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Comments Off on Our Town – July 18, 2019

Our Town – July 18, 2019

| Animals, Eagles, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships | July 18, 2019

The Soupster shares his learning about eagle feathers.

Originally Published July 24, 2003

The first time the Soupster passed his neighbor Gem, she was standing behind her push mower in the middle of her small lawn. The Soupster waved and Gem cocked an eyebrow and shook her head.

The second time the Soupster passed, Gem was standing in exactly the same spot, with exactly the same quizzical look on her face.

“Gem?” asked the Soupster, strolling over. “You okay?”

“Soupster!” said Gem, as if snapping from a trance. “Look here,” she said, pointing down.

The Soupster did as asked and spied first Gem’s boots, then the head of the push mower and finally – obviously the object of Gem’s attention — two bald eagle feathers, one white and one brown, lying in the grass.

“I can’t mow over them, Soupster, they’re so beautiful,” Gem said. “But if I pick them up I’ll be guilty of a federal crime!”

“Calm down, Gem,” said the Soupster.

“But Soupster, nobody is allowed to possess bald eagle feathers!”

“You’re right, Gem,” the Soupster said. “There are laws against possessing any of the parts, including feathers, of bald and golden eagles. Live or dead. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever touch the feathers.”

The Soupster bent over and picked the feathers up. The white one was fine and delicate, with a bit of down at its base, fluffy and ready to fly away on the merest breeze. The brown feather was more substantial, its firm stalk suggesting the heft of a writing quill.

“Native Americans and scientists are allowed to petition for eagle feathers – or other parts,” said the Soupster. “For ceremonial or scientific reasons. There’s a place in Colorado – the National Eagle Repository – and another one called The National Wildlife Repository, that are run by the federal government. They will hold onto any animal parts people are not legally allowed to possess – from skins from bears unlawfully hunted to lizard skins not allowed in the U.S. and seized by Customs.”

“Wow,” said Gem.

“My friend at Fish and Wildlife says there’s a six-month waiting list of thousands of Native Americans who have applied for eagle feathers,” the Soupster continued. “For other parts, the wait can easily be a couple of years. Maybe these feathers could go to someone on the list.”

Gem stepped away from the mower. She took the feathers from the Soupster’s hand and studied them. “It’s amazing to think,” she said, “the something people all over the country might wait months or years for is fluttering onto my lawn.”

“Americans who come upon eagle feathers are asked to mail them to the repository,” the Soupster explained. “My friend says that in Our Town, we should just turn them over to our state Fish and Game folks and they’ll see they get to the right place.”

“Thanks, Soupster. I can go back to mowing now,” Gem said. “Anything I can do for you?”

“Well, Gem,” the Soupster said. “After you finish your lawn, how about you come over and finish mine?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 4, 2019

Our Town – July 4, 2019

| Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Shopping | July 4, 2019

The Soupster has a “bird” sighting.

Originally published May 6, 2010

The Soupster awoke to the sound of birds – early birds. He heard a number of cars pull into the neighborhood. The engines stopped and car doors creaked open. Next came excited squawks and warbling calls, as the early birds recognized each other and descended on their destination.

“Lydia’s Moving Sale!” The Soupster’s eyes popped open and he leaped from his bed.

His beloved long-time neighbor was re-locating to Hawaii to be with her son Hank and his family, who had already remodeled their lanai into an apartment. A couple of years earlier, Lydia’s daughter-in-law Jackie had come into an inheritance, so Hank had closed his not-so-successful Our Town nautical pest extermination business (“Swimming Rats Our Specialty”). Having misjudged their opportunities in the 49th State, Hank and Jackie had decided to give the 50th a whirl.

The Soupster quickly donned his clothes – grateful for the new 21st Century rule that men no longer needed to comb their hair – and hurried over to Lydia’s.

His neighbor’s modest home was overrun with early birds. But of course! For Lydia had had the temerity to put an ad in the previous evening’s newspaper: “Aloha Moving Sale! Everything must go! Items free or you set the price. 9am-1pm. No early birds.”

