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Comments Off on Our Town – April 5, 2012

Our Town – April 5, 2012

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | April 5, 2012

“Soupster, are you crying?” asked Laine as she encountered him on a bench near the harbor.

“Oh, just deep thoughts,” the Soupster admitted, wiping his cheek with the side of his hand. “I was just thinking about Clarence… and novels.”

“OK,” Laine said, sitting down. “I’ve got a minute. Tell me what’s on the Soupster’s mind. This can be like in one of your Our Town columns.”

Some gulls squawked at her joke, but the Soupster didn’t.

“Good old Clarence,” said the Soupster. “I was giving him a bad time about some old snow shovel he borrowed and gave me back bent – this was just last week.”

“Now, he’s gone,” said Laine.

“Clarence, The Novel, is finished,” the Soupster agreed.

“Explain,” said Laine.

“A great thing about Our Town, maybe the best thing about it for me,” said the Soupster, “is the fact you get to see the same people in all different kinds of ways. You might see them with their kids at a concert and then where they work and then maybe leading around a group of people who look just like them and you figure they must be relatives.

“All these same people, like Clarence, develop in front of you, like characters in a novel,” he concluded.

“Clarence, The Novel, is finished,” said Laine, nodding with understanding. She and the Soupster let a long pause occur, respectful of their friend’s passing.

“We only get to know part of the story,” said the Soupster. “I only knew Clarence, The Novel from the middle to the end. I never `read’ the beginning.”

“If it was anything like the later parts, it had to be a good read,” chuckled Laine, toasting Clarence with an imaginary drink in one hand.

“Seeing kids grow up in Our Town is cool,” said the Soupster, “That’s the beginning of the novel.”

“You know, you may never read the end of those novels,” she said. “You probably won’t.”

“That’s okay,” said the Soupster. “I’ve always liked the beginnings of novels best. I love the first 10 minutes of every movie I see.”

“Well, if this is an episode of Our Town, we must be near the bottom of the page,” said Laine. “Because I have to go.” She stood and walked a few steps, then turned and smiled.

“And so Laine, The Novel, continues,” she called back. “But this chapter is finished.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 20, 2011

Our Town – October 20, 2011

| Crazy Theories, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | October 20, 2011

Originally published November 6, 2003

“I was saved, Soupster, but by which I do not know,” said Charles, a former college professor who now drank a lot of coffee. He had four tiny espresso cups arranged in front of him, two of them empty.

The Soupster looked around. Besides the barrista, washing mugs out of earshot, the men were alone.

“You know Bluto, the pompous blowhard?” Charles said, blowing pretty hard himself. “I owed that man $1,000. You’d have thought it was the Hope Diamond the way he pursued me around Our Town. Showing up at social occasions with that ridiculous `I’m going to bite you’ look on his face.”

“Bluto has bitten people,” the Soupster remarked. “He almost bit me once.”

“I considered that,” said Charles.

“Anyhow,” he continued. “Bluto was on my tail in a major fashion and I was doing my best to stay one step ahead of him. Which is not hard, Bluto being Bluto.”

“He’s not stupid,” said the Soupster

“Nonetheless,” said Charles. “On a proverbial `dark and stormy night’ he finally caught up with me. Right outside the fishing supply store. There I was face-to-face with Bluto’s ugly visage. He held a bag, bulging with orange nylon and I thought he was going to brain me with it.”

Charles chugged the third of his espressos.

“Bluto grabs me with his giant paws and squeezes hard,” Charles continued. “`Where is me $1,000, you barrel worm,’ Bluto thunders. `I don’t have it,’ I say weakly. `What’s that in your pocket?’ says Bluto. `That’s me, er, my mail,’ I say.”

“So Bluto grabs the mail and rifles through. `Ahoy,’ he cries, holding up my Permanent Fund Dividend check. `This will do,’ Bluto says.

