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Comments Off on Our Town – July 16, 2020

Our Town – July 16, 2020

| Jokes, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | July 16, 2020

The Soupster learns about rules and jokes.

Originally published July 13, 2006

Buh-BANG! Buh-BANG!! rang the pipes in the Soupster’s house.

“There it is!” said the Soupster to Stace, the veterinarian. “That’s the sound that’s been plaguing me.” He placed on his kitchen table two glasses of blueberry-flavored milk Stace had brought. “I can’t believe you drink this stuff.”

“It’s water hammer,” said Stace. “And do you want to fix your plumbing or make something out of what I drink?”

Noxious as the blueberry-milk was, the Soupster sipped, so as not to have to answer.

“Water hammer,” Stace, the veterinarian, continued. “Sudden pressure changes in the pipes. Usually happens when you turn off a tap suddenly and you hear that bang, bang, bang.”

“We used to have an outdoor faucet that stuck way out far from the wall,” said the Soupster. “When you closed it fast, you’d not only hear that banging, the pipe would move crazily up and down.”

“That’s water hammer,” said Stace.

“But I’m not closing a tap,” said the Soupster.

“You must have a leak somewhere. Only so many places it could be,” said Stace, draining her glass and indicating for the Soupster to do the same.

The two friends checked three outdoor taps, the intake pipes for a clothes washer presently in use, the drainage pipes for another washer, no longer in use, and both the intake and drainage pipes of an old dishwasher.

“How do you know so much about plumbing?” asked the Soupster. “You’re a veterinarian.”

“There’s rules for everything, you just have to learn them,” Stace said. “Learn those rules and you can figure everything out. Even the way water runs through pipes.”

“There are some things that have no rules,” insisted the Soupster, as he and Stace mounted the stairs to the second floor. “Like…love or…humor.”

“Don’t go all Aristotle on me, Soupster,” said Stace. “But since you mention it — let’s take humor — which, for your information, has all kind of rules.

“There’s the `Rule of Three,’ which says the punch line is always on the third example. There are rules for exaggeration humor and unfortunate visitor jokes. There’s my favorite — the unexpected answer. But aren’t we here to fix the plumbing?” and she stepped into the upstairs bathroom.

“Eureka, Aristotle!” Stace cried. “I found your leak! You’re going to need to fix a seal in your toilet. I guarantee that your water hammer will then disappear.”

“Ask a veterinarian to help you with plumbing and get a lecture on the rules of joke telling,” muttered the Soupster. “Only in Our Town.”

“Hey, Doc,” the Soupster said aloud. “Do you think I should get a second opinion?”

“Okay,” said Stace. “You’re ugly, too.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 2, 2020

Our Town – July 2, 2020

| Animals, Bears, Our Town, Ravens, Small Town Stuff | July 2, 2020

The Soupster channels – well, not Independence Day, but maybe Bastille Day?

Originally published June 26, 2003

Before the strolling Soupster even reached the bend in the road, he heard three things: the treble- triples and quads of bald eagles, the more purposeful caws of ravens and the baritone of his neighbor, Jean-Pierre, spouting loud, angry French.

After retiring from a bicycle manufacturer in Paris, Jean-Pierre had built a sailboat and headed out to sea. Six years later, with a wife he’d met in Phnom Penh and a son born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Jean-Pierre came ashore in Our Town and declared it “Ze Heaven On Zis Earth!” The son was married himself now and living Outside. The wife had moved back to Cambodia to be with her family. But to Jean-Pierre, Our Town was still “Heaven on Zis Earth.”

Well, maybe not today.

Today, Jean-Pierre was in a furious competition with some ravens to return the contents of his trash can to their rightful place before the birds could pull the items out again.

In the hemlocks surrounding Jean-Pierre’s trash-strewn driveway, bald eagles watched the action from a dignified distance. Not so the ravens, one of which swooped low enough to knock Jean-Pierre’s cap off. Then the bird glided smoothly to the rim of the can, cackled happily and grabbed a piece of melon peel.

“Yo, Jean-Pierre,” the Soupster called. “You can’t win a battle against those odds. Let me help you.”

The Soupster tipped the scales some in Jean-Pierre’s favor. The ravens may have given the Soupster slack because he truly loved ravens. Or because he was not French. Whatever, they flew back up into the hemlocks and started harassing the eagles.

