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Comments Off on Our Town – April 19, 2018

Our Town – April 19, 2018

| Environment, Gardening, Guest Written, Our Town, Rachel Ramsey, Seasons, Spring | April 18, 2018

The Soupster learns what goes around comes around.

Originally published April 19, 2012

“Morning, Sunshine!” I greet the Soupster as he slides into the passenger seat.

“Uh-huh,” he replies groggily. Accepting my offer of liquid incentive, he adds, “Quad shot creamy, dreamy choco-caffeine delight, my favorite. Thanks.”

The Soupster adjusts his sunglasses to the morning sun. At 8am on this Saturday it’s the offer of my gardening genius and willingness at his disposal that helps him brave the hour.

“I know it’s early. Be glad I didn’t try dragging you out earlier! Garage sale-ing is serious business in Our Town – you don’t even know!” I laugh and pull out of the drive.

“First stop – across town. The hunt for garden treasures begins. It’s springtime for the Soupster in Our Town…” I belt out, energized by the sun.

“Springtime in Our Town – herring return, citywide spring cleanup, sunshine….”

“If we’re lucky,” I interject.

“Which apparently we are. Remember the good old days of roadside spring cleanup?” the Soupster asks.

“Afraid not. How’d that work?”

“Folks would toss their junk onto the side of the street. And I mean in a BIG way. Anything and everything you can imagine. Gardening supplies, even! Stuff that people didn’t want to haul off themselves. For one weekend, crews would work like mad hauling all this stuff away. And as they worked their way around town, others did the same, keeping ahead of the crews to salvage what was usable.”

“Wow! Nobody appreciates the value of thriftiness like folks in Our Town. There are so many ways for goods to come and go around here – the White E, radio stations, the newspaper, online venues, the Soup,” My list ends with a swish of the wrist, deferring to my friend.

The Soupster jumps in. “Word of mouth! Friends. Friends of friends. Anyone who learns you need what they’re lookin’ to unload.”

“Once I was walking my baby downtown and an absolute stranger chased us down. She had a fancy Italian stroller she used when she nannied. Not only did she hook me up, she delivered it. Even our strangers can be most generous!” I chuckle.

“How we find what we need in Our Town is pretty remarkable. Hey,” he says, pointing to a green truck at the side of the road. “It’s Tony.”

We pull over to find Tony’s truck almost overflowing – an old canoe, tires, a cracked bird bath, a trellis, a bulky mass of seine net.

“Please tell us you’re heading to the dump this fine morning, Tony,” I jibe, eyeballing the treasure trove of garden possibilities resting in his truck bed.

“Yup. Y’all don’t happen to need any of this, do ya?” Tony asks. The Soupster and I look at each other and smile.

“We sure do! Follow us.”

Hopping back in the car, I pull a U turn with Tony close behind. I have to laugh, “Pretty remarkable, indeed. SCORE!”

Submitted by Rachel Ramsey

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 22, 2018

Our Town – March 22, 2018

| Our Town, Shopping, Small Town Stuff, Spring | March 22, 2018

Chickens and Eggs?

Originally published April 4, 2002

The Soupster juggled in his arms: a half gallon of milk, some donuts, a box of cereal, bananas and a jar of salty Greek olives. He had come in for the donuts and unconsciously filled his arms with items as he wandered around the store, greeting the large number of people he knew.

Then he got in line.

“Soupster,” said Stevarino, the shipwright, next in line, whose real name was Stefan. “Could you hold my stuff, too, while you got so much in your arms.”

“If I really don’t want to buy anything, I have to take a shopping cart,” chuckled the Soupster. “If my arms are free, I will fill them with groceries.”

“Primordial,” Stevarino said. “Grazing behavior – like cows in the pasture. Fulfilling the Prime Directive, as Captain Kirk used to say.”

“Speaking of philosophical,” said the Soupster, reaching into Stevarino’s cart and picking out a dozen free range eggs. “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Stevarino laughed.

“No, really,” said the Soupster. “I just spent most of Saturday helping this crazy woman put up a whole display of chicken-and-egg items in the big glass cases at the entrance to the library. Every item incorporates both a chicken and an egg. And thus, each item incorporates the question – `Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

“I think it depends on how you approach the answer,” said the always-philosophical Stevarino. “If you’re talking about genes, for instance, the egg came first. Something that was almost a chicken genetically – but not quite – laid an egg which would develop into something that was just barely a chicken in genetic terms. What grew from the egg was technically a chicken, while what laid the egg was not. The egg came first.”

