Elise Sereni
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I don’t remember the month, but thirty years ago this year my wonderful Captain came into my life.  Who could have known then that the longest lasting relationship I’d ever have would be with an Amazon parrot. This is the 25th anniversary for me and my Bare-eyed Cockatoo CB.  How lucky I am to have had them in my life.

Elise Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Monday, January 28, 2008

The feds want to send us $600 each. The state wants to send us an extra $1000 on top of the $1600 PFD check we’ve already received. It’s an Alaskan’s wet dream come true. Free money raining out of the sky from the government. And all we have to do to earn it is just exist. It’s what the spirit of Alaska is all about, isn’t it?

Elise Patkotak • 06:32 AM •
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Here’s how you know you are really, really old and it’s taking way too much medication to keep you alive. You go to your local pharmacy and the entire staff behind the counter calls out hi to you by name and has your latest drugs waiting by the time it’s your turn.  Once I was known by name at the local hot spots. Now, the local pharmacy. Will aging leave me no dignity?

Elise Patkotak • 06:07 AM •
Saturday, January 26, 2008

I give my birds the best food possible. I cut up fresh vegetables for them every day. I never leave them without the TV turned on to their favorite cartoon or music channel.  Their cages get cleaned three times a week and the paper changed more often.  I spend time with each of them to make sure they never feel unloved.
So why is it that I will be taking my African Grey Abdul to his annual checkup without a feather on his chest. and few left in his tail, looking like a pathetic, abused and ignored plucked duck?  Even worse, why do I hear myself stumbling over my words as I try to convince the vet that Abdul really has a good life and little reason to feather pluck? Why?

Elise Patkotak • 06:49 AM •
Friday, January 25, 2008

I really do believe that in this world we need to try and understand all perspectives so that we can live peacefully. And so I try to understand Islam. And then I hear a radio interview with a guy who says a family refused to let their daughter marry the man she loved because he only rented a house so he wasn’t good enough for her. Then, giggling, the guy went on to say that also the potential groom was too tall for the girl so their body parts wouldn’t meet properly. And I thought to myself, really? And that’s a better reason for making or breaking a decision on marriage than the color of someone’s eyes?  Then I read in the paper about a couple who were happily living their lives when there was a knock on their door and they found out that they’d been divorced because he wasn’t her equal. Apparently her family decided that after the marriage. The fact that they were happy and living a good life didn’t matter. The court divorced them without notice, evidence, any of those pesky things we believe in. And the woman had to go home to her family no matter how she felt.
I don’t know if I can ever support a world view that provides no voice to fifty percent of the population and shows no respect to one hundred percent of anyone who isn’t in power.  What a horrible way to live.

Elise Patkotak • 06:11 AM •
Thursday, January 24, 2008

America’s economic engine seems to run on marketers selling us stuff we don’t need based on advertising that convinces us we can’t live without it. But if I sometimes despair over the materialistic world that has swallowed America whole, a week spent in the company of volunteers who willingly held smelly slimed eagles that were very unhappy about getting a bath cures me of that despair. Because while marketing may drive our economic engine, its the volunteers in our communities that drive our hearts and souls.

