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Comments Off on Our Town – November 19, 2020

Our Town – November 19, 2020

| Friends, Holidays, Our Town, Relationships, Thanksgiving | November 19, 2020

The Soupster thinks he has enlightened an unconscious friend

Originally published November 22, 2000

“I’m giving thanks for my brand new sportscar,” said the Soupster’s old friend Jake over the phone. “I bought it with the bundle I made investing in cell phones. It looks cool and gets me where I’m going in comfort. And it’s a babe-magnet!” he finished unrepentantly.

Sighed the Soupster, “You’re the same chauvinistic, materialistic scoundrel I knew decades ago. You know nothing about giving thanks.”

“I know a lot about cell phones,” said Jake.

“Thanks shouldn’t be for cell phones and fancy cars, it should be for the warm basics of life. Home and family and friends and good food. Here you are entering geezerhood and you haven’t grasped that simple fact.”

“Did I say I hit 120 miles per hour in the desert one day?”

The Soupster took a deep breath and re-phrased the exasperated question in his head before saying it aloud. “Where do you live?” he finally got out.

“In an apartment complex with a pool and a sauna and an exercise room and…” Jake began.

“Wait,” said the Soupster. “Forget all the extras. Just concentrate on your apartment. Your place. Now, concentrate on the bed and you sleeping snugly while a howling gale roars outside.”

“I love that feeling,” Jake admitted.

“The sports car doesn’t give you that kind of feeling, right?”

“A different kind of feeling,” Jake agreed.

“The pool and the exercise room and all that stuff are like one of those blue novelty lights,” said the Soupster. “They don’t really give off warmth.

That cozy bed feeling you’re remembering is timeless and placeless. You could be back home and be a kid again. You think only about the slightly colder pocket of air surrounding your feet at the end of the blanket. And you wonder whether you should poke them out into the even colder room air or scrunch them together into a heat-producing ball.”

“Scrunch them together,” said Jake. “What I actually like,” he confessed, “is when you scrunch the arch and heel parts of your feet together, but you also try and get the cool blanket to fold in between as many toes as you can.”

“But, what I really, really like,” he continued, “is when you’re in bed, under the blanket that’s folded between as many toes as you can, and you remember — you remember — that’s there’s something you wanted to do. Not like you left a candle burning or something having to do with safety. Like you left the cookies open in the living room and the dog will probably get into it overnight and throw up and you’ll have to clean that up in the morning. But you don’t care because it’s so warm under the blanket and you’ve got at least six toes folded into the cool parts.”

“A much better Thanksgiving thought than your ego-pumping car, right?” asked the Soupster, temporarily triumphant.

“Right-o, buddy,” said Jake. “As a babe magnet, this warm blanket-candle-toe stuff slams that ole car right out of the ballpark! Thanks!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 5, 2020

Our Town – November 5, 2020

| Darkness, Friends, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons | November 5, 2020

(Ahead of his time) the Soupster hunkers down.

Originally published November 7, 2013

The Soupster was not damp, but everything outside the walls of his house couldn’t have been soggier. In Our Town “Fall” might better be called “Thrown At” because the rain and/or hail of the season seems propelled downward by a force greater than mere gravity.

The Soupster was feeling bored and lonely, so he was happy when Carla called from Minnesota. “Bored and a little lonely, but dry,” the Soupster said when Carla asked how he was.

Carla chattered on about her kids Josh and Rebecca and husband Josh, and her going back to college online. Then, she said “Oops, I’m getting Call Waiting, must be Becca, I’m supposed to pick her up. Can you hold?”

The Soupster did. Switching to speaker phone, he wandered toward his back porch, where the part covered by a fiberglass roof played wonderful rhythms as it hailed. The sound rose and fell like the aural equivalent of those birds whose flocks turn on a dime: sheets of sound, rippling and turning.

Carla came back on, “Sorry, Soupster,” she said. “That was Becca, who needs another half hour before I get her. So you’re lonely and a little bored?”

“Actually, bored and a little lonely,” said the Soupster. “This is a rough time of the year, weather-wise.”

“Tell me about it,” said Carla. “I’m an Our Town girl. Remember, you just have to make it to Thanksgiving. Then the holiday lights go up and you start talking to friends. And then it’s New Years and you notice the light coming back a little more.”

“Oh, I hate to do this,” Carla blurted, “But I’m getting another call. Will you hold again?”

The Soupster did. The hail slacked off. A shaft of sunlight pierced the gray sky, came through the window, and fell upon a bookshelf, where there lived a ceramic planter in the shape of a fish with enormous crimson lips. Carla had given the Soupster the fish two decades earlier, after he helped her move. This was before kids and even before husband Josh.

Next to the fish was a half-scale raven carved out of wood. Steve Jessup had given the Soupster the raven after the Soupster took Steve’s parents out on his boat. Next to that, an entire dog family stretched out on their papier-mâché couch – a gift from somebody. Above the dogs nestled signed copies of all the books by Our Town’s writers over the years.

The Soupster touched the arms of his sweater – knitted by Giselle for his birthday. In the pantry were jars of sockeye and jams, all canned by various friends. If he wanted, he could gaze around his living room at the paintings and sculptures created by friends. Or he could pop in a CD cut by one of Our Town’s bands.

Carla came back on the line. “I can see why you feel lonely,” she said. “I keep abandoning you.”

“You know, I don’t feel lonely,” said a satisfied Soupster, taking in his surroundings. “Not anymore.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 24, 2020

Our Town – September 24, 2020

| Animals, Cats, Covid-19, Friends, Gardening, Our Town, Relationships | September 24, 2020

The Soupster hears about some post-Covid magic.