“Or,” Stevarino continued. “A religious person would say the chicken came first. That even if God created the egg first, what He ultimately was creating was a chicken. The egg was just the means to an end. He had in His mind the plan for a chicken and the egg was just where He started the cycle of chicken creation.”

“I see,” said the Soupster. “What the question is really asking is not ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ but ‘which came first, the design or the creation?’”

“The Creation,” said Stevarino, “Don’t get me started.”

“You’re next, Soupster,” said Bess, the checker, a little loudly, since she knew she had to pierce her voice through all of the two philosophers’ ponderous thoughts.

“Gotta go,” said the Soupster.

“Oooh,” said Stevarino. “I’m having a Sitka moment. I can see about 18 people shopping, in line or working here and I know everyone’s first name. Where does that happen?”

“Only in Our Town, that I know of,” said the Soupster.

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 30, 2017

Our Town – November 30, 2017

| Our Town, Seasons, Vampires | November 30, 2017

The Soupster chats up a night owl – well, not really an owl.

Our Town is a tolerant place, the Soupster thought, but it takes time.

He thought about Vladimir, who was standing in front of him in line at the bank. Vladimir had first come to town with not much English, no money and strange nocturnal habits. But the foreign man stayed through a whole winter, the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree in Our Town, and after that people took him seriously, even if they kept their distance.

This afternoon, near closing time, Vladimir looked terrible – always pale, he now had enormous black circles under his eyes. He slumped forward as though his arms were too heavy for his shoulders.

The Soupster caught Vladimir’s eye. “Gee, Vlad, you look awful,” the Soupster said, “like death warmed over.”

Vladimir chuckled, not altogether friendly. “Und you, Zoupster, you zmell like death needs a zhower,” he said, in his strong accent. “But you are accurate. I am zleep deprived. I am too active.”

Vladimir’s nocturnal habits were well known to everyone – the man slept all day and stayed up all night. And on the edge of Solstice in Our Town, night occupied most of the clock.

“I’m sympathetic, Vlad,” said the Soupster. “In the summertime — when the days last nearly till midnight and start again a couple of hours later? — I run myself ragged. It seems like every night at 10 p.m. or so, I think of some new project that needs doing that second.”

“Yes, Zoupster,” Vlad said. “Und you turn Zummer Zolstice upzide down und you get Vinter Zolstice.”

“Or you’re in Australia,” the Soupster joked.

“Yes, you must jest, Zoupster,” said Vladimir. “It is in your nature. As it is in mine to move across nearly the whole world. To come to the New World and leave my Old World ways behind.” Vladimir lifted his arm to cover most of his face, leaving only his dark eyes.

The Soupster remembered that he found Vlad a touch over-dramatic. But he was glad to see the other man looking more alert and awake. Vlad moved to the front of the line.

“So what did you leave behind in the Old World, Vlad?” the Soupster asked.

“Now, my favorite drink is tomato juice,” Vladimir answered with a dark laugh, exposing an impressive set of teeth. “With an egg well beaten into it!”

The teller free, Vladimir took his place at the counter. Although the Soupster’s turn came a moment later, his business was briefer and the two men found themselves standing outside the bank at the same time.

The Soupster zipped his coat tight against his neck in the chill darkness. Vladimir’s deep breaths came out in puffs of icy fog.

“Maybe you should take it easy this evening,” said the Soupster. “Kick back.”

“Oh, don’t conzern yourzelf vith me, Zoupster,” Vlad said with a wicked smile. “I am always groggy ven first I vake.” Then he changed into a bat and flew off.

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 16, 2017

Our Town – November 16, 2017

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

The Soupster sees light being lent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 10, 2017

Our Town – August 10, 2017

| Lower 48, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Seasons, Summer, Temperature | August 10, 2017

The Soupster talks to someone who can’t see the forest, because of one.

 “No, Uncle Bob, I’m not aware,” said the Soupster into the receiver of his landline phone, “just how hot your weather is right now.”

That was an outright lie. In fact, the Soupster knew. He regularly enjoyed playing a weather game called “Too Hot!.” The game involved reading the list of daily temperatures in the newspaper or watching the highs and lows of major U.S. cities scroll by on television and stopping at each one 80 degrees or higher to think aloud “Too Hot!” Starting in the Spring, various cities would pass into the realm of “Too Hot!” until, by August, most of the country qualified. It seemed as though too many cities were getting “Too Hot!” too early in the year and staying simmering too late into the fall. The Soupster knew from his game that Uncle Bob’s area had been hitting triple digits all week – shattering records set in horse-and-buggy days.

