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Comments Off on Our Town – November 19, 2009

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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Comments Off on Our Town – November 5, 2009

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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Comments Off on Our Town – October 22, 2009

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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Comments Off on Our Town – October 8, 2009

Our Town – October 8, 2009

| Conventions, Nicknames, Tourists | October 8, 2009

The Soupster plopped onto the bench outside Harrigan Centennial Hall Building to rest his aching dogs (feet), swelling inside his normally spacious clogs. Combating Global Warming by walking more helped his heart and reduced his carbon footprint, the Soupster thought, but it seemed to be increasing his regular footprint.

A man and two women spilled out the door, laughing and poking at each other. They noticed the Soupster and stepped over.

“You from here? We love this town!” one woman erupted and her two friends nodded briskly.

The Soupster remembered that Convention Season had started on the (ahem) heels of the Running of the Boots.

“We’re from the Helen Mull Society,” volunteered the other woman.

“Who’s Helen Mull?” the Soupster asked..

“Not `who’ – `what,’” the man corrected. “It’s an acronym for the Hyphenated Last Names Making Up Luminaries Society. HLN-MUL.”

“Helen Mull, get it?” said the first woman. “Like me. My maiden name was Greta Pierce and I married Lawrence Brosnan. So now I’m Greta Pierce-Brosnan. Get it?”

“Bob Haas-Cartwright,” said the man, leaning forward to shake the Soupster’s hand. “Great little town you’ve got here.”

“Wow,” I can’t believe you have a whole society devoted to this,” said the Soupster.

“Oh, it’s very engrossing,” said the other woman. “For instance Bob and I were only allowed into the Society two years ago when the rules were relaxed.”

“Oh, yes,” she continued. “Originally, the spelling of the hyphenated last name in question had to match the luminary’s precisely. Like Pierce-Brosnan’s name does. Then, they decided to allow names that only sound the same, using a standard American English pronunciation. Like Bob Haas-Cartwright.”

“And you are?” asked the Soupster.

“Sharon,” she said. “Oh, Sheehan-LaBoofe. Sharon Sheehan-LaBoofe. Sorry. It’s a mouthful, I admit.”

“Well,” said the Soupster. “Sheehan-LaBoofe is not the same as Shia LeBeouf, even in sound.”

“This year,” Pierce-Brosnan said, ignoring the Soupster’s comment, “we’ve been discussing whether plurals should disqualify or not. We’ve had applications from a Johns-Wayne, an Adams-Corolla and a Walters-Hickel. Oh, you should like that one!”

“I envy the founding members like Gerald Winston-Churchill,” Haas-Cartwright said to no one in particular. A young woman came out the door and Pierce-Brosnan shrieked with delight.

“Or even better,” Pierce-Brosnan said, taking the new girl by the arm. “This is Barbara Alexander, who hopes to join Helen Mull next year.”

“Hello,” said the Soupster.

“Next year,” said Pierce-Brosnan, “after she gets married to Lou Baranof. Get it?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 24, 2009

Our Town – September 24, 2009

| Animals, Dogs, Guest Written, Kathy Ingallinera, Our Town, Pets | September 24, 2009

My old dog, Grizzly, and I round the corner in the park and I spy the Soupster sitting on a bench. I sit beside him as Grizzly sniffs some Cow Parsnip. “Hey, Soupster, you like old dogs or young dogs better?” He reaches over to scratch Grizzly on the head, causing both of them to grin with pleasure, although only Grizzly’s leg starts tapping.

“Well, I like young pups better; so full of energy and doing funny things. They’re a lot of work though, with housebreaking and their constant chewing. What about you?”

“Been awhile since I had a pup. I’ve grown fond of older dogs. They have so much to teach us, if we’re willing to be their students.”

“What do you mean? I’ve heard of taking dogs to obedience school, but never of people being trained by dogs,” the Soupster says.

