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Comments Off on Our Town – August 24, 2017

Our Town – August 24, 2017

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | August 24, 2017

The Soupster encounters and old friend.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan

The Soupster panted as he climbed the stairway up the mountain. Beads of sweat formed on his brow. Apart from a squirrel which scampered up a tree, he was alone. Or so he thought. But, as he climbed the last flight of stairs, a person came into view, leaning on the guard rail and gazing into the distance.

“Rusty?? Is that you??” the Soupster asked, suddenly remembering his missed eye doctor appointment.

“‘Fraid so,” the old fisher replied, as she stared at the islands. “Seen a lot in my day,” she sighed. “Wispy clouds in a blue morning sky, a troller plying a glassy sea, a hazy horizon blurring snow-capped mountains, wind chopping up dark water, a cat streaking across the road to take refuge in shadows.”

“Rusty! What on earth??” the Soupster said. “You okay?”

“Sure,” she said, “just contemplating the passing of time. When you gotta turn back at the lookout, you realize you aren’t a spring Bambi anymore,” she admitted, rubbing her knees. “To tell the truth, summer’s taking its toll. Too much daylight and too much to do.”

“Aah, friend,” Rusty continued. “‘How small the boat for each life, how vast the ocean and its storms; May sunlight touch the waves, may strong wind take your sails…’  Know any ‘a those, Soupster?”

“Can’t say I do,” the Soupster mumbled, munching a handful of trail mix.

“Well, probably ‘cause I made ‘em all up,” Rusty laughed. “Anyway, how’s your summer going?”

“Productive,” the Soupster said. “I’m getting through my ‘Indoor To-Do List.’ Last week I sorted my garage cabinets into cutting things, hitting things and measuring things.”

“Wow, impressive!” Rusty said. “I count myself lucky if I can find anything clean on the boat to put on every morning. Anyhow, we have different priorities. Dry and warm is good enough for me.”

“Soupster, what I really want to know is how far we’ve hiked from the trailhead to here,” she said.

Pulling out his phone, the Soupster declared, “Siri! Pythagorean Theorem!”

“The square root of A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared, Soupstah,” she replied.

“Australian accent,” the Soupster whispered to Rusty. “But that’s another story.”

“Impressive, Soupster, but you’re hurting my head – too early for this kind of mathematical genius.”

“That’s okay, Rusty, you’re good at other things. Take these, for example,” the Soupster said, examining her well-worn hiking poles, with glints of shiny metal between the mud. “These babies prove you’re a hardcore Alaska outdoorsperson.”

“Dunno,” Rusty said. “Always thought it was the shorts.”

“Got a point there, Rust,” the Soupster admitted. “Pretty hardcore how you wear shorts year-round. How do we know when the temperature has hit 40? When ol’ Rusty emerges from hibernation with shorts on.” Rusty chuckled.

A freezing gust of wind hit the hikers, bringing the first drops of that distant storm, and sending a shiver up Rusty’s legs. The two friends put on an extra layer, cinched up their backpacks and headed down the mountain.

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 25, 2016

Our Town – August 25, 2016

| Gardening, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | August 24, 2016

The Soupster hears about a woman whose quest to become a real Alaskan involves getting dirty.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan

Hunched over a large garden pot, examining the contents closely, Jo poked at the mixture of soil and peanut shells.

“Looking for something?” a voice called out from the sidewalk. It was the Soupster, out for his evening stroll.

“Hey, Soupster! I’m checking the moisture level,” Jo replied.

“Trying to grow peanuts?” the Soupster asked.

“Nope, the peanut shells were in the compost. Went through a peanut stage about 6 months ago…think I was depressed…sat at home eating peanuts night after night. What I’ve got growing here is lettuce babies and I’m trying to decide if they need to be watered. It’s hard to tell on a drizzly day. I mean, it looks damp, but it could just be surface moisture.  I would hate to be responsible for either starving or drowning these little suckers. Given my track record, I’m probably not qualified to be their mom. No offence, babies,” Jo said, directing her attention to the pots. “I actually wanted kale, but being the end of summer, it was already sold out.”

“Yeah, kale is the way to go in Our Town,” the Soupster agreed, “unless you’ve got some fancy greenhouse thing going on or a guaranteed slug-free garden.”

“So, Soupster, I hope you like lettuce, because in 45-60 days, generous donations will be coming your way,” Jo chuckled, scanning her 6 pots of soil.

“How about making lettuce sauerkraut?” the Soupster suggested.

