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Comments Off on Our Town – May 22, 2014

Our Town – May 22, 2014

| Gardening, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, 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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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 – August 15, 2013

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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Comments Off on Our Town – June 20, 2013

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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Comments Off on Our Town – June 14, 2012

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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Comments Off on Our Town – May 3, 2012

Our Town – May 3, 2012

| Crazy Theories, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons, Small Town Stuff, Spring | May 3, 2012

“Coffee delivery,” the Soupster announced, as he approached the four men sitting and standing outside Giant Gene’s auto shop. Indeed, he carried a cardboard holder with four paper cups.

“You’re a good man,” Giant Gene told the Soupster, taking the holder and distributing the cups. Charlie, also called Red, raised his in salute. Billy, called Kid, gave an elaborate bow of thanks, almost spilling his. Miguel drank greedily. He was, understandably, sometimes called Santana, since that was his last name.

“Pretty slick,” the Soupster told Gene. “I call you to see if my alternator is ready and you rope me into catering your morning staff meeting. What are you guys doing standing out here, anyway? Don’t you have cars and trucks to shorten the lives of?”

“Shhhh,” said Gene and turned to the other guys. “I think today is definitely the day. It’s my day.”

“Today is what day?” asked the Soupster.

“The day Gene thinks Leonard will finally take his snow shovels inside,” said Red. He pointed across the street to a neatly kept home surrounded by a white picket fence, against which was balanced a silver snow shovel, a black plastic scoop and an ice breaker.

“We think Leonard is the last person in Our Town to put them away,” added Billy.

“We bet on it,” said Giant Gene. “Miguel thought it up.”

“Whoever picks the day Leonard puts the shovels away has to buy lunch for the rest of us for a week,” explained Miguel.

“That’s the first prize?” said the Soupster. “The winner buys lunch for everyone for a week?”

“No,” said Miguel. “The prize is the honor of winning.”

“We call it the Santana Ice Classic,” said Giant Gene.

“Look,” said Billy, “Leonard’s coming out!”

Leonard stepped out onto his cute front porch and took a breath of the morning air. He came down the stairs. The tension at Giant Gene’s was palpable.

When Leonard got to the shovels he paused slightly, looked up in the general direction of Giant Gene’s, walked out the gate and got into his car.

“Darn!” said Gene. “I thought I won!”

“It’s been getting pretty warm,” the Soupster said. “Do you ever worry that Leonard knows what you’re all up to and he’s leaving his shovels out there on purpose?”

“Soupster,” said Billy. “That would be crazy!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 23, 2012

Our Town – February 23, 2012

| Darkness, Our Town, Seasons, Vampires | February 23, 2012

At the hardware store at closing time to buy a paintbrush, the Soupster said the same thing he always said when he ran into the local vampire, “Hey, Ed, drinking that fish blood still working for you?”

“Fine,” said Edward, who was not hearing the question for the first time. “Hey Soupster,” he countered, “you still eating the flesh of mammals?”

“Not the same, not the same,” said the Soupster, shaking his head.

“That’s right,” said Ed. “I catch my own dinner.”

“All right, you win,” said the Soupster, noticing that Ed’s arms were filled with plumbing parts, building insulation and a large roll of electrical wire and that he wore a serious expression.

The Soupster could hear the background whirring of the cash register at the counter. Customers stood in line to check out. A few other people wandered the aisles, glancing anxiously at the big wall clock.

“Sorry if I seem testy,” said Ed, “I’ve just been vorking, vorking, vorking.” At the Soupster’s questioning look, Ed added. “You know, I’m coming to the end of my busy season.”

“That’s right, you live at night,” the Soupster said, acting as though he didn’t already know that.

“And the nights are getting shorter,” said Ed.

“I have noticed that,” said the Soupster. “I actually tell people during the black nights of late fall that they just have to hold out until February and it’s remarkably lighter by then…Eddy? Are you listening to me?”

“I vas just thinking about the ‘black nights of late fall,’” said Ed dreamily. “You ewoked that magical time wery vell.”

“I know it’s not officially Spring until March 21st,” the Soupster continued, “but it seems like it’s Spring here by the end of February. At least it’s staying light later and later and getting light earlier and earlier.”

“Please don’t vave your depressing theory in my face,” said Ed.

