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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

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 – November 7, 2013

Our Town – November 7, 2013

| Darkness, Fall, Our Town, Seasons, Storms, Weather | November 7, 2013

The Soupster hunkers down.

The Soupster was not damp, but everything outside of the walls of his house couldn’t have been soggier. In Our Town, “Fall” might better be called “Thrown At” because the rain and/or hail of the season seems propelled downward by a force greater than mere gravity.

The Soupster was feeling bored and lonely, so he was happy when Carla called from Minnesota. “Bored and a little lonely, but dry,” the Soupster said when Carla asked how he was.

Carla chattered on about her busy kids and husband Josh and her going back to college and Josh’s new job. Then, she said “Oops, I’m getting Call Waiting, must be Josh or Rebecca, I’m supposed to pick both of them up. Can you hold?”

The Soupster did. With the phone to his ear, he wandered to the door to his back porch, where the portion covered by a fiberglass roof played wonderful rhythms as it hailed. The sound rose and fell like the aural equivalent of those little birds whose large flocks turn on a dime: sheets of sound, rippling and turning, rising and falling.

Carla came back on, “Sorry, Soupster,” she said. “That was Becky who needs another half hour before I get her. So you’re lonely and a little bored?”

“Actually, bored and a little lonely,” said the Soupster. “This is a rough time of the year, weather-wise.”

“Tell me about it,” said Carla. “I’m an Our Town girl. Remember, you just have to make it to Thanksgiving. Then the holiday lights go up and you start seeing friends and having too many places to go. And then it’s New Years and you start to notice the light coming back.”

“Encouraging, Carla,” said the Soupster.

“I hate to do this,” Carla cut in, “But I’m getting another call. Will you hold again?”

The Soupster did. The hail slacked off and a shaft of sunlight cut through the otherwise dark sky, came through the window and fell upon a small ceramic planter in the shape of a fish with big blue eyes and enormous crimson lips. Carla had presented the Soupster with the fish two decades earlier, after he helped her move. This was before baby Rebecca and even before husband Josh.

Next to the fish was a half-scale raven (or full-scale crow) carved out of wood. Steve Jessup gave the Soupster the raven after the Soupster took Steve’s parents out on his boat. An entire dog family, paper mache, stretched out on their paper mache couch – this was on the bookshelves – a gift from somebody. Above the dogs, tucked tightly, signed copies of all the books by Our Town’s writers over the years.

The Soupster touched the arms of his sweater – knitted by Giselle for his birthday. In the pantry, canned sockeye and an array of jams. All canned and arrayed by various friends.

If he wanted to, he could gaze on the paintings and sculptures tinted and carved in Our Town. Or he could pop in a CD cut by one of Our Town’s bands.

Carla came back on the line. “I can see why you feel lonely,” she said. “I keep abandoning you.”

“You know, I don’t feel lonely,” said a satisfied Soupster, taking in his surroundings. “Not anymore.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 18, 2012

Our Town – October 18, 2012

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan, Newcomers, Our Town, Relationships, Storms, Weather | October 18, 2012

“Emery!” the Soupster called, glancing up from the outboard he was hunched over.

The cyclist screeched to a halt. “Hey, Soupster! How’s it going?” she asked cheerfully.

“Havin’ trouble with my starter,” the Soupster said, standing up with one hand on the engine and the other supporting his lower back. ”And this drizzle ain’t helping my mood none,” he complained. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

“An inspiring, scenic location to write in the rain,” Emery announced.

“Write in the rain?” the Soupster echoed.

“That’s right, I’ve got a new notebook and pen that you can use in the rain,” Emery said.

“Yeah, I know the ones,” the Soupster nodded. “Official types of people use them.”

“And that’s why today I officially declare myself to be a local,” Emery replied.

“Why today?” the Soupster asked. “You’ve clocked up at least 5 years in Our Town, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, but as you know, becoming a local is a process,” she said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. First you’re a tourist, wandering down the main drag, wearing your new fur boots and hat.

Hang around a few more days and you realize you’re gonna need some rain gear. So, you get the cheapest you can find.

Then you start doing the wilderness thing. Before long, you discover you need gear that’s breathable, waterproof and indestructible, so you go back for more — more expensive this time.

