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Comments Off on Our Town – December 17, 2020

Our Town – December 17, 2020

| Christmas, Guest Written, Holidays, Music, Our Town, Rachel Ramsey | December 17, 2020

The Soupster longs for a merry little Christmas

By Rachel Ramsey

“BAGH!” Liz exclaimed, tossing her hands up. Frazzled, she didn’t notice her friend at the other end of the long, fluorescent-lit aisle of Our Town’s hardware store.

“Liz?” the Soupster turned his head, recognizing her voice. “Friend, is that you!?” he asked in surprise.  It was! Though they hadn’t crossed paths in many, many months, they recognized one another’s mask-muffled voices.

“Soupster! Gosh,” she laughed, “How in tarnation are you?” The two friends smiled large beneath their masks, approached nearer, stopping short at 8’ apart (yet feeling as near as ever). They didn’t share a bubble, so they were both giddy at the chance to briefly share an aisle.

Liz’s big eyes brightened, tired though they were. Soupster saw the exhaustion, the strain of months and months of life disrupted.

“Not too shabby, honestly.” he replied, as overhead, the holiday shopping music bellowed out a surreal Kenny-G-meets-Black-Sabbath hybrid version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Feeling Liz’s tender energy and wishing he could give her a hug, the Soupster gently motioned his head upward, “Say, what do you think of this version?” he asked.

“You know, Soupster, this song has always been a holiday favorite of mine, though this one’s a bit much.” she admitted.

“Mine too.” The Soupster agreed. Some-times we ‘hang a shining star upon the highest bough’. Other times we ‘muddle through somehow’ and, occasionally, we do both.” He sighed.

“So true. How many holiday tunes do you know that both acknowledge the melancholy – missing loved ones during the holidays – yet remain hopeful and optimistic?”

The Soupster began to mentally shuffle through the hundreds of holiday tunes residing in his memory.

Liz continued, “Judy Garland’s version is the best – my heart cracks when I hear it. She was the queen muddler. Though Sinatra found the lyric depressing and had it re-written, which is why we can ‘have it both ways’ but we rarely do. Seems artists pick one and stick with it.”

“Let’s see…,” mused the Soupster, “Mel Torme, Bing Crosby, even Bob Dylan sings it both ways – muddling through the first verse and reaching the highest bough on the second.”

“Ella Fitzgerald, too!” Liz added. “Though when she belts it, even the muddling through is somehow upbeat, swinging and hopeful.” The sides of Liz’s eyes were lifted in smile.

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was birthed during WWII, dark times to be sure.” The Soupster said.

“It’s really something that after 80 years this song still has the power to move us so,” said Liz.

Glad to feel Liz’s spirits lifting, the Soupster asked, “Worst version?”

“This one!” Liz shot back without hesitation and rolling her eyes with a chuckle.

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 19, 2020

Our Town – November 19, 2020

| Friends, Holidays, Our Town, Relationships, Thanksgiving | November 19, 2020

The Soupster thinks he has enlightened an unconscious friend

Originally published November 22, 2000

“I’m giving thanks for my brand new sportscar,” said the Soupster’s old friend Jake over the phone. “I bought it with the bundle I made investing in cell phones. It looks cool and gets me where I’m going in comfort. And it’s a babe-magnet!” he finished unrepentantly.

Sighed the Soupster, “You’re the same chauvinistic, materialistic scoundrel I knew decades ago. You know nothing about giving thanks.”

“I know a lot about cell phones,” said Jake.

“Thanks shouldn’t be for cell phones and fancy cars, it should be for the warm basics of life. Home and family and friends and good food. Here you are entering geezerhood and you haven’t grasped that simple fact.”

“Did I say I hit 120 miles per hour in the desert one day?”

The Soupster took a deep breath and re-phrased the exasperated question in his head before saying it aloud. “Where do you live?” he finally got out.

“In an apartment complex with a pool and a sauna and an exercise room and…” Jake began.