Nothing inflamed an early bird’s lust for cheap but serviceable household items like those last three words. “No early birds?” he thought. “Really, Lydia?” He looked at his watch. It was just past 8:30.

At the front door, Lydia was negotiating with one of the early birds, who held a DVD player and a lamp. The early bird held cash, but Lydia pushed his hand back. “It’s okay to take them for free,” she insisted.

“I’m sure you could use the money,” said the bird, placing a $50 bill in her hand and hurrying out the door.

“It’s been like this,” said Lydia, acknowledging the Soupster. “I tell them they can have the stuff for free. I must look pitiful or something, because they keep forcing me to take money.”

“Why don’t you want to take money?”

“I feel like I should pay them,” said Lydia. “To take this stuff away. You know how much you accumulate in 30 years? I was going to take everything to the White Elephant, but do you know how many trips that would have made? This way the buyers come right to me. Cuts out the middleman.”

Lydia turned her attention to a bird holding a sewing basket, a coffee maker and two tin buckets. More early birds arrived as the Soupster surveyed the scene. Lydia’s household was being demolished peck by peck, as surely as ravens worrying a dead salmon.

But Lydia seemed happy, the Soupster surmised. “Hey Lydia, what are you going to spend all this unexpected money on?” he asked.

“Oh, it all goes to the White E.,” said Lydia. “Do you know how much trouble this is saving me? By cutting out the middleman??”

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 20, 2019

Our Town – June 20, 2019

| Animals, Bears, Eagles, food, Neighbors, Our Town, Ravens, Relationships | June 20, 2019

The Soupster contributes to French Enlightenment.

Originally published June 26, 2003

Before the strolling Soupster even reached the bend in the road, he heard three things: the treble- triples and quads of bald eagles, the more purposeful caws of ravens and the baritone of his  neighbor, Jean-Pierre, spouting loud, angry French.

After retiring from a large bicycle manufacturer in Paris, Jean-Pierre had built a sailboat and headed out to sea. Six years later, with a wife he’d met in Phnom Penh and a son born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Jean-Pierre came ashore in Our Town and declared it “Ze Heaven On Zis Earth!” The son was married himself now and living Outside. The wife had moved back to Cambodia to be with her family. But to Jean-Pierre, Our Town was still “Heaven on Zis Earth.”

Well, maybe not today.

Today, Jean-Pierre was in a furious competition with some ravens to return the contents of his trash can to their rightful place before the black birds pulled the items out again.  As to who was winning, it was a toss-up.

In the hemlocks surrounding Jean-Pierre’s trash-strewn driveway, bald eagles watched the action from a dignified distance. Not so the ravens, one of which swooped low enough to knock Jean-Pierre’s cap off. Then the bird glided smoothly to the rim of the can, cackled happily and grabbed a piece of melon peel.

“Yo, Jean-Pierre,” the Soupster called. “You can’t win a battle against those odds. Let me help you.”

The Soupster tipped the scales some in Jean-Pierre’s favor. The ravens may have given the Soupster slack because he truly loved ravens. Or because he was not French. Whatever, they flew back up into the hemlocks and started harassing the eagles.

“What got this stuff all over, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster asked.

“I zink it was ze bear, mon Zoupster,” said Jean-Pierre. “It may have been ze land otter, but I don’t zink zo. I zink it was ze bear.”

“Did you keep your trash in your garage until pick-up day like you were supposed to?” asked the Soupster.

“Oui! Yes!” said Jean-Pierre. “Always!”

“Did you put any fish or meat in the can that might have smelled strong and attracted the bear?”

“Sacre bleu!” Jean-Pierre said. “My freezer needed repair. I thought for just a little while it would be all right. You are right, Zoupster. It was ze smelly fish zat attracted ze bear!”

“Not such a “heaven on zis Earth” if you have to watch your garbage so closely, eh, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster teased.

