Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, April 29, 2016

In case you haven’t seen it yet, there was an article in the ADN yesterday about Alaska Senate President Kevin Meyer having a $100 meal with lobbyists a week before voting to buy the LIO building in Anchorage. Oh, did I mention the lobbyists worked for the owner of the building. Anyhow, here’s what Meyer’s had to say about the issue:
“Meyer said that the idea that lawmakers should pay for their own meals when they dine with lobbyists is a “topic worth discussion.” But the very idea seemed to perplex him.
“We could pay for our own way,” he said. “I’m just trying to think how that would work.”

OH DEAR LORD! Here’s how it works. The check hits the table. Everyone takes out their wallet and pay for their portion.
See, that wasn’t hard to figure out, now was it? Even a politician should be able to follow the protocol without much difficulty.

Elise Patkotak • 03:36 AM •
Thursday, April 28, 2016

It would be the ultimate irony if the Legislature ended up in Anchorage at the Taj Mahawker. In a time of fiscal crisis, they will be drawing down money we can’t afford to continue their goal of figuring out what other group of Alaskans they can put the screws to. They’ll do this while sitting in a building that they neither need nor deserve. These legislators claim to be fiscal conservatives while spending money the state doesn’t have because they can’t do their work on time. Yet they propose to penalize state workers who actually have to be punctual, work a full day and get their assignments done on schedule. They are not being fiscally conservative. They are being very bad human beings.

But that’s apparently fiscal conservatism Alaska style. Their motto is, “We got ours and we’re coming after yours.”
Nationally, Republicans tend to loudly declare that they are the party of fiscal constraint. They are the party that will keep government in check and out of your pocket. 
But here in Alaska, our version of fiscal conservatism looks a tad different. A Republican led legislature has dominated our statehouse for years now, spending the money as fast as it came in with seemingly little thought to the future. These vaunted fiscal conservatives never had an emergency plan for when the oil ran out or the price crashed. They never looked towards the future further than their next election bid. And if they needed to spend every cent as quickly as it came in to keep getting re-elected, then so be it.
When the crash hit, our fiscal conservatives responded by offering to buy a building for $32 million while cutting needed capital projects across the state. They are taking more and more state money as the session runs on and on but they are trying to cut the salaries of the people who actually make the government function. They are fiscal conservatives who were caught off guard (I’d say with their pants down but, well, you know) when the floor dropped out of our state’s budget. How does that happen to the party that claims it can be trusted with our money so much more than the other party? They not only didn’t have a plan B, they hadn’t ever really thought about one.
I grew up in what can easily be called a fiscally conservative household, as did probably most of the people reading this of a certain age.  Our homes were fiscally conservative because our parents were the Depression Generation and they knew full well how fast the bottom could fall out of your financial plans. Many of their childhoods were marked by uncertainty over when the next paycheck would come to pay the rent or buy groceries. Others grew up in fairly secure homes but saw the devastation of the Great Depression all around them. They grew up being careful with their money. They didn’t buy now and pay later. If they couldn’t pay now, they paid in installments. For many of our parents, their financial plan was to always have enough finances to buy the groceries and pay the heating bill.
Coming from a background like this, I find myself someone who is very uncomfortable with debt and tries to carry as little as possible. If I see something I want and know I can’t afford it, I sulk and wish I were rich and then do some extra work or cut some other expense out so I can eventually afford it. That’s fiscally conservative.
Somehow this train wreck in Juneau thinks otherwise. They live in that Hello Kitty world where everything is pink and pretty and never will be any other way. In their world, oil prices would never fall this low, and they certainly couldn’t imagine the price so low for so long. No, in their pretty pink world our non-renewable resources stretched on into eternity and we all rode unicorns to the state fair.
Making a financial plan for when the bottom falls out, making a financial plan in case tomorrow happens is what a true fiscal conservative would do first. Because he would then know exactly what kind of expenditures could be safely made today while ensuring a sound tomorrow through prudent planning.
But hey, that’s not how Alaskan fiscal conservatives define themselves.

Elise Patkotak • 03:54 AM •
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I was totally blocked on this week’s column. Thought I couldn’t do one more piece about the incompetence coming out of Juneau. But then I thought of how they call themselves fiscal conservatives and it was like a steam engine blowing. It took less than an hour to draft out the column. I guess I still have things I want to say to that clown car we call a legislature. It will appear here on Thursday or read it Wednesday in the Anchorage Dispatch News.