You learn that cotton kills and start stocking up on wool and polypropylene. The variety of gloves, mittens and liners seems overwhelming at first, but you focus on your size and get a pair of everything. Wool, fleece, leather, Gor-Tex and neoprene all have a use.

Before you know it, you have your very own Alaska Sporting Goods Emporium. Then, just when you think you have everything you need for life in rainforest Alaska, your Xtra-Tuffs start leaking.”

The Soupster took over. “So you patch them with duct tape, till you realize that even duct tape has its limits. Time for new boots. The old faithfuls are converted to slip-ons, used for taking out the trash, quick trips to the grocery store and camping.”

Emery laughed. “So, just when I thought my emporium was fully stocked, I discovered a line of ‘Outdoor Writing Products for Outdoor Writing People’ that can all be used in the rain.

There are even these pens that’ll write under water, upside down and in temperatures ranging from -30 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ve actually been used on a manned space flight.

So, I’m now the proud owner of a new notebook and pen. My adventure barometer tells me that ice climbing is going to pale in significance compared with things to come,” Emery predicted.

“Let the adventure begin!” said the Soupster. “And congratulations on becoming a local,” he added, extending an oil-stained hand to shake her neoprene glove.

“But before you go, a quick question: do the words ‘cheechako’ or ‘sourdough’ mean anything to you?” he asked, a twinkle in his eye.

– Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 9, 2010

Our Town – September 9, 2010

| Accidents, Children, Darkness, Neighbors, Nicknames, Our Town, Recycling, Relationships, Seasons, Storms, Weather | September 9, 2010

The Soupster remembered his conversation with his neighbor’s grandson with some regret. He felt he was a little harsh with the boy when the youngster tried to lecture him about recycling. The Soupster searched his mind for the just right word to describe his own behavior – which was gruff and hostile out of reflex.

“I was `churlish,’” thought the Soupster and because he was alone, he said aloud, “Like a churl.”

The truth was that the boy had hit a sore point. The Soupster’s mental commitment to recycling often outstripped his physical actions. To wit: The Soupster’s mud room overflowed with paper bags of mixed paper, stacks of newsprint, aluminum cans and sheet metal, tin cans, glass bottles and jars and a good-sized sheaf of cardboard leaning against the wall.

“I must get all that stuff out of my mudroom,” the Soupster thought.

But it was night.

And not just night, but a night that signaled the change in seasons from summer to fall. To wit: A particularly dark and blustery night in Our Town, with the rain blowing sideways in good-sized drops.

Nonetheless, to make up for his churlish behavior, the Soupster put on a slicker and cap, filled his arms with recyclables and jammed them into the passenger area of his car. When he was finished, the Soupster had just enough room in the front seat of his car to cram in behind the wheel.

This time of night, Our Town’s real action was in the supermarkets, which blazed in the blackness like little Las Vegases. But the Soupster kept true to his quest and drove by the stores without stopping. He could think of a few things he needed, but what if someone saw the state of his car right now? “Lucy, you’d have some ‘splainin’ to do,” he chuckled.

It being unusual conditions to be using the Recycling Center, the Soupster found himself alone there, surrounded by big metal bins on which the heavy raindrops beat a complex rhythm. One-by-one, he tipped up the metal hatches of the bins with one hand and tossed his recyclables in with the other. Glass, metal, a plastic bag of shredded paper, the cardboard and mixed paper and the aluminum and tin cans. All that was left was the #1 and #2 plastic, which were to be deposited in four-foot high canvas bags supported by sideways wooden slats.

Depositing the bag of #1 plastic went without incident. But the bag of #2, not so much.

When the Soupster tipped over his second bag, the supporting piece of hard plastic at the bottom of his bag fell out and into the bin.

The Soupster tried to bend over the edge to retrieve it, lost his balance and tipped over into the bin with his head among the #2 plastic and his feet sticking straight up in the air. He tried to pull himself out and could not. Slow minutes passed.

Then, the area was bathed in light as another car pulled up to the plastic containers holding the upside down Soupster.

For good or ill, it was Steve “Big Mouth” Larssen, out on a late-night recycling run himself.

“Number two plastic?” said Steve, surveying the scene with his hands on his hips. “Soupster, I’d think you were at least #1.”

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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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