“`But, Bluto,’ I muster the courage to ask ‘I owe you a $1,000, but that PFD is worth more than $1,100,’ I say. And Bluto, he agrees with me. Could have knocked me over with a feather. `An eleven hundred dollar PFD,’ the ogre says and laughs and thrusts his bulging orange bag into my chest.”

“And walks off,” Charles continued. “So I’m left there standing in the pitch-black cold rain, minus one PFD. I stare into the bag. And what is in there? A life vest! I take it out and put it on. It’s a nice life jacket, the kind with the big ring behind your neck and the large reflective patches on the shoulder so the Coast Guard can find you at night and pluck you out of the water.”

“And as I’m admiring the jacket a car comes screeching out of the dark. And – this I swear – the car’s headlights pick up the reflective patches and the vehicle veers a second before running me down.”

“I see your dilemna,” said the Soupster. “You were saved by either a Permanent Fund Dividend or a Personal Flotation Device.”

“Yes, Soupster, yes,” Charles cried, lurching for his remaining coffee cup. “Which PFD saved me?

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 4, 2010

Our Town – November 4, 2010

| Darkness, Marriage, Neighbors, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons | November 4, 2010

(Originally published Nov. 17, 2005)

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 subjects 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.

“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 9, 2010

Our Town – September 9, 2010

| Accidents, Children, Darkness, Neighbors, Nicknames, Our Town, Recycling, Relationships, Seasons, Storms, Weather | September 9, 2010

The Soupster remembered his conversation with his neighbor’s grandson with some regret. He felt he was a little harsh with the boy when the youngster tried to lecture him about recycling. The Soupster searched his mind for the just right word to describe his own behavior – which was gruff and hostile out of reflex.

“I was `churlish,’” thought the Soupster and because he was alone, he said aloud, “Like a churl.”

The truth was that the boy had hit a sore point. The Soupster’s mental commitment to recycling often outstripped his physical actions. To wit: The Soupster’s mud room overflowed with paper bags of mixed paper, stacks of newsprint, aluminum cans and sheet metal, tin cans, glass bottles and jars and a good-sized sheaf of cardboard leaning against the wall.

“I must get all that stuff out of my mudroom,” the Soupster thought.

But it was night.

And not just night, but a night that signaled the change in seasons from summer to fall. To wit: A particularly dark and blustery night in Our Town, with the rain blowing sideways in good-sized drops.

Nonetheless, to make up for his churlish behavior, the Soupster put on a slicker and cap, filled his arms with recyclables and jammed them into the passenger area of his car. When he was finished, the Soupster had just enough room in the front seat of his car to cram in behind the wheel.

This time of night, Our Town’s real action was in the supermarkets, which blazed in the blackness like little Las Vegases. But the Soupster kept true to his quest and drove by the stores without stopping. He could think of a few things he needed, but what if someone saw the state of his car right now? “Lucy, you’d have some ‘splainin’ to do,” he chuckled.

It being unusual conditions to be using the Recycling Center, the Soupster found himself alone there, surrounded by big metal bins on which the heavy raindrops beat a complex rhythm. One-by-one, he tipped up the metal hatches of the bins with one hand and tossed his recyclables in with the other. Glass, metal, a plastic bag of shredded paper, the cardboard and mixed paper and the aluminum and tin cans. All that was left was the #1 and #2 plastic, which were to be deposited in four-foot high canvas bags supported by sideways wooden slats.

Depositing the bag of #1 plastic went without incident. But the bag of #2, not so much.

When the Soupster tipped over his second bag, the supporting piece of hard plastic at the bottom of his bag fell out and into the bin.

The Soupster tried to bend over the edge to retrieve it, lost his balance and tipped over into the bin with his head among the #2 plastic and his feet sticking straight up in the air. He tried to pull himself out and could not. Slow minutes passed.

Then, the area was bathed in light as another car pulled up to the plastic containers holding the upside down Soupster.

For good or ill, it was Steve “Big Mouth” Larssen, out on a late-night recycling run himself.

