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Comments Off on Our Town – May 18, 2017

Our Town – May 18, 2017

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

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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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Comments Off on Our Town – August 11, 2016

Our Town – August 11, 2016

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

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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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Comments Off on Our Town – July 28, 2016

Our Town – July 28, 2016

| Downtown, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | July 28, 2016

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The Soupster finds the third time is the charm.

It’s a fact well-known by the people living in Our Town that other Our Town folk may play multiple roles in life and one never knows for sure what roles they might be. Your child’s skating coach could be also be your dentist. Your waitress, starring in the town melodrama, crumbles your pickup’s fender. Your elderly neighbor plays a swarthy villain in the same production and then bakes you Christmas fudge.

This is why Road Rage is not as endemic in Our Town as in other burgs. It’s just too fraught to hurl unkind words and gestures at someone who might turn out to be your sister’s boyfriend’s brother. The immediate release of tension does not feel good enough to overcome the dread of possibly making an enemy of someone you might badly need some day. You don’t want to flip any kind of bird at all at your cardiologist.

One fine summer day, the Soupster strode into a local hardware store, where he spied Carol Worthington buying towel racks for her bathroom. Worthington owned the local jewelry store and the Soupster needed to do some business with her. Carol was a serious recluse – she hired charismatic young people to run the front of the store, while she crafted sparkles in the back room.

Should the Soupster say hello? Certainly, if Carol was looking at him. But she wasn’t. Should he tap her shoulder? Before the Soupster even knew what he had decided, Worthington’s shoulder was tapped by him.

But it wasn’t Carol Worthington at all.

“Pardon me?” said the woman, a stranger.

“Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” said the Soupster, moving on.

At the clothing store, the Soupster thought he saw Carol Worthington again. Not wanting to make the same mistake, he regarded the woman from a distance.  Carol’s medium-length brown hair, the same bangs. The same mid-length kind of dress that Carol always wore, running shoes she called “trainers.”

The Soupster was both more confident in the details of his sighting and put aback by his recent case of mistaken identity. This time he didn’t need to tap. The instant he entered the woman’s personal space, the Soupster knew it wasn’t Carol.

“Can I help you?” said pseudo-Carol. “Do I know you?”

The Soupster slunk away. He kept his head down, lest he see another false Carol. His head felt light, as with a low blood-sugar level. He stumbled into the soda shop and grabbed a brown padded stool by the counter. He had no sooner ordered than a woman sat down next to him.

“Hi, Soupster,” said the real Carol Worthington, patting the Soupster on the arm. “We have business together, don’t we?”

Carol ordered a confection from the young man at the counter. She turned to the Soupster.

“What’s wrong with you?” Carol said. “Why do you keep looking at me like I’m a ghost?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 19, 2015

Our Town – November 19, 2015

| Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff, Youth | November 19, 2015

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The Soupster spends time at the edge of generational change.

In her years of teaching history at Our Town High, Mrs. Frost never had a more annoying student than Caine McDuff. He didn’t act openly disruptive in class, but somehow still managed to disrupt. Mrs. Frost operated a lot on instinct and Caine had always made her feel off-balance.

Lord knew Caine had been bright enough – too bright, maybe, for someone whose goodwill other people doubted. He asked a lot of questions – most of the bright kids did – but he always seemed to know the answer already. It was as though he was testing her knowledge and, frankly, it gave her the creeps.

Caine didn’t seem to have friends — there was an invisible fence that put off others, as it did her. But he was not disrespected. In fact, when Caine spoke no one else did until he was clearly finished. Caine often had the last word on things.

Caine graduated and moved on, like they all did, and Mrs. Frost proceeded to instruct scores more Our Town High students over the decades. She did not ask about Caine, as she did so many others.

Nevertheless, she thought of Caine more than once, usually when some annoyance set her off balance in that familiar way.

Mrs. Frost retired from teaching. Mrs. Frost’s husband, Mr. Frost, snagged an engineering job that meant two years in Guatemala. Mrs. Frost did not like humidity and decided she would stay behind. He needed the adventure and she looked forward to the peace and quiet.

But she did not count on the boredom. Not long after Mr. Frost departed, Mrs. Frost felt at loose ends. Maybe it time to step up to the plate – citizen-wise? On her best friend Gladys’ suggestion, Mrs. Frost joined the Planning Commission.

