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Our Town – June 15, 2017

| Craftsman, Dreams, Our Town | June 15, 2017

The Soupster gauges his tolerance for surprise.

The ringing phone jerked the Soupster up, still half asleep. He retained a bit of his dream of someone noisily dropping big rocks outside his bedroom window, but rapidly lost the details as he became more awake. Who was calling him so early?

Twice in the past the Soupster – a late riser – had similarly leapt out of a deep sleep to find there was good reason for him to wake.

One bright morning some years back, the Soupster had been fast asleep, his biggest challenge keeping the cool side of the pillow against his cheek. He dreamt that he was back with some beloved friends he had not seen since childhood, although they were all grown up in the dream.

From that dreamy state, he had bolted upright when a chainsaw wailed and then a big branch of the hemlock tree outside his window crashed to the ground. The Soupster staggered to the window, wiping the sleep sand from his eyes. Up in the hemlock was his tree guy, Martin, now working on his second branch.

The Soupster had run into Marty at the grocery store and mentioned a hemlock tree that needed to come down. Marty said he would get to it when he had time. The Soupster had been satisfied, thinking Marty would check in with him before starting.

“Well, I had some time come open today, so I figured I could get right to your tree,” Marty called down from 10 feet in the air. “I know you never told me which tree, but when I got here it was pretty obvious this hemlock had to go.”

The Soupster shook his head in amazement and muttered a little.

The second time, the Soupster had been dreaming that he was fishing from the cockpit of a gas-guzzling sport boat he used to own, but he kept pulling up phone and cable bills instead of fish.

From the living room came the unmistakable screech of long nails being pulled from wood, which yanked him awake. He threw on his robe.

In the living room, Greg, the glass guy, was removing the frame of the big picture window.

Two months previously, the Soupster had talked to Greg about replacing the window and Greg was supposed to call him back. No word. The work was now underway

Greg volunteered an explanation reminiscent of Martin’s. He said a piece of glass he was expecting had missed the barge, freeing up his morning. And while reading a copy of the Sitka Soup over coffee, he had remembered the Soupster’s picture window.

But back to the ringing phone in the present. Calling was the Soupster’s nephew, Stewart.

“Uncle Soupster!” said Stew.

“Stewster!” said the Soupster. “Is everything all right?”

“Sure, Uncle Soupster,” Stew said. “I tried calling my Dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day, but there was no answer. You’re the next best thing to a father. Happy Father’s Day, Uncle Soupster!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 1, 2017

Our Town – June 1, 2017

| food, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships | May 31, 2017

The Soupster experiences hot gossip and hotter food.

At a table at Our Town’s new Indian/Pakistani restaurant, Naan Plus, the Soupster sucked on an ice cube to cool his mouth from a fiery vindaloo. Sweat dripped off the tip of his nose and his eyes teared freely.

“So hot!” the Soupster croaked.

His tablemate, Sally Crewsin, had ordered the milder biryani and looked at him with sympathy. “At least this lunch is free,” she said.

Sally was paying the tab to reward the Soupster for helping her sell her house. She had placed a classified ad in the Soupster’s eponymous publication and had three offers in one week. Of course, blonde and bright-eyed Sally had a house as adorable as she was and the price she asked was more than reasonable.

“Hey, Soupster,” she said to change the subject from agony and hellfire to something less uncomfortable. “Why did you name the Soup the Soup?”

“I didn’t name it,” the Soupster gasped, inexplicably still eating his volcanic entrée, despite the pain.  “Rolene did. She started the Soup and sold it to me.”

Rolene Bently occupied the body of a middle-aged woman, but had the soul of a frontier pioneer. She was a serial entrepreneur, starting several businesses and then selling them when a newer idea consumed her instead.

“She named the Sitka Soup after her grandmother’s soup, which was made out of whatever was on hand right then. In the early days when the Soup was wildly unpredictable, the name made even more sense.”

“Rolene was something else, you bet,” said Sally. “Did you know she was doing a kind of Airbnb before they invented Airbnb?”

The Soupster nodded and chuckled.

“Rolene had a list of people with spare rooms and would hook up lodging-seeking visitors to Our Town,” Sally said. “Then she moved on to cars and boats. At the height of her popularity, Rolene oversaw land and sea fleets worthy of a military operation. She kept it all straight.”

“Where is Rolene now?” asked the Soupster.

“Somewhere in Wyoming,” said Sally.

“No doubt organizing cowboys into some sort of Ranchbnb,” said the Soupster.

The waiter came with their third dish, a creamy sauce with visible pieces of chicken.

