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Comments Off on Our Town – June 17, 2010

Our Town – June 17, 2010

| Children, Computers, Cruise Ships, Our Town, Tourists | June 17, 2010

Originally Published June 13, 2002

The cruise ship throngs were only recently gone when the Soupster stepped in to the art gallery to see if Gwendoline has survived the latest human deluge.

“I’ll be with you in a minute,” said a voice from the back room. Although the voice sounded like Gwen’s, its timber contained notes of urgency and annoyance, things the Soupster knew Gwen to be free of.

Gwen was the slowest to anger person the Soupster had ever encountered. But once truly angry, she was extremely tough to cool down.

The Soupster stuck his head into the gallery’s rear lair, where some of the stock was kept and computers were programmed to keep all the records of shipping, billing and to keep track of the inventory. In front of a computer monitor was where Gwen sat, her head sunk deeply in her hands. “The only thing more stressful than computer problems was checking for floating log deadheads at night, when I had the boat,” she moaned.

“What’s going on?” the Soupster asked innocently, only to be confronted by a red-faced Gwen who leaped up from her seat and grabbed him by the lapels.

“Whosoever creates these computer viruses are an abomination,” Gwen thundered. “If there was something worse than capital punishment…”

“You have a computer virus?”

“The Klooze!” she shouted. “The insidious, terrible, rotten and really, really bad Klooze virus!”

“Goodness,” said the Soupster. He had read about the Klooze How this computer program entered systems as an ordinary e-mail attachment. Klooze then disabled the anti-virus programs on the computer in order to do its evil work in peace. Then and only then, Klooze devoured the computer’s entire hard drive and everything on it. Byte by byte.

“I don’t what to do,” Gwen wailed pitifully.

“Perhaps I can help,” said someone with a high voice. A young boy came into the room, holding an armful of the daily newspapers he had been selling to passers by just before entering the store. In fact, he had entered in the first place to sell papers.

“Klooze sucks,” commiserated the kid. “But I got it out of Dad’s computer and I know how to do it now.” He pointed at the chair in front of the computer. “May I?” he asked.

Gwen nodded mightily and said sputtered several dozen versions of “Yes.”

“This is an awesome gallery,” the kid said, as his fingers flew over the keyboard. A long, long list of program files scrolled across the screen and then suddenly stopped. “See – here’s Klooze,” said the kid. “Bye, bad, bad virus.”

The kid swivelled the chair. “The virus is gone, but you’re going to have to let the diagnostics run for about an hour. Then the computer will tell you if you need to reformat or not. Have you ever re-formatted your hard drive and re-installed the operating system?”

“Yes,” said a still shocked Gwen, looking at the small figure at her desk with wonder and admiration. The Soupster squeezed her arm. “Re-installing everything took forever,” Gwen said to the kid. “But I can do it.”

“Good,” said the kid, rising from the swivel chair. “Tomorrow I have Little League after I sell my papers, but I’ll try to stop by in between and see how you are doing. Want a paper?”

“I’ll take five… uh, seven!” said Gwen. When the kid left, Gwen turned smiling to the Soupster.

“Who was that masked man?” the Soupster asked her.

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 3, 2010

Our Town – June 3, 2010

| Gardening, Guest Written, Neighbors, Relationships, Rose Manning | June 3, 2010

Neighbor Tom and I strolled down Main Street in one of those constant sunbeams that sometimes envelops Our Town.

“What a day, Soupster!”

“Yes, indeed, Tom, it is special.”

“Soupster, have you noticed Our Town seems to be in a growing epidemic?”

“What, Tom? Epidemic? Are you saying we are diseased?”

“No, Soupster, not that kind of epidemic — a growing epidemic.”

“Oh! Are you referring to those ten pounds everyone seems to gather during Our Town’s dark spell?”

“No! No! I mean growing, growing!”

“More population, Tom? I am puzzled. I thought we were declining slightly.”

“Soupster, can’t you hear? I am obviously not making myself clear. I said ‘growing.’ You know — peas and potatoes, carrots and kale, radishes and rutabagas, food and flowers and I don’t know what all.”

“Oh! You mean gardening.”

“Yes.”

”Sure enough, Tom, I am even thinking of planting a small patch or pot of greenery myself. How about you? Has the ‘grow your own bug’ bitten you yet?”

“Yes, I’ve been thinking about it…but, Soupster, it seems like there are two types of gardeners here. There are the Master Gardeners and the Disaster Gardeners. My neighbor Joanie to the north is a master, complete with a certificate to prove it, and she has a spectacular vegetable spread. She puts crops in their raised beds at the correct time, starting early with the cold weather types and moving to the more delicate species. In May they all get a nice white blanket for two weeks to keep the root maggots at bay and she circles the whole garden perimeter with clever pop bottle slug traps she makes herself.

