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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 – April 9, 2009

Our Town – April 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Submitted by Lois Verbaan DenHerder

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 26, 2009

Our Town – March 26, 2009

| Couples, Relationships | March 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yin yang,” said Gina.

“Humpty Dumpty,” said the Soupster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Comments Off on Our Town – February 26, 2009

Our Town – February 26, 2009

| Animals, Cats, Dogs, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships, Trucks | February 26, 2009

Originally published July 25, 2002

The dog, a dark brown Labrador retriever, looked as dignified as any dog ever has while sitting in the driver’s seat of a car and the Soupster said so out loud.

“Thanks,” the dog called half-absently, resting its paws on the sheepskin covered steering wheel of the blue and grey pickup truck parked outside a key Our Town place for sandwiches and drinks.

The Soupster ambled over to the truck cab’s open window. “You talk?”

“I’m supposed to listen, right?” said the dog. “I hear that all day from your kind.”

“You drive, too?” the Soupster asked.

“You think the truck would have a better chance of parking by itself than I have of handling a 3/4 ton vehicle,” the dog sneered. “Tell me you don’t think that.”

“You probably hear this a lot,” the still-stunned Soupster sputtered, “but I can’t believe I’m talking to a dog.”

“Go ahead,” said the dog. “Ask me.”

“Ask you what?” said the Soupster.

“If a police officer pulled me over, which license would I give him?” the dog said. “That’s what you were going to ask, right?”

The Soupster’s cheeks turned bright red. “Actually, I was thinking about what kinds of music you listen to when you drive.”

“`Bark, the Herald Angels Sing’ and “Oh, Dem Bones’” said the dog, curling its lips to approximate a smile. “And my favorite movies are `Riding In Cars With Dogs” and “10 Things I Smell About You.”

“Do you…?” started the Soupster, but the dog cut him off.

“Yes, I stick my head out the window when I drive, to answer your question,” the dog said. “And, yes, I – like all dogs – will get mad if you blow on my nose. Why do dogs like one and not the other? I don’t know. We just do.”

The Soupster stared at the dog, absolutely speechless.

“I used to run with a sled team out of Skwentna,” the dog continued. “Then I decided I should get behind the wheel, instead of me being the wheels.”

“Regrets?” the Soupster asked.

“ For a while, I had this recurring dream of scaring a bunch of cats in the crosswalk. Make ‘em scatter good,” said the dog, again approximating a smile. “If I do that now I’ll lose both my licenses! Oh, here’s my wife.” The dog started the engine.

The dog’s wife, a cat, carried a foot-long sandwich in her mouth.

The dog scrunched up his nose. “Oh, no,” he said. “She got tuna again! Tuna and mayonnaise and no veggies. I like veggies. She really doesn’t know the meaning of `to share.’”

“If you hate cats so much, why did you marry one?” said the Soupster as the cat slipped in the truck cab on the other side with the sandwich.

“I’m a patient creature,” said the dog, dropping the truck into reverse and backing away from the Soupster with a comradely, if unseen, swipe of his tail.

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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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