“What got this stuff all over, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster asked.

“I zink it was ze bear, mon Zoupster,” said Jean-Pierre. “It may have been ze land otter, but I don’t zink zo. I zink it was ze bear.”

“Did you keep your trash in your garage until pickup day?” asked the Soupster.

“Oui! Yes!” said Jean-Pierre. “Always!”

“Did you put any fish or meat in the can that might have smelled strong and attracted the bear?”

“Sacre bleu!” Jean-Pierre said. “My freezer needed repair. I thought for just a little while it would be all right. You are right, Zoupster. It was ze fish!”

“Not such a ‘heaven on earth’ if you have to watch your garbage so closely, eh, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster teased.

“Au contraire, Zoupster!” Jean-Pierre said. “Zis is nature. In nature, zere is always zometing to leverage ze mistake of any creature. Nature, she is very efficient, no?”

“Yes,” the Soupster said.

“And Zoupster,” Jean-Pierre concluded, as the two men hoisted upright the now-filled can. “We are zo lucky to live right with nature. With nature right on our doorstep. In our driveway. C’est magnifique, no?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 21, 2020

Our Town – May 21, 2020

| Guest Written, Our Town, Rachel Ramsey, Small Town Stuff | May 21, 2020

The Soupster and his friend appreciate junk.

Submitted by Rachel Ramsey

As a rule, the Soupster didn’t make a point of answering the phone before 11am, unless he happened to be awake and feel so inclined. When his land line rang shortly after 9 he caught it on the third ring. His pal Brandy’s husky voice greeted him from the other end.

“Good morning – you’re up?” Brandy chuckled. Her voice resonated with jittery excitement. The Soupster tried to respond, only to be cut off.

“As one Our Towner who lives sans social media to another, I had let you know that piles of ‘FREE Take Me’ stuff are popping up all over town.”

The Soupster cleared his throat and replied, “Finally, we’ve returned to the tried and true, rudimentary small-town way of Help-Yourself-Odds-&-Ends piles. I’m in, Brandy, and ready in 20.”

Her van was a hybrid of sorts, though not an electric kind. It had, over the decades, been reconstructed and refurbished piece by piece from salvaged parts of other vehicles, from doors to bumpers and beyond. Brandy fiercely maintained it was an ever-changing functional work of art.

“Better hop in back,” Brandy piped out the window. “Gotta mind our distancing.”

Humming Johnny Cash’s One Piece At a Time, the Soupster hopped into the van, careful not to slam the door too hard. His homemade mask boasted a blue and yellow pattern of Snoopy’s Fonz-insipred alter ego.

“I knew you were good for it!” Brandy laughed through her violet mask. “And thanks for remembering the door. She’s fragile.”

“So what stuff have you seen?” the Soupster inquired, his curiosity bubbling.

“Ribbed PVC hose, an old wooden birdhouse, bedding,” she began. “Awkward, funky-looking metal cabinets. Oh, and sawdust! All sorts of stuff, though I haven’t even begun – I wanted to partner up first,” she explained.

The Soupster said, “Well, ‘one’s man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ and I’m sure folks think thrice about what they pitch in the garbage, and what they put out for the taking.”

“I’d expect so – sometimes the junk you find is just the junk you’re looking for,” Brandy agreed.

“Maybe some of this oddball junk could be used for a project. Kids could make art or science projects with only the materials found roadside,” the Soupster mused.

“Like the cooking shows where they work magic with only the ingredients provided – yes, that’s a fine idea, Soupster, but why only kids? Adults need creative projects too.”

They pulled over near a church, where a family’s mound of garage sale storage boxes had been neatly set up.  The pile yielded a Snoopy snow globe for Brandy and a brown and green, seemingly hole-less tarp for the Soupster.

“It’s a good sign.” she giggled, shaking the globe and directing her eyes at the glitter-swirled Snoopy. “Now, how about that project idea?”

“I’m sold. Let’s snag that birdhouse you mentioned and add a disco waterslide!” the Soupster chuckled. “What better way to keep Our Town’s perfectly usable junk out of a landfill?”

“Now, that is creative thinking,” Brandy concurred.

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 12, 2020

Our Town – March 12, 2020

| Our Town, Shopping, Small Town Stuff | March 12, 2020

The Soupster witnesses a redemption.

