Elise Sereni
Sunday, December 23, 2007

One of my dogs was sick on Thursday night. She might have licked up some of the fire splattered grease from the steak. She kept me up all night with her need to go out every 90 to 120 minutes.  Last night I guess I was too tired to hear her. I got up once when she barked and then fell into a very sound sleep.  Who knew she’d have the trots two nights in a row. All over my living room carpet.  And I do mean all over!
I can only assume that if I was younger, I’d have heard her and let her out. I’m simply too old to miss two nights of sleep in a row.  How the hell do mothers do this for years at a time?

Elise Patkotak • 06:17 AM •
Saturday, December 22, 2007

So in case of emergency, I am apparently genetically programmed to move slowly and deliberately. As my steak set my oven on fire last night, and smoke alarms rang all over the house, and birds started looking glassy eyed from the fumes, all I could think about was whether to use whole wheat or white flour to put it out so that the steak would still be edible. I used white flour and the steak was fine. As for my oven, I’m honestly afraid to even turn it on. I think I’ll wait until my brother the fireman comes here again and let him check it out. That should only be a couple of years.

Elise Patkotak • 06:11 AM •
Friday, December 21, 2007

I’m sitting in my office working when my conure in the next room starts screaming. Now usually Wilson is a pretty mellow bird. But he was definitely upset. So I went out thinking that one of the Senegals had annoyed him and I’d just calm him down. I jokingly said, “What’s up, Wison? Is there a moose scaring you?” Then I looked out his window and there was a moose. He was letting me know that danger was nearby.  You’ve just got to love parrots, don’t you?

Elise Patkotak • 06:19 AM •
Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is it just me or does it seem to you that the only entity left with any privacy in this country is the government? For all the blathering about activist judges interpreting into the constitution rights that don’t exist, why is no one yelling about the rights to secrecy being claimed by our current administration that also don’t seem to appear in the Constitution?

The administration in Washington has once again slammed the door on an inquiry by Congress, this time into the destruction of interrogation tapes by the CIA. They say the Justice Department is investigating and handing over any more material will threaten our national security.
Ah, I wondered how long it would take for them to spit those words out. Our government shoves down our throats all manner of unimaginable personal invasions by invoking the words “national security.” And it protects every dirty little secret it might harbor with those same words.
So the trend seems to be that we get to strip practically naked to fly home for the holidays while they get to lock the door and throw away the key on any activities we, as citizens, might actually question.
The contradictions that this administration lives with on a daily basis would be enough to make a sane person crazy.
We are told that life is sacred but capital punishment is OK.
We are told that a woman has no right to the privacy of her womb but the government can’t provide health insurance because our Decider in Chief doesn’t want government interfering in the privacy a patient and her doctor need to make health care decisions.
We’re told that we must give up all dignity and privacy for the sake of national security but the government can keep all the secrets it wants because we, the electorate and our elected representatives in Washington, are clearly too dangerous to trust with that information. It doesn’t matter if the information relates to firing U.S. attorneys or possibly torturing detainees, it’s apparently none of our business.
The phrase, “Trust me. I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help you” is a long-standing joke in this country. Yet isn’t that exactly what this administration is saying to us now? Trust us. We know what’s best for you but we can’t tell you what that is because “they” might find out.
At this point, I’m more worried about us than “them.” The current administration is slowly stripping away our privacy rights. We must give up phone records, bank records, e-mails, shoes and small vials of liquid hand washing soap to them. In return, they raise a wall of secrecy around their activities that makes the Great Wall of China seem small. All of which leads me to believe they have something to hide.
Our founding fathers drew up a constitution to protect the rights of citizens from their government. They’d had the experience of King George making them house soldiers, taking the winter supplies for the royal army, taxing them for foreign wars they didn’t support. And they said no, that’s not the way we want government to act.
So why do I feel like we are but one step away from that form of government now? Why does the refusal of this administration to admit to the oversight of the Congress seem like another step down a slippery slope that we’ve been on since 9/11? Why, in the name of all we as Americans hold near and dear, are we not up in arms screaming as our most basic rights are stripped from us and given to the federal government?
Well, I for one am now officially screaming. I’d suggest you start to do the same while you still have the right to scream without needing a government permit telling you the place and time in which you will be allowed one brief yell whose decibels and length will be strictly monitored.
You can do it now or you can look forward to a world in which your children can only dream of the days when being American meant being free.