“Got time to take a stroll around the park with us? Grizzly might teach you a few things I call the ‘P’s’” of senior dogs.”

We walk until Grizzly stops near a totem pole, closes his eyes and lifts his nose into the wind. “The first ‘P’ of older dogs – pleasure. You saw this earlier when you were scratching his head and now as he stops to inhale the smells of the sea. Old dogs take pleasure in small, simple things.”

“Older people do, too,” the Soupster mumbles to himself.

We amble along the level trail for a few more minutes until Grizzly sees a salmonberry bush. “Now you’ll see passion – the second ‘P’.” The Soupster stands back, not sure what to expect. I reach through the picked-over branches and find some plump salmon-colored berries that Grizzly quickly inhales. When the pickings get slim I try to sneak a few ruby-colored ones into his mouth. He spits them right out. “That’s another ‘P’ of older dogs – persnicketyness. Once in a while he’ll eat a red one, but that’s his prerogative.”

Continuing on the trail, I reach in my bag and give Griz a biscuit. A piece of it falls into a hole at the base of a tree, and is partially hidden by the roots. He uses his right front paw to reach in and slowly drag the piece forward until he grabs it with his snout. “That ‘P’ was persistence and Grizzly has it, especially when it comes to food.”

“Tell me about the last ‘P’s’ so I can get back to work.”

“Well, then you should stay with us a little longer. Grizzly could teach you about patience like he has taught me. I walk slowly, glad for every minute he is by my side. There’s one more ‘P’ too – that’s peace. That’s what we share each evening when I give him a kiss goodnight and he returns it.”

The Soupster is deep in thought. He says, “You know, the dogs in our town have it lucky. We live in a beautiful place where we have time for slow walks and good smells and peace.”

“Yes – and plenty of salmonberries!”

– Submitted by Kathy Ingallinera, in memory of Grizzly, who died 9/1/09 under a salmonberry bush

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 10, 2009

Our Town – September 10, 2009

| Canada, Foreign Countries, Nicknames, Our Town, Radio | September 10, 2009

The Soupster snapped his fingers. “The Canuck will know,” he said out loud, although he stood alone in his kitchen late one evening. “The Knik Canuck will know!”

The Soupster stepped over to the phone and dialed his south-of-the-Alaska border buddy. The Knik Canuck had moved to Our Town from Vancouver, B.C. via Anchorage and he and the Soupster built a friendship out of periodic verbal sparring.

“You’ve reached me on my new hands-free cell phone,” Knik said. “I’m in the truckoot the road, eh?”

“It’s a little hard to hear you, K.C.” said the Soupster. “Is someone there with you?”

“I have the radio on,” said the Canuck, “Let me turn it down a bit.”

“You’re driving around at night listening to the radio?” asked the Soupster.

“I’m homesick tonight,” said the Knik Canuck.

“Don’t you know,” he asked the Soupster, “that you can pick up all kinds of Canadian stations in different places in Our Town on the car radio at night? There’s a couple of talk shows. I’ve heard broadcasts in Farsi and Chinese. I’ve heard Radio Netherlands repeated by the CBC. Different stations fade in and oot, but I can nearly always manage a clear bead on the Vancouver 24-hour all-traffic station.”

“How much traffic news can there be at night?” said the Soupster.

“Well, right now, there’s a disabled truck causing delays on the Knight Street Bridge and they have been telling people to expect congestion downtown due to the massive crowds coming oot of the Celine Dion concert at GM Place,” Knik said. “Also, there’s some kind of police safety check going on East Hastings and the Tsawwassen ferry is late.”

“I stand corrected,” said the Soupster, who was, in fact, standing.

“You just calling to chit-chat?” asked Knik.

“A question has been driving me crazy all night,” said the Soupster. “You’ve lived in both the U.S. and Canada.. The U.S. is seen as a Center-Right country, politically. Canada is seen as Center-Left.”

“I agree,” said the Knik Canuck.