“It’s tikka masala – some people call it butter chicken and it’s very mild,” said Sally. “It’s is more popular in Britain now than fish `n chips.”

The Soupster moaned with relief as the creamy sauce coated his overheated mouth. He pushed the spicy vindaloo to the side. “I’ll eat no more of that,” he said.

“Another of Rolene’s obsessions was food waste,” said Sally. “I bet she would be able to find somebody who wanted your remaining vindaloo. I bet you’d be willing to trade the vindaloo for more tikka masala.”

“Or an ice cold glass of milk,” said the Soupster, whose mouth still smarted.

“Rolene would call it Leftoversbnb,” said Sally.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 18, 2017

Our Town – May 18, 2017

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | May 18, 2017

The Soupster learns the past is the past.

The Soupster pulled alongside the drive-up window, credit card in hand, prepared to receive the pomegranate lemonade smoothie he craved. The barista gave him the drink, sweating in its plastic cup, but declined to take the Soupster’s offering of his own plastic.

The barista giggled. “Your drink’s been paid for.”

The Soupster was delighted, but confused. Or confused, but delighted? Point was, he was grinning while flummoxed. He popped the straw into his tart drink and sipped as he drove away.

Who was the generous stranger? Or mischievous friend? This never happened to the Soupster, whose appearance was rough enough, evidently, to ward off strangers handing out free lemonade. He wondered how it would feel to be sitting in a tavern and have the bartender say, “The (lady or gentleman) at the end of the bar would like to buy you a refreshment.” A tiny, wee bit like Publisher’s Clearing House appearing at your door promising a $1,000 a week for life?

“There are those who receive free pomegranate lemonades and those who buy them for others,” thought the Soupster, who considered himself one of the latter.

At lunchtime, the Soupster sat in a booth, studying the menu of one of Our Town’s venerable eateries, the Tin Crab. Chowing down on his favorite geoduck tacos, he pondered the mystery of the free lemonade.

The Soupster was a regular patron at “The T.C.” The vinyl-clad booths hid the Soupster, and he went there when he wanted to go incognito. A quarter century earlier, back in his newspapering days, the Soupster had met with Sharon Stewart at The T.C. after the miraculous recovery of her heirloom wedding ring.

* * *

Sharon had married into an old Our Town family. The ring — diamonds in a gold filigree — had been her husband Robert’s great-grandmother’s. At Sharon’s wedding, the ring felt a little loose on her finger.  Robert was crazily active and, after two years of following his lead, Sharon sculpted herself down to the svelte. Too svelte. The ring fell off her newly-thin finger somewhere in Our Town. Robert’s family was aghast, but too polite to blame Sharon, which was worse for her than being yelled at.

The tragedy brought out the best in the Soupster. He interviewed Sharon and her family and wrote such a heart-rending story that all manner of Our Towners made it their personal responsibility to find the ring. All over Our Town, pedestrians literally beat the bushes. Motorists scrutinized the tarmac of every parking lot. People searched at work, which is where the ring was finally found. Behind a rolling stool in Sharon’s doctor’s office.

Sharon tracked the Soupster to the Tin Crab, where he was enjoying rockfish and beach asparagus ravioli. She hugged and kissed him and showed him where she had used a piece of tape to make the ring tighter.

When the Soupster went to leave, Howard — The T. C.’s owner, bouncer and executive chef – refused to take any money. “You earned the ravioli,” he said.


Back in the present, the Soupster finished his geoduck tacos and put on his coat. Thinking about Sharon, he made for the door.

Only to get stopped cold by Howard’s booming baritone. All the diners looked up.

“Hey, Soupster!” Howard called out. “You gonna to pay for that?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 4, 2017

Our Town – May 4, 2017

| Crazy Theories, Nicknames, Our Town | May 3, 2017

The Soupster hears lies?

“Soupster!” called Joey the Liar from the far side of the street. Joey was so named because everything he said was a lie.

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” said Joey as he sidled his big frame next to the Soupster. “I was worried I would miss you.”

“Hi, Joey,” said the Soupster, who knew Joey was tough to deal with, everything he said being a lie. “What are you doing these days?”

“Same, but different,” said Joey. “Once in a while.”

“Have any plans for the weekend?”

“I thought I’d call my mother for Mother’s Day and all,” said Joey.

“She doesn’t live here?” asked the Soupster.

“Reno,” said Joey. “She’s a stage star in the casinos. She could have gone to Vegas but she wanted my younger brothers and sisters to have a more normal life, which she has found in Reno.”

“Is this true?” asked the Soupster.