“That sounds terrible, Uncle Bob,” the Soupster said to his mother’s brother’s description of clothing turning sweat-soaked in minutes, engines overheating on gridlocked streets, regional power outages making air conditioners and refrigerators useless.

Of all the things the Soupster loved about Our Town and knew he would miss the most, its mild summertime temperatures ranked tops. Our Town and neighboring villages were maybe the last places in the country where the Soupster could live without ever having taken his air conditioner out of the box – it sat in the back of the Soupster’s closet like a survivalist’s cache of water pouches, freeze-dried Stroganoff and space blankets.

“What’s that, Uncle Bob?” the Soupster asked, registering what his relative had just said. “Your car was stolen when?”

During the heat wave and power outage, Bob explained, making it infinitely more difficult for him and his wife to haul ice back to their house to try and save the food in the chest freezer. The lack of transportation made it impossible for the couple to go the lakefront or other cooler escapes. Their usual last resorts – the movie theaters and the International House of Pancakes — were dark because of the blackout. Police found Bob’s car finally – minus hubcaps and, oddly, head rests.

“Why doesn’t it matter anymore, Uncle Bob?” asked the Soupster. “What do you mean `Eminent Domain’?”

Uncle Bob said that he worried about a developer who wanted to build condos right where his neighborhood stood. Meant jobs and higher taxes for the city. In New Jersey, one city had condemned some people’s houses with exactly the same outcome in mind and the U.S. Supreme Court backed the city and the developer. The city always wanted more people. More people just meant longer lines, Bob complained, at the market, the bank – even to vote. Of course, floods and tornadoes threatened, too. Along with the pesticides in the groundwater.

“Uncle Bob, you really have got to consider moving somewhere you find more pleasant.” said the Soupster.

“Never happen, Nephew,” Bob said. “Where else are real estate prices this low?

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 1, 2016

Our Town – December 1, 2016

| Fall, Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather | December 1, 2016

The Soupster hears about seasonal remedies.

There was a long line of people waiting at the airport, but none of them were flying that day. Instead, they waited to submit their names in the annual Customer Commensuration Event, where the airline awarded pairs of unrestricted tickets to three writers of the best essays titled, “Why I Need to Leave Our Town This Fall.”

Ah, autumn in Our Town, the Soupster thought, as he waited in line clutching his essay. A dark and wet autumn in Our Town, indeed. Like trouble piling on itself, the rain caused there to be more rain.

“It doesn’t rain, it pours,” a wise man once said.

“Oh, it gets better after Thanksgiving,” said Shirley “Bo” Burley, standing behind the Soupster and reading his mind. “Once the Christmas lights go up and cut the gloom, our mood lightens, too.”

“True, Bo,” said the Soupster. “To me, the absolute worst is the day after they change the clocks and instead of it getting dark at 5pm, which you’ve just gotten used to, it’s dark by 4pm, which is an unreasonable time for it to get dark.”

“Never lived up north, have you?” Bo asked.

“No,” said the Soupster.

“Wimp!” said Bo. “How would you like to go through a couple of months when the sun doesn’t make it over the horizon?”

“You’re just determined to lighten up my mood, aren’t you, Bo?” said the Soupster.

“Here’s a good `Coping with the Fall’ story,” said Bo, barreling on and accepting the Soupster’s implied consent. “You know Cleon, the computer guy?”

The Soupster nodded.

“He used to make house calls and one day, in the doldrums between Alaska Day and Thanksgiving, he got a call from that cute many-sided house out the road,” Bo explained.

“So Cleon strapped his small repair case to his bike and set out. Cleon loved his bike, but only a few minutes into his ride, he questioned his decision to take it. The temperature hovered right around freezing —  depending on the microclimate Cleon traversed, the rain passed back and forth between liquid water and some snowish kind of thing. You know how it is, Soupster.

“As a shivering Cleon mounted the stairs to the house, he could hear music. Jimmy Buffett. Margaritaville. The door opened to a big, sweating guy wearing a toga. Inside, it was 90 degrees. There were people sprawled all over the sand-colored carpet. All their drinks had little bamboo umbrellas.  A cardboard palm tree had been erected and a stuffed parrot perched on a corrugated branch.

