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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

310 total views, 0 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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Comments Off on Our Town – May 31, 2018

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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Comments Off on Our Town – March 22, 2018

Our Town – March 22, 2018

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

Chickens and Eggs?

Originally published April 4, 2002

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

Then he got in line.

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

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

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

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

Stevarino laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Gotta go,” said the Soupster.

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

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

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 8, 2018

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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Comments Off on Our Town – September 7, 2017

Our Town – September 7, 2017

| Animals, Dogs, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | September 7, 2017

The Soupster recounts how a good prop can save the day.

“Wild beard – check, rough clothes – check,” said the Soupster to himself, as he stared at the large form of Granville Brickface standing at the coffee counter.

“Five shot venti Americano,” boomed Granville in a bass impressive enough to literally blow back the barrista’s hair (well, almost literally). Granville collected his potion and parked his bulk on the far side of the crowded coffee shop.

“Giant voice – check,” the Soupster muttered.

Granville Brickface was not the biggest guy in Our Town, but – with his wild beard, rough clothes and giant voice — he definitely took up the most space. Crowds seemed to part when he showed up. Dogs and birds went silent.

The Soupster remembered one time when a delicately-engraved invitation had arrived in Granville’s mail, with multiple pages and tissue papers in between each page. Granville was distantly related to some pretty lofty Our Town residents of the past and was being invited to the wedding of the daughter of one of the loftiest present-day Our Town residents.

The invite had required serious cogitation on Granville’s part. The guy was big, but not mean. He did not want to scandalize the ceremony with his usual “casual” garb, when the rest of the partygoers went formal. He did not want to do anything to rattle the nuptials. He would buy a suit.

“And get a haircut, for goodness sakes,” Granville heard in his mother’s voice inside his
head. He decided he would do that, too.

But successful social engagements are not based solely on appearance, Granville had remembered. People are required to talk with one another. A problem, he thought, that was more enigmatic than a haircut.

The Soupster had suggested a strategy from his long-ago experience with dating. He told Granvillle to anticipate the questions people would ask of him and, like a politician readying for a debate, prepare polite answers and memorize them. So Granville did.

The morning of the wedding, Granville took his newly-shorn and freshly-laundered self to visit the elderly woman who lived next door, as a test run.  Mrs. Cox was delighted with Granville’s transformation.

“It’s remarkable,” she said. “I’m nearly not afraid of you.”

“Do you think I’m ready?” Granville asked, purposely speaking in a low voice because of all the crystal glassware lining the breakfront shelves.

“Well,” said Mrs. Cox, tapping one finger against her chin.  “Maybe we can improve things a bit more.”

“Princess Lorna Doone!” Mrs. Cox called out and her tiny, fluffy, impossibly cute Pomeranian yapped into the room.

“Take Princess with you, Granville,” said Mrs. Cox. “Everybody loves Lorna!”

Granville did and Princess Lorna Doone earned her salt. All afternoon, Granville had a small crowd of people surrounding him, all wanting to pet and hold the dog. The memorized answers allowed Granville to appear almost charming.

And he got the best compliment of all when some cousin, taking in Granville’s fresh haircut, crisp suit and tiny dog, said, “I didn’t know Granville had a brother!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 27, 2017

Our Town – July 27, 2017

| food, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | July 27, 2017

The Soupster learns that sometimes more than the peppers get stuffed.

The Soupster sat at a back table at Nemo’s Café, spooning Rockfish-and-Beach-Asparagus Chowder into his mouth. Hunched over his steaming bowl, he read a copy of his publication, the Sitka Soup.

Then the Soupster stiffened. “Waiter!” he called out. “There’s a fly in my Soup!”

Manny, the new waiter, hurried over to the Soupster’s table and examined the stew. “I don’t see anything in there,” he said.

“Not in my soup,” said the Soupster, waving a copy of his publication aloft. “There’s a fly in my Sitka Soup!”

Indeed, there was a fly, on page 10. (Ed. Note: yup!)

“Can’t help you there,” the waiter said.

“Manny,” asked the Soupster. “Have you ever encountered a real fly in a bowl of real soup?”

“Not flies in the soup — no,” said Manny.

“Stuffed fish and animal heads on the walls, like Guinness Book amounts of them — definitely.”

“Do tell,” said the Soupster.

“A place up north I worked at one summer, Ike’s Roadhouse,” Manny said. “In his younger days, Ike was an Olympian athlete of hunters. And he liked to stuff his trophies. Moose, goat, sheep heads on the roadhouse walls. Stuffed gamebirds all over. Mounted fish. An entire black bear.

“Doesn’t sound real hygienic,” said the Soupster.

“I have to admit that Ike’s place wouldn’t have passed inspection,” Manny said. “That is, if there was an inspector within 1,000 miles.”

