Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, August 24, 2007

I am traveling to another family wedding in October. I will get to wear the same outfit I wore to the past two. My sister approves so far. Since the next generation has reached the age where these events will happen more often than not for the foreseeable future, I find myself wondering how long I can get away with wearing the same outfit before my sister sneaks it out of my suitcase and burns it.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Thursday, August 23, 2007

PBS recently ran a special on The Sixties. For my generation at this point, that could refer to age as well as a specific time period. So I should clarify that in this case, it had nothing to do with the need for calcium supplements. It was about the decade that will forever define my generation, no matter what else we may accomplish.

Being a typical, self-absorbed, over indulged member of that generation, I settled into my recliner, unwrapped my calcium chews, and settled in for what I thought would be a pleasant romp down memory lane.  Yes, I was actually one of those hippies who surrounded the Pentagon in the fall of ‘67, chanting “Ohm” in the belief that it would cause the building to levitate and all the bad spirits would fall out.  Ah youth! 
But the journey turned out to not be as much fun as expected because every time music started playing that caused me to sway to its beat, a tragedy would intervene.  When we remember the sixties, we tend to remember the dancing, free love and belief we could change the world by wearing serapes with bellbottoms and wishing everyone peace and love.  We try to forget the part where Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy get killed; where entire city centers go up in flames; where Mayor Daley showed how close to fascism this country could get when frightened about losing control.  We don’t want to remember when our classmates and friends came back from war broken in mind and spirit, or just came back in boxes. Those are things we’d prefer to forget.  In our memories, we are forever wearing flowers on our heads and beads around our necks with pot smoke swirling in the air while we shout, “Hey! Hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?”
I found tears uncontrollably streaming down my face as I listened to Martin Luther King, Jr. give an extemporaneous speech the night before he died. The tears continued as the scene in California unfolded and Bobby Kennedy once more lay on the floor with blood streaming from his head. It took me a moment to realize that I wasn’t so much crying over their deaths as I was over what those deaths meant. 
These were leaders who dreamed big dreams and then pulled us into their vision through the sheer force of their personality and passion. These were not the political leaders of today who first take a poll to find out what Americans want and then craft a message that purports to give it to us. These were people who did not feel it was as important to give America what it wanted as it was to show us their vision of a better America and then make us want it too.  They didn’t kiss our butts. Instead, they challenged us to get off of them and make our country a better place.
I miss having a leader who makes me want to be a better person than I am.  I’m tired of leaders who cater to the lowest possible denominator.  Has someone blown up towers in New York? Don’t worry. Be happy. Go shopping.  Spend money. That’ll show them they haven’t defeated us.
Leaders who only give us what the polls say we want scare me. We are the people who made pet rocks and monster truck rallies popular.  We are the people who watch programs like “Bridezillas” and “The Jerry Springer Show” in large enough numbers to bring them back for multiple seasons. For god’s sake, we tuned in to Paris Hilton’s court proceedings! Who in their right mind would try to lead us where we claimed we wanted to go in view of this stark evidence of regular national insanity?
Yes, we want leaders who hear what we have to say. But don’t we also want leaders who will appeal to our better selves? Leaders who will challenge us to look outside our comfort zone in an effort to make our world a better place? Is it easier, in the end, to honor Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. as martyrs than it would have been to work with them to achieve their vision?
Maybe those tears I was shedding were not only for the lost promise of those great leaders, but also for the void that still exists in the leadership of this nation. We need heroes. We need visionary leaders. We’ve got politicians.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

If I die and get reincarnated into a really hot body, will I know what to do with it?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:02 AM •
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
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While I will grant you that as a fairy great-godmother I might be prejudiced in thinking that Rhodes is absolutely the handsomest, most wonderful child ever born this millenium, I must also confess that as I look at one of these pictures, I question whether or not his future will entail a tool belt around his waist.  He is, I fear, channeling the spirit of Dan Akroyd.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:06 AM •
Monday, August 20, 2007

I know I’ve asked this before but I must screamingly ask it again...how is it possible for my dogs to shed so much hair and have any left on their bodies?  Thank god Blondie has those big brown eyes and Blue has....well, whatever it is that Blue has besides diabetes that makes her so irresistible...because I spent a good deal of yesterday picking up gobs of dog hair over every surface of this house. And today...I don’t want to scare anyone so let’s just say it looks as though dog hair, once shed, can reproduce on its own.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:02 AM •
Sunday, August 19, 2007

It’s a fight to the finish between me and my dogs over who will get to the raspberries first. They go out, grab the branches they can reach and pull them till they break. Then they sit there and munch on the raspberries they’ve pulled down with the branch.  Apparently no one has told these dogs they are carnivores.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:39 AM •
Saturday, August 18, 2007

There should be some sort of federal law that says no matter what the date stamped on the jar might read, all condiments in the refrigerator door need to be recycled through the trash when they become seven years old...even mustard.  Apparently old mustard can make you sick.  Who knew?!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:22 AM •
Friday, August 17, 2007

Am I the only one who considers pretzels merely the most efficient conveyance system to get mustard from the jar to my mouth?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:21 AM •
Thursday, August 16, 2007

There are probably few Alaskans left by now who have not heard the best lines from The Simpsons Movie repeated again and again, often by relatives living elsewhere who call specifically to quote them to us.  For those of you who have been living in a salmon creek since the movie debuted, those lines are as follows:  “Alaska, where you can’t be too drunk or too fat.” And, spoken by an official handing them money as the family crosses into Alaska, “Welcome to Alaska. Here’s a thousand dollars.” Finally, “We pay everyone in Alaska to let us destroy the environment.”