Now Mrs. Frost knew there was nothing more interesting than history – the twists and turns the human animal has used to scheme his or her way through the millennia. And she enjoyed the commission’s small canvas – decisions that affected just one or two people, a neighborhood.

At a Planning Commission meeting six months into her term, Mrs. Frost listened as the Soupster and a few others came to support a neighbor who wanted to build a greenhouse and sell vegetables. Mrs. Frost liked the smooth, pleasant neighborliness of the proceedings – most of the proceedings went the same. But the meetings didn’t dislodge her boredom as much as she had wished when she joined.

Lost in thought, she did not notice the coolness that descended on the proceedings as two competing attorneys representing two property owners moved to the front of the room. The first attorney was from Juneau. The second attorney was a newly minted Caine McDuff, Esquire.

Commissioner Brick Takamata, who sat next to Mrs. Frost, leaned over. “Looks like one of your old students is here. Isn’t he the one you said gave you trouble.”

“Trouble, yes, but interesting trouble,” Mrs. Frost whispered back. “Let’s hear what he has to say.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 16, 2015

Our Town – July 16, 2015

| Money, Our Town, Shopping, Small Town Stuff | July 16, 2015

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The Soupster compares consumer choices.

Garth McGregor was a big guy, but looked strained carrying the enormous box on his shoulder. A sheen on Bart’s skin indicated a relative rarity in Our Town – sweating outside.

The Soupster held the door from the post office for the bigger man and then followed him to his truck.

“Can I get the truck door for you, Garth?” the Soupster asked.

“Thanks, Soupster,” Garth said.

Garth drove a white pickup with a crew cab and wanted to put the box on the rear seat. He grunted as he did so.

“It’s a big microwave oven I just ordered online,” Garth said. “One heavy puppy.”

“Was it a special model?” the Soupster said. “Did you look at any of the stores in Our Town? You know, ‘Buy Local’?”

“I know, I know,” said Garth. “But I was reheating some haggis my brother sent me in the middle of this great BBC penguin thing I was watching on my e-reader and the microwave burned out. Just died.”

“Wow,” said the Soupster.

“No, the haggis was still delicious, even lukewarm,” said Garth. “But, like a zombie, without even thinking, I ordered another one on the e-reader.”

“This microwave is a nice unit,” Garth continued. “But I didn’t realize it was so big and heavy. I could’ve gotten a smaller one. I’m not looking forward to lugging this up the goat trail to my house.”

The Soupster noted the model number of the microwave and asked Garth the price.  Garth told him and the Soupster wished his friend “Warm Haggis!” as Garth drove off.

“Warm haggis,” the Soupster thought, which led to another thought and then another thought until a new thought surfaced in his mind as “I need a new fluorescent bulb for my office lamp.”

At the hardware store, the Soupster was again pressed into service as a doorman. Lottie Brandywine came striding out the entrance with her usual confident commandeering of space. She was followed by a tall young man with his long arms around a big box.

As the young man passed, the Soupster noticed the item was a microwave oven, pretty much the same model that Garth had tussled with a half hour before.  He followed the young man, who followed Lottie.

Lottie popped the hatch of her car with a handheld device, instructed the young man to put the box in there and thanked him.

The Soupster sidled up and greeted Lottie.

“New microwave?” he asked.

“Aren’t we nosy,” she answered.

“Well, I just saw Garth McGregor lugging a similar microwave at the post office.”

“Oh, yeah? What did he pay?” Lottie asked. When the Soupster told her, she smiled. “I paid $8.96 more.  And I didn’t have to lug it anywhere.”

“Buy Local,” the Soupster said.

“Bye, bye,” said Lottie.

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 4, 2015

Our Town – June 4, 2015

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | June 4, 2015

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The Soupster backs away from trouble.

The imposing Doris Capfield barreled into the city official’s office holding a map.

“It’s a land map,” she told the official. “I’ve got a big problem with my neighbors,” she said and the official gulped.

He knew about the three-generation-long feud between the Capfield family and their neighbors, the McCrorys. This was not the first time a member of one family or the other had been in the official’s office, not by a long shot. Neither family had ever resorted to outright violence against the other, but they had been creatively nasty at expressing their grudge over the years.