Elise Patkotak • 03:57 AM •
Saturday, April 23, 2016
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Here’s my Captain doing what he loved to do best… eat. Is it any wonder that we spent 38 wonderful years together. He may have been hell on wheels, but he was my hell on wheels and I still feel as though my heart is broken and will never be whole again.
Fly free over that Rainbow Bridge. And may you have all the walnuts you ever wanted for as long as you want them. No one left to say you’re getting overweight. It’s a dream we both shared.
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Elise Patkotak • 05:06 PM •
Friday, April 22, 2016

We need a new incubator at Bird TLC and we need it ASAP since baby bird season is about to start. We don’t have the money for a new one but a group is helping us raise money for the incubator. Go to http://www.babywarm.org/projects/amy-k/ and make a donation. The babies and I both thank you.

Elise Patkotak • 10:39 AM •
Thursday, April 21, 2016

Help me out with this. If I work in the real world and have a boss who hands me a priority assignment and a deadline, doesn’t my future in that job pretty much depend on getting it done in a timely fashion? Seriously, how many of us have bosses who would allow us to routinely ignore their priorities? How many would just keep giving us extensions because we decided we had our own priorities, priorities that weren’t necessarily what our boss had in mind. I’m guessing that out there in the real world, your boss would start questioning your importance to his or her organization. Your job might even end up in jeopardy.

So how is it that our Legislature has once again found itself absolutely surprised and astounded that the session is ending and they haven’t managed to do anything about the one thing their constituents actually think is the most important priority of the current session? How is it we watch this year after year and never question our sanity in sending these people back down there and hoping this once they’ll get it done on time?
I’m not saying that some of the bills that actually got passed weren’t important.  But sometimes it seemed some legislators were hell bent on creating problems that didn’t exist in order to craft solutions that served very specific special interests, interests that might have deep pockets for their upcoming re-election bids. Other times they seemed simply tone deaf to what their constituent were saying.
Maybe I’m not getting it, but given the staunch opposition to abortions among some of our legislators, how do they justify trying to keep people out of our schools that have the best chance of teaching teens how to not get pregnant? And if anyone even tries to reference that old canard about abstinence being the best way to go, I think they need to do two things: One, think back to their teen years and two, Bristol Palin. If you want to stop abortions and STDs, then you teach teens how to handle the incredible forces swirling around them, from peer pressure to hormones, and you give them the tools they need to make safe decisions. Teens have been having sex since sex was invented. Like with the War on Drugs, just say no is not a very viable solution.
But there’s more. At a time when they should have been solely focused on digging us out of the multibillion dollar hole in our budget, they were busy trying to get guns on UA campuses despite the objections of just about anyone with an ounce of common sense. Seriously, guns, teens, drugs and alcohol… what could possibly go wrong?
Finally, my all time favorite decision to come out of this ship of fools: Let’s not build that school they need in Kivolina, let’s buy ourselves a glass walled building so we can look down with disdain at the peons with the pitchforks. Their torches can’t burn glass.
So here we are again, at a time when the session should be at an end. Instead we hear talk of extended sessions and special sessions because if there is one way to dig us out of the fiscal hole we’re in, it’s by running up the bill for legislative sessions.
The Republicans are saying they have a bill they could pass on the budget if those darn Democrats weren’t holding things up. Really? You just now realized that pretty much ignoring them throughout the regular session wasn’t a good idea? You thought you’d wait until the last possible moment and then pick up the phone and say “Oh yeah, BTW, did you want to have any input into the budget since we need your vote to get money from the Constitutional Budget Reserve?”
In the real world, these clowns would have been fired a long time ago. Alaskans sent them to Juneau with the clear priority of balancing our budget. Survey after survey shows the majority of Alaskans know the free ride is over and we have to start bearing our share of the burden.  In fact, the only people who don’t seem to know this are the Republican majority in Juneau.  Which is the best argument you will ever hear for not sending this clown car full of the same bozos back there next year.

Elise Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Amazon parrot Captain and I have been together for 38 years. I found him dead in his cage yesterday. He waited for me to come home from my trip and died the next day. As soon as the Geek Squad gets here and figures out why my scanner and computer stopped speaking to each other, I’ll scan in the best picture I have of him. He was not the friendliest of birds. He had a very definite personality that mostly said he would accept you only on his terms. But I loved how feisty he was. I loved how he met the world on his terms. He spent the last years of his life trying to take off our vet Dr. Nicholson’s fingers when he went in for his beaky/pedi. I always thought he’d stay around until he had succeeded in removing at least one of them.
I love you, Captain. Fly free. Say hi to Adeline and Morris and Kenya and Lovey and Mr. T. I can’t wait to join you over that Rainbow Bridge. The world is getting lonelier and lonelier and I long to be reunited with all my beautiful birds and dogs in a place where none of us will ever again be sick or get old.

