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Comments Off on Our Town – October 20, 2016

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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Comments Off on Our Town – October 6, 2016

Our Town – October 6, 2016

| Animals, Dogs, Our Town | October 6, 2016

The Soupster and four colleagues view the astounding

Outside the supermarket, the Soupster occupied the driver’s seat of his car. He waited impatiently for his friend Ted to emerge with the cold drinks the two men had been craving since spending the afternoon cutting and hauling firewood.

He looked at the car’s clock, calculating the time that Ted would take chatting with the checkout person.

In the black SUV parked to the right, a regal-looking dog — maybe some Afghan hound in the blood? – sat in the driver’s seat and peered back at the Soupster. The Afghan looked royally bored.

Up and to the left, a Pug-faced mixed-breed dog also sat in the driver’s seat of his owner’s small hatchback, watching the sliding front door of the market with grim intensity for his human to appear.

In the pickup parked perpendicular, two barking Shih Tzu resembled animated stuffed toys. Their sturdy little legs were propped against the pickup’s window and they barked in perfect unison at landing ravens, passing humans and nothing in particular. The tiny dogs also stared at the supermarket door, waiting for their personal human to emerge.

“Where’s Ted?” thought the Soupster — picturing himself checking his watch and tapping his foot – although he actually slouched in his seat and looked again at the dashboard clock.

The Pug-faced dog had moved to the passenger seat for a better view of the front door. The Afghan regarded that same front door and yawned. The Shih Tzu had switched to a first-one-then-the-other style of yipping, probably to husband their resources for what was turning out to be a longish haul.

They were all trapped, the Soupster thought, regarding his plight and that of his canine peers. All vibrant organisms in tin cans waiting for their rescuers. In the Soupster’s case, he was held by his social bond with Ted. The dogs were even more inextricably bound in their metal prisons, having neither thumbs nor car keys.

Did that make Ted and the dog owners prison-keepers, thought the Soupster?

As people filed in and out of the front door, the Pug-faced dog jumped excitedly back and forth between driver and passenger seats. The Shih Tzu switched back to barking in unison. Even the Afghan joined in with low howling.

“Oh, my,” said the Soupster.

Then a white station wagon pulled into an open parking spot. While the dogs kept up their din, the driver of the white wagon stepped out of his door and opened the rear hatch. Inside was a golden retriever-mix dog. The driver patted the dog on the head, then turned and went into the store – AND LEFT THE REAR HATCH OPEN.

The Afghan was so aghast, it ceased howling. The Shih Tzu, too, were silent, although they still moved their tiny mouths. Only the Pug retained his voice and grunted with scores of questions.

The golden retriever wasn’t tied in. The hatch was open. His owner was gone. Why didn’t he bolt?

The Soupster – and, he imagined, the dogs – pondered the question. Why didn’t the retriever bolt?

But then Ted was in the car with the drinks.

“Long line, sorry,” Ted said, popping his can top, taking a long swallow and registering the Soupster’s far away expression. “See anything interesting?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 22, 2016

Our Town – September 22, 2016

| Crazy Theories, Fall, Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather | September 21, 2016

The Soupster gets Saturated.

Originally published September 7, 2006

Thick drops of rain beat a brisk rhythm on the aluminum roof over the covered area of Suzie’s porch where the Soupster sat. All summer long, the Soupster had bravely faced the preponderance of precipitation and the rarity of sunny days with humor, understanding and flexibility. But there and then — against the roof over his head — fell the one big raindrop that caused the barrel to overflow, like the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the Soupster finally became Saturated.

In his last lucid moment, the Soupster had been thinking about a short story written more than 50 years before – a very unscientific science fiction story about a group of astronauts who crash land on Venus – the planet. On Venus, as in Our Town this summer, it rains constantly, proposed the story’s author, Ray Bradbury. And, like the Soupster, the four astronauts who survive the crash set out bravely into the constant rain to find a Sun Dome, which is just like it sounds — an Industrial Strength Light Bulb Beach. Without finding the dome, the astronauts would go mad from rain pounding constantly against their skulls.

“Here’s your hot chocolate,” said Suzie, appearing on the porch with two steaming mugs. “No marshmallow in yours.”

The Soupster regarded Suzie with as much recognition as he would one of the astronauts on Venus. Through the pounding between his ears in time with the hammering of the rain against the roof, he could not make out what she was saying.