Without a word, the big man showed Cleon into his office where a computer sat on the desktop. Cleon got to work. After about a half hour, Cleon stood up and stretched, another cyber problem solved.

Just then, the big man returned with a large can of tropical punch and two glasses. Cleon told him the machine was all fixed.

“Good job, fine fellow!” he said to Cleon. “I am the ruler of my Kingdom. I control the weather here. And now, thanks to you, I can also surf the Internet again!”

“So,” the man said with a wink. “When it rains, I reign.” He held up a glass and dispensed from the can of punch. “And when it pours, I pour.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 22, 2016

Our Town – September 22, 2016

| Crazy Theories, Fall, Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather | September 21, 2016

The Soupster gets Saturated.

Originally published September 7, 2006

Thick drops of rain beat a brisk rhythm on the aluminum roof over the covered area of Suzie’s porch where the Soupster sat. All summer long, the Soupster had bravely faced the preponderance of precipitation and the rarity of sunny days with humor, understanding and flexibility. But there and then — against the roof over his head — fell the one big raindrop that caused the barrel to overflow, like the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the Soupster finally became Saturated.

In his last lucid moment, the Soupster had been thinking about a short story written more than 50 years before – a very unscientific science fiction story about a group of astronauts who crash land on Venus – the planet. On Venus, as in Our Town this summer, it rains constantly, proposed the story’s author, Ray Bradbury. And, like the Soupster, the four astronauts who survive the crash set out bravely into the constant rain to find a Sun Dome, which is just like it sounds — an Industrial Strength Light Bulb Beach. Without finding the dome, the astronauts would go mad from rain pounding constantly against their skulls.

“Here’s your hot chocolate,” said Suzie, appearing on the porch with two steaming mugs. “No marshmallow in yours.”

The Soupster regarded Suzie with as much recognition as he would one of the astronauts on Venus. Through the pounding between his ears in time with the hammering of the rain against the roof, he could not make out what she was saying.

“It was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles;” Bradbury had written, “it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and by the ton.”

The Soupster looked blankly at Suzie and then out into space.

“Oh, for goodness sakes,” muttered Suzie. Born and raised in Our Town, she knew just what to do when someone became Saturated. She set down the two steaming mugs on a wooden table away from the Soupster, so he would not, in his helpless state, burn himself.

Suzie went room-to-room in her house and gathered up an armful of lamps: table models, clip-ons, three-way bulbs, lanterns and reading lights. She brought it all out under the covered area of the porch, along with two extension cords and several power strips.

While she did, the Soupster continued his nightmare of tramping through the jungles of Venus in the blinding downpour. “(The rain) shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes,” wrote Bradbury. “It rained a solid, glassy rain and it never stopped.” The rattling and thumping on the roof drowned out Suzie’s grunts as she hooked up the complicated bank of lamps and power strips, all aimed at the Soupster.

“Now!” she shouted above the din and threw a switch that bathed the entire covered area of the porch in warm yellow light.

The Soupster leaped to his feet. “The Sun Dome!” he cried. “I made it!”

“Goodness gracious – there’s no Sun Dome,” said Suzie. “You’re on the porch at my house. You just got Saturated. Now drink your hot chocolate.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 7, 2016

Our Town – April 7, 2016

| Guest Written, Our Town, Rose Manning, Seasons, Spring | April 6, 2016

The Soupster inspires a flurry of activity before a dinner date.

I was strolling past the post office in Our Town when I heard,“Gosh darn sunbeams!”

I turned and scurrying by in a terrible hurry was my neighbor Linda.

“Excuse me, but what did you say? I thought I heard you say, ‘Gosh darn sunbeams.’”

“Kurt, I did say it. Darn sunbeams. I just can’t stand them; they are everywhere.”

“Now Linda, why do you have a problem with sunbeams? You are usually a pretty laid back, upbeat person and generally everybody in Our Town is happy to see sunshine.”

“Oh Kurt, I’ve invited Soupster to my special pickled herring and borscht dinner tonight and I am so rushed.”

“Why? You have made that wonderful meal dozens of times. I especially like the ground fresh garlic you always sprinkle on top. You have served it so often I should think you could cook it while practicing your Yoga.”

