Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, August 22, 2014

While you are in the laundry room getting ready to do a load of wash, your dog brings his plush toy in and lays it at your feet, then sits back and stares at you.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Thursday, August 21, 2014

This column’s deadline is before the results of yesterday’s primary are announced. So congrats to the winners, better luck next time to the runners-up and to the rest of Alaska, enjoy the brief twenty minutes of silence we will have before the onslaught of political noise leading up to the general election.

Given how diverse a country we are, that we can come together to vote on issues and then, for the most part, live with the results no matter how mad they make us, is amazing.  If you travel through America at all, you quickly come to realize that our continuance as a nation is quite remarkable. Go to Europe, Asia or Africa and, in travelling the same distances, you will pass through four or five different countries with distinct cultures that would find it difficult to successfully mesh into a working democracy.
Travel through America and you are also travelling through the equivalent of numerous distinct countries, each with their own customs, beliefs and agendas. I recently read a long piece by travel writer Paul Theroux in Smithsonian Magazine. He traveled through the American south and, quite honestly, described a world as different from the one I now live in, or the one I grew up in, as the north of England must seem to the residents of sub-Saharan Africa. So how does America manage to hold it together as one country and not break into a bunch of warring factions like we see in the mid-east?
It’s only because we have remained one united country that we’ve been privileged to not have to endure the horror of war in our back yards since the Civil War. Europe, South America, most of Asia, the mid-East – each of these places has endured the horrors of war on their soil within memory of the living. In forming the European Union, the countries of Europe seem to acknowledge the destruction of hundreds of years of war and the need to unify for both peace and prosperity. Here in America, we’ve been unified since the beginning. And when that unity was threatened, we fought a war to preserve it. That war was costly, painful and horrible but, in retrospect, has probably saved us from even worse pain by keeping us as one.
As the political rhetoric of campaigns seems to get nastier with each iteration, and louder with each corporation that jumps into the fray, the one thing we need to avoid at all costs is making the process so lethal and poisonous that it prevents the healing needed after the vote to get on with the business of America. If there is one thing that bothers me above all else that the Republican Party has done since Barack Obama’s election, it was stating openly and clearly that their only goal was to defeat anything and everything he and the Democrats advocated. That’s not exactly a platform that gives me any hope for our future. We need to come together after each election and figure out how to work together. Whether or not you like any given politician, the fact that the person was elected by a majority of the voters means that a majority of those who bothered to vote want that politician working for them. And that means sitting down with the opposition and figuring out how to go forward in the best interests of America, not in the best interests of any particular political party.
America has been called a grand experiment. Can a people as diverse as we are succeed as one nation or is our inevitable end to become another middle east where they are still fighting wars thousands of years old? We have got to figure out how to work from the middle so that the divide does not become so large that it cannot be bridged.
So as much as democracy in a country as culturally, religiously, regionally and politically diverse as we are can be loud and messy, as we walk away from yesterday’s voting booths and head towards November’s, let’s use the pause in all the noise to be thankful that despite it all, this union endures. We need to make sure whoever is elected in November understands that it is our unity that makes us great. In that regard, we truly remain number one.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:13 AM •
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

And to all who didn’t… if I hear one word of complaint out of you about how things are going, I will swiftly kick you in the ass. Either get involved with democracy by voting or shut up and live with the results you let others create.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:14 AM •
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I must not accept the fact that no matter how many times I step into the shower and step out through the same glass door, Carm will sit pressed against the shower door in the absolute certainty that there is a hidden door on the other side and someday I’ll step through it and he’ll never see me again.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:52 AM •
Monday, August 18, 2014

When Snowy is sitting outside ignoring my commands to come in, I try lowering my voice to its deepest register since ALL the experts say that dogs respond to the lower voice, assuming it’s the alpha male. Snowy just looks at me as though wondering if I’d lost my mind and then turns around and continues to stare into the distance, no doubt contemplating the eternal verities of the universe.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:09 AM •
Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tuesday is the primary here in Alaska. Please get out and vote. I don’t care how you vote. I mostly care THAT you vote so some small percentage of people in this state don’t end up making decisions for the vast majority.
And then after you’ve voted, pat yourself on the back and enjoy the approximately 25 minutes of silence before the ads for the general election in November begin.
God help us but democracy can be noisy!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:05 AM •
Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Snowy, as usual, snarfed down his doggie kibbles without pausing for air. He then went out to the porch about 30 minutes later and threw up the kibble in two nice little piles. I decided to see if the rain would wash it away before I actually had to go clean it. But there it was after the rain. I was going to clean it, honestly, but got diverted. By the time I remembered and went back to the porch, I was just in time to see a magpie making off with the last bit of it. Charming. Just charming.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:20 AM •
Friday, August 15, 2014
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Thursday, August 14, 2014

I was thinking about this week’s column and kept coming up with topics that probably make us all want to run screaming into the night. I could write about the oil tax debate because, as we all know, you can’t hear too much about that. And the four million political ads we’ve seen the past few months certainly have affected my view of how great the summer has been. I could write about how these two issues have sucked all the air out of anything else on the ballot, but I think we’re all well aware of that by now. I could write about how I’m getting pretty discouraged with democracy in this current iteration. I get that corporations are people and can spend as much as they want based on their inherent freedom of speech guarantee. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to run madly through the streets screaming “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” at them.