“So K.C.,” said the Soupster. “Tell me the difference between a Conservative and a Liberal.”

“That’s a good one,” said the Canuck, continuing after a pause. ‘Well, I’d say that Conservatives favor restrictions on personal behavior, but fewer restrictions on business and commerce. Liberals want to see more restrictions on commerce and fewer restrictions on personal choices and behaviors. “

“Can you relate that to the U.S. health care debate?” the Soupster asked breathlessly.

“I would,” the Knik Canuck said before signing off. “But the Vancouver All-Traffic station is just aboot to air a special on pre-2010 Winter Olympics construction projects along the Vancouver to Whistler Sea-to-Sky Highway and I don’t want to miss oot!

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 27, 2009

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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Comments Off on Our Town – August 13, 2009

Our Town – August 13, 2009

| Holidays, Our Town, Water | August 13, 2009

Originally published October 5, 2000

“I hate October! It rains all the time with big wet drops!” wailed the pre-schooler, balanced on the Soupster’s knee. “I WISH THERE WAS NO OCTOBER EVER AND EVER MORE!”

“Don’t say that,” hushed the Soupster. “If October went away, you would be very sad.”

“No, I wouldn’t!” protested the child.

“But if there were no October, do you know what else there would be no?”

“What?”

“Alaska Day! There would be no Alaska Day!” said the Soupster. “And no Halloween!

“No Halloween!” he went on. “No Yom Kippur for Jewish folks! No Thanksgiving for your cousin who lives in Toronto! And your e-mail pen pal in Christchurch, New Zealand would have to go to school on Labor Day, because those Kiwi’s celebrate their Labor Day in October!”

“Are you a genius?” the clever kid asked, instantly seizing the Soupster’s
point and moving on to the next step. “Where did you learn all that?”

“From a Little Audrey cartoon when I was just about your age,” said the Soupster, glazing over in a Boomer froth of rememberence.

“Little Audrey was tired of the rain — in the cartoon I mean — and she cried out for it never to rain again!” explained the Soupster.

“Did it rain again?” the child asked.

“Not for a long time,” the Soupster answered. “At first, that was just fine with Little Audrey. She went out on a million picnics, hung her clothes right on the line to dry and was never told by her parents that she had to wear a hat.

“But as the rainlessness went on, Little Audrey’s fish started to look a little pale and drawn. And Little Audrey’s potted plant looked droopy and dry.

“Then everything around Little Audrey started to dry up. Little Audrey’s plant was curled and brown. Little Audrey’s fish gasped to breathe in only a thimbleful of water.

“Little Audrey had saved a glass of water and she ran over the parched ground toward her fish and her potted plant holding the glass in front of her and saying `Here, here!’ But then she tripped, dropped the glass and the water ran out just out of reach of her friends.

“So Little Audrey went to the Rainmaker and begged for the rain to start again. But the Rainaker refused. `You said for it not to rain again, ever and ever!’ He crossed his arms over his chest.”

“What did Little Audrey do?”

“She sang,” said the Soupster. “She sang so sweetly and with so much of her heart that she made the Rainmaker cry. She sang `April Showers.’ And the Rainmaker’s tears grew greater and greater till they cascaded past his beard and down his chest and fell to the earth as wonderful, cooling rain.”

“Wow,” said the child. “I’ll never ask for it to not be October or for the rain to stop. But is it okay to ask to make the raindrops just a little smaller?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 30, 2009

Our Town – July 30, 2009

| Ann Wilkinson, Clothing, Crazy Theories, Guest Written, Our Town, Rain, Weather | July 30, 2009

The Soupster hoped the drizzling rain would keep the tourists downtown in the stores of Our Town and not out walking in the Park. The Soupster likes the Park better when it’s quiet. But understands that, for many tourists, this is the one day in their life they can visit The Park of Our Town.

Near the entrance to the walking trails, the Soupster noticed a familiar face, Lizzy, a local nature writer and naturalist.