“Not entirely,” said Joey. “Before Reno, she lived with me in Chicago, where she was a meat cutter at a huge plant. All her skirts had blood dripping down the front of them. It was a long time before I found out that hamburgers didn’t come out of my mother’s pockets.”

“Joey,” I really don’t have time for this,” said the Soupster.

“All right, she’s quite normal,” Joey said. “She lives in Bothell and works in a bottling plant…”

“Joey! A Bothell bottler?” said an exasperated Soupster.

“Brunette, too,” said Joey. “My mother is the spitting image of Betty Crocker and Donna Reed. She played the piano and there were always fresh flowers, even in winter. My favorite time was waking up Sunday mornings and smelling the bacon frying downstairs. Sticking my head out into the cool room from under the warm blanket. The smell of bacon.”

The Soupster almost believed him. “I almost believe you, Joey,” said the Soupster. Joey, who knew of his reputation, took no offense.

“I wouldn’t want you to do that,” he said.

“So, really,” said the Soupster.”About your mother? You wax so poetic and range so far afield that you sound like a wistful orphan. Are you an orphan?”

“Absolutely not!” said Joey the Liar.


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Comments Off on Our Town – April 20, 2017

Our Town – April 20, 2017

| Fishing, Jokes, Our Town | April 20, 2017

The locksmith tells the Soupster a fish story.

Did Elijah Langossian really have a glowing aura around his head, wondered the Soupster as he approached him by the lake, or was it just the angle of the setting sun? No, it was him, the Soupster surmised, as he came close enough to see Elijah’s shining visage.

“Soupster!” Elijah said. The sturdy and diminutive locksmith too often carried his troubles on his face. But not today.

“Elijah!” the Soupster countered. “You’re glistening like a king salmon pulled fresh from the water!”

“Funny you should mention fishing,” said Elijah.  “I just had a guy in my shop who’d caught the biggest halibut anybody had ever seen and it was his first time jigging.”

“Oh, what a feeling,” the Soupster sang. “But what does a locksmith have to do with catching fish?”

“That’s what I asked,” Elijah said. “I was just closing up the office and this fella was sitting in the reception room looking like he ate the canary. An older man. Well, older than us.”

Ed. note: Neither Elijah nor the Soupster are spring chickens. Winter turkeys, occasionally.

“So I said, `Hello, Sir. Can I help you with anything?’” Elijah continued.

“`Not really,’ said the guy.

“`Anything to do with locks?’ I asked. `Keys, hasps or spring hinges?’

“The guy shook his head and got this big grin on his face.

“`Well,’ said I, `this is a locksmith’s shop and I’m the locksmith. And I want to go home and eat dinner with the locksmith’s wife. So, if there’s nothing I can help you with…’

“`I went out fishing today,’ the words tumbled from the man. `My grandson-in-law took me.’

“`Well, sir, that’s nice, but…’ I said.

“`I’m a landlubber by preference,’ the man told me. `I encounter fish only when it’s served to me on a plate. But that boy my granddaughter married, he worked on getting me out on his boat like it was his main goal in life. I could only hold out for so long.’

“This story have anything at all to do with locks?” the Soupster asked.

“`The sea was calm,” Elijah recounted that the oldster went on. `My grandson-in-law’s boat was swift. Soon we were at the halibut hole. The others all caught fish, but I was striking out. Then I felt this tug on my arms like I hooked the whole bottom of the ocean or maybe Moby Dick. When I finally landed the fish after an hour or more, my behemoth weighed in at 392 pounds. Three hundred and ninety-two pounds!’

“`That’s fantastic,’ I told him. `But I’m a locksmith. I deal in keys, hasps and spring hinges. Why are you telling me about your 392-pound fish?’

“`I’m telling everybody!’ the old man said.

“And then he was out the door.”

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Our Town – April 6, 2017

| Crazy Theories, Our Town, Villages | April 5, 2017

The Soupster experiences people who gained expertise during childhood.

As an astounded Soupster gawked, little Antoinette Curtis hoisted up a bag of soil that weighed nearly as much as she did, walked the ten yards from the hardware store with it and then placed the bag in the rear of the Soupster’s hatchback. She then performed the same maneuver two more times with two more bags. She was not breathing heavily.

Antoinette was small, but in that wiry way that sometimes belies great physical strength in men. The Soupster, the recent recipient of a back injury, truly enjoyed watching the unlikely occurring before his eyes.

“You’re stronger than you look, Toni,” the Soupster marveled.

“That’s ‘cause I’m from Port Alexander,” Toni said, as she worked.

“Something in P.A.’s drinking water that makes you strong?” asked the Soupster.