“And the other type, Tom?”

“Well, Soupster, that would be my neighbor Kurt to the south. He is the ‘disaster’ gardener. He planted his garden in a rubble patch and when he weeded out everything he didn’t recognize, he ended up with a great crop of horsetails. Not a pretty picture.”

“Hey, Tom, come on — what do you say we take a look at the new environmentally correct seed packets, dirt and natural fertilizer and then sign up for a table at the fabulous new Farmer’s Market?”

“Okay, but I will pass on the natural fertilizer. After all, I am just a beginner.”

– Submitted by Rose Manning

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 20, 2010

Our Town – May 20, 2010

| Finland, Foreign Countries, Marriage, Relationships | May 20, 2010

“We always meet in the middle,” Jan-Erik told the Soupster, as the two waited at the soda fountain for milk shakes. “That’s the secret to my marriage. Me and Dolly, always in the middle.”

“You two do seem happy,” the Soupster conceded.

“Well, don’t say that like it is a foul thing,” laughed Jan-Erik.

A group of eight or so boarding school students studying here from way north of Our Town pressed by the Soupster. He and Jan-Erik and murmured to each other as they pored over the menu and chose shakes and sundaes. Nodding at the small, but growing crowd, the two men shot each other looks that said “I’m glad my order is already in.”

As far as the students hailed from, it was not as far as Jan-Erik Lajunen, who in his 20’s  moved to Our Town all the way from Finland. A handyman at first, he stepped into the historic role of carpenter, then home builder – as other Finns had plied their trade to the Russians long ago. Jan-Erik was intensely interested in the downtown street Finn Alley and would walk its short (and one-way) length seeing if he could pick up any vibrations from the past.

Dolly was born in Our Town – that is, Dalisay Bahaghari was. Everybody called her Dolly, except her parents. Mr. and Mrs Bahaghari, very traditional, had insisted that for the wedding Jan-Erik wear a barong Tagalog, a Filipino dress shirt that was worn untucked. At the nuptials, Jan-Eriks red-blonde hair on his long neck sticking out of the barong’s low collar gave the impression of a nervous rooster.

“How’s the latest project?” the Soupster asked.

“Four new houses out toward the old mill site,”’ said Jan-Erik. “The new California yogurt kingpin wanted a big house out there. I decided building four was as easy as building one in some ways.”

“Like repeating yourself four times,” said the Soupster.

“Not exactly,” said Jan-Erik. “The three others are quite a bit smaller.”

“I decided the name of the road,” he continued. “I chose Dailsay Court, after Dolly. Her name means `Pure’ in Tagalog. Dolly wanted to name the street Bahaghari Court, which means `Rainbow.’ I thought `Pure Rainbow Court’ was too much name. We met in the middle.”

“The secret of your marriage?”

“Yes,” Jan-Erik said. “Her family is from the Philippines and mine’s from Finland. We’ve been meeting in the middle from the moment we met.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 6, 2010

Our Town – May 6, 2010

| Animals, Birds, Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Relationships | May 6, 2010

The Soupster awoke to the sound of birds – early birds. He heard a number of cars pull into the neighborhood and park in the street. The engines stopped and car doors creaked open. Next came the cawing of excited squawks and warbling calls, as the early birds recognized each other and descended on their destination.

“Lydia’s Moving Sale!” The Soupster’s eyes popped open and he leaped from his bed.

His beloved long-time neighbor, Lydia, was re-locating to Hawaii to be with her son and his family. They had already remodeled the lanai into an apartment. Lydia’s daughter-in-law had come into a sizable inheritance, so her son had closed up his not-so-successful Our Town nautical pest extermination business (“Swimming Rats Our Specialty”). Having misjudged their opportunities in the 49th State, the son and the wife decided to give the 50th  a whirl.

The Soupster quickly donned his clothes – grateful for the new 21st Century rule that American and European men no longer need to comb their hair. He hurried over to Lydia’s.

His neighbor’s modest home was overrun with early birds. But of course! For Lydia had had the temerity to put an ad in the previous evening’s newspaper: “Aloha Moving Sale! Everything must go! Items free or you set the price. 9am-1pm. No early birds.”

Nothing inflamed an early bird’s lust for cheap but serviceable household items like those last three words. “No early birds?” he thought. “Really, Lydia?” He looked at his watch. It was just past 8:30.

At the front door, Lydia was negotiating with one of the early birds, who held a DVD player and a lamp. The early bird held cash, but Lydia pushed his hand back. “It’s okay to take them for free,” she insisted.

“I’m sure you could use the money,” said the bird, placing a $50 bill in her hand and hurrying out the door.

