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Comments Off on Our Town – August 11, 2016

Our Town – August 11, 2016

| Downtown, Ghosts, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 11, 2016

The Soupster witnesses the meeting of the living and the dead.

Originally published Aug. 14, 2008

Nearly everyone was pleased with the blossom and tree-filled visions of Betsy and Lawrence Brooks, writ large in the municipal flower beds and green strips in Our Town. The Soupster would have said every single person in town was pleased, but as a scientific observer of human behavior, he left the door open for a few oddball Nature haters.

Only Lawrence actually worked for the city — as a gardener and landscaper — but Betsy could usually be found working alongside him, just not for pay. One irascible codger of the supervisory variety tried to shoo Betsy away for insurance reasons, but Lawrence had enough moles at city hall to call ahead if the codger was afoot and Betsy would temporarily vaporize.

They were an exceptional team. Lawrence, red-green colorblind, compensated by refining his sense of line and contrast, Betsy handled color decisions and was a top-flight plant nurse. After more than four decades, the couple were as much of a local institution as any of the buildings they beautified. So when they decided to skedaddle South to be closer to the grandkiddies, and after they promised to visit often, the city honored the Brooks with their likenesses set in a brass memorial in their favorite garden on Lincoln St. “Lawrence and Betsy, landscapers,” their plaque read, “1960-2002.”

Ambling downtown, picturing a mocha milkshake and skewer of grilled king salmon, the Soupster saw an older tourist staring gravely at the Brooks’ memorial. “Sad, isn’t it,” said the man, as the Soupster came alongside.”So young.”

“Come again?” asked the Soupster.

“But a delight to see city gardeners so exalted,” the man continued. “I myself own a landscape firm in Los Angeles. We are forgotten there among the glitz and bling and blather.”

“I don’t think you understand…” said the Soupster.

“Of course I do!” insisted the tourist. “I more than anyone know of the power of living plants. They have the ability to heal the wounded soul. To watch things grow is to embrace life!”

“Sure but…” the Soupster tried to say, but the older man cut him off.

“Still, it is nice to see the appreciation… at the end,” the tourist concluded sadly and slowly began to move away.

And, as these things will happen sometimes, Lawrence and Betsy Brooks — back to Our Town on one of their frequent returns and looking like two fit, tanned fiddles — came marching down the other side of Lincoln Street.

“There they are!” said the Soupster. “This is what I was trying to tell you.”

“Who?” said the confused tourist.

“Lawrence and Betsy Brooks!” said the Soupster, pointing.“Right there!”

Had they been in a cartoon, the tourist’s head would have spun completely around. He looked at the Brooks, then at their likeness on the plaque and then back to them, several times.

“Do you want me to introduce you?” the Soupster innocently asked.

As the older tourist hurried off, “You people are very, very strange,” the Soupster heard him say.

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 28, 2016

Our Town – July 28, 2016

| Downtown, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | July 28, 2016

The Soupster finds the third time is the charm.

It’s a fact well-known by the people living in Our Town that other Our Town folk may play multiple roles in life and one never knows for sure what roles they might be. Your child’s skating coach could be also be your dentist. Your waitress, starring in the town melodrama, crumbles your pickup’s fender. Your elderly neighbor plays a swarthy villain in the same production and then bakes you Christmas fudge.

This is why Road Rage is not as endemic in Our Town as in other burgs. It’s just too fraught to hurl unkind words and gestures at someone who might turn out to be your sister’s boyfriend’s brother. The immediate release of tension does not feel good enough to overcome the dread of possibly making an enemy of someone you might badly need some day. You don’t want to flip any kind of bird at all at your cardiologist.

One fine summer day, the Soupster strode into a local hardware store, where he spied Carol Worthington buying towel racks for her bathroom. Worthington owned the local jewelry store and the Soupster needed to do some business with her. Carol was a serious recluse – she hired charismatic young people to run the front of the store, while she crafted sparkles in the back room.

Should the Soupster say hello? Certainly, if Carol was looking at him. But she wasn’t. Should he tap her shoulder? Before the Soupster even knew what he had decided, Worthington’s shoulder was tapped by him.

But it wasn’t Carol Worthington at all.

“Pardon me?” said the woman, a stranger.

“Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” said the Soupster, moving on.

At the clothing store, the Soupster thought he saw Carol Worthington again. Not wanting to make the same mistake, he regarded the woman from a distance.  Carol’s medium-length brown hair, the same bangs. The same mid-length kind of dress that Carol always wore, running shoes she called “trainers.”

The Soupster was both more confident in the details of his sighting and put aback by his recent case of mistaken identity. This time he didn’t need to tap. The instant he entered the woman’s personal space, the Soupster knew it wasn’t Carol.

