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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 – 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 – November 7, 2013

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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Comments Off on Our Town – November 17, 2011

Our Town – November 17, 2011

| Airport, Fall, Flying, Our Town, Seasons, Travel, Weather | November 17, 2011

“Ugh,” said Jeanne, a schoolteacher friend, as she plopped into the passenger seat of the Soupster’s car. “You hear the weather report?” she asked, as the Soupster pulled out and made for the airport.

“I’ve got plenty of time,” Jeanne continued. “Oh, ugh, my keys and my tickets,” she said, rifling through her purse. “No, it’s fine.”

“You know you show a lot of hubris flying on an airplane in Southeast Alaska with the weather this time of year,” said the Soupster. “You really tempt Fate.”

“Oh, pshaw, don’t tell me one of your flying-back-and-forth-between-Anchorage-and-Ketchikan-for-four-days stories,” said Jeanne.

“Actually, I was going to tell you a stuck-in-a-foggy-Juneau-airport-for-a-week story, but I now I won’t,” said the Soupster, mildly wounded.

“Look at the view from this bridge,” marveled Jeanne as she surveyed the harbor below where an outgoing float plane and an incoming longliner expertly slid past one another.

“I think Our Town is the prettiest when you are just about to leave on a trip and when you just return from one,” the Soupster said.

“Ugh, you would say that,” Jeanne said.

“Jeanne?” asked the Soupster. “Tell me again why I agree to do you favors like drive you to the airport?”

Jeanne leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Because you are my dear and kind friend,” she said.

They had reached the terminal and the loading/unloading area. Although Our Town is spared the big airport cops whose job it is to move you along in fluctuating big city airport terminal traffic (worst gig in the world?), the Soupster felt some responsibility to stay on task.

“Want me to walk you inside?” he asked.

“You’re sweet,” said Jeanne, as she pulled open the door to the car. “My bag is light. I’ll just let you go.”  She opened the back door of the car and grabbed her suitcase.

Another car pulled up ahead and several young women got out. One of them wore astounding boots. From the shin down they were the familiar neoprene brown of Sitka Sneakers. But from the mid-calf up, the boots were flocked with shearling wool. They looked like the offspring of Xtra Tufs and Uggs.

“XtraUggs,” said the Soupster, pointing.

“You’re right,” said Jeanne. “This bag is heavier than I thought!”

1370 total views, 0 today

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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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