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Comments Off on Our Town – September 9, 2010

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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Comments Off on Our Town – July 1, 2010

Our Town – July 1, 2010

| Seasons, Temperature, Weather | July 1, 2010

“That sounds brutal,” the Soupster commiserated over the phone with his friend Tilly from Oklahoma.

“Eighty-four degrees Fahrenheit at midnight last night,” said Tilly. “It may hit 105 today.”

“Incredible,” said the Soupster from Our Town. (duh!) “It’s supposed to be 55 here – 50 degrees cooler.”

“Sounds wonderful,” said Tilly. “But I’m sure you pay for it with a long, frigid winter.”

“Nope,” said the Soupster, smugly. “Thirties and forties most of the winter, below 20 degrees hardly ever.”

“I thought Alaska was really cold,” Tilly said.

“Alaska is big,” said the Soupster. “Our Town is far south of the Arctic Circle and warmed by a Japanese current. Mild in the winter and mild in the summer. That is, mildly warm and mildly cool.”

“That’s not what I heard,” said Tilly. “My friend Margaret was in Sitka on a cruise on the Fourth of July and she said it was freezing. `Bless those people in the winter, if that was the summer,’ she said.”

“Might have dropped into the high forties on Independence Day that year,” the Soupster allowed. “But then again, the temperature could have been exactly the same on that year’s New Year’s Day. “

“If the temperature doesn’t change, how do you know what season you’re in?” asked Tilly.

“By the light,” said the Soupster. “The long, long nights of summer – the light goes on shockingly long if the clouds blow off. The inky nights of winter, when the sky and sea and the land are all covered by the same black blanket. And then the twice-yearly journey back and forth between the extremes.”

“I’m sure you miss a hot summer day,” Tilly said.

“Oh, Our Town gets hot enough, for me,” the Soupster answered. “I swear Alaska must be closer to the sun, because when the sun does shine, it feels unusually strong.  If Old Sol is bright and the temperature hits 70, lots of folks here complain that it’s too hot.”

“Seventy Fahrenheit? Too hot? Now, that’s incredible,” said Tilly.

“What I find incredible are the low and high temperatures listed for Our Town on the TV Weather Channel,” said the Soupster. “There’s usually just a few degrees difference between the high temperature and the low. Sometimes, the high and low listed are the same exact temperature. And every once in a long while – usually in the spring or fall — the low for the day will be warmer than the high temperature for that same day.”

“Don’t joke me, Soupster,” said Tilly.

“No, really,” said the Soupster. “I think they just measure the lowest temperature at night and call it the low, then they measure the highest temperature during the day and call it the high. They don’t realize that in this crazy place, sometimes it’s warmer at night!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 25, 2010

Our Town – March 25, 2010

| Alaska Natives, Dreams, Fishing, Seasons, Spring | March 25, 2010

(Originally published March 22, 2007)

“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 – June 18, 2009

Our Town – June 18, 2009

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons, Spring, Sunshine, Weather | June 18, 2009

For two weeks, the sun shone from early, early morn to long past when it had any right to still be up at all. Two solid weeks of sun. Our Town melted and oozed toward Solstice.

Throughout the spate of sun, general sprucing had ensued: wall colors brightened with paint, unruly lawns subdued by blades, rhubarb eradicated (or given lovingly to friends). Car hoods wore the confetti buds and seeds of whatever tree they parked under. Kids were visible in public during business hours. The Soupster, like most residents of Our Town, had been saying things like, “I can’t remember when it was sunny two weeks in a row like this.” Or “Remember, we used to get two weeks of sun like this two times every summer 10 (or 20 or 30) years ago” — depending on how long the speaker had been here.

Overdosed on light, the Soupster relished the quiet and relative dark coolness of the post office. It was Saturday morning and he had the place to himself. He fought a quick urge to stretch out on the cool floor tiles. Instead, he pulled out his key and fit it into the lock of his post office box. At the exact second the Soupster opened the box, a business-sized letter moved toward him out of it.

The Soupster grabbed onto the letter and pulled.. And the letter… pulled back! This was ridiculous! The Soupster pulled on the letter, but it refused to budge. The Soupster was actually losing ground.

He peered into the dark postal box and could see at the far end about two-fifths of the face of his old neighbor, Roberta, a long-time postal worker.

“Soupster,” Roberta said, seeing him at the same moment, “I should have known it was you!”

“Roberta,” said the Soupster. “I had forgotten that you work here. How’s your little girl?”

“My little girl? That ‘little girl’ is going to college in Fairbanks in the fall,” she said ruefully. “Why don’t you come to her graduation party? I was going to send you an invitation, but, hey — this is even faster than the mail!”

The two-week softening of the Soupster’s brain from sun rays and the general weirdness of having a conversation through a mailbox made the Soupster feel unsteady. Nonetheless, “Thanks for working on the weekend,” he managed to say.

“Oh, pshaw,” said Roberta, as the Soupster locked up his postal box.

“Soupster,” said Stuart, the Soupster’s plumber, who was just then turning the corner into the row of post office boxes. “You talking to your mail again?”

