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Comments Off on Our Town – February 23, 2017

Our Town – February 23, 2017

| Airplanes, Flying, food, Our Town, Travel | February 23, 2017

The Soupster eats more fruit.

The Soupster didn’t like sitting in the bulkhead or emergency exit rows on the airplane, so he had selected an aisle seat — Row 23, Seat C — on his flight home to Our Town. He liked to sit in a regular row, so he could stow his day bag – normally filled with must-haves and goodies – underneath the seat right in front of him.

Today his day bag was pretty empty – the Soupster didn’t have time to load the bag with treats. Oversleeping badly, he missed both the airport shuttle and the motel’s free breakfast. By the time he caught the next ride, he ran very late. The security lines seemed endless, the gate a long, long walk.

Like some others, the Soupster was old enough to remember when the airlines fed their passengers as a regular thing. Edible, sometimes pretty good, food was served in square plastic bowls that interlocked securely on the tray. Salad, entree and vegetable, even dessert.

Back in those well-fed days, the Soupster had once been served both breakfast and lunch on the same 5-hour cross-country flight. No sooner had the cabin attendants removed the breakfast refuse then their compatriots started serving lunch at the other end of the plane.

The food kept the passengers docile and in their seats and also provided entertainment. No such distractions now, the Soupster thought. Any food a passenger munched onboard these days was strictly do-it-yourself. The Soupster usually nabbed some snacks in the stores lining the concourses. But running late meant he had to skip the stores today and he boarded his flight empty-handed.

The Soupster took his aisle seat. He threw his bag under the seat in front. A middle-aged woman with a bulging carry-on bag stopped at Row 23 and indicated she had the window seat. The Soupster stood up and she squeezed by with her bag. A stout woman, she and her things seemed to fill both her seat and the seat in the middle. She immediately fell asleep.

But the Soupster was distracted. His one last chance for decent vittles on the flight was to purchase one of the airline’s snack boxes, which came as either “Fruit & Cheese,” or “Old World Snacks.” The Soupster liked the fruit and cheese. The old world snacks — olives and salami — not so much.

Unfortunately, the passengers in rows 1 to 23 preferred the fruit and cheese box, too. As a horrified Soupster looked on and listened in, passenger after passenger purchased the fruit and cheese. By the time the flight attendants reached the Soupster, the fruit and cheese was sold out.

A dejected Soupster bought an old world snack box with slight dread. His mouth wanted to be refreshed, not marinated. He lowered his tray table and opened the box. He took out a package of whole grain crackers and some salami slices. He took out a small bag with two or three kinds of olives.

Looking over his repast, the Soupster sighed. He opened the olives. As soon as he did, the woman by the window began stirring. She opened her eyes.

“Oooh, look at that food,” the woman said. “Those olives look scrumptious!”

She lifted her bulging bag onto the middle seat and rifled through it. “Maybe I could trade you for some of your olives and salami?” she said. “I have fruit.” She removed a sizeable Tupperware and peered inside.

“Would you like grapes, mango or pineapple?”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 9, 2017

Our Town – February 9, 2017

| Airport, Our Town, Travel | February 8, 2017

The Soupster faces off with old wisdom.

The airline passengers staggered out of the open doorway, blinking with disbelief that they had finally made it home. Each had a different story to tell. Collectively, the passengers had been spread over several towns as dense fog and stiff winds grounded planes throughout the region.

The passengers greeted their loved ones and wandered over to the baggage claim area. After only a moment, the yellow light at the airport started spinning and the luggage started coming around.

In the crowd waiting for bags, stood the Soupster. He sidled up to George “Thread” Cabot, known throughout Our Town as a speaker of brief, familiar comments. Both men scanned the passing luggage for their bags.

“Thread,” the Soupster greeted him. “You been traveling, too?”

“There’s no place like home,” Thread said. “Home is where the heart is.”

“Got that right,” said the Soupster. “Seems like ages since I’ve seen you, Thread.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Thread said.

“That’s nice of you to say,” said the Soupster, truly pleased. “Oops!” he said suddenly and reached across Thread to snag the first of his two bags.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” Thread said, smiling.

“How many bags are you waiting for?” asked the Soupster.

“Two and two do not make five.”

“Four bags,” said the Soupster. “I’ve only got one more to grab.”