“It’s been like this,” said Lydia, acknowledging the Soupster. “I tell them they can have the stuff for free. I must look pitiful or something, because they keep forcing me to take money.”

“Why don’t you want to take money?”

“I feel like I should pay them,” said Lydia. “To take this stuff away. You know how much you accumulate in 30 years? I was going to take everything to the White Elephant store, but do you know how many trips that would have made? This way the buyers come right to me. Cuts out the middleman.”

Lydia turned her attention to a bird holding a sewing basket, a Mr. Coffee and two tin buckets. More early birds arrived as the Soupster surveyed the scene. Lydia’s household was being demolished peck by peck, as surely as ravens worrying a dead salmon.

But Lydia seemed happy, the Soupster surmised. “Hey Lydia, what are you going to spend all this unexpected money on?” he asked.

“Oh, it all goes to the White E.,” said Lydia. “Do you know how much trouble this is saving me? By cutting out the middleman?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 22, 2010

Our Town – April 22, 2010

| Foreign Countries, Italy, Nicknames | April 22, 2010

De Spring has sprung, the Soupster sang, as he strolled downtown in the sunshine. “De grass is Riz.”

“I wonder where dem boidies is?” he continued to warble. “De little boid is on de wing.Ain’t dat upsoid? De little wing is on de boid!”

The Soupster chuckled to himself, but heard ahead of him in the direction he was walking, an angry voice.

“Don’t-a you worry about what we do-a next!” boomed the voice. “I tell-a you what-a to do!” The unmistakable voice of Napsograf Verlucci stopped the Soupster in his tracks.

Verlucci, who had come to Our Town from Naples as a young man wandering the world and had stayed. Over the years he became the go-to guy to get your house painted. Verlucci, known for his fabulous cooking (potluck lasagna), his strong voice (baritone) and being an expert in the repair of old typewriters (and adding machines). He could also repair shoes. With his vocation, he was truly an Italian Renaissance painter.

“This sunshine is just fantastic,” said a younger man’s voice (tenor). Verlucci’s helper, the Soupster surmised. He turned a corner and saw Verlucci and the helper up on two ladders.

“Don’t you worry about the sun-a-shine,” Verlucci said, as he worked. “A painter, he toil-a while the sun-a-shine. He play-a while the rain a-fall.”

“It’s got to be good to have sunny days to get our work done,” the Soupster heard the helper say as he neared.

“Work-a, she never ends!” shouted Verlucci, obviously not seeing the Soupster standing at the foot of his ladder. “Rain-a or a-shine-a, you got to learn to live!”

“Nappy!” called the Soupster, startling Verlucci. “Why are you giving this young man a hard time?”

“He just-a moved to Our-a Town, Soupster” Verlucci said. “I got to teach-a him the ropes!”

“Hi, Mr. Soupster,” said the helper.

“Nappy is a peculiar fellow with a peculiar way of doing things,” the Soupster told the helper, as Verlucci scowled. “Don’t take everything he says as 100 percent reliable.”

“I don’t-a think I like-a what you say, Soupster,” Verlucci growled, threatening to climb down the ladder.

“Oh, don’t worry about me, Mr. Soupster” said the helper brightly. “He reminds me of my father.”

“Well, actually, there is one more thing…” he said.

“What?” said the Soupster and Verlucci simultaneously.

“Nappy? Soupster?” said the helper. “What’s with you guys and your names?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 8, 2010

Our Town – April 8, 2010

| Ghosts, History, Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Relationships | April 8, 2010

The totem pole-lined paths through the woods of Sitka National Historical Park were silent, dark and deep. The Soupster strolled through an evening mist, alone.

This is the park’s 100th birthday, the Soupster remembered. While reaching 100 years old is the ultimate achievement for any human, 100 years for a mountain is a blink of its eye, if a mountain can be said to have eyes. A forest park must fall somewhere in the middle, the Soupster thought.

The shadows played with the Soupster’s vision. He thought he saw a person – dressed in furs and leather, with a fierce Raven battle helmet and face mask, carrying a blacksmith’s hammer – moving quickly between the shore and the screen of trees.

That’s K`alyaan, the Soupster thought. Katlian, who led the Tlingit fight against the Russians in this very spot in 1804. The Soupster remembered him from a famous painting. It was to commemorate the 1804 battle that the park was established in the first years of the 20th Century, becoming official in 1910. K’alyaan lived long after the battle – but not long enough to be running through the forest in 2010. A ghost? The Soupster wondered…

As if to answer his question, like a small gust of wind, a tall, friendly-looking guy with a mustache whooshed past. He juggled a camera the size of a small television, a tripod and a backpack full of photographic plates. He hurried in the same direction as K’alyaan. The Soupster could see through him to the trees and poles further down the trail.

