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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 – April 21, 2016

Our Town – April 21, 2016

| Our Town, Relationships | April 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

“Oolong tea,” she said.

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

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

“And?” asked the Soupster.

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

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

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

“Say what?” Trudy asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 10, 2016

Our Town – March 10, 2016

| Airport, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Travel, Youth | March 10, 2016

The Soupster recalls three invasions from his childhood.

The Soupster sat on a small hill, watching the world flow by. He saw a brand new VW Beetle and marveled how little the car’s cute, round exterior had changed over the decades since it had been introduced into the U.S. in the 1950’s.

Buying a Beetle was not an uncontroversial purchase in the years closer to the Second World War. After all, the car had been designed in Nazi Germany by auto guru Ferdinand Porche, on orders from Adolf Hitler to produce a “People’s Car,” a Volkswagen. The Soupster’s father had seen them in Germany during the war and said they gave him the chills.

“I hate these beetles,” he had repeatedly said.

By the early 1960’s VW bugs were becoming more common – and so were the Soupster’s father’s disapproving snorts. But the Soupster’s mother had no time for such foolishness. She had a real invasion on her hands.

Japanese beetles had taken hold of her prized weeping willow tree and were eating it alive. Hundreds of half-inch long, copper-and-black-colored insects worked at the willow’s leaves. The inundation was so total that the Soupster’s mom had enlisted a platoon of 10-year-olds to mount a desperate counterattack.

She hired the kids to pluck the beetles off her plants and place them in glass milk bottles filled with soapy water. The bugs would drown. The children earned 25 cents per bottle – a fortune at the time. Twenty-five cents could get a kid into the Saturday matinee. Twenty-five cents could buy a slice of pizza and a coke.

The Soupster remembered his mother, arms folded across her chest, regarding her young troopers with a steely glint. “I hate these beetles,” she said.

Within a year, another onslaught had reached the Soupster’s world – this time on the ears.

Four mop-topped troubadours led the British Invasion on stateside AM radio. Most kids heard that these Beatles only wanted to Hold our Hand and Please Please us, Oh Yeah. The adults heard a horrible caterwaul, presaging the end of the world.

At the height of the British Invasion, the Soupster’s parents received a message from his grandmother. She would be coming for a visit. She would be taking an airplane for the first time in her life. Please be at the airport when she arrived.

Flying on a plane was a big deal then – people dressed up, acted civilly and paid through the nose for their tickets. Granny Soupster was counting on a genteel trip. How could she have known the Beatles would be arriving at her airport just as she departed?

Thousands of screaming young girls crammed every inch of every corridor at the airport. The Soupster’s grandmother pressed forward through the ecstatic teeny-boppers, getting bopped along the way. At one point, she thought she might not make it and actually started to cry. Airline workers apologized for the chaos and blamed the Fab Four.

After a cocktail and a warm towel aboard the plane, Grandma calmed. When she saw the Soupster’s parents waiting for her, she calmed further and gratefully accepted help carrying her suitcase to the car. After kisses all around, she settled in the back seat, between the young Soupster and his sister.

“Want to hear a song, Grandma?” the kids asked. Hardly waiting for an answer, they launched into a spirited version of “Twist and Shout” right into the old lady’s ears.

“This is terrible!” cried Granny. “What is this horrible song?”

“Why, Grandma,” they said. “it’s the Beatles!”

“Beatles? Beatles?” Granny shouted. “I hate these Beatles!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 11, 2016

Our Town – February 11, 2016

| Children, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives | February 10, 2016

The Soupster allows a friend to vent about her colorful, frustrating sibling.

Annabella and Adeline – the dueling sisters. If there had been a women’s fencing team while they studied at Our Town high school, the two girls could have comprised the main elements of a perpetual motion machine. Now, even with the whole of the Pacific Ocean as a buffer zone, they’d regularly raise sparks on Skype.

In her mid-thirties, Annabella moved to Sydney, Australia and worked for an Asia Pacific entertainment consortium. She was the one with the personality. Adeline – two years younger – stayed put in Our Town and anchored herself with a house, a husband, a kid, a bookkeeping business and several city advisory committee appointments. She prided herself on her calm, smooth-running household.