“To each according to his needs,” said Thread. Then he lunged forward and piled two cardboard boxes, one after the other, onto the floor. Each was labeled with Thread’s name.

“Think outside the box,” said Thread, anticipating the Soupster’s curiousity.

“Thread,” the Soupster said. “Why do you always talk in cliches?”

“Sticks and stones…” began Thread.

“Now don’t get riled up,” said the Soupster. Thread reached over and grabbed a large suitcase that blended well with the cardboard boxes.

“I’m not criticizing you.”

“Every bird loves to hear himself sing,” said Thread.

“Well, now we’re only waiting for one more bag each,” the Soupster added. In a moment, they appeared — first Thread’s, then the Soupster’s. Thread piled his four items onto a rolling cart.

“All good things must come to an end,” Thread said.

“Such an enigma!” the Soupster thought, looking at Thread..”Say, Thread,” he said. “Why are you named `Thread?’”

“A thread in time saves nine,” said Thread.

“That’s `a “stitch” in time saves nine,’” said the Soupster. “I’m sure of it.”

“Then it’s George `Stitch’ Cabot,” said the former Thread. aloud.

“Doesn’t bother you?” asked the Soupster.

“Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” said Stitch.

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 10, 2016

Our Town – March 10, 2016

| Airport, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Travel, Youth | March 10, 2016

The Soupster recalls three invasions from his childhood.

The Soupster sat on a small hill, watching the world flow by. He saw a brand new VW Beetle and marveled how little the car’s cute, round exterior had changed over the decades since it had been introduced into the U.S. in the 1950’s.

Buying a Beetle was not an uncontroversial purchase in the years closer to the Second World War. After all, the car had been designed in Nazi Germany by auto guru Ferdinand Porche, on orders from Adolf Hitler to produce a “People’s Car,” a Volkswagen. The Soupster’s father had seen them in Germany during the war and said they gave him the chills.

“I hate these beetles,” he had repeatedly said.

By the early 1960’s VW bugs were becoming more common – and so were the Soupster’s father’s disapproving snorts. But the Soupster’s mother had no time for such foolishness. She had a real invasion on her hands.

Japanese beetles had taken hold of her prized weeping willow tree and were eating it alive. Hundreds of half-inch long, copper-and-black-colored insects worked at the willow’s leaves. The inundation was so total that the Soupster’s mom had enlisted a platoon of 10-year-olds to mount a desperate counterattack.

She hired the kids to pluck the beetles off her plants and place them in glass milk bottles filled with soapy water. The bugs would drown. The children earned 25 cents per bottle – a fortune at the time. Twenty-five cents could get a kid into the Saturday matinee. Twenty-five cents could buy a slice of pizza and a coke.

The Soupster remembered his mother, arms folded across her chest, regarding her young troopers with a steely glint. “I hate these beetles,” she said.

Within a year, another onslaught had reached the Soupster’s world – this time on the ears.

Four mop-topped troubadours led the British Invasion on stateside AM radio. Most kids heard that these Beatles only wanted to Hold our Hand and Please Please us, Oh Yeah. The adults heard a horrible caterwaul, presaging the end of the world.

At the height of the British Invasion, the Soupster’s parents received a message from his grandmother. She would be coming for a visit. She would be taking an airplane for the first time in her life. Please be at the airport when she arrived.

Flying on a plane was a big deal then – people dressed up, acted civilly and paid through the nose for their tickets. Granny Soupster was counting on a genteel trip. How could she have known the Beatles would be arriving at her airport just as she departed?

Thousands of screaming young girls crammed every inch of every corridor at the airport. The Soupster’s grandmother pressed forward through the ecstatic teeny-boppers, getting bopped along the way. At one point, she thought she might not make it and actually started to cry. Airline workers apologized for the chaos and blamed the Fab Four.

After a cocktail and a warm towel aboard the plane, Grandma calmed. When she saw the Soupster’s parents waiting for her, she calmed further and gratefully accepted help carrying her suitcase to the car. After kisses all around, she settled in the back seat, between the young Soupster and his sister.

“Want to hear a song, Grandma?” the kids asked. Hardly waiting for an answer, they launched into a spirited version of “Twist and Shout” right into the old lady’s ears.

“This is terrible!” cried Granny. “What is this horrible song?”

