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Comments Off on Our Town – October 19, 2017

Our Town – October 19, 2017

| Children, Money, Our Town | October 19, 2017

The Soupster recounts that there are three ways to skin a Permanent Fund.

“I’m going to become a parent,” Mick said to the Soupster as both met up outside a Lincoln St. bank. “And I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems and responsibilities of raising kids. I don’t think I’ll have any problem with religion, issues of brotherhood or with kids and crime – I know right where I stand and I know what I’m going to say. But how to deal with my kid’s Permanent Fund Dividend? That totally mystifies me.”

“I mean, it’ll be the kid’s money, won’t it?” he continued. “But it’s a lot of money for anyone to manage well, let alone a kid. A parent has to have a plan. What do you think?”

“Well,” said the Soupster, “There was this one family — despite the fact that they’re not rich, they put every PFD dollar for the kid into mutual funds. During the go-go 90’s. The family had some awful expenses, but they never, ever touched the kid’s PFD. When she was 18, the family had a big pile of money saved up for her and she ended up starting a rug business in Wrangell where her favorite Auntie lives. She’s doing very well there.”

“Sounds great,” said Mick. “But what if her family really got in a hole and they were going to lose their house or if somebody got really sick?”

“Well,” said the Soupster. “I know another family. Every PFD the kid’s whole life went into paying for the continuing, everyday expenses of the family. With the PFDs and everything else, the father was able to get his college degree from distance learning. The mother took a year off to volunteer for her church in South America, which was her lifelong dream. When college came around for the kid, there was no money, but everybody pulled together and now both father and son have their degrees.”

“I don’t think I could do that,” said Mick. “I’ll want to make absolutely sure my kid has a leg up. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to take chances with such a valuable resource.”

“Well,” said the Soupster. “Then maybe this family’s story will help. I mean I’m not endorsing this, but this family just handed the cash over to their kid and let her do anything she wanted with it. From when she was about six years old on, anything that got into this kid’s head, she was able to finance. This is when the PFDs were $1,200 and $1,500 a check. One year this kid bought more than 100 stuffed animals, one for everyone in her grade. Another year, she spent her whole thing at Save the Children. She sent her parents on a cruise ship cruise and when her neighbors said they’d love to do the same, the kid sent them on a cruise the following year.”

“Well, I hope you don’t endorse that, Soupster,” said Mick. “What a wasted opportunity and a reckless plan for handling that poor child’s money. A poor investment in the future.”

“Well, I don’t know,” the Soupster. “That kid is now making a fortune designing fantasy-based video games in Seattle. And she just bought her parents a new boat!”

83 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – May 5, 2016

Our Town – May 5, 2016

| Money, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships | May 5, 2016

The Soupster encounters an old saying in real life.

Standing in the line at the bank, the Soupster watched the lone teller, who was taking a few minutes straightening out some thorny issue with Cary Russ. So, to pass the time, the Soupster nudged Spring Ford, who was standing in line, too.

“Hey, Spring,” he whispered. “High finance, huh?” he pointed his chin at the counter, where the teller and Cary were still murmuring in a huddle. The Soupster could only make out a couple of words — “identity” and “authorization.”

“Complicated negotiations,” said the Soupster, who was in an impatient mood. “Hope it’s not identity theft.”

“Oh, I was on the wrong end of some identity theft a few years back,” Spring said. “The credit card company called to ask me if I had made any purchases in Hungary. My card people straightened it all out and it didn’t cost me a penny.”

“But if they hadn’t,” she pointed at the counter, “there, but for the Grace of God, go I. Or, would’ve gone I.”

The Soupster peered sadly at Cary, assuming the worst. But Cary, standing straight, didn’t look like the victim of anything.

Spring started speaking again. “It’s ancient history now, but when I divorced my first husband there were financial complications. All of the money and property was intertwined and it took our Houdini of a bookkeeper to figure it all out.”

“A big mess, huh?” the Soupster commiserated.

“But you know, Soupster,” she said, “we weren’t really mad at each other. Lawrence was a reasonable guy. When I would listen to some of my divorced friends, I heard nightmare after nightmare story about them or their former partners making things impossibly difficult. Things that should have been easy.

“I’d hear their stories and I always thought, `there, but for the Grace of God, go I.’”