“Funny you should say that, Soupster. I’ve just done a canning and pickling course and we actually learned to make sauerkraut!” Jo said.  “In fact, there’s a jar of it fermenting in my laundry as we speak, nestled between 4 crock pots, a pair of winter boots and several kayak spray skirts. Fermented cabbage is supposed to be super good for you… something about gut health affecting brain function via the vagus nerve,” she mumbled.

The Soupster raised his eyebrows. “So, you decided to branch out and try something other than hiking and bike riding?” he said, feigning shock.

“Yes, Soupster, precisely. I’ve got to be more well rounded if I’m going to be a real Alaskan.  Well, to be fair, I have crossed some things off the list” Jo announced. “I’ve made jam, cut black cod collars, owned three pairs of Xtratufs, done a few off-trail mountain hikes and kayaked to the Lighthouse. So really, all that’s left now is to find a second-hand fish tote to use as a hot tub, learn how to can salmon and wait for my lettuce babies to be born.”

“At this rate, you’ll be a Sourdough in no time,” the Soupster laughed. The sky had darkened and it was starting to rain. “You can probably quit your soil moisture check now, and I’d better get going. And, by the way, congratulations on the babies, hope their birth goes well and see you in six weeks with some salad dressing!” He winked.

436 total views, 2 today

Comments Off on Our Town – July 30, 2015

Our Town – July 30, 2015

| Animals, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | July 30, 2015

The Soupster okays an unusual pet.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

“Did you know Our Town has bearded drag­ons?” asked the Soupster’s friend Tina.

“It does?” said the Soupster, eyebrows raised.

“Check this out.” Tina showed him her phone. “For Sale on Facebook,” it said.

“Just look at those babies! They are soooo cute! ‘Two Males – one gray and one cream. Born and raised locally and ready for their for­ever homes.’”

“Hmm, won’t be long and these spiky little dinosaurs will be extinct in Our Town,” the Soupster predicted. “After all, they’re both males, right?”

“Soupster! You’re hilarious. If one was a female, it would be his sister. Even you know what’s wrong with that picture”.

The Soupster laughed.

“Says they hatched May 20, 2015. You know what that means, Soupster? You can celebrate their 3-month birthday! Bet you’ve never been to a bearded dragon birthday party.”

“Nope, can’t say I have,” the Soupster admitted.

“And look at this,” Tina continued. “They ‘make great companions, are safe, docile and like to be handled.’

C’mon, Soupster, they sound like the perfect pet.”

“Hmm…” the Soupster mused. “Most dogs I know fit that description. These critters are a bit of an unknown quantity. What’s more, this sounds like a lifelong commitment. Don’t forget, they’re ready for their ‘forever homes.’

“Oh, Soupster, since when were you afraid of commitment?” Tina asked. “Check this out: ‘Bearded dragons are cold-blooded reptiles in the lizard family,’” she read.

“Therein lies the first problem,” the Soupster noted. “Cold-blooded animals are meant to live in warm places and clearly, this is not one of them.”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Tina. “You guys have so much in common! Like you, bearded dragons need a source of heat. ‘Some people use a heat pad; however, beardies like to bask in the sun and a lamp provides a good replica of the sun.’”

“Ok, food” she said. ‘Crickets and dark leafy greens should be two of the main choices. The live food consists of commercially bred crickets, meal worms, wax worms and juvenile Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which you should get at a pet store.’ It is ‘not recommended that you catch the live food for your bearded dragons because outdoor bugs may have been exposed to pesticides.’”

“Well, that’s a relief,” the Soupster chucked. “Have to say I prefer spending my weekends garage sale-ing or fishing. Anyway, been a while since I saw anything on that list around here. How much do you feed them?”

“Good question. Soupster. Finally I detect some interest.” Tina winked. “’As many crickets as they can eat in a 10-minute period.’”

“Interesting. We do have a lot in common. That’s my mealtime philosophy, too.”

“If you need any more convincing, this will do it, Soupster. Bearded dragons ‘have one of the best temperaments of all lizards and can be quite per­sonable and intelligent.’”

“Man, they sound nicer than a lot of humans I know,” the Soupster chuckled. “What did you say that contact number was?” he asked.

602 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – May 22, 2014

Our Town – May 22, 2014

| Gardening, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Seasons, Spring | May 21, 2014

The Soupster is Inspired by Spring.

Jan’s cell phone beeped. A message from the Soupster. “Just got home. Was that your out there would have been a beach on a table?” it said.