“Why, Grandma,” they said. “it’s the Beatles!”

“Beatles? Beatles?” Granny shouted. “I hate these Beatles!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 10, 2015

Our Town – September 10, 2015

| Airplanes, Fishing, Our Town, Tourists, Travel | September 10, 2015

The Soupster observes unsustainable drought measures.

At the airport for a Goldstreak and a slice of Strawberry-Rhubarb, the Soupster saw Lydia “Wrong Tide” Lerner, weaving her way among the luggage carts stacked high with white cardboard fish boxes.

“Wrong Tide” is an unfortunate nickname in a fishing community and, also unfortunately, what Lerner’s name portended was true – when fish saw Lydia coming, they swam the other way.

Nonetheless, Wrong Tide was an enthusiastic consumer of everything fish-related, was fiercely loyal to the commercial fleet and could mutter under her breath in way that allowed her still to be heard.

But she muttered something now that the Soupster could not hear above the general terminal noise. He called out “Lydia! Wrong Tide! W.T.!”

At last she turned around. “Soupster,” she said. “How long have you been watching me?”

“Just a minute, I just saw you,” said the Soupster, taken aback.

“Oh, don’t listen to me,” Wrong Tide said. “I get all worked up when I see all these big white boxes full of fish. When you don’t catch fish, you get real jealous of them. You don’t want so many fish leaving town with other people.”

“But look at the smiles on all those folks,” said the Soupster. An older woman in a rain jacket blissfully pushed a cart with five boxes of fish, a stack taller than her. “How happy she looks,” said the Soupster after the woman had passed.

“I’m glad for them,” Wrong Tide said, “But those are our fish!” She looked around, then muttered loudly enough for the Soupster to discern, “I better get out of here.”

Wrong Tide left.

Truth was, the Soupster was no stellar fisherman and found himself growing uncomfortable with the long line of people waiting to load their huge boxes of fish. It wasn’t like the Soupster wanted for fish. The expensive species he poached from friends. He kept his freezer full of the cheaper species from the store to fill in any time his poaching failed.

Yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was being taken from him personally.

And then he saw it – how could one ignore it? A small parade – or not so small – passing through the terminal’s automatic door. Three young people in identical forest green polo shirts pushed three luggage carts piled precariously with fish boxes.

The Soupster counted 19!

Bringing up the rear was a white-maned and mustachioed alpha predator, pushing a cart with only one fish box. The man kept a close eye on the three green-clad youths laboring with the rest of his booty.

“Sir,” the Soupster called, feeling ornery.
“You really going to eat all that fish?”

The man slowed in front of the Soupster and pointed to the lone box on his cart. “This much fish, I can eat, yes,” he said.

“What about your other 19 boxes?” asked the Soupster.

“They’re not fish,” said the man. “They’re full of water.” He started rolling his cart again to catch up with his crew. “Hey,” he yelled back. “I’m from California!”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 27, 2015

Our Town – August 27, 2015

| Crazy Theories, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Travel | August 27, 2015

The Soupster hears confessions from a lover of Our Town.

Originally published Oct. 24, 2006

“Because it feels so good when I stop,” Grant — sitting with the Soupster at the sushi bar — tried to say while cramming his mouth with Alaska roll.

“Feels so good when you stop what?” said the Soupster, who had been distracted by the sushi chef’s artful chopping of a huge geoduck clam.

“Well – a long time ago – I used to mean living in Our Town,” said Grant, signaling to the chef to prepare some geoduck for them.

“Really?” asked a skeptical Soupster. “You hated it here that much?”

“When I first moved here the smallness of Our Town got to me,” said Grant. “Having just a few choices for everything – I became bored with that pronto. I came here in the Coast Guard – from Governor’s Island in New York harbor. With all due respect — Lincoln Street ain’t Times Square.”

“Seems like we have everything we need here,” said the Soupster defensively.

Grant ignored him. “And the rain,” the former Coastie said. “The constant rain drove me insane. All the time. The summer I transferred here was like this summer. I came to Our Town in May and waited until early November for more than a single dry day in a row. And actual sunny days? I have a one-armed buddy who could count them for you.”

“Kept my sense of humor, though,” Grant continued. “I remembered the old joke about the man hitting himself in the face. You heard it?”

The Soupster shook his head.