As if on cue, a satisfied growl emanated from Cary Russ at the bank counter. He slapped the teller a high five and turned with an ear-to-ear grin.

“It’s been transferred – my inheritance,” Cary told the Soupster and Spring. “I didn’t want to celebrate until the money was in the bank. My Aunt Doris. You’re the first people I’ve told.”

“How much did you inherit?” asked Spring.

“Too much!” Cary laughed. “Much too much!” He flew out of the bank, almost literally.

The Soupster looked down at the bank statement in his hand, with its meager sums. He stared wistfully in the direction of Cary’s exit.

“There,” he told Spring, “but for the Wrath of God, go I.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 22, 2015

Our Town – October 22, 2015

| Children, Money, Our Town | October 22, 2015

The Soupster recounts strategies for dealing with an annual financial windfall.

Originally published October 20, 2005

“I’m going to become a parent,” Mick said to the Soupster as both met up outside a Lincoln St. bank. “And I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems and responsibilities of raising kids. I don’t think I’ll have any problem with religion, issues of brotherhood or with kids and crime – I know right where I stand and I know what I’m going to say. But how to deal with my kid’s Permanent Fund Dividend? That totally mystifies me.”

“I mean, it’ll be the kid’s money, won’t it?” he continued. “But it’s a lot of money for anyone to manage well, let alone a kid. A parent has to have a plan. What do you think?”

“Well,” said the Soupster, “There was this one family — despite the fact that they’re not rich, they put every PFD dollar for the kid into mutual funds. During the go-go 90’s. The family had some awful expenses, but they never, ever touched the kid’s PFD. When she was 18, the family had a big pile of money saved up for her and she ended up starting a rug business in Wrangell where her favorite Auntie lives. She’s doing very well there.”

“Sounds great,” said Mick. “But what if her family really got in a hole and they were going to lose their house or if somebody got really sick?”

“Well,” said the Soupster. “I know another family. Every PFD the kid’s whole life went into paying for the continuing, everyday expenses of the family. With the PFDs and everything else, the father was able to get his college degree from distance learning. The mother took a year off to volunteer for her church in South America, which was her lifelong dream. When college came around for the kid, there was no money, but everybody pulled together and now both father and son have their degrees.”

“I don’t think I could do that,” said Mick. “I’ll want to make absolutely sure my kid has a leg up, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to take chances with such a valuable resource.”

“Well,” said the Soupster. “Then maybe this family’s story will help. I mean I’m not endorsing this, but this family just handed the cash over to their kid and let her do anything she wanted with it. From when she was about six years old on, anything that got into this kid’s head, she was able to finance. This is when the PFDs were $1,200 and $1,500 a check. One year this kid bought more than 100 stuffed animals, one for everyone in her grade. Another year, she spent her whole thing at Save the Children. She sent her parents on a cruise ship cruise and when her neighbors said they’d love to do the same, the kid sent them on a cruise the following year.”

“Well, I hope you don’t endorse that, Soupster,” said Mick. “What a wasted opportunity and a reckless plan for handling that poor child’s money. A poor investment in the future.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the Soupster. “That kid is now making a fortune designing fantasy-based video games in Seattle. And she just bought her parents a new boat!”

575 total views, 0 today

Comments Off on Our Town – July 16, 2015

Our Town – July 16, 2015

| Money, Our Town, Shopping, Small Town Stuff | July 16, 2015

The Soupster compares consumer choices.

Garth McGregor was a big guy, but looked strained carrying the enormous box on his shoulder. A sheen on Bart’s skin indicated a relative rarity in Our Town – sweating outside.

The Soupster held the door from the post office for the bigger man and then followed him to his truck.

“Can I get the truck door for you, Garth?” the Soupster asked.

“Thanks, Soupster,” Garth said.

Garth drove a white pickup with a crew cab and wanted to put the box on the rear seat. He grunted as he did so.

“It’s a big microwave oven I just ordered online,” Garth said. “One heavy puppy.”

“Was it a special model?” the Soupster said. “Did you look at any of the stores in Our Town? You know, ‘Buy Local’?”

“I know, I know,” said Garth. “But I was reheating some haggis my brother sent me in the middle of this great BBC penguin thing I was watching on my e-reader and the microwave burned out. Just died.”