“Wait,” said the Soupster. “Forget all the extras. Just concentrate on your apartment. Your place. Now, concentrate on the bed and you sleeping snugly while a howling gale roars outside.”

“I love that feeling,” Jake admitted.

“The sports car doesn’t give you that kind of feeling, right?”

“A different kind of feeling,” Jake agreed.

“The pool and the exercise room and all that stuff are like one of those blue novelty lights,” said the Soupster. “They don’t really give off warmth.

That cozy bed feeling you’re remembering is timeless and placeless. You could be back home and be a kid again. You think only about the slightly colder pocket of air surrounding your feet at the end of the blanket. And you wonder whether you should poke them out into the even colder room air or scrunch them together into a heat-producing ball.”

“Scrunch them together,” said Jake. “What I actually like,” he confessed, “is when you scrunch the arch and heel parts of your feet together, but you also try and get the cool blanket to fold in between as many toes as you can.”

“But, what I really, really like,” he continued, “is when you’re in bed, under the blanket that’s folded between as many toes as you can, and you remember — you remember — that’s there’s something you wanted to do. Not like you left a candle burning or something having to do with safety. Like you left the cookies open in the living room and the dog will probably get into it overnight and throw up and you’ll have to clean that up in the morning. But you don’t care because it’s so warm under the blanket and you’ve got at least six toes folded into the cool parts.”

“A much better Thanksgiving thought than your ego-pumping car, right?” asked the Soupster, temporarily triumphant.

“Right-o, buddy,” said Jake. “As a babe magnet, this warm blanket-candle-toe stuff slams that ole car right out of the ballpark! Thanks!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 7, 2020

Our Town – May 7, 2020

| Holidays, Mother's Day, Nicknames, Our Town | May 7, 2020

The Soupster learns it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

Originally published May 6, 2004

“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 settled his big frame across from 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 – May 9, 2019

Our Town – May 9, 2019

| Children, Holidays, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | May 9, 2019

The Soupster chats with one busy mom.

Originally published May 1, 2003

Connie’s three children scattered to the ice cream section of the store. Lugging an overflowing supermarket basket in the crook of her arm, she stopped at a display of high-priced garlic-stuffed Aegean olives where there happened to stand a Soupster.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he said, glancing toward the big freezers. “Your kids look happy.”

“They sure seem to be,” Connie nodded. “Strange, since I had them at work all morning painting the garden fence and all the porch railings.”

“Quite the day for it,” said the Soupster, this time doing the nodding.

And indeed, the Soupster’s pupils were just able to dilate again after a day of squinting at the nearly prehistoric sunshine of the morning. In Our Town, the infrequent Sun seems on rare days to have the quality of the Sun of an earlier Earth, before a protective atmospheric ozone layer had even formed. A sharp, almost painful amount of light, without the softening rain and clouds that usually roll their blanket over all.

“There’s such pressure to do things when the sun does come out,” he told Connie. “I mean you never know how long before you’re going to have the chance again.”

“Today was incredibly busy,” Connie said. “Woke up early. Saw the big yellow orb. Woke the kids. Fed them. Put them to work. Painting, painting, painting.”

“What was the rush?” asked the Soupster.

“Piano recital,” said Connie. “So – painted, painted, painted all morning. Then washed, washed, washed all three kids free of paint. Fed them again. Dressed them for the recital. Drove them to the recital. Soothed their stage fright. Listened attentively. Gave them a little critical, but 90 percent supportive feedback after they played.”

“Now you’re getting stuff to make dinner?”

“The ingredients,” Connie said. “The kids tell me `they’re’ going to cook me an `extra special’ Mother’s Day meal.”

“Which will end up twice as much work for you?” said the Soupster.

“You’re learning,” Connie laughed and punched the Soupster lightly on the bicep. He felt an overwhelming fondness for this hard-working Mom.

“Your kids don’t know your real Mother’s Day present was the piano recital?” said the Soupster as he bid his friend goodbye.

