Elise Sereni
Sunday, February 04, 2007

For anyone who wonders why I love my birds, let me tell you this story. 
I put Abdul, my African Gray Parrot, on my counter while I cut up a pineapple.  I took the top of the pineapple and put it on the counter where she was in case she wanted to chew on it or shred it or destroy it in some other creative way. Parrots love destroying things and this seemed like a good idea. But that pineapple top was new to her and strange and scary. In the wild, parrots are a prey animal and so they tend to be very cautious around the unknown. You never know when something might suddenly jump up and eat you.
I turned my back on her as I continued cutting the pineapple up.  A few minutes went by and then she started whistling a very non-chalant, “I’m-not-worried-you-can’t-scare-me” whistle.  I turned and watched her saunter carefully around the pineapple top, all the while whistling and pretending that she wasn’t really noticing it was there.  With each new whistle, she took another step towards the top.  Then she’d back up and then she’d go forward again.  She continued this till she was actually up to the pineapple top and could bite it.
And then, alas, her courage failed her and she came running over to me telling me she loved me over and over again.
And people wonder why I have parrots.  Could there be a better life than mine with Abdul and all the rest of the flock?  I think not.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:11 AM •
Saturday, February 03, 2007

Seriously, we actually paid someone to come up with the slogan “Big Wild Life” for Anchorage.  Bring back the dancing moose!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:07 AM •
Friday, February 02, 2007

When my mother was alive and spoke about my birth, the one thing she remembered above all else was the snow storm that raged that day and how my poor dad had to crawl to the hospital with the car.  Maybe that’s why I moved to Alaska. Snow is in my blood.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:00 AM •
Thursday, February 01, 2007

I opened the Lifestyles section of our local paper yesterday only to find a full page spread on how Nancy Pelosi is bringing pearls back into fashion.  Why is it that I can’t remember one full page fashion spread on Dennis Hastert or any other male House Speaker in all my many decades of life? Why did what she wore while sitting behind Bush when he made his State of the Union address to Congress get prominent mention but no one bothered to comment on what Dick Cheney was wearing?  We’ll never really be equal, will we, until the media stops focusing on what we wear and focuses on what we say.  No one is judging Barack Obamba by his hairstyle or clothing choices.  So why do I hear jokes about HIllary Clinton’s pantsuits all the time?  Is it just society’s subtle way of making sure we know our place even if we do manage to get some power?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:04 AM •
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It was the look on my brother Phil’s face as I invited him into the eagle mew to rake it out that told me more clearly than anything else that maybe, just maybe, not everyone voluntarily enters an eagle’s pen when the eagle is in residence.  He told me he’d take my back and be ready to fling the door open if the eagle attacked but that was as close as he was getting to the whole situation.

