Elise Sereni
Monday, June 16, 2008

I finally made the hard decision that this is as good as summer is going to get in Anchorage and I should no longer wait for sunshine and warmth before planting flowers in the planters on my porch. So in total defiance of the gods of weather who have absolutely crapped on Anchorage this summer, I planted flowers.  I fully expect a blizzard anytime this week to punish me for my chutzpah.

Elise Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Sunday, June 15, 2008

It’s June 12. I am walking my dogs. Coming down the street towards me is a woman taking a walk. She is wearing fur ear muffs.  What is wrong with this picture? And where the hell is our summer?

Elise Patkotak • 03:11 AM •
Saturday, June 14, 2008

On Tuesday I got nailed by an osprey. What a wild looking bird. Never had one before at Bird TLC. We were trying to tube feed it and one of the feet got loose and it sunk its talons into my right forefinger. Damn they’re fast!  Then came the joy of trying to pull the talons out without doing further damage. It’s a good thing I love birds.

Elise Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Friday, June 13, 2008

It’s bird lovers who will keep newspaper alive and well. Because without them, what the hell will we line all our birdcages with? During election years, I take particular pleasure in making sure that the politician or candidate who I find most annoying has their face directly under my bird.

Elise Patkotak • 03:13 AM •
Thursday, June 12, 2008

My friend Earl Finkler had a letter to the editor in the paper last week in which he quoted Robert F. Kennedy as saying, “An America piled high with gold, and clothed in impenetrable armor, yet living among desperate and poor nations in a chaotic world, could neither guarantee its own security nor pursue the dream of civilization devoted to the fulfillment of man.” I wonder how Robert Kennedy would feel if he were alive today and realized that America was both the country piled high with gold and the desperate, poor, chaotic nation at one and the same time?

Somewhere in the 1980s, when greed became a good word, the gap between rich and poor in this country started to widen. Under the current occupiers in Washington DC, we now have a gap that seems close to that which fueled revolutions in the past.  Ordinary people watch their income eaten up in rising fuel and food prices. Elderly find their savings eaten up in just trying to pay heating costs; extras like medicine and food fall to the wayside. Young couples lose their homes due to bogus mortgages given them by rapacious lenders who are bailed out by the government when their company is overwhelmed with bad debt while the couple is out on the street. No government bail out for them.
In Alaska, we absorb statistics that should horrify us without a shrug. In the same week that has news headlines touting oil at $138/barrel, we are told our state ranks 41st in children’s health. Yet our governor axes money to increase Denali Kid Care, the one program that would give more Alaskan children access to care.  We call our children our future but we seem darned reluctant to provide them with the tools for that future.
I go to meetings and hear about the growing crisis of poverty in our state, about the rising number of homeless and hungry who will need shelter and food come winter. Only we haven’t gotten anywhere near enough shelters or food banks to meet their needs. In a state with billions in savings, we have pregnant women and children on our streets wondering if they have a tomorrow.
It seems to me that every time a program is proposed to help people, say universal health care, the argument made against it is that it will cost too much.  Yet we always find money for war. We go into trillions of dollars of debt and sell ourselves to China in IOUs in order to fund a war of dubious value that we marched into without as much thought, as we’d give to getting a new hairstyle. We give private contractors with friends in high places billions of dollars to buy protection for our diplomats in the war zone. But we can’t find enough money to provide decent health care and an education to our military who barely make minimum wage while fighting this misbegotten war.
We’ve become a mean and petty country. Our current political leadership catered to our most base instincts and we lapped it up. So now we live in an America in which 1% of our population controls 33.8% of its total net worth and financial wealth; just 20% of our population controls 81.3% of that net worth and financial wealth. That leaves precious little for the bottom 80% of us.  Think about that the next time you are trying to find enough money to fill up your fuel-efficient car or pay for the groceries or find a doctor that will take the pittance now allowed for Medicare reimbursement.
There was a time when I would have gotten very angry about these statistics. I would have been horrified that our country could have let this happen; could have become a country of such blatant haves and have nots; could have become a country that resembles nothing so much as pre-revolutionary France with the only thing missing being Dick Cheney saying “Let them eat cake”. Except, of course, he’d say, “Let them walk. Gas is for those God has graced with the money to pay for it.”
Yes, there was a time when I would have been very angry. Now I’m just very sad. I don’t want to yell. I just want to cry. 

Elise Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Greta, even though it’s a day early. I wish I had a picture to put up of you but I don’t have anything on my computer. So I’ll just have to remember that little girl with the impossibly tight ponytail and the ironed jeans who used to drag a silly white horse with a pink mane around my house for hours at a time. I miss that little girl but I wouldn’t give up the young lady she became to have her back. I’m enjoying your adult friendship much too much...even if you only ever call when you are bored!

Elise Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My cousin Joe and I have been reminiscing about the wonderful aunts who filled our childhoods. This is his description of my Aunt Adeline who had polio as a child in the 1920s and spent a life time with physical handicaps that she never let slow her down even a bit.

Aunt Adeline, as far as I am concerned, should be the poster aunt for every Zeccardi niece and nephew that wants to whine and complain.  She had limited availability to education, made sure she was not a burden to her family, overcame her disability, took care of her mother and Uncle Henry, learned to drive, got married and always had a great sense of humor.  Where have all the Aunt Adeline’s gone?