“A man is hitting himself repeatedly in the face,” said Grant. “His friend is horrified. `Why ever would you do that?’ asked the friend. Says the first man, `Because it feels so good when I stop!’

“That’s the way I felt. I loved Our Town, for those first few years.” said Grant. “Cause it felt so good when I went back to civilization. To the United Contiguous Lower 48 states.”

“I never felt that way,” said the Soupster, who had lived in Our Town longer than most professional baseball players had walked the earth. “Those first few years, I wanted to drag everyone I knew up here to live. I got over that, though.”

The sushi arrived. Both men loved the delicate taste of geoduck neck meat – like butter melting in their mouths – and neither spoke while they attacked the plate. Our Town was one of the few places this side of China and Japan where the giant clams made it to the menu.

Grant stopped chewing, spoke first.

“I don’t feel that way anymore,” he said. “Over the years, each time I returned to Our Town from a trip Outside I grew happier and happier to be home. Our Town came to be normal for me, just the right size. Now, there’s only one good reason I ever like to be in the Contiguous United States.”

“You mean…?” asked the Soupster.

Grant nodded. “Because it feels so darned good when I stop!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 26, 2015

Our Town – March 26, 2015

| Leaving Sitka, Our Town, Travel | March 26, 2015

The Soupster compliments an off-road driver.

The man loved Our Town’s cool dampness, its outpost quality, its traditions which he had taken as his own. Despite being known as friendly, the man kept a lot secret. When asked how he’d come to be in Our Town, he would only say, “On the ferry, just like everybody else.”

At another time in his life, the man had loved to drive his car for long distances alone. Herculean drives – 20-hour hauls taking him non-stop from Denver to San Francisco or Raleigh to Oklahoma City. His first car had an 8-track where he played Beatles and Satchmo tapes for company. “Ramblin’ Man.” Later, a cassette player, then CDs.

The man still played CDs sometimes, it helped him when he felt compelled to overlook Our Town’s physical imitations by driving several times from one end of the road all the way to the other, while pretending he was actually going somewhere. Since he moved to Our Town, the man purchased beaters and lemons for cars, to disabuse himself of his desire to escape by a road that went nowhere. And then one day, he had the luck – good or bad – to inherit a nice, peppy, late-model car.

The man drove his new ride to the end of the road and felt, for the first time in a long time, the desire to drive further. He fought the urge.

He liked the new car – it had satellite radio and heated seats. The Soupster, among others, had complimented the man, as though he had lost weight. The man did feel vaguely…proud? Yes, he liked his new car. But ooh, that urge.

One day, as he drove north on the state highway, the urge won.

He passed a shuttered convenience store, then a private cruise ship dock. He felt in no way agitated. More like the calm one feels on the first steps of a long journey.

Past the ferry terminal he drove, and the last vestiges of Our Town disappeared into the forest. He saw the “End of Road” sign ahead of him. He closed his eyes for a split moment and wished that he could keep driving, keep driving. Keep driving.

And when he opened his eyes he saw a very familiar sight – the 24-hour SeaTac restaurant, 13 Coins. Late-model cars whizzed past on either side of him along the straight-as-an-arrow road festooned with motels and eateries. To his left were the elevated tracks of the new light rail by SeaTac Airport. The man and his peppy car worked their way up International Boulevard toward Seattle.

The man was confused. He pulled into the parking lot of a Denny’s and went inside for coffee. He sat at the counter pondering his experience when a big trucker with a kind face sat down on the next stool.

The trucker looked just like the old actor Pat O’Brien, who often played priests. So the man told the trucker his whole story. “…and then there I was,” the man told the trucker. “I mean, here I am.”

The trucker was the non-judgmental type. His only comment was, “Wow. How are you going to get the car back home?”

The man was silent for a second. Oh, I’ll probably put it on the ferry,” he said. “Just like everybody else.”

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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

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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Comments Off on Our Town – July 4, 2013

Our Town – July 4, 2013

| Airplanes, Flying, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, Our Town, Travel | July 4, 2013

The Soupster looks at blue skies without rose-colored glasses.

The Soupster stared out the airplane window. The scene reminded him of a still life: blue sky suspended above a thick blanket of clouds. Only an occasional shudder of the wing and its subtle tilt away from the horizon hinted at the 36,000 ft altitude and 300 mph speed he was traveling at.