Elise Patkotak • 06:52 AM •
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Some young whippersnapper in New York is suing a bar on behalf of all young men saying that Ladies Night at the bar discriminates against him. As someone who was front lines of the gender wars to get women treated as equals, let me say this about that. Stop it you little....well, I guess I’m still too much of a lady...no, I’m not. Stop it, asshole!  This is known as that proverbial one step too far. Because based on your theory, every restaurant that offers a buffet discriminates against me because I’ve had bypass surgery and can’t eat much. And every restaurant that gives a senior discount is discriminating against every one who isn’t a senior.  So just stop it. You are making something that is a deadly serious issue into a joke...oh wait, is that your intent? To make real discrimination a joke so that those of us who are still fighting for workplace equality are made to look foolish? Because if that’s what your ulterior motive is, I’d suggest you not hope for much in your Christmas stocking besides coal. In fact, I’ll take is as a personal task to make sure its Mrs. Claus who visits you on Christmas.

Elise Patkotak • 06:09 AM •
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I looked in my closet some time in early fall and thought how utterly tired I was of seeing the same old coats that had hung there for seven years. So I grabbed most of them, put them in a bag and brought them to our local shelter with the idea that I would go shopping and buy myself a nice winter coat. Needless to say, I never went shopping. And so I head out the door tonight for a lovely dinner and theater in a blue nylon jacket that is most suited for...well, not going out to the theater.  Sigh.

Elise Patkotak • 06:13 AM •
Monday, December 17, 2007

It’s too bad the word “whatever” was not around in its current connotation when I was young. I’m guessing it would have immediately constituted at least ninety percent of my communications with my mother.  And it would have definitely been less volatile than the communications we did have.

Elise Patkotak • 06:31 AM •
Sunday, December 16, 2007

As more and more Alaskan politicians do the perp walk, my brother Phil reminded me of something someone from our old neighborhood used to say. For all I know, he copped it from someone else. Either way, it’s so appropriate right now in our political life here.

“There is no such thing as an honest man..just a thief without an opportunity”

Elise Patkotak • 06:48 AM •
Saturday, December 15, 2007

Shouldn’t we be more concerned about Mitt Romney’s inability to explain his flip flopping positions that seem tailored to the audience he is now trying to woo than how he worships his god? I mean, short of devil worship that involves eating human flesh, who cares? I’m more worried that he seems to be just another self-serving politicians whose beliefs will change to meet whatever audience he’s trying to win over. Though that’s not half as bad as Giuliani, who claims he still believes in his principals but can live with laws that violate them.  Is there not a candidate out there who isn’t also basically a prostitute?

Elise Patkotak • 06:57 AM •
Friday, December 14, 2007

Once again I wasted many precious moments of my life… a life, I might add, that has precious few to spare at this point...trying to open the packaging on my toothbrush replacement head. I could be wrong about this but I’m pretty sure the packaging on that replacement could have safely brought a space shuttle through re-entry.  And again I must question why we are wasting earth’s resources packaging tooth brush heads as though they are potential incendiary devices. But wait, help is on the way. There are battery powered scissors being advertised for Christmas as being able to cut through that packaging in an instant.  Yep, we have collectively lost our minds as a society.  Of course, we knew that when Bush got elected to a second term, but this just confirms it.

Elise Patkotak • 06:03 AM •
Thursday, December 13, 2007

I’m not exactly the Christmas type. In fact, there are some who say I should not be allowed in polite company during this festive period. Personally, I find so many people running around with silly grins on their faces wishing everyone a happy holiday somewhat creepy. It’s like they’ve all been brainwashed and then suddenly, on January 2, the posthypnotic suggestion wears off and everyone goes back to avoiding eye contact with their fellow human beings when not actively scowling at them for some imagined slight.