“Which makes sense,” said the Soupster, ignoring him, “because Fall starts on September 21st, supposedly, but in our town — by late August — the alder leaves are falling and the raindrops getting bigger.”

“I have so much to do and so little time to do it,” Ed complained. “And so no time to talk vit you.”

“I’ll try and keep a good thought for you night people,” said the Soupster.

Ed nodded assent. “In the vords of Paul Simon, `One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.’”

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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!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 3, 2011

Our Town – November 3, 2011

| Environment, Northern Lights, Our Town, Seasons, Winter | November 3, 2011

“When was the last time you saw the Northern Lights over Our Town?” the Soupster asked his friend Rudy, as the two men reclined on the porch at the back of Rudy’s house. Rudy was a high school science teacher and an observant man, and the Soupster valued his opinion.

“Seems to me like a long while ago,” Rudy agreed.

The angle of the yard gave the two men a good view of the night sky. Passing clouds exposed a few isolated stars now and then as they talked.

“Maybe four or five years since one of those real light shows that have you muttering `I can’t believe what I’m seeing,’” said the Soupster. “And the next day everybody is talking about the Northern Lights wherever you go.”

“If people did not see the Northern Lights, then you have to explain what you were doing up in the middle of the night,” Rudy laughed.

“This is true,” said the Soupster.

“You know what the police say,” Rudy quoted. “Anybody up at 3 a.m. is probably up to no good.”

“This is also true.”

“I was busted by my kid,” said Rudy. “I woke her up early one morning for her to see a really good Northern Lights. She said she was cold and she never fully woke up. Her mother complained big-time and said, `What kind of father are you?”

“Wow,” said the Soupster,

“So the next time, we had Northern Lights I didn’t wake her up and she was mad and said `Why didn’t you wake me up?’”

The Soupster laughed and sank down deeper into padded chaise.

“There’s the Wet Alaska and the Cold Alaska,” the Soupster said. “In Cold Alaska, they see the Northern Lights regularly.”

“My experience,” said Rudy “is that Wet Alaska may not be colder than Cold Alaska, but it can feel colder. I saw a college kid in Fairbanks in shorts at a dry 20 below and I bet he would not do that here on a windblown night of freezing rain.”

“It’s not unusual for a West Coast state to have two completely different climate zones,” said the Soupster. “There’s wet western Washington and western Oregon, each state turning drier and hotter as you go east.”

“And California, like Alaska is split more North and South, of course,” the Soupster said. “Deserts down South and forests up North.”

“The opposite of here,” said Rudy. “Great swaths of Interior Alaska get so little precipitation the area qualifies as a desert. Then we have this huge temperate rain forest here in the South.”

“You’re a smart guy,” said the Soupster.

“As long as you do not count the mistakes,” said Rudy.

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 28, 2011

Our Town – July 28, 2011

| Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Seasons, Summer, Tourists, Vacation, Visitors | July 28, 2011

Originally published July 29, 2004

It seemed like slow motion to the Soupster watching Red bearing right down on him, then the larger man knocked the Soupster to the ground.

“Whoa, sorry there,” Red said. “I’m running on all gears like a headless chicken.”

“Summer is the busy time in Our Town,” the Soupster commiserated. “Why else would Alaskans take their vacations in the winter?”

Red nodded. “I work May through September and take the rest of the year off,” he said.

“You pack a whole year into four months,” said the Soupster. “but you pay for it on days like today.”

“Oh, it’s not the work,” Red sighed. “Work I learned to handle a long time ago. Up at 4 to get the boat ready, take guests out all day. I’m cleaning up the boat long after they’ve left. And then I find myself up until 10 answering snail mail and e-mails and doing the books.”

“So why are you so crazy now?” the Soupster asked.

“Relatives.”

“Locational hazard,” said the Soupster. “You move to a place as nice as Our Town and you discover relatives you never knew you had.”

“You bet,” Red agreed. “I knew we had my sister and her family coming up this month, but she ran into our cousin in Seattle and guess what? They decided on a whim to come up together! That makes nine people in my house. Bless them, they’re very self-directed. Still though, they want to be sure and visit with me every day and I just don’t have time.

“Can you take them out on the charter with you?” the Soupster asked.

“Wouldn’t be fair to my clients,” Red said. “They’re paying top dollar for my full attention. Hunting fish is serious business.”