Originally published March 6, 2003

The grocery store was packed. The Soupster had to walk sideways down the Canned Tomatoes aisle to pass the shopping carts parked on the left and then on the right. Unusual for Our Town, a long line of shoppers waited impatiently at the checkout stand.

When the Soupster finally got to the front of the line, he saw the reason for the delay. The young woman at the cash register was as overcareful with each transaction as a cat pacing the rim of a steamy bathtub.

She meticulously rotated each food item in her hand to find the UPC code, then drew the item across the scanner with a kind of dreamy slowness. She smiled individually at each person in line, looking for validation, then, with effort, picked up the next food item. The Soupster shifted his weight from one foot to the other. So did everyone in the steadily growing line behind him.

People had started to clear their throats, when a man in his 30’s with a badge that said “Asst. Mgr.” swept up behind the counter next to the cashier.

“Kathy! You are to call for help when the line gets this long,” he said in a theatrical whisper, meant for everyone to hear. “You should never let the line get this long, Kathy!”

“Ma’am,” the Asst. Mgr. said over-solicitously to the woman behind the Soupster. “All of you, come with me,” he pointed to the entire line and they moved with him to another checkout stand.

The young cashier’s face reddened. Only halfway through his transaction, the Soupster stood alone now before her. She went back to her slow-motion scanning of the Soupster’s few items. Meanwhile, the first members of the Asst. Mgr.’s line were already picking up their grocery bags and walking out the door.

“Sorry,” Kathy said, looking downcast.

“No problem,” said the Soupster. “First day on the job?”

She nodded. “Probably going to be my only day,” she said and, indeed, the Asst. Mgr. was shooting daggers her way, hidden behind the bland smile he showed his customers.

“Keep at it,” said the Soupster.

“I said DON’T RUSH ME!” came a loud, deep voice from the other register. The Soupster and the young cashier turned.

A very large man loomed over the Asst. Mgr., who was pinned against the back wall of his checkout station. The man slammed down his wallet and leaned forward in the direction of the Asst. Mgr. who looked extremely flustered and ready to bolt.

“Manny,” called the young cashier, as she left her workstation and slipped in next to her trembling co-worker. “Manny, Manny, Manny, cool your jets,” she laughed and poked the big man in the chest. Manny laughed. The Asst. Mgr. visibly unstiffened.

The cashier returned to the Soupster. She looked a lot happier than a minute before. “Will there be anything else, Sir?” she asked sweetly.

“I think you got your job back, Kathy,” the Soupster answered.

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 21, 2019

Our Town – November 21, 2019

| Darkness, Our Town, Seasons, Small Town Stuff | November 21, 2019

The Soupster helps a friend hunt for his wallet (back in ancient times, when Our Town had a “video store”).

Originally Published November 21, 2002

“I just can’t figure out where it could be, Soupster!” said Brian, sounding panicky. “It has my credit card, my driver’s license with my address and my Social Security card, with my Social Security number.”

“A truly dangerous combination,” commiserated the Soupster, as he scanned the ground for the black, checkbook length wallet Brian had said he was sure he had put in his jacket pocket when he left the house that morning.

“I know,” Brian moaned, “losing all that personal info sounds like a recipe for identity theft.” He looked at the quickly darkening late afternoon sky. “In a little while we’re going to need a flashlight.”

“Dark or not, you find things with your brain,” mumbled the Soupster.

“What?”

“You don’t find things with your eyes, you find things with your brain,” the Soupster repeated.

“You find things by remembering what you did and retracing your steps.”

“So where did you go today?” asked the Soupster, as the two men rounded the harbor.

“I went to the grocery store and the video store,” said Brian.

“That shouldn’t be hard to check,” the Soupster encouraged. “Let’s go look.”

At the grocery store the two men squinted before a huge amount of fluorescent light and a surprisingly lively social scene. A school theatrical event had just let out and everyone was getting snacks. Their search turned up nothing and Brian’s brain was dormant on the subject of the missing wallet.

“A friend of mine in college once lost her wallet at the “Pageant of Hugging” celebration at her school,” said the Soupster. “Of course, she got it back the next day after somebody found it and turned it in. Who could be mean enough to keep a lost wallet at the “Pageant of Hugging”?

