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Comments Off on Our Town – August 14, 2014

Our Town – August 14, 2014

| Couples, Our Town, Relationships | August 13, 2014

The Soupster sees it all work out in the end.

Originally published Aug. 9, 2007

“Alby,” said the Soupster to his older friend, Alastair Byington III. “Forget your better half?”

Byington tapped his foot on the dock and peered into the distance. “She’ll meet me,” he huffed. “I’m hoping she actually shows up!” He folded his arms.

Alby Byington was known around Our Town for his stinginess, his skill at repairing an outboard motor and his enduring love for his wife, Mary Barbara – all three attributes intricately entwined and forming in a DNA-like triple helix, the story of his life.

He was also well known for being afraid of going out in the water in anything under a 30-foot boat, while his wife loved tooling around in skiffs. Alby was more content on land replacing a clogged fuel pump in a 200-hp honker than he would be running the big engine at sea. Mary was the opposite – she drove a quick little sports car all over Nevada when she was young.

For a few minutes, Alby and the Soupster waited quietly on the dock for Mary Barbara – “Babs” — to join them. Behind the two men, a gleaming 60-foot double-decker catamaran filled quickly with people taking the trip to the hatchery for the annual Salmon Head Chili and Fry Bread Cook-Off. A tourist woman holding the hand of her young son stood at the gangway and asked each person if he or she had two extra tickets – the popular event had long been booked up.

“That catamaran’s plugged,” noted the Soupster, who was not going that day. “You’ll have to go aboard soon.”

The deep wrinkles in Alby’s forehead deepened. “Babs went down to Redoubt every day all this week to dipnet sockeye with her crazy friends,” he said. “‘Got enough salt in my hair already,’ she said. Said she didn’t want to go out on a boat again so quick. I like these big boats. You don’t get a free ride on them every day. And free fry bread and chili is hard to turn down. I told Babs I’d be waiting with her ticket and she should meet me at the dock,” Alby concluded.

“What did Babs say?” asked the Soupster.

“She said not to expect her,” said Alby. “”I should go without her just to spite her.”

Then, a loud sob, a child’s sob. The murmur of a mother’s soothing. No one had an extra ticket and the tourists would be left behind. The boat’s motor fired up and the crew untied the lines.

“Alby,” yelled the Soupster above the engine noise. “You know the story “The Gift of the Magi”? He motioned his head toward the woman and her sad, sad son.

“Okay, Babs, you win,” said Alby, frowning. He walked over to the woman, and the Soupster clearly heard, “Oh, Sir! Thank you!” as he watched his old friend give her his and Babs’ tickets.

“Okay, Alby, you win,” the Soupster heard from the other direction as Babs Byington hurried down to the dock. The Soupster watched the tourist woman and her now-happy boy hurry up the gangway. Alby and Babs stood in deep conversation, touching each other’s arms.

As the boat pulled away from the dock, the Soupster really wanted to make sure Alby knew just how perfectly the Magi story fit the current situation. But he decided to leave the two lovebirds alone.

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 1, 2012

Our Town – November 1, 2012

| Couples, Jobs, Money, Our Town, Relationships | October 31, 2012

Only 25 and Tim felt he was in a whole second life. He, alone, had to take care of 16-month-old Hazel as a single Dad for the next three days. Three days could be 30 diapers that would need changing. Could be more than 30. He shuddered.

That morning, Tim’s wife Gretchen left town on business. There was no question but that she should go – even if that meant leaving Tim with the baby. Gretchen had the real job with real pay and good benefits– she had to dress up, travel on business and make sure she had an admired cell phone model (she was in tech).

When they were first married and Gretchen was in school, Tim had the job and there was no baby – that’s what he now thought of as his first life. Back then, Tim had a retail gig, which was fine and paid okay, as long as it was just Tim and Gretchen. No benefits, but they were healthy. Tim would have preferred working outside building things, but retail was fine. Until the store closed.

For a while Tim felt sorry for himself. Gretchen felt sorry for him, too. It was she who suggested he take some construction training and raise the whole family up another economic notch. Hazel generated a lot of bills and whole slew of new worries.  And she generated a lot of dirty diapers that needed changing.

After Tim graduated from the training program, he put the word out with friends and filled out applications all over Our Town. But there were no jobs for him that were outside and involved building things. Tim had really liked the idea of moving the family up a notch. But they were stuck in the same notch.

Tim had even complained to the Soupster a day earlier, as the two chatted while waiting for milkshakes. The Soupster agreed that Gretchen had to go and leave Hazel with Tim. Normally an angelic child, Hazel had decided to test her father’s mettle the minute Gretchen’s plane took off skyward.

A list too long to make (and who wants to castigate an innocent child?) but Hazel’s transgressions were many. Tim felt himself losing his grip on his second life. He also was losing his grip on a seriously soiled diaper. The phone rang. Cindy at the placement office for the training program said there was a big project coming up that would require a lot of people who liked building things outside. The employer had Tim’s resume and the program’s recommendation, and Tim should expect a phone call from the employer shortly.

This was a notch-raising opportunity.

Tim celebrated by opening a brand new package of baby wipes. Hazel picked up the vibe and stopped being such a little poop. Gretchen would be home before long. Hooray, second life!

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 17, 2012

Our Town – May 17, 2012

| Couples, Our Town, Relationships | May 17, 2012

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 kind of 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 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 voice was pure music.

That’s what I was trying to remember! the Soupster thought. That sometimes it just all works out in the end.

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 9, 2009

Our Town – April 9, 2009

| Airplanes, Couples, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships, Travel | April 9, 2009

Having escaped fires, snakes and sharks down under, the Soupster was glad to be heading home. After scanning the plane for familiar faces, she found her seat and settled back to enjoy the last leg of her long journey. The plane was de-iced, and took off into the night sky.