“See anything?” asked the woman next to him, craning her neck for a better view.

The Soupster turned to face her, unsure whether to focus on her penciled eyebrows, glossy lips or hoop earrings large enough to be bracelets.

“Blue sky” he replied, turning back to the view. “Blue – sky,” he repeated silently to himself. It had a pleasant ring to it. “Been a while since I said the words ‘blue’ and ‘sky’ in the same sentence,” he said out loud. The woman raised her eyebrows quizzically. “It’s not that there isn’t’t blue sky in Our Town, it’s just that it’s often on the wrong side of the clouds,” he explained.

The woman continued thumbing through her airline magazine. Every other page seemed to show a luxury resort or condominium, edged by beaches and drenched in sunlight.

As the plane dipped, the blue-sky-and-cloud-canopy gave way to snow-capped mountains, which then morphed into dry brown hills. Finally they were circling over a sprawling metropolis: their destination. The grid of buildings and roads, with traffic winding through, reminded the Soupster of a circuit board buzzing with electrical activity.

A few hours earlier the Soupster had been glad to be getting off the rock, but now he realized he was also glad for his return ticket. Closing his eyes, he was back in Our Town, sitting beside the sea, throwing a stick for his neighbor’s dog. She would bound over rocks into the water to retrieve the stick, then flop down in sandy seaweed to gnaw on it. A seiner plied the black, glassy surface of the sound, with a backdrop of forested hills rising into the mist. The Soupster sighed. The fresh, salty air was cool on his skin and a breeze rustled his hair.

“Thank you!” boomed the overhead announcement, shaking the Soupster out of his trance; “We appreciate your choosing our airline…have a great day!”

The Soupster smiled. “A good choice indeed,” he said, turning to the woman to congratulate them both. A mystified look washed over her face again. The Soupster felt obliged to clarify. “Well, considering there’s no other airlines to choose from… I guess we could have taken the ferry… But we’d still be three days away from our destination and probably wandering around looking for the best lounge to unroll our sleeping bag in. Anyway, as they say, the sooner you get there, the sooner you can get back.”

The plane landed and the Soupster strolled down the jet way, into the sea of humanity. “Doesn’t’t take long to know which side of the clouds you belong on,” he thought, taking a deep breath and making his way forward.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 25, 2013

Our Town – April 25, 2013

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, Our Town, Travel | April 25, 2013

The Soupster and a friend get philosophical about travel.

“How was your trip to Southeast Asia?” asked the Soupster between sips of a creamy latte.

“Amazing!” Kate replied. “I’m still dreaming of Thai curries – green beans so fresh they squeak when you chew them, in coconut milk with ginger and basil. I could have a bowl right now,” she confessed, chomping on her bagel. “And a drink of cold juice straight from a coconut – top chopped off and a straw sticking out,” she added.

“Make that two!” the Soupster said.

Kate gazed at the shiny glass jar of cookies on the counter, deep in thought. “Travelling’s fun,” she mused, but there’s something about being able to walk into a café back in Our Town, see familiar folks, get a big mug of freshly ground coffee with real milk, and spend time visiting with people you know well.”

“It’s true – there’s no place like home,” the Soupster agreed.

“And,” said Kate with sudden inspiration, “there’s no toilet like the one you’re used to – one that’s clean, dry and comes with a seat and toilet paper. It can be hard to figure out bathroom etiquette when your only clues are a plastic scoop and a barrel of water next to a hole in the floor. Actually, I think I knew what to do, but was in denial,” she said.

The Soupster laughed. “I feel quite lost when my mountain of Costco toilet paper runs out,” he admitted. “Desperate times calls for desperate measures – paper towel maybe, but water? Never!” the Soupster vowed.

“Toileting aside, I do have incredible memories” Kate said. “Like, in Myanmar – thousands of ancient Buddhist temples littering the plains of Bagan, a sea of young monks chanting scriptures in a monastery, and a 15-hour trip down the Ayeyarwady River on a steamer.

“In Laos,” she continued, “waking at dawn in a tree house overlooking a misty forest canopy, to the sound of gibbon calls. And crazy bus trips, hurtling down mountain passes with incredible views beyond sheer cliffs.”

“A bit scary?” the Soupster asked.