And the official was painfully aware that a predecessor had lost his job when he accidentally expressed a pro-McCrory sentiment at a public meeting and the Capfields just about ran him out of town.

The Soupster, who had come into the office a few seconds after Doris, read the scene instantly and backed silently away.

Doris spread her map out on the desk and motioned the official over. “These McCrory fellers – you know who I mean? – think they’re gonna build a fence on a property line that exists only in their mind. Their very demented mind.”

A quick glance at the map told the official that the McCrorys had the stronger case. And, deep down, Doris must have known that, too, because when the official started to tell her, she reared up on her hind legs and huffed, Mama Bear that she was.

The official groaned inaudibly.

“I want you to issue a “Stop Work’ order,” said Doris. “Send the Troopers if you have to. Send in the National Guard!”

“I don’t think there’s anything I can do to help you,” the official said.

“That’s what I thought you’d say,” Doris huffed again and the official thought he heard her mutter the word “weasel.” She angrily rolled up her map and looked like she might bop him with it.

Then Doris burst into tears.

“What is it, Mrs. Capfield?” asked the official.

“It’s my son, Lawrence,” she sobbed. “He’s been seeing the McCrory girl – Sarah?”

“Oh.”

“He spends all his time with those… monsters!” she wailed. “Sarah is a nice girl, she can’t help who her family is. But he’s over there all the time. Lawrence, I mean.”

The official handed Doris a tissue.

“He’s going there for the Fourth of July!  What if they get married?” Doris grabbed the official by the lapels. “What if they have a baby?!”

“A baby,” she said, tugging harder on his jacket. “My grandchild! What should I do? What advice would you give me?”

It took the official only a second to decide. He plucked the map out of Capfield’s hands and spread it out on his desk. “Now about this land issue,” he said. “We should definitely look at that again.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 23, 2015

Our Town – April 23, 2015

| Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | April 23, 2015

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17 Things A Tourist Should Know About Our Town.

Originally published April 8, 2004

  1. It does not “rain all the time.” Even during our rainiest month (October) there are whole minutes where rain is not actually falling. In Our Town, we concentrate on those dry periods when judging the quality of the day. This is why, when asked, “Does it rain here all the time?” members of Our Town say “No.”
  2. However, do not dangle your airline ticket in front of a member of Our Town during the entire month of October, unless you want to lose it.
  3. Everywhere else, the road “never ends”. Here the road “always ends.” Some local residents feel the need to check this fact and will periodically drive to the end of the road to do so. It’s also a good way for them to test their radio reception.
  4. Do not be offended if someone enters your conversation without introducing themselves. Some members of Our Town know so many residents, they assume all conversations involve them.
  5. If you use an umbrella, we will consider you eccentric, from England or here to sell hot dogs.
  6. If it is cloudy in Sitka during your entire visit — be advised: there really is a volcano out there. We’re not just making it up.
  7. A backhoe parked in a yard is a sign of wealth.
  8. Drivers here are very polite. One exception: if someone pulls out quickly in front of you causing you to slow down, that person is required to drive no more than 3 blocks without turning again.
  9. The amount of business a restaurant gets in its first month of operation will in no way predict whether that restaurant will succeed or fail.
  10. Don’t run out of milk on Monday.
  11. Problem Corner is not a therapy talk show – actually, it kind of is.
  12. Do not leave groceries in the back of pickup trucks unless you have checked for ravens.
  13. Don’t ask a boater how their skiff, cruiser, yacht or dinghy is doing, unless you have 20 minutes to spare.
  14. The big fish tote boxes at the airport usually contain more than one fish, despite what the fisherman says.
  15. A car with 60,000 Arizona highway miles is a “new” car.
  16. Even though there aren’t that many places to go, you will never go to them all.
  17. Do not try to calculate the number of people who would live here on a sunny day because it will be raining again before you finish writing all the zeros

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 24, 2014

Our Town – April 24, 2014

| Our Town, Politics, Small Town Stuff | April 24, 2014

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The Soupster sees people who bite off and chew.

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.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 27, 2014

Our Town – March 27, 2014

| Animals, Our Town, Pets, Small Town Stuff | March 27, 2014

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The Soupster asks if there is ever anything new.