“Can I help you?” said pseudo-Carol. “Do I know you?”

The Soupster slunk away. He kept his head down, lest he see another false Carol. His head felt light, as with a low blood-sugar level. He stumbled into the soda shop and grabbed a brown padded stool by the counter. He had no sooner ordered than a woman sat down next to him.

“Hi, Soupster,” said the real Carol Worthington, patting the Soupster on the arm. “We have business together, don’t we?”

Carol ordered a confection from the young man at the counter. She turned to the Soupster.

“What’s wrong with you?” Carol said. “Why do you keep looking at me like I’m a ghost?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 7, 2015

Our Town – May 7, 2015

| Downtown, Money, Our Town | May 7, 2015

The Soupster greets a secretive new Senior.

There in order to pay her utility bills, Betty graciously held the door open for the Soupster, who was exiting City Hall. They exchanged greetings and the Soupster ambled off easterly toward the center of Our Town.

Betty was relieved the Soupster didn’t know it was her birthday. She wasn’t sure how she felt about turning 65. Although she had been enjoying a few over-55 senior discounts in the Lower 48, Our Town didn’t offer any benefits until 65. And, oh boy, did they then!

At sixty-five, a resident of Our Town enjoyed exemption from the dreaded sales tax that buzzed around every monetary transaction like a mosquito. That’s why on Tax Free Day in the fall, everybody acted like someone who could walk in the woods at dusk in short sleeves without wearing bug dope.

By accepting the exemption, you had to declare yourself a Senior (Citizen) once and for all. Betty wasn’t quite sure she was ready to do that. Still, not to claim the discount she was allowed? She stayed comfortable enough, as long as she watched pennies. But she wasn’t so rich she could turn her back on a 5 percent discount on the entirety of Our Town.

Betty had barely made it inside City Hall when Leah of the Big Smile accosted her. “Howdy, Betty, whatcha doin?” Leah pronounced it “Beddy.”

“Here to pay your utility bill?” said Leah, flashing seriously white choppers. “Bills going up and up. What a pain! And then they charge you sales tax on top of it. We’re all going to sit in the dark and shiver someday soon, you mark my words.”

“Well, taxes are important,” said Betty, hoping she didn’t sound like a Public Service Announcement. “The library and hospital, roads and schools – you know what I mean. It’s how we pool all our money together to do the things we need to do.”

“You have a good attitude,” said Leah, pronouncing it “additude.” You’d almost think you didn’t have to, personally, pay the sales tax.”

Then, Betty’s husband’s friend Mick, who worked in Planning, came down the stairs and whizzed past the two stationary women, saying: “Hi, Leah. And hello, Birthday Girl! I told your husband to get you something nice.”

“Birthday Girl?” asked Leah of the Big Smile. “Today is your birthday? How old are you?”

“Sixty-five,” Betty squeaked.

Although it seemed anatomically impossible, Leah smiled even wider.

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 20, 2014

Our Town – November 20, 2014

| Downtown, Our Town, Shopping | November 20, 2014

The Soupster discusses No Tax Day and solves the mystery of a recurring voice.

“Why is it such a pleasure,” asked Sue, strolling downtown alongside the Soupster. “To shop on a tax-free day?”

She and the Soupster each toted several plastic bags emblazoned with the logos of Our Town merchants. Sue swung her bags happily on the crowded sidewalk, and one shopper had to make a last-minute correction to avoid being bopped.

“I know what you mean,” said the Soupster, steering Sue safely by a “Clothing Specials Galore” sign outside a woman’s shop. “The sales tax is only 5 percent. Yet it feels so good to avoid paying it.”

“I mean, if a store offered a “5 percent off” sale, I wouldn’t even get off my duff,” Sue said. “Nothing below 20 percent off even gets my attention. Yet here I am grabbing stuff like crazy.”

“What makes our `tax-phobia’ even stranger is that we all benefit from the money we pay in taxes,” said the Soupster. “I mean nobody likes taxes. But in order for Our Town to function as an organized society, paying taxes is the way we’ve chosen to have people chip in for the common good. Snow plowing, school books, sanitation…”

“Got to have sanitation,” said Sue.

“Gotta have it,” the Soupster echoed. “Well, Sue, we solved that pesky tax question. What else is strange and wonderful in your life?”

“You want strange — how about this?” she asked. “I wanted to buy a bicycle, so I called three people who advertised in the newspaper. None of the three was home and I got their three answering machines.”

“What’s strange about that?” asked the Soupster.

“All three answering machines had the same voice,” said Sue. “Then I called another friend to tell him how spooked I was. His answering machine had exactly the same voice!”