“Au contraire, Zoupster!” Jean-Pierre said. “Zis is nature. In nature, zere is always zometing to capitalize on a mistake zat any creature makes. Nature, she is very efficient, no?”

“Yes,” the Soupster said.

“And, Zoupster,” Jean-Pierre concluded, as the two men hoisted upright the now-filled can. “We are zo lucky to live right with nature. With nature right on our doorstep. In our driveway. C’est magnifique, no?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 9, 2019

Our Town – August 9, 2019

| Craftsman, Neighbors, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships | August 9, 2018

The Soupster chats with some “guys”.

Originally published June 4, 2009

Guy had worked the order counter at the lumberyard for the past 20 years, after spending an equal amount of time working out in the field. Examples of his handiwork stood all over Our Town. And stand they did – even after decades of salt-encrusted gales, Guy’s decks, fences, sheds and garages stood strong while much newer structures succumbed to rot. Guy knew how to make things shed water and not trap it. And that, as the poet said, makes all the difference.

“Hey guy!” Guy said to the new builder who had come into the store just about every other day for the better part of the last three weeks. Guy greeted everybody with “Hey guy!” — which was his personal joke.

The newcomer chuckled obediently. “Hey, Guy,” he answered. The new contractor had won a federal contract to refurbish some government structures and planned to be in Our Town for a month. With him hailing from sunnier climes, the rain had put a serious damper on his spirit. He was homesick.

“What’ll it be?” asked Guy, already feeling sorry for the newbie. He didn’t know Our Town’s unspoken rule that you had to be here at least 6 months or through a winter before people started taking you seriously.

As the new contractor reeled off his needs, Guy nodded, but didn’t write anything down. He didn’t have to. Guy had a prodigious memory – big enough to store and retrieve detailed knowledge of just about every building that went up. He remembered who did the work, who paid for the work and how the work went. He remembered what materials they’d used. He automatically remembered all of what his customer had just asked for.

Then Larry the shipwright, showed up to order ironwood and hydraulic hoses and fittings. As the new contractor waited for his order, Guy rang up Larry’s stuff. Larry’s wife, Felicity, lounged in a nearby chair.

After high school, Guy and Larry had fixed up a classic troller and hand-trolled together for two summers. Then they had that close call. Larry was the seadog and went right back out. Guy started making a living fishing for nails. The two friends grew apart. Well, not so far apart that Guy didn’t introduce Larry to Felicity, who was Guy’s cousin through his mother.

Enter the Soupster, who chatted with Larry and Felicity and went through the whole “Hey guy!” routine with Guy. Shirley, Guy’s wife, had taught beginning piano to the Soupster’s niece, who now worked as a concert accompanist. Felicity had recommended the music school at her old college to the Soupster’s niece — where the girl received a nice scholarship — even though Felicity had gone there for nursing. Guy had built the Soupster a shed that was still watertight after 33 wet winters. Larry sold him fish.

Guy’s two-way radio buzzed, signaling that the new contractor’s order was ready.

“Friendly place,” the visiting builder said. “I know how it goes from my hometown. The guy at the lumberyard there knows everybody, too.” Then, he paused and indicated the Soupster, Larry and Felicity, who were still chatting. “That’s got to be unusual, though. The fact that the customers know each other so well. That’s got to be rare.”

Guy considered his loquacious friends. Actually, the scene he surveyed happened nearly every day at the order counter at the lumberyard. Then, Guy remembered Our Town’s “Six Month Rule.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he fibbed. “Rare, indeed.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 16, 2017

Our Town – November 16, 2017

| Fall, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons | November 16, 2017

The Soupster sees light being lent.

The knock on the Soupster’s door turned out to be Bob, the Soupster’s new neighbor, who wanted to borrow a flashlight. Bob needed to do some outdoor plumbing and, new to Our Town, he still felt uncomfortable about running electrical cords outside in the rain.