“Always the same, this town,” the Soupster muttered, reading the newspaper. “Always arguing over the same things. Paving the same roads, painting the same walls. The same people day after day. Can’t anything be surprising?”

With decades of residency under his belt, the Soupster didn’t entertain illusions about Our Town’s complexion being blemish-free. But what great lover is put off by a few zits? While he might moan in private, publicly the Soupster deflected criticism from outsiders like any loyal lover of a place (or person).

But today the Soupster was bored and instead of taking ownership of his boredom, he decided to blame Our Town. “Same, same,” he moaned. “Same, same, same.”

Fresh air sounded good, the Soupster thought. “Shake off my cobwebs.” This being herring season — hence, herring weather — the Soupster dressed in layers in case the present spectacular sunshine turned instantly to pounding hail.

Out the door down the road to the park went the Soupster, looking over the same sites he’d spied for years. He greeted a familiar face. He turned onto a trail he knew as well as the big vein on the back of his left hand.

While the herring spawn along the ocean’s edge was a mere fraction of that 20 or 30 years ago, the air still reeked with a salty, springy maritime smell. “Uncle Milt,” thought the Soupster. It was too early for new shoots, but the ground felt softer – ready to do something very soon.

A man leading a small black-and-white dog on a leather leash turned the corner of the trail. A strange dog – small and prowling like a cat. The closer the Soupster got, the stranger the dog looked – especially the prowling.

The small dog on a leash turned out to be a rather large cat on a leash.

“I trained him as a kitten,” the man said as he went past. “Now he loves it!”

“That,” said the somewhat delighted Soupster, waving, “is new to me. Yup, tomcat-on-a-leash is a new one for me.”

The sound of wheels turned the Soupster’s attention to a woman pushing a high-tech stroller. The stroller contained an extremely hairy baby. The closer the stroller approached, the hairier the child looked.

With relief, the Soupster realized the hairy baby was a dog.

“She hurt her leg playing Frisbee and she really misses her walk,” the woman said to the Soupster’s puzzled expression.

“Thank you,” said the Soupster.

“For what?” she asked.

“I was thinking everything in Our Town was `same, same, same,’” said the Soupster, more to himself. “I stand corrected.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 27, 2014

Our Town – February 27, 2014

| Cooking, Our Town, Small Town Stuff, Storms, Weather | February 27, 2014

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The Soupster eats dinner despite difficulties.

The Soupster peered through the curtain in his kitchen as a February squall barreled in, dropping visibility to zero and dumping an inch per hour of heavy, wet snow.

“T’ain’t fit for man nor beast,” he muttered.

The Soupster was supposed to head to his friend Bob’s house for dinner with him and Janet, another friend. A crackerjack cook, Bob always crafted a feed the Soupster could feel himself remembering fondly for days afterward.

“But not tonight,” he moaned to himself. “Don’t make me go out tonight.”

The Soupster peered out the window again. The snow seemed to be falling faster. Bob’s house wasn’t far, but it was up a hill. Over his stomach’s protests, the Soupster let his body flood with a low-energy dysphoria.

Bob always went to so much trouble – it was rude to cancel because of a little snow. But the more the Soupster looked outside, the lower he felt. He actually felt physically ill.

He called Bob. “I’m just miserable about canceling,” he said, “but I can’t face the weather tonight.”

“It’s okay,” said Bob. “Janet just called and cancelled, too. She said she’s been sick all day. We’ll do it another time.”

The Soupster tried to sound wretched as he said goodbye. But as soon as he clicked off the phone, his dark cloud dissipated. He didn’t have to go out! He could hunker down with a book and a blanket and comfort food. The attractive choices seemed limitless!

But the wind had other plans. A big gust blew a hemlock onto an electrical line along the Green Lake Road. The Soupster’s house — with the rest of Our Town — went dark.

He grabbed a flashlight and lit two oil lamps. Next on the Soupster’s agenda was to find out what had happened and if anybody knew how long they would be out of power. He retrieved his portable radio, but the batteries were dead. So he put on his boots and coat and went out to his car to use the radio there. After a few minutes, the announcer – his station powered by a generator — reported the downed tree and city-wide blackout. No estimates yet.

