passed. Their arm will hurt after their flu shot. They buy decaf by mistake. That sort of thing.”

“Shhhhh,” said Mrs. Dunbar, turning around in her seat in the row ahead of the two men. “Mr. Summers is about to start reading names.”

Hutchinson lowered his voice. “You ever picked?” he asked.

“1998,” said the Soupster. “Don’t make me think about that miserable year.”

Mrs. Dunbar turned all the way around this time. “Will you please pipe down!” she whispered emphatically.

“What’s the rush?” asked the Soupster.

On stage, Mr. Summers cleared his throat into the microphone. He reached into the black box and read the first name. “Susan Ripley.”

“Oh, no,” Ripley said as she stood, before mounting the stage steps. “I’m remodeling my kitchen!”

“Stu Sharansky,” Mr. Summers said.

“My boat’s in the shop,” Sharansky moaned as he moved to the stage.

“Dorothy Dunbar,” said Mr. Summers.

Mrs. Dunbar turned around and gave the Soupster one last stern look, before making her way down the aisle.

The Soupster frowned. “See, she was in a big rush for nothing,” he said to Hutchinson. “Her bad luck started already.”

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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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