“And if they were mean enough, the probably wouldn’t be caught dead at something called the
‘Pageant of Hugging’ anyway,” said Brian.

“Precisely,” said the Soupster.

At the video store: nothing. Brian’s brain remained dormant. The Soupster shuffled his feet. The wind blew a mournful howl. The Soupster felt hungry. He told Brian about one time at the gas station, leaving his wallet on the roof of his car and driving off in the rain. A sharp-eyed police officer spied the wallet on the road before anything inside even got wet.

“Let’s get something to eat,” the Soupster said. “Something soft because of my loose tooth. It looks like I’m going to need to a bridge.”

“The bridge!” shouted Brian. “I was on the bridge today!”

He ran ahead. The Soupster could not keep up but stayed close enough to see Brian bend down and pick up something black and checkbook-sized from beside the pedestrian walkway.

“Eureka!” Brian said, sprinting back to the Soupster and then grinning like a fool. “If you’re still hungry, I’m-a-buyin!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 29, 2019

Our Town – August 29, 2019

| Children, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 29, 2019

The Soupster gazes into the future.

Originally published August 28, 2008

“I’m sorry, come again?” the Soupster apologized, his mind having wandered from the casual coffee shop conversation he was having.

“I was telling you about my new house addition, which is nearly done,” said Frank, sipping at the opposite side of the table from the Soupster. “I’ve been at it totally steadily for weeks now.”

“An old story, Frank,” said Donna, from an adjacent table, “You’re always up to something on that old shack.” Frank winced.

“A work in progress,” corrected the Soupster, trying to make peace. “What part of your house are you adding onto, Frank?”

“Well, it’s not exactly an addition, per se,” Frank admitted. “More like a kind of wanigan. And it’s on the garage, not on the actual house.” He stuck his face in his cup.

Donna looked triumphant, so the Soupster turned to her. How’s business for you?” he asked.

“You mean, with unreliable credit card access, unpredictable staff and tax and labor laws that change every five minutes?” Donna said. “Fine.”

“Happy to be coming to the end of the summer?” the Soupster asked.

“Yes and no,” Donna said. “I have some projects – remodeling and stock changes – planned for when I can get to them. Ultimately, it’ll be nice not to be overrun with tourists – sweet and plentiful may they always return in great numbers!” She rapped her knuckles on the wood tabletop for luck and the Soupster laughed.

“That business is a work in progress for you, too,” he said.

“Newspaper?” a boy of about 11 called out from the doorway.

“I’ll take one,” said Frank, rifling his pockets for change as the boy approached.

The Soupster had known the boy since he was a very little kid. A great feature of Our Town, the Soupster mused, was the chance to see kids grow up around you. Kids you aren’t responsible for, that you don’t have to fuss over.

This one the Soupster had seen win the Hoop Shoot, seen him grinning gap-toothed on the cover of the paper in front of a snowman. Had seen him wearing a fluorescent vest and picking up litter along the road. But, mostly, the Soupster had seen the boy fanning out from the mass of kids by the newspaper office with a stack under his arm, heading right for the likely customers loafing in coffee shops in the afternoon, like Frank, Donna and the Soupster.

The kid would be starting school again within days. He’d be in middle school now? Anyway, mused the Soupster, this boy would be graduating high school in the blink of an eye. And then the Soupster would be walking down Lincoln Street and some formidable-looking attorney or non-profit CEO, a guy in a construction helmet or accomplished artist, would accost him to say `Didn’t I used to sell newspapers to you in the coffee shop?’”

“Whatever are you thinking about now?” Donna asked, noting the Soupster’s furrowed brow.

“Works in progress,” the Soupster answered. “Works in progress.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 15, 2019

Our Town – August 15, 2019

| Automobiles, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 15, 2019

The Soupster muses about “silver linings”.

Originally published September 9, 2004

Even a reliable car will die if you don’t put gas in it.

As the Soupster drove toward downtown, the dreaded “check engine” light of his car flicked on. A moment later, all the other little icons on his dashboard lit up — the oil light, the battery light, the low fuel light. These symbols are called “Idiot Lights” because if you neglect a problem until they go on, you’ve waited too long. To keep track of the gas, you get not just a light but a whole gauge. So, if you let your car run out of gas, you’re a super idiot.