“My father made me strong,” Toni said. “Hauling a lot of fish and crab into the boat over the years made me strong. My brother…”

“Your brother made you strong?”

“Hoisting him back into the boat about once a month did,” Toni said. The Soupster bid Toni Curtis farewell.

At the grocery store, the Soupster stood in the checkout line in front of Gene Burnett, a well-regarded small engine mechanic. The Soupster put six cans of cat food onto the moving belt along with his other items.

“Six cans at 89 cents each,” the Soupster said aloud.

“Five dollars and 34 cents,” Gene said immediately.

“They used to be 83 cents each,” said the Soupster.

“Four ninety-eight,” said Gene lickety-split.

“Where’d you learn to multiply?”

“I’m originally from Kake,” said Gene. “We had a teacher there for a few years who was obsessed with multiplication. Made us memorize the multiplication tables way past 12 times 12. Me and some of my friends got really good at it.”

“You sure did,” said the Soupster, as he bid Eugene adieu.

Outside, the Soupster pondered these talented people who’d come to Our Town from other Southeast settlements and enriched our lives.

The Soupster was jolted from his reverie by two dogs fighting in the bed of a pickup truck. They had gotten their leashes tangled. The dogs howled, snarled and cried as they struggled to get free and blamed each other for their predicament. They sounded ferocious.

Then, a burly man wearing XtraTufs and suspenders fearlessly approached the fighting dogs. He straightened their tangled leashes and got them both wagging their tails.

Watching, the Soupster thought, what Southeastern town had produced such a gifted peacemaker? He approached the man and complimented him.

“There must have been a lot of dogs where you grew up,” said the Soupster. “What Panhandle village do you hail from?”

“Panhandle?” said the man, confused. “I hail from Springfield, Illinois.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 23, 2017

Our Town – March 23, 2017

| Children, Our Town, Youth | March 23, 2017

The Soupster reminisces about childhood games with the librarian.

“Here for more of your favorite biographies, Soupster?” Ms. Conklin, the librarian said at the book check-out counter.

“There’s nothing more interesting than the life stories of people,” answered the Soupster.. “Nothing in the whole world.”

“What is it about biographies that so particularly fascinates you?” asked Ms. Conklin.

“The patterns of a life,” the Soupster said, “especially from the vantage point of the future looking back. Minor events that go this way and that hold vast influence later on.”

“Sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” he concluded.

“Pardon?” said Conklin.

“It’s the term they use in math’s new chaos theory,” the Soupster explained. “Small changes at one time mean big changes in another. A butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing and it affects the weather in New York.”

“I find for instance,,” he continued, “that people who excel in certain areas in later life – like music or even finance – show an early talent and interest in related topics.”

“True for me,” said Ms. Conklin. “When I was a child, I actually used to play library. All my friends would play house or with their dolls. I would line up all my books, my desk and a chair and make my parents come in my room, choose books and then check them out. I had a special little bear stamp I would use. I even used to make friends of my parents check out books when they came over to visit.”

“What did you play, Soupster?” Conklin asked.

“War stuff, “ said the Soupster. “A Union soldier trapped behind Confederate lines. Sailors in a flooded engine room trying to plug up the leaks. On another planet against monsters. Whatever hostile dramas we saw on TV and in the movies.”

“My family had no TV, so we read a lot” said Conklin. “Which may explain my library game. I used to play swimming pool, too. I made my parents rent towels and take a fake shower before they could sit on the living room couch. I used to blow a whistle at my father and make him get out of the deep end. They thought I was loony.”

“Were you ever a lifeguard?” asked the Souipster.

“I was never a lifeguard,” Ms. Conklin said, stamping the return date into the last of the Soupster’s biographies. “But I’ve saved people from drowning in some really lousy prose.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 9, 2017

Our Town – March 9, 2017

| Environment, Our Town | March 9, 2017

The Soupster discovers that he who smelt it had not, in fact, dealt it.

“Ouch,” said the Soupster, as gaseous billows reached him. “You cut the cheese, Doc?”

“Beg pardon?” said the esteemed doctor of philosophy, Gerrit van Schmenken, visiting the Soupster from South Africa. “Cut what cheese?” van Schmenken said, looking around the Soupster’s study, where he saw there comfortable chairs, walls of books, a sleeping cat and a half-sized statue of W.C. Fields. Certainly no cheese.

“You know, did you send me `a message from below?’” the Soupster pressed.

“What?” said van Schmenken.

“A `bottom belch?’” the Soupster continued, unabated. “`Did you `step on a duck?’ Are you `starting a vapor feud?’”

“Oh, `Baff,’” said Dr. van Schmenken.