“Number two plastic?” said Steve, surveying the scene with his hands on his hips. “Soupster, I’d think you were at least #1.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 26, 2010

Our Town – August 26, 2010

| Children, Eddy Rau, Guest Written, Neighbors, Our Town, Recycling, Relationships | August 16, 2010

The Soupster woke up in a foul mood. Not only was it a drizzly day but he was spending it with his next-door neighbor’s computerized grandson, Johnny, a 4th grader who walked around with wires coming out of his ears.

The first sign of danger was finding Johnny going through the garbage can with little piles here and there.

“Mr. Soupster, where do you put your aluminum? This pile is #1 plastic and this pile is #2. Where are your recycling containers?”

“#1 & #2? There’s a difference? Who recycles plastic anyway? What’s the point?”

“But, Mr. Soupster, plastic is made out of oil! The city sells it to people who make it into blankets and socks and everything. Don’t you understand anything about recycling?”

The Soupster groaned, definitely not his day—socks made out of milk cartons?

He was quiet for a moment, regrouping his thoughts.

“Johnny, don’t bother me about recycling. You don’t really know anything about recycling. I know about recycling. Didn’t my mother make me wash and dry the used aluminum foil and fold it to use again? Could I ever get the used plastic bags can full enough to meet her standards? Didn’t I have to be so careful with the wax paper around my sandwiches that it could be reused all week? Didn’t my mother hang our clothes to dry on a clothes line in the sun or inside on rainy days?”

“But, Mr. Soupster…uh, sir…”

The Soupster glared, “Don’t interrupt me, I’m just getting started.”

“We didn’t throw away our shoes – Dad just took them to the shoemaker to be repaired. Don’t suppose you have ever even heard of shoe polish. He pushed his lawn mower! He picked up pennies from the street. Have you ever picked up a penny?

The Soupster paused for breath and Johnny jumped right in.

“Wow, sir, you have a lot of good ideas. Let’s make a clothes line for you right now! We can go from this tree to the side of your house. Maybe another one inside, from the dining room wall to the stairs for rainy days.’

The Soupster’s eyes rolled to think of actually hanging up laundry. On the other hand, he thought of the McGrowls next door looking at his long underwear hanging in front of their
windows and a devious smile appeared on his face.

“Let’s get started on that clothes line right now, Johnny. We’re going to make this world a better place!

– Submitted by Eddie Rau

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 3, 2010

Our Town – June 3, 2010

| Gardening, Guest Written, Neighbors, Relationships, Rose Manning | June 3, 2010

Neighbor Tom and I strolled down Main Street in one of those constant sunbeams that sometimes envelops Our Town.

“What a day, Soupster!”

“Yes, indeed, Tom, it is special.”

“Soupster, have you noticed Our Town seems to be in a growing epidemic?”

“What, Tom? Epidemic? Are you saying we are diseased?”

“No, Soupster, not that kind of epidemic — a growing epidemic.”

“Oh! Are you referring to those ten pounds everyone seems to gather during Our Town’s dark spell?”

“No! No! I mean growing, growing!”

“More population, Tom? I am puzzled. I thought we were declining slightly.”

“Soupster, can’t you hear? I am obviously not making myself clear. I said ‘growing.’ You know — peas and potatoes, carrots and kale, radishes and rutabagas, food and flowers and I don’t know what all.”

“Oh! You mean gardening.”

“Yes.”

”Sure enough, Tom, I am even thinking of planting a small patch or pot of greenery myself. How about you? Has the ‘grow your own bug’ bitten you yet?”

“Yes, I’ve been thinking about it…but, Soupster, it seems like there are two types of gardeners here. There are the Master Gardeners and the Disaster Gardeners. My neighbor Joanie to the north is a master, complete with a certificate to prove it, and she has a spectacular vegetable spread. She puts crops in their raised beds at the correct time, starting early with the cold weather types and moving to the more delicate species. In May they all get a nice white blanket for two weeks to keep the root maggots at bay and she circles the whole garden perimeter with clever pop bottle slug traps she makes herself.

“And the other type, Tom?”