“What the heck?” Jan frowned and picked up her garden hose. Immediately, the phone rang – the Soupster again.

“Sorry – my phone makes up its own thing sometimes. I meant: ‘Is that you out there watering a bedside table?’”

“Sure is,” Jan replied, reaching under the shelf to peel off a soggy Bangkok city map.

“I know it’s been unusually sunny weather an’ all but aren’t you taking spring fever a little far?” the Soupster asked.

“Ha ha” Jan replied. “Doing some spring cleaning…decided to sand my bedside table and give it a new ‘shabby chic’ look. Figured spraying it was the best way to get the sawdust off.”

“What? You took a piece of furniture with a perfectly good paint job and wrecked it?”

“Get with the times, Soupster. It’s not wrecked, it’s ‘fashionably weathered.’ Not everyone likes furniture made out of wooden palettes and ammo crates. By the way, what were you doing sweeping your face over the seedlings in your garden planter yesterday? Nearly crashed my bike trying to figure out what was going on.”

“Aaahh… Yes. Singing chromatic scales to my seedlings. Exhaling carbon dioxide on them is like feeding them a Thanksgiving meal; the vibrations of my voice energize them at a cellular level. Should help them grow faster.”

“O-kaaaay….oh, and hey, I read on Facebook last night that microwaved water has been proven not to kill plants.”

“Interesting. Must remember that. Need all the help I can get when it comes to gardening” the Soupster admitted.

“For one thing,” he said, “I’ve given up trying to start my own seeds. Last year, I tried to give my flower seeds a head start by sprouting them in a moist paper towel on the windowsill. They did sprout but I couldn’t get them off the paper towel so I ripped it apart and planted the bits. Unfortunately, only a few plants made it out of the soil and they spent the rest of the summer struggling to become anything more than two small leaves at the end of a stalk. These days I go for seedlings. I say let someone else get them through the Neonatal ICU stage.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Soupster. This is Alaska. I figure if we manage to grow anything at all, that’s a bonus, given the challenging weather conditions.

“True,” the Soupster agreed.

“Sorry, gotta go. Need to get this bedside table into the sun so it can dry. Bye…”

Right away her phone beeped a message. “Sudden dry in the same sentence music Tim I hears,” it said.

The Soupster called again. “Sorry, that was supposed to be; ‘Sun and dry in the same sentence – music to my ears.’ Yeah, I gotta go too. Time to sing a few octaves.”

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

765 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – March 13, 2014

Our Town – March 13, 2014

| Crazy Theories, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | March 13, 2014

The Soupster hears about the powers of the mind.

“Not everyone in Our Town had fun last Saturday,” Ashley told the Soupster sadly. “In fact, you were probably out hiking as I lay glued to a dental chair, plastic retractors stretching my lips to oblivion. Put it this way, childbirth is probably not for me.”

The Soupster laughed, choking slightly on his coffee. “Yep, the myth of the ‘one size fits all’ retractor,” he said. “We aren’t all related to the largemouth bass, that’s for sure.”

“Trapped there and unable to speak, I had time to think,” said Ashley. “Oh, the other things I could have done with that money! The causes I could have supported, the places I could have gone – they all taunted me. But then, I began to panic as saliva welled up in my mouth and I realized my trapped tongue wasn’t going to be much help.”

“Ah, karma..,” the Soupster chuckled. “Maybe you shoulda donated the money to a worthy cause after all, like the Save-the-Soupster’s-Boat Fund.”

Ashley rolled her eyes.

“Anyway, I was still trying to figure out how I was going to swallow or whether it would be a slow death by drowning, when I remembered a documentary I saw about Navy SEALs. Inspired by the SEALs’ amazing mind control, I set out to follow suit. Presently, I was trudging across the desert in full combat gear. A sore mouth was the least of my worries in this OPSEC.

“I was gazing at the late afternoon sun hovering lazily above the dunes when it morphed into a huge pineapple. I blinked and the diamond-patterned light over the dental chair came into focus, but I willed myself back to tropical delights. Soon, the dentist’s spiky gelled hair became palm fronds swaying in the breeze.”

“Starting to feel like I’m in Hawaii,” mused the Soupster.

“Exactly!” said Ashley. “Then, suddenly, I heard a voice. ‘Your wisdom teeth – they totally threw me,’ said the dental assistant.