I really couldn’t complain. After all, he’d come all the way up from Delaware to spend a week in Alaska and here he was washing poopy bird dishes and cutting up smelly salmon during my Bird TLC shift.
Being Italian, I firmly believe that there is nothing that is so bad that a good meal can’t fix it.  You can do all the soaking and wrapping and antibiotics you want, but if you don’t make a good presentation of a tasty dinner, the bird will never get well.  Not that you will necessarily ever find that in a textbook. It’s just something Italian mommas have known since time immemorial.
So when the injured birds arrive at the clinic and need their veggies, I find myself tastefully arranging them on the plate.  Grated carrots in one quadrant, beautifully strewn rotting parsley in another.  Sliced apple drops like little dollops of joy on top of slightly moistened game maintenance kibbles.  No one can resist the right presentation.
Of course, this belief was sorely tried the first time I had to thaw out frozen mice and plump them up by injecting an IV solution into their abdomens for an owl.  No matter how I arranged them, they still looked like mice that died from some serious form of malnutrition that had left them with grotesquely swollen bellies.
And of course, if it’s hard to make a pleasant presentation of mice, rats are darn near impossible.  No matter what you do, they have that funny little overbite that anyone who ever lived in a big city will never look at neutrally.  After treating babies in a pediatric unit of a major inner city Brooklyn hospital for rat bites on their toes and head, I find it hard to not run screaming from the room every time I have to take them out of the freezer.
But worse of all when it comes to presentation is food prepared for ravens and magpies and the occasional lost crow.  If rats and mice don’t look all that hot the first time around, there is no describing what it’s like when you have to cut the leftovers up to feed to these scavengers.  Perhaps this is why I get so much quiet time in the kitchen to mull over life while I’m preparing food.  There have been days where I saw people visibly flinch before coming in as I cut up a particularly ripe piece of hooligan or day old rat.
Working at the Bird TLC kitchen means getting used to opening freezers and seeing Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail curled up in frozen balls waiting their turn to become part of the cycle of nature...or, as One Wing and Witch would call it, lunch.  And this is from a woman who used to routinely brave ice cellars in Barrow to haul up frozen duck and geese for dinner.  Hum, sounds like I’ve really come full cycle. From making them for dinner to making dinner for them.
The eagles are really the easiest to feed.  Cut up a hunk of salmon and they act as though they are dining at the Corsair.  Of course, ever since I started cutting up that old salmon for them I’ve found myself less and less inclined to order salmon at dinner.  Halibut is ok but the smell of salmon will never hold the same connotation for me today as it did before I found out how to feed the eagles. 
I’m not complaining though. I’ve got the best job there is at Bird TLC.  I don’t grab the birds in blankets so that they dread my appearance. I don’t suture their injuries, wrap their wings, medicate their feet or shove tubes down their throats.  When I show up, I have food in my hand that has been lovingly prepared from both a nutritious and visual perspective. And I like to think the birds recognize this and that’s why they don’t try to bite my face off. 
As Martha would say, “And that’s a good thing”.
Join Bird TLC this Saturday evening, February 3, at the ConocoPhillips Atrium for a fun night of food, drink, and Mr. Whitekeys at our annual fundraising auction. Call 562-4852 for ticket information.  Help us help injured birds return to our skies where we can all enjoy their beauty.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:26 AM •
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I can remember sitting in my childhood home with my parents watching Rich Little on Ed Sullivan.  Now I find out that the Washington Press Corps has chosen him to give the speech at their annual dinner with the president. For those of you paying attention, this is the same dinner that Steven Colbert addressed so brilliantly last year while Bush sat a few feet away grimacing. Seems the only jokes he can take are the ones he perpetrates on the people of this country by calling them his policies.  But even for the gutless wonders that call themselves the Washington Press Corps, this is embarrasing.  I mean, when was the last time you saw or heard of Rich LIttle outside of flashbacks from old sixties and seventies shows?  When the president can so intimidate a group that is supposedly our watchdog in DC, it’s time for them all to resign and let someone with actually cahones cover Bush.  How pathetically sad the press corps has become!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:09 AM •
Monday, January 29, 2007

I went to the store the other day with my usual load of cloth bags.  As I checked out, the bagger wanted to put my Cornish game hens, which were already double wrapped in plastic, into a plastic bag in case some drop of moisture should escape their double wrap and touch the cloth.  I explained that the bags were quite washable and that I did not want any extra plastic if I could avoid it. To which the young man checking me out replied, “You rock”. So now it’s official. I rock. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:06 AM •
Sunday, January 28, 2007

I find myself wondering if Bush has little dialogs in his head with one voice saying “I’m the decider” and then another voice comes in and says, “I’m the decider”.  And then another voice comes in, let’s call this voice “Reality” and says, “No, you would need a brain capable of holding two thoughts at once in order to be a decider.” And then I realize that this could never really happen because that would be three voices at once in his brain and it would probably explode from the pressure. So could someone very slowly and gently explain to this man that in order to decide something, you actually have to consider a variety of options and not pick the only one your brain has held for three years?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:29 AM •
Saturday, January 27, 2007

I brought my diabetic dog to the vet this week to see if I could use my blood-testing machine to test her blood daily for better diabetic control.  Right!
Actually, my blood tester would have worked except that no matter where we pricked Blue, we didn’t get enough blood. We tried her ear, her back, her belly and, when the vet started trying around her butt, I called a halt to the proceedings by announcing I was not pricking my dog’s butt on a daily basis. That, apparently, is where I draw the line. 
I don’t know who was more relieved, the dog or me.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:50 AM •
Friday, January 26, 2007

For all you Anchorageans out there who read this, go over to the Bird TLC website and check out our online auction as well as info on our big auction next Saturday at the ConocoPhillips atrium. It sounds like it’s going to be a great night..how can it not be with Mr. Whitekeys doing the hosting?  Tickets are available and the birds will appreciate your help. Bird TLC is our wildbird rehab center in Anchorage and it is totally volunteer driven so we can use all the help...and money...you can give.  http://www.birdtlc.net

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:02 AM •
Thursday, January 25, 2007

I have all kinds of pictures of me and my childhood friends at birthday parties. We are sitting around someone’s kitchen table with dorky hats on, a homemade cake in the center and a smiling/grimacing parent in the background.  Nary a stretch limo in sight.  In fact, I’d venture to guess that my parents’ attitude would be that children do not belong in a stretch limo. On a good day, my dad barely wanted us in his car for fear of the damage we’d do.  Now, kids’ parties include live entertainment and stretch limos. Our live entertainment was tossing icing at each other when mom wasn’t looking.  Times they are a’changin.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:17 AM •
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A few years ago, my cousin’s son announced he was not as amused as he thought he might be in his job as a newspaper reporter in a small town.  Many in the family were thrilled with this decision because, quite honestly, most of my family does not view writing as an actual career choice.  Their happiness at the decision lasted only until he informed his parents of his next career move.  He was going to go back to school to get his doctorate in philosophy.