“What’s all this, Lizzy?” the Soupster asked, walking up to the park bench where Lizzy was sorting large laminated cards.

“Field guides for my students,” Lizzy said, barely looking up from her stacks of cards. “I’m meeting a group of naturalist students here for a walk through The Park. These are field guides to help them identify what-all they see.”

“Good thing they’re laminated,” the Soupster chuckled as he picked up a stack of cards and wiped rain drops off with his sleeve. “Let’s see what you have here, Birds of Alaska, A Field Guide of Southeast Alaska Trees, and one on Flora of the Northwest. Well it looks like you’ve got everything covered.”

“Just about, I want my students to be prepared,” Lizzy said as she added one more card to each of her stacks.

“Would you look at this,“ the Soupster said. “It’s a field guide to clouds and what weather they bring.”

Lizzy laughed, wiping rain off the sleeves of her jacket. “We don’t really need that one. Today, like most days this time of year, we have mostly nimbostratus clouds.”

The Soupster looked at the sky and then the card. “’Nimbostratus: low lying clouds that produce near constant moderate or light rain.’ That’s Our Town.”
Lizzy and the Soupster watched a group of tourists hurry from the Park Visitor’s Center to the canopy of the forest. Another bus load of tourists pulled up to The Park and tourists were scurrying to get out of the showers.

A few locals of Our Town gathered near a totem pole, talking, laughing, oblivious to the rain.

“Those must be your students,” the Soupster said pointing to the small group. “I guess you don’t need a field guide to tell the tourists from the locals.”

Lizzy laughed. “That’s an interesting concept – a field guide of people. Let’s see — the tourists would be identified by their clothing. Impractical footwear, rain ponchos that look like trash bags, umbrellas, and the females carry canvas bags with cruise ship logos. As for their behavior, they are always in a hurry and don’t tolerate rain.”

“And what about the locals?” asked the Soupster.

“That’s easy,” replied Lizzy, looking over at the group of students, “Xtratuf boots, Carhartts, layers of fleece vest and jackets, and no umbrellas.”

“And what about identifiable behavior?”

Lizzy thought for a minute, “Friendly, easy going, and tolerates rain well.”
“That’s Our Town,” said the Soupster as he entered the Park, happy to enjoy the company of the birds, flora and tourists.

– Submitted by Ann Wilkinson

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 16, 2009

Our Town – July 16, 2009

| Crazy Theories, Movies, Our Town | July 16, 2009

The Soupster dialed XYX-QYZQ and waited for his friend Chuck to pick up the phone.

“Hello,” said a female voice.

“Marcie?” said the Soupster, recognizing her voice.

“Soupster?” said Marcie.

“Ooops, wrong number. I was calling Chuck about his kayak,” the Soupster said. “So, what are you doing?”

“Well, I’m very glad to be back from a trip to the Real World,” said Marcie. “I had the weird experience of seeing a Sandra Bullock movie that was supposed to be happening in Our Town.”

The Proposal?” asked the Soupster.

“I’m sitting in the audience in some gigantaplex theater that my grandmother, of all people, dragged me to,” continued Marcie, “and there’s Sandra Bullock in Our Town all recreated in Massachusetts. They had some aerial shots from here, at least. Granny was thrilled and told everybody she could that her granddaughter was actually from that town.”

“What is it about Our Town that so fires up people’s imaginations?” The Soupster asked his friend before hanging up and dialing XYX-QZYQ,”

“Hello?” a male voice answered – but not Chuck’s.

“Gene?” said the Soupster, again recognizing the answeree. “I’m supposed to be calling Chuck. I can’t believe I dialed the wrong number twice.”

“No problemo, amigo.” Gene said. “I’m just here flicking my newest DVD. Who’d you call the first time?”

“Marcie,” said the Soupster. “Who was just telling me she saw Our Town depicted in a movie when she was Down South.”

“Bingo, Bubba,” Gene said. “I’m here watching this Gregory Peck movie from the Fifties that just so happens to share a locale with The Proposal.