Sitting in the car, the Soupster’s stomach spoke louder than his desire to hunker down. Cheese, chips, bread, salad, grapes – none of them needed cooking and all available a few miles down the road. His stomach convinced the Soupster to turn on his car and carefully, very carefully, drive to the supermarket where – due to generators — the store shone like an island of light.

As the Soupster trundled inside, he was struck by the number of people gathered around the front counter. A couple of shoppers walked the aisles and one of them turned out to be Janet.

“Feeling better?” the Soupster asked sheepishly and Janet nodded sheepishly back.

“As soon as I cancelled, I felt cured,” she said.

Just then, Bob turned the corner, clutching a bag of charcoal and can of charcoal lighter fluid.

“Well, lookey here!” he said, smiling. “You co-conspirators look pretty healthy to me.” He jiggled the bag in his arms. “Anyone for barbecue by candlelight?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – December 5, 2013

Our Town – December 5, 2013

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff, Travel | December 5, 2013

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The Soupster learns that traveling alone need not be lonely.

Originally published December 4, 2003

The Soupster vigorously dried his hair with the motel towel, brimming with satisfaction. He happily donned a thin travel robe..

On his way home at a Sea-Tac Airport motel, the Soupster gave a satisfied sigh. His was not just any motel – but one the Soupster had stayed at more times than he could remember. Often for just a night passing through, sometimes for a week on business.

The motel had gone through bad periods in the recent past, but had snapped back recently with new owners, paint, and a snappy new name. Two floors high, with a large parking lot in front. A lobby that, in season, featured Washington apples in a basket for the guests to sample. A free local shuttle. Could a pit stop offer more?

But it could. For this motel’s showers were exemplary, extraordinary – they put the showers in any other establishment to shame. The water was not too soft and not hard, not too hot and not cold. The shower loosed a stream that perfectly coated anyone standing under with a warm, cascading blanket. The knobs and valves were amazingly responsive — you got just what you wanted. This inn featured low prices and a pleasant staff. But the showers made the Soupster book a room here, time and time again.

Leaving him defenselessly mellow when a key clicked in the lock, the door swung open and a motel clerk stepped in, followed by a young woman.

“Pardon?” said a wide-eyed Soupster.

The clerk stopped in his tracks. A suitcase he was holding thudded to the floor.

“Uh-oh,” he said, as stunned as the Soupster. “Wrong room.”

“Soupster?” said the young woman.

“Sally?” the Soupster asked as she stepped forward, into the light. “Sally Wright?”

“Right,” said Sally.

“Right?” asked the motel clerk.

Sally put her hand on his arm. “This man knows my Dad,” she explained. “He’s known me since I was kid.”

“Her father and mother used to stay here all the time,” the Soupster added.

“I thought this was the wrong room,” said the clerk.

“This is the wrong room!” Sally and Soupster simultaneously said.

“You must have started work here just recently, “ The Soupster guessed and the motel clerk admitted he had. “There’s a lot of people from Our Town – well, mine and hers – that stay here. A few owners ago, the motel had some kind of deal with a travel agent in Our Town and a lot of people got steered here. New owners – the travel agent moved on – but we still keep coming to this motel.”

“It’s the showers,“ said Sally. “Have you ever taken a shower here?” she asked the clerk

“No,” he said.

“Well you should. And I’m going to right now,” said Sally. “Soupster, I’ll meet you in the lobby in half an hour and we can take the shuttle out to dinner. There’s two more people here from Our Town. If you see them, ask if they’re hungry!”

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Our Town – November 21, 2013

| Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Small Town Stuff | November 21, 2013

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The Soupster learns it can be hard to stay true to your emotions.

When Carole left her seaside cottage, she felt good. Actually she felt angry, but she felt good about feeling angry.

Carole was healthy, pretty, lucky, sweet and well-off. Many would say her life was perfect and Carole would agree with them. If there was one thing she was missing, that was the human experience of feeling angry. For Carole, who considered herself blessed, never allowed herself to feel angry. Until today.

Today, her hot water heater burned out, the dog had a revolting “accident “on the Persian rug and her least favorite cousin called to complain that Carole never called. That was followed by bad news about her taxes delivered by her accountant who she could barely hear due to the road crew drilling the pavement out front of her house.

Carole felt an unfamiliar rising in her craw and a constriction of her neck muscles. She heard the unfamiliar sound of her own teeth gnashing. Could the world be plotting against her?