The Soupster’s sedan rolled to a stop.

Now, if you run out of gas on this country’s great prairies, you could be forgiven. If you happen to miss the “Next Gas 42 Miles” sign on Route 80, you could be forgiven. But it’s pretty hard to forgive running out of gas in Our Town – on land at least.

So, the Soupster did not forgive himself as he pulled over to the side of the road on a Thursday afternoon, right at quitting time.

He had no sooner shut off the car than someone came by. A jogger. With a baby in a skookum three-wheeled, all-terrain stroller.

For a second, the Soupster thought the jogger would be mad at him for parking too close to the pedestrian path, but she immediately offered the use of her cell phone. So, the Soupster called his friend Don and asked him to bring some gas.

The Soupster thanked the jogger, who jogged happily off. Replaced then by a cloud of dust, as a huge pick-up pulled in, practically dislodging chunks of asphalt with its outsized tires. The Soupster’s friend Moe’s son Larry.

“Need help?” he asked, and the Soupster explained that gas was on the way.

As Larry pulled out, Curly and Jo, who the Soupster had been meaning to call, pulled over. And, seeing the others, Adam and his little son Abel pulled over and joined the group.

“Which of you needs help?” Adam asked, and Jo laughed when they were told, “Neither! But thanks!”

Curly and Jo went back to their car, but the Soupster stood by the roadside, signaling that he was okay to the half dozen acquaintances who passed by.

Then, on the other side of the road, the Soupster’s Absolute Worst Enemy stopped and asked if he needed help. When told the Soupster was out of gas, AWE went round to the back of his car and emerged with gas-can-and-triumphant-smile.

The Soupster felt beads of sweat drip down his neck. Do you accept help from your Absolute Worst Enemy? What is the rule?

Mercifully, the arrival of Don’s Jeep kept the Soupster from having to answer that. He called to AWE, “Thanks, but I’m okay now!” with real relief.

Don handed the Soupster a full gas can. “Boy, wanna see everybody you know?” the Soupster said. “Just run out of gas in Our Town, on the side of the road, at quitting time!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 9, 2019

Our Town – May 9, 2019

| Children, Holidays, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | May 9, 2019

The Soupster chats with one busy mom.

Originally published May 1, 2003

Connie’s three children scattered to the ice cream section of the store. Lugging an overflowing supermarket basket in the crook of her arm, she stopped at a display of high-priced garlic-stuffed Aegean olives where there happened to stand a Soupster.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he said, glancing toward the big freezers. “Your kids look happy.”

“They sure seem to be,” Connie nodded. “Strange, since I had them at work all morning painting the garden fence and all the porch railings.”

“Quite the day for it,” said the Soupster, this time doing the nodding.

And indeed, the Soupster’s pupils were just able to dilate again after a day of squinting at the nearly prehistoric sunshine of the morning. In Our Town, the infrequent Sun seems on rare days to have the quality of the Sun of an earlier Earth, before a protective atmospheric ozone layer had even formed. A sharp, almost painful amount of light, without the softening rain and clouds that usually roll their blanket over all.

“There’s such pressure to do things when the sun does come out,” he told Connie. “I mean you never know how long before you’re going to have the chance again.”

“Today was incredibly busy,” Connie said. “Woke up early. Saw the big yellow orb. Woke the kids. Fed them. Put them to work. Painting, painting, painting.”

“What was the rush?” asked the Soupster.

“Piano recital,” said Connie. “So – painted, painted, painted all morning. Then washed, washed, washed all three kids free of paint. Fed them again. Dressed them for the recital. Drove them to the recital. Soothed their stage fright. Listened attentively. Gave them a little critical, but 90 percent supportive feedback after they played.”

“Now you’re getting stuff to make dinner?”

“The ingredients,” Connie said. “The kids tell me `they’re’ going to cook me an `extra special’ Mother’s Day meal.”

“Which will end up twice as much work for you?” said the Soupster.

“You’re learning,” Connie laughed and punched the Soupster lightly on the bicep. He felt an overwhelming fondness for this hard-working Mom.

“Your kids don’t know your real Mother’s Day present was the piano recital?” said the Soupster as he bid his friend goodbye.

“Are you kidding, Soupster?” Connie said, pushing him away. “My Mother’s Day present was getting the fence painted!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 28, 2019

Our Town – March 28, 2019

| Jokes, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | March 28, 2019

The Soupster shops for shoes.