“It was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles;” Bradbury had written, “it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and by the ton.”

The Soupster looked blankly at Suzie and then out into space.

“Oh, for goodness sakes,” muttered Suzie. Born and raised in Our Town, she knew just what to do when someone became Saturated. She set down the two steaming mugs on a wooden table away from the Soupster, so he would not, in his helpless state, burn himself.

Suzie went room-to-room in her house and gathered up an armful of lamps: table models, clip-ons, three-way bulbs, lanterns and reading lights. She brought it all out under the covered area of the porch, along with two extension cords and several power strips.

While she did, the Soupster continued his nightmare of tramping through the jungles of Venus in the blinding downpour. “(The rain) shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes,” wrote Bradbury. “It rained a solid, glassy rain and it never stopped.” The rattling and thumping on the roof drowned out Suzie’s grunts as she hooked up the complicated bank of lamps and power strips, all aimed at the Soupster.

“Now!” she shouted above the din and threw a switch that bathed the entire covered area of the porch in warm yellow light.

The Soupster leaped to his feet. “The Sun Dome!” he cried. “I made it!”

“Goodness gracious – there’s no Sun Dome,” said Suzie. “You’re on the porch at my house. You just got Saturated. Now drink your hot chocolate.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 8, 2016

Our Town – September 8, 2016

| Elections, Our Town, Politics | September 8, 2016

The Soupster thinks about matriarchs.

Musing on an evening stroll, the Soupster considered several of Our Town’s matriarchs — women who used an alchemy of creativity, smarts and grit to hold their extended families together and nudge or shoulder their brood toward success.

Some of these women looked bent from the weight of their responsibilities. But others seemed to thrive on their influence and importance – exuding, if not youth, a strong vitality.

Our Town’s patriarchs tended to get more attention, the Soupster mused again. Meanwhile, the matriarchs did their work while being paid 80 cents to the dollar. Surely, a more noteworthy achievement?

Strolling by the post office, the Soupster thought of the female postmasters who kept open this vital artery to the Lower 48. He passed by the former site of his former favorite breakfast place, where the griddle person, waitress and owner had all been women.

Then, he remembered the wives and daughters of men who passed away at the helm of the family business. These women had to learn very quickly to be the boss. Women who had no idea they would become bookkeepers or property managers. No idea they would raise rabbits or pilot boats.

Sometimes these women, when still only girls – were the ones in their families to step up to the plate, if their parents became infirm or unreliable. How many schoolgirls hurry home after classes every day to care for their younger siblings? No sports teams or student council for them.

Younger siblings can be a joy, but they are adult responsibilities. And maybe raising children is not an appropriate job for a girl at a time of life when she might need to be a bit selfish. Good training for a future matriarch, however, the Soupster mused yet again.

Then, Mack the Rogue — a local lothario — turned the corner. Mack knew the Soupster and was happy to drop the lothario act when the two men were together. For one thing, Mack stopped using his fingers to twirl the ends of his mustache.

“Soupster! Big Buddy!” Mack practically shouted, going full bore into Monster Truck racing mode. “When is it going to stop raining?”

“Stop?” the Soupster called back. “The rain hasn’t even started yet. It’s practically still summer.”

“Say, Mack,” he continued, a little quieter, “you know any matriarchs? I was just musing about matriarchs.”

“My mother was a matriarch,” Mack said, quieter still. “She had three younger brothers and she kept them all in line.”

“We need both the patriarchs and the matriarchs,” the Soupster said. “We need all the help we can get to hold things together.”

“That’s why Hillary Clinton running for president is definitely a good thing,” Mack the Rogue said. “Like her or hate her, the presidential candidates should get better from this point on, because we doubled the pool of people who are able to run.”

“Right on, Rogue,” said the Soupster. “Right on.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 25, 2016

Our Town – August 25, 2016

| Gardening, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | August 24, 2016

The Soupster hears about a woman whose quest to become a real Alaskan involves getting dirty.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan

Hunched over a large garden pot, examining the contents closely, Jo poked at the mixture of soil and peanut shells.

“Looking for something?” a voice called out from the sidewalk. It was the Soupster, out for his evening stroll.

“Hey, Soupster! I’m checking the moisture level,” Jo replied.

“Trying to grow peanuts?” the Soupster asked.