“So,” said Red, “I’ve got half a day I penciled out to do about a week’s worth of chores. I’m walking to the bank today and what do you know — there’s my great-uncle Don in the middle of a walking tour. My father would never give me peace if I didn’t show Don the town, so there went my day to catch up.”

“Bet you’re looking forward to your vacation in two months,” the Soupster guessed.

“I’m not waiting that long,” said Red. “My sister goes back on the plane tomorrow and the cousin on the ferry the next day. Uncle Don is getting back on his cruise ship this evening. As soon as everybody leaves and I can get back to my regular 18-hour days, I’m gonna consider it vacation!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 10, 2011

Our Town – March 10, 2011

| Computers, Our Town, Seasons, Spring, VHS, Weather, Website | March 10, 2011

“Great Caesar’s debit card!” said the Original Soupster, pushing away the computer keyboard, frustrated. “Fireweed scramble!”

“Uncle,” said the Soupster. “Calm down. Just tell me what it is you’re trying to access.”

“Access? What do you mean access?” said the Original Soupster. “Don’t give me that Greek plaster! Speak English!”

The Soupster took a deep breath.  His uncle lived in a village even smaller than Our Town. Yet the older man insisted on buying a GPS navigation system for his car and then proceeded to get lost in the tiny burg he had inhabited for the last quarter century. As a young man, the Soupster had learned to hypnotize himself on visits by staring at the constantly flashing “12:00” on his uncle’s digital alarm clock and later on his VHS tape deck.

“By Abraham’s peapod,” said Original, ending his nephew’s reverie. “Why can’t you just put them all in a book?”

“What in a book?” asked the Soupster. “What do you want?!”

“Butterpaddle!” said Original. “I want to read your story about the married dog who drives.”

“Oh, you want to read an old Our Town column from the Soup,” said the Soupster, admittedly relieved and also complimented. “All the Our Town columns are archived on the Soup’s Internet website. You should learn to use it.”

“I know that, Soupster, you frontloader,” said the Original one. “Don’t you think I know that?”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“I never push the right buttons!” said Original.

Oh, really? The Soupster thought dryly. I’d say you were a champion button pusher.

But what the Soupster said was: “All right, all right,” and dutifully retrieved a hard copy of an old Soup that contained the Our Town column with the married dog who drives. He handed it to Original, who grunted with approval.

The Soupster answered a knock at the door and found his friend Sadie on his front step, her hat, literally in her hand. “I want to take you up on the offer to lend me a space heater in case it gets cold again,” she said “And do you have an extra pair of sunglasses in case it gets sunny? Oh, and a sturdy umbrella for hail. You know how it is this time of year.”

The Soupster attempted to launch his opinion on the coming changeable weather, but was cut short by a big grunt from Original Soupster, who then came bursting onto the scene.

“Bazooka Joe, you crinkle fry,” said Original, waving the Our Town column in the air like a burning torch. “This is my favorite ‘Our Town.’ You do have a way with the words, Slugbait!”

Editor’s Note: The Our Town column with “the married dog who drives” can be found HERE.

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 24, 2011

Our Town – February 24, 2011

| Our Town, Seasons, Spring, Weather | February 24, 2011

“’This weather – ‘taint fit for man nor beast,” the Soupster said, sitting down with his friend Abigail in a cozy corner of the café. Outside, where it was 30 degrees, hail rained down at 75 degrees, bouncing a few inches off the parking lot asphalt and car roofs.

“I went through at least four weather patterns on the way here,” said Abigail, pushing a mug of geoduck chowder to the Soupster. “This is fabulous. You’ve got to try it.”

The Soupster needed no encouragement and scarfing ensued. Abigail demolished her halibut wrap. “It was amazing,” she said between bites. “Rain, then sun, then hail, then rain, then hail again.”

“That’s five,” said the Soupster.

“It’s like Spring is here,” she said, ignoring him, “This kind of weather I associate with Spring. Only that it’s way too cold for Spring.”

“Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog Day groundhog, didn’t see his shadow this year
and that means an early Spring,” said the Soupster.

“Well, I’ve heard Punxsutawney Phil is right less than half the time.”

The Soupster chuckled and scraped the bottom of his mug to get the very last drop. “This geoduck stuff really is good,” he said. “If I got two more mugs, could you eat one of them?”