That’s Elbridge Warren Merrill – E.W. Merrill, the Soupster marveled at the apparition. Served as the first, sort-of-official, superintendent of the new Historical Park and was instrumental in its formation. The Soupster had just seen some of Merrill’s fantastic photos in an exhibit gallery in the Visitor’s Center. There would be several more showings this summer of Merrill’s historical photographic art.

After glimpsing an ethereal, grandfatherly ghost of novelist James Michener ambling ahead, the Soupster stopped in his tracks. Michener lived near the park when he wrote his book “Alaska.” All three men – eh, ghosts, had been in the park while they lived.

The Soupster knew the park staff planned a big re-union this May for anybody who ever worked or volunteered  for “Totem Park” or the Bishop’s House over the years. Maybe these specters just arrived at the reunion too early.

The Soupster felt an itch and turned. His jaw dropped. Standing before the Soupster was a transparent iteration of his father’s late brother, Louis.

“Uncle Looey,” the Soupster blurted. “How can you be here?”

“Well,” said Lou, surprising the Soupster by speaking. “Your Aunt and I came up here on a cruise a while ago and we helped the park on a clean-up day.”

“You never told me.”

“Well, Nephew,” Uncle Lou said. “It was our Third Honeymoon and you and I always get into spats and then she takes your side.”

“And here I thought I was the bad one for not ever having you come and visit me here,” the Soupster said. “Not even once.”

“Well, look at it this way,” said a ghostly Uncle Lou. “I’m here now.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 25, 2010

Our Town – March 25, 2010

| Alaska Natives, Dreams, Fishing, Seasons, Spring | March 25, 2010

(Originally published March 22, 2007)

“Two hundred and forty-seven eggs, wreck `em,'” the waitress called to the short-order cook in the Soupster’s dream about Spring.

In his dream about Spring, the Soupster sat at a breakfast counter that hadn’t existed in Our Town for years. Two large dark-haired men sat on either side of him. Both men wore Tlingit regalia and eagerly tore into herring eggs, mounded into a large pile on a plate before each.

“Pass the soy sauce?” asked the man on the left and the Soupster, still dreaming, did.

“Eggs for you, Soupster?” asked the waitress, her hand on her hip.

“Uh, two, over easy,”

“Two eggs?” said the waitress, her eyebrows arching with disbelief. “Just two?”

The waitress looked over at the men, who, like her, tried to keep from laughing. “You want seal oil with your two eggs?” she said, collapsing in hysterics.

Next, the Soupster dreamed he walked through a park of totem poles and old-growth trees. The Soupster peered into the forest, where he could see figures moving. They were bunnies and chicks — more specifically, children dressed as bunnies and chicks — a score of them, bent over and peering under salmonberry bushes and behind spruce and hemlock trunks.

“I’ve found one!” a cute blue rabbit called out, pulling out from under a skunk cabbage a small hemlock bough covered with herring eggs died in different colors.

“Me, too,” called another youngster, this one dressed as a duckling, holding aloft a similar prize. Cries of success came from hither and yon.

At that moment, the two men from the restaurant reappeared and grabbed the Soupster by the arms. The Soupster’s body stiffened and the men held him parallel to the ground, as they would a plank of wood. They continued down the forest path, the Soupster strangely calm for someone who was being kidnapped. The men carried the Soupster down to the beach and placed him in a small, open boat. Then they rowed for a time.

Despite the unexpected recent turns of the Soupster’s life – or should he say “dream life” – he felt a calm from believing that all this strangeness was a good sign. A sign of something good. Something like Spring?

The Soupster could hear the men placing the oars back in the boat. They grabbed the Soupster, hoisted him up, tipped him over and plunged his head into the cold water. They held him there. In his dream, the Soupster had no sense of the amount of time he hung upside down in the water. Then someone jostled him. Four arms brought the Soupster up sputtering. His hair was filled with herring eggs, which poured, as well, down over his shoulders.

“Sorry, Soupster,” said the first of the two men from the boat and restaurant. “We thought you were a hemlock bough.”

“A real `egg head'” said the second man. “That’s the Soupster!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 11, 2010

Our Town – March 11, 2010

| Parody, Radio | March 11, 2010

The Soupster watched a small TV and read the daily paper. “I’m multi-tasking,” he said aloud, although he sat at his kitchen table alone.

On the TV screen, a sporting event was taking place that seemed to involve pushing a large smooth stone down an ice-covered lane to land at a certain spot on a target. He heard the announcer say: “Hurling.”

“Curling,” the Soupster thought.

His eyes lit on an item in the paper for a local fundraising auction. There were four items going on the block. The group made good money every year hawking really creative and locally-oriented prizes.