“Cleve,” the Soupster told Bob. “Cleve is your man.”

Cleve was another of the Soupster’s neighbors and known for his lights. Cleve had gasoline-powered pedestal klieg lights as well as key chain lights whose bulbs were guaranteed beyond eternity. Cleve had lights he could strap to his head, his shoulder, the crook of his arm and his shoes. He had old diving lights that ran on massive lantern batteries, one than ran on a fuel cell the size of a dime and one that you could crank to operate.

The passage between the Soupster’s house and Cleve’s ran through some thick brush, and the Soupster could see Bob cringing from the even deeper dark that cloaked the path.

“Light,” said the Soupster. “Can you even remember the middle of the summer, when it never got dark? We’re paying for that now.”

The light-starved Bob took up the conversation; after all isn’t food — or the opposite of it — the favorite subject of famished people? “The desert is dark, notably dark,” he said. “A winter I spent outside Shiprock, Arizona taught me that. But wet dark is somehow worse.”

“Wet dark is like double dark,” the Soupster agreed. “Can be dark on the ocean.”

“On a tour of Alcatraz prison, I volunteered to be locked in solitary confinement,” said Bob. “When they closed the door, that was the darkest I could imagine.”

“Cleve’s yard is equipped with motion-sensor lights all over the place,” said the Soupster. “Don’t be startled. I can show you where you can just wave your hand a little out in front of you and set off the whole array.”

On the edge of Cleve’s lawn, the Soupster waved his arm a little out in front of him and the whole area blazed into daytime. Awash now, the two men staggered, blinking, up the walk. Cleve was already at his front door, tipped off by the lights.

“Can Bob check out one of your flashlights to do some plumbing?” the Soupster asked, indicating the new neighbor.

“Sure,” said Cleve, who disappeared briefly. He came back with a three lights — a carabiner micro-light, a waterproof million-candlepower portable searchlight and about six feet of luminescent piping. “Use the piping for brightening up the area where you are working,” he explained.

As Bob stood examining the lights, the Soupster turned to Cleve. “Poor guy,” whispered the Soupster. “This is his first November.”

“He’ll do okay,” Cleve said. “It’ll soon be Thanksgiving and the city lights will go up on the utility poles and the people in the stores and houses will start decorating.”

“Can I borrow all three lights?” asked Bob.

“Better than cursing the darkness,” said Cleve. “For sure.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 7, 2017

Our Town – September 7, 2017

| Animals, Dogs, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | September 7, 2017

The Soupster recounts how a good prop can save the day.

“Wild beard – check, rough clothes – check,” said the Soupster to himself, as he stared at the large form of Granville Brickface standing at the coffee counter.

“Five shot venti Americano,” boomed Granville in a bass impressive enough to literally blow back the barrista’s hair (well, almost literally). Granville collected his potion and parked his bulk on the far side of the crowded coffee shop.

“Giant voice – check,” the Soupster muttered.

Granville Brickface was not the biggest guy in Our Town, but – with his wild beard, rough clothes and giant voice — he definitely took up the most space. Crowds seemed to part when he showed up. Dogs and birds went silent.

The Soupster remembered one time when a delicately-engraved invitation had arrived in Granville’s mail, with multiple pages and tissue papers in between each page. Granville was distantly related to some pretty lofty Our Town residents of the past and was being invited to the wedding of the daughter of one of the loftiest present-day Our Town residents.

The invite had required serious cogitation on Granville’s part. The guy was big, but not mean. He did not want to scandalize the ceremony with his usual “casual” garb, when the rest of the partygoers went formal. He did not want to do anything to rattle the nuptials. He would buy a suit.

“And get a haircut, for goodness sakes,” Granville heard in his mother’s voice inside his
head. He decided he would do that, too.

But successful social engagements are not based solely on appearance, Granville had remembered. People are required to talk with one another. A problem, he thought, that was more enigmatic than a haircut.

