Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, July 29, 2016

Because I referenced the devil in yesterday’s piece does not make me a devil worshipper. Nor is he like Beetlejuice. Merely saying his name does not produce him. 

Elise Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Thursday, July 28, 2016

I respect Governor Walker because he seems a man of principle willing to take the heat in order to do what’s right. Let’s compare that to the current Alaska Legislature, which has finally gaveled its way into shameful retreat from its major responsibilities. Not only did they not have the guts to do what was needed to get our fiscal house in order, they didn’t even have the guts to gavel into session and take up the Governor’s cuts to their budget. No, they just tucked their tails between their legs and slunk home, letting the Governor take full responsibility for doing what needed to be done.

Seems to me if these politicos really objected to the cuts that Walker made, they would have stood up and been counted by voting to overcome his vetoes. Given their inaction, I can only assume that they knew the cuts had to be made and were happy to have Walker do it so they wouldn’t have to face any real questions during their re-election bids.
How did we ever elect such spineless wonders to our Legislature? If we’d been drinking or smoking collectively as an electorate and this Legislature was the result, it would make some sense. But electing these people while sober calls into great question our good taste and common sense.
I am hoping that by this point Alaskans have figured out that the only adult in the room this year in Juneau was the governor. Everyone else was a two year old having a temper tantrum because the price of oil refused to go up far enough to relieve them of any adult responsibilities or decisions.
So here’s what we can expect over the next few months of campaigning. Your elected officials will send you mailings, create TV ads and hang things on your doorknob that explain how, if sent back to Juneau, they will restore everything the governor cut AND still balance the budget. These legislators will tell you that Walker is to blame for everything and that when they go back to Juneau, they will stand up to him and his insane need for a somewhat balanced budget. But that begs the question of why they didn’t override his vetoes when they had the chance during the special session.
It may feel odd to be discussing local politics when national politics seem to have taken a turn down the rabbit hole. But while presidential politics may grab the biggest headlines, local politics are really where things happen. So while we should definitely pay attention to what is happening nationally, if only for the humor of watching the Republicans twist themselves into pretzels in explaining their support for their candidate, we should probably be paying even more attention to local elections. And given Alaska’s fiscal position right now, we should be totally focused on who goes back to Juneau next year because, short of a miracle, things are going to get worse before they get better.
If you are worried about your dividend or the possibility that we might end up asking the last person leaving the state to turn off the lights, then who gets elected to our state legislature is as important, if not more so, as any president. And right now, the clear impression being given off by the politicians who recently returned from Juneau is that they are way more interested in keeping their jobs and amazingly generous per diems than they are being the adult in the room when it comes to making hard decisions.
There’s an old saying that it’s better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don’t. That simply is not true in our current choice of elected representatives. It is very clear that the devil we know is incompetent and unable to figure out a fiscal plan that will pull us back from the precipice. Yet these officials are still so full of themselves that they think we should send them back to Juneau for another go round. The devil we know is sinking this great state into a morass of debt and uncertainty. Short of another oil boom, the current crop of legislators clearly have no clue what to do.
Time to clean house and at least dance one dance with the devil we don’t know. It couldn’t possibly be any worse than the devil we’re dancing with now.

Elise Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tomorrow’s blog piece will contain references to the devil you know and the devil you don’t know. If references to Satan cause you discomfort, consider yourself warned. Also, consider getting a life.

Elise Patkotak • 03:26 AM •
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

If only they would make me Queen for the Day, I’d clean everything up and be in bed by nine. Politicians are useless.

Elise Patkotak • 03:48 AM •
Monday, July 25, 2016

You know you’re old when Survey Monkey tells you it is looking for a survey for you to take and comes up with one asking if you have bladder leakage.

Elise Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Friday, July 22, 2016

Don’t know who exactly I’m thanking but given my misery of the past week in the heat, I feel I need to thank someone for the cooler weather and rain.
Bring back winter.

Elise Patkotak • 03:16 AM •
Thursday, July 21, 2016
image

It’s been a pretty rough summer so far. Nothing seems to indicate it will get any better. I thought that perhaps it would help if we all stepped back, took a deep breath and talked about something that isn’t politics, terrorism or racial divisions. So let’s talk about porches and neighborhoods.