“A barrage of questions flooded my mind, headed towards my mouth and stopped abruptly at the retractors. What? Why? Aren’t wisdom teeth sightings in a dentist’s office as common as whale sightings in Our Town’s waters? Realizing the futility of my questions, I zoned out again, my mind drifting to alternative uses for the common lip and cheek retractor.”

“What did you come up with?”

“Well, as I lay there, it came to me, Soupster – I had no options – no responsibilities at all but to shut up, listen and croak an occasional, agreeable ‘aah’. That’s right – no questions, no opinions and no lip!

Ladies and gentlemen, rejoice all ye with opinionated friends, argumentative partners and whining kids, for today is the day of the lip retractor!”

“Hmmm, that’s very… creative?” the Soupster ventured. “Well, good luck with the braces!” he said, zipping up his jacket and pulling on his gloves.

“Thanks,” Ashley said, flashing a metallic smile and gulping one last big, tongue-rolling swallow of coffee.”

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

839 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – September 26, 2013

Our Town – September 26, 2013

| Dreams, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | September 26, 2013

The Soupster hears about a “super weird” night.

“I think there’s a full moon,” Kathryn announced. “Things have been super weird lately.”

“Weird?” the Soupster said, glancing up at dark gray clouds scurrying nervously across the sky. “Got anything to do with fall setting in?”

“Maybe,” Kathryn replied. “Another theory involves my eyesight. Been a while since I could clearly tell deer from bushes, and bears from rocks,” she admitted. “Once, on the ferry, I even thought that a beach covered in driftwood was a village,” she chuckled.

The Soupster laughed. “Makes life interesting, I guess. So, how was last night?” he asked. “Went to that ergonomics lecture, didn’t you?”

“Huh,” Kathryn grunted. “Again, weird. I’m sitting there, listening to the instructor, and he morphs into the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. ‘Anyone know what this muscle is?’ the instructor asks, pointing to a picture of a cadaver. ‘Anyone? Anyone?’ Suddenly a student belts out ‘BACKSTRAP!’ and another adds, “Now, I’m getting hungry.”

“Hilarious,” the Soupster said. “Huntin’ fever. Does weird things to people.”

“Apparently,” Kathryn said, rolling her eyes. “So afterwards, I’m walking home, trying to get cannibalism out of my mind, when our dog decides to poop in the middle of an intersection as we’re crossing the road. The middle? Seriously? Before you could say ‘full moon’ I’d gloved my hand with a doggie bag and scooped up the package. It felt surprisingly warm and I kept massaging it gently to keep releasing its heat.”

“Great idea,” the Soupster smiled. “Never heard Bear Grylls suggest that one,” he said with a wink.

“So I’m focusing on warming my hand, when a shadow jumps out at me,” Kathryn continues. “I turn around, check that I’m not being followed, and then look up to see a one-eyed street pole hunched over the road, peering down at me ominously.  Averting my eyes, I catch sight of a cluster of unkempt, flowerless fireweed – Dr. Seuss characters waving tall, feathery hairdos and mocking me in rhyme.  Beside them, a lonesome dandelion teases me, bobbing its seemingly innocent, fluffy white head. But I know better than to stop, pick it and blow it away. The path curves and a crowd of Indian celery plants ambush me, trying to claw at me with their dry, bony fingers.”

“I quicken my step in the direction of home and soon, I’m approaching the illuminated church billboard with its inspiring message. ‘When you’ve been barbecued, you’ll want to barbecue others,’ I read in horror. Getting closer, the word ‘barbecued’ turns into ‘rescued’ and I breathe a sigh of relief.”

“You had a big night,” the Soupster said. “Go home and have a mug of chamomile tea and try to get some rest,” he suggested.

“Great idea,” Kathryn sighed. “I’m beginning to realize why bears hibernate all winter. Starting to appeal to me, actually,” she said as she turned to leave, veering around a black cat crouching on the road, which turned out to be a pothole.

Submittied by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 4, 2013

Our Town – July 4, 2013

| Airplanes, Flying, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Travel | July 4, 2013

The Soupster looks at blue skies without rose-colored glasses.

The Soupster stared out the airplane window. The scene reminded him of a still life: blue sky suspended above a thick blanket of clouds. Only an occasional shudder of the wing and its subtle tilt away from the horizon hinted at the 36,000 ft altitude and 300 mph speed he was traveling at.

“See anything?” asked the woman next to him, craning her neck for a better view.

The Soupster turned to face her, unsure whether to focus on her penciled eyebrows, glossy lips or hoop earrings large enough to be bracelets.