“Nope, the peanut shells were in the compost. Went through a peanut stage about 6 months ago…think I was depressed…sat at home eating peanuts night after night. What I’ve got growing here is lettuce babies and I’m trying to decide if they need to be watered. It’s hard to tell on a drizzly day. I mean, it looks damp, but it could just be surface moisture.  I would hate to be responsible for either starving or drowning these little suckers. Given my track record, I’m probably not qualified to be their mom. No offence, babies,” Jo said, directing her attention to the pots. “I actually wanted kale, but being the end of summer, it was already sold out.”

“Yeah, kale is the way to go in Our Town,” the Soupster agreed, “unless you’ve got some fancy greenhouse thing going on or a guaranteed slug-free garden.”

“So, Soupster, I hope you like lettuce, because in 45-60 days, generous donations will be coming your way,” Jo chuckled, scanning her 6 pots of soil.

“How about making lettuce sauerkraut?” the Soupster suggested.

“Funny you should say that, Soupster. I’ve just done a canning and pickling course and we actually learned to make sauerkraut!” Jo said.  “In fact, there’s a jar of it fermenting in my laundry as we speak, nestled between 4 crock pots, a pair of winter boots and several kayak spray skirts. Fermented cabbage is supposed to be super good for you… something about gut health affecting brain function via the vagus nerve,” she mumbled.

The Soupster raised his eyebrows. “So, you decided to branch out and try something other than hiking and bike riding?” he said, feigning shock.

“Yes, Soupster, precisely. I’ve got to be more well rounded if I’m going to be a real Alaskan.  Well, to be fair, I have crossed some things off the list” Jo announced. “I’ve made jam, cut black cod collars, owned three pairs of Xtratufs, done a few off-trail mountain hikes and kayaked to the Lighthouse. So really, all that’s left now is to find a second-hand fish tote to use as a hot tub, learn how to can salmon and wait for my lettuce babies to be born.”

“At this rate, you’ll be a Sourdough in no time,” the Soupster laughed. The sky had darkened and it was starting to rain. “You can probably quit your soil moisture check now, and I’d better get going. And, by the way, congratulations on the babies, hope their birth goes well and see you in six weeks with some salad dressing!” He winked.

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 11, 2016

Our Town – August 11, 2016

| Downtown, Ghosts, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 11, 2016

The Soupster witnesses the meeting of the living and the dead.

Originally published Aug. 14, 2008

Nearly everyone was pleased with the blossom and tree-filled visions of Betsy and Lawrence Brooks, writ large in the municipal flower beds and green strips in Our Town. The Soupster would have said every single person in town was pleased, but as a scientific observer of human behavior, he left the door open for a few oddball Nature haters.

Only Lawrence actually worked for the city — as a gardener and landscaper — but Betsy could usually be found working alongside him, just not for pay. One irascible codger of the supervisory variety tried to shoo Betsy away for insurance reasons, but Lawrence had enough moles at city hall to call ahead if the codger was afoot and Betsy would temporarily vaporize.

They were an exceptional team. Lawrence, red-green colorblind, compensated by refining his sense of line and contrast, Betsy handled color decisions and was a top-flight plant nurse. After more than four decades, the couple were as much of a local institution as any of the buildings they beautified. So when they decided to skedaddle South to be closer to the grandkiddies, and after they promised to visit often, the city honored the Brooks with their likenesses set in a brass memorial in their favorite garden on Lincoln St. “Lawrence and Betsy, landscapers,” their plaque read, “1960-2002.”

Ambling downtown, picturing a mocha milkshake and skewer of grilled king salmon, the Soupster saw an older tourist staring gravely at the Brooks’ memorial. “Sad, isn’t it,” said the man, as the Soupster came alongside.”So young.”

“Come again?” asked the Soupster.

“But a delight to see city gardeners so exalted,” the man continued. “I myself own a landscape firm in Los Angeles. We are forgotten there among the glitz and bling and blather.”

“I don’t think you understand…” said the Soupster.

“Of course I do!” insisted the tourist. “I more than anyone know of the power of living plants. They have the ability to heal the wounded soul. To watch things grow is to embrace life!”

“Sure but…” the Soupster tried to say, but the older man cut him off.

“Still, it is nice to see the appreciation… at the end,” the tourist concluded sadly and slowly began to move away.