The Soupster had suggested a strategy from his long-ago experience with dating. He told Granvillle to anticipate the questions people would ask of him and, like a politician readying for a debate, prepare polite answers and memorize them. So Granville did.

The morning of the wedding, Granville took his newly-shorn and freshly-laundered self to visit the elderly woman who lived next door, as a test run.  Mrs. Cox was delighted with Granville’s transformation.

“It’s remarkable,” she said. “I’m nearly not afraid of you.”

“Do you think I’m ready?” Granville asked, purposely speaking in a low voice because of all the crystal glassware lining the breakfront shelves.

“Well,” said Mrs. Cox, tapping one finger against her chin.  “Maybe we can improve things a bit more.”

“Princess Lorna Doone!” Mrs. Cox called out and her tiny, fluffy, impossibly cute Pomeranian yapped into the room.

“Take Princess with you, Granville,” said Mrs. Cox. “Everybody loves Lorna!”

Granville did and Princess Lorna Doone earned her salt. All afternoon, Granville had a small crowd of people surrounding him, all wanting to pet and hold the dog. The memorized answers allowed Granville to appear almost charming.

And he got the best compliment of all when some cousin, taking in Granville’s fresh haircut, crisp suit and tiny dog, said, “I didn’t know Granville had a brother!”

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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 5, 2016

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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Comments Off on Our Town – June 4, 2015

Our Town – June 4, 2015

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | June 4, 2015

The Soupster backs away from trouble.

The imposing Doris Capfield barreled into the city official’s office holding a map.

“It’s a land map,” she told the official. “I’ve got a big problem with my neighbors,” she said and the official gulped.

He knew about the three-generation-long feud between the Capfield family and their neighbors, the McCrorys. This was not the first time a member of one family or the other had been in the official’s office, not by a long shot. Neither family had ever resorted to outright violence against the other, but they had been creatively nasty at expressing their grudge over the years.

And the official was painfully aware that a predecessor had lost his job when he accidentally expressed a pro-McCrory sentiment at a public meeting and the Capfields just about ran him out of town.

The Soupster, who had come into the office a few seconds after Doris, read the scene instantly and backed silently away.

Doris spread her map out on the desk and motioned the official over. “These McCrory fellers – you know who I mean? – think they’re gonna build a fence on a property line that exists only in their mind. Their very demented mind.”

A quick glance at the map told the official that the McCrorys had the stronger case. And, deep down, Doris must have known that, too, because when the official started to tell her, she reared up on her hind legs and huffed, Mama Bear that she was.

The official groaned inaudibly.

“I want you to issue a “Stop Work’ order,” said Doris. “Send the Troopers if you have to. Send in the National Guard!”

“I don’t think there’s anything I can do to help you,” the official said.

“That’s what I thought you’d say,” Doris huffed again and the official thought he heard her mutter the word “weasel.” She angrily rolled up her map and looked like she might bop him with it.

Then Doris burst into tears.

“What is it, Mrs. Capfield?” asked the official.

“It’s my son, Lawrence,” she sobbed. “He’s been seeing the McCrory girl – Sarah?”

“Oh.”

“He spends all his time with those… monsters!” she wailed. “Sarah is a nice girl, she can’t help who her family is. But he’s over there all the time. Lawrence, I mean.”

The official handed Doris a tissue.

“He’s going there for the Fourth of July!  What if they get married?” Doris grabbed the official by the lapels. “What if they have a baby?!”

“A baby,” she said, tugging harder on his jacket. “My grandchild! What should I do? What advice would you give me?”

It took the official only a second to decide. He plucked the map out of Capfield’s hands and spread it out on his desk. “Now about this land issue,” he said. “We should definitely look at that again.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 5, 2013

Our Town – December 5, 2013

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff, Travel | December 5, 2013

The Soupster learns that traveling alone need not be lonely.

Originally published December 4, 2003

The Soupster vigorously dried his hair with the motel towel, brimming with satisfaction. He happily donned a thin travel robe..