Wow, Carole thought, as the feeling washed over her. She thought of her older brother pulling away her stuffed bunny, a freckled girl making fun of her braids, a professor who had a big problem with smart women. It had been years, but she remembered the feeling of being wonderfully, powerfully angry and thought she’d like to go and see what the world did about it.

She walked down the street, reveling in this odd new power. Ahead was that old coot George coming toward her. Although a coot, George often made her laugh. And sometimes made her want to cry because he was such a sweet guy with no place to put his emotions. She could feel her anger waning. So she crossed the street and quickened her pace.

She cut down a path near the coffee shop to try and avoid another sympathetic character and almost bumped into Colleen, who was tracing the same path in the opposite direction.

“Carole,” said Colleen. “I was just thinking of you. We’re starting a new mural and I know that’s something you love. We absolutely want you involved. Want to have coffee?”

“Can’t talk,” said Carole, huffing past. “Gotta go!” She felt her anger fading again and — was forced to imagine last summer’s incident of her neighbor’s cat destroying her flowers — to stay on task

“See ya later, alligator,” Colleen called after her.

Carole put her head down and did not look up. Nonetheless, “Hey Carole!” yelled one person and “Call me!” yelled another.

With her head down and her pace quickened, Carole walked right into a parked car. The Soupster’s car. With her old friend the Soupster in it.

“Carole,” he said, getting out of the car, a concerned look on his face. “My goodness! Are you all right?”

“Oh, Soupster,” she whined, as her embarrassment overwhelmed her. “I’m trying to say angry and I just can’t!”

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Our Town – March 28, 2013

| Guest Written, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Rose Manning, Small Town Stuff | March 27, 2013

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Is there such a thing as too much help?

“Hey, Buddy. Good to see you.”

“How’s life, Soupster?”

“How is life? How can you ask such a question?”

“I am fixin’ to leave this dang town.”

“Oh no, Buddy. Why do you want to leave Our Town?”

“I just have to, Soupster. It seems that nobody can mind their own beeswax. They are always sticking their nose into my business.”

“Whoa, there! It is a small town and it is spring and it is foggy and you know we just use each other for entertainment this time of year. Just what is this business you are talking about, Buddy?”

“Soupster. Everybody is just too dang nice.”

“Did I hear that right? TOO NICE? What is wrong with that?”

“Do you remember when the doc told me to walk at least twenty minutes every day?”

“Yes, I do and I do see you out there sometimes.”

“You got it, Soupster. Sometimes is right. It seems every time I get my shoes on and start out I can’t get more than a half block from home and somebody stops to give me a ride back home. I explain what I’m doing and turn them down but there is always another do-gooder neighborly sort right behind them. Finally, I give up and get all my exercise crawling in and out of cars. As soon as they drop me off and pull away I start out again. I haven’t made it a full block all week.”

“They are such good and kind people, Buddy.”

“Well. That is not my only problem Soupster.”

“Do tell me more.”

“Well you know how my Taurus is always leaking. The trunk is real swampy so on nice days I leave the trunk lid standing open so it will dry out.”

“Does it work?”

“Not hardly. Some do-goody has to walk by and close the lid. I even took it to the airport, thinking it would work out better there with all the strangers coming and going but I hadn’t even finished one cup of coffee before it was shut tight. And there’s more, Soupster.”

“More?”

“All the young ‘uns are now helping me up the curb and stairs even when I don’t want to go. They also stop and wait to help me cross the road when I don’t want to. I just want to stand in the yard and watch the birds. We caused quite the back-up at the round-a-bout yesterday.”

“Buddy, please don’t leave Our Town. Wait until the weather turns for the better and all the tourists come back. The nice people will get over it and barely have time to bother with you.”

Submitted by Rose Manning

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Our Town – August 23, 2012

| Jobs, Money, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 22, 2012

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After enduring a somewhat sketch marriage in her twenties, 34-year-old Annie was basically glad she had the romantic gumption to follow her heart and a charismatic fisherman to Our Town. But it gnawed at her that she had left a job as a retail store manager and could not find the equivalent employment here. Especially after the fisherman moved on — after different fish, she surmised.