“Anyhow, Ike was such a good cook, everyone was happy to overlook the occasional ptarmigan feather in the oatmeal,” Manny went on. “There was a bit of discussion sometimes about exactly what critters went into the fricassee, but that didn’t stop people from scarfing it.

“Then Ike got old and his son took over. And then the son got old, so the grandson took over. But Old Ike still went to the restaurant every day and sat in a chair in the corner, telling stories and taking silent naps.

“Old Ike would be telling you some tall tale and would fall asleep in the middle of a sentence and revert back to his silent, sleeping mode like an unconscious Jabba the Hutt.

“One day, a visitor arrived and announced that he’d journeyed 4,000 miles for a taste of the Roadhouse’s famous sourdough flapjacks. The man evidently read about them in some Great Land handbook and got an insatiable yen.

“So, the grandson makes the flapjacks and the visitor chomps away, all compliments. The visitor remarks on how colorful the Roadhouse was, with all the taxidermy.

“Then, he asks who started the establishment. Ike’s grandson proudly says Old Ike started the roadhouse half a century ago. And, tells how the old Sourdough has been in the restaurant every day since.

“`In fact,’ says the grandson, pointing to his granddad in the tangle of taxidermied creatures. `Old Ike is right there.’

“The look that crossed the visitor’s face was pure horror. You could see he was having a hard time telling if Old Ike was stuffed, too.

“The grandson turned around for a second, to chuckle at the old man sleeping away. And when he turned back, all that was left was a $20 bill and a half-eaten stack of pancakes. The visitor was gone!”

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Our Town – July 13, 2017

| Nicknames, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | July 13, 2017

Discussing Our Town’s flaws, the Soupster sees an old acquaintance.

Originally published July 15, 2010

A strong sun shone on the well-named Clement Climes, who was sitting on a folding chair scarfing a Hellfire Halibut Spicy Skewer at Santa’s Seafood Truck downtown.

The Soupster noticed the pepper-induced sweat dripping off Clem’s brow. “I prefer the Sweetly Rubbed Salmon,” the Soupster said to his co-diner, simultaneously ordering the Rub.

“Paradise today,” said the Soupster, as his salmon sizzled on the grill. He gazed at Our Town’s gleaming water and green mountains. “Clem, you grew up here. Remind me of something wrong with this place.”

Clem sucked a couple of ice cubes from his drink and crunched them against the wildfire in his mouth. “When folks leave, they really leave,” he said in a jalapeño-choked voice. “Nobody ever moves a half hour or an hour away – how could they? They’re gone. It’s hard on the adults, but really hard on the kids.”

“Once they leave the Our Town Bubble, they’re gone,” Clem concluded.

The Soupster retrieved his perfectly prepared salmon. “I feel like I’m leaving a bubble when I fly out of the country from the Lower 48,” he told Clem, after a bite. “I feel like when I’m overseas, I can no longer take it for granted that anything is going to make sense. Come to think of it, I feel that way about the Lower 48 now, too.”

“But you hail from the Lower 48,” said Climes. “How do you feel about being so far from your old stomping grounds?”

“Fine,” said the Soupster, taking another bite. “I do miss people and never, ever expect to see anybody from there anymore.”

That moment an extremely tall tourist walked right up to the Soupster and clamped his gigantic hand on the much shorter man’s shoulder. “Soupster?” he asked.

“Chris Louie?” an amazed Soupster yelled up to him. “`Shrimp’ Louie?”

“We went to the same high school,” the enormous Shrimp explained to Clem.

Clem looked back and forth between the two men. “Soupster,” he said, “I thought you got named Soupster in Our Town because you publish the Soup. You mean they called you Soupster all along? How did you get the name?”

Shrimp chuckled.

“That,” said the Soupster, “is a whole story in itself.”

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Our Town – May 18, 2017

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | May 18, 2017

The Soupster learns the past is the past.

The Soupster pulled alongside the drive-up window, credit card in hand, prepared to receive the pomegranate lemonade smoothie he craved. The barista gave him the drink, sweating in its plastic cup, but declined to take the Soupster’s offering of his own plastic.

The barista giggled. “Your drink’s been paid for.”

The Soupster was delighted, but confused. Or confused, but delighted? Point was, he was grinning while flummoxed. He popped the straw into his tart drink and sipped as he drove away.

Who was the generous stranger? Or mischievous friend? This never happened to the Soupster, whose appearance was rough enough, evidently, to ward off strangers handing out free lemonade. He wondered how it would feel to be sitting in a tavern and have the bartender say, “The (lady or gentleman) at the end of the bar would like to buy you a refreshment.” A tiny, wee bit like Publisher’s Clearing House appearing at your door promising a $1,000 a week for life?