“I don’t know what that means, but I don’t like it,” said the Soupster.

“No, you don’t understand,” said van Schmenken.. “In Johannesburg, we say `baff’ for a `trump.’ No — `trump’ is the British term. I’ve got it — `farting’ – that’s what you Yanks and Aussies say, isn’t it?”

“Not in polite company,” said the Soupster.

“What do you say in polite company?”

“Well, `breaking wind’ or `passing gas’ are the most acceptable terms here,” the Soupster answered. “If you were in the right crowd you could also say `Oops! I just let Fluffy off the leash.’”

“And the less polite?” van Schmenken asked.

“Revolting release,” said the Soupster. “Creaky floorboards. Thunder from Down Under. The Y2K Problem.”

“So these colorful American names can be attached to your `imposition on the atmosphere?’” van Schmenken said.

“Good one,” said the Soupster.

“He who smelt it, dealt it,” countered van Schmenken.

“I thought you didn’t know American,” said a surprised Soupster.

“We have the roughly the same saying – it’s the same idea anyway,” said van Schmenken.

“Don’t try and shift the blame, Doc,” said the Soupster. “That was your `gut bubble’ wasn’t it? Didn’t you have to take some kind of oath of truthfulness to be a philosopher?”

“We’re still arguing about what truth is,” said van Schmenken.

“Well, if it wasn’t my `Little Orphan Onion’ and it wasn’t your `bench warmer,’ whose was it?”

“Not W.C. Fields,” said Dr. van Schmenken.

“There’s no one else here, but…” said the Soupster — then he and van Schmenken realized immediately.

“Cat baff!” said van Schmenken. “Gross!”

Originally published Feb. 26, 2004


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Comments Off on Our Town – February 23, 2017

Our Town – February 23, 2017

| Airplanes, Flying, food, Our Town, Travel | February 23, 2017

The Soupster eats more fruit.

The Soupster didn’t like sitting in the bulkhead or emergency exit rows on the airplane, so he had selected an aisle seat — Row 23, Seat C — on his flight home to Our Town. He liked to sit in a regular row, so he could stow his day bag – normally filled with must-haves and goodies – underneath the seat right in front of him.

Today his day bag was pretty empty – the Soupster didn’t have time to load the bag with treats. Oversleeping badly, he missed both the airport shuttle and the motel’s free breakfast. By the time he caught the next ride, he ran very late. The security lines seemed endless, the gate a long, long walk.

Like some others, the Soupster was old enough to remember when the airlines fed their passengers as a regular thing. Edible, sometimes pretty good, food was served in square plastic bowls that interlocked securely on the tray. Salad, entree and vegetable, even dessert.

Back in those well-fed days, the Soupster had once been served both breakfast and lunch on the same 5-hour cross-country flight. No sooner had the cabin attendants removed the breakfast refuse then their compatriots started serving lunch at the other end of the plane.

The food kept the passengers docile and in their seats and also provided entertainment. No such distractions now, the Soupster thought. Any food a passenger munched onboard these days was strictly do-it-yourself. The Soupster usually nabbed some snacks in the stores lining the concourses. But running late meant he had to skip the stores today and he boarded his flight empty-handed.

The Soupster took his aisle seat. He threw his bag under the seat in front. A middle-aged woman with a bulging carry-on bag stopped at Row 23 and indicated she had the window seat. The Soupster stood up and she squeezed by with her bag. A stout woman, she and her things seemed to fill both her seat and the seat in the middle. She immediately fell asleep.

But the Soupster was distracted. His one last chance for decent vittles on the flight was to purchase one of the airline’s snack boxes, which came as either “Fruit & Cheese,” or “Old World Snacks.” The Soupster liked the fruit and cheese. The old world snacks — olives and salami — not so much.

Unfortunately, the passengers in rows 1 to 23 preferred the fruit and cheese box, too. As a horrified Soupster looked on and listened in, passenger after passenger purchased the fruit and cheese. By the time the flight attendants reached the Soupster, the fruit and cheese was sold out.

A dejected Soupster bought an old world snack box with slight dread. His mouth wanted to be refreshed, not marinated. He lowered his tray table and opened the box. He took out a package of whole grain crackers and some salami slices. He took out a small bag with two or three kinds of olives.

Looking over his repast, the Soupster sighed. He opened the olives. As soon as he did, the woman by the window began stirring. She opened her eyes.

“Oooh, look at that food,” the woman said. “Those olives look scrumptious!”

She lifted her bulging bag onto the middle seat and rifled through it. “Maybe I could trade you for some of your olives and salami?” she said. “I have fruit.” She removed a sizeable Tupperware and peered inside.