“Have a look at this,” husband urged, shoving an Aircraft Safety Instruction brochure in front of the exhausted Soupster. A woman was leaping through the aircraft doorway over an inflatable slide; an Olympic gymnast, legs straight out in front of her, modestly covered by an unruffled skirt. Husband raised his eyebrows; “You’d think she’d have taken off her high heels first,” he commented.

In the next picture, a plane was floating in the sea, an inflatable slide attached to a doorway. At the end of the slide, a man in the water was effortlessly turning the slide around, converting it into a raft. This time, the Soupster raised her eyebrows, trying in vain to picture herself performing the feat in freezing water.

Another picture showed a floating aircraft surrounded by 4 inflatable slide rafts that had been released. Each raft had 12 people floating in the water, hanging onto its edges. “You want to make sure you’re one of the 48 people who gets a spot on the raft,” husband chuckled. The Soupster shifted her attention to other pictures with warnings not to jump off the aircraft wing onto a raging fire or a pile of rocks.

Suddenly it was time to fasten seatbelts and prepare for landing. It was snowing heavily and the lights in and around our town were invisible.

The Soupster tightened her grip on the armrests as turbulence shook the plane. She checked the pouch on the seat in front of her for the sick bag, and then looked out of the window. At the speed they were moving, snow flakes rushing past horizontally created an illusion of being on the ground, or very near to it. The descent continued. Images of crashing into the sea and swimming around in dark, freezing water, trying to find a spot on a raft were disconcerting. Her life flashed before her, along with the headlines: “Soupster perishes as plane misses runway.”

Suddenly the aircraft changed direction and began to gain altitude. “The pilot was unable to see the runway lights and will make one more attempt to land,” a voice boomed from above. Thankfully, the next attempt was successful.

The air was still freezing and snow still shrouded the landscape. Spring was mostly still asleep. Thoughts of warm, sunny, foreign lands teased the Soupster momentarily. But warm welcomes, friendly faces, loving embraces and feet on solid ground made the Soupster smile. She was extremely glad to be back, safe and sound, in the wonderland of Our Town.

— Submitted by Lois Verbaan DenHerder

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 26, 2009

Our Town – March 26, 2009

| Couples, Relationships | March 26, 2009

“Know what I’ve noticed?” asked the Soupster as, across the restaurant table, his friend Gina crammed her face into a Chipotle chicken wrap. “There aren’t any power couples in Our Town.”

“Chowper Rusples?” Gina seemed to say, as a dollop of Chipotle slipped from her lip. The Soupster handed Gina his napkin.

“You know, power couples,” he said. “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.” The Soupster had ordered the goat cheese and halibut-stuffed croissant.

“Rish Brusleandsh?” asked Gina, taking both the napkin and another bite.

“Yeah, like Brangelina,” said the Soupster with a chuckle. Then he turned mock-serious. “Gina, have you had anything to eat this century? You sure seem hungry.”

Gina quaked with silent laughter, attempting not to choke. She finished what was in her mouth and dabbed at the corners of her lips.

“Okay, okay,” she said. “Like Brangelina – no, Our Town doesn’t have any of those. Seems like all the well-known people in town come in one-person units. Not that they don’t have a spouse or partner back home. But only one is well-known. No Brangelinas, I’m afraid. Okay if I take another bite now?”

She did, as the Soupster said, “Well, I don’t think Our Town necessarily needs actual Brangelinas. I’m not arguing for Brangelinas. I’m just putting the idea out there.” He went to work on his halibut.

“No, I think I know what you mean,” said Gina. “I can hardly think of anybody who has a really prominent post, whose wife or girlfriend or boyfriend also has a really prominent post. Maybe it’s a “spread the wealth” thing that keeps any one couple from being, you know, too fancy dancy.” She bent her face back into her wrap.

The Soupster looked up from his halibut. “Or maybe a more like a `pitcher-catcher’ kind of thing. If you have two pitchers, there wouldn’t be a game.”

“Yin yang,” said Gina.

“Humpty Dumpty,” said the Soupster.

“What?” said Gina. “You made me think of Humpty Dumpty,” said the Soupster. “I don’t know why.”

Gina bit into her wrap. The Soupster bit into his croissant. The door of the restaurant swung open and in walked Calvin and Vanessa.

Still trim in their sixties, well-liked and always ready to lend a hand. They both smiled at Gina and the Soupster and sat down across the room. Calvin Bridges headed a successful contracting firm and Vanessa Bridges stayed home most days, creating a super-nest for the Bridges’ ever-growing troop of grand- and great-grand- Bridges. Calvin served on government and trade bodies in numerous capacities – for the state, and occasionally, even the nation, and for Our Town, mostly.

A lot of Vanessa’s public work came through her church. She could speak Portuguese and Farsi and was called to the Superior Court on occasion to translate. Cal was proud of his wife’s CPA, which she earned to help out at tax time. Cal once dumped a load of needed building materials outside the Animal Shelter anonymously (he thought). Vanessa cooked at ANB each year at one of the holidays, then at home for a big multi-generational splurge at the other.

Gina caught the Soupster’s eye and gave him a knowing look. She pointed her chin at the other couple. “Calvershmenda,” she said, leaking Chipotle again.

“Yeah, you’re right,” said the Soupster. “Calvanessa.”

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Would you like to create an Our Town?

The Sitka Soup would welcome an infusion of “new blood.” You may tell your story in words (450-500 of them), or as a graphic “cartoon” strip. We would even consider a short original photo essay with B&W photos. Your Our Town must be closely connected with the life of Sitkans, and the Soupster must make an appearance, even if it’s a brief one.

If we run your Our Town, we’ll pay you $50. To submit: Email your creation to shop@sitkasoup.com and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call: 747-7595.

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.

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