Just about everyone by now knows the story of the eagles that thought there was such a thing as a free lunch. They dove into a truck filled with salmon slime.  Some died in the truck.  But thirty were rescued and showed up in batches at Bird TLC in Anchorage to be cleaned and cared for until they can be released.
I think the best comment heard after we learned that predominantly male eagles had participated in this debacle came from another volunteer, Stewart, who suggested that this was nothing more than a tailgating party gone bad. And from the looks on the eagles faces as they were washed and blown dry, bad is a mild description of what they feel happened to them. But there again, if these were female eagles, they would probably be enjoying the wash and blow dry and thinking that the day at the spa was worth the day in the salmon slime.
Through all the craziness of those first few days of eagles in various stages of wash, dry and really, really mad, the one picture clearest in my mind is that of Barbara Callahan of the international bird rescue group washing them in a rubber apron, rubber gloves and rubber pants, hair awry and eagle stuff sloshed all over her but wearing earrings with perfectly applied makeup. Just because you’re working in eagle poop doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look like a lady.
The rest of us probably didn’t look as good as Barbara.  I know that I didn’t have makeup on, couldn’t find a pair of earrings if my life depended on it, and wore my scrungiest pants and shirt to cut up smelly old salmon because I only own one nice shirt and it seemed wrong to wear that for the task at hand.  As for the rest of the volunteers, what they all seemed to be wearing was a love of eagles, a sense of dedication to helping in a crisis and an enormous sense of humor that got them past some of the grosser parts of the job. As I looked around at the warehouse full of people all busily engaged in wildlife rescue, I thought to myself that you couldn’t get people to work that hard and with that much devotion if you were paying them. But they were all engaged in a labor of love that had no price.
So far, all the eagles that came to Bird TLC survived not only the slime dive but also the bathing and spraying and blow drying and tube feeding that was required to get them back on their feet and ready to go out into the wild again, cleaner and hopefully a lot wiser.  Though we aren’t holding out a lot of hope on the wiser part. Did I mention they were all guys?  One can only hope they’ve learned there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Unless, of course, you’re at Bird TLC and a crazed Italian is cutting up salmon and adding a sprig of mint to make the offering attractive.
Long after these eagles are in their aeries telling their kids about the weird experience they once had when aliens abducted them, probed them, fed them and then freed them, the volunteers who are responsible for the success of this bedraggled group will still be at Bird TLC doing what they do routinely week after week, with or without the glare of the media.  They will be cleaning mews, treating sick birds, fixing meals - generally doing their part to help Alaska’s wildlife.  More importantly, doing their part to make this world a little bit kinder and a little bit gentler for all living creatures in it.
It’s what volunteers do. They feed the spiritual life of this nation and make America a great place to live. Don’t believe me? I’ve got a bunch of eagles that you can talk to who will back me up 100%.

Elise Patkotak • 06:42 AM •
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I’m sitting in my office working away diligently on some project when I hear a strange sound from the other room. It sounds like a dog in distress. Not yelping distress. But bouncing around distress. I get up and go out in time to see my Blondie with her head caught in the space between the grate at the bottom of the bird cage and the tray below it where the droppings are. She was trying to squeeze in to get some chicken that had fallen from the bird’s breakfast and gotten her head caught and was now struggling through the room with the bird cage following her every step because her head was stuck in it.
Sigh. Sometimes you just wish more for your kids.

Elise Patkotak • 06:49 AM •
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When people ask me why I don’t date, I tell them the answer is simple. If I’m attracted to someone, it is a given that they will have no job, no money, a jail or psych hospital history or be about to be admitted to one or the other of those fine institutions. I have uncanny radar for the type. Which is why i decided a long time ago to adopt birds and dogs instead

Elise Patkotak • 06:30 AM •
Monday, January 21, 2008

That’s my response to the three hour dental appointment I have today.  Really, the government simply has to legitimize some happy drugs that are given automatically if you have to spend more than 15 minutes in a dental chair in any given year.

Elise Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Went to the zoo yesterday to watch the polar bears Louie and Ahpun celebrate their birthdays. Tagged along with a friend and her grandchildren. When you don’t have your own, borrowing other people’s grandchildren is the next best thing. I’m not sure who was more fascinated...me or them. But I guess I should apologize now to all the little kids I elbowed out of the way in order to get a better view of the bears.  Hey - if you don’t want your kids poked and pushed, don’t bring them to the bears’ birthday party.  I mean, it’s not like it’s meant for kids...oh wait, I see the flaw in my logic now. 

Elise Patkotak • 06:18 AM •
Saturday, January 19, 2008

I somehow put a file away on my computer and now I can’t remember where I put it. So I will spend the weekend searching my hard drive using every word I can think of that might have possibly been in the title of the file. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I can’t remember what I titled the file? God, old age is so much fun.