And, as these things will happen sometimes, Lawrence and Betsy Brooks — back to Our Town on one of their frequent returns and looking like two fit, tanned fiddles — came marching down the other side of Lincoln Street.

“There they are!” said the Soupster. “This is what I was trying to tell you.”

“Who?” said the confused tourist.

“Lawrence and Betsy Brooks!” said the Soupster, pointing.“Right there!”

Had they been in a cartoon, the tourist’s head would have spun completely around. He looked at the Brooks, then at their likeness on the plaque and then back to them, several times.

“Do you want me to introduce you?” the Soupster innocently asked.

As the older tourist hurried off, “You people are very, very strange,” the Soupster heard him say.

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 28, 2016

Our Town – July 28, 2016

| Downtown, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | July 28, 2016

The Soupster finds the third time is the charm.

It’s a fact well-known by the people living in Our Town that other Our Town folk may play multiple roles in life and one never knows for sure what roles they might be. Your child’s skating coach could be also be your dentist. Your waitress, starring in the town melodrama, crumbles your pickup’s fender. Your elderly neighbor plays a swarthy villain in the same production and then bakes you Christmas fudge.

This is why Road Rage is not as endemic in Our Town as in other burgs. It’s just too fraught to hurl unkind words and gestures at someone who might turn out to be your sister’s boyfriend’s brother. The immediate release of tension does not feel good enough to overcome the dread of possibly making an enemy of someone you might badly need some day. You don’t want to flip any kind of bird at all at your cardiologist.

One fine summer day, the Soupster strode into a local hardware store, where he spied Carol Worthington buying towel racks for her bathroom. Worthington owned the local jewelry store and the Soupster needed to do some business with her. Carol was a serious recluse – she hired charismatic young people to run the front of the store, while she crafted sparkles in the back room.

Should the Soupster say hello? Certainly, if Carol was looking at him. But she wasn’t. Should he tap her shoulder? Before the Soupster even knew what he had decided, Worthington’s shoulder was tapped by him.

But it wasn’t Carol Worthington at all.

“Pardon me?” said the woman, a stranger.

“Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” said the Soupster, moving on.

At the clothing store, the Soupster thought he saw Carol Worthington again. Not wanting to make the same mistake, he regarded the woman from a distance.  Carol’s medium-length brown hair, the same bangs. The same mid-length kind of dress that Carol always wore, running shoes she called “trainers.”

The Soupster was both more confident in the details of his sighting and put aback by his recent case of mistaken identity. This time he didn’t need to tap. The instant he entered the woman’s personal space, the Soupster knew it wasn’t Carol.

“Can I help you?” said pseudo-Carol. “Do I know you?”

The Soupster slunk away. He kept his head down, lest he see another false Carol. His head felt light, as with a low blood-sugar level. He stumbled into the soda shop and grabbed a brown padded stool by the counter. He had no sooner ordered than a woman sat down next to him.

“Hi, Soupster,” said the real Carol Worthington, patting the Soupster on the arm. “We have business together, don’t we?”

Carol ordered a confection from the young man at the counter. She turned to the Soupster.

“What’s wrong with you?” Carol said. “Why do you keep looking at me like I’m a ghost?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 14, 2016

Our Town – July 14, 2016

| Crazy Theories, Movies, Our Town | July 14, 2016

The Soupster speaks of movie stars among us.

“Kudos to our local movie theater!” a smiling Soupster thought as he emerged from the out-the-road cinema. He stepped out of the dimly lit lobby and squinted at a near-Midnight Sun. It was a beautiful Our Town summer day — at 10 o’clock at night.

The Soupster had just seen the very latest in end-of-the-world-blockbusters. Bringing top movie hits to Our Town at the same time they were being promoted in the South 48 was an accomplishment for which theater management should be thanked, he thought.

Back in the day, only a limited number of expensive film prints were made. The big and heavy reels of actual celluloid film made a slow round of theaters all over the country, starting with the huge population centers and working downward toward smaller towns – say one with 9,000 souls perched on a rock.

Those big and heavy films didn’t make it as far as Our Town until weeks — sometimes months – after all the promotions for that film had ended. It seemed then like the theater got the film right before it was due to be released on DVD (VHS tapes in those days). Now, practically as soon as a new movie is announced, the film is being shown in Our Town.

