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Comments Off on Our Town – March 23, 2017

Our Town – March 23, 2017

| Children, Our Town, Youth | March 23, 2017

The Soupster reminisces about childhood games with the librarian.

“Here for more of your favorite biographies, Soupster?” Ms. Conklin, the librarian said at the book check-out counter.

“There’s nothing more interesting than the life stories of people,” answered the Soupster.. “Nothing in the whole world.”

“What is it about biographies that so particularly fascinates you?” asked Ms. Conklin.

“The patterns of a life,” the Soupster said, “especially from the vantage point of the future looking back. Minor events that go this way and that hold vast influence later on.”

“Sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” he concluded.

“Pardon?” said Conklin.

“It’s the term they use in math’s new chaos theory,” the Soupster explained. “Small changes at one time mean big changes in another. A butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing and it affects the weather in New York.”

“I find for instance,,” he continued, “that people who excel in certain areas in later life – like music or even finance – show an early talent and interest in related topics.”

“True for me,” said Ms. Conklin. “When I was a child, I actually used to play library. All my friends would play house or with their dolls. I would line up all my books, my desk and a chair and make my parents come in my room, choose books and then check them out. I had a special little bear stamp I would use. I even used to make friends of my parents check out books when they came over to visit.”

“What did you play, Soupster?” Conklin asked.

“War stuff, “ said the Soupster. “A Union soldier trapped behind Confederate lines. Sailors in a flooded engine room trying to plug up the leaks. On another planet against monsters. Whatever hostile dramas we saw on TV and in the movies.”

“My family had no TV, so we read a lot” said Conklin. “Which may explain my library game. I used to play swimming pool, too. I made my parents rent towels and take a fake shower before they could sit on the living room couch. I used to blow a whistle at my father and make him get out of the deep end. They thought I was loony.”

“Were you ever a lifeguard?” asked the Souipster.

“I was never a lifeguard,” Ms. Conklin said, stamping the return date into the last of the Soupster’s biographies. “But I’ve saved people from drowning in some really lousy prose.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 16, 2016

Our Town – June 16, 2016

| Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Youth | June 16, 2016

The Soupster hears about eating with your hands.

The Soupster watched his friend Rory chew raw broccoli with his mouth wide open. Then, Rory used his hands to pick up another piece of broccoli, dip the stalk into a reddish brown spicy sauce and add the morsel to the slurry he was already working in his mouth.

“Rory,” said the Soupster. “You are one disgusting eater.”

The two men stood at the island in Rory’s kitchen, grazing on the ingredients that would be their broccoli beef in about an hour. Rory was showing the Soupster how to cook it. “I come from a long line of disgusting eaters,” Rory admitted. “My grandfather and my great-grandfather were notorious for eating with their mouths open. And burping very loud. My great granny used to make my great grandpa eat in a separate room from the guests.”

“Hard core,” said the Soupster. “I noticed you left your father off that list. How did he eat?”

“My father was a gentle man,” said Rory. “The mouth breathers were all on my mother’s side.”

“Yup, my mother was the colorful one in my family,” he continued. “I was a little ashamed of my quiet father. No, not ashamed. Just that I never expected very much from him.”

“What do you mean?” the Soupster asked.

“I had a lot of friends growing up and their fathers always seemed to loom large in their lives,” said Rory. “They might love their fathers or fear them or both, but they worried about how their fathers were going to react to something they did. I never worried about what my father would think of what I did.”

“Maybe you thought your father was fair and you didn’t need to be concerned,” the Soupster said.

“No,” Rory said sadly. “I just never thought about him.”

Then he got animated. “There was this one time I remember being really proud of my father. At a chicken dinner.

“My little league team took first place one sea­son and all the kids were invited to an awards banquet to get their trophies. Me and my Dad went. My family didn’t belong to a country club or go to a lot of weddings, so the whole get-dressed-up-to-eat thing was off my radar.

“The shindig was held in the dining room of a fraternal organization – I forget which animal. A bunch of long tables — everybody sat grouped with their coach and team. The first course served was your standard fruit cup and the headman of Little League welcomed everyone while we ate the cubes of canned pears and peaches with little spoons. Next came an invo­cation, more speeches and a course of soup with large spoons.

“Then they served the oven-baked chicken course. We were wearing ties, so naturally we all thought we had to eat the chicken with a knife and a fork. But none of the kids and only about a third of the adults managed to eat. Most of the kids just flailed around.

“My father watched all this in his quiet way. To the left and the right of him, people struggled with their knife and fork. And then my father reached down and picked up the chicken with his hands – he had a thigh, I think – and he chomped down. Etiquette said you only have permission to eat fried chicken with your hands. But my father didn’t care. Within three minutes, everybody in that banquet hall was happily chomping on the baked chicken in their hands.

“My father was a pretty good guy,” he concluded.

 

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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 – November 19, 2015

Our Town – November 19, 2015

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

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 – May 23, 2013

Our Town – May 23, 2013

| Our Town, Relationships, Relatives, Youth | May 23, 2013

The Soupster unexpectedly wears the pants in the house.