This was a good mystery for the Soupster. Was there anybody offering narration services for answering machine messages in Our Town? Couldn’t be. Some very odd burglar? Probably not. Someone who lived in three different apartments and was selling bikes out of each of them? Impossible!

The Soupster groaned with the mental effort, then looked at the store nearby and a satisfied smile stretched across his face.

“Kind of official-sounding male’s voice?” the Soupster asked.. “Neutral accent?”.

“How did you know?” Sue asked.

“Mystery solved!” said the Soupster. He took Sue by the arm and turned her gently toward the window of the store, which sold electronics. “ 20 % Off — Answering Machine Sale Ends Today,” trumpeted a big banner.

“The bike-sellers all bought the same model answering machine,” he went on. “What you heard was the voice that came pre-recorded with that model of machine. Your friend must have bought a new machine, too.”

“I live for conundrums,” the Soupster said, mostly to himself..

“Now that’s really strange,” said a grinning Sue. “And kind of wonderful!”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 24, 2013

Our Town – October 24, 2013

| Downtown, Our Town, Shopping | October 24, 2013

The Soupster gets a lesson in real wisdom.

The Soupster put his head down into the wind and lurched up Lincoln St. His stomach gurgled mightily — two of the items he had eaten for lunch evidently did not get along. He thought he might chuck up?

The argument in the Soupster’s tummy reached crisis proportions and required action. Specifically, a rest room. Luckily, he was just steps outside of Pops’ Pro Prop Shop, and the Soupster knew Pops was a kindly soul — believed by many to be the smartest guy in Our Town.

Inside the shop, Pops was leaning on his front counter, listening to Susan Gregory, the owner of Notions, Lotions & Potions, a store right down the street,

The Soupster burst in with gills so green, he didn’t even have to explain himself. Pops just jerked a thumb over his left shoulder in the direction of the commode. As soon as the Soupster reached refuge, his stomach calmed. Through the thin walls, he could hear the conversation going on at the front counter,

“Judy Barnes and I had some harsh words, Pops, about whether the new Sitka Shoulder Festival should be before or after the regular cruise ship season,” Susan said. “She just doesn’t understand that ShoulderFest should be before the regular season, when the weather is good and the daylight is increasing. You’re the smartest guy in town. What do you think?”

“Ah, the shoulders,” said Pops. He stroked his chin and took a long time to answer. “I think, Susan, that you are absolutely right.” Susan left with a big smile on her face.

The Soupster was starting to think his stomach was settled, but it gurgled loudly and he decided to set a spell and see what transpired. Just as well, for a second later the aforementioned Judy Barnes, of A Kinder Kinder children’s store, made her appearance in Pops’ Props. (ed. Note: First “Kinder” rhymes with “finder” and second Kinder rhymes with “cinder.”)

“I’m just so upset at that Susan Gregory,” Judy said. “Because ShoulderFest was her idea in the first place, she thinks she gets to decide everything, right? Who would want to have their Shoulder Festival in the Spring? Everyone is trying to get their new inventory out and prepare for the coming rush!

“Having ShoulderFest at the end of the tourist season only makes sense. Think of the Clearance Sales we could have! Pops, everybody knows you’re Our Town’s smartest guy. What do you think?”

Again, Pops stroked his chin and concentrated. Finally, he said: “Judy, after consideration, I believe you are absolutely right.” The Soupster could hear the confident, satisfied clicks of Judy’s heels as she left Pops’ shop.

The Soupster – who had loved and respected Pops for years – feared that the old man may have showed himself a fraud. He stepped out of the back and confronted Pops. “You told Susan she was right and then you told Judy she was right – even though Judy said the exact opposite of Susan. Everybody thinks you’re the smartest guy in Our Town, but all you do is tell people what they want to hear.”

Pops stroked his chin and took a long time to answer. “Soupster,” Pops said, “You are absolutely right.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 12, 2012

Our Town – July 12, 2012

| Cruise Ships, Downtown, Our Town, Tourists | July 12, 2012

Carrie told the Soupster he talked too much and her criticism stung. The Soupster knew he could go on and on – maybe a tiny, little bit? — but he didn’t know his friend had been suffering. And for “quite a while,” no less.

“I bet you can’t keep your conversation to a minimum even for one day,” Carrie threw down the gauntlet. “Not even for one whole day.”

“I can,” the Soupster insisted. “And I will!”

Today was the day. The first mission of the new, zip-lipped Soupster was to check the mail at the post office. As the Soupster strolled downtown, he had to duck into a few storefronts to avoid fellow chatterboxes who might stress-test his mettle.