That’s because movies today are most often distributed over the Internet, just like other information. They can also be shipped in preloaded onto a storage device. Theaters then download the film for exhibition via a digital projector.

“Hey, Soupster!” called Lucy Coral, a well-known local cinephile.  “How did you like ‘DinosaurNado: Apocalypse”?

“A whole lot of drooling and big, sharp teeth,” the Soupster said. “But I liked the film.”

“I think that Liam Helmsworth is hot,” Lucy said, referring to the film’s lead actor. “Wouldn’t mind if he would show up on a cruise ship and I could follow him down Lincoln St.”

“Did you ever notice that Don Freed, the pharmacist, looks like a lot like a 45-year-old Helmsworth?” asked the Soupster.

“Noticed?” said Lucy. “Let’s just say when ever my doctor prescribes medicine for me, I perform my happy dance.”

“Is Don Freed the Liam Helmsworth of Our Town?” the Soupster asked.

“I prefer to think of Liam Helmsworth as the Don Freed of the rest of the world,” Lucy said. “We have the original.”

“So when I say that Grace Greenwald is the Scarlett Johansson of Our Town, I should be saying that Ms. Johannson is the Grace Greenwald of the rest of the world.”

“That’s it,” said Lucy. “You got it.”

“For a long time I have surmised,” the Soupster surmised, “that what we have in Our Town is 9,000 originals that are replicated all over the world. Whereas we have just one of each of the 9,000 types of people. Your Helmsworth-Johansson theory dovetails perfectly.”

“You have quite a lot of theories,” said Lucy.

The Soupster tapped his forehead. “I have a mind like a steel trap,” he said.

“True, Soupster,” said Lucy. “An old and very rusty steel trap — but a steel trap nonetheless.”


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Comments Off on Our Town – June 30, 2016

Our Town – June 30, 2016

| Jokes, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives | June 30, 2016

The Soupster hears relatively bad puns.

It wasn’t easy to make the Soupster feel like the stuffy serious one, but Cousin Rob had always had just that effect on him.

“The great ferry Malaspina,” Rob pronounced, as soon as the first-time visitor to Our Town stepped off the ramp to meet up with Cousin Soupster. “The name derives from the Russian word for `bad spine’ right?”

“Actually, Malaspina is named after a glacier which is named after an Italian explorer named Alessandro,” said the Soupster.

“Then why isn’t the ferry named `Alessandro?’” asked Cousin Rob.

“That’s his first name,” said the Soupster.

“Anyway,” said Rob. “It’s so good to be in Alaska. `Alaska,’ that’s probably Italian, too. Italian for `everyone should ask.’”

The Soupster had been trapped in this routine before. His parents were very close friends with Rob’s. Cousin Rob was eight years older and, when enlisted as the Soupster’s babysitter, would torture him with bad puns. “Protuberance,” he remembered Rob saying, “It’s Latin for `professional potato-eating insect.’”

They passed the spiral white warning sirens along HPR and the Soupster heard himself falsely answering Cousin Rob’s innocent question of “What are those?”

“They’re fluorescent streetlights,” the Soupster jived. “They save a bunch of electricity and they last five times as long as a regular streetlight.”

They passed Maksoutoff St., which Rob guessed was Russian for “to force a businessman to remove his suit.”

At the airport, Cousin Rob had such crazy definitions for everything that the Soupster lost it.

When Rob pointed to the flashing yellow light the airline used to tell passengers their luggage was coming, the Soupster said, “It’s a tsunami warning beacon, Cousin Rob. This is important. If you ever see it go off, start running for high ground.”

“Tsunami, that reminds me,” said Cousin Rob and asked directions to the men’s room.

As he waited for his cousin to return, the Soupster thought about how churlish he had been. Cousin Rob was just excited and interested in Our Town and who wouldn’t be? The Soupster just needed to calm down and play the good host.

As if on cue, the rotating beacon starting spinning, spilling a yellow strobe light on everyone and everything. Cousin Rob ran up and grabbed the Soupster’s arm.

“Tsunami,” said Rob. “A Boston term meaning `take Norman to court.’



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Comments Off on Our Town – June 16, 2016

Our Town – June 16, 2016

| Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Youth | June 16, 2016

The Soupster hears about eating with your hands.