Despite these differences, Annabella and Adeline were so closely joined that neither could imagine a world without the giant irritant of the other person. They needed each other like salt needs pepper. And to keep the spicy interchanges going, the sisters spent about an hour a week talking to each other over the video link.

For nearly a year, Adeline’s youngest, Katie, had taken to sitting on her mother’s lap during the Skype sessions. For a time, the two women tried to include the child in their conversations or to censor what they said to spare tender young ears. But the girl was so content to sit quietly at the computer monitor and listen that her mother and aunt soon forgot that she was there.

When Adeline asked young Kate what she thought of her Auntie Annabella, the child said “she’s funny and little.” Annabella felt encouraged every time she heard her niece’s tinkly giggle.

But what made Katie giggle made her mother cross. Over Skype, once a week, Adeline was able to stomach her sister’s larger-than-life personality without much complaint. The die was cast, though, when Annabella announced she was coming home to Our Town for a visit and arrived the following Wednesday.

Little Katie was not prepared for her Aunt Annabella in real life mode. The two sisters locked horns immediately and constantly.

They gave each other awful looks, making Katie put her hands over her eyes. When voices were raised, she put her hands over her ears. Katie said nothing, put her hands over her mouth and ultimately called to mind the statue of the three monkeys on her daddy’s desk.

After one tussle, an exasperated Adeline needed to go for a walk alone to cool off and asked Annabella to watch Katie. Adeline planned to call the Soupster and vent.

“Don’t worry about your mother,” Annabella told Katie after Adeline had left. “She’s been like this since she was your age.” She handed Katie a doll. “Do you like my coming to visit?” she asked.

“I like the little you,” said Katie, taking the doll. “Better than the big you.”

“The little me?” asked Annabella.

“The little you,” said Katie, her exasperation making her appear slightly like her mother. She ran over to the desk and pointed to the computer – “the little you.” She pointed at her aunt – “the big you,” she said, and pointed again to the computer – “the little you.”

“I like the little you way better,” she concluded.

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 19, 2015

Our Town – November 19, 2015

| Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff, Youth | November 19, 2015

The Soupster spends time at the edge of generational change.

In her years of teaching history at Our Town High, Mrs. Frost never had a more annoying student than Caine McDuff. He didn’t act openly disruptive in class, but somehow still managed to disrupt. Mrs. Frost operated a lot on instinct and Caine had always made her feel off-balance.

Lord knew Caine had been bright enough – too bright, maybe, for someone whose goodwill other people doubted. He asked a lot of questions – most of the bright kids did – but he always seemed to know the answer already. It was as though he was testing her knowledge and, frankly, it gave her the creeps.

Caine didn’t seem to have friends — there was an invisible fence that put off others, as it did her. But he was not disrespected. In fact, when Caine spoke no one else did until he was clearly finished. Caine often had the last word on things.

Caine graduated and moved on, like they all did, and Mrs. Frost proceeded to instruct scores more Our Town High students over the decades. She did not ask about Caine, as she did so many others.

Nevertheless, she thought of Caine more than once, usually when some annoyance set her off balance in that familiar way.

Mrs. Frost retired from teaching. Mrs. Frost’s husband, Mr. Frost, snagged an engineering job that meant two years in Guatemala. Mrs. Frost did not like humidity and decided she would stay behind. He needed the adventure and she looked forward to the peace and quiet.

But she did not count on the boredom. Not long after Mr. Frost departed, Mrs. Frost felt at loose ends. Maybe it time to step up to the plate – citizen-wise? On her best friend Gladys’ suggestion, Mrs. Frost joined the Planning Commission.

Now Mrs. Frost knew there was nothing more interesting than history – the twists and turns the human animal has used to scheme his or her way through the millennia. And she enjoyed the commission’s small canvas – decisions that affected just one or two people, a neighborhood.

At a Planning Commission meeting six months into her term, Mrs. Frost listened as the Soupster and a few others came to support a neighbor who wanted to build a greenhouse and sell vegetables. Mrs. Frost liked the smooth, pleasant neighborliness of the proceedings – most of the proceedings went the same. But the meetings didn’t dislodge her boredom as much as she had wished when she joined.

Lost in thought, she did not notice the coolness that descended on the proceedings as two competing attorneys representing two property owners moved to the front of the room. The first attorney was from Juneau. The second attorney was a newly minted Caine McDuff, Esquire.