To Annie, becoming a saleswoman again after so many years as a manager felt even worse than the simple demotion it was. Worse still was the cut in her pay. Our Town certainly didn’t feel any cheaper than where Annie had moved from. But in Our Town she had about a third less to make do with.

Bemoaning her fate is where the Soupster had expected to find his friend when he stopped by to pick up some flower bulbs that she was giving away. It was typical of Annie to be generous.

The Soupster smiled at the thought of generosity of so many people in Our Town. There was no better reason to be wealthy, the Soupster thought, than to be able to be generous with your time or your money. And here was Annie, struggling, yet using her time to give away her precious bulbs.

There are those who come to Our Town to take high-level jobs and, for them, financial discomfort may not be an issue. Others come for the mountains and the clean air (or a fisherman!) and cobble together several jobs to survive.

But that’s just money, the Soupster thought. A lot of life comes from family, friends, tradition, and belief – not to mention a good subsistence halibut or three. There was little sadder, the Soupster thought, than the old miser alone with his stacks of gold coins. And little more triumphant than someone thriving on modest means, surrounded by life and love.

And just as the Soupster had that thought, he looked up to see Annie’s face filled with life and love. She stood in her doorway beaming.

“Soupster,” she cried out, loud enough to startle a crow, “My manager decided just this week that she wants to move back to Idaho to be nearer her parents. The Assistant Manager’s boyfriend is being transferred to New Orleans and she’s going with him. So guess who’s going to be the new manager?”

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Our Town – August 9, 2012

| Crazy Theories, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 9, 2012

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“I love this `Coast Guard Alaska’ show,” Zach said, sprawling in the magnificence of his basement man-cave.

The Soupster generally avoided subterranean structures of any kind, but he had to admit Zach’s man-digs were powerfully comfy. Heavily stuffed chairs and a still more heavily stuffed couch. A wet bar, a microwave and a big stocked refrigerator. And you couldn’t argue with the 46-inch TV screen – unless you had to move it or pay for the electricity.

“Check out this episode,” Zach said, motioning toward the glowing behemoth as, onscreen, a Coast Guard Jayhawk hoisted a stranded boater. “I know the flight corpsman, the co-pilot and the guy they rescued.”

“Wasn’t the flight corpsman’s picture in the newspaper yesterday?” the Soupster asked.

“Yep,” said a further vindicated Zach. “Nice that we’re on the list of Alaska shows, eh, Soupster? `Deadliest Catch,’ `Flying Wild Alaska,’ `Man vs. Wild,’ and `Man vs. Food.’ And that’s not even counting the Canadians, who have quite a few shows of their own.”

“The granddaddy show was “Northern Exposure,” the Soupster said, referring to the 1990’s television sit-com set in the quirky fictional Alaskan town of Cicely. “I was in Mesa, Arizona buying a light fixture at the time and the merchant checked my ID and said, `You’re from Alaska! I love that show!’”

“Now it’s true,” said Zach. “Now totally true. Alaska is totally a television show.””

“They should set more TV reality shows in Our Town,” said the Soupster. “We’ve got a million stories around here.”

“Eagle Rescue Alaska?” said Zach.

“No, you have to create more tension, as the TV guys would say. “Like “Ravens: Scared Straight.”

“You mean delinquent ravens subjected to Tough Love over golf-ball-and-grocery theft?”

“Yeah, said the Soupster. “Or an Our Town housepainter waiting on pins and needles for a dry spell to do this work. That should be good for six or eight weeks of tense episodes.”

“Might be too tense,” said Zach.

“I’ve got it,” said the Soupster. “What about `The Growingest Road’ about the Olympian task of state highway guys trying to cut down alder and salmonberry bushes faster than they can grow back.”

“Good,” said Zach, “Or one where they get up close and personal with one salmon. The star of the series would have to weather dry spells and sharp rocks, dodge bears and not get snagged by someone stretching the fishing rules. All for a disquieting ending.”

“One salmon’s struggle,” mused the Soupster.

“Or, `The Slug Whisperer,’” said Zach, suddenly very pleased with himself. “What about that, Soupster? `The Slug Whisperer?’”

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What is Our Town?

Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

Want to submit a piece for Our Town?

Contact us with your idea or completed piece. Our Town’s must be 450-500 words long, take place in or near Sitka and the Soupster must make an appearance, however brief.

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