Originally published March 15, 2001

“See,” the Soupster said to the sales clerk. “It’s way too big.”

The Soupster dangled his foot in front on himself and, indeed, his shoe — a rubber-and-leather waterproof slip-on — threatened to fall to the carpet.

“I don’t understand,” said the Soupster. “Surely I’m not shrinking? I’ve bought this style of shoe for years — always a size 9.”

“And now the nine is too big?” the sales clerk tried to confirm.

“Look,” said the Soupster and with a mere curl of his toe let the shoe drop off completely.

“Maybe they got a different manufacturer,” ventured the clerk.

“Or maybe they decided on a different sizing system from another country where people’s feet are smaller,” volunteered a young man whom the clerk and the Soupster noticed now, holding a heavy black work boot in one hand and a pair of beige leather sandals in the other.

“Actually,” said the clerk, “in that country you imagine the resident’s feet would be larger. The Soupster’s shoe is too big, not too small.”

“When I first moved to Our Town,” said the Soupster, “everything seemed really small. The roads and stores and houses. Then, it was like I moved into some new area of consciousness and suddenly the road didn’t seem to end too soon at all. It ended at just the right place.”

“I know what you mean,” commented the sales clerk. “For the first five or so years I lived here it seemed like I was always feeling short of people. Because I kept seeing the same people over and over again. Then, like you say — some new level — and I realized that because I knew so much about everybody, there were actually more people in my life. Not less.”

“Wow,” said the young man. “I had this cousin once from Tacoma. He was younger than me. You know how when you don’t see someone for a while, like since they were a kid, they look really big the next time you see them?”

The Soupster and sales clerk both bit. “Yes,” they said.

“Well, this cousin of mine kept shrinking,” said the young man. “Every time I’d see him he’d look a little smaller. He was always small, but he started to get really, noticeably smaller.”

“Did you share your perception with him or anybody else?” asked the clerk.

“Nah, I didn’t want to bum anybody out,” said the young man. “You know, in case he really was shrinking. Maybe he was always standing behind a dining room table or a television or something. But however it happened, I started to see only the top half of him. Like from the waist up.”

“What happened then?” prompted the Soupster.

“He disappeared completely,” said the young man wistfully.

“You mean, he totally dissolved into nothingness?” said the shoe clerk.

“No, he went to college in Arizona,” said the young man. “And he started hanging around with a crowd way too crazy for me.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 13, 2018

Our Town – December 13, 2018

| Our Town, Seasons, Small Town Stuff, Travel, Winter | December 13, 2018

583 total views, 1 today

Comments Off on Our Town – July 26, 2018

Our Town – July 26, 2018

| Our Town, Politics, Small Town Stuff | July 26, 2018

The Soupster sees people who bite off and chew.

Originally published April 24, 2014

Sitting with Chavez outside Harrigan Centennial Hall Building, the Soupster could feel his friend’s distress radiate out like static electricity. Chavez shook a Funny Times newspaper at the Soupster with vigor. “How dare they `dis’ Our wonderful Town!” he said. “Look at this!”

Chavez pointed to a particular cartoon in the newspaper. Funny Times is a monthly collection of cartoons and humorous essays from all over the country. Chavez’s finger tapped a four-panel job that “dissed” the federal government for making embarrassing announcements only in places so remote, so forgotten, that no one would ever hear. Places like Minden City, Michigan; Bellows Falls, Vermont; Skaneateles, New York; and Sitka, Alaska.

Sitka, Alaska?? A place so forgotten, so remote that the federal government could make a major announcement and no one would ever hear? Our Town? Chavez didn’t think so!

Nor did the Soupster. “That’s troubling,” the Soupster said. “Because Our Town is about as famous as you can get for its size.”

“James Michener announced that he was going to write his novel `Alaska’ right here,” said Chavez.

“Well, how about October 18, 1867?” countered the Soupster. “The whole Castle Hill thing. People have sure heard about that. This is definitely not a place so forgotten and so remote that no one ever hears anything.”.

Chavez tried to agree, but he was drowned out as the main doors on the Centennial Hall Building swung open and about a dozen people poured out. Some held Rib-eyes, some held Sirloin Tip, some held T-bones and one held a Porterhouse.