1,000 Free Coffees,” read the description of the first item in the paper. “A generous patron has donated 1,000 free coffees accumulated on his punch card while drinking 10,000 cups in a single Sitka establishment. He’s trying to cut down and is jittery about his chances. He’s also jittery whether anyone will bid enough to make him not embarrassed in front of the other donors. Actually, he’s just jittery.”

The Soupster knew from whence the generous patron came and decided to pass on #1.

“This is a cutthroat Hurling match,” the Soupster heard the TV sportscaster say. “One of these teams is going to have to reach into their very guts to pull this out.” He sounded excited, but when the Soupster looked up he saw the same slow motion game, although he noticed some guys with little brooms furiously brushing the ice to slow the sliding stone. “Curling,” he harrumphed.

“Encounter with Your Adolescent,” he read, in the second auction item. “Think your teen may be a wild animal? Now you can find out for sure! Famed naturalist Nelson Richards will perform a full taxonomical analysis on your offspring, comparing similarities of its bizarre feeding and hibernation patterns and bonding rituals to those of a wide variety of other critters you’ve already learned to appreciate.”

The Soupster knew more than one friend who was probably going to bid on that one. He moved on to #3,

Scroll Down Memory Lane with the Geezer Geek Squad,” #3 read. “Men and women who remember 8-track tapes will descend en mass on your home-office, sewing room or Man Cave and remove such confusing items as connections to the Internet, spacious hard drives – even anti-virus software! Sure to leave you smiling at your new 8-inch monochrome monitor as you play Missile Command and Pong with MS-DOS keyboard commands.”

The thought was oddly not unpleasant. In #4 the Soupster read:

“Make `The Deadliest Catch’ personal — Be cast in the coveted role of `Hand Troll Assistant.’ You won’t be able to escape (or forget) your week-long nautical performance! Learn scupper-sucking, bilge-sniffing and puncture wound care from an expert. Your dinner will look back at you as you enjoy healthy, wild Alaska king salmon heads, tails, fins and bones at every meal!”

“I’m not to going to fall for that one again,” the Soupster thought, feeling an imaginary piece of salmon skin stuck in his teeth. Then the TV sportscaster began yelling. “This is it! This is for the championship!”

The Soupster looked up from the paper and at first things seemed the same. The stone slid down the ice, the men with the brooms brushed furiously. But then one of them, then the other, leaned forward and upchucked onto the ice, successfully slowing the sliding stone.

“Now that’s Hurling!” screamed the ecstatic sportscaster. “That is Huuurrrllling!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 25, 2010

Our Town – February 25, 2010

| Guest Written, Lower 48, Rose Manning, Shopping | February 25, 2010

Munching cookies and waiting in line at one of his favorite downtown banks, the Soupster saw his old neighbor Kurt.

“Kurt, are those new duds you are wearing?” inquired the Soupster, eyeing his friend’s bright pink-and-green flowered shirt and yellow cotton slacks.

“Well, yes, Soupster, they are new, but how could you tell?”

“They don’t look exactly like your usual Sitka clothes. They are not quite as dark.”

“Yes, I suppose that is true. That is pretty observant of you, Soupster.”

“Are you alright, Kurt? Your eyes seem a bit glazed.”

“Oh, I am just fine. I am just having a little trouble adjusting to the quiet beauty and peace of Our Town. But thanks for asking.”

“You have been away then – I didn’t think I saw you at the local watering hole lately.”

“I have been in the land of abundant sunshine and eternal spring.”

“Oh, so you visited America and did a bit of shopping, right?”

“Yes, Soupster, I did indeed. I was overcome by the bright lights, the 70%-off marketing madness, the rushing to and fro, and especially by the traffic, even though I never saw a single roundabout. I was so taken with the quantity and infinite variety of apparel that I won’t need to shop for at least a year. I think I might even give shopping up for Lent this year.”

“I guess that trip would explain your brightly colored clothes. Did you get a chance to visit any of America’s monuments or tourist attractions while you were away?”

“I sure did. I went to Dillard’s, Macy’s Nordstrom’s, Target, R.E.I., Penney’s, Lowe’s, Whole Foods, T.J. Maxx and many more.  Soupster, can you believe that one store had one full floor of handbags?? There were tiny little jewel-encrusted envelopes and huge, feed-the-horse-oat-bag- sized things in neon colors. It looked like a flower garden. One store had the most amazing home hardware selection–I still dream about it!”

“Tell me, how does it feel to be back?”

“Just wonderful, especially the quiet, but I am excited to see that there is a new store coming to Our Town’s main street. I can’t wait for the Grand Opening.”

“My friend, I thought you were in Shopping-excess Recovery.”