Originally Published June 14, 2007

His nephew wore the largest blue jeans a flummoxed Soupster had ever seen on a fellow human being. That is, in the unlikely event that a well-ripened Soupster and this particular 13-year old boy would consider each other a fellow anything.

The boy was marooned, washed up on Our Town’s shores — the Soupster pitied the boy that much at least. His parents — the Soupster’s sister, one — left their son behind while on a three-day cruise to Skagway and back on the sometimes romantic Alaska Marine Highway.

It had been four years since the Soupster had seen his nephew, who had metamorphosed from a sweet and somewhat shy 9-year-old into his present state, like a caterpillar that turned into a wasp.

“Uncle,” said the boy. “Aren’t your bored living here? It’s kind of like Alcatraz.”

“It’s anything but,” the Soupster thought, but he held his tongue. The Soupster sought to keep his confidence level especially high because of the coming visit of a cruise ship carrying the girl, now woman, that the Soupster had always thought of as the “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.” He’d dated Sally briefly in college while she was estranged from her then boyfriend and now husband, Thurston. Then and now, Thurston was successful, which the Soupster considered a fair deal for being named Thurston.

The Soupster hadn’t wanted Sally to return to Thurston and had always entertained the idea that, deep down, she hadn’t wanted to either. “What if she picked me?” the Soupster had often thought and it was that kind of thought that made him excited about Sally’s visit.

“Those blue jeans, of yours,” the Soupster said to the boy, the best defense being offense. “You know, big pants are imitating prison clothing where they take away your belt and your pants fall down.”

The boy stormed from the room.

The Soupster and his nephew kept a wordless truce for the rest of the day. He spent the morning of Sally’s visit cleaning house, while the boy was off on a neighbor’s boat. The Soupster had just finished the boy’s laundry, which included the enormous blue jeans.

The Soupster picked them up. Off the boy, the blue jeans didn’t seem so huge. The freshly washed jean cloth was soft and still warm from the dryer. The Soupster looked to the left and then to the right. And then he put on the pants. They fit — not like a glove — but better! The years had increased the Soupster to the point where the blue jeans fit as well as jeans had when the Soupster was in college.

He wore the blue jeans all the way to the docks, where he peered at the passengers coming ashore. “Sally!” he called out.

“I can’t believe it’s you!” Sally exclaimed as she neared. “Thurston’s coming.”

The two old friends embraced. Thurston or not, the Soupster felt great. Sally looked him over with a wicked pleased grin. “Nice pants,” she said.

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 16, 2011

Our Town – June 16, 2011

| Crime, Our Town, Small Town Stuff, Youth | June 16, 2011

“Lock your car,” said the old TV ad. “Take your keys. Don’t make a good boy go bad.”

The Soupster was proud that Our Town disproved the above. He was sure he was not the only person in town to regularly leave his car unlocked, which didn’t seem to be making good boys go bad.

The good boys who went bad seemed to do so of their own volition, despite the wealth of unlocked cars Our Town offered. And the bad boys who went good also seemed to be piloting their own ships. Not to mention all the good and bad girls.

Now, the Soupster did usually take his keys out of his unlocked car, if for no other reason than his car made an unpleasant clanging if he didn’t. Maybe, if he had left the keys in the ignition a few times, he would have made a good boy go bad. Not that he wanted to.

How the Soupster thought he might make a good boy go bad was by leaving enticing items on the front seat of said unlocked car. A bag of donuts or burgers, current magazines fresh from the post office, a spiffy new tool – those kinds of things.

Or a rented DVD.

The DVD in question was “Fair Game” about the Valerie Plame incident – she was a CIA field operative (spy) whose identity was revealed for political reasons. A thick conspiracy full of twists and turns.

And that intrigue must have infected the Soupster, because later in the evening, when he went to find the movie and couldn’t, he thought that a good boy might have gone bad and stolen the DVD.

He knew Our Town was an honest place. He hated the old saying, “It’s the exception that proves the rule,” but he couldn’t help thinking that it applied in this case.

How much did DVDs cost to replace? $30? $50?

A small price to pay for the honest waters he got to swim in, the Soupster thought. It was almost a relief to know that Our Town had a limit to its honesty. You couldn’t go leaving $50 bills laying around and expect them to be there when you got back.

He went to bed a wiser, chastened man.

The next day had a glorious sun/cloud ratio and a sea breeze, so the Soupster decided to hoof it to the video store to further cement his new, sober outlook. He looked upon passersby, knowing now that every one of them probably had a dark side capable of all sorts of mischief – possibly least of all, pilfering “Fair Game” DVDs.

The Soupster swung open the door to the rental store. “I owe you some money,” he told the clerk. “Someone must have taken “Fair Game” from my car.”

“No one lifted anything, Silly,” said the clerk, after scrolling down her computer image to an entry on the Soupster’s account. “Someone found “Fair Game” in a parking lot and returned it for you.”

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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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