I have pictures of my dad’s mom, my nonna, sitting on a folding chair in front of our grocery store. She watched the world go by, visited with just about every customer that came in the store and enjoyed just being “in the neighborhood”.  I have a similar picture of my mom’s mother sitting in front of my grandfather’s grocery store. She has a friend sitting on either side of her. They would sit in those chairs for hours while visiting and keeping an eye on what was happening on the block. The sidewalks were safe so long as the nonnas sat outside keeping vigilant watch.
My godmother lived for a long time in an East Coast row house. She had a big beautiful porch for sitting and rocking. So did every house on either side of her and going up and down the street as far as you could see. The porch was critical in the days before air conditioning when you needed a cool place to save you from the heat inside. But it was also an invaluable social construct in that it brought people out of their houses and into a community setting. I am of the firm belief that it was one of the reasons kids could play out with such impunity. We had built in security. It also meant built in snitches. None of us would have ever dared to call our grandmas that for fear of how far our mothers would chase us waving a wooden spoon and muttering something about kingdom come. But snitches they were. If you did something wrong or disrespectful, your mother would know about it before you got home.
I recently built a porch on the front of my house. I find myself very open to inviting people to come sit and rock on the porch with me. While I am often uncomfortable inviting people into my house, I have no problem inviting them on to my porch.
I think building the porch was my way to try and recreate that feeling of my childhood when so much of neighborhood life was lived outside. Whatever the motivation, I spend a lot of time now on the porch rocking and reading the paper and sipping tea and wishing winter would return because the heat is killing me.  And as I sit rocking, it occurs to me that porches are too valuable a social tool to let them fall by the wayside and become just more historical detritus. In fact, I think every “toaster” house in Anchorage should be retrofitted with a porch because houses without this outside “room” tend to repel, not encourage, community. There is honestly nothing open and inviting about a house whose front is a garage and whose door is a small entry on the side of the house and back off the road. Nothing about that construction encourages neighborhood feelings of cohesion. Nothing about those types of houses speak to children playing safely outside.
The more I think about it, the more I think porches may be the salvation of our fractured society. A requirement should be inserted into every city building code in this country that says you have to have a front porch. If America is feeling so divided right now, maybe part of the problem is that we’ve built our homes to close us in and others out. That doesn’t happen on a porch. On a porch, you deal with everyone and everything going by. And who knows, maybe it can help us become a coherent community again. Maybe it can heal some of the divisions we are experiencing by forcing us out of our homes and giving us back that sense of neighborhood that was so much a part of life not all that long ago.
I truly believe that porches are a key component to healing our divisions. Or maybe I’m just frantically looking for an answer to the sadness that is this summer. Bring back porches and, for the love of god, bring back winter.

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Elise Patkotak • 03:10 AM •
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I was ready to settle down on the porch with a Long Island ice tea and New York Magazine when I took a perhaps too big sip. Suddenly column ideas flooded my brain. I ran inside to document them and then went back out. But I no sooner got outside than I had another idea and ran back inside. This in and out went on for more times than I care to admit.
Question - dogs can’t legally file commitment papers, right?

Elise Patkotak • 03:41 AM •
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I have finally accepted that when I do my own hair each day, I don’t have a hair style as much as I have combed hair. But at least it’s presentable… kinda.

Elise Patkotak • 03:26 AM •
Monday, July 18, 2016

A dear friend of many years is coming to visit in August. She sent me an email inquiring into Alaska’s dress habits for going out to dinner in nice restaurants. This was my response. For the record, Judy is my sister.

In general, people in Alaska have a much more relaxed dress code than people in the lower 48. When Judy comes to Alaska, she says she knows she’s going in the right direction because the closer she gets, the more she sees people who dress like me. And I don’t believe she means that as a compliment. So the one truly lovely restaurant I want to take you to will be inhabited by people in business wear, tourist wear, the occasional carharts and everything in between. We don’t stand on ceremony much up here. So long as you have clothes on, we feel that’s really all we can expect.