Commissioner Brick Takamata, who sat next to Mrs. Frost, leaned over. “Looks like one of your old students is here. Isn’t he the one you said gave you trouble.”

“Trouble, yes, but interesting trouble,” Mrs. Frost whispered back. “Let’s hear what he has to say.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 8, 2015

Our Town – October 8, 2015

| Birthdays, Holidays, Our Town, Relationships | October 8, 2015

The Soupster learns there’s more than one kind of happiness.

The Soupster saw Linda Zapatos ahead on the downtown sidewalk near the Post Office. Seeing Linda always made the Soupster smile because her name, in Spanish, meant “pretty shoes.”

But it was Linda who wore the more noticeable smile today – a broad grin with a lot of teeth showing.

“Soupster,” called Linda.

“Pretty Shoester,” the Soupster answered.

Linda was a Pretty Shoester. She had delicate, feminine features – big eyes. Cupid’s bow lips. Wavy auburn hair. But her tough skin revealed she had weathered 20 years or more fishing with her husband.

“Why the devilish grin?” asked the Soupster. “Eat a canary?”

“It’s my husband, Eugene,” Linda said.  “He’s the best.” Linda poked the Soupster in the ribs. “Did you know that no matter how tired he is from fishing, my Gene always helps me with the housework.”

“A noble fellow,” agreed the Soupster.

“But that’s not why I’m happy,” said Linda.

“Do tell,” said the Soupster. “Did you make a new friend?”

“No, that’s my husband’s department, too,” said Linda. “I would be a lonely Betty if it wasn’t for that man. You know those kids who are always bringing home a stray puppy or kitten?”

“Uh, huh,” said the Soupster.

“Gene is like that. He can’t talk to somebody for five minutes without cooking up plans to get together. I won’t tell you all the times he’s bought folks home for dinner and I’d find out at the last minute and we’d run out of food. Now, I cook for an army every night and if Gene doesn’t come home with anybody, then we have leftovers for later in the week.”

“I like casseroles,” the Soupster said. “But doesn’t Gene cook? Didn’t he used to be a chef for the cruise ships?”

“And there’s the rub!” said Linda. “That man is an artist with a knife and a frying pan, but he will not cook for me! I beg him to cook for me and he says `Meh.’”

As Linda recounted this to the Soupster, her smile grew wider, Cheshire cat-wide.

“Only one day a year will  my Gene cook for me,” Linda said. “Once in a whole year. Only on my birthday.”

The Soupster couldn’t help notice her smile creeping wider still.

“Linda,” he blurted out, “you’re husband will only cook for you once a year? Then why are you so chipper?”

“Tonight’s the night!” Linda said and skipped off. “Tonight’s the night.”

The Soupster stood stunned as he did the mental math. “Oh, right,” he said, then called out, “Happy birthday!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 27, 2015

Our Town – August 27, 2015

| Crazy Theories, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Travel | August 27, 2015

The Soupster hears confessions from a lover of Our Town.

Originally published Oct. 24, 2006

“Because it feels so good when I stop,” Grant — sitting with the Soupster at the sushi bar — tried to say while cramming his mouth with Alaska roll.

“Feels so good when you stop what?” said the Soupster, who had been distracted by the sushi chef’s artful chopping of a huge geoduck clam.

“Well – a long time ago – I used to mean living in Our Town,” said Grant, signaling to the chef to prepare some geoduck for them.

“Really?” asked a skeptical Soupster. “You hated it here that much?”

“When I first moved here the smallness of Our Town got to me,” said Grant. “Having just a few choices for everything – I became bored with that pronto. I came here in the Coast Guard – from Governor’s Island in New York harbor. With all due respect — Lincoln Street ain’t Times Square.”

“Seems like we have everything we need here,” said the Soupster defensively.

Grant ignored him. “And the rain,” the former Coastie said. “The constant rain drove me insane. All the time. The summer I transferred here was like this summer. I came to Our Town in May and waited until early November for more than a single dry day in a row. And actual sunny days? I have a one-armed buddy who could count them for you.”

“Kept my sense of humor, though,” Grant continued. “I remembered the old joke about the man hitting himself in the face. You heard it?”

The Soupster shook his head.