On his way home at a Sea-Tac Airport motel, the Soupster gave a satisfied sigh. His was not just any motel – but one the Soupster had stayed at more times than he could remember. Often for just a night passing through, sometimes for a week on business.

The motel had gone through bad periods in the recent past, but had snapped back recently with new owners, paint, and a snappy new name. Two floors high, with a large parking lot in front. A lobby that, in season, featured Washington apples in a basket for the guests to sample. A free local shuttle. Could a pit stop offer more?

But it could. For this motel’s showers were exemplary, extraordinary – they put the showers in any other establishment to shame. The water was not too soft and not hard, not too hot and not cold. The shower loosed a stream that perfectly coated anyone standing under with a warm, cascading blanket. The knobs and valves were amazingly responsive — you got just what you wanted. This inn featured low prices and a pleasant staff. But the showers made the Soupster book a room here, time and time again.

Leaving him defenselessly mellow when a key clicked in the lock, the door swung open and a motel clerk stepped in, followed by a young woman.

“Pardon?” said a wide-eyed Soupster.

The clerk stopped in his tracks. A suitcase he was holding thudded to the floor.

“Uh-oh,” he said, as stunned as the Soupster. “Wrong room.”

“Soupster?” said the young woman.

“Sally?” the Soupster asked as she stepped forward, into the light. “Sally Wright?”

“Right,” said Sally.

“Right?” asked the motel clerk.

Sally put her hand on his arm. “This man knows my Dad,” she explained. “He’s known me since I was kid.”

“Her father and mother used to stay here all the time,” the Soupster added.

“I thought this was the wrong room,” said the clerk.

“This is the wrong room!” Sally and Soupster simultaneously said.

“You must have started work here just recently, “ The Soupster guessed and the motel clerk admitted he had. “There’s a lot of people from Our Town – well, mine and hers – that stay here. A few owners ago, the motel had some kind of deal with a travel agent in Our Town and a lot of people got steered here. New owners – the travel agent moved on – but we still keep coming to this motel.”

“It’s the showers,“ said Sally. “Have you ever taken a shower here?” she asked the clerk

“No,” he said.

“Well you should. And I’m going to right now,” said Sally. “Soupster, I’ll meet you in the lobby in half an hour and we can take the shuttle out to dinner. There’s two more people here from Our Town. If you see them, ask if they’re hungry!”

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Our Town – November 21, 2013

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | November 21, 2013

The Soupster learns it can be hard to stay true to your emotions.

When Carole left her seaside cottage, she felt good. Actually she felt angry, but she felt good about feeling angry.

Carole was healthy, pretty, lucky, sweet and well-off. Many would say her life was perfect and Carole would agree with them. If there was one thing she was missing, that was the human experience of feeling angry. For Carole, who considered herself blessed, never allowed herself to feel angry. Until today.

Today, her hot water heater burned out, the dog had a revolting “accident “on the Persian rug and her least favorite cousin called to complain that Carole never called. That was followed by bad news about her taxes delivered by her accountant who she could barely hear due to the road crew drilling the pavement out front of her house.

Carole felt an unfamiliar rising in her craw and a constriction of her neck muscles. She heard the unfamiliar sound of her own teeth gnashing. Could the world be plotting against her?

Wow, Carole thought, as the feeling washed over her. She thought of her older brother pulling away her stuffed bunny, a freckled girl making fun of her braids, a professor who had a big problem with smart women. It had been years, but she remembered the feeling of being wonderfully, powerfully angry and thought she’d like to go and see what the world did about it.

She walked down the street, reveling in this odd new power. Ahead was that old coot George coming toward her. Although a coot, George often made her laugh. And sometimes made her want to cry because he was such a sweet guy with no place to put his emotions. She could feel her anger waning. So she crossed the street and quickened her pace.

She cut down a path near the coffee shop to try and avoid another sympathetic character and almost bumped into Colleen, who was tracing the same path in the opposite direction.