The Soupster watched his friend Rory chew raw broccoli with his mouth wide open. Then, Rory used his hands to pick up another piece of broccoli, dip the stalk into a reddish brown spicy sauce and add the morsel to the slurry he was already working in his mouth.

“Rory,” said the Soupster. “You are one disgusting eater.”

The two men stood at the island in Rory’s kitchen, grazing on the ingredients that would be their broccoli beef in about an hour. Rory was showing the Soupster how to cook it. “I come from a long line of disgusting eaters,” Rory admitted. “My grandfather and my great-grandfather were notorious for eating with their mouths open. And burping very loud. My great granny used to make my great grandpa eat in a separate room from the guests.”

“Hard core,” said the Soupster. “I noticed you left your father off that list. How did he eat?”

“My father was a gentle man,” said Rory. “The mouth breathers were all on my mother’s side.”

“Yup, my mother was the colorful one in my family,” he continued. “I was a little ashamed of my quiet father. No, not ashamed. Just that I never expected very much from him.”

“What do you mean?” the Soupster asked.

“I had a lot of friends growing up and their fathers always seemed to loom large in their lives,” said Rory. “They might love their fathers or fear them or both, but they worried about how their fathers were going to react to something they did. I never worried about what my father would think of what I did.”

“Maybe you thought your father was fair and you didn’t need to be concerned,” the Soupster said.

“No,” Rory said sadly. “I just never thought about him.”

Then he got animated. “There was this one time I remember being really proud of my father. At a chicken dinner.

“My little league team took first place one sea­son and all the kids were invited to an awards banquet to get their trophies. Me and my Dad went. My family didn’t belong to a country club or go to a lot of weddings, so the whole get-dressed-up-to-eat thing was off my radar.

“The shindig was held in the dining room of a fraternal organization – I forget which animal. A bunch of long tables — everybody sat grouped with their coach and team. The first course served was your standard fruit cup and the headman of Little League welcomed everyone while we ate the cubes of canned pears and peaches with little spoons. Next came an invo­cation, more speeches and a course of soup with large spoons.

“Then they served the oven-baked chicken course. We were wearing ties, so naturally we all thought we had to eat the chicken with a knife and a fork. But none of the kids and only about a third of the adults managed to eat. Most of the kids just flailed around.

“My father watched all this in his quiet way. To the left and the right of him, people struggled with their knife and fork. And then my father reached down and picked up the chicken with his hands – he had a thigh, I think – and he chomped down. Etiquette said you only have permission to eat fried chicken with your hands. But my father didn’t care. Within three minutes, everybody in that banquet hall was happily chomping on the baked chicken in their hands.

“My father was a pretty good guy,” he concluded.


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Comments Off on Our Town – June 2, 2016

Our Town – June 2, 2016

| Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships | June 1, 2016

The Soupster overeats.

In all the events in Our Town’s long history, few went as unnoticed as the Soupster’s arrival in the final decades of the 20th Century.

After much research and creative shopping prior to his arrival, the Soupster had largely succeeded in his quest to resemble a bona fide inhabitant of Our Town. On Day One and Day Two he blended in like a chameleon. On Day Three, however, the Soupster made a fatal mistake: he stepped out of his apartment in blue rubber boots.

How could the Soupster have realized before he got to Our Town that nearly half the population would be wearing brown boots? Was there a brown boot cult? Were people really staring at his boots or was it his imagination?

In those early days the Soupster absorbed many new words and phrases. “Way out the road” referred to a place that was no more than five miles away. “Skookum” meant either “awesome” or “fitting” or both. “Butt cheek” might refer to a human posterior or a savory delicacy found on a flatfish’s face.

“That there is a new one on me,” the Soupster frequently thought.

On one of those days, the Soupster noticed a banner outside a waterfront hotel beckoning in the breeze. “Sumptuous Buffet Lunch Brunch” it promised. The price was stiff, but the Soupster calculated that he could get several meals down on one sitting and come out well in the end. (ed. note: T.M.I.?)

Once inside, the Soupster saw that “sumptuous” had not been an exaggeration.

Crab legs, king salmon, prime rib, Eggs Benedict, abalone – and that was only the protein! The richness of the Alaska food chain was more than represented on the L-shaped table covered completely with silver food warmers.

The Soupster paid the stiff price and found a seat. He wanted to collect his thoughts. To get three meals out of one sitting required a strategy to succeed. You couldn’t just fill up on mashed potatoes and water and hope to escape hunger pangs 36 hours later!