Yep, between this movie and our current crop of politicians, I think Alaskans are going to need to develop a thick hide and a great sense of humor in the very near future.  Actually, living in the cold has already given most of us a thicker hide than we really want so I guess it’s just the sense of humor that needs to be honed.
Italians learned about the need to laugh over what was being said about them back around the time Mario Puzo started writing his Godfather series and Martin Scorsese started directing movies about wise guys and good fellows.  It wasn’t easy.  Italians of my parents’ generation still remembered the fight for acceptance and the prejudice they faced in trying to assimilate.  They found it hard to be amused by Marlon Brando with cotton in his mouth.
My generation, on the other hand, didn’t face signs that read, “No Italians wanted”. So we viewed these movies as examples of a life we heard about but never encountered.
It wasn’t until a classmate of my sister’s named Crazy Phil went to jail for dumping the bodies of people he’d killed into car trunks in the down beach area of Absecon Island that it occurred to me that those kinds of Italians had been all around while I was growing up. It was just my mother and father’s determination that my brother and sister and I would never be part of that life that kept us in such ignorance.
And then came the Sopranos and suddenly laughing at mob hits became a national pastime.  It was a bit weird but a welcomed relief from Vito Corleone and John Gotti.
Alaskans now need to learn to laugh at the predicament they find themselves in or we’ll spend a lot of time crying over it.  With the demise of the Fly By Night Club, there really is no place in Anchorage where we can go anymore and get the sweet relief that laughter and comedy brings to the all too sad and tragic story playing out across our state right now.  When Whitekeys played his songs, he could make Uncle Ted and Don and Lisa, the Boy Mayor Mark and the goofy governor Murkowski, all seem more like endearingly Alaskan originals than possibly sleazy politicians. For just a few moments, we laughed at them and the only thing sleazy was the bar we were in.
As each day seems to bring some new information that raises even more questions about our political leaders, it occurs to me that we should get a state grant to get Whitekeys back in business on a daily basis and count it as needed mental health for the citizens of this state. Because the reality is that it looks to get a lot darker before it gets light again.  Laughter may be the only sure medicine we have at this point to fortify us against the headlines that threaten on the horizon and the very real possibility that even more of our politicians will soon be doing the perp walk.
If Italians could learn to laugh at Tony Soprano and accept that the characters that inhabited Puzo’s novels did in fact exist in some places, even if they never represented the majority of the Italian immigrant experience in the new world, then Alaskans can learn to find at least some black humor in our current political situation while knowing that no matter what certain politicians think, they are not Alaska. The people are Alaska, you and me.  Our politicians no more define being Alaskan than Sonny Corleone defined being a good Italian son.
Laughter may not be the best medicine for everything that ails us, but right now it’s our best hope for keeping our sanity intact. So go see The Simpsons Movie and laugh, no matter how painfully close to the truth what they say might be. It’s better than crying.
Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:37 AM •
Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Since Congress seems to be in the mood to pass laws that take away our constitutional rights without much of a fuss, I’d like to propose a new law for them to pass. It would simply state that anyone whose name has been in People or Us magazine more than twice in one year cannot reproduce EVER!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:09 AM •
Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The bra my friend Jodie bought me as a joke gift for my joke 50th birthday this year fits me better than the bras I buy myself. What am I doing wrong?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:56 AM •
Monday, August 13, 2007

Every day the sun was out this month...and yes, non-believers, it was out here in Anchorage for the better part of a week...I took all my birds out on the deck to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and sounds of wild birds.  All are in cages except for Abdul, my African grey, who can’t fly and loves to just wander on the deck.  He lords it over all the others that he’s free and they’re not by doing his best strut up and down in front of their cages. Then, just in case they don’t get the point, he tries to eat the deck to show them he’s in charge. 
How do people without birds ever keep themselves amused?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:47 AM •
Sunday, August 12, 2007

By weight, my dogs shed at least four pounds of hair per month in my car.  And that doesn’t even count what is shed in the house.  Surely there must be a way to collect this and use it as an alternative energy source. It certainly is renewable.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:45 AM •
Saturday, August 11, 2007

I spent the other evening sitting on my deck with the sun shining and the mountains in the background.  My birds were all in their outdoor cages and on the deck with me.  Baby and Kenya were clinging to the side of their cage, sure that I’d brought them out there for some dastardly motive.  Captain and CB sat side by side, resigned to the fact that a couple of times each year I lose all sanity and make them sit in a small cage under a big green thing that sways in the breeze and could contain god knows how many mortal enemies of theirs.  Abdul played on the table next to me, the captain of all he surveyed, in charge of the world and the world is damn lucky to have him.  And poor Wilson hung upside down from his cage for almost the entire time.  I can’t decide if the world just looked better to him from that position or what.  The shape the world is in today, it just may look better hanging upside down.
And what does all this have to do with Alaska? Well, when you live here, you don’t get so many days when you can bring your little flock outside and enjoy the sunshine. So each day you get to do it is very special.  And someday, maybe while I’m still alive to enjoy it, my birds will appreciate it too and not act as though I’ve lost my mind and brought them into the most dangerous environment ever.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:02 AM •
Friday, August 10, 2007

Not only do Blue and Blondie eat grass, but they apparently eat bugs too. As we walk, Blue’s head swivels from side to side with each bee or bug that flies by and then I see her jaws snap shut and then she’s chewing. And all I can think is that this is the same mouth that wakes me up with a lick each morning. I know, I know. Dogs do way worse things with their mouths than eat bugs but for some reason, this is the thing that makes me want to run from the room screaming “EEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!”

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:59 AM •

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