“Well, Soupster, that would be my neighbor Kurt to the south. He is the ‘disaster’ gardener. He planted his garden in a rubble patch and when he weeded out everything he didn’t recognize, he ended up with a great crop of horsetails. Not a pretty picture.”

“Hey, Tom, come on — what do you say we take a look at the new environmentally correct seed packets, dirt and natural fertilizer and then sign up for a table at the fabulous new Farmer’s Market?”

“Okay, but I will pass on the natural fertilizer. After all, I am just a beginner.”

– Submitted by Rose Manning

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 6, 2010

Our Town – May 6, 2010

| Animals, Birds, Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Relationships | May 6, 2010

The Soupster awoke to the sound of birds – early birds. He heard a number of cars pull into the neighborhood and park in the street. The engines stopped and car doors creaked open. Next came the cawing of 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, Lydia, was re-locating to Hawaii to be with her son and his family. They had already remodeled the lanai into an apartment. Lydia’s daughter-in-law had come into a sizable inheritance, so her son had closed up his not-so-successful Our Town nautical pest extermination business (“Swimming Rats Our Specialty”). Having misjudged their opportunities in the 49th State, the son and the wife decided to give the 50th  a whirl.

The Soupster quickly donned his clothes – grateful for the new 21st Century rule that American and European men no longer need to comb their hair. He 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 store, 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 Mr. Coffee 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 – April 8, 2010

Our Town – April 8, 2010

| Ghosts, History, Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Relationships | April 8, 2010

The totem pole-lined paths through the woods of Sitka National Historical Park were silent, dark and deep. The Soupster strolled through an evening mist, alone.

This is the park’s 100th birthday, the Soupster remembered. While reaching 100 years old is the ultimate achievement for any human, 100 years for a mountain is a blink of its eye, if a mountain can be said to have eyes. A forest park must fall somewhere in the middle, the Soupster thought.

The shadows played with the Soupster’s vision. He thought he saw a person – dressed in furs and leather, with a fierce Raven battle helmet and face mask, carrying a blacksmith’s hammer – moving quickly between the shore and the screen of trees.

That’s K`alyaan, the Soupster thought. Katlian, who led the Tlingit fight against the Russians in this very spot in 1804. The Soupster remembered him from a famous painting. It was to commemorate the 1804 battle that the park was established in the first years of the 20th Century, becoming official in 1910. K’alyaan lived long after the battle – but not long enough to be running through the forest in 2010. A ghost? The Soupster wondered…

As if to answer his question, like a small gust of wind, a tall, friendly-looking guy with a mustache whooshed past. He juggled a camera the size of a small television, a tripod and a backpack full of photographic plates. He hurried in the same direction as K’alyaan. The Soupster could see through him to the trees and poles further down the trail.

That’s Elbridge Warren Merrill – E.W. Merrill, the Soupster marveled at the apparition. Served as the first, sort-of-official, superintendent of the new Historical Park and was instrumental in its formation. The Soupster had just seen some of Merrill’s fantastic photos in an exhibit gallery in the Visitor’s Center. There would be several more showings this summer of Merrill’s historical photographic art.

After glimpsing an ethereal, grandfatherly ghost of novelist James Michener ambling ahead, the Soupster stopped in his tracks. Michener lived near the park when he wrote his book “Alaska.” All three men – eh, ghosts, had been in the park while they lived.

The Soupster knew the park staff planned a big re-union this May for anybody who ever worked or volunteered  for “Totem Park” or the Bishop’s House over the years. Maybe these specters just arrived at the reunion too early.

The Soupster felt an itch and turned. His jaw dropped. Standing before the Soupster was a transparent iteration of his father’s late brother, Louis.

“Uncle Looey,” the Soupster blurted. “How can you be here?”

“Well,” said Lou, surprising the Soupster by speaking. “Your Aunt and I came up here on a cruise a while ago and we helped the park on a clean-up day.”

“You never told me.”

“Well, Nephew,” Uncle Lou said. “It was our Third Honeymoon and you and I always get into spats and then she takes your side.”

