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Comments Off on Our Town – March 9, 2017

Our Town – March 9, 2017

| Environment, Our Town | March 9, 2017

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The Soupster discovers that he who smelt it had not, in fact, dealt it.

“Ouch,” said the Soupster, as gaseous billows reached him. “You cut the cheese, Doc?”

“Beg pardon?” said the esteemed doctor of philosophy, Gerrit van Schmenken, visiting the Soupster from South Africa. “Cut what cheese?” van Schmenken said, looking around the Soupster’s study, where he saw there comfortable chairs, walls of books, a sleeping cat and a half-sized statue of W.C. Fields. Certainly no cheese.

“You know, did you send me `a message from below?’” the Soupster pressed.

“What?” said van Schmenken.

“A `bottom belch?’” the Soupster continued, unabated. “`Did you `step on a duck?’ Are you `starting a vapor feud?’”

“Oh, `Baff,’” said Dr. van Schmenken.

“I don’t know what that means, but I don’t like it,” said the Soupster.

“No, you don’t understand,” said van Schmenken.. “In Johannesburg, we say `baff’ for a `trump.’ No — `trump’ is the British term. I’ve got it — `farting’ – that’s what you Yanks and Aussies say, isn’t it?”

“Not in polite company,” said the Soupster.

“What do you say in polite company?”

“Well, `breaking wind’ or `passing gas’ are the most acceptable terms here,” the Soupster answered. “If you were in the right crowd you could also say `Oops! I just let Fluffy off the leash.’”

“And the less polite?” van Schmenken asked.

“Revolting release,” said the Soupster. “Creaky floorboards. Thunder from Down Under. The Y2K Problem.”

“So these colorful American names can be attached to your `imposition on the atmosphere?’” van Schmenken said.

“Good one,” said the Soupster.

“He who smelt it, dealt it,” countered van Schmenken.

“I thought you didn’t know American,” said a surprised Soupster.

“We have the roughly the same saying – it’s the same idea anyway,” said van Schmenken.

“Don’t try and shift the blame, Doc,” said the Soupster. “That was your `gut bubble’ wasn’t it? Didn’t you have to take some kind of oath of truthfulness to be a philosopher?”

“We’re still arguing about what truth is,” said van Schmenken.

“Well, if it wasn’t my `Little Orphan Onion’ and it wasn’t your `bench warmer,’ whose was it?”

“Not W.C. Fields,” said Dr. van Schmenken.

“There’s no one else here, but…” said the Soupster — then he and van Schmenken realized immediately.

“Cat baff!” said van Schmenken. “Gross!”

Originally published Feb. 26, 2004

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 1, 2013

Our Town – August 1, 2013

| Animals, Birds, Environment, Our Town | August 1, 2013

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The Soupster is unaware of criticism of his trash handling.

The second raven spread its wings and caught the air to slow its descent as it landed atop the roof of the covered unloading area of the Solid Waste Transfer Station on Jarvis Street. It picked a spot close — but not close-threatening — to the first raven who had been sitting on the roof for about five minutes already, studying the trash items spread out below.

“Patience, my tail feathers, I’m going to kill something,” quipped Raven Two in greeting, re-telling the old joke about the hungry vulture complaining to his fellow vultures. “How are you, you old grouch?”

Both ravens cawed and cackled, as a third circled overhead and landed on a nearby hemlock branch. Various other ravens, alone or in groups of two and three, occupied other trees and ledges in the vicinity, deep in their own business.

These were healthy Our Town birds, shiny and waterproof with stiff outer feathers and feathers underneath as soft and thick as fur. They were well fed.

A pickup truck pulled into the station and onto the scale outside the drive-up window of the Transfer Center office building. The window slid open and the human inside the truck and human at the window exchanged sounds that were incomprehensible to the ravens.

“A pickup truck,” noted Raven #1. “Fewer than there used to be, with all the SUVs and hatchbacks humans are buying instead.”

“What’s up with that?” said Raven #2.

“But isn’t a bed full of fresh groceries in a pickup parked in an empty lot just about the sweetest thing in Creation?” said Bird One.

“And we should know!” quipped Bird Two who cawed loudly, along with One, for a solid six seconds. This caused the raven in the hemlock to circle around and then land back in the same hemlock.

“Trash, in general, is disappointing these days,” said Raven One. “These humans are composting so much of what we used to find delicious about trash.”