“Wow,” said the Soupster.

“No, the haggis was still delicious, even lukewarm,” said Garth. “But, like a zombie, without even thinking, I ordered another one on the e-reader.”

“This microwave is a nice unit,” Garth continued. “But I didn’t realize it was so big and heavy. I could’ve gotten a smaller one. I’m not looking forward to lugging this up the goat trail to my house.”

The Soupster noted the model number of the microwave and asked Garth the price.  Garth told him and the Soupster wished his friend “Warm Haggis!” as Garth drove off.

“Warm haggis,” the Soupster thought, which led to another thought and then another thought until a new thought surfaced in his mind as “I need a new fluorescent bulb for my office lamp.”

At the hardware store, the Soupster was again pressed into service as a doorman. Lottie Brandywine came striding out the entrance with her usual confident commandeering of space. She was followed by a tall young man with his long arms around a big box.

As the young man passed, the Soupster noticed the item was a microwave oven, pretty much the same model that Garth had tussled with a half hour before.  He followed the young man, who followed Lottie.

Lottie popped the hatch of her car with a handheld device, instructed the young man to put the box in there and thanked him.

The Soupster sidled up and greeted Lottie.

“New microwave?” he asked.

“Aren’t we nosy,” she answered.

“Well, I just saw Garth McGregor lugging a similar microwave at the post office.”

“Oh, yeah? What did he pay?” Lottie asked. When the Soupster told her, she smiled. “I paid $8.96 more.  And I didn’t have to lug it anywhere.”

“Buy Local,” the Soupster said.

“Bye, bye,” said Lottie.

716 total views, 0 today

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 – April 11, 2013

Our Town – April 11, 2013

| Craftsman, Jobs, Money, Our Town, Work | April 11, 2013

The Soupster contemplates the future.

The Soupster sipped a frothy, fizzy, pinkish punch from a clear plastic cup. He and the friends who surrounded him raised their plastic cups to wish the best to Glenn the plumber, who was finally retiring.

One would think a man who had spent nearly 50 years with half his body crammed under a damp sink might be a little stiff in the joints, but not Glenn. Delighted that so many of his friends had come to see him “off,” Glenn flitted effortlessly from one to next like a honeybee intoxicated by a field of flowers.

The only person the Soupster trusted more with his pipes than Glenn was the Soupster’s former gastroenterologist, Dr. Berra. And Glenn was a close second. Over the decades that Glenn had kept the water flowing at Chez Soupster, he had dealt with exploding pipes, leaky water heaters and, worst of all, really, really rusty bolts holding the broken toilet seat on. And he had done so as cheerfully as he now visited with his guests.

“Gonna miss Glenn,” thought the Soupster, “like I miss Dr. Berra,“ who had retired to Gig Harbor the previous year.

A lot of the people in the room were customer-friends of Glenn’s, and a large portion of them practiced other trades. For “birds of a feather” reasons, many of them were near retirement age themselves.

The Soupster did a quick head count and realized with a start that he might soon be losing Burt, his auto mechanic, his dentist Linda, his bartender Tracey, and Big Leon — who could fix anything. And that was only the people in the room!

It’s common knowledge that people don’t seem older to themselves – that they feel like they’ve always been the same person inside. Seeing the people around you get older can be more profound, especially if they perform a vital function. Who’s going to fill your cavity or mix your martini?

The Soupster admitted that he felt some vertigo every time he dealt with an especially competent professional who was young enough to be his son, or worse. Once, pulled over for having expired plates, the Soupster got out of the car with all the confidence of an older and wiser man ready to forgive the impetuous youngster, except that the officer was right. The old Soupster’s embarrassment was punishment enough, evidently, because he was let go with a warning.

In Our Town, the Soupster sometimes got the double dizzies when dealing with an authority figure he remembered as a little kid. The banker who signed the Soupster’s loan was the same kid the Soupster saw win a Hoop Shoot in the 1980’s.

Glenn’s daughter had brought her small children to the party and a few of their friends had tagged along. The Soupster looked them over and wondered which of the little people might morph into authority figures of the future.

Would any of them shoot for the moon someday? Would any of them walk on the moon someday?