“And here I thought I was the bad one for not ever having you come and visit me here,” the Soupster said. “Not even once.”

“Well, look at it this way,” said a ghostly Uncle Lou. “I’m here now.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 5, 2009

Our Town – November 5, 2009

| Neighbors, Relationships | November 4, 2009

Through his kitchen window, the Soupster saw Madeline coming his way and stiffened. He wasn’t sure how he stood these days with his cross-the-street neighbor, but he knew Madeline didn’t usually steer his way for anything but business. He went out the door to meet her.

Madeline was one tough cookie. Madeline had a Rottweiler, but that big dog was just like a beard on a bear — window dressing. She had long ago found her own “inner” Rottweiler. Still, in her weird “bad neighbor” way, Madeline tried to be nice to the Soupster.

“I want to try out a theory on you,” she said after a perfunctory greeting. “It’s about hating people.”

“I don’t think there’s very much people-hating going on in Our Town,” said the Soupster. “How would we live peacefully with each other on The Rock if there were?”

“Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking about,” Madeline said. “ How much hatred there really is in Our Town. The answer? Four distinct kinds!

“The first kind of hatred is the kind you’re talking about, Soupster. It’s when there’s somebody at work or school or in your family who you really can’t stand. But you have to be there and they have to be there, so you make the best of it.”

“What’s another kind?” asked the Soupster.

“The kind where one person so can’t stand the other, they can’t even look at the other person,” Madeline said. “But you seldom see or have anything to do with them. That’s the simplest kind .”

The Soupster knew several people who seemed to always be unhappily distracted when he walked by. He realized now what was going on when they didn’t notice him. Thanks for straightening me out, Madeline, he thought.

“And the last two kinds of hatred?” the Soupster asked his neighbor.

“Now, it gets complicated,” Madeline said with an outright grin. “When you used to like someone a lot. And then, over the years, you’ve learned to like them less and less. But you still have to uphold the relationship as though you still like each other.”

“Is that us?” the Soupster asked meekly.

“No, we’re the opposite, the Fourth Kind,” said Madeline. “My first impression of you was so totally foul, it’s been rising steadily ever since.”

“That sounds… er, good,” said a confused Soupster.

“So don’t blow it!” Maddie barked.

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 22, 2009

Our Town – October 22, 2009

| Crazy Theories, Neighbors, Relationships | October 22, 2009

Originally published October 16, 2003

“Ouch,” said the Soupster, as Dr. Gwen pulled on his arm to examine the skin above his elbow. “Don’t yank it off, Doc!”

“You’re a baby,” chided Dr. Gwen, hiking up the Soupster’s sleeve to get a better look. “But I’m glad you came to see me. Moles can signal something far more serious and should be checked by a professional.”

“What’s about mine?” the Soupster asked, obviously worried.

“You’re fine,” Dr. Gwen said. “It’s just a mole.”

“Whew,” exclaimed the relieved Soupster.

Dr. Gwen chuckled. “You ‘re reminding me of a squirmy old patient from the Lower 48, Soupster,” she said. “In fact, you kind of look like him.”

“You know my theory,” said the Soupster, and Dr. Gwen nodded patiently.

“Every kind of person there is in the world is represented in Our Town ,” the Soupster said. “Everybody running around Our Town has a number of duplicates running around the world.”

“Everybody in the world, ” Dr. Gwen repeated..

“There are 9,000 people in Our Town, every one of them completely different,” the Soupster said, “And there can’t be more than 9,000 kinds of people in the world.”

“There are 6 billion on Earth at present,” said Gwen. “That means there are 666,666.6 times as many people in the world as there are in Our Town. Each Our Towner then, is represented by more than half a million duplicates. Don’t you think you run into at least one of them on vacation?”

“Sounds likely,” the Soupster. “That is a lot of people — like a “mole” of people — not the mole on my arm, but the chemistry term — isn’t it `mole,’ Doc?”