“Well, back during Our Town’s usual darkness I thought I was all caught up on my work around the house, but now the sunbeams have shown me that my windows are filthy. I just thought it was dark out like always, but all that bright light is showing dirt that I didn’t even know I had. There’s kitty hair all over the sofa, cobwebs decorating the corners, dust everywhere and little motes floating willy nilly about the room. I can’t entertain in those conditions.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sakes, don’t worry about the Soupster. His glasses are always so dirty he won’t notice a thing.”

“Kurt, it is not only inside my house that’s a problem but outside too. I noticed the paint on the porch has faded and there is a streak of mold on the front door.”

“Now Linda, don’t despair. Lots of us have the same damp weather problem.”

“And look at my clothes! When did my best sweater get little balls all over it? And there are spots on my Levis I never noticed before. And the very worst part – I cleaned my glasses and my husband actually has grey hair and wrinkles. I’m sure they were not there last fall. The poor old soul. I can’t wait for a return to the nice dark rainy days of November.”

“Oh Linda, please, please be careful what you wish for.”

“I have to be on my way now, Kurt. I am going to clean until dinner time.”

“Or, Linda, my friend, you could just pull the curtains closed.”

Submitted by Rose Manning

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 12, 2015

Our Town – March 12, 2015

| Dreams, Our Town, Seasons, Spring | March 12, 2015

A dreaming Soupster is egg-faced.

“Two hundred and forty-seven eggs, wreck `em,'” the waitress called to the short-order cook in the Soupster’s dream about Spring.

In his dream about Spring, the Soupster sat at a breakfast counter that hadn’t existed in Our Town for years. Two large dark-haired men sat on either side of him. Both men wore Tlingit regalia and eagerly tore into herring eggs, mounded into a large pile on a plate before each.

“Pass the soy sauce?” asked the man on the left and the Soupster, still dreaming, did.

“Eggs for you, Soupster?” asked the waitress, her hand on her hip.

“Uh, two, over easy,”

“Two eggs?” said the waitress, her eyebrows arching with disbelief. “Just two?”

The waitress looked over at the men, who, like her, tried to keep from laughing. “You want seal oil with your two eggs?” she said, collapsing in hysterics.

Next, the Soupster dreamed he walked through a park of totem poles and old-growth trees. The Soupster peered into the forest, where he could see figures moving. They were bunnies and chicks — more specifically, children dressed as bunnies and chicks — a score of them, bent over and peering under salmonberry bushes and behind spruce and hemlock trunks.

“I’ve found one!” a cute blue rabbit called out, pulling out from under a skunk cabbage a small hemlock bough covered with herring eggs died in different colors.

“Me, too,” called another youngster, this one dressed as a duckling, holding aloft a similar prize. Cries of success came from hither and yon.

At that moment, the two men from the restaurant reappeared and grabbed the Soupster by the arms. The Soupster’s body stiffened and the men held him parallel to the ground, as they would a plank of wood. They continued down the forest path, the Soupster strangely calm for someone who was being kidnapped. The men carried the Soupster down to the beach and placed him in a small, open boat. Then they rowed for a time.

Despite the unexpected recent turns of the Soupster’s life – or should he say “dream life” – he felt a calm from believing that all this strangeness was a good sign. A sign of something good. Something like Spring?

The Soupster could hear the men placing the oars back in the boat. They grabbed the Soupster, hoisted him up, tipped him over and plunged his head into the cold water. They held him there. In his dream, the Soupster had no sense of the amount of time he hung upside down in the water. Then someone jostled him. Four arms brought the Soupster up sputtering. His hair was filled with herring eggs, which poured, as well, down over his shoulders.

“Sorry, Soupster,” said the first of the two men from the boat and restaurant. “We thought you were a hemlock bough.”

“A real `egg head'” said the second man. “That’s the Soupster!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 11, 2014

Our Town – September 11, 2014

| Our Town, Rain, Seasons, Weather | September 11, 2014

The Soupster helps rename Autumn.

“Wet enough for ya’?” the Soupster asked his friend, Rex Havick, who was shaking off rainwater like a dog in the mudroom, before hanging his slicker on a peg.

“It’s water torture,” Rex countered, as he stepped into the house. “One drip is fine, but a billion’ll drive you crazy.”

“I like the sound of the rain,” said the Soupster. “Remember our culture’s brief flirtation with negative ion generators?”

“Negative ions,” said Rex, “that are produced by things like waterfalls, rainbows and whiskers on kittens.”

“You remember the song!” said a delighted Soupster. “Hey, Rex, come over here by the window and sit down.”