“A man is hitting himself repeatedly in the face,” said Grant. “His friend is horrified. `Why ever would you do that?’ asked the friend. Says the first man, `Because it feels so good when I stop!’

“That’s the way I felt. I loved Our Town, for those first few years.” said Grant. “Cause it felt so good when I went back to civilization. To the United Contiguous Lower 48 states.”

“I never felt that way,” said the Soupster, who had lived in Our Town longer than most professional baseball players had walked the earth. “Those first few years, I wanted to drag everyone I knew up here to live. I got over that, though.”

The sushi arrived. Both men loved the delicate taste of geoduck neck meat – like butter melting in their mouths – and neither spoke while they attacked the plate. Our Town was one of the few places this side of China and Japan where the giant clams made it to the menu.

Grant stopped chewing, spoke first.

“I don’t feel that way anymore,” he said. “Over the years, each time I returned to Our Town from a trip Outside I grew happier and happier to be home. Our Town came to be normal for me, just the right size. Now, there’s only one good reason I ever like to be in the Contiguous United States.”

“You mean…?” asked the Soupster.

Grant nodded. “Because it feels so darned good when I stop!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 18, 2015

Our Town – June 18, 2015

| Eddy Rau, Fishing, Guest Written, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships | June 18, 2015

The Soupster ponders alone time.

Guest Written by Eddy Rau

The Soupster cozied into his first class seat. Using his upgrade from Seattle was a great idea. The reunion of his writing class had been interesting, and now his eyes drooped as he thumbed through the magazine, waiting for take-off. Apologies for the hold-up came from the loudspeaker, as two guys walked in and took the seats behind the Soupster.

“Hmmn…looks like they’re out of a Patagonia catalog,” was his thought as take-off commenced.

“You must have clout somewhere to get a 737 to wait for you!” said a deep voice from behind.

‘Well, this trip is costing me a bundle.  Seems my wife equates ten days fishing in Alaska with ten days in Paris. Say, Jake, how do you get away with it? You’ve been going fishing every year.”

The Soupster’s ears perked up. This sounded like a story – it already had politics and economics with overtones of women’s lib.

There was a pause and finally the deep voice replied. “Leland, you were smart to deal with your fishing right up front. Remember that trip around the world Susan and I took a few years ago?”

“Ha-ha, don’t I just? I still get, ‘How come Jake and Susan can afford it and not us?’”

“Well,” said Jake, “my story started when I had to go up to Prudhoe Bay with that spill settlement. It was thought a little fishing stopover might be in order. Then, Susan got all excited about meeting up with me. Instead of saying it was an all-guy fishing trip, I dropped the subject. So, she thought it was just work.”

Jake mused, “I had so much fun with those guys – fishing and drinking and being out on the water. I kept going every year – Susan thought it was all business. That worked for about five years. Then, one weekend, at a barbecue, that damned Al Krankins started in about the fish.”

“Where’d you get this fish? Tastes like real wild salmon!” Blah, blah. “You have friends in Alaska?”

Jake’s voice got wistful. “Susan gave me ‘the look.’  I felt the old bank account shrinking. But, I like a peaceful life, so three months tripping around the world was a small price to pay.  Now we negotiate in advance. Susan’s on a New York shopping trip with our daughters.”

The Soupster marveled – was this calculated negotiation a feature of all marriages? It sounded exhausting – not for the first time, the Soupster thanked his stars that he had only himself to answer to. He drifted off, thinking of the nice, quiet evening he would soon be enjoying.

Finally, home! The Soupster walked into the terminal. There was his buddy Sheila, come to give him a ride. He gave her a big hug. And then, the shouts started.

“Hey, Uncle Soupster!!”

“Hi, you old dog!,” said Sheila. “Guess what – my family came up for a surprise visit, and the best part is, they get to stay for a whole week! Will you barbecue fish for us all tonight?”