“Who are they?” asked the Soupster.

“Steakholders,” Chavez said proudly. “These people are discussing the thorniest issues that face Our Town and coming up with creative, collaborative solutions.”

“The meat?”

“Symbolic,” Chavez said. “They’re not afraid to get into the meat of issues, right down to the gristle and bone.”

“A little extreme,” opined the Soupster as the Steakholders disbursed, “nonetheless admirable.

“We need these guys,” said Chavez, “You see…”

But Chavez was drowned out as the Hall Building’s doors again parted and a second crew of people exited. This time each of them held a short and pointy wooden stick, the kind you would use to secure a tent to the ground.“

And them?” asked the Soupster, as that crowd moved on.

“A group of different stakeholders,” said Chavez.

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 14, 2018

Our Town – June 14, 2018

| Our Town, Small Town Stuff | June 14, 2018

The Soupster remembers a determined little fellow.

Originally published August 22, 2002 and June 5, 2008

“Crash!” the Soupster heard as he stepped from the café, clutching a cardboard cup of java.

Across the street furious construction activity was under way – the systematic dismantling of portions of a large hotel for a major renovation.

This being Our Town, teams of workers scaled the building from ladders and scaffolding — working quickly to take advantage of an all-too-brief period between downpours and squalls.

“Crash, bang, ticka, ticka, bang!” sang the various fixtures and materials as they were removed and carted away, piled on the ground or, most musically, sent plunging through three long tubes that ran from the roof down to a dumpster. “Ticka, ticka, clack, clack, crash!” the tubes sang.

Striding purposely from one part of the site to another was Mel, who the Soupster still called “Little Mel.” Now six feet tall and 40 years old, “Little Mel” was the general contractor for the entire renovation. To the Soupster, however, “Mel” would always mean “Big Mel” – Little Mel’s late father, who had been the high school shop teacher.

Big Mel always had been surrounded by an army of students. Now Little Mel had his own army of tough and competent construction workers. As Little Mel moved among his worker-troops he exuded the confidence of a commander who does not need to argue but leads naturally.

It had been almost 30 years earlier to the day that the hotel was originally built, and the Soupster remembered seeing the two Mels back then. Father and son walking down the street toward their car. Little Mel, lugging inches off the ground a red fire extinguisher that was half his height and more than half his weight.

Big Mel had a much larger fire extinguisher in his arms. Father and son were carrying safety equipment back to the school.

Little Mel could make about five steps before he had to readjust the extinguisher’s position in his arms. The child had to pull with all his might.

“It’s okay to put it down,” said Mel. “I can’t believe how strong you are carrying it this far.”

“No!” said Little Mel. “I want to take it all the way!”

“Well, good job!” said Big Mel. “I am quite amazed!”

With another loud “Crash!” the Soupster was jerked back to the present.

Although he could not hear any voices from the construction site, he watched as one young worker strode angrily across the work site and confronted Little Mel. The young worker said something; Little Mel listened and nodded. As the young worker talked, he seemed to calm down. Little Mel kept nodding, then reached across and patted the young worker’s shoulder.

The young worker broke into a smile and Mel beamed back at him. They shook hand and the young man bounded happily back to work. Little Mel yelled something after him.

Through all the “bangs” and “ticka, tickas” and “crashes” the Soupster couldn’t make out what Little Mel had said. But he guessed it went something like “You sure are strong. Good job. I’m quite amazed!”

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Our Town – May 31, 2018

| Our Town, Small Town Stuff, Sunshine, Tourists, Weather | May 31, 2018

The Soupster is called out on his talkativeness & put to the test.

Originally published July 12, 2012

Carrie told the Soupster he talked too much and her criticism stung. The Soupster knew he could go on and on – maybe a tiny, little bit? — but he didn’t know his friend had been suffering. And for “quite a while,” no less.

“I bet you can’t keep your conversation to a minimum even for one day,” Carrie threw down the gauntlet. “Not even for one whole day.”

“I can,” the Soupster insisted. “And I will!”

Today was the day. The first mission of the new, zip-lipped Soupster was to check the mail at the post office. As the Soupster strolled downtown, he had to duck into a few storefronts to avoid fellow chatterboxes who might stress-test his mettle.