“It is,” Dr. Gwen answered. “A mole in chemistry is defined as the aggregate of 6.02 times 10 to the 23rd power — that’s a 6.02 with 23 zeroes after it. But the number of people on Earth – 6 billion — is only 6 times 10 to the ninth power — only nine zeroes after it.. A mole of people would be 100 trillion times the number of people on Earth today. A hundred trillion times six billion people.”

“Wow, a mole is a lot of something, isn’t it?” asked the Soupster.

“Not always,” said Dr. Gwen. “A mole is a lot of units. But if those units are small — like molecules? For instance, see that half-filled bottle of hydrogen peroxide on the shelf? A mole of hydrogen peroxide molecules would weigh in at 34 grams. About an ounce.”

“Then, there’s the moles with the big claws for digging underground,” the Soupster remarked idiotically.

“And moles are also double-agent spies within the CIA or KGB,” Doc Gwen said, finishing her examination. “But the moles in chemistry are definitely more important than the moles that grow on your arm or the kinds that dig in the ground and infiltrate spy networks.”

“How can you be so sure?” the Soupster asked.

“Among the four types of moles, only chemistry-type moles have their own holiday,” Doc Gwen scientifically said. “October 23 is Mole Day. It’s true. Look it up!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 18, 2009

Our Town – June 18, 2009

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons, Spring, Sunshine, Weather | June 18, 2009

For two weeks, the sun shone from early, early morn to long past when it had any right to still be up at all. Two solid weeks of sun. Our Town melted and oozed toward Solstice.

Throughout the spate of sun, general sprucing had ensued: wall colors brightened with paint, unruly lawns subdued by blades, rhubarb eradicated (or given lovingly to friends). Car hoods wore the confetti buds and seeds of whatever tree they parked under. Kids were visible in public during business hours. The Soupster, like most residents of Our Town, had been saying things like, “I can’t remember when it was sunny two weeks in a row like this.” Or “Remember, we used to get two weeks of sun like this two times every summer 10 (or 20 or 30) years ago” — depending on how long the speaker had been here.

Overdosed on light, the Soupster relished the quiet and relative dark coolness of the post office. It was Saturday morning and he had the place to himself. He fought a quick urge to stretch out on the cool floor tiles. Instead, he pulled out his key and fit it into the lock of his post office box. At the exact second the Soupster opened the box, a business-sized letter moved toward him out of it.

The Soupster grabbed onto the letter and pulled.. And the letter… pulled back! This was ridiculous! The Soupster pulled on the letter, but it refused to budge. The Soupster was actually losing ground.

He peered into the dark postal box and could see at the far end about two-fifths of the face of his old neighbor, Roberta, a long-time postal worker.

“Soupster,” Roberta said, seeing him at the same moment, “I should have known it was you!”

“Roberta,” said the Soupster. “I had forgotten that you work here. How’s your little girl?”

“My little girl? That ‘little girl’ is going to college in Fairbanks in the fall,” she said ruefully. “Why don’t you come to her graduation party? I was going to send you an invitation, but, hey — this is even faster than the mail!”

The two-week softening of the Soupster’s brain from sun rays and the general weirdness of having a conversation through a mailbox made the Soupster feel unsteady. Nonetheless, “Thanks for working on the weekend,” he managed to say.

“Oh, pshaw,” said Roberta, as the Soupster locked up his postal box.

“Soupster,” said Stuart, the Soupster’s plumber, who was just then turning the corner into the row of post office boxes. “You talking to your mail again?”

“Female,” the Soupster deadpanned. “Female.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 4, 2009

Our Town – June 4, 2009

| Craftsman, Neighbors, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships | 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 – May 21, 2009

Our Town – May 21, 2009

| Jokes, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons, Spring | May 21, 2009

The Soupster rode shotgun alongside his buddy Dorothy, who drove her ancient pickup west down Sawmill Creek Road into Our Town. A satisfying lunch shared earlier at Dotty’s abode had lulled them both.