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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 – April 23, 2015

Our Town – April 23, 2015

| Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | April 23, 2015

17 Things A Tourist Should Know About Our Town.

Originally published April 8, 2004

  1. It does not “rain all the time.” Even during our rainiest month (October) there are whole minutes where rain is not actually falling. In Our Town, we concentrate on those dry periods when judging the quality of the day. This is why, when asked, “Does it rain here all the time?” members of Our Town say “No.”
  2. However, do not dangle your airline ticket in front of a member of Our Town during the entire month of October, unless you want to lose it.
  3. Everywhere else, the road “never ends”. Here the road “always ends.” Some local residents feel the need to check this fact and will periodically drive to the end of the road to do so. It’s also a good way for them to test their radio reception.
  4. Do not be offended if someone enters your conversation without introducing themselves. Some members of Our Town know so many residents, they assume all conversations involve them.
  5. If you use an umbrella, we will consider you eccentric, from England or here to sell hot dogs.
  6. If it is cloudy in Sitka during your entire visit — be advised: there really is a volcano out there. We’re not just making it up.
  7. A backhoe parked in a yard is a sign of wealth.
  8. Drivers here are very polite. One exception: if someone pulls out quickly in front of you causing you to slow down, that person is required to drive no more than 3 blocks without turning again.
  9. The amount of business a restaurant gets in its first month of operation will in no way predict whether that restaurant will succeed or fail.
  10. Don’t run out of milk on Monday.
  11. Problem Corner is not a therapy talk show – actually, it kind of is.
  12. Do not leave groceries in the back of pickup trucks unless you have checked for ravens.
  13. Don’t ask a boater how their skiff, cruiser, yacht or dinghy is doing, unless you have 20 minutes to spare.
  14. The big fish tote boxes at the airport usually contain more than one fish, despite what the fisherman says.
  15. A car with 60,000 Arizona highway miles is a “new” car.
  16. Even though there aren’t that many places to go, you will never go to them all.
  17. Do not try to calculate the number of people who would live here on a sunny day because it will be raining again before you finish writing all the zeros

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 14, 2014

Our Town – August 14, 2014

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

The Soupster sees it all work out in the end.

Originally published Aug. 9, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did Babs say?” asked the Soupster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Town – April 10, 2014

| Abigail FitzGibbon, Children, Guest Written, Our Town, Rain, Relationships, Relatives, Weather | April 10, 2014

The Soupster discovers the secret to aging gracefully.

Living in Our Town as he did, the Soupster had experienced many, many rains in his lifetime. Nevertheless, he hadn’t seen a rain quite as intense as the one that had been showering Our Town for three long days now.

The Soupster stared morosely out of his car as he rolled down his street, fat raindrops hurling themselves onto his windows. Even before the rain, he’d been having a miserable week. He kept finding gray hairs in his hairbrush, he could see more wrinkles on his face every time he looked in the mirror and he’d forgotten the names of three people that he’d talked to today alone. He’d never thought of himself as the type to be paranoid about aging, but he couldn’t stop worrying.

As he turned into his driveway, a small figure – wearing a hot pink raincoat and dancing vigorously – caught his eye. Stepping hard on the brakes, the Soupster unbuckled his seatbelt and leaped out of the car.

As he got out, he could hear the figure’s high, clear voice joyfully yodeling, “-rious feeling, I’m hap-hap-happy ag- Oh, hi, Uncle Soupster!” The freckled face of Winter, his nine-year-old niece, grinned at him, brown curls poking out from under her raincoat’s hood.

“Winter, what are you doing here?” the Soupster asked.

“I’m staying with you while my parents are on vacation, remember, Uncle Soupster?” Winter told him, speaking slowly and carefully.

“I know that!” the Soupster exclaimed, exasperated. He wasn’t that far gone yet. “I mean, why are you dancing in the driveway?”

Winter shrugged. “I was inside, and I was bored, and I’ve heard about dancing in the rain, so I decided to try it, and it’s really fun! Do you wanna do it with me?”

“Thanks, but no thanks,” the Soupster replied, heading for his front door, eager to get out of the rain. “I’m a bit too old for that.”

“Aw, c’mon, Uncle Soupster!” Winter blocked his way, her big eyes staring at him pleadingly. “Mom says you’re never too old to have fun!”

Her words struck a chord in the Soupster. Out of the mouths of babes, he thought. Lately, he’d been wallowing in self-pity about getting older, but there was really nothing he could do about the aging process. All he could do was try to age gracefully – and enjoyably.