“The World in His Arms,” he continued. “Monsieur Peckorino is a San Francisco sea captain who pursues a Russian Princess to the fair shores of Our Town, including a downtown chase on horseback – except there are trees all over – and a daring rescue from a forced marriage in St. Michael’s – except it’s the size of the Tacoma Dome.”

“What is it about Our Town,” said the Soupster, “that so fires up people’s imagination?”

“Gotta go,” said Gene, “Ann Blyth is about to marry an evil count at the enormous St. Michael’s!”

When the Soupster finally got Chuck on the line and told him about the wrong numbers, his friend was sympathetic.

“Easy mistake to make,” Chuck said. “My number is XYX-ZQYQ”

“So what is it about Our Town that so fires up people’s imaginations?” the Soupster asked Chuck.

“Dunno,” his friend said, “I’m too worried about all the pedestrians who may get stuck in the center island of the new Roundabout. It’s okay now, but what about winter, or October? Now, what I think they should do is take out all that landscaping and put in a survival shelter which is equipped with wireless and a satellite phone link and …”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 2, 2009

Our Town – July 2, 2009

| Computers, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships | July 2, 2009

The Soupster was (yet again) marveling at the beauty of the view from the rear of Our Town’s library. Tsk, tsk, so many gorgeous views in Our Town and so little time. The Soupster always did his best to stop and smell the coffee – even if it sometimes turned out to be tea.

He was on his way to borrow (yet another) graphic novel about a serious historical event. These novels contained page after page of comic-book-like art and dialogue telling the story of some awful occurrence — like being in Hiroshima while it was bombed. These were not children’s books — they gleaned elements from both written novels and live-action movies to tell their ghastly, true tales. Their pages made the Soupster think of the story boards many movie directors draw to plan each shot before the cameras roll. The graphic novel format made the subjects more accessible to the reader than either of the two other mediums, the Soupster thought.

As the Soupster headed for the stacks he was grabbed by the ankle by Roddy Updike, sitting on the floor with his back against the wall. Roddy was famous for his electronic-filled semi-annual garage sales. “If you don’t need state-of-the-art, Roddy Updike probably has one he’s not using any more,” the Soupster had been told, although he had yet to avail himself.

“Soupster,” whispered Roddy. “Did you hear they’re going to make some of downtown wireless? Like if you’re waiting on line at the bank, you can check your email.”

“Great, Roddy,” the Soupster quietly answered.

“But don’t try and steal any of the little transmitter boxes, because they can trace the signal back to you,” Roddy said.

“I promise I won’t,” said the Soupster. “What are you here for?”

“My wife told me to get offline and go for a walk, so I walked to the library,” Roddy said. “She said my skin was looking sallow being inside all the time. But when I got here, all the computers were booked for the next two hours, so I’ve been sitting here waiting. Sometimes somebody gets sick and has to go home early. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”

“What’s so important?” asked the Soupster.

“Oh, nothing,” said Roddy. “I’ve been spending some time on www.TheSpouseTheyCameUpWith.com. The site tracks people who have moved away from Our Town after they used to be married to somebody here. Like Facebook without the faces. Quite an elaborate website. I’ve got to find our who does it.”

“I’ve been analyzing the data from TheSpouseTheyCameUpWith.com,” Roddy went on, “ and, evidently, the school district is leading the way with the most entries… per capita, I guess. Followed by the aviation industry. My wife says I have a morbid fascination.”

“You do tend to overdo things sometimes,” the Soupster said gently.

Roddy started to answer the Soupster, but stopped and reached into his one pocket and then another. “My cell phone,” he said distractedly. “It’s vibrating. I set the phone on vibrate to keep it quiet in the library.”

“Take your time,” said the Soupster. Roddy produced his phone and read its tiny screen.