“Huh!” Kate grunted, eyebrows raised. “It’s nice to know that a bus trip in Our Town isn’t a matter of survival of the fittest, and that drivers use gears instead of stopping every few miles to hose down their breaks with cold water.”

“Also, over there, the women may seem exotic, but it’s nice to know that our daily beauty routine doesn’t involve grinding down tree bark to make a stinging paste to rub in beige circles on each cheek. I’m glad our jewelry doesn’t include a permanent stack of heavy brass rings around our necks, and that a pedicure doesn’t mean dangling our feet into a tub full of hungry little fish.

“Well, Soupster”, Kate concluded, “it’s good to get off The Rock and it’s good to come back.”

“Gotta agree with you there,” the Soupster replied – “like Dorothy said, there is no place like home.”

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – February 14, 2013

Our Town – February 14, 2013

| Airplanes, Airport, Crazy Theories, Flying, Our Town, Travel | February 13, 2013

The Soupster tries to peddle a fishy additive for coffee

The Soupster made sure his tray table was stowed and his seatback in the upright and locked position. Though he recognized several people on the flight, he tried not to meet their eyes. When the plane landed, he hoped to slip away from the airport and back to his house with as little notice as possible. He was a mauled-up animal looking to get back to his lair ASAP to lick his wounds.

The peppy flight attendant with the red scarf came down the aisle holding a white plastic bag into which the Soupster dutifully deposited his trash. Otherwise, he kept his eyes and his hands to himself. He waited for the plane’s wheels to touch the ground.

They did — with a screech and an extra gravity or two pressing on the Soupster’s chest. He felt his usual combination of relief to be home, admiration for the pilot’s skill and wondering if Our Town needed a longer runway.

He joined the line of people prying enormous roll-ons out of the overhead bins and wheeling them out. A deplaned Soupster noticed that “Grounds for Departure” was open and he sidled over there for an espresso.

“Give me a tall latte with two shots and a fin,” he told the barista, whom he did not recognize.

“You must be from here,” she laughed, as she mixed his drink. “This is my third espresso job in three states and this is the only place where people ask for salmon oil in their coffee.” She placed a steaming cup before the Soupster.

He sipped the familiar concoction. “Good,” he murmured. She had gotten the dollop — or “fin” — of salmon oil just right.

“You guys must be crazy,” said the barista. “Salmon oil? In coffee?”

And there was the rub (not salmon rub). For the better part of the previous two weeks, the Soupster had piloted a rental car over hundreds of miles of the Lower United States, trying to introduce his “Authentic Salmon Oil Coffee Sauce” to the owners of scores of coffeehouses and drive-ups. Nobody had been in the least interested. One busy barrista had asked him to leave the premises.

The Soupster carried his drink outside the airport and got into a waiting cab. “Coffee smells good,” said the driver, whose ID said “Simon.”

“It is,” said the Soupster.

“Latte with a fin, right?” Simon said.

“It is,” marveled the Soupster.

“A fin is so good… I wonder why they don’t give you a fin Down South ever,” Simon said. The driver’s words were soothing and poignant music and the Soupster wandered in his own thoughts. “They don’t know what they’re missing,” Simon said, as the cab slowed in front of the Soupster’s house.

“Bet the baristas all over town are busy,” said Simon. “We had a tsunami warning at midnight last night and we were all up evacuating until the all-clear at 2 a.m. Everybody’s been groggy all morning – they’re definitely all going to need a pick-me-up!”

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 17, 2011

Our Town – November 17, 2011

| Airport, Fall, Flying, Our Town, Seasons, Travel, Weather | November 17, 2011

“Ugh,” said Jeanne, a schoolteacher friend, as she plopped into the passenger seat of the Soupster’s car. “You hear the weather report?” she asked, as the Soupster pulled out and made for the airport.

“I’ve got plenty of time,” Jeanne continued. “Oh, ugh, my keys and my tickets,” she said, rifling through her purse. “No, it’s fine.”

“You know you show a lot of hubris flying on an airplane in Southeast Alaska with the weather this time of year,” said the Soupster. “You really tempt Fate.”

“Oh, pshaw, don’t tell me one of your flying-back-and-forth-between-Anchorage-and-Ketchikan-for-four-days stories,” said Jeanne.