“Would you like grapes, mango or pineapple?”


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Comments Off on Our Town – February 9, 2017

Our Town – February 9, 2017

| Airport, Our Town, Travel | February 8, 2017

The Soupster faces off with old wisdom.

The airline passengers staggered out of the open doorway, blinking with disbelief that they had finally made it home. Each had a different story to tell. Collectively, the passengers had been spread over several towns as dense fog and stiff winds grounded planes throughout the region.

The passengers greeted their loved ones and wandered over to the baggage claim area. After only a moment, the yellow light at the airport started spinning and the luggage started coming around.

In the crowd waiting for bags, stood the Soupster. He sidled up to George “Thread” Cabot, known throughout Our Town as a speaker of brief, familiar comments. Both men scanned the passing luggage for their bags.

“Thread,” the Soupster greeted him. “You been traveling, too?”

“There’s no place like home,” Thread said. “Home is where the heart is.”

“Got that right,” said the Soupster. “Seems like ages since I’ve seen you, Thread.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Thread said.

“That’s nice of you to say,” said the Soupster, truly pleased. “Oops!” he said suddenly and reached across Thread to snag the first of his two bags.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” Thread said, smiling.

“How many bags are you waiting for?” asked the Soupster.

“Two and two do not make five.”

“Four bags,” said the Soupster. “I’ve only got one more to grab.”

“To each according to his needs,” said Thread. Then he lunged forward and piled two cardboard boxes, one after the other, onto the floor. Each was labeled with Thread’s name.

“Think outside the box,” said Thread, anticipating the Soupster’s curiousity.

“Thread,” the Soupster said. “Why do you always talk in cliches?”

“Sticks and stones…” began Thread.

“Now don’t get riled up,” said the Soupster. Thread reached over and grabbed a large suitcase that blended well with the cardboard boxes.

“I’m not criticizing you.”

“Every bird loves to hear himself sing,” said Thread.

“Well, now we’re only waiting for one more bag each,” the Soupster added. In a moment, they appeared — first Thread’s, then the Soupster’s. Thread piled his four items onto a rolling cart.

“All good things must come to an end,” Thread said.

“Such an enigma!” the Soupster thought, looking at Thread..”Say, Thread,” he said. “Why are you named `Thread?’”

“A thread in time saves nine,” said Thread.

“That’s `a “stitch” in time saves nine,’” said the Soupster. “I’m sure of it.”

“Then it’s George `Stitch’ Cabot,” said the former Thread. aloud.

“Doesn’t bother you?” asked the Soupster.

“Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” said Stitch.

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 15, 2016

Our Town – December 15, 2016

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


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Comments Off on Our Town – December 1, 2016

Our Town – December 1, 2016

| Fall, Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather | December 1, 2016

The Soupster hears about seasonal remedies.

There was a long line of people waiting at the airport, but none of them were flying that day. Instead, they waited to submit their names in the annual Customer Commensuration Event, where the airline awarded pairs of unrestricted tickets to three writers of the best essays titled, “Why I Need to Leave Our Town This Fall.”

Ah, autumn in Our Town, the Soupster thought, as he waited in line clutching his essay. A dark and wet autumn in Our Town, indeed. Like trouble piling on itself, the rain caused there to be more rain.

“It doesn’t rain, it pours,” a wise man once said.

“Oh, it gets better after Thanksgiving,” said Shirley “Bo” Burley, standing behind the Soupster and reading his mind. “Once the Christmas lights go up and cut the gloom, our mood lightens, too.”

“True, Bo,” said the Soupster. “To me, the absolute worst is the day after they change the clocks and instead of it getting dark at 5pm, which you’ve just gotten used to, it’s dark by 4pm, which is an unreasonable time for it to get dark.”

“Never lived up north, have you?” Bo asked.

“No,” said the Soupster.

“Wimp!” said Bo. “How would you like to go through a couple of months when the sun doesn’t make it over the horizon?”

“You’re just determined to lighten up my mood, aren’t you, Bo?” said the Soupster.

“Here’s a good `Coping with the Fall’ story,” said Bo, barreling on and accepting the Soupster’s implied consent. “You know Cleon, the computer guy?”

The Soupster nodded.

“He used to make house calls and one day, in the doldrums between Alaska Day and Thanksgiving, he got a call from that cute many-sided house out the road,” Bo explained.

“So Cleon strapped his small repair case to his bike and set out. Cleon loved his bike, but only a few minutes into his ride, he questioned his decision to take it. The temperature hovered right around freezing —  depending on the microclimate Cleon traversed, the rain passed back and forth between liquid water and some snowish kind of thing. You know how it is, Soupster.