The Soupster joined two people already filling their plates and starting doing the same. His mouth watered and his stomach growled. With his plate, he returned to his seat. But he chanced a glance back and noticed a sign that he read as: “One at a Time Only.”

This was strange. Buffets are designed to accommodate numerous people grazing at once. Why the limit? But there had been a lot of strange things the Soupster had seen and heard on his first few days in Our Town.

So the Soupster waited until the buffet line was empty and then he went up and filled a plate again. A waitress looked at him quizzically. Three more times the Soupster waited until the line was empty and then hurried up before anyone showed. Three times the waitress glared at him.

As he sat down with his fourth refill, the waitress walked up to his table.

“Nice boots, unusual color,” she remarked. “Get enough to eat?”

The Soupster nodded, his mouth already full.

“You read the sign that says `One Time Only,’ right?” she said.

“One Time Only?” said the Soupster, sputtering out baked red snapper. “I thought it said, `One At a Time Only.’”

“Well, I thought I’d heard it all,” said the waitress, ‘but that’s a totally new one on me.”

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Our Town – May 19, 2016

| Our Town, Relationships | May 19, 2016

The Soupster experiences the perfect combination.

Originally published May 17, 2007

The Soupster’s head throbbed as he tried to remember what it was he had just been thinking about. He was walking down Lincoln Street, happy with himself and his thought, when it took flight. “I hate when that happens,” the Soupster said, quoting television.

Crossing the street ahead of the Soupster, coming at him from the opposite direction, a young man and woman held hands as they walked. With his free hand, the man pushed a baby carriage and the care he took with the little chariot indicated that the low-slung seat was occupied.

In the shadows, the Soupster couldn’t make out who they were. Just another fresh-faced couple trying to find shelter and employment when the old fogies like himself already owned everything, he thought. But that wasn’t what he was trying to remember.

“Soupster!” the man called out and the Soupster knew immediately who he was. Like nails on a chalkboard, amplifier feedback, hyena screams and removing rusted lug nuts, the tenor of this man’s voice carved the listener a new gullet. The Soupster already had a gullet, but he had no choice but to answer back.

“Gene!” the Soupster said.

Gene’s voice was famous in Our Town. He was a local Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of the AFLAC duck. But he was the duck with a megaphone – Gene’s voice was grating, hearty and LOUD. Gene once told the Soupster that in all his hours on the water, he had seldom seen any marine mammals. With the sensitivity of the great beasts’ hearing, the fact seemed to the Soupster to make sense.

But when Gene came into view, the Soupster experienced the man’s other distinctive feature – he was easily the best-looking guy in Our Town. He was handsome in a way that made other men want to work for him or have him on their team. What Gene made women think and feel, the Soupster knew he could not grasp.

Gene was with his wife Audriella, as they were inseparable. Audriella was as acutely homely as her handsome husband was spectacularly not. Many in Our Town asked what had made this striking man choose this unmemorable-looking woman? Then, she opened her mouth and people knew. There was her charisma and obvious intelligence, of course. But there was also her voice. What a voice! In it was the song of birds, the rich sweetness of honey, the promise of the sky.

“Soupster!” Audriella called out with her lovely instrument.

The Soupster could see their faces clearly now. The Soupster knew his own face and voice were good enough for government work — mid-range compared to these two on either extreme. He wondered, which would it be better to be? Great-looking and sounding like a wounded goose? Or the plain-faced owner of angelic pipes?
“Come see Katey,” Audriella said, as Gene smiled, and with that voice and that smile the Soupster could not refuse. Ahead, the Soupster could see the blanketed bundle in the stroller squirming. Which parent would be baby take after?

Audriella pulled the blanket aside, revealing the most beautiful baby the Soupster had ever seen. Little Katey opened her mouth and the Soupster stiffened, expecting the worst. But the child’s coos were pure music.
That’s what I was trying to remember! the Soupster thought. That sometimes it all works out in the end.

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Our Town – May 5, 2016

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

The Soupster encounters an old saying in real life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much did you inherit?” asked Spring.

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

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

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

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Our Town – April 21, 2016

| Our Town, Relationships | April 21, 2016

The Soupster’s argument is decimated, but it does good.