I happened to be visiting the East Coast soon after he made this pronouncement.  His father, an eminently practical man who loves his family beyond all reason and wants only to know that they are safe and secure, sat next to me at the family dinner table while the topic of his son’s latest career choice was discussed.  Given my career history, no one was asking for my opinion.  But at one point, to explain his unease with his son’s latest choice, my cousin looked at me and earnestly asked, “When was the last time you picked up the paper and saw a want ad for a doctor of philosophy?”
It seems to me that as we continue to deal with stem cell research, cloning, environmental degradation and genocides, that ad may soon become much less rare.  And in view of the continually challenged ethics of so many public figures, philosophers may soon become the hot new commodity in public life.  Move over, Silicon Valley, the halls of academia are about to displace you.
Philosophers discuss a lot of ideas that the general public oft times finds confusing and boring until the moment when someone announces a way to clone Hitler for the benefit of those Nazis still hiding in South America. Then they start paying attention to the morality encompassed in many of the issues we face in today’s world and the reality of how that morality affects our daily life. It actually occurs to them that the fact that we have the right to do something, does not make it right to do.
I think most philosophers would agree that legislating morality is essentially a frustrating exercise. From pot smoking to prostitution, people who view morality legislation as ill conceived have always found a way to ignore it.  Trying to legislate the morality of our elected officials is viewed by some politicians as merely a challenge to their creativity. 
No matter how often we say we are a democracy - well, really a republic - we cannot escape the fact that we create our own royalty by continually re-electing the same people. Eventually they come to think of their position as an entitlement and that can lead to a feeling of being above the people who elected them.  It is a short journey from there to some slippery ethical slopes.
Perhaps it is time that we admit that the idea of citizen legislators isn’t realistic.  In this state, we expect our legislators to work only part time for us and make a living for their family the rest of the time in some job that allows them three months off a year plus additional time and days as needed to address constituent concerns.  One of the only places most will find a job like that is with a company that sees some advantage in having someone on the payroll based on who they know rather than any particular skills they have.  Our other choice is to have only independently wealthy people run for office. And isn’t that just royalty without the title?
Being a consultant is one answer to financial survival for legislators since you set your own hours and don’t have to clock in from 9 to 5.  But, as we have repeatedly seen, that choice can raise many ethical concerns.  You are usually hired as a consultant in a field you know and where you have contacts.  If you are a legislator, it doesn’t take a genius to know that the field you can best consult in is how to get business done with the state.
We can legislate morality and ethics till we are blue in the face and it will still not solve the conundrum of how legislators are supposed to survive when not in session. We can either accept a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich or we can consider paying our legislators a year round living wage and forbidding them any other employment.
It’s not a great choice. It’s not a happy choice. But if we’d like to see government that is open to all, it’s one we may have to finally make.
Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:00 AM •
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I think it’s time we demand that anyone who plans to be a parent get licensed to prove they are minimally older mentally and emotionally than the children they plan to have.  It’s an idea whose time has come.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Monday, January 22, 2007

If HIllary Clinton wins the presidency, I’m not at all concerned that Bill will actually be running things instead of her.  I think she’ll run her own presidency. Here’s what I am worried about...that our news media will be so dicombobulated by a female president that they will spend more time commenting on what she wore to a summit meeting and who’s advising her on makeup than on what she said.  Am I being pessimistic? Well, I live in Alaska where our press can’t seem to get over the fact that our governor, probably one of the most competent women in politics in this country today, is a “hot babe”.  Sigh.....

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Sunday, January 21, 2007

I have never watched American Idol for no other reason than that I figure if I’m going to waste my time watching TV, the people on it should at least have a modicum of proven talent which they are using in some coherent fashion to amuse me.  But as I read more and more about it, I find myself wondering if this is not just our refined version of the Roman coliseum with the blood thirsty crowd screaming for death to the loser.  Humanity really hasn’t come all that far, has it? The only real difference is that we sit isolated in our homes instead of roaring with the mob.  Oh yeah, and the losers die a million deaths without ever really dying. We learned to make it even more sadistic than the Romans did.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:31 AM •

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