“Actually, I was going to tell you a stuck-in-a-foggy-Juneau-airport-for-a-week story, but I now I won’t,” said the Soupster, mildly wounded.

“Look at the view from this bridge,” marveled Jeanne as she surveyed the harbor below where an outgoing float plane and an incoming longliner expertly slid past one another.

“I think Our Town is the prettiest when you are just about to leave on a trip and when you just return from one,” the Soupster said.

“Ugh, you would say that,” Jeanne said.

“Jeanne?” asked the Soupster. “Tell me again why I agree to do you favors like drive you to the airport?”

Jeanne leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Because you are my dear and kind friend,” she said.

They had reached the terminal and the loading/unloading area. Although Our Town is spared the big airport cops whose job it is to move you along in fluctuating big city airport terminal traffic (worst gig in the world?), the Soupster felt some responsibility to stay on task.

“Want me to walk you inside?” he asked.

“You’re sweet,” said Jeanne, as she pulled open the door to the car. “My bag is light. I’ll just let you go.”  She opened the back door of the car and grabbed her suitcase.

Another car pulled up ahead and several young women got out. One of them wore astounding boots. From the shin down they were the familiar neoprene brown of Sitka Sneakers. But from the mid-calf up, the boots were flocked with shearling wool. They looked like the offspring of Xtra Tufs and Uggs.

“XtraUggs,” said the Soupster, pointing.

“You’re right,” said Jeanne. “This bag is heavier than I thought!”

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Our Town – July 14, 2011

| Airport, Crazy Theories, Ferry, Jokes, Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Travel, Visitors | July 14, 2011

It wasn’t easy to make the Soupster feel like the stuffy serious one, but Cousin Robb had always had just that effect on him.

“The great ferry Malaspina,” Robb pronounced, as soon as the first-time visitor to Our Town stepped off the ramp to meet up with “Cousin” Soupster. “The name derives from the Russian word for `bad spine’ right?”

“Actually, Malaspina is named after a glacier which is named after an Italian explorer named Alessandro,” said the Soupster.

“Then why isn’t the ferry named `Alessandro?’” asked Cousin Robb.

“That’s his first name,” said the Soupster.

“Anyway,” said Robb. “It’s so good to be in Alaska. `Alaska,’ that’s probably Italian, too. Italian for `everyone should ask.’”

The Soupster had been trapped in this routine before. His parents were very close friends with Robb’s. “Cousin” Robb was eight years older and, when enlisted as the Soupster’s babysitter, would torture him with bad puns. “Protuberance,” he remembered Robb saying, “It’s Latin for `professional potato-eating insect.’”

So when they passed the spiral white warning sirens along HPR, the Soupster heard himself falsely answering Cousin Robb’s innocent question of “What are those?”

“They’re fluorescent streetlights,” the Soupster jived. “They save a bunch of electricity and they last five times as long as a regular streetlight.”

They passed Maksoutoff St., which Robb guessed was Russian for “to force a businessman to remove his suit.”

At the airport, Cousin Robb had such crazy definitions for everything that the Soupster lost it.

When Robb pointed to the flashing yellow light the airline used to tell passengers their luggage was coming, the Soupster said, “It’s a tsunami warning beacon, Cousin Robb. This is important. If you ever see it go off, start running for high ground.”

“Tsunami, that reminds me,” said Cousin Robb and asked directions to the men’s room.

As he waited for his cousin to return, the Soupster thought about how churlish he had been. Cousin Robb was just excited and interested in Our Town and who wouldn’t be? The Soupster just needed to calm down and play the good host.

As if on cue, the rotating beacon starting spinning, spilling a yellow strobe light on everyone and everything. Cousin Robb ran up and grabbed the Soupster’s arm.

“Tsunami,” said Robb. “A Boston term meaning `take Norman to court.’”

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Our Town – February 10, 2011

| Airport, Nicknames, Old Timers, Our Town, Travel | February 10, 2011

Whenever the Soupster felt like an old timer, he’d run into someone like Gregor “GG” Gregorovich, whose mother descended from a long-time Our Town family. If there had been a Permanent Fund for the whole of GG’s life instead of just the last half of it, GG would have gotten his check every single year. He was born in his family’s house off Sawmill Creek and had never, ever been out of Our Town for more than 90 days in a row.