“There are those who receive free pomegranate lemonades and those who buy them for others,” thought the Soupster, who considered himself one of the latter.

At lunchtime, the Soupster sat in a booth, studying the menu of one of Our Town’s venerable eateries, the Tin Crab. Chowing down on his favorite geoduck tacos, he pondered the mystery of the free lemonade.

The Soupster was a regular patron at “The T.C.” The vinyl-clad booths hid the Soupster, and he went there when he wanted to go incognito. A quarter century earlier, back in his newspapering days, the Soupster had met with Sharon Stewart at The T.C. after the miraculous recovery of her heirloom wedding ring.

* * *

Sharon had married into an old Our Town family. The ring — diamonds in a gold filigree — had been her husband Robert’s great-grandmother’s. At Sharon’s wedding, the ring felt a little loose on her finger.  Robert was crazily active and, after two years of following his lead, Sharon sculpted herself down to the svelte. Too svelte. The ring fell off her newly-thin finger somewhere in Our Town. Robert’s family was aghast, but too polite to blame Sharon, which was worse for her than being yelled at.

The tragedy brought out the best in the Soupster. He interviewed Sharon and her family and wrote such a heart-rending story that all manner of Our Towners made it their personal responsibility to find the ring. All over Our Town, pedestrians literally beat the bushes. Motorists scrutinized the tarmac of every parking lot. People searched at work, which is where the ring was finally found. Behind a rolling stool in Sharon’s doctor’s office.

Sharon tracked the Soupster to the Tin Crab, where he was enjoying rockfish and beach asparagus ravioli. She hugged and kissed him and showed him where she had used a piece of tape to make the ring tighter.

When the Soupster went to leave, Howard — The T. C.’s owner, bouncer and executive chef – refused to take any money. “You earned the ravioli,” he said.

***

Back in the present, the Soupster finished his geoduck tacos and put on his coat. Thinking about Sharon, he made for the door.

Only to get stopped cold by Howard’s booming baritone. All the diners looked up.

“Hey, Soupster!” Howard called out. “You gonna to pay for that?”

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Our Town – August 11, 2016

| Downtown, Ghosts, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 11, 2016

The Soupster witnesses the meeting of the living and the dead.

Originally published Aug. 14, 2008

Nearly everyone was pleased with the blossom and tree-filled visions of Betsy and Lawrence Brooks, writ large in the municipal flower beds and green strips in Our Town. The Soupster would have said every single person in town was pleased, but as a scientific observer of human behavior, he left the door open for a few oddball Nature haters.

Only Lawrence actually worked for the city — as a gardener and landscaper — but Betsy could usually be found working alongside him, just not for pay. One irascible codger of the supervisory variety tried to shoo Betsy away for insurance reasons, but Lawrence had enough moles at city hall to call ahead if the codger was afoot and Betsy would temporarily vaporize.

They were an exceptional team. Lawrence, red-green colorblind, compensated by refining his sense of line and contrast, Betsy handled color decisions and was a top-flight plant nurse. After more than four decades, the couple were as much of a local institution as any of the buildings they beautified. So when they decided to skedaddle South to be closer to the grandkiddies, and after they promised to visit often, the city honored the Brooks with their likenesses set in a brass memorial in their favorite garden on Lincoln St. “Lawrence and Betsy, landscapers,” their plaque read, “1960-2002.”

Ambling downtown, picturing a mocha milkshake and skewer of grilled king salmon, the Soupster saw an older tourist staring gravely at the Brooks’ memorial. “Sad, isn’t it,” said the man, as the Soupster came alongside.”So young.”

“Come again?” asked the Soupster.

“But a delight to see city gardeners so exalted,” the man continued. “I myself own a landscape firm in Los Angeles. We are forgotten there among the glitz and bling and blather.”

“I don’t think you understand…” said the Soupster.

“Of course I do!” insisted the tourist. “I more than anyone know of the power of living plants. They have the ability to heal the wounded soul. To watch things grow is to embrace life!”

“Sure but…” the Soupster tried to say, but the older man cut him off.

“Still, it is nice to see the appreciation… at the end,” the tourist concluded sadly and slowly began to move away.

And, as these things will happen sometimes, Lawrence and Betsy Brooks — back to Our Town on one of their frequent returns and looking like two fit, tanned fiddles — came marching down the other side of Lincoln Street.

“There they are!” said the Soupster. “This is what I was trying to tell you.”

“Who?” said the confused tourist.

“Lawrence and Betsy Brooks!” said the Soupster, pointing.“Right there!”

Had they been in a cartoon, the tourist’s head would have spun completely around. He looked at the Brooks, then at their likeness on the plaque and then back to them, several times.

“Do you want me to introduce you?” the Soupster innocently asked.

As the older tourist hurried off, “You people are very, very strange,” the Soupster heard him say.

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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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