Dot’s four new summertime tires (no studs!) carried the two friends smoothly down the roadway. The Soupster glanced out at the alders lining the road, their new leaves like golden coins growing larger day by day. On a granite retaining wall some fiddleheads ferns unfurled. Birds in a mountain ash no longer fought each other for scraps, too busy celebrating their recently expanded menu.

“This is a different town when the alders get their leaves on,” said the Soupster dreamily. “Covers a thousand sins.”

“That’s my opinion, too,” Dotty said. “What’s more Alaskan than having a backhoe in your back yard?”

“Can’t say I know,” the Soupster said, taking the bait.

Dotty reeled him in. “Having a broken backhoe in the front yard.” Dotty said something else, but her words were drowned out as her old truck rattled on the suddenly uneven pavement. They had reached the old Four-Way Stop, being torn up to re-make the intersection into a modern Roundabout.

Some people the Soupster talked to considered it about time, others thought continuous traffic flow would frighten bikers and pedestrians. The jury was still out. Right now the road crews were just laying underground utilities.

Dorothy suddenly burst into song “Won’t you take me to… Funkytown?” she crooned. “Won’t you take me to…. Funkytown?”

“Funkytown?” asked the Soupster.

“You know, the song — Lipps, Inc.? Back into the early 80’s?” Dot said. “Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me,” she sang. “Town to keep me movin’ — keep me groovin’ with some energy. Won’t you take me to …Funkytown?”

“It’s a stress reliever,” she went on. “When I approach the old Four-Way-Stop and start to freak out about how much time I’m losing, I sing `Funkytown.’”

“Why don’t you just drive around the Four-Way, er… Funkytown?” asked the Soupster. “Our Town doesn’t have much road, but there’s always another way to get where you are going.”

“I know that it’s kind of a public service to avoid the intersection, but it’s really interesting, the work that’s going on,” Dot said. “Plus, I get to sing.”

“You’re a nut,” said the Soupster, but Dotty was already belching out: “Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it…. Won’t you take me to… Funkytown?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 12, 2009

Our Town – March 12, 2009

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Shipping, Small Town Stuff, Telemarketing | March 12, 2009

The package delivery truck pulled away from Soup House and the Soupster cradled the box he had just received. He tried to sneak his package indoors, but was confronted by his nosy neighbor, who always came outside when a truck stopped anywhere near.

” It’s a Snuggie,” the Soupster admitted to Chesley, who had been sort of ashamed of his first name his whole life until recently. “One of those blankets with the sleeves that they sell on TV.”

“A blanket with the sleeves that they sell on TV,” Chesley repeated, shaking his head. “How far the mighty have fallen!” Chesley felt qualified to judge others, now that he shared the name of the heroic pilot who landed on the Hudson River and saved his passengers and crew.

“It’s for a `Star Wars’ party,” said the Soupster. “I’m going as Yoda. I also ordered a head.”

“You’re not helping your cause any,” said Chesley. “What was it – $25 for the `Snuggle’ and then another $25 to ship it to Our Town?”

“Snuggie!” said the Soupster.

“Whatever,” said Chesley, getting a second wind. “Hey, Soupster, you know what really fries my taters? “

“Propane?” asked the Soupster.

“No, no,” said Chesley. “It’s when you’ve got a vital part for something that you need right away and you can’t get it locally and it only costs two or three dollars for the part, but the shipping is 10 times as much.”

“I once paid $15 to have a $3 cat toy sent Express Mail,” said the Soupster.

“I paid $35 to Gold Streak a two-inch long spring,” said Chesley.

“In any case, it’s a small price to pay for living in Our Town,” said the Soupster. “We’ve got most everything we need in our local shops and the rest we can wait a little while for.”

“Or pay through the nose,” said Chesley.

“I still think we’re getting off cheap,” the Soupster said. “No traffic jams, we have the beautiful mountains, clean air and water, postcard sunsets. Easy living, Chesley. Would you give that up to save on shipping? Because I guarantee you, somebody in the Lower 48 would pay for free shipping for life in order to switch places with you.”

“That you talking, Soupster?” asked Chesley. “Or Yoda?”

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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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