“The bears have ruined it,” said Raven Two. “With bear proofing, we can’t even get the trash cans open half the time, even if the wind has knocked them over for us.”

Both birds watched as the Soupster drove up in his hatchback. He had a rickety wooden chair and a shovel with a broken handle to discard. The Soupster had just been to the grocery store and the “eagle-eyed” ravens could see three grocery bags lined up tantalizingly in the cargo area. The second bag in had green grapes at the top, Raven Two’s favorite. While not as big a fan, Raven One wouldn’t throw a green grape out of its beak.The grapes taunted both birds from behind shatter-proof glass.

The Soupster got out of the hatchback to toss the shovel and chair into the refuse pile, leaving his door ajar. Raven Two almost swooped down to make a grab for the grapes, but calculated the theft would be impossible.

Raven One looked down at the out-of-reach grapes and a trash pile with no food matter in it. It motioned toward the two dozen other ravens in the trees surrounding them. “An unkindness, as far as I’m concerned” it said sarcastically. “An unkindness.”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 4, 2012

Our Town – October 4, 2012

| Environment, Our Town | October 4, 2012

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Born into the Real World in the first half of the last century, Renny was the youngest of an extremely large brood – 11 kids all told. And though the oldest brother was practically out of the house by the time Renny arrived on the scene, the remaining siblings kept their four-room family apartment chock full at all times. Renny did not suffer loneliness in childhood.

In fact he craved loneliness – or rather, time alone.

It wasn’t to be, not where Renny grew up. Like when periodically Renny’s parents took him and a half dozen or so of his brothers and sisters to the beach to experience the great outdoors. On a holiday or during a summer heat wave – that meant that the blankets, towels, folding chairs, coolers, umbrellas and the bodies of a million beachgoers covered the sand so thoroughly that Renny had to pick his way on tiptoe between the sprawled out families to get to the surf.

When his 7th grade class studied Alaska, Renny’s takeaway was glorious, open spaces. He started putting aside a grubstake that year. He got serious about building up the account in high school with his wages from pumping gas evenings and weekends.

Soon after he graduated City High, Renny had enough for a bus ticket to Seattle and a boat ticket to Our Town. But when he reached his final destination, he was shocked.

Our Town was crowded – not nearly the boundless space Renny had daydreamed about. Surrounded by endless forest, he nonetheless found the residents of Our Town pressed cheek to jowl.

Renny weighed his options. This was back in the day when you could lay claim to land, just about, by living on it and filling out some paperwork. So Renny took a skiff north of town and set himself up a sweet little homestead at an unused spot on the beach, facing Mt. Edgecumbe.

Renny loved his quiet lifestyle, reading, hiking, listening to the birds and the wind. But civilization did not stop for Renny  – one black day, a road was built and the cars and trucks started whooshing by.

And this is where the Soupster, who was visiting Renny’s  place, joins our story.

“Renny? The noise from those big trucks doesn’t bother you?” the Soupster asked. “The last truck shook the whole house.”

“I used to care,” answered Renny. “I used to care a lot.”

“But now you don’t?”

“That’s a hard question to answer,” said Renny. “I still cherish my boyhood fantasies of living away from it all. And it’s great to imagine that giant sundae you had with a dozen scoops of ice cream and eight different syrups. But who’d want to eat  something like that again? Not an old man like me.”

“Huh?” said the Soupster.

“I like my quiet,” Renny said. “But I like having people nearby.” He pointed to Mt. Edgecumbe, which filled most of the living room window.

“It’s all wild, out there – all of it,” he concluded. “I love that it’s wild. And  I also love it that Our Town has my back!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 3, 2011

Our Town – November 3, 2011

| Environment, Northern Lights, Our Town, Seasons, Winter | November 3, 2011

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“When was the last time you saw the Northern Lights over Our Town?” the Soupster asked his friend Rudy, as the two men reclined on the porch at the back of Rudy’s house. Rudy was a high school science teacher and an observant man, and the Soupster valued his opinion.

“Seems to me like a long while ago,” Rudy agreed.

The angle of the yard gave the two men a good view of the night sky. Passing clouds exposed a few isolated stars now and then as they talked.

“Maybe four or five years since one of those real light shows that have you muttering `I can’t believe what I’m seeing,’” said the Soupster. “And the next day everybody is talking about the Northern Lights wherever you go.”

“If people did not see the Northern Lights, then you have to explain what you were doing up in the middle of the night,” Rudy laughed.

“This is true,” said the Soupster.