– Submitted by Rose Manning

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 11, 2010

Our Town – February 11, 2010

| Canada, Foreign Countries, Weather | February 11, 2010

“I like living in Our Town,” said the Knik Canuck — who previously hailed from Vancouver and Anchorage. “I like it plenty – A to Zed.” He and the Soupster had met up on Lincoln Street earlier and strolled together, heading east.

“Zed?” said an incredulous Soupster. “Don’t you mean zee? A to Zee?”

“You say toe-may-toe and I say toe-mah-toe,” said Knik. “Canadians say zed and Americans say zee. Same thing, really. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

“Even a Sitka Rose?” asked the Soupster.

“Especially a Sitka Rose,” said the Canuck,

A warm headwind down Lincoln Street swept by both men.

“While the Eastern and Western U.S. is battered with storms, we never seem to get cold anymore,” said the Soupster. “Even on sunny days.”

“It’s been so eerily warm this winter,” Knik said. “Wonder what kind of summer, we’re going to have?”

“Wet and grey,” said the Soupster, “Based on my years of observation. Cold winter, warm summer. So, warm winter, cool summer. That’s the process.”

“Aha!” said the Knik Canuck. “You said `prah-cess.’ The word is pro-cess. Like, `progolfers know less or “show ponies can make a mess.”

“You Canadians speak in riddles,” the Soupster announced.

“I’m just tired of 3 to 7 degrees, day after boring day,” said the Knik Canuck. “I’d give anything for it to hit Minus 15 – now that would be the ticket for a good crisp winter day!”

The Soupster was dumbfounded until his brain lit up with the word “Celsius.” He mentally translated to Fahrenheit: 37 to 45 degrees, and 5 degrees above.

“Just so it gets to be freezing, at least once more,” said the Soupster. “Thirty two degrees Fahrenheit.”

“You mean zero,” said the Knik Canuck. “Freezing is zero degrees Celsius.”

“Don’t start that again,” begged the Soupster.

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 17, 2009

Our Town – December 17, 2009

| Christmas, Fishing, Holidays, Music, Parody, Rain, Songs, Weather | December 17, 2009

Let It Rain
(Sung to the Tune of “Let It Snow”)

Oh, the weather is very snotty.
It belongs right in the potty.
We’ve no need to complain.
Let it rain, Let it rain, Let it rain.

Oh, the Yule is oft pictured frigid,
But we mustn’, get too rigid.
It’s not so much of a pain.
Let it rain, Let it rain, Let it rain.

When we finally get dried out,
In our sweet little burg by the sea,
There’s no need to fly way Down South.
In Our Town we’re happy to be.

Oh please don’t make me blubber,
While I swath my bod in rubber.
And sing with me this refrain:
“Let it rain, Let it rain, Let it rain.”

Xtra Tuf Boots
(Sung to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock”)

XtraTuf, XtraTuf, XtraTufboots,
Footwear of choice of Sitka galoots.
Neoprene-coated and shiny and spry,
On them you’ll rely.

If your calf’s thin,
You just step in
And keep that damp at bay.

If your calf’s fat,
Well then, that’s that.
You’ll have to keep ’em dry another way.

Roll ’em down, slice ’em up
‘ccording to taste.
They work as slippers, too.

They are ubiquitous.
Hope they aren’t quittin’ us.
That’s the XtraTuf —
They are really skookum stuff –
That’s the XtraTufboots.

Rudy the Old-Time Troller
(Sung to the tune of  “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”)

Rudy, the old-time troller,
Hated electronic gear.
He did not trust depictions
Not made by his eye or ear.

All of the other trollers,
Peering at their laptop screens,
They all considered Rudy’s
Predilections full of beans.

Then one night of woeful gale,
“Rude,” the trollers pled,
“We come to you beckoning,
Won’t you use dead reckoning?”

So Rudy led the trollers
Through the worst of Dead Boat Pass,
But when thcy went to thank him,
He said “Kiss my GPS!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 3, 2009

Our Town – December 3, 2009

| Parody | December 3, 2009

On the road as he drove toward downtown, not one single motorist pulled out in front of the Soupster and made him slow sharply, only to have the car turn off the road a block or two later. That’s odd, thought the Soupster, as he pulled into the supermarket lot to buy Cheerios and milk.

The Soupster parked and got out of his car. Big Al Olafssen, a successful power troller, walked up to the adjacent vehicle, holding a paper bag brimming with boxes of Mrs. Smith’s fish sticks and packages of farmed, frozen, portioned Tilapia from Thailand.

“Big Al,” the Soupster sputtered, “what’s a highliner extraordinaire like you doing with processed fish from Mrs. Smith?”

“Goin’ rogue, Soupster,” Big Al said, getting into his car. Big Al pointed to his bulging paper sack. “I usually take plastic bags, too.”