“It’s a Tweet from the baker,” he said. “The Parmesan Chipotle Sourdough bread is fresh from the oven.” He rose to his feet. “With a loaf of that under my arm, my wife can’t help but let me back inside!”

1360 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – June 18, 2009

Our Town – June 18, 2009

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons, Spring, Sunshine, Weather | June 18, 2009

For two weeks, the sun shone from early, early morn to long past when it had any right to still be up at all. Two solid weeks of sun. Our Town melted and oozed toward Solstice.

Throughout the spate of sun, general sprucing had ensued: wall colors brightened with paint, unruly lawns subdued by blades, rhubarb eradicated (or given lovingly to friends). Car hoods wore the confetti buds and seeds of whatever tree they parked under. Kids were visible in public during business hours. The Soupster, like most residents of Our Town, had been saying things like, “I can’t remember when it was sunny two weeks in a row like this.” Or “Remember, we used to get two weeks of sun like this two times every summer 10 (or 20 or 30) years ago” — depending on how long the speaker had been here.

Overdosed on light, the Soupster relished the quiet and relative dark coolness of the post office. It was Saturday morning and he had the place to himself. He fought a quick urge to stretch out on the cool floor tiles. Instead, he pulled out his key and fit it into the lock of his post office box. At the exact second the Soupster opened the box, a business-sized letter moved toward him out of it.

The Soupster grabbed onto the letter and pulled.. And the letter… pulled back! This was ridiculous! The Soupster pulled on the letter, but it refused to budge. The Soupster was actually losing ground.

He peered into the dark postal box and could see at the far end about two-fifths of the face of his old neighbor, Roberta, a long-time postal worker.

“Soupster,” Roberta said, seeing him at the same moment, “I should have known it was you!”

“Roberta,” said the Soupster. “I had forgotten that you work here. How’s your little girl?”

“My little girl? That ‘little girl’ is going to college in Fairbanks in the fall,” she said ruefully. “Why don’t you come to her graduation party? I was going to send you an invitation, but, hey — this is even faster than the mail!”

The two-week softening of the Soupster’s brain from sun rays and the general weirdness of having a conversation through a mailbox made the Soupster feel unsteady. Nonetheless, “Thanks for working on the weekend,” he managed to say.

“Oh, pshaw,” said Roberta, as the Soupster locked up his postal box.

“Soupster,” said Stuart, the Soupster’s plumber, who was just then turning the corner into the row of post office boxes. “You talking to your mail again?”

“Female,” the Soupster deadpanned. “Female.”

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Our Town – June 4, 2009

| Craftsman, Neighbors, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships | June 4, 2009

Guy had worked the order counter at the lumberyard for the past 20 years, after spending an equal amount of time working out in the field. Examples of his handiwork stood all over Our Town. And stand they did – even after decades of salt-encrusted gales, Guy’s decks, fences, sheds and garages stood strong while much newer structures succumbed to rot. Guy knew how to make things shed water and not trap it. And that, as the poet said, makes all the difference.

“Hey guy!” Guy said to the new builder who had come into the store just about every other day for the better part of the last three weeks. Guy greeted everybody with “Hey guy!” — which was his personal joke.

The newcomer chuckled obediently. “Hey, Guy,” he answered. The new contractor had won a federal contract to refurbish some government structures and planned to be in Our Town for a month. With him hailing from sunnier climes, the rain had put a serious damper on his spirit. He was homesick.

“What’ll it be?” asked Guy, already feeling sorry for the newbie. He didn’t know Our Town’s unspoken rule that you had to be here at least 6 months or through a winter before people started taking you seriously.

As the new contractor reeled off his needs, Guy nodded, but didn’t write anything down. He didn’t have to. Guy had a prodigious memory – big enough to store and retrieve detailed knowledge of just about every building that went up. He remembered who did the work, who paid for the work and how the work went. He remembered what materials they’d used. He automatically remembered all of what his customer had just asked for.