“As a shivering Cleon mounted the stairs to the house, he could hear music. Jimmy Buffett. Margaritaville. The door opened to a big, sweating guy wearing a toga. Inside, it was 90 degrees. There were people sprawled all over the sand-colored carpet. All their drinks had little bamboo umbrellas.  A cardboard palm tree had been erected and a stuffed parrot perched on a corrugated branch.

Without a word, the big man showed Cleon into his office where a computer sat on the desktop. Cleon got to work. After about a half hour, Cleon stood up and stretched, another cyber problem solved.

Just then, the big man returned with a large can of tropical punch and two glasses. Cleon told him the machine was all fixed.

“Good job, fine fellow!” he said to Cleon. “I am the ruler of my Kingdom. I control the weather here. And now, thanks to you, I can also surf the Internet again!”

“So,” the man said with a wink. “When it rains, I reign.” He held up a glass and dispensed from the can of punch. “And when it pours, I pour.”

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Our Town – November 17, 2016

| Animals, Our Town | November 30, 2016

The Soupster theorizes about bear behavior.

The Soupster heard an incredible bear story the other day. It seems his friend Eddie was bicycling to work and, unbeknownst to him, was being chased by a brown bear. A very alert driver saw this and pulled into the parking lot to head the bear off. Eddie never knew he was being chased by a bear until he got to work, when someone came in and told him.

This bear had been a recurring problem in the neighborhood for a few weeks, and there was even talk of euthanizing the animal. The Soupster had his own theory as to why this particular bear was so hungry and bold.

The Soupster’s summer walks had always included the bridge over the river inside the park. And this year, like always, he had closely monitored the humpy run, while striking up conversation with tourists in the park.

So the Soupster, with his daily monitoring of visitors and humpies, is here to tell you that it was a normal-to-very-good run this year. To the delight of the tourists – er, visitors – the river was plugged with humpies this summer, and there was plenty of water to get them upstream as far as they wanted to go. In early August, there were lots of humpy carcasses on the riverbanks for the birds and bears, going all the way down the trail down to the mouth of the river, where it empties into the ocean.

For further proof that this year started out as a normal run, the Soupster noticed that the smell test at the post office was normal. In a normal year with a west wind you can smell the rotting humpy carcasses at the post office. With a southwest wind, you can’t. By mid-September, in a year with a good run, you can smell them way past the post office, all the way to the auto parts store.

So what happened? If you recall, later in August, we got a couple days of near torrential rain. The river went up to flood level and – sadly – all the lovely humpy carcasses were flushed out to sea. The late spawners were all that was left. And that was barely enough for the birds, let alone the bears.

The Soupster further theorized that bears are very territorial and that this particular older bear, not finding his accustomed winter’s stash of dead protein by the river, was driven by hunger to committing the “crime” of being too familiar with humans. Thus, Eddie’s bear had a long rap sheet – chasing Eddie to work, charging a man on his porch, knocking over numerous garbage cans, and breaking into two garages and a parked pizza delivery vehicle.

Perhaps mercifully, Eddie’s bear disappeared shortly after his autumn adventures, and did not have to be put down – but had he chosen to stick around, his fate would have been determined by the fact that you cannot have brown bears living in town and becoming familiar with humans. Bears are just too unpredictable.

Humans aren’t?

– Submitted by Ron Rau


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Our Town – November 3, 2016

| Our Town | November 3, 2016

The Soupster hears a memorable fish story.

“… and that was the most memorable fish I ever caught,” said a reminiscing Soupster.

“My most memorable,” countered Charles “Chick” Howell III, “never even bit my hook.”

The Soupster signaled to the brewmaster to fill their tasting cups, this being an “Ale to the Chief” pre-election Tasting & Toasting. Every other week, a small, bi-partisan group of Our Towners stopped by the brewery to preview the latest offerings and compliment each other on their political acumen. The group took a two-month break after presidential elections, bi-partisan compliments being difficult to generate any sooner.

“I had just bought my boat,” said Chick Howell, continuing with his story. “And I really didn’t know anything about running it. Nevertheless, my co-worker Sandra asked me to take her visiting father, along with her husband, out fishing.”

“You said `yes’ of course,” said the Soupster.

“I certainly did,” Chick said, laughing softly and looking at his lap. “Even though I didn’t really know how to run the boat, I said yes.

“Well, when Roy and Dennis showed up – Roy was the father and Dennis the son-in-law – Roy got right into telling me he was immensely happy to be going fishing with a knowledgeable person, a ‘real Alaskan,’” Chick continued.