“I’ll try,” said Abigail.

The Soupster walked to the counter. “Sue,” he said to the proprietor. “Could you re-fill this mug and ladle out another one for Abby?”

Then sun flooded through the windows, as Sue turned to her stove holding two mugs. “I heard you guys talking about the weather,” she said over her shoulder. “You know what they say about our weather?”

“What?”

“If you don’t like the weather in Our Town,” Sue said, “Just drive to the other end of the road.”

“Ah, microclimates,” said the Soupster. “I grok you.”

Outside, the wind picked up, rustling a stand of hemlock. A large raven landed on the asphalt and found a bit of pastry stuck to a paper plate. He was immediately joined by eight other ravens. The first raven pulled the pastry off the plate and flew off with the morsel, with four of the ravens leaping to pursuit. Freed of the pastry’s weight, the paper plate caught the next gust of wind and headed in the opposite direction, with the remaining ravens following.

“What were you watching?” asked Abigail as the Soupster placed two mugs on the table.

“Our Town’s Favorite Animal Tricks,” the Soupster said. “I bet the ravens are way happier here than they would be in some Back East blizzard or Tennessee ice storm. I heard it was near zero last night in Oklahoma City.”

Abby lifted a dripping spoonful of chowder. “That’s why we live in Alaska,” she said with her mouth full.

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Our Town – November 4, 2010

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

(Originally published Nov. 17, 2005)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wet dark is like double dark,” the Soupster agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Town – October 7, 2010

| Darkness, Foreign Countries, Germany, Guest Written, Our Town, Rain, Rose Manning, Seasons, Weather | October 7, 2010

“Hi, neighbor Joan. How is life treating you?”

“Soupster, I am fine but it is that time of year again.”

“What time is that?”

“Haven’t you ever noticed; when the rain gets serious and the light begins to fade many of the folks in Our Town start speaking gibberish.”

“What are you talking about? A foreign language, maybe?”

“Well, it might as well be, Soupster. It could be Italian for as much as I can understand. It must be a secret language – ‘Quiltese.’ They throw around terms like slub, bark cloth, feed dogs, round robin swap, ikat, stitch-in-the-ditch, fat quarters, fussy cut and my personal favorite – ‘scherenschnitte’ – that’s German for ‘scissor cuts’ and it’s a kind of fancy paper cutting.”

“Joan, I don’t know what any of it means but I do know some wondrous textiles come out of Our Town. I saw one beauty in white, icy blue and aquamarine sprinkled with bits of cut glass. It was called ‘Glacier’ and almost pushed me to learn the quilting skill myself.”

“Well, Soupster, why not – quilting is not just for women. Many men also enjoy the process. It involves math and engineering along with an artistic eye.”

“I love to hear all the stories of where the fabric comes from – local, of course, and picked up on world travels, from T-shirts won in athletic events, and, of course, there’s always the White E. One number re-created famous paintings of the Virgin Mary from fancy fabrics straight from the dumpster. It’s amazing, Joan, that something so beautiful can be created from discards, plus, it saves them from going in the trash.”

“You know, Soupster, I’m remembering a kind of quilt my great grandma called a ‘crazy quilt.’ It was made with scraps from her sewing. She would sit on the edge of the bed and instead of a bedtime story she would tell me about the quilt pieces. This wool worsted came from great grandpa’s best suit. That fancy, dancy, pink section was from Aunt Lucy’s dress, and we all know how she turned out. The fine white linen piece with embroidered flowers came from a christening gown. There were scraps of plaid flannel, army uniforms, logging pants and a navy blue velvet Sunday-best skirt, too.

Do you have any quilts in your home, Soupster?”

“Well, no, I couldn’t stand the thought that I might get them dirty. They are, after all, works of art. But I am partial to one I saw at last Spring’s Quilt Extravaganza here in Our Town. It had a wildlife theme and a wolf staring out from the center.”

“We sure have some obsessed quilters in Our Town – some even make a quilt every weekend. I think we should take up donations for a new organization. We could call it ‘Quilters Anonymous’ and I bet it would have lots of members especially during these short days and long rainy nights.”

“You’re sure right there, Joan.”

– Submitted by Rose Manning

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Our Town – September 9, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

But it was night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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