Then Larry the shipwright, showed up to order ironwood and hydraulic hoses and fittings. As the new contractor waited for his order, Guy rang up Larry’s stuff. Larry’s wife, Felicity, lounged in a nearby chair.

After high school, Guy and Larry had fixed up a classic troller and hand-trolled together for two summers. Then they had that close call. Larry was the seadog and went right back out. Guy started making a living fishing for nails. The two friends grew apart. Well, not so far apart that Guy didn’t introduce Larry to Felicity, who was Guy’s cousin through his mother.

Enter the Soupster, who chatted with Larry and Felicity and went through the whole “Hey guy!” routine with Guy. Shirley, Guy’s wife, had taught beginning piano to the Soupster’s niece, who now worked as a concert accompanist. Felicity had recommended the music school at her old college to the Soupster’s niece — where the girl received a nice scholarship — even though Felicity had gone there for nursing. Guy had built the Soupster a shed that was still watertight after 33 wet winters. Larry sold him fish.

Guy’s two-way radio buzzed, signaling that the new contractor’s order was ready.

“Friendly place,” the visiting builder said. “I know how it goes from my hometown. The guy at the lumberyard there knows everybody, too.” Then, he paused and indicated the Soupster, Larry and Felicity, who were still chatting. “That’s got to be unusual, though. The fact that the customers know each other so well. That’s got to be rare.”

Guy considered his loquacious friends. Actually, the scene he surveyed happened nearly every day at the order counter at the lumberyard. Then, Guy remembered Our Town’s “Six Month Rule.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he fibbed. “Rare, indeed.”

1218 total views, 2 today

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Our Town – May 21, 2009

| Jokes, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons, Spring | May 21, 2009

The Soupster rode shotgun alongside his buddy Dorothy, who drove her ancient pickup west down Sawmill Creek Road into Our Town. A satisfying lunch shared earlier at Dotty’s abode had lulled them both.

Dot’s four new summertime tires (no studs!) carried the two friends smoothly down the roadway. The Soupster glanced out at the alders lining the road, their new leaves like golden coins growing larger day by day. On a granite retaining wall some fiddleheads ferns unfurled. Birds in a mountain ash no longer fought each other for scraps, too busy celebrating their recently expanded menu.

“This is a different town when the alders get their leaves on,” said the Soupster dreamily. “Covers a thousand sins.”

“That’s my opinion, too,” Dotty said. “What’s more Alaskan than having a backhoe in your back yard?”

“Can’t say I know,” the Soupster said, taking the bait.

Dotty reeled him in. “Having a broken backhoe in the front yard.” Dotty said something else, but her words were drowned out as her old truck rattled on the suddenly uneven pavement. They had reached the old Four-Way Stop, being torn up to re-make the intersection into a modern Roundabout.

Some people the Soupster talked to considered it about time, others thought continuous traffic flow would frighten bikers and pedestrians. The jury was still out. Right now the road crews were just laying underground utilities.

Dorothy suddenly burst into song “Won’t you take me to… Funkytown?” she crooned. “Won’t you take me to…. Funkytown?”

“Funkytown?” asked the Soupster.

“You know, the song — Lipps, Inc.? Back into the early 80’s?” Dot said. “Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me,” she sang. “Town to keep me movin’ — keep me groovin’ with some energy. Won’t you take me to …Funkytown?”

“It’s a stress reliever,” she went on. “When I approach the old Four-Way-Stop and start to freak out about how much time I’m losing, I sing `Funkytown.’”

“Why don’t you just drive around the Four-Way, er… Funkytown?” asked the Soupster. “Our Town doesn’t have much road, but there’s always another way to get where you are going.”

“I know that it’s kind of a public service to avoid the intersection, but it’s really interesting, the work that’s going on,” Dot said. “Plus, I get to sing.”

“You’re a nut,” said the Soupster, but Dotty was already belching out: “Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it…. Won’t you take me to… Funkytown?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 7, 2009

Our Town – May 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1456 total views, 1 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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