“Female,” the Soupster deadpanned. “Female.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 21, 2009

Our Town – May 21, 2009

| Jokes, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Seasons, Spring | May 21, 2009

The Soupster rode shotgun alongside his buddy Dorothy, who drove her ancient pickup west down Sawmill Creek Road into Our Town. A satisfying lunch shared earlier at Dotty’s abode had lulled them both.

Dot’s four new summertime tires (no studs!) carried the two friends smoothly down the roadway. The Soupster glanced out at the alders lining the road, their new leaves like golden coins growing larger day by day. On a granite retaining wall some fiddleheads ferns unfurled. Birds in a mountain ash no longer fought each other for scraps, too busy celebrating their recently expanded menu.

“This is a different town when the alders get their leaves on,” said the Soupster dreamily. “Covers a thousand sins.”

“That’s my opinion, too,” Dotty said. “What’s more Alaskan than having a backhoe in your back yard?”

“Can’t say I know,” the Soupster said, taking the bait.

Dotty reeled him in. “Having a broken backhoe in the front yard.” Dotty said something else, but her words were drowned out as her old truck rattled on the suddenly uneven pavement. They had reached the old Four-Way Stop, being torn up to re-make the intersection into a modern Roundabout.

Some people the Soupster talked to considered it about time, others thought continuous traffic flow would frighten bikers and pedestrians. The jury was still out. Right now the road crews were just laying underground utilities.

Dorothy suddenly burst into song “Won’t you take me to… Funkytown?” she crooned. “Won’t you take me to…. Funkytown?”

“Funkytown?” asked the Soupster.

“You know, the song — Lipps, Inc.? Back into the early 80’s?” Dot said. “Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me,” she sang. “Town to keep me movin’ — keep me groovin’ with some energy. Won’t you take me to …Funkytown?”

“It’s a stress reliever,” she went on. “When I approach the old Four-Way-Stop and start to freak out about how much time I’m losing, I sing `Funkytown.’”

“Why don’t you just drive around the Four-Way, er… Funkytown?” asked the Soupster. “Our Town doesn’t have much road, but there’s always another way to get where you are going.”

“I know that it’s kind of a public service to avoid the intersection, but it’s really interesting, the work that’s going on,” Dot said. “Plus, I get to sing.”

“You’re a nut,” said the Soupster, but Dotty was already belching out: “Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it…. Won’t you take me to… Funkytown?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 7, 2009

Our Town – May 7, 2009

| Environment, Nicknames, Our Town, Recycling, Seasons, Spring, Sunshine, Weather | May 7, 2009

Drunk on sunshine and happily munching a donut, the Soupster staggered down to a rocky beach near the end of the road. For the first time this year — in homage to the growing warmth and light — the Soupster had tossed his winter coat to the back of the closet and donned a fleece vest instead. This day was so warm the Soupster considered yanking off his boots and socks, setting on a rock and soaking his toes in Sitka Sound until they wrinkled.

But that dream bubble popped when the Soupster nearly stepped on Gavin “Frenchy” Leboyer, who crouched by the water’s edge. The Soupster stopped chewing.

“What gives you ze right to bare arms?” quipped Leboyer, in the fake French accent that earned him his nickname.

The Soupster extended his arms and savored the sun on his skin. “You look like a scuttling crab down there, Frenchy,” he said, laughing. “Le Crabe!” He took stock of his crouching friend. “Whatever are you doing?”

Frenchy was pulling plastic containers out of his backpack, popping the lids and sprinkling the contents – various leftovers – onto the rocks by the water’s edge. “It’s my last two weeks of cooked food scraps,” he said. “Just repaying the ocean’s bounty.”

“That’s got to be illegal,” said the Soupster. “Littering, maybe?”

“I’m a good boy,” said Frenchy. “I’ve been composting my uncooked table scraps for years. But I’ve always thrown the cooked leftovers into the trash and one day I said to myself — `This is excellent food, I eat it myself. I bet something in the ocean will eat this, too.’”

“I don’t know,” said the Soupster. “This brings to mind the bad old days when cities like New York would just load all their garbage into ships and dump the trash in at sea.”

“Not the same,” said Frenchy. “That was all kinds of stuff, a lot of which was poisonous or not food, like metal and concrete. This is the good stuff. I guarantee you there’s some critters who won’t turn up their noses. Or whatever they have on their face that they turn up. If they have a face, that is.”

Frenchy sprinkled the food in a small circle as the Soupster watched. Frenchy reached down and picked up what looked like the last gasp of a partially eaten Big Mac. “I just keep thinking about this hamburger taking the long trip by barge and train to the Eastern Washington landfill where all Our Town’s trash goes. And then it gets buried and rots and belches methane.”

“Except the stuff we recycle,” said the Soupster. “And that’s more and more every month.”

“Look at this,” Frenchy said, indicating the leftovers that the rising tide was already starting to digest. “Think of how disgusting this stuff would be by the time it got to the landfill.”

“You may be on to something, Frenchy,” the Soupster said. “Nature doesn’t waste anything, One creature’s offal is another’s dinner.”

“Just don’t turn me in.” Frenchy pleaded.

“Mum’s the word,” said the Soupster, zipping his lip. Then he looked at the sea. “Le Mer,” he called as he tossed the last of his donut over Frenchy’s head. “Bon appetite!”

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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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