The large window faced the ocean, wild that day, churning and absorbing the billions of gallons of rainwater. The two humans stood transfixed at the flurry of whitecaps whipped by the wind, but the ocean was unimpressed. “Meh,” it said.

The Soupster cranked open the window and bid Rex sit down in the wicker chair by the table with the potted calendula. “Shhhh,” he said, as Rex took his seat. The Soupster sat beneath the philodendron.

Outside the window was a porch covered with stiff, thin fiberglass panels. The rain hitting the porch roof sounded like a high-medium tom-tom drum, which varied in speed and pitch with the size of the raindrops and the velocity they were falling at.

“Cool, huh?” said the Soupster.

“Very negative ion,” said Rex and the two men lapsed into silence.

A passing squall kicked up the volume and speed of the downpour and Rex grunted with appreciation. The amount of rain overwhelmed the gutters of the Soupster’s house and water fell like a curtain from the edge of the porch roof. The men had to raise their voices a little to be heard.

“So much water,” said the Soupster. “Meanwhile, my friends tell me the drought is so bad where they live, people are painting their burned lawns green.”

“Like everything else, those that got enough already, get more,” Rex said, “and those without don’t,”

“Why is that?” asked the Soupster, but Rex’s answer was drowned out as the rain fell even harder and even faster and much, much, louder.

“Rain like this can’t just be falling,” said Rex, “it’s got some kind of propulsion behind it. They call the season Fall, but they really ought to be calling it “Throwing it at us.”

“What?” asked the Soupster over the din.

“I said they should call the season “Throwing it at us!” yelled Rex.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 22, 2014

Our Town – May 22, 2014

| Gardening, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Seasons, Spring | May 21, 2014

The Soupster is Inspired by Spring.

Jan’s cell phone beeped. A message from the Soupster. “Just got home. Was that your out there would have been a beach on a table?” it said.

“What the heck?” Jan frowned and picked up her garden hose. Immediately, the phone rang – the Soupster again.

“Sorry – my phone makes up its own thing sometimes. I meant: ‘Is that you out there watering a bedside table?’”

“Sure is,” Jan replied, reaching under the shelf to peel off a soggy Bangkok city map.

“I know it’s been unusually sunny weather an’ all but aren’t you taking spring fever a little far?” the Soupster asked.

“Ha ha” Jan replied. “Doing some spring cleaning…decided to sand my bedside table and give it a new ‘shabby chic’ look. Figured spraying it was the best way to get the sawdust off.”

“What? You took a piece of furniture with a perfectly good paint job and wrecked it?”

“Get with the times, Soupster. It’s not wrecked, it’s ‘fashionably weathered.’ Not everyone likes furniture made out of wooden palettes and ammo crates. By the way, what were you doing sweeping your face over the seedlings in your garden planter yesterday? Nearly crashed my bike trying to figure out what was going on.”

“Aaahh… Yes. Singing chromatic scales to my seedlings. Exhaling carbon dioxide on them is like feeding them a Thanksgiving meal; the vibrations of my voice energize them at a cellular level. Should help them grow faster.”

“O-kaaaay….oh, and hey, I read on Facebook last night that microwaved water has been proven not to kill plants.”

“Interesting. Must remember that. Need all the help I can get when it comes to gardening” the Soupster admitted.

“For one thing,” he said, “I’ve given up trying to start my own seeds. Last year, I tried to give my flower seeds a head start by sprouting them in a moist paper towel on the windowsill. They did sprout but I couldn’t get them off the paper towel so I ripped it apart and planted the bits. Unfortunately, only a few plants made it out of the soil and they spent the rest of the summer struggling to become anything more than two small leaves at the end of a stalk. These days I go for seedlings. I say let someone else get them through the Neonatal ICU stage.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Soupster. This is Alaska. I figure if we manage to grow anything at all, that’s a bonus, given the challenging weather conditions.

“True,” the Soupster agreed.

“Sorry, gotta go. Need to get this bedside table into the sun so it can dry. Bye…”

Right away her phone beeped a message. “Sudden dry in the same sentence music Tim I hears,” it said.

The Soupster called again. “Sorry, that was supposed to be; ‘Sun and dry in the same sentence – music to my ears.’ Yeah, I gotta go too. Time to sing a few octaves.”

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Our Town – November 7, 2013

| Darkness, Fall, Our Town, Seasons, Storms, Weather | November 7, 2013

The Soupster hunkers down.