“Are you kidding, Soupster?” Connie said, pushing him away. “My Mother’s Day present was getting the fence painted!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 15, 2018

Our Town – November 15, 2018

| food, Holidays, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Thanksgiving | November 15, 2018

The Soupster groks that everybody is thankful for something.

Originally published November 18, 2010

Greta, aged two, drooled onto the sitting Soupster’s left calf as she clung to him. Across the tidy living room of his friend’s house, Brandon-the-pre-teen regarded the Soupster with a suspicious boredom.

“Nice of you all to invite me for Thanksgiving,” the Soupster told Brandon, who grunted.

The Soupster could hear clattering from the kitchen and the excited voices of Corey and Barb, the parents of Greta and “Don” as he liked to be called.

“Okay,” yelled Corey, who looked like George Clooney, but sounded like Gilbert Gottfried. “Thanksgiving feed bag in the deen-ing room!”

“When I heard you were planning on spending Thanksgiving alone, I said `This is a Crime Against Soup!’” Corey said, as the Soupster and the children gathered around the well-decorated table, with Greta lifted up into her high chair.

“Didn’t I say that, honey,” Corey yelled out, “That the Soupster spending Thanksgiving alone was a crime against soup?”

“You did indeed,” Barb called back.

Corey filled everyone’s glasses with cider, even Greta’s tippy cup. Then Barb appeared from the kitchen holding a platter. “Here’s the `bird,’” she said.

The Soupster stared at the item on the platter she placed in the middle of the table. It looked vaguely like a turkey, but there was no brown skin and the flesh was wrong.

“It’s fish!” said Barb and Greta called out “Fiss!”

“It’s Halmoncod,” corrected Corey, who pointed with his carving knife. “The white meat is halibut, the dark meat is salmon and the Parson’s nose is black cod.”

“The posterior,” explained Barb.

“But before we eat this Halmoncod, we should all say what we are thankful for,” Barb continued. “I’m thankful that the Soupster could be with us.”

“And I’m thankful that Barb let me do something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Corey. “Go to Freezing Man.”

“Freezing Man?” said the Soupster.

“Like Burning Man, except it’s on the tundra,” said Corey, evoking the weird tribal ritual and art show that occurs annually in the Nevada desert. “Instead of making a giant statue out of wood and then setting fire to it, like they do at Burning Man, we bring discarded car and truck tires from all over Alaska and make a giant bear statue. Then we wait for it to get cold enough to make the tires brittle and we pelt the giant bear with stones and sticks until it shatters.”

“I have to ask,” said the Soupster. “Sounds like it needs to be at least 50 degrees below zero to get the tires that brittle. But at Burning Man, a lot of people are naked.”

“At Freezing Man, too,” said Corey. Then he saw the Soupster’s astonished expression.

“Underneath our parkas, Soupster, underneath our parkas!” he said. “We’re not crazy.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 15, 2016

Our Town – December 15, 2016

| Christmas, Holidays, Our Town, Parody | December 15, 2016

ourtown_dec13_2012

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 17, 2015

Our Town – December 17, 2015

| Christmas, Holidays, Our Town, Parody, Songs | December 17, 2015

Our Town Yule Tunes

ourtown_12_17_15

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 8, 2015

Our Town – October 8, 2015

| Birthdays, Holidays, Our Town, Relationships | October 8, 2015

The Soupster learns there’s more than one kind of happiness.

The Soupster saw Linda Zapatos ahead on the downtown sidewalk near the Post Office. Seeing Linda always made the Soupster smile because her name, in Spanish, meant “pretty shoes.”

But it was Linda who wore the more noticeable smile today – a broad grin with a lot of teeth showing.

“Soupster,” called Linda.

“Pretty Shoester,” the Soupster answered.

Linda was a Pretty Shoester. She had delicate, feminine features – big eyes. Cupid’s bow lips. Wavy auburn hair. But her tough skin revealed she had weathered 20 years or more fishing with her husband.

“Why the devilish grin?” asked the Soupster. “Eat a canary?”

“It’s my husband, Eugene,” Linda said.  “He’s the best.” Linda poked the Soupster in the ribs. “Did you know that no matter how tired he is from fishing, my Gene always helps me with the housework.”