“Soupman!” The call came from Charlie, a hiking buddy who, unfortunately, happened to be in a store the Soupster had judged free of customers. “Tell me what’s new with the Man in the Can?”

“Not much,” said the Soupster, wishing he could have thought of a one-word answer. “Gotta go,” he said slipping out of the store.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire? Two busfuls of visitors hit the sidewalk and poured around the Soupster like a human wave.

Hide in plain sight? The Soupster pulled his cap low on his forehead and attempted to avoid eye contact with the cheery migrants surrounding him.

No use! The Soupster felt his lapels being patted and looked down into the face of an older man wearing a tag that said, “Hi! I’m Horace!”

“Hi, I’m Horace,” he stated the obvious, grasping the Soupster’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “I’m new to these shores.”

“Hi, Horace” said the Soupster.

“Yup, this is some different place,” Horace said. “Where’s all the big box chain stores?

Don’t you have any big box chain stores?”

“Nope,” said the Soupster.

“Our bus driver said he was taking us all over town but we only went five or six miles one way and then seven or eight the other. That can’t be all the road you have.”

“Yup,” said the Soupster, zipping his lips so tight he could taste metal.

“And this rain I keep hearing about,” Horace plunged on. “It’s certainly not raining now.

Is it going to rain soon? Am I going to get wet? I mean, isn’t this town too nice to be built by people who get rained on every day?”

As the Soupster moaned silently, a beam of sunlight illuminated a break in the throng of tourists ahead. “Yup,” said the Soupster, shaking Horace’s hand. “Nope,” he added. And then the Soupster escaped.

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 7, 2011

Our Town – April 7, 2011

| Animals, Cats, Downtown, Fish, Movies, Our Town | April 7, 2011

Decorative tattoos for animals? the Soupster pondered as he walked on the Our Town downtown sidewalk. He had heard the identification tattoos that people put on their dogs and cats had blossomed into an art form. But the previous evening, he had witnessed the unseeable – a cat with the face of Celine Dion smiling up from a shaved part of its foreleg.

And then he had heard the unhearable – the news that one of Our Town’s newest tattoo shops was tattooing pet fish. Naturally, the Soupster had resolved to see one of these tattooed fish forthwith. Ergo, he was downtown early (for him) in the morning.

A goldfish with the chemical symbol AU for gold would, perhaps, be an apt tattoo, the Soupster considered as he passed a store. A printed notice taped to the window caught his eye, from the Local Illness Network Team. Another offshoot, LINT had grown out of a collaboration between Our Town’s foodies and healthies. An official ceremony would be held later in the month, declaring a certain type of fluid-filled growth that appeared on the right flank as a “Sitka cyst” – joining the esteemed ranks of Sitka rose, Sitka alder and Sitka black-tailed deer. It was no joke – it drained and hurt.

Could put a tattoo of the devil on an angelfish, the Soupster thought mischievously.  Betta are the pretty fish with those swirly, airy fins that make them look like they’re flying through the water. What could you possibly tattoo on a betta? he wondered.

Just beyond the cyst notice, the store owners had placed in their window a clever new device for Our Town motorists. “As Seen on TV,” said the lurid poster, mounted adjacent to theWindshield ProjectionTM. The device projected scenes from the most beautiful places in the world – Tahiti, Switzerland, Kilimanjaro, Patagonia – onto the windshield of your car in a way that allowed you to drive safely while enjoying the world-class view.

Our Town already had a world class view, the Soupster judged, but even the most gorgeous waterfront commute could be boring if unchanged day after day. At any rate, there was way more of a chance of his buying a Windshield ProjectorTM than of having the face of a Canadian diva – any Canadian diva – tattooed on the shaved forearm of his cat.

Across the street, the cinema bi-plex offered up two films. “The Sea Lion King,” which the Soupster had not seen, and “Give ‘Em Hell, Herring,” which he had. In smaller letters, for movies showing at the out-the-road bi-plex, the sign advertised “Shallow Halibut” and “Rocky.” Do two bi-plexes equal one multi-plex?

Ooohhh, those little seahorses could sport wonderful tattoos, the Soupster thought, as he continued down the street. A saddle, for instance. Or a tiny jockey. Maybe they should tattoo seahorses on the sides of regular horses?

He ignored the light rain that had started. The Soupster had money in his pocket and no appointments till afternoon. He considered the coves and forest surrounding Our Town as paradise, but with money and time in his pocket, even downtown – even in the rain – seemed like paradise to him.

1677 total views, 1 today

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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.

Want to submit a piece for Our Town?

Contact us with your idea or completed piece. Our Town’s must be 450-500 words long, take place in or near Sitka and the Soupster must make an appearance, however brief.

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