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

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

Carla chattered on about her busy kids and husband Josh and her going back to college and Josh’s new job. Then, she said “Oops, I’m getting Call Waiting, must be Josh or Rebecca, I’m supposed to pick both of them up. Can you hold?”

The Soupster did. With the phone to his ear, he wandered to the door to his back porch, where the portion covered by a fiberglass roof played wonderful rhythms as it hailed. The sound rose and fell like the aural equivalent of those little birds whose large flocks turn on a dime: sheets of sound, rippling and turning, rising and falling.

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

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

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

“Encouraging, Carla,” said the Soupster.

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

The Soupster did. The hail slacked off and a shaft of sunlight cut through the otherwise dark sky, came through the window and fell upon a small ceramic planter in the shape of a fish with big blue eyes and enormous crimson lips. Carla had presented the Soupster with the fish two decades earlier, after he helped her move. This was before baby Rebecca and even before husband Josh.

Next to the fish was a half-scale raven (or full-scale crow) carved out of wood. Steve Jessup gave the Soupster the raven after the Soupster took Steve’s parents out on his boat. An entire dog family, paper mache, stretched out on their paper mache couch – this was on the bookshelves – a gift from somebody. Above the dogs, tucked tightly, signed copies of all the books by Our Town’s writers over the years.

The Soupster touched the arms of his sweater – knitted by Giselle for his birthday. In the pantry, canned sockeye and an array of jams. All canned and arrayed by various friends.

If he wanted to, he could gaze on the paintings and sculptures tinted and carved in Our Town. Or he could pop in a CD cut by one of Our Town’s bands.

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

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

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Our Town – August 15, 2013

| Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Seasons, Summer, Sunshine, Weather | August 15, 2013

The Soupster celebrates Sitka weather.

“No, Uncle Bob, I’m not aware,” said the Soupster into the receiver of his landline phone, “just how hot your weather is right now.”

That was an outright lie. In fact, the Soupster knew. He regularly enjoyed playing a weather game called “Too Hot!.” The game involved reading the list of daily temperatures in the newspaper or watching the highs and lows of major U.S. cities scroll by on television and stopping at each one 80 degrees or higher to think aloud “Too Hot!” Starting in the Spring, various cities would pass into the realm of “Too Hot!” until, by August, most of the country qualified. It seemed as though too many cities were getting “Too Hot!” too early in the year and staying simmering too late into the fall. The Soupster knew from his game that Uncle Bob’s area had been hitting triple digits all week – shattering records set in horse-and-buggy days.

“That sounds terrible, Uncle Bob,” the Soupster said to his mother’s brother’s description of clothing turning sweat-soaked in minutes, engines overheating on grid-locked streets, regional power outages making air conditioners and refrigerators useless.

Of all the things the Soupster loved about Our Town and knew he would miss the most, its mild summertime temperatures ranked tops. Our Town and its neighboring villages were maybe the last places in the country where the Soupster could live without ever having taken his air conditioner out of its box – it sat in the back of the Soupster’s closet like a survivalist’s cache of water pouches, freeze-dried Stroganoff and space blankets.

“What’s that, Uncle Bob?” the Soupster asked, registering what his relative just said. “Your car was stolen when?”

During the heat wave and power outage, Bob explained, making it infinitely more difficult for him and his wife to haul ice back to their house to try and save the food in the chest freezer. The lack of transportation made it impossible for the couple to go the lakefront or other cooler escapes. Their usual last resorts – the movie theaters and the International House of Pancakes — were dark because of the blackout. Police found Bob’s car finally – minus hubcaps and, oddly, head rests.

“Why doesn’t it matter anymore, Uncle Bob?” asked the Soupster, registering alarm. “What do you mean “Eminent Domain?”

Uncle Bob explained that he worried that a developer wanted to build condos right where his neighborhood stood. Meant jobs and higher taxes for the city. In New Jersey, one city condemned some people’s houses with exactly the same outcome in mind and the U.S. Supreme Court backed the city and the developer. The city always wanted more people. More people just meant longer lines, Bob complained – at the market, the bank – even to vote. Of course, floods and tornadoes threatened, too. Along with the pesticides in the groundwater.

“Uncle Bob, you really have got to consider moving somewhere you find more pleasant.” said the Soupster.

“Never happen, Nephew,” Bob said. “Where else are real estate prices this low”?

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Our Town – June 20, 2013

| Gardening, Our Town, Seasons, Summer | June 19, 2013

The Soupster savors local botany.