“Carole,” said Colleen. “I was just thinking of you. We’re starting a new mural and I know that’s something you love. We absolutely want you involved. Want to have coffee?”

“Can’t talk,” said Carole, huffing past. “Gotta go!” She felt her anger fading again and — was forced to imagine last summer’s incident of her neighbor’s cat destroying her flowers — to stay on task

“See ya later, alligator,” Colleen called after her.

Carole put her head down and did not look up. Nonetheless, “Hey Carole!” yelled one person and “Call me!” yelled another.

With her head down and her pace quickened, Carole walked right into a parked car. The Soupster’s car. With her old friend the Soupster in it.

“Carole,” he said, getting out of the car, a concerned look on his face. “My goodness! Are you all right?”

“Oh, Soupster,” she whined, as her embarrassment overwhelmed her. “I’m trying to say angry and I just can’t!”

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Our Town – August 29, 2013

| Guest Written, Mary Ann Jones, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships | August 29, 2013

The Soupster is called on by the teacher.

Our Town retired school teacher Elsbeth Newhauser picked up her walking stick and dog leash and called her bulldog Gerta to her side. The two always left the house for their walk at the same time every morning and followed a route that took them down their residential street to an intersection with a four way stop. It was there that they would cross the main road before continuing on their journey.

This day, however, when they got to the intersection, Gerta abruptly sat down and refused to move. “Now, come on,” Elsbeth encouraged, motioning forward. She had barely finished her sentence when she noticed a large dog charging across the street towards them. Elsbeth gasped and pulled Gerta out of the way, then watched in horror as a bicyclist raced down the hill and flew through the intersection, swerving from side to side. A speeding car followed close behind and slammed on its brakes, but failed to stop before careening into a utility pole.

When the action came to a halt, the bicyclist was laying on his side in the street. The woman in the car struggled to open her door, then emerged, waving her arms in the air. “Why did you stop in the middle of the street?” she yelled at the bicyclist, as he scooted out from under his twisted bike.

“I had to!” he shouted back. “It was all I could do to miss hitting that dog in front of me!”

As they argued, a frantic-looking young man ran up to the intersection, looked at the other two and asked, “Have you seen my dog? He’s a large Lab.” That was enough to spark an even bigger argument between the three about whose fault the accident was.

Finally, Elsbeth’s teacher’s instincts kicked in. She tapped her walking stick on the sidewalk and shouted, “People! Listen!” The bicyclist, motorist and dog owner immediately stopped talking and looked at her. “I don’t know whose fault this was, but we’re not leaving here until we figure it out!”

At that moment, the Soupster rushed out of a friend’s house nearby, approached the group, and politely raised his hand. “Yes, Mr. Soupster,” Elsbeth said, as if calling on one of her former students.

“Mrs. Newhauser, allow me to describe what I observed just now from the front window. The dog, which was off-leash and clearly in violation of city leash laws, came running down the sidewalk and dashed across the road in front of the bicyclist. The bicyclist had, just seconds before, failed to stop at the four-way stop as he sped down the hill. The motorist, who slowed down, but didn’t fully stop at the intersection, was looking down at her cell phone as she passed me.”

“Thank you, Mr. Soupster,“ Elsbeth said. “Well then, I hope you’ve all learned an important lesson about following the rules and being considerate of your fellow students….I mean…fellow citizens.”

“Yes, Mrs. Newhauser,“ they responded all together.

Submitted by Mary Ann Jones

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Our Town – March 28, 2013

| Guest Written, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Rose Manning, Small Town Stuff | March 27, 2013

Is there such a thing as too much help?

“Hey, Buddy. Good to see you.”

“How’s life, Soupster?”

“How is life? How can you ask such a question?”

“I am fixin’ to leave this dang town.”

“Oh no, Buddy. Why do you want to leave Our Town?”

“I just have to, Soupster. It seems that nobody can mind their own beeswax. They are always sticking their nose into my business.”