Inside the store, the Soupster was surprised to see that the date on the milk carton was six weeks hence. He made eye contact with the man stocking the dairy case and the man gave the Soupster a smile that could have been described as, well, “roguish.” At the checkout, the cashier seemed normal.

But when the Soupster got downtown, which was crowded because of Double No Tax Day, the dead giveaway was the boots everyone was wearing. Blue rubber boots. Yellow rubber boots with black highlights. Exceptionally low boots. Exceptionally high boots. Boots with platform soles. Boots that looked like running shoes.

No familiar brown neoprene. No XtraTufs. Not on anybody.

Sprinkles had been falling all morning, but the afternoon was proving correct the National Weather Service’s forecast of “frequent, malingering showers.“ To the Soupster’s amazement, at least four people within his sight unfurled umbrellas. Umbrellas?

To add to that, others – those without umbrellas — scurried for cover as the rain got harder. One couple ran across the street toward an awning, holding hands. They stamped in the puddles in their non-XtraTufs. He held a folded newspaper on his head to keep back the rain and she wore a cheap, clear plastic rain bonnet. It was Sanjay and Bridget Khan, who had been previously voicing very loud complaints about each other.

“Wha…?” was all the Soupster could get out as the Khans danced down the street like newlyweds.

“We’re goin’ rogue,” Bridget yelled over her shoulder.

Goin’ rogue? The Soupster stood in the rain, perplexed. Where was this phrase emanating from? Why was everybody “goin’ rogue”?

The Soupster saw another man approaching from the west. It was Angelo Gallo, who let the rain fall on his shoulders and bare head without flinching. He seemed to be wearing normal black shoes. But when Gallo got closer, the Soupster saw they were expensive dress shoes, the type with the little holes in front called “wing tips.”

“Angelo, what’s going on around here?” asked the Soupster. “Why is everyone `goin’ rogue’?”

“Faith and Begorrah, Soupster,” said a suddenly anguished Angelo in a thick Dublin accent. “I thought we were all goin’ brogue!”

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Our Town – November 19, 2009

| Rain, Shopping, Tourists, Weather | November 19, 2009

Crouching from the driving wind and rain, the Soupster had to peer between a nearly solid wall of advertising flyers (for fairs, concerts and meetings) covering the door and window to see if the shop was still open. Good, the light was on and the Soupster could see another customer in the aisle.

Father Time and the waning light of autumn recently convinced the Soupster that he needed new and stronger reading glasses. He was also curious about the latest hot/cold soothing patches, sure to be handy during the muscle-cramping chills to come. And maybe something to read, too.

“Soupster!” said George, the store’s owner, standing behind the counter and stacking up a clearance display of salmon-flavored caramels that didn’t go over so well with the tourists. “They let you out again?”

“Got a lot of flyers on them windows, George,” the Soupster said.

“Autumn in Our Town,” said the shopkeeper. “As soon as the last tourist lifts off, the flyers take their place. Everyone earns a breather from acting like good hosts and merchants and drivers and chefs and goes back to nursing their own obsessions.”

The Soupster glanced at the only other customer in the store, a young man over by the paperback novels whose shoulder-length locks were streaked with midnight blue and whose floor-length black coat was festooned with silver chains and studs. He wore the kind of gloves that leave most of the fingers exposed and the nails on his right hand were painted black.

The Soupster looked at George, who seemed oblivious to the Goth youth. “So much energy in Our Town,” said the shopkeeper. “So many ideas and interests and causes and beliefs. And every one deserves a flyer.”

“I wasn’t sure you were still open,” said the Soupster. “What time is it? It gets dark so early now,”

“That’s it, Soupster,” said George. “Each of the flyers on my window and door are a candle lit against the darkness. Light a candle rather than curse the darkness. What gives more light than people getting together to do good or have fun?”

The Soupster became aware of a Goth presence standing next to him. With his non-painted hand, the young man placed on the counter a Sci-Fi paperback about the ultimate destruction of the Universe. He noticed the Soupster looking at the book. “It’s for the plane,” the young man said,

“Taking a trip?” asked George.

“I’m getting out of here,” said the youthful Goth. “I thought this place was pretty cool all summer. But then it got worse and worse.”

With a glossy black fingernail, he indicated the window, where sideways hail had defeated the building’s overhang and was pounding directly against the glass. The dark was nearly complete. The Gothful youth pulled his long black coat tighter to his throat. “This place is way too depressing,” he said.

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Our Town – November 5, 2009

| Neighbors, Relationships | November 4, 2009

Through his kitchen window, the Soupster saw Madeline coming his way and stiffened. He wasn’t sure how he stood these days with his cross-the-street neighbor, but he knew Madeline didn’t usually steer his way for anything but business. He went out the door to meet her.

