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Comments Off on Our Town – May 23, 2019

Our Town – May 23, 2019

| Airport, Animals, Boats, Fish, Our Town, Travel, Visitors | May 23, 2019

The Soupster chats with an heir to Jane Goodall.

Originally published May 24, 2001

The Soupster stretched out his legs in the molded airport seat, prepared to meditate, nibble on TicTacs and wait for the plane to land. But a visitor appeared beside him, a white-haired fellow who carried a Nat Geo with chimps on the cover.

“Is it Dunkirk? I wondered,” said the fellow, interrupting the Soupster’s reverie.

“I beg your pardon?” said the Soupster.

“I was taking my early morning constitutional, and I saw the most curious thing – throngs of boats heading under the bridge. I’ve never seen so many boats heading out at one time!”

“It’s the Salmon Derby,” said the Soupster.

“A pinkish hat?” said the anthropologist incredulously.

“No, no,” said the Soupster. “It’s a big fishing contest that’s held every year. Everybody from the luckiest fisherman to the most accursed, tries his or her luck to catch the biggest king salmon and net the biggest prize, which has been beaucoup cash. Plus, bragging rights.”

“Ah, yes,” said the anthropologist. “A spring fertility festival. The ritual rewarding of the most successful harvester to ensure everyone’s enthusiasm for the long season ahead. I once worked with a group of people whose `prize’ was given for digging up the largest tapioca root.”

“Who are you calling a tapioca root?” said a voice from the wall above the anthropologist, who turned in the direction of the sound.

The voice belonged to a 70+ lb. king salmon mounted on a plaque. His pointed face jutted out and lips moved like any number of audio-animatronic singing fish. The anthropologist, therefore, did not realize he was in the presence of an authentic airport poltergeist.

The Soupster, however, backed up a few steps and watched passively.

“Interactive,” said the anthropologist, indicating the fish. “Very clever.”

“I’m very attractive,” said the salmon, peering down on the anthropologist’s spreading Male Pattern Baldness. “Which is more than I can say for vous.”

“You speak French?” said the anthropologist.

“I speak salmon,” said the king salmon. “You call it what you want.”

“You seem confident, firm in your role,” the anthropologist told the king salmon. “Rooted.”

“Well, I’m mounted to this plaque,” the wisenheimer king salmon said. “But I wasn’t always.

“Once, I roamed the North Pacific with packs of my friends, thousands of miles past undersea wonders too numerous to utter. I’ve seen orcas cresting at sunset in Prince William Sound, great pods of stellar sea lions off Point Hope. I swam strong and free for seven long years,” and here the fish chuckled, “until I met up with a crafty denizen of the surface. A sly fisherman and former school principal who knew just how to lure a seven-year old. We won the Salmon Derby together that year back in the last century. Well, the money is spent, I’m mounted up here and it’s all a stale old fish story now.”

“Any regrets?” asked the anthropologist.

“Well, if I hadn’t been caught, I’d’ve had kids,” said the salmon. “You know us salmon. We like to have 100 million of them each!”

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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 – 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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Comments Off on Our Town – July 14, 2011

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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Comments Off on Our Town – February 10, 2011

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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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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