“A noble fellow,” agreed the Soupster.

“But that’s not why I’m happy,” said Linda.

“Do tell,” said the Soupster. “Did you make a new friend?”

“No, that’s my husband’s department, too,” said Linda. “I would be a lonely Betty if it wasn’t for that man. You know those kids who are always bringing home a stray puppy or kitten?”

“Uh, huh,” said the Soupster.

“Gene is like that. He can’t talk to somebody for five minutes without cooking up plans to get together. I won’t tell you all the times he’s bought folks home for dinner and I’d find out at the last minute and we’d run out of food. Now, I cook for an army every night and if Gene doesn’t come home with anybody, then we have leftovers for later in the week.”

“I like casseroles,” the Soupster said. “But doesn’t Gene cook? Didn’t he used to be a chef for the cruise ships?”

“And there’s the rub!” said Linda. “That man is an artist with a knife and a frying pan, but he will not cook for me! I beg him to cook for me and he says `Meh.’”

As Linda recounted this to the Soupster, her smile grew wider, Cheshire cat-wide.

“Only one day a year will  my Gene cook for me,” Linda said. “Once in a whole year. Only on my birthday.”

The Soupster couldn’t help notice her smile creeping wider still.

“Linda,” he blurted out, “you’re husband will only cook for you once a year? Then why are you so chipper?”

“Tonight’s the night!” Linda said and skipped off. “Tonight’s the night.”

The Soupster stood stunned as he did the mental math. “Oh, right,” he said, then called out, “Happy birthday!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 18, 2014

Our Town – December 18, 2014

| Christmas, Holidays, Our Town, Parody | December 18, 2014

Our Town versions of Christmas classics.

OurTownSongs2014

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 19, 2013

Our Town – December 19, 2013

| Christmas, Holidays, Our Town, Parody | December 19, 2013

Our Town versions of Christmas classics.

OurTownSongs2013

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 13, 2012

Our Town – December 13, 2012

| Christmas, Holidays, Our Town, Parody | December 13, 2012

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 15, 2011

Our Town – December 15, 2011

| Christmas, Holidays, Our Town, Parody | December 15, 2011

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 16, 2010

Our Town – December 16, 2010

| Christmas, Holidays, Music, Our Town, Songs | December 16, 2010

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 2, 2010

Our Town – December 2, 2010

| Dreams, Foreign Countries, History, Holidays, Our Town, Russia, Thanksgiving | December 2, 2010

Nochoy gorshok!”* the Soupster heard a man’s excited voice on the other side of the stout door saying. “Pazhalusta!”** Then came short, sharp knocks.

The Soupster looked around in a panic. Where was he? He was in a room where there was a short bed and a cabinet made of thick wood. He opened the door of the cabinet and it was empty, save for an old-style chamber pot.

The Soupster thought “What does this man want so badly? What is he saying?” The knocking continued. And somehow the Soupster knew he was in Alexander Baranof’s bedroom and the manager of all of Russian-America needed his chamber pot.

And then the Soupster was taken up in a swirl that reminded him of the part of the Wizard of Oz with Dorothy’s house in the tornado. When he got his bearings he was back in Our Town, only the whole place was overrun with American servicemen. The Soupster could see his sister up the street, surrounded by soldiers and sailors offering to place their coats over a puddle for her and there were more GIs and seamen than puddles.

A newspaper blowing down the street caught against the Soupster’s shin. He glimpsed  the date – September 20, 1942 – before the same wind that propelled the paper swept the Soupster in the same swirl as before and he ended up in the crater of a dormant volcano. Mt. Edgecumbe?

He looked up at the blue sky. A fine spring day. And the Soupster was just starting to think about which side to climb up to get out of the crater, when he was almost hit by one, then another, large vehicle tire.

The air was saturated with the insect drone of a helicopter. Another tire fell from it. The helicopter kicked up dust that became a swirl and again carried the Soupster, this time back to town, with pavement beneath his feet.