“Blue sky” he replied, turning back to the view. “Blue – sky,” he repeated silently to himself. It had a pleasant ring to it. “Been a while since I said the words ‘blue’ and ‘sky’ in the same sentence,” he said out loud. The woman raised her eyebrows quizzically. “It’s not that there isn’t’t blue sky in Our Town, it’s just that it’s often on the wrong side of the clouds,” he explained.

The woman continued thumbing through her airline magazine. Every other page seemed to show a luxury resort or condominium, edged by beaches and drenched in sunlight.

As the plane dipped, the blue-sky-and-cloud-canopy gave way to snow-capped mountains, which then morphed into dry brown hills. Finally they were circling over a sprawling metropolis: their destination. The grid of buildings and roads, with traffic winding through, reminded the Soupster of a circuit board buzzing with electrical activity.

A few hours earlier the Soupster had been glad to be getting off the rock, but now he realized he was also glad for his return ticket. Closing his eyes, he was back in Our Town, sitting beside the sea, throwing a stick for his neighbor’s dog. She would bound over rocks into the water to retrieve the stick, then flop down in sandy seaweed to gnaw on it. A seiner plied the black, glassy surface of the sound, with a backdrop of forested hills rising into the mist. The Soupster sighed. The fresh, salty air was cool on his skin and a breeze rustled his hair.

“Thank you!” boomed the overhead announcement, shaking the Soupster out of his trance; “We appreciate your choosing our airline…have a great day!”

The Soupster smiled. “A good choice indeed,” he said, turning to the woman to congratulate them both. A mystified look washed over her face again. The Soupster felt obliged to clarify. “Well, considering there’s no other airlines to choose from… I guess we could have taken the ferry… But we’d still be three days away from our destination and probably wandering around looking for the best lounge to unroll our sleeping bag in. Anyway, as they say, the sooner you get there, the sooner you can get back.”

The plane landed and the Soupster strolled down the jet way, into the sea of humanity. “Doesn’t’t take long to know which side of the clouds you belong on,” he thought, taking a deep breath and making his way forward.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

807 total views, 2 today

Comments Off on Our Town – April 25, 2013

Our Town – April 25, 2013

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Travel | April 25, 2013

The Soupster and a friend get philosophical about travel.

“How was your trip to Southeast Asia?” asked the Soupster between sips of a creamy latte.

“Amazing!” Kate replied. “I’m still dreaming of Thai curries – green beans so fresh they squeak when you chew them, in coconut milk with ginger and basil. I could have a bowl right now,” she confessed, chomping on her bagel. “And a drink of cold juice straight from a coconut – top chopped off and a straw sticking out,” she added.

“Make that two!” the Soupster said.

Kate gazed at the shiny glass jar of cookies on the counter, deep in thought. “Travelling’s fun,” she mused, but there’s something about being able to walk into a café back in Our Town, see familiar folks, get a big mug of freshly ground coffee with real milk, and spend time visiting with people you know well.”

“It’s true – there’s no place like home,” the Soupster agreed.

“And,” said Kate with sudden inspiration, “there’s no toilet like the one you’re used to – one that’s clean, dry and comes with a seat and toilet paper. It can be hard to figure out bathroom etiquette when your only clues are a plastic scoop and a barrel of water next to a hole in the floor. Actually, I think I knew what to do, but was in denial,” she said.

The Soupster laughed. “I feel quite lost when my mountain of Costco toilet paper runs out,” he admitted. “Desperate times calls for desperate measures – paper towel maybe, but water? Never!” the Soupster vowed.

“Toileting aside, I do have incredible memories” Kate said. “Like, in Myanmar – thousands of ancient Buddhist temples littering the plains of Bagan, a sea of young monks chanting scriptures in a monastery, and a 15-hour trip down the Ayeyarwady River on a steamer.

“In Laos,” she continued, “waking at dawn in a tree house overlooking a misty forest canopy, to the sound of gibbon calls. And crazy bus trips, hurtling down mountain passes with incredible views beyond sheer cliffs.”

“A bit scary?” the Soupster asked.

“Huh!” Kate grunted, eyebrows raised. “It’s nice to know that a bus trip in Our Town isn’t a matter of survival of the fittest, and that drivers use gears instead of stopping every few miles to hose down their breaks with cold water.”

“Also, over there, the women may seem exotic, but it’s nice to know that our daily beauty routine doesn’t involve grinding down tree bark to make a stinging paste to rub in beige circles on each cheek. I’m glad our jewelry doesn’t include a permanent stack of heavy brass rings around our necks, and that a pedicure doesn’t mean dangling our feet into a tub full of hungry little fish.