Elise Patkotak • 06:22 AM •
Friday, January 18, 2008

I find that the people who take the time to write to me, whether they agree with my positions or not, are probably the people I would be most comfortable socializing with because they at least care enough to have an opinion and express it.  I’d be willing to guess that, for the most part, they are also the people who vote in every election.
Of course, I always think my opinions are right. But I respect the ones I receive that disagree with me if only because it gives me hope for the future of this state and country that we still have citizens engaged with the process.

Elise Patkotak • 06:30 AM •
Thursday, January 17, 2008

Here’s the thing about Alaska and the oil industry.  Without the industry, Alaska would still be trying to figure out how to pay to keep the lights on in the winter. For this we should be grateful to them. Industry investment dragged this state into the economic life of America in a way that would never have happened without it.  The size of our Permanent Fund alone makes us players with the big boys in the financial world.

But let us be very real about industry’s dedication to our state. Neither Exxon, nor ARCO, nor BP nor Conoco Phillips, nor any other oil company that has operated in Alaska, did so out of a sense of loving charity for the citizens of this state. They did it because it made sense to their bottom line. They did it because by doing so they could make their shareholders happy. Along the way, they proved to be good corporate citizens in some ways, like charitable giving, and questionable ones in other ways- think Exxon Valdez and missing pigs.
So when we talk about what industry has done for this state, I think we need to be very sure we are using the right perspective. So long as we have something they want, they’ll be here. The minute our non-renewable resources are exhausted, the only question we will have about industry is who will turn the lights off when the last employee leaves.
I have lived in this state long enough to be very aware of the benefits we have accrued due to the natural resources we possess. I am equally aware that when those resources have been used up and there are no more, we’d better have one heck of a good backup plan to keep this state alive.  If we want our children, and our children’s children to enjoy this state, then we need a Plan B. Because Plan A, the extraction of natural resources, has a very definite expiration date.
This may be why our governor continues to ride high in the approval ratings as she faces down industry, demanding what’s best for her constituents. So many oil apologists in this state act as though the only way to approach industry is on bended knee with hand outstretched in supplication for whatever crumbs they are willing to leave us.
Palin doesn’t like that approach. Good for her.  She is doing for Alaska what oil executives do for their shareholders - standing up and demanding the fairest deal possible for the people she represents.  Alaska should always face industry on an equal footing because they need us as much as we need them.  Palin gets that. And I think Alaskans appreciate the fact that she gets it. Honestly, does anyone really think that if one company pulls out another company won’t come pulling right in?
Oil and gas are on our land and they are going nowhere until such time as a deal is made that benefits the people of this state to the greatest extent possible. And if the companies currently doing business with us don’t like the terms, then some other company will step up to the plate. Those who fear that industry will go elsewhere and forget about Alaska are ignoring a couple of very important factors. One, these are non-renewable resources. There is only so much available in this world. Industry is not apt to walk away from its hold on any of it. And two, we are a stable state and country with minimal security problems and little risk of the resources suddenly being nationalized so that the company loses its entire asset.
Standing up to industry and demanding our fair share is something we should have been doing all along. Good for Sarah Palin for getting this state up off its knees in front of these huge conglomerates and letting them know there is a new sheriff in town and she’s not afraid to use her power to protect the people she swore to serve.
You want to know why Sarah Palin is still so popular? It’s because she stands tall and does not bow to outside interests.  Isn’t it interesting that just when we needed a John Wayne to make us proud again, we got Annie Oakley instead? Who’d have ever thought she’d be the one with the guts needed to deal with industry?

Elise Patkotak • 06:01 AM •
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I can honestly say that there is nothing that looks more uncomfortable and abashed than an eagle that has just been bathed.  Unless it’s an eagle sitting in a bin being blow dried.  Of course, if it had been female eagles instead of males, they might have enjoyed the bath and blow dry more. But they were too smart to begin with to dive into that truck of slime in Kodiak.  Guys! Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them. But it sure was special to be there yesterday feeding them.

Elise Patkotak • 06:19 AM •
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thirty of them. Sent up from Kodiak to Bird TLC after they dive bombed a salmon slime truck. These are the lucky ones. They survived.  Albeit a bit embarrassed by the whole experience. I’m off to feed them. Does life get much better than this>

Elise Patkotak • 06:02 AM •

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