“Whoa, there! It is a small town and it is spring and it is foggy and you know we just use each other for entertainment this time of year. Just what is this business you are talking about, Buddy?”

“Soupster. Everybody is just too dang nice.”

“Did I hear that right? TOO NICE? What is wrong with that?”

“Do you remember when the doc told me to walk at least twenty minutes every day?”

“Yes, I do and I do see you out there sometimes.”

“You got it, Soupster. Sometimes is right. It seems every time I get my shoes on and start out I can’t get more than a half block from home and somebody stops to give me a ride back home. I explain what I’m doing and turn them down but there is always another do-gooder neighborly sort right behind them. Finally, I give up and get all my exercise crawling in and out of cars. As soon as they drop me off and pull away I start out again. I haven’t made it a full block all week.”

“They are such good and kind people, Buddy.”

“Well. That is not my only problem Soupster.”

“Do tell me more.”

“Well you know how my Taurus is always leaking. The trunk is real swampy so on nice days I leave the trunk lid standing open so it will dry out.”

“Does it work?”

“Not hardly. Some do-goody has to walk by and close the lid. I even took it to the airport, thinking it would work out better there with all the strangers coming and going but I hadn’t even finished one cup of coffee before it was shut tight. And there’s more, Soupster.”

“More?”

“All the young ‘uns are now helping me up the curb and stairs even when I don’t want to go. They also stop and wait to help me cross the road when I don’t want to. I just want to stand in the yard and watch the birds. We caused quite the back-up at the round-a-bout yesterday.”

“Buddy, please don’t leave Our Town. Wait until the weather turns for the better and all the tourists come back. The nice people will get over it and barely have time to bother with you.”

Submitted by Rose Manning

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Our Town – May 3, 2012

| Crazy Theories, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons, Small Town Stuff, Spring | May 3, 2012

“Coffee delivery,” the Soupster announced, as he approached the four men sitting and standing outside Giant Gene’s auto shop. Indeed, he carried a cardboard holder with four paper cups.

“You’re a good man,” Giant Gene told the Soupster, taking the holder and distributing the cups. Charlie, also called Red, raised his in salute. Billy, called Kid, gave an elaborate bow of thanks, almost spilling his. Miguel drank greedily. He was, understandably, sometimes called Santana, since that was his last name.

“Pretty slick,” the Soupster told Gene. “I call you to see if my alternator is ready and you rope me into catering your morning staff meeting. What are you guys doing standing out here, anyway? Don’t you have cars and trucks to shorten the lives of?”

“Shhhh,” said Gene and turned to the other guys. “I think today is definitely the day. It’s my day.”

“Today is what day?” asked the Soupster.

“The day Gene thinks Leonard will finally take his snow shovels inside,” said Red. He pointed across the street to a neatly kept home surrounded by a white picket fence, against which was balanced a silver snow shovel, a black plastic scoop and an ice breaker.

“We think Leonard is the last person in Our Town to put them away,” added Billy.

“We bet on it,” said Giant Gene. “Miguel thought it up.”

“Whoever picks the day Leonard puts the shovels away has to buy lunch for the rest of us for a week,” explained Miguel.

“That’s the first prize?” said the Soupster. “The winner buys lunch for everyone for a week?”

“No,” said Miguel. “The prize is the honor of winning.”

“We call it the Santana Ice Classic,” said Giant Gene.

“Look,” said Billy, “Leonard’s coming out!”

Leonard stepped out onto his cute front porch and took a breath of the morning air. He came down the stairs. The tension at Giant Gene’s was palpable.

When Leonard got to the shovels he paused slightly, looked up in the general direction of Giant Gene’s, walked out the gate and got into his car.

“Darn!” said Gene. “I thought I won!”

“It’s been getting pretty warm,” the Soupster said. “Do you ever worry that Leonard knows what you’re all up to and he’s leaving his shovels out there on purpose?”

“Soupster,” said Billy. “That would be crazy!”

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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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