“Well, Soupster”, Kate concluded, “it’s good to get off The Rock and it’s good to come back.”

“Gotta agree with you there,” the Soupster replied – “like Dorothy said, there is no place like home.”

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

826 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – October 18, 2012

Our Town – October 18, 2012

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Storms, Weather | October 18, 2012

“Emery!” the Soupster called, glancing up from the outboard he was hunched over.

The cyclist screeched to a halt. “Hey, Soupster! How’s it going?” she asked cheerfully.

“Havin’ trouble with my starter,” the Soupster said, standing up with one hand on the engine and the other supporting his lower back. ”And this drizzle ain’t helping my mood none,” he complained. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

“An inspiring, scenic location to write in the rain,” Emery announced.

“Write in the rain?” the Soupster echoed.

“That’s right, I’ve got a new notebook and pen that you can use in the rain,” Emery said.

“Yeah, I know the ones,” the Soupster nodded. “Official types of people use them.”

“And that’s why today I officially declare myself to be a local,” Emery replied.

“Why today?” the Soupster asked. “You’ve clocked up at least 5 years in Our Town, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, but as you know, becoming a local is a process,” she said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. First you’re a tourist, wandering down the main drag, wearing your new fur boots and hat.

Hang around a few more days and you realize you’re gonna need some rain gear. So, you get the cheapest you can find.

Then you start doing the wilderness thing. Before long, you discover you need gear that’s breathable, waterproof and indestructible, so you go back for more — more expensive this time.

You learn that cotton kills and start stocking up on wool and polypropylene. The variety of gloves, mittens and liners seems overwhelming at first, but you focus on your size and get a pair of everything. Wool, fleece, leather, Gor-Tex and neoprene all have a use.

Before you know it, you have your very own Alaska Sporting Goods Emporium. Then, just when you think you have everything you need for life in rainforest Alaska, your Xtra-Tuffs start leaking.”

The Soupster took over. “So you patch them with duct tape, till you realize that even duct tape has its limits. Time for new boots. The old faithfuls are converted to slip-ons, used for taking out the trash, quick trips to the grocery store and camping.”

Emery laughed. “So, just when I thought my emporium was fully stocked, I discovered a line of ‘Outdoor Writing Products for Outdoor Writing People’ that can all be used in the rain.

There are even these pens that’ll write under water, upside down and in temperatures ranging from -30 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ve actually been used on a manned space flight.

So, I’m now the proud owner of a new notebook and pen. My adventure barometer tells me that ice climbing is going to pale in significance compared with things to come,” Emery predicted.

“Let the adventure begin!” said the Soupster. “And congratulations on becoming a local,” he added, extending an oil-stained hand to shake her neoprene glove.

“But before you go, a quick question: do the words ‘cheechako’ or ‘sourdough’ mean anything to you?” he asked, a twinkle in his eye.

– Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 2, 2011

Our Town – June 2, 2011

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Yoga | June 2, 2011

“I started Yoga last week,” Jan informed the Soupster, dipping a chunk of sourdough bread into a bowl of steaming chowder. “Thought I’d better get into shape for summer before it’s over,” she added with a chuckle.

“Manage to get yourself tied up in any knots?” the Soupster asked.

“Funny you should ask,” Jan said. “It all started when Kai, our instructor, suggested that we ‘stretch our tail bones away from our sit bones and bring our kidneys towards our ribs.’”

“What?” the Soupster asked, eyebrows raised.

“Exactly,” Jan said. “I started to panic. Everything got blurry, Kai’s smile seemed to become a smirk and his voice started to sound ‘echoey’ – you know, like that effect they use in the movies to convey altered states of consciousness.”

“Hmm. Kai’s instructions sound like a brain teaser,” the Soupster empathized.  “It reminds me of that thing where you have to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time, which I can do. I can even switch half way and do the opposite.”

Jan laughed. “I was still trying to figure out where my kidneys were when I noticed that the others were ‘bringing their hearts towards the wall’ and ‘allowing their necks to become long and soft.’ I quickly turned to face the wall, and the paint job caught my eye. I deepened my focus, trying to figure out whether the colors consisted of blue on purple, or purple on blue, and whether the effect had been achieved by ragging or sponging.”

“Come to any conclusions?” the Soupster asked.