So I am amazed that this column is going to cover a topic that should contribute to everyone’s good spirits for the season. It’s about a group of people who have made a commitment to make this world a little better for those who maybe don’t always have it so easy. It’s about medical professionals in this town - doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists - who are part of a group called Anchorage Project Access.  Maybe you already know about them.  Maybe I only just heard the news because I’m one of the lucky few with health insurance.
I learned about the group during a visit to my doctor, K.C. Kaltenborn. He is a member of this organization. Finding that out just confirmed my initial feeling that he was a caring and honorable man.  I had an appointment with him the day after last week’s column appeared in which I bemoaned the fact that going to jail is the only way some people will ever have access to health care because they make too much for Medicaid but not enough for private health insurance. They are the working poor who want to pay their own way but find the cost of health care is beyond the means of all but the richest or the insured among us.
My doc gave me a newsletter from this group and said, “Some of us decided to do something about the people you wrote about in your column yesterday.” Suddenly the holiday season made more sense to me than it has in a long time.
Anchorage Project Access is modeled after groups like it in other parts of the country.  Its mission statement reads, “To increase access to health care for low income uninsured members of our community by using a volunteer network of providers working in a coordinated fashion to create a compassionate, respectful, equitable, accountable and efficient program of necessary services for those in need.” In simple street vernacular, it’s a group of health care providers wanting to do something for people who don’t have it so good.  It’s clear that these providers take seriously their commitment to our community’s health and don’t feel access to health care should be limited to a certain privileged few. Mostly though, it tells me that compassion and caring are not dead virtues in the medical profession. And that’s good news for all of us.
As I looked through the list of groups participating in this project, I was amazed at the depth and breadth of involvement from our community.  Groups as diverse as the Denali Commission, the Rasmuson Foundation, and Carrs/Safeway are listed as funders or in-kind donators.  There is not a medical specialty or need not covered by the participating providers.  And eligibility is ludicrously simple for anyone used to dealing with government eligibility requirements. You have to live in Anchorage, not have medical insurance, have a medical problem and have a gross household income at 200% or less of Federal Poverty Levels.
When I was growing up, our family doctor was pretty much a god.  No matter how sick you were, when Dr. DiNick came down the hallway to your bedroom (yes, I’m so old I am talking about the days when doctors did home visits), you heard his booming voice and laugh and immediately knew you’d be better. And if your parents couldn’t pay right away, well, that could be worked out.  It was not an impediment to getting the help you needed to get better.
I thought those kind of doctors had gone the way of television knobs and rotary dials. But they apparently haven’t. There are myriad health care providers in our community donating their skill and care to those who need it but can’t afford it.  These people can’t take care of the health care needs of the whole world or even our whole state. But they do what they can, one patient at a time, to make the world here in the Anchorage Bowl a little better place for everyone, all year round.
And if that’s not the spirit of this season, then I don’t know what is.

Elise Patkotak • 05:24 AM •
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I may have ceded too much power to the stellar jays that come by for food on my back porch. I saw one of my regulars chowing down at the bird feeder on the mixed seeds and realized that the magpies had gotten all the peanuts already. So I went out onto the porch with a bag of peanuts to put some out for the jay.  Not only did he not back away from the feeder, he thoroughly scolded me for interrupting him. I quietly backed away into the house, waited till he’d had his fill at the feeder and flew up into a tree, then went out with the peanuts. This time I wasn’t scolded. And as soon as I went back inside, he was at the peanuts, stuffing them down his throat. Yep, it’s pretty bad when the wild stellars at your feeder are giving orders and you’re obeying. Let’s you know you’ve now lost control both inside and outside of your house to the birds.

Elise Patkotak • 06:20 AM •
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Did you know that springform pans have a top and bottom? And that if you put the top on the bottom, when you lift it up full of batter, the bottom will fall out. Merry friggin holidays!

Elise Patkotak • 06:54 AM •
Monday, December 10, 2007

Teen pregnancy rates are up for the first time in almost a generation. Which leaves me wondering how that abstinence only program our idiot Chief Decider is promoting might figure into the equation. 

Elise Patkotak • 06:20 AM •
Sunday, December 09, 2007

Today, my childhood friend Grace officially turns older than dirt.  I don’t know how she did it but she’s managed to age at least two years for every year I did. Because I know I can’t possibly be as old as she is now. 

Elise Patkotak • 06:15 AM •

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