Submitted by Abigail FitzGibbon, Age 12

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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 – September 12, 2013

| Newcomers, Our Town, Parody, Relationships | September 12, 2013

OurTown_Sep12_2013_QuestionnaireSmall

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Page 2 of 5 1 2 3 4 5
  • Absolute Tree Care

    by on August 14, 2011 - 0 Comments

    27 Years Experience. All Stages of Tree Work. Owned & Operated by Marshall Albertson 907-738-2616 907-747-7342 Sitka, AK 99835

  • Baranof Realty

    by on December 29, 2010 - 0 Comments

    Independently owned and operated Cathy Shaffer, Owner and Broker Tel: 907-747-5636 Toll-Free:  877-747-5635 Fax: 907-747-8128 315 Seward St Sitka, AK 99...

  • Bayview Pub

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    Steaks. Seafood. Large Salad Bar. Desserts. Free Transportation Call for Reservations 5pm-9pm 907-747-7440 907-747-7430 Fax 2906 Halibut Point Road Sit...

  • Davis Realty

    by on December 26, 2010 - 0 Comments

    Local Knowledge, Experience and Dedication! Nancy Davis, Owner/Broker Debbie Daniels, Associate Broker 907-747-1032, 866-747-1032 Toll Free Fax: 907-747-1...

  • First Bank

    by on December 25, 2010 - 0 Comments

    Power of Alaska Banking 907-747-6636, (888) 597-8585 Fax: (907) 747-6635 PO Box 1829 Lake Street 203 Lake Street Sitka, AK 99835 www.FirstBankAK.com

  • Gary’s Outboard

    by on December 24, 2010 - 0 Comments

    Locally owned and operated by Gary Den Herder 30+ years experience 907-747-9399 224-B Smith Street Sitka, AK 99835 www.garysoutboard.com

  • Harry Race & Whites Pharmacy

    by on December 21, 2010 - 0 Comments

    Harry Race Pharmacy, Photo & Soda Shop 907-966-2130 106 Lincoln Street, Sitka, AK 99835 White's Pharmacy 907-966-2150 705 Halibut Point Road (by Lake...

  • Kenny’s Wok & Teriyaki

    by on December 17, 2010 - 0 Comments

    Chinese & Japanese Cuisine Mon-Fri 11:30am-9pm Sat.-Sun. Noon-9pm Delivery Available Noon-9pm, $15 Minimum 907-747-5676 210 Katlian St Sitka, AK 998...

  • Little Tokyo

    by on December 15, 2010 - 0 Comments

    Sushi & Roll. Tempura. Teriyaki. Udon. Mon.-Fri. 11am-9pm, Sat. 12-9pm (Closed Sunday) Free Delivery - $15 Minimum 907-747-5699 907-747-4916 Fax 315 ...

  • Murray Pacific

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    Not Just a Gear Store Mon.-Sat. 9am-5pm Sun. 10am-4pm 475 Katlian Street Sitka, AK 99835 907-747- 3171

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    Homemade Pizza & Authentic Mexican Food Dine In, Take Out & Free Delivery Mon-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun Noon - 9pm Free Delivery  Mon-Sat 'til 10pm 907-96...

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    Plumbing. Heating. Refrigeration. Sales. Service. Repair. Residential. Commercial. Industrial. 907-747-3142, Fax: 907-747-6897 110 Jarvis Street (Behind t...

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    Serving Sitka...A Family Tradition Candi C. Barger, Broker 907-747-8922, 888-747-8922 Fax: 907-747-8933 228 Harbor Drive Sitka, AK 99835 www.sitkarealty...

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  • Whole Soup - December 13, 2018

    by on December 13, 2018 - 0 Comments

    Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.

  • Crossword - December 13, 2018

    by on December 13, 2018 - 0 Comments

    The Nat Mandel Sitka Trivia Crossword is a locally created crossword that has local clues and appears here as a pdf version that can be viewed or printed.

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    by on December 13, 2018 - 0 Comments

    The Soupster Checks out December in Southeast Soup Communities!

  • Whole Soup - November 29, 2018

    by on November 29, 2018 - 0 Comments

    Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.

  • Crossword - November 29, 2018

    by on November 29, 2018 - 0 Comments

    The Nat Mandel Sitka Trivia Crossword is a locally created crossword that has local clues and appears here as a pdf version that can be viewed or printed.

What is Our Town?

Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

Want to submit a piece for Our Town?

Contact us with your idea or completed piece. Our Town’s must be 450-500 words long, take place in or near Sitka and the Soupster must make an appearance, however brief.

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