We’ve all been immersed in it so long that we can’t remember what summer smells like, what baby birds singing sound like and what peace and quiet is at all like. So I decided to write about none of that. Instead I am going to write about the fact that I am a bird person. I’m a dog person too, but long before dogs came into my life, I had a parrot. Mark Twain has a great quote about this: “She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.” That describes me more than I care to admit.
When I moved to Anchorage a few years back, one of my great joys was to become a volunteer at Bird TLC and with a parrot rescue group. Lo these fourteen years later, I am still with Bird TLC and I now am the proud parent of a Conure, three Senegal parrots, an African Grey parrot, a Bare-eyed cockatoo and an Amazon parrot of questionable parentage.  I never meant for it to get this out of control. It’s like the lady who collects cats. You say yes to taking one in and the next thing you know…
Given the composition of my household in which animals, including three rescued dogs, outnumber humans by a large margin, inviting humans in can be problematic. I figured this out when I saw the look of horror that crept across my friends’ faces when I invited them over for dinner. Apparently not everyone enjoys sharing their meal with screeching birds whose whistles hit notes even dogs can’t hear but which can do serious damage to the eardrum of the unsuspecting.
So I made the decision to move all the birds together into one room downstairs, far away from my living room and dining room, to allow humans control over some small segment of the house. I won’t pretend that once I did it I wasn’t lonely. I’ve had at least one parrot in my life since 1970. I don’t know how to eat in silence without the whistles, chirps and requests for kisses coming from cages scattered across the room. I would have caved and moved them all back upstairs had it not been for the ulterior motive I have in all this.
Much as I love my friends and did this so they’d accept dinner invites with enthusiasm and not reluctance, the real reason I did it is that I have to concede that age has slowed my reflexes. With winter rapidly approaching, I had to come up with a way to exercise that didn’t involve cleats on my shoes and a terrified trek on an icy sidewalk. I emptied out the upstairs so I could install a stationary something. I’m thinking stationary recumbent bike but I’m still looking around for what will look best as a clothes hanger in the future. Let’s face it, we all know that is its inevitable end. Show me a person with a treadmill, stationery bike or solar flex machine that hasn’t been turned into a clothes hanger and I’ll show you someone who probably won’t ever be my friend.
So there you have it. An entire column that wasn’t about politics, oil, taxes or America’s place in the world. Wasn’t that refreshing?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Last year I had a jungle full. This year I have so few I just pick them and eat them right there because there aren’t enough to bring in. I guess they don’t like sunshine and hot weather anymore than I do.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:26 AM •
Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This Saturday, Bird TLC is having its annual Autumn Wings Festival to wave goodbye to all the birds smart enough to get the hell out of Alaska before winter hits.
Join us at our property above Potter’s Marsh off the Old Seward Highway right past the Russian Orthodox Church from 12 to 4. There will be birds, games, food, coffee… all kinds of exciting things to do and see.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:21 AM •
Monday, August 11, 2014

For the first time in 44 years I am not sharing my living room/dining room with one or more parrots. The final three were moved downstairs yesterday to join the other four. And now the top floor is only for people… and, of course, dogs. But it feels so weird and lonely. I spent half the evening downstairs because it felt so empty upstairs. I’ll admit that it was nice to watch tv without any competing sounds like screeches and high pitched whistles but still… It feels as though they are miles away. I imagine I’ll get used to the silence and maybe even eventually like it. But for now, I’ll be spending a lot more time downstairs.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:13 AM •
Sunday, August 10, 2014
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He is the newest addition to our large and extended beyond belief Italian American family. He may look like a frog now… a distinct improvement over those who come out looking like Winston Churchill… but given the overall size of his head, I’d have to guess he will soon look like all other Zeccardi males. His head will be a third as big as the rest of his body.
Welcome to the family, Luca. We may be a bit insane, but we are your family so live with it! We promise to love you more than you can imagine and hug you more than you can ever possibly want in your entire life.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:32 AM •
Saturday, August 09, 2014

I was wondering why none of those obnoxious political ads were appearing on certain cable channels like Comedy Central. That channel has to be a cheaper buy than some of the others that are drenched with those ads. But I finally understand why they aren’t shown there. It would be impossible to tell the ads from the satire, the real ad from the joke. God this is starting to make me hate democracy.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:13 AM •
Friday, August 08, 2014

Thought I’d try something almost healthy and tasty. Made chili with ground lamb. Waste of good lamb. Once the chili flavoring is mixed in, it could be ground paper and it would all taste the same.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:03 AM •

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