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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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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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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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Our Town – August 27, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Submitted by Lois Verbaan

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Our Town – 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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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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