The Soupster was surrounded by people. And he and they all had something over their head. Some kind of shroud. The Soupster could see light coming in from the bottom of the shroud. Nearly everybody wore X-tra Tuffs. “Where are we?” he whispered to the women next to him in the dark.

“What do you mean `Where are we?’” she said. “You’re in the Whalefest life-size whale. How did you get here, anyway” she said, to what by that time was only thin air, because the swirl took the Soupster to…

… his friends Corey and Barb’s house for Thanksgiving. The Soupster sat at the dinner table as Barb piled his plate high with slices of halmoncod, the turkey-shaped fish dish made from halibut (white meat), salmon (dark meat) with a bit of black cod on the rump.

She gave him so much halmoncod that he had to beg to take most his portion home. “So I can savor it more when I am not so full,” he begged Barb, who relented as the swirl once again came for the Soupster and brought him back to his own bed.

The Soupster opened his eyes, ending the dream. He was definitely back at home and it was three weeks before Christmas. After finishing the last of the leftover halmoncod at nearly midnight, shoveling it into his mouth in front of a great old movie, of course he got indigestion!

Well, he was awake now. “Might as well use the nochoy gorshok.” He said out loud. “Now what does that mean?” he wondered.

* Russian for “chamber pot.  ** Russian for “please!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 18, 2010

Our Town – November 18, 2010

| Children, Fishing, Holidays, Nicknames, Our Town, Thanksgiving | November 18, 2010

Greta, aged two, drooled onto the sitting Soupster’s left calf as she clung to him. Across the tidy living room of his friend’s house, Brandon-the-pre-teen regarded the Soupster with a suspicious boredom.

“Nice of you all to invite me for Thanksgiving,” the Soupster told Brandon, who grunted.

The Soupster could hear clattering from the kitchen and the excited voices of Corey and Barb, the parents of Greta and “Don” as he liked to be called.

“Okay,” yelled Corey, who looked like George Clooney, but sounded like Gilbert Gottfried. “Thanksgiving feed bag in the deen-ing room!”

“When I heard you were planning on spending Thanksgiving alone, I said `This is a Crime Against Soup!’” Corey said, as the Soupster and the children gathered around the well-decorated table, with Greta lifted up into her high chair.

“Didn’t I say that, honey,” Corey yelled out, “That the Soupster spending Thanksgiving alone was a crime against soup?”

“You did indeed,” Barb called back.

Corey filled everyone’s glasses with cider, even Greta’s tippy cup. Then Barb appeared from the kitchen holding a platter. “Here’s the `bird,’” she said.

The Soupster stared at the item on the platter she placed in the middle of the table. It looked vaguely like a turkey, but there was no brown skin and the flesh was wrong.

“It’s fish!” said Barb and Greta called out “Fiss!”

“It’s Halmoncod,” corrected Corey, who pointed with his carving knife. “The white meat is halibut, the dark meat is salmon and the Parson’s nose is black cod.”

“The posterior,” explained Barb.

“But before we eat this Halmoncod, we should all say what we are thankful for,” Barb continued. “I’m thankful that the Soupster could be with us.”

“And I’m thankful that Barb let me do something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Corey. “Go to Freezing Man.”

“Freezing Man?” said the Soupster.

“Like Burning Man, except it’s on the tundra,” said Corey, evoking the weird tribal ritual and art show that occurs annually in the Nevada desert. “Instead of making a giant statue out of wood and then setting fire to it, like they do at Burning Man, we bring discarded car and truck tires from all over Alaska and make a giant bear statue. Then we wait for it to get cold enough to make the tires brittle and we pelt the giant bear with stones and sticks until it shatters.”

“I have to ask,” said the Soupster. “Sounds like it needs to be at least 50 degrees below zero to get the tires that brittle. But at Burning Man, a lot of people are naked.”

“At Freezing Man, too,” said Corey. Then he saw the Soupster’s astonished expression.

“Underneath our parkas, Soupster, underneath our parkas!” he said. “We’re not crazy.”

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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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