Elise Patkotak • 03:10 AM •
Monday, June 09, 2008

If this isn’t as secure and peaceful as you will ever be in life, I don’t know what it.  Meet Isaiah Amidon and friend enjoying a quiet snooze.  If only life could always be this good....

Elise Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Sunday, June 08, 2008

Am I the only person who cannot spell encyclopedia without singing it?  Is that a sign of a child of the fifties? Was this Walt Disney’s fault?

Elise Patkotak • 03:38 AM •
Saturday, June 07, 2008

If I tried to feed my dogs carrots, they would sniff, turn their noses up and walk away insulted. But if they find half chewed carrots in the bottom of the bird cage, seasoned with just a tad of bird poop....well, then we’re talking veritable feast.

Elise Patkotak • 03:50 AM •
Friday, June 06, 2008

There was an article in the paper the other day about a cat killed by a loose pit bull. The pit bull owner was all over the pages apologizing for not making sure he’d locked his animals in the yard securely before leaving for work. The cat owner apparently felt no such need to apologize for the fact that her cat was running loose at 4 AM.  Birds are building nests and fledging their young. Cats kill these little birds all the time because their owners think that cats have some god given right to roam as they please. And then there’s the cats that use my yard for the bathroom at night.  Doesn’t responsible ownership run in all directions?

Elise Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Thursday, June 05, 2008

Here’s the thing we should never do. We should never confuse the government of China with the people of China. That’s why calling for a boycott of the Olympics, as much as I want to show China they can’t just destroy a whole culture without any repercussions, is wrong.  I’ve been to China more than once. I’ve been to Tibet. And the people I met, whether Tibetan or Chinese, were not out to hurt each other. They were just trying to get through the day like you and me, worrying about the kids and what was for dinner.

The first time I went to China was1983. Western tourists were still a rare phenomenon. As much as we had been taught in the fifties to fear the Red Chinese hoard that would unleash godless communism on us, it quickly became apparent that the people of China had been fed a version of the same story by their government. They were as fearful of westerners given access to their country as we were of allowing Communist Chinese anywhere near our shores.
I remember young people coming up to us as we walked in the limited areas of towns and cities their government allowed us to access. They’d speak to us in quiet voices. It would take a while to realize they were trying to speak English that, up till then, they’d only ever seen as a written language. No one teaching them actually spoke fluent English so the words came out of their mouths with distinctly different sounds than expected. But they so wanted to practice their English. They were young and not as afraid of us as their elders. Conversely, my sister and I found ourselves responding to these young people because, despite the hours spent in hallways with our hands over our heads to protect us from a nuclear strike by the Chinese or Russians, it was clear that these people were not monsters, just ordinary people curious about a world their government forbade them to enter. They had the same curiosity about us as we had about them.
Not that it was all peaches and cream.  The older people definitely viewed us with suspicion and the people who waited on us in hotels and restaurants sometimes had an attitude that made you want to ask for an official taster before biting into dinner.  Public toilets, which consisted of stalls with half walls and no fronts, soon became the show of the week for women when we used them. After a while, you got accustomed to the fact that you would have an audience while attempting to correctly use the infamous Eastern toilet. Women would stand in front of you, pointing, giggling and speaking rapidly. When we went back about eight years later, we were blown away by how rapidly the economy opened up once a little old fashioned western competition and profit was introduced. Cities that, on our first visit, had been filled with people in blue Mao outfits on old bicycles riding down gray city streets had been replaced with more neon than Vegas, more cars than had probably existed in the whole country on our first visit, and an eagerness to please since pleasing us would now produce a very tangible result in the form of a tip.
Bottom line is that the Chinese people are not demons trying to destroy Tibet anymore than American people are demons trying to destroy Iraq.  While we may be a bit more responsible for the government we empowered to carry out the war in Iraq, the reality is that governments do things that not all their people agree with all the time. In America we get to let them know if we disagree every four years when we have elections. In China, they don’t have that option.
So the idea of boycotting the Olympics in China to make a point about Tibet doesn’t really make sense because the people most hurt by it would be the Chinese people, who have no say into their government’s Tibetan policies.  If we claim it is right to punish the Chinese people for the actions of their government in Tibet, I shudder to think of the punishment the world would have in store for us based on our government’s actions in Iraq. 

Elise Patkotak • 03:09 AM •
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Please oh please Hillary. Do the honorable thing and drop out and heal the party. Leave me respecting you at least a little. And a little respect is all I have left at this point for both you and Bill.

Elise Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Almost all science fiction about visitors from outer space is predicated on those visitors being advanced civilizations with earth being a backward little backwater.  But what if we find life on other planets and it turns out WE are the intelligent life form and they are the primitives? How depressing would that be?

Elise Patkotak • 03:46 AM •
Monday, June 02, 2008

I’d feel a lot sorrier for George Bush about all his former staff who are coming out with books telling the truth about the lies and deceptions his administration is built on were it not for the fact that if you are an administration of lies and deceits, then these are the type of people you attract. Live with it. The American people have had to for eight years.

Elise Patkotak • 03:55 AM •

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