Elise Patkotak • 04:48 PM •
Monday, April 18, 2016

I got in at 1 Am last night. I’m not sure of how many hours of time change at this point. But I think I just wrote my column with my nose while snoring on the keyboard. I’m going to bed now.

Elise Patkotak • 03:40 PM •
Friday, April 15, 2016

Leave today for St. Louis. Tomorrow is THE WEDDING. Then back to Anchorage on Sunday. May not wear a bra again for the next month after this.

Elise Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Thursday, April 14, 2016

Not since the Eggplant Lasagna War of 2012 has my family been so divided. But that has now faded into the distant past as the Great Hardboiled Egg Lasagna Debacle of 2016 has overtaken it both in terms of vehemence and hysteria.


It all started with my sister’s request that I make lasagna for Sunday dinner at Cousin Joe’s house. That would be cousin Joe Jr. as opposed to Joe 3, or Joseph the progenitor of all that followed, or cousin Joe from New York, or any other of the multitudinous Joe’s in our family. You see, we are a family of tradition. In every generation it is required that there be multiple Joe’s and an equal number of Marina’s, all named after the first immigrants who set foot on these shores from the old country. Along with the names, we inherited the recipes.
On this particular Sunday, as the lasagna was served, first murmurs, then gasps, then cries of horror emanated from the crowd as they discovered the slices of hardboiled eggs in the dish. The debate raged on all afternoon. My sister valiantly defended her choice as being a Sicilian version of the iconic dish. My cousin Marina called her daughter who is a chef on the West Coast to get confirmation that this was a legitimate add on. Despite the chef’s agreement, it was still felt that since we are not from Sicily, the dish was suspect. Plus the chef’s still a kid so what did she know?
Young children gingerly picked the egg out of their portion under the watchful eyes of parents who wanted to be sure their understanding of lasagna was not tainted. Others murmured under their breaths that everyone knew that if you wanted more protein in your lasagna, you made it with meat sauce. But with eggs? Truly an abomination.
This debate carried on through the main meal and well into dessert. The chemistry and biology of a lasagna was dissected minutely and never once was any member of the family able to come up with justification for changing what had been handed down to us. It was finally agreed that I’d had a momentary stroke but was recovering and would some day be cleansed enough to rejoin the family circle. Judy, being the perennial baby of the family, was absolved from all wrongdoing despite the fact that it was her idea in the first place.
That, my dear reader, is what my family is all about. Laughing. Loving. Eating. Arguing. Being together as a group that supports each other even when someone introduces hardboiled eggs into the mix. And this is why Les Gara fights so hard to get foster kids into stable homes where they can be part of a family. Because no group can replace what family brings to the table in terms of love, support andsomeone to pick you up when you have a flat tire at 1 AM in the middle of Lincoln Drive. Or someone to point out when you’ve made an abomination of a treasured family recipe.
So many kids in the foster care system dream of the perfect family they were taken from. We know those families weren’t perfect and we know those childhood memories can be very self-editing. You only remember the good times because the bad are simply too painful. But you also remember those good times because inside all of us is an overwhelming desire to belong to someone, somewhere who will expect us for the Sunday family meal after church or just assume we’ll be showing up with Nona’s sweetbread to the summer cookouts. We want to belong to a group in which we are accepted and embraced, in which we can laugh and talk and visit and know that every person in that room would surround us with support and protection if needed. They would always have our backs.
Foster kids not only deserve this, they need it to grow up and out of the system with a model of a healthy family in which they participated. If we can’t provide that to them, then two things happen. One is that child will never know if lasagna should have hardboiled eggs or not. And two, that child will be adrift and anchorless through their formative years and that’s a surefire recipe for losing them in the future.
Elise Patkotak • 03:56 AM •
Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I go into a dressing room. My sister runs back periodically with armloads of clothes for me to try on. I walk out of the dressing room an hour later with enough clothes to last me for the next five years. And if god is good to me, I won’t have to do it again for even longer.