“Roy obviously wasn’t talking about Dennis,” Chick said. “And he was dead wrong about me.”

“Reminds me,” said the Soupster, “that is, what you’re saying does – is how people assume things about you when you say you live in Alaska. A guy on the phone once asked me if I traveled to work by dog sled.”

“Anyway,” continued Chick. “My heart was in my throat the whole voyage. I don’t really know why Roy didn’t notice. I think Dennis did.

“Roy kept ragging on Dennis and complimenting me. I found myself rooting for Dennis. We were jigging for halibut at this time and I brought the first one aboard, about 35 lbs. Roy being from Cincinnati, he’d never seen a fish that size. Now he was sure I was the big Alaska fisherman. He took pictures of the fish on the boat, of me and the fish and of himself with the fish. I figured he was going to show that picture to his friends back in Ohio and claim the fish. Didn’t bother me. I was happy to be part of his little scam.

“But I wasn’t willing to join in on Roy’s ragging of his son-in-law. I tried to be especially nice to Dennis, but he was so miserable. Especially since me and Roy started pulling in fish after fish, while Dennis scored zilch. The fish were all smaller than my first one.

“Hours went by. I started getting sleepy and instead of actively jigging, I held my rod steady and let the rocking of the boat do the work. Roy was sure this was some ‘real Alaska’ fishing secret and emulated me, compliments flying. Dennis looked like if you pushed him overboard, he wouldn’t have struggled.

“’Got something!’ said Dennis, springing immediately back to full blood. Unlike my lackadaisical style, Dennis mightily hauled up the line and reeled in the slack, then did it again. There was no finesse. All the frustration of Dennis’ day poured down that line and into the sea.”

The Soupster thoughtfully sipped his ale. “That was the fish?” he asked Chick.

“Yup,” Chick said. “Not a barn door, but that fish was twice as big as mine – near 80 lbs. Dwarfed anything Roy caught. Dennis’ look of triumph was my most memorable fish.”



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Our Town – October 20, 2016

| Our Town | October 10, 2016

The Soupster sees a woman whose reunion with her daughter compels her to cut cheese.

Linda Castille tapped her foot nervously and hugged her arms around herself as she waited for her daughter Daisy to come down the ramp at Our Town’s airport. The 33-year-old mother and the five-year-old had been apart for most of the past year while Mom finished a course in medical imaging. Daisy had lived with Linda’s own mom, who made the worst grilled cheese sandwiches in the world (more on this later).

There she was! Daisy broke free of the flight attendant, ran across the lobby and jumped up into her mother’s arms. Linda hugged Daisy and started crying.

Daisy sniveled a little, too, but said, “Don’t be sad, Mommy.”

“Oh, no, I’m so happy,” Linda said. “I’m so happy we’re together!”

Walking briskly by with his carry-on, the Soupster smiled at the hugs and kisses of the warm reunion. Hand-in-hand. Daisy and Linda went home.


“Romeo!” Daisy squealed with delight as she leaped through the front door ahead of her mom and lifted up their overweight orange tabby. The cat looked unruffled and started purring.

“Romeo is purring,” Daisy happily told Linda.

“He’s pleased that you’re back,” said Linda.

“I want to see all of them!” squealed Daisy, referring to her large collection of stuffed animals. She set down Romeo, who scampered off. Daisy scampered, too, into her room and plush menagerie.

Linda took the opportunity to let her mother know that Daisy had arrived safely in Our Town. “Thanks, Mom!” she said into the phone.

“Me and your father are very proud of you for sticking it out in school and we were only too happy to have your lovely girl stay with us,” said Linda’s mom. “With your new job and better salary, things should be looking up!”

Linda’s mom told her that Daisy was fun to have, except on the subject of eating. “I thought she was supposed to love grilled cheese sandwiches?”

Linda winced, remembering all the unappetizing food served throughout her childhood. Linda loved her mother – an excellent seamstress, nurse, an accomplished painter and an athlete – but a terrible cook.

As Linda reminisced her taste buds ached. And then she went and got the cheese (which she cut), the butter and the bread. She heated up a frying pan and prepared two sandwiches.

Daisy came in and sat at the kitchen table. Linda put a grilled cheese sandwich in front of her. Daisy made a horrified face, “I hate grilled cheese!”

“No, honey,” said Linda, “you love grilled cheese. Try some.”

Daisy looked skeptical, but took a tiny bite. Her face brightened like the sun. “You’re right, Mommy,” she said. “I hate grilled cheese. But I love your grilled cheese!”


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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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