“You know what the police say,” Rudy quoted. “Anybody up at 3 a.m. is probably up to no good.”

“This is also true.”

“I was busted by my kid,” said Rudy. “I woke her up early one morning for her to see a really good Northern Lights. She said she was cold and she never fully woke up. Her mother complained big-time and said, `What kind of father are you?”

“Wow,” said the Soupster,

“So the next time, we had Northern Lights I didn’t wake her up and she was mad and said `Why didn’t you wake me up?’”

The Soupster laughed and sank down deeper into padded chaise.

“There’s the Wet Alaska and the Cold Alaska,” the Soupster said. “In Cold Alaska, they see the Northern Lights regularly.”

“My experience,” said Rudy “is that Wet Alaska may not be colder than Cold Alaska, but it can feel colder. I saw a college kid in Fairbanks in shorts at a dry 20 below and I bet he would not do that here on a windblown night of freezing rain.”

“It’s not unusual for a West Coast state to have two completely different climate zones,” said the Soupster. “There’s wet western Washington and western Oregon, each state turning drier and hotter as you go east.”

“And California, like Alaska is split more North and South, of course,” the Soupster said. “Deserts down South and forests up North.”

“The opposite of here,” said Rudy. “Great swaths of Interior Alaska get so little precipitation the area qualifies as a desert. Then we have this huge temperate rain forest here in the South.”

“You’re a smart guy,” said the Soupster.

“As long as you do not count the mistakes,” said Rudy.

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 7, 2009

Our Town – May 7, 2009

| Environment, Nicknames, Our Town, Recycling, Seasons, Spring, Sunshine, Weather | May 7, 2009

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Drunk on sunshine and happily munching a donut, the Soupster staggered down to a rocky beach near the end of the road. For the first time this year — in homage to the growing warmth and light — the Soupster had tossed his winter coat to the back of the closet and donned a fleece vest instead. This day was so warm the Soupster considered yanking off his boots and socks, setting on a rock and soaking his toes in Sitka Sound until they wrinkled.

But that dream bubble popped when the Soupster nearly stepped on Gavin “Frenchy” Leboyer, who crouched by the water’s edge. The Soupster stopped chewing.

“What gives you ze right to bare arms?” quipped Leboyer, in the fake French accent that earned him his nickname.

The Soupster extended his arms and savored the sun on his skin. “You look like a scuttling crab down there, Frenchy,” he said, laughing. “Le Crabe!” He took stock of his crouching friend. “Whatever are you doing?”

Frenchy was pulling plastic containers out of his backpack, popping the lids and sprinkling the contents – various leftovers – onto the rocks by the water’s edge. “It’s my last two weeks of cooked food scraps,” he said. “Just repaying the ocean’s bounty.”

“That’s got to be illegal,” said the Soupster. “Littering, maybe?”

“I’m a good boy,” said Frenchy. “I’ve been composting my uncooked table scraps for years. But I’ve always thrown the cooked leftovers into the trash and one day I said to myself — `This is excellent food, I eat it myself. I bet something in the ocean will eat this, too.’”

“I don’t know,” said the Soupster. “This brings to mind the bad old days when cities like New York would just load all their garbage into ships and dump the trash in at sea.”

“Not the same,” said Frenchy. “That was all kinds of stuff, a lot of which was poisonous or not food, like metal and concrete. This is the good stuff. I guarantee you there’s some critters who won’t turn up their noses. Or whatever they have on their face that they turn up. If they have a face, that is.”

Frenchy sprinkled the food in a small circle as the Soupster watched. Frenchy reached down and picked up what looked like the last gasp of a partially eaten Big Mac. “I just keep thinking about this hamburger taking the long trip by barge and train to the Eastern Washington landfill where all Our Town’s trash goes. And then it gets buried and rots and belches methane.”

“Except the stuff we recycle,” said the Soupster. “And that’s more and more every month.”

“Look at this,” Frenchy said, indicating the leftovers that the rising tide was already starting to digest. “Think of how disgusting this stuff would be by the time it got to the landfill.”

“You may be on to something, Frenchy,” the Soupster said. “Nature doesn’t waste anything, One creature’s offal is another’s dinner.”

“Just don’t turn me in.” Frenchy pleaded.

“Mum’s the word,” said the Soupster, zipping his lip. Then he looked at the sea. “Le Mer,” he called as he tossed the last of his donut over Frenchy’s head. “Bon appetite!”

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    Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.

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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