“Never had time. Suddenly, Kai called for Tadasana or ‘The Mountain Pose’ – apparently a great beginning yoga pose. Finally, something I thought I could do.”

“‘Stand with your feet hip-width apart,’ said Kai, ‘or think of one foot, ten toes’” Jan recalled. “So I spread my feet, relaxed my knees and let my shoulders drop down. Things were going well. Visions of myself – a yoga guru in the Himalayas with a few yaks looking on in awe – came to mind. Finally, I was in the zone.”

“Kai’s voice jolted me back to reality: ‘Let your ribs close, let your vertebrae stack one on top of the other and continue to let your shoulder blades hug your back.’ The echoey voice returned and I found myself dissociating again. My thoughts drifted back to my first driving test.”

“Suddenly, it was time for a parallel park. The cones at the front represented the back of the front car and the cones at the back represented the front of the back car. My subconscious must have figured out what the instructor meant, because I passed the test.”

The Soupster laughed.

“Before long, I found myself relaxing under a colorful Mexican blanket, sacred Hindu chants and mantras dissolving my thoughts. Kai told us to observe our breathing, I’d made it through. I was alive and well. Very well. Calm, present and accepting.”

– Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Our Town – March 24, 2011

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | March 24, 2011

Who’s Who in Our Town?!

“One thing I really like about living in Our Town,” Marci said, “is that after a while you start knowing the people you see and seeing the people you know. A hello here and a wave there makes the place feel like one big backyard.”

“Yeah, but not everyone likes that,” the Soupster pointed out. “My cousin Dave lives in Anchorage because of the ‘anonymity’. His Saturday morning routine includes a trip to Barnes and Noble for a read and a coffee. The irony is that by now, I bet the coffee baristas and most of the regulars know everything about him, except his name… You can tell a lot about a person by what they read. But I can see his point. At least the person at the next table isn’t going to know your family tree or anything else remotely private about you”.

Marci nodded in agreement. “The worst is seeing my counselor in public,” she said. “It makes me feel kinda naked. Like, the other shoppers see this normal adult doing the normal shopping thing; meanwhile, she knows that lurking just below the surface is this crazy animal, just waiting to be unleashed. I scare myself just thinking about it!”

“Counselors are like teachers,” the Soupster reflected. “You forget that they do normal things like go shopping or go to the gym. They probably even see shrinks themselves!”

Marci laughed. “Another nice thing about living in Our Town,” she added, “are the familiar strangers that you get to know. It starts when you keep seeing someone around town. Soon, you find yourself greeting them and one day you start talking to them. Often you find out who they are, but since they’ve never officially introduced themselves, you feel obliged to pretend you don’t know, or else act as if you’ve always known! Strange really…”

“Then there are people who greet you as if they know you, but you can’t remember having met them,” the Soupster said. “In that moment of awkwardness, you’re tempted to return their greeting as a long lost friend. But if you don’t clear the air immediately, let’s say you’ve more or less missed the boat. From then on, you’re locked into pretending you know them”.

“Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget,” Marci warned, “that sometimes we’re greeted affectionately by someone who thinks they know us, when actually they don’t.  That happened to my coworker recently. She told me how she saw my brother Ben down at Crescent Harbor the other day. They were deep in conversation before she realized that he wasn’t Ben! See, it does happen. You should never assume that you’re the one with the bad memory!”

“Hey, I gotta go,” the Soupster said suddenly. “That’s the guy who I’m selling my boat to. Or is it? Anyway if he isn’t, I’m sure I can convince him he is. He sure looks like the kind of guy who needs an old Whaler,” the Soupster said with a wink.

– Submitted by Lois Verbaan DenHerder

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Our Town – August 27, 2009

| Cooking, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships | August 27, 2009

“I don’t even need to leave my front door to find entertainment in Our Town,” the Soupster thought to herself, raising her eyebrows in surprise as husband waltzed into the kitchen, belting out a tune on his pretend trumpet. “Austin Powers” he proclaimed, resuming the one-line song as he turned on the Kitchen Aid.

The chocolate was melting for the second time, having hardened when husband popped out to the grocery store to get a final ingredient for the Sunday lunch he was preparing. Soon, the smooth, warm, melted chocolate was spooned into the spinning mixture of butter and sugar.

“Whoa!” husband exclaimed, staring down into the bowl in disbelief. “Sounds like you cut your finger off!” the Soupster commented. “Worse!” husband lamented, plunging his hand into the French Silk Pie mixture to fish out the plastic end of his spatula, and a handful of the buttery mixture.