Madeline was one tough cookie. Madeline had a Rottweiler, but that big dog was just like a beard on a bear — window dressing. She had long ago found her own “inner” Rottweiler. Still, in her weird “bad neighbor” way, Madeline tried to be nice to the Soupster.

“I want to try out a theory on you,” she said after a perfunctory greeting. “It’s about hating people.”

“I don’t think there’s very much people-hating going on in Our Town,” said the Soupster. “How would we live peacefully with each other on The Rock if there were?”

“Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking about,” Madeline said. “ How much hatred there really is in Our Town. The answer? Four distinct kinds!

“The first kind of hatred is the kind you’re talking about, Soupster. It’s when there’s somebody at work or school or in your family who you really can’t stand. But you have to be there and they have to be there, so you make the best of it.”

“What’s another kind?” asked the Soupster.

“The kind where one person so can’t stand the other, they can’t even look at the other person,” Madeline said. “But you seldom see or have anything to do with them. That’s the simplest kind .”

The Soupster knew several people who seemed to always be unhappily distracted when he walked by. He realized now what was going on when they didn’t notice him. Thanks for straightening me out, Madeline, he thought.

“And the last two kinds of hatred?” the Soupster asked his neighbor.

“Now, it gets complicated,” Madeline said with an outright grin. “When you used to like someone a lot. And then, over the years, you’ve learned to like them less and less. But you still have to uphold the relationship as though you still like each other.”

“Is that us?” the Soupster asked meekly.

“No, we’re the opposite, the Fourth Kind,” said Madeline. “My first impression of you was so totally foul, it’s been rising steadily ever since.”

“That sounds… er, good,” said a confused Soupster.

“So don’t blow it!” Maddie barked.

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Our Town – October 22, 2009

| Crazy Theories, Neighbors, Relationships | October 22, 2009

Originally published October 16, 2003

“Ouch,” said the Soupster, as Dr. Gwen pulled on his arm to examine the skin above his elbow. “Don’t yank it off, Doc!”

“You’re a baby,” chided Dr. Gwen, hiking up the Soupster’s sleeve to get a better look. “But I’m glad you came to see me. Moles can signal something far more serious and should be checked by a professional.”

“What’s about mine?” the Soupster asked, obviously worried.

“You’re fine,” Dr. Gwen said. “It’s just a mole.”

“Whew,” exclaimed the relieved Soupster.

Dr. Gwen chuckled. “You ‘re reminding me of a squirmy old patient from the Lower 48, Soupster,” she said. “In fact, you kind of look like him.”

“You know my theory,” said the Soupster, and Dr. Gwen nodded patiently.

“Every kind of person there is in the world is represented in Our Town ,” the Soupster said. “Everybody running around Our Town has a number of duplicates running around the world.”

“Everybody in the world, ” Dr. Gwen repeated..

“There are 9,000 people in Our Town, every one of them completely different,” the Soupster said, “And there can’t be more than 9,000 kinds of people in the world.”

“There are 6 billion on Earth at present,” said Gwen. “That means there are 666,666.6 times as many people in the world as there are in Our Town. Each Our Towner then, is represented by more than half a million duplicates. Don’t you think you run into at least one of them on vacation?”

“Sounds likely,” the Soupster. “That is a lot of people — like a “mole” of people — not the mole on my arm, but the chemistry term — isn’t it `mole,’ Doc?”

“It is,” Dr. Gwen answered. “A mole in chemistry is defined as the aggregate of 6.02 times 10 to the 23rd power — that’s a 6.02 with 23 zeroes after it. But the number of people on Earth – 6 billion — is only 6 times 10 to the ninth power — only nine zeroes after it.. A mole of people would be 100 trillion times the number of people on Earth today. A hundred trillion times six billion people.”

“Wow, a mole is a lot of something, isn’t it?” asked the Soupster.

“Not always,” said Dr. Gwen. “A mole is a lot of units. But if those units are small — like molecules? For instance, see that half-filled bottle of hydrogen peroxide on the shelf? A mole of hydrogen peroxide molecules would weigh in at 34 grams. About an ounce.”

“Then, there’s the moles with the big claws for digging underground,” the Soupster remarked idiotically.

“And moles are also double-agent spies within the CIA or KGB,” Doc Gwen said, finishing her examination. “But the moles in chemistry are definitely more important than the moles that grow on your arm or the kinds that dig in the ground and infiltrate spy networks.”

“How can you be so sure?” the Soupster asked.

“Among the four types of moles, only chemistry-type moles have their own holiday,” Doc Gwen scientifically said. “October 23 is Mole Day. It’s true. Look it up!”

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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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