“Soupman!” The call came from Charlie, a hiking buddy who, unfortunately, happened to be in a store the Soupster had judged free of customers. “Tell me what’s new with the Man in the Can?”

“Not much,” said the Soupster, wishing he could have thought of a one-word answer. “Gotta go,” he said slipping out of the store.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire? Two busfuls of visitors hit the sidewalk and poured around the Soupster like a human wave.

Hide in plain sight? The Soupster pulled his cap low on his forehead and attempted to avoid eye contact with the cheery migrants surrounding him.

No use! The Soupster felt his lapels being patted and looked down into the face of an older man wearing a tag that said, “Hi! I’m Horace!”

“Hi, I’m Horace,” he stated the obvious, grasping the Soupster’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “I’m new to these shores.”

“Hi, Horace,” said the Soupster.

“Yup, this is some different place,” Horace said. “Where’s all the big box chain stores? Don’t you have any big box chain stores?”

“Nope,” said the Soupster.

“Our bus driver said he was taking us all over town but we only went five or six miles one way and then seven or eight the other. That can’t be all the road you have.”

“Yup,” said the Soupster, zipping his lips so tight he could taste metal.

“And this rain I keep hearing about,” Horace plunged on. “It’s certainly not raining now. Is going to rain soon? Am I going to get wet? I mean, isn’t this town too nice to be built by people who get rained on every day?”

As the Soupster moaned silently, a beam of sunlight illuminated a break in the throng of tourists ahead. “Yup,” said the Soupster, shaking Horace’s hand. “Nope,” he added. And then the Soupster escaped.

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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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Our Town – March 8, 2018

| Our Town, Shopping, Small Town Stuff | March 7, 2018

The Soupster wonders who was pulling his leg.

Originally published March 13, 2008

The truth is, the Soupster was already in a terrible mood when he stopped at the store on his way home. And when he walked from his car to the front door of the supermarket, the Soupster made the mistake of looking up at the big roadside message board. He froze, muttered to himself and jumped to conclusions.

“Don’t,” the sign read and the Soupster, absurdly, took the message personally.

“Don’t what?” he growled. “Just spewing negativity with complete abandon? Typical. That’s the trouble with the world. Everywhere it’s `Don’t!’”

The Soupster took hold of the door handle, but then let go of it, took a step back and turned to face the sign. Like a person with one of those cell-phone earpieces, he spoke to the air.

“Look at that,” he said, his voice loud enough for passersby to hear, and pointing to the empty ladder up to the road sign. “Nobody is even there! They just put `Don’t!’ in your face and then they walk away – probably on one of their frequent breaks. `Don’t what?’ I’d like to know.”

The Soupster stopped spouting long enough to see a woman carrying a grocery bag give him a pitying stare and a wide berth.

Inside the store, he tried to ignore the “0 trans fat” and “Gluten free” signs. The “fortified with Omega-3” and “Acidophilous added” did not make him feel any more positive. A funk is a funk is a funk.

The Soupster tried to raise his spirits by remembering a pretty little city park he had once come across during travels in the Lower 48. A sign at the entrance had said: “Picnic, fly a kite, rollerblade, sunbathe, jog, dance” and so on. All the things you were supposed to do, instead of the “No dogs!” and “Keep Out!”

And his mood did lighten, buoyed as well by the checker’s friendly interest in what he was buying. But when the Soupster walked out the door, he saw the road sign had changed.

“Don’t Go Home,” it now said.

The Soupster got back into his car, stunned. “Don’t Go Home?” He was going home. Until now, he had been perturbed. But on the road back to his house, the Soupster felt angry.

“What kind of sick joke is that store playing on people?” “Is it even possible the sign was meant specifically for me?” “Why shouldn’t I go home?” The Soupster’s mind raced.

Two doors from his house, the Soupster pulled over to the side of the road. “Even if the sign has nothing to do with me, it is irresponsible to make people wonder if something is wrong at their home,” the Soupster stewed.

“That’s mean,” he decided and turned his car around in the direction of the store. The Soupster wasn’t sure who he was going to talk to or what he was going to say to them, but he was going to say something to somebody to straighten the responsible parties right out!

But as he neared the store, he realized at once that he would do none of that. For the sign had changed again.

Now it read: “Don’t Go Home Until You Try One of Our New Mango Shakes!”

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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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