Elise Patkotak • 03:58 AM •
Friday, July 15, 2016

Mel Gibson. He’s made it clear he shares many of Trump’s more… shall we say troublesome… views. And he hasn’t been working much lately so he probably has the time. I’d suggest Clint Eastwood but after that talking chair thing… well, best to let him fade in peace and not destroy the image he worked so hard to build.

Elise Patkotak • 03:47 AM •
Thursday, July 14, 2016

I came of age in the 1960s. My memories of the early sixties involved sock hops, Ricky Nelson and bubblegum rock. But as the sixties wore on, things changed. By the middle to late sixties, summers became almost a time of dread as America braced itself for another season of race riots. I’m starting to get a strange sense of déjà vu all over again.

Shocking as this may sound to some, electing our first African-American president did not end race problems in America. We are no more in a post racial period than I am a size 10. And, quite frankly, neither of those things are apt to happen in my lifetime. Racial prejudices and hatreds go pretty deep and can’t be wished away by holding hands and singing Kumbaya.
We have certainly come a distance since those days of summer rioting. Mixed race couples are much more common and we have finally gotten rid of the laws that made those relationships illegal. There are more African-American members of Congress than ever before. African-Americans are more visible on our TV screens in parts that don’t involve shucking and jiving or being the help. There is now a better chance that your doctor, lawyer or accountant will be African-American or a mixed race person.
But the events of recent weeks show with disturbing clarity that we still have miles to go in the ongoing battle for equality. Given the inequity in our justice system that sees African-American men incarcerated at rates far beyond their percentage of the population; given that African-American men are more likely to be both stopped by the police and shot by the police; given that multiple experiments have shown that African-Americans are more apt to be hired for a job based on their credentials if the employer doesn’t know their race; given all this, it is clear that America still has a long way to go in becoming a truly just and integrated nation.
I was one of those sixties hippies who participated in sit ins, marches, demonstrations… you name it and I was there. I honestly thought that we could end racism in our time. I thought if enough people marched and sang and held hands together, everything would be ok. I was a very naïve white girl who had no real comprehension of the African-American experience in America or how deep and painful the scars were.
Now here we are, almost fifty years later, and we are facing the possibility of more summers of riots over the very same problems. So where did we go wrong? Or did my generation just get busy with jobs and children and not have time for social issues anymore? Did those issues just slide under our radar as other things like the Internet and gluten took priority?
When I moved to Barrow, for the first time in my life I was a minority – a privileged minority, but a minority nonetheless. I was lucky I was in a community that accepted me despite the color of my skin. Even so, I became acutely aware of what it feels like to walk into a room and be the only person of my race in that room.  It’s not an easy gig. And I can’t imagine what it must be like to live with that everyday of your life.
Being white also meant that when my mother told me the police were my friends and if something happened I should go immediately to find one, it was true. I never feared the police. Silly as it sounds, even when I was involved in protest marches, I still felt a certain security in seeing the police around. But if you are African-American, I imagine your mother would have an entirely different conversation with you about police. It would revolve around not giving them any reason to shoot you.
Not all cops are bad. After working with many of them while in Barrow in social services, I can say with some assurance that most are pretty amazingly wonderful. And clearly not all African-American men are criminals. I have no trouble being supportive of both the police and the Black Lives Matter movement. They are not diametric opposites. They are, in fact, opposite sides of the same coin, a coin that stands for equal treatment of all Americans, no matter how they hyphenate their race.

Elise Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I picture Republicans hiding behind their desks and not answering their phones for fear they will be asked to offer themselves up as a sacrificial lamb in the form of Trump’s VP.

Elise Patkotak • 03:45 AM •
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Doesn’t Trump look like a hybrid of a human and overripe cantaloupe? Though I have noticed in recent appearances that his hair is looking more normal… not normal, but just more normal, not so much rising off his forehead. Maybe this is his way of being presidential?

Elise Patkotak • 03:43 AM •
Monday, July 11, 2016

Horseflies

Elise Patkotak • 03:41 AM •

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