The words “Oblong Rookery” appeared on the Soupster’s phone, accompanied by a chime.

“Hi, Oblong!” said the Soupster. “It’s really good to hear your voice. How long has it been?”

“Almost a year, Soupster. I think the last time was when you were visiting down here and dragged me to that Korean horror flick on Hollywood Boulevard. I know I grumbled a bunch at the time but looking back I do appreciate it.”

“Are you well, Oblong? How are you doing?”

“Oh, yeah, Soupster, I’m well, and I’m doing okaaay… I’ve been thinking a lot about Joan Didion lately.”

“The writer?”

“Yeah, her. She was the one who wrote that book, The Year of Magical Thinking. She wrote it about the death of her husband – who was also a famous writer – from a heart attack, just days after their daughter – Quintana Roo – lapsed into a coma. This all happened – oh, I don’t know – back in the early aughts.”

“Yeah, I kinda remember. What got your mind on Joan Didion?”

“Well – I am just thinking this through out loud – but I believe I’ve been doing a lot of magical thinking myself in the past year. Like, I have been going to call you for months, and then, even though I was obsessing about you, I didn’t call. On some level, I kept thinking, ‘I have to call Soupster and find out how he’s doing. If I don’t call soon, something bad might happen.’

“So, that is why I am really, really glad that you’re okay. And I’m okay. And my cats are okay, and even my plants are okay. All those things get involved in my magical thinking, too.”

“Cats and plants are pretty important, Oblong. Especially now. What’s so magical about how you think of them?”

“Well, Rubber Tree – that’s my black cat (she’s named after that Sinatra song, ‘High Hopes’ – remember, ‘Ooops, there goes another rubber tree plant’) – anyway, Rubber Tree only likes these certain kinds of food. So, I tell myself whenever I find these kinds – just flaked or minced and containing the right kinds of fish – that if I feed them to her, she will be happy, and everything will be all right. Get it? Magical, hmmnnn?”

“What about your actual plants, Oblong?”

“Oh, they’re fine, too, although they do need more water with this heat. Sometimes it’s hard to get myself out to water the outdoor ones, what with the 120-degrees and the smoke from the fires. Fortunately, a lot of my plants are cacti and succulents. I have to be careful with the tomatoes, though. They don’t like to dry out, but they also don’t like wet feet.”

“Sounds like you’re talking anthropomorphism, Oblong – you know, like where you give the non-humans around you human personalities?”

“I might as well, Soupster. I have precious little face-to-face (or even mask-to-mask) interaction with humans these days. I don’t know what I would have done these past months if it weren’t for Rubber Tree and the tomatoes.

“Oblong, that sounds like it could become the title for your own book of magic.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 5, 2019

Our Town – December 5, 2019

| Bridge, Friends, Our Town, Toys | December 5, 2019

With help from a friend, the Soupster sees Our Town with fresh “eyes”.

Originally published November 30, 2006

“Know what I found today?” Marcie said to the Soupster, as the two strode up the sidewalk on the Japonski Island side of the O’Connell Bridge.

“What?” asked the Soupster, on the rare recent day when it wasn’t blisteringly cold. His chin down into his coat, the Soupster was enjoying the spread of warmth on his chest when he breathed. He wasn’t really listening.

“3-D glasses!” Marcie said. “At the bottom of the pantry, beneath all the vole traps and old fishing net. Cardboard with cellophane lenses. One red and one blue lens. Must be fifty years old if a day!”

The Soupster uttered not a peep.

“Remember those old 3-D horror movies, like `House of Wax?’ asked Marcie. “Vincent Price?”

No response.

“`House of Wax’ was the first major studio motion picture in 3-D,” said Marcie. “And just about the last.”

Still nothing.

“Although a lot of big actors, directors and producers got their start in horror films. Like Charles Bronson was in `House of Wax.’ Must’ve been his big break – at that time he was doing nothing but TV episodes. Played Igor in `House of Wax,’ under the name he also used when he did the TV stuff – Charles Buchinsky.”

“Buchinsky,” came the Soupster’s voice, as though from the vast beyond. “Isn’t Matt Dillon portraying him in some new movie?”

“That’s Charles Bukowski. Bukowski is a Beat writer from Los Angeles,” Marcie said. “Soupster, are you all there today?”

“No, I’m listening,” the Soupster lied. “3-D. I heard you. 3-D. Like my old Viewmaster.”

“Say what?” said Marcie, so the Soupster added, “That may be before your time.” The Soupster had a few years on Marcie.

“Kids toy, looked like plastic binoculars?” prompted the Soupster, but Marcie shook her head.

“You put these round paper disks in the device — the disks contained about a dozen pictures each,” he continued to explain, as the two denizens of our town neared the crest of the bridge. “It was really a fancy slide viewer. Very 3-D. But you could buy these wonderful collections of disk sets like `World Cities’ or `Big Cats’ or `World’s Fair.’ I used to spend hours looking at these scenes and dreaming about seeing them for myself some day.”

This time it was Marcie’s turn not to listen. She stopped abruptly and stood perfectly still, except for her jaw, which slowly gaped open.

For the duo had reached the crest of the bridge’s graceful curve, revealing to their view a big chunk of the panorama that is Our Town. Always beautiful, the mountains on either side of Verstovia were expertly highlighted by white snow and dark forest, a drawing done in pencils. There was downtown, then town, then the inner ring of mere “hills” like Gavan, then simultaneously large and distant mountains crowding for every inch of the Soupster and Marcie’s view.

The Soupster stepped alongside his friend, pleased by the rapturous look on Marcie’s face. “Now, that’s 3-D!” he said.

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