At the airport, the Soupster was just thinking “Been in this burg a while,” when he saw the hulking Russian buying a mocha and a smoked salmon bagel from the caffeine kiosk.

The Soupster stepped up to the main counter, where a young woman who used to sell him Girl Scout cookies and 3 holiday wrapping paper now smilingly checked his photo identification and oversaw his purchase of more than $1,000 in airline tickets. The Soupster staggered away, clutching his tickets in his hand.

He felt the tug of time. Driving home with a smashed taillight a week ago he had been pulled over by a police officer so young the Soupster was tempted to call him “Son.” Girl Scouts ran the airport.

The Soupster then felt a tug, really, as GG sidled over and grabbed the Soupster’s arm. The big man had already eaten most of his bagel and held the last bit and his coffee in his other large paw.

“You planning a trip out, Soupster?” asked GG. “You probably like all that stuff in the Real World.”

“Less and less,” admitted the Soupster. “I used to love going to the Lower 48. After spending a couple of years in Our Town, Down South seemed like some kind of Disneyland. Everything was amusing, even traffic jams. Now, not so much.”

“Well I never go anywhere,” GG said proudly. “I just enjoy being in Our Town, especially in January.”

“Why January?”

“January is the only total experience – monthly experience – that I get all year,” GG intoned. “After New Years Day, I’m still aware of passing individual days, like January 5th or 6th. Then a week goes by and then another. And everybody starts saying, `Wow, it’s the 15th already?’

“Then I get up into the January 23rd to 26th range and I realize something very nice is coming to an end. I find myself savoring each day in January as kind of a slow- down, time-out kind of month.”

“And when January’s over?” asked the Soupster.

“February and beyond?” said GG, staring out the picture window as a big jet landed. “After January, the rest of the year is just a blur.”

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Our Town – April 9, 2009

| Airplanes, Couples, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships, Travel | April 9, 2009

Having escaped fires, snakes and sharks down under, the Soupster was glad to be heading home. After scanning the plane for familiar faces, she found her seat and settled back to enjoy the last leg of her long journey. The plane was de-iced, and took off into the night sky.

“Have a look at this,” husband urged, shoving an Aircraft Safety Instruction brochure in front of the exhausted Soupster. A woman was leaping through the aircraft doorway over an inflatable slide; an Olympic gymnast, legs straight out in front of her, modestly covered by an unruffled skirt. Husband raised his eyebrows; “You’d think she’d have taken off her high heels first,” he commented.

In the next picture, a plane was floating in the sea, an inflatable slide attached to a doorway. At the end of the slide, a man in the water was effortlessly turning the slide around, converting it into a raft. This time, the Soupster raised her eyebrows, trying in vain to picture herself performing the feat in freezing water.

Another picture showed a floating aircraft surrounded by 4 inflatable slide rafts that had been released. Each raft had 12 people floating in the water, hanging onto its edges. “You want to make sure you’re one of the 48 people who gets a spot on the raft,” husband chuckled. The Soupster shifted her attention to other pictures with warnings not to jump off the aircraft wing onto a raging fire or a pile of rocks.

Suddenly it was time to fasten seatbelts and prepare for landing. It was snowing heavily and the lights in and around our town were invisible.

The Soupster tightened her grip on the armrests as turbulence shook the plane. She checked the pouch on the seat in front of her for the sick bag, and then looked out of the window. At the speed they were moving, snow flakes rushing past horizontally created an illusion of being on the ground, or very near to it. The descent continued. Images of crashing into the sea and swimming around in dark, freezing water, trying to find a spot on a raft were disconcerting. Her life flashed before her, along with the headlines: “Soupster perishes as plane misses runway.”

Suddenly the aircraft changed direction and began to gain altitude. “The pilot was unable to see the runway lights and will make one more attempt to land,” a voice boomed from above. Thankfully, the next attempt was successful.

The air was still freezing and snow still shrouded the landscape. Spring was mostly still asleep. Thoughts of warm, sunny, foreign lands teased the Soupster momentarily. But warm welcomes, friendly faces, loving embraces and feet on solid ground made the Soupster smile. She was extremely glad to be back, safe and sound, in the wonderland of Our Town.

— Submitted by Lois Verbaan DenHerder

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    The Soupster Lives!

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    Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.

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    Whole Soup is a PDF version of every page of the Soup, just as it appears in the printed edition.

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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