Elise Patkotak • 03:10 AM •
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

If my sister and I didn’t look so much alike, serious questions could be raised about whether we could possibly really be siblings.
She took me to a concert at the Keswick Theater in suburban Philly on Saturday to hear a group called The Faux Four. I think because it was Beatles’ music she assumed I would have A. heard the songs before and B. would enjoy it.
Halfway through I had to get up and go to the lobby where a nice lady gave me ear plugs. I shoved them so far into my ears I swear they were touching my brain. Then I put my fingers over my ears to drown out the sound even more. Then I went to the farthest end of the lobby to get away from the sound. And yet it was still too loud. My head vibrated, my brain vibrated, my whole body vibrated. I wanted to jump up screaming “Inside voices! Inside voices!”. In the end, I simply realized this was why I haven’t been to a concert in over forty years and why it will be even longer before I go to one again.
Seriously, why does it have to be so loud that it makes your ears bleed?

Elise Patkotak • 03:02 AM •
Monday, April 11, 2016

My sister and I drove from Atlantic City to Philly on Saturday through a snow storm. In April. In New Jersey. What the hell?
Woke up the next day at her friend’s house where all their blooming lilies had just given up during the night and drooped sadly in death.
But thank god the Republicans are still assuring us that there is no such thing as climate change.

Elise Patkotak • 09:58 AM •
Thursday, April 07, 2016

People who had issues with the concept of a privileged class founded America. Somehow we’ve managed to circumvent their intent and created our own version of a privileged class that is seemingly answerable to no one for their actions. No, I’m not talking about the Kardashians. Given what our political leaders have been doing recently, the Kardashians are starting to look fairly normal. This is why we should all be grateful that the next election is only seven moths away.

Yes, it is still that long until we get the chance to show the politicians that they are not a protected class and can lose their jobs just like all the people being laid off due to their budgets cuts. Cuts, may I add, that would not have to be so severe if legislators found the guts to face their overlords and restructure a tax policy that somehow has us giving the oil companies more than they give us.
So while it’s true that this political campaign season seems to have begun somewhere in my childhood, Election Day will eventually arrive and we will have the chance to show those who would be our leaders just what we think of their leadership.
If history is any guide, it’s more than likely that we’ll return the same tired faces to state and federal office that have held those positions for decades. They will proceed to function as though what they’re doing is what they promised to do if elected.  The dichotomy between the unhappiness and outrage expressed by many citizens over how their legislative bodies act seems often to be wildly out of sync with what happens on Election Day. We just keep sending them back year after year as though this time we think they will act in our best interests and not theirs.
While the debacle playing out on the national scene in the Republican nominating battle is only a couple actors short of a farce, Alaska has no room to brag. After all, Don Young is still our representative. (Sorry Republicans, but let’s face it, for sheer insanity, the Hillary/Bernie show is nowhere near as insane as the Trump/Cruz/Kasich/”please god anyone but” extravaganza of the Republican campaign this year.)
But let’s for a moment focus on the upcoming elections for the Alaska Senate and House. Last week our elected officials finally bit the bullet and made that hard call on the Anchorage LIO building. They thought and thought and thought about it. They commissioned study after study. They took testimony and held hearings. And in the end they decided that they simply could not go back to a world in which their trashcans didn’t salute them as they passed. I guess this makes sense. We won’t salute them or bow to them when they pass so they had to find something that would.
So while cutting programs that would benefit the poorest and neediest, while gutting a scholarship program that was a lifeline for so many young people seeking higher education, while telling seniors to move out of state because they are useless and expensive to keep around, they somehow found a way to offer to pay $32 million dollars for the Taj Mahawker. Wow. Even for Alaskan politicians that’s an amazingly tone deaf move. Granted the offer is $2 million less than the asking price, for which I assume they expect praise for being Trump-like negotiators. But I still wonder where that $32 million was when all those other cuts were being discussed. Did it roll under the bed so they just didn’t see it?
The real question in all this is whether the anger expressed by Alaskans all over the state at the pathetic functioning of our legislature – which once again will probably have to go into overtime and maybe even a special session after that – will translate into anything at the polls in November. Or we will again send the same dysfunctional group back to Juneau and then react with dismay when they continue to be dysfunctional.
In a democracy, you get what you elect. Given our current legislative make up, Alaskans are either voting while very drunk, very high or totally asleep at the wheel. If we don’t change whom we send to Juneau, why in the heck do we ever think the results coming out of there will be any different?

Elise Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Wednesday, April 06, 2016

On the East Coast visiting family and not getting to my webpage like I should. I’ll do better soon. Or not. I’m on vacation and feeling like I am responsible to no one. Will post columns on this page everyThursday as usual. So check in tomorrow for sure. Other than that… you’re not the boss of me. I can blog whenever I feel - oh god, who am I kidding. I was raised on Catholic guilt by nuns. I will get back to posting every day in order to ensure my chances at heaven.

Elise Patkotak • 06:33 AM •

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