Fingers licked clean, husband cracked 8 eggs into the mixing bowl. Leaving the Kitchen Aid mixing, he disappeared to check his emails.

“Check this out,” husband exclaimed with a hint of envy. “Tanja and Martin have just done a 4 day hike to Machu Picchu.” The Soupster ambled over to look at the screen. Crumbling stone ruins circumnavigated the sacred mountain. Soft, smoky clouds shrouded the surrounding Andean peaks. A road from Aguas Calientes zigzagged tirelessly up the mountain to the ruins.

“Wow!” the Soupster uttered, impressed by the reminder that life still existed beyond the sanctuary of islands and snow-capped mountains surrounding Our Town.

“Huh. Meat and desert…there’ll be a lot of that tomorrow” husband smiled, drooling at the thought of the lunch that he’d enthusiastically agreed to prepare. “Don’t worry, I’ll do some vegetables,” he reassured the heath-conscious Soupster, grabbing a bag of frozen corn from the freezer and detouring to give her a quick kiss. “No time for any more lovin’” he said. “Gotta do my roast now”.

“Honey, where’s the onion packet soup?” husband asked, wandering around the kitchen, opening and closing cupboards randomly. “Why can’t you ever find anything?” the Soupster sighed. It’s a good thing we don’t have a garage packed from floor to ceiling with Costco groceries, too. You’d be lost in it for days,” she chuckled.

“I can’t find things because you keep moving them around,” husband replied indignantly, redeeming his pride and modifying the recipe suddenly with his discovery of the bulk supply of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.

The fake trumpet blurted out again, announcing triumphantly that the king of the kitchen was exiting, having completed his culinary delights. He had proved himself to be as skilled in the kitchen as out on the huntin’ grounds.

“Goes to show,” the Soupster thought. “You don’t have to rely on hikes to ancient Peruvian cities for entertainment. Just make sure you marry…or live with…or know… a comedian who can cook, Alaskan style.

– Submitted by Lois Verbaan

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Our Town – April 9, 2009

| Airplanes, Couples, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships, Travel | April 9, 2009

Having escaped fires, snakes and sharks down under, the Soupster was glad to be heading home. After scanning the plane for familiar faces, she found her seat and settled back to enjoy the last leg of her long journey. The plane was de-iced, and took off into the night sky.

“Have a look at this,” husband urged, shoving an Aircraft Safety Instruction brochure in front of the exhausted Soupster. A woman was leaping through the aircraft doorway over an inflatable slide; an Olympic gymnast, legs straight out in front of her, modestly covered by an unruffled skirt. Husband raised his eyebrows; “You’d think she’d have taken off her high heels first,” he commented.

In the next picture, a plane was floating in the sea, an inflatable slide attached to a doorway. At the end of the slide, a man in the water was effortlessly turning the slide around, converting it into a raft. This time, the Soupster raised her eyebrows, trying in vain to picture herself performing the feat in freezing water.

Another picture showed a floating aircraft surrounded by 4 inflatable slide rafts that had been released. Each raft had 12 people floating in the water, hanging onto its edges. “You want to make sure you’re one of the 48 people who gets a spot on the raft,” husband chuckled. The Soupster shifted her attention to other pictures with warnings not to jump off the aircraft wing onto a raging fire or a pile of rocks.

Suddenly it was time to fasten seatbelts and prepare for landing. It was snowing heavily and the lights in and around our town were invisible.

The Soupster tightened her grip on the armrests as turbulence shook the plane. She checked the pouch on the seat in front of her for the sick bag, and then looked out of the window. At the speed they were moving, snow flakes rushing past horizontally created an illusion of being on the ground, or very near to it. The descent continued. Images of crashing into the sea and swimming around in dark, freezing water, trying to find a spot on a raft were disconcerting. Her life flashed before her, along with the headlines: “Soupster perishes as plane misses runway.”

Suddenly the aircraft changed direction and began to gain altitude. “The pilot was unable to see the runway lights and will make one more attempt to land,” a voice boomed from above. Thankfully, the next attempt was successful.

The air was still freezing and snow still shrouded the landscape. Spring was mostly still asleep. Thoughts of warm, sunny, foreign lands teased the Soupster momentarily. But warm welcomes, friendly faces, loving embraces and feet on solid ground made the Soupster smile. She was extremely glad to be back, safe and sound, in the wonderland of Our Town.

— Submitted by Lois Verbaan DenHerder

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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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