A plump, fresh faced three-year-old waddled up to the Soupster. “I want to be an astronaut!” she said.

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 1, 2012

Our Town – November 1, 2012

| Couples, Jobs, Money, Our Town, Relationships | October 31, 2012

Only 25 and Tim felt he was in a whole second life. He, alone, had to take care of 16-month-old Hazel as a single Dad for the next three days. Three days could be 30 diapers that would need changing. Could be more than 30. He shuddered.

That morning, Tim’s wife Gretchen left town on business. There was no question but that she should go – even if that meant leaving Tim with the baby. Gretchen had the real job with real pay and good benefits– she had to dress up, travel on business and make sure she had an admired cell phone model (she was in tech).

When they were first married and Gretchen was in school, Tim had the job and there was no baby – that’s what he now thought of as his first life. Back then, Tim had a retail gig, which was fine and paid okay, as long as it was just Tim and Gretchen. No benefits, but they were healthy. Tim would have preferred working outside building things, but retail was fine. Until the store closed.

For a while Tim felt sorry for himself. Gretchen felt sorry for him, too. It was she who suggested he take some construction training and raise the whole family up another economic notch. Hazel generated a lot of bills and whole slew of new worries.  And she generated a lot of dirty diapers that needed changing.

After Tim graduated from the training program, he put the word out with friends and filled out applications all over Our Town. But there were no jobs for him that were outside and involved building things. Tim had really liked the idea of moving the family up a notch. But they were stuck in the same notch.

Tim had even complained to the Soupster a day earlier, as the two chatted while waiting for milkshakes. The Soupster agreed that Gretchen had to go and leave Hazel with Tim. Normally an angelic child, Hazel had decided to test her father’s mettle the minute Gretchen’s plane took off skyward.

A list too long to make (and who wants to castigate an innocent child?) but Hazel’s transgressions were many. Tim felt himself losing his grip on his second life. He also was losing his grip on a seriously soiled diaper. The phone rang. Cindy at the placement office for the training program said there was a big project coming up that would require a lot of people who liked building things outside. The employer had Tim’s resume and the program’s recommendation, and Tim should expect a phone call from the employer shortly.

This was a notch-raising opportunity.

Tim celebrated by opening a brand new package of baby wipes. Hazel picked up the vibe and stopped being such a little poop. Gretchen would be home before long. Hooray, second life!

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 23, 2012

Our Town – August 23, 2012

| Jobs, Money, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 22, 2012

After enduring a somewhat sketch marriage in her twenties, 34-year-old Annie was basically glad she had the romantic gumption to follow her heart and a charismatic fisherman to Our Town. But it gnawed at her that she had left a job as a retail store manager and could not find the equivalent employment here. Especially after the fisherman moved on — after different fish, she surmised.

To Annie, becoming a saleswoman again after so many years as a manager felt even worse than the simple demotion it was. Worse still was the cut in her pay. Our Town certainly didn’t feel any cheaper than where Annie had moved from. But in Our Town she had about a third less to make do with.

Bemoaning her fate is where the Soupster had expected to find his friend when he stopped by to pick up some flower bulbs that she was giving away. It was typical of Annie to be generous.

The Soupster smiled at the thought of generosity of so many people in Our Town. There was no better reason to be wealthy, the Soupster thought, than to be able to be generous with your time or your money. And here was Annie, struggling, yet using her time to give away her precious bulbs.

There are those who come to Our Town to take high-level jobs and, for them, financial discomfort may not be an issue. Others come for the mountains and the clean air (or a fisherman!) and cobble together several jobs to survive.

But that’s just money, the Soupster thought. A lot of life comes from family, friends, tradition, and belief – not to mention a good subsistence halibut or three. There was little sadder, the Soupster thought, than the old miser alone with his stacks of gold coins. And little more triumphant than someone thriving on modest means, surrounded by life and love.

And just as the Soupster had that thought, he looked up to see Annie’s face filled with life and love. She stood in her doorway beaming.

“Soupster,” she cried out, loud enough to startle a crow, “My manager decided just this week that she wants to move back to Idaho to be nearer her parents. The Assistant Manager’s boyfriend is being transferred to New Orleans and she’s going with him. So guess who’s going to be the new manager?”

1041 total views, 0 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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