When Trudy Frost saw the Soupster approach her downtown, she emitted a groan. He had that stumbling roll to his gait that made Trudy think her friend’s mind was someplace else. She had a lunch date with him and wanted his attention.

“Look up, Soupster,” Trudy yelled. “There’s a whole world around you!”

“You’re right,” the Soupster said as he neared his friend. “Wake up and smell the coffee or whatever it is you drink in the morning.”

“Oolong tea,” she said.

The two friends exchanged pleasantries. They decided to lunch at Sea Dog, both opting for franks smothered in chili, cheese and onions.

“Do you make lists?” Trudy asked the Soupster when they sat down to eat. “Me and Warren make lists like crazy. We keep the list on the kitchen wall and review it each night before bed to see what can be erased and what needs to be added. It’s become a ritual between us. Checking the list.”

“And?” asked the Soupster.

“Other than that, Warren never really talks to me anymore,” she said. “His voice is always so flat and then I hear my own voice sounding the same way. Our communication is decimated.” Trudy ended with a sad sigh.

The Soupster knew he should express sympathy for his friend. He looked down at his food, speared a pinto bean and ate it. Then, for reasons not even the Soupster understood, he decided to play the part of a pedantic idiot.

“Well, you can surely do worse than losing 10 percent of your communication,” he said.

“Say what?” Trudy asked.

“The word decimate means to reduce by one tenth,” said the Soupster. “These days, everybody is using decimate to mean `destroy utterly.’ But it’s based on a Roman military punishment. To punish the group, every 10th soldier was executed.”

“Lighten up, Soupster,” Trudy said. “People have been using decimate to mean destroy a huge part of for a long time. In fact, if I wanted to be a pedantic idiot I might comment that there is another theory that the word has its roots in taxation and the religious practice of tithing and that it was only applied retroactively to the describe the Roman practice.”

“But I have to tell you, Soupster,” Trudy continued, “tussling verbally with you feels really good. To engage with somebody after Mr. Two-Word-Sentences.”

“Maybe you should pick some fights with Warren?” said the Soupster, straying again into dangerous territory.

But Trudy only laughed. “Yeah,” she said, “I should put `Have an Argument’ on the list!”

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Our Town – April 7, 2016

| Guest Written, Our Town, Rose Manning, Seasons, Spring | April 6, 2016

The Soupster inspires a flurry of activity before a dinner date.

I was strolling past the post office in Our Town when I heard,“Gosh darn sunbeams!”

I turned and scurrying by in a terrible hurry was my neighbor Linda.

“Excuse me, but what did you say? I thought I heard you say, ‘Gosh darn sunbeams.’”

“Kurt, I did say it. Darn sunbeams. I just can’t stand them; they are everywhere.”

“Now Linda, why do you have a problem with sunbeams? You are usually a pretty laid back, upbeat person and generally everybody in Our Town is happy to see sunshine.”

“Oh Kurt, I’ve invited Soupster to my special pickled herring and borscht dinner tonight and I am so rushed.”

“Why? You have made that wonderful meal dozens of times. I especially like the ground fresh garlic you always sprinkle on top. You have served it so often I should think you could cook it while practicing your Yoga.”

“Well, back during Our Town’s usual darkness I thought I was all caught up on my work around the house, but now the sunbeams have shown me that my windows are filthy. I just thought it was dark out like always, but all that bright light is showing dirt that I didn’t even know I had. There’s kitty hair all over the sofa, cobwebs decorating the corners, dust everywhere and little motes floating willy nilly about the room. I can’t entertain in those conditions.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sakes, don’t worry about the Soupster. His glasses are always so dirty he won’t notice a thing.”

“Kurt, it is not only inside my house that’s a problem but outside too. I noticed the paint on the porch has faded and there is a streak of mold on the front door.”

“Now Linda, don’t despair. Lots of us have the same damp weather problem.”

“And look at my clothes! When did my best sweater get little balls all over it? And there are spots on my Levis I never noticed before. And the very worst part – I cleaned my glasses and my husband actually has grey hair and wrinkles. I’m sure they were not there last fall. The poor old soul. I can’t wait for a return to the nice dark rainy days of November.”

“Oh Linda, please, please be careful what you wish for.”

“I have to be on my way now, Kurt. I am going to clean until dinner time.”

“Or, Linda, my friend, you could just pull the curtains closed.”

Submitted by Rose Manning

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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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