“Jack, your yard is like a Greatest Hits of Our Town’s flora,” the Soupster exclaimed, as he followed his friend on the deluxe tour of the grounds.

The plants in Jack’s yard were exclusively of the temperate rainforest variety – devil’s club, Indian celery, ferns, dogwood. Foxglove and fireweed. A naturally-occurring stand of wild blueberry whose robustness Jack pruned, weeded and tended as carefully as Tlingits did with their wild blueberry centuries ago. Big, big hemlocks. Sitka spruce, boughs heavy with bright green tips.

And Jack’s yard didn’t reflect just local botany — local zoology was represented, too. Especially the historical challenges of the dominant mammal – Homo Sitkians.

The Gold Rush? Jack found a gold coin nestled in the crack between two granite slabs poking out of one section of the yard. Five hundred bucks in five minutes and then nothing else for 20 years.

Avalanche? Jack suffered a sort of avalanche in the sloped portion nearest the house and had been compelled to get a speedy Do-it-Yourself education in foundation drainage techniques.

Seismic shakes? It shook the house real good when Jack’s pressure cooker exploded while he was putting up jam.

Maybe the worst was when Jack had been shut out of the Permanent Fund for three years after extending a Mexican vacation and repeatedly messing up the PFD application

The Soupster had only a few homemade Alaska jokes, but one of them was:

Q: What’s more Alaskan that having a backhoe in your back yard? A: Having a broken backhoe in your front yard.

The lushness of early summer in Our Town always made the Soupster happy. Mountains plunging directly into the sea is a pretty heady combination, even during the worst October. But mountains plunging directly into the sea is more compelling with a lush band of lighter green right at the point of contact.

Number two, all the alder leaves and salmonberry bushes covered up the thousands of practical, but not necessarily aesthetic, choices made constantly by Homo Sitkians – like the aforementioned broken backhoe.

No backhoe in Jack’s yard, though, front or back. In Jack’s yard it was just green. Green, green and more green, and occasionally Jack.

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Our Town – June 14, 2012

| Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Seasons, Spring | June 14, 2012

“Dear Great Uncle Arthur,” wrote the Soupster. “I hope this letter finds you in the best of
health.”

The Soupster stopped writing. Great Uncle Arthur was always complaining about his
aches and pains. He might take the bland greeting as minimizing his suffering or, worse
yet, sarcasm. The Soupster scratched out the previous line and wrote instead: “I hope
you’re feeling tolerable.”

Despite his great uncle’s last decade-or-so performance of “The Ornery Contrarian,”
the Soupster loved Arthur and remembered him fondly. Younger than the others of his
generation, he was often put in charge of the Soupster and other nieces and nephews and
led them in memorable shenanigans.

At their last family gathering, the Soupster made the mistake of asking if Great Uncle
Arthur had learned to use a computer and had an email address.

“I’m just fine without one,” the older man snapped. “Write me a letter.”

The Soupster turned back to his work. “It’s been a damp and cool few weeks and summer
is approaching hesitantly this year,” he wrote. “So far, this is the kind of summer that
makes me wonder what the tourists must think our winters are like.

“But it is so green ! Even soaked with dripping greyness, everything that grows is
growing full bore, so the overall color is green.”

The Soupster knew this was too sappy, so he veered back into Arthur Country. “The
leaves, thick on the trees and the bushes looking bigger every day cover a million sins,
like bad paint jobs, strewn trash and now-stationary vehicles. Overall, Our Town looks
better groomed in the summer.”

The Soupster remembered that his great uncle was the first to teach the Soupster what
he called “The Garage Sale Rule.” The rule states that as the best items in a garage sale
are sold, the next-best items move up a slot in desireability. Stuff that wouldn’t have
interested anybody arriving early may look like the best stuff there – a find! – by the end
of the day.

And the Soupster remembered the sweet little house with the little garden he saw poking
from a corner, just the other day. The house was mostly behind a really big house and
he’d never noticed it before. But the view of the big house was now blocked by the lush
alder and salmonberry growth in front. And – voila! — there was the little house and the
sweet little garden.

“Your Garage Sale Rule works in real estate, too,” the Soupster wrote, hoping to either
get his uncle’s goat, pique his uncle’s interest or both.

“And if you write back to me, I’ll explain how,” the Soupster wrote. Your Loving Great
Nephew S.”

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Page 1 of 21 2
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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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