Elise Sereni
Saturday, May 31, 2008

So now airlines are going to charge for every piece of checked luggage in an attempt to make up revenue. Here’s a better idea. Charge for every piece of carry on luggage instead. It would cut down dramatically on the amount of stuff people try to shove into overhead bins and under their feet, cut boarding prep time in half since you’d just go find your seat and sit down, and create a much better feeling about you among passengers who didn’t try to shove their baby grand piano into a bag and then insist it could fit in the overhead bin if they just shoved everyone else’s stuff into a tiny, smashed corner of the bin.  Airline on time arrivals and departures would increase because there would be less time spent with attendants running up and down the plane trying to find an inch of space into which they can shove a baby carriage and then arguing with a passenger over the need to check it. And it would greatly lessen my annoyance when I reach my seat and find that someone who boarded earlier and is sitting ten rows back has taken up the space in my overhead for the one damn small cloth bag I carry my books in for plane rides.
Why don’t these stupid airlines call me before they make these outrageous decisions?

Elise Patkotak • 03:45 AM •
Friday, May 30, 2008

OK, now I’m really depressed. Not only did I pay over $300 to get my plumbing fixed, resulting in my toilet seat now being cold instead of warm, but a friend from college just e-mailed me to tell me she had a face lift, lost 30 lbs. and has an insatiable Italian boyfriend.  I think I’ll go to bed and stay under the covers until Labor Day.

Elise Patkotak • 03:14 AM •
Thursday, May 29, 2008

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope seems hardly worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a good spin down the road, without thought of anything but the ride you are taking. …” - Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle may have been on to something with this idea. As National Bike Month winds down, summer here begins. And summer, plus gas prices that will cause you to retch every time you fill up the old SUV, makes for great bike riding time in Anchorage. So I think we should give serious consideration to more bike riding and less car driving until gas prices fall back to 25 cents a gallon.  And just maybe, while we wait for that miracle to happen, we’ll rediscover the joy many of us knew as kids when the bike symbolized our first real freedom from parental supervision. 
My favorite quote about biking comes from a 1902 tome titled “Gynecology, Obstetrics, Menopause” by Alexander Leuf.  In response to Doyle’s statement about bicycling, he wrote, “…I aver that it is a boon to women. It is a stimulus without reaction, setting her upon a higher plane of health and spirits than she had been occupying. It builds up the weak and it reduces excessive corpulency. It imparts a mental and physical vigor, and a quickness of action, that many have never previously attained… It has long been a settled conviction with me, based upon long experience and wide observation, that chronic intrapelvic trouble in women is almost invariably benefited by bicycling. I believe this is to be due to a delicate massage caused by moderate riding. A split leather or even solid saddle, padded by the intervening clothing, gently, but firmly, presses upward upon the pelvic floor, while the innumerable slight contractions and relaxations of the abdominal muscles above, in balancing, produce rapid changes in intra-abdominal pressure at varying points. This alternate relaxation and contraction is conducive to a better abdominal and pelvic circulation… “
I don’t know about you but I simply need to catch my breath after reading that. Well, catch my breath and wonder if I’m using the wrong kind of bicycle seat. I definitely need to try one of those seats he’s talking about. 
It’s clear that over a century ago, a wise physician knew that riding a bike brought with it great benefits of both the health and pelvic variety. Today, it’s also a way to keep our money in our pockets and out of the pockets of OPEC.  All this and cleaner air. Seems like an argument for more bikes and less cars would be relatively simple to make.
So why was I driving my car to the store today? And why, given the price of a gallon of gas, were the streets still full of people in cars, mostly one person per car? Why were parking lots full and most bike racks fairly empty?
Maybe it’s because habits that make our lives easier are very hard to break. Whether it’s weaning ourselves from trans-fats, excessive snacking or gas guzzling, if it makes us feel good, we don’t want to have to stop doing it.  But it seems to me that if we gave biking a chance, we might find that we still have endorphins firing in our systems and they would flood us with good feelings about getting exercise while not polluting the planet; getting errands done with time along the way to hear the birds singing and feeling the heat of the sun on our face; dodging trucks that zoom by at 80 mph while waving gamely back at the driver giving us the one finger salute…hmm, well maybe it’s not all positive.
Maybe the problem is that we all need to get a lot friendlier with the earth and each other. Maybe Anchorage needs to create bike lanes that make commuting less of a game of Russian roulette, while also developing a viable public transportation system.  It probably won’t happen between now and next May but maybe by then we can at least try to improve the percent of time we spend on a bike just enjoying the ride. 
As for me, I need to get online now and start researching bicycle seats.

Elise Patkotak • 03:06 AM •
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If you read my column in the Anchorage Daily News, you should know that the paper had a difference of opinion with me over what constituted material that can run in a family paper. So I apologize for the edited version of the column that appears in the paper today and urge you to check back here tomorrow when the full, unedited, unexpurgated version will appear on this website. Prepare to cover your children’s eyes.

Elise Patkotak • 03:21 AM •
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So my toilet breaks and I have to call the plumber because the water won’t stop running. While he’s here fixing the myriad things that turn out to be wrong with it, I ask him why the seat always seems warm, like hot water is flowing in. He said that something that separates the hot and cold water flowing into my pipes was probably breaking. He fixed it. So now, when I get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, instead of a nice warm, inviting seat, I get a cold ring of plastic.  And I have to wonder why I thought it was a good idea to pay to get the problem fixed when, in retrospect, it really wasn’t all that big of a problem.

Elise Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Monday, May 26, 2008

I get tears in my eyes when I see young men and women in uniform here in Anchorage because I worry that next year, they will be part of our Memorial Day remembrances because of the stupidity, hubris and totally evil minds of the current group of people sitting in offices in Washington who honestly do not deserve the right to clean the toilets of these brave young men and women.  I want a Memorial Day in which the only thing we will need to memorialize is the death of war and the birth of peace.

Elise Patkotak • 03:09 AM •
Sunday, May 25, 2008

I know there are many family and friends who think I get a little nuts about birds. And I am proud to proclaim they are absolutely right. But if you ever want to know what the reward is or whether plumping up dead mice and cutting up smelly salmon to feed them is worth it, go to http://www.kivitv.com/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?ClipID1=2504967&h1=Bald%20Eagle%20Gets%20New%20%27Made-in-Boise%27%20Beak&vt1=v&at1=News&d1=181167&LaunchPageAdTag=News&activePane=info&rnd=66755278
Beauty was a bird that came to Bird TLC here in Anchorage. We kept her for a year before we were able to find the placement she now has. I got to feed her every week. Her patience with us fumbling humans and her dignity despite what some idiot did to her with a gun made it my privilege to serve her. She was always beautiful in our eyes, even if in my mind I will always think of her as the Beakless Wonder.

Elise Patkotak • 03:47 AM •
Saturday, May 24, 2008

There’s a reason plumbers get paid more per hour than I can ever hope to see in this lifetime or the next as a writer.  It’s because you can apparently survive without your morning paper during that brief morning interlude on the toilet before the day begins in earnest. You may be bored, but you’ll survive. On the other hand, if that toilet isn’t working...well, there you have it. That’s why they get paid so well. And are so worth it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a morning paper to peruse.

Elise Patkotak • 03:15 AM •
Friday, May 23, 2008

I have replaced 99% of the carpeting in my house with fake tile and pergo flooring in order to make it more pet friendly. Actually, more owner friendly since it’s so much easier to clean messes off of fake tile and pergo. So why do my dogs persist in finding that 1% of carpeting left in the house when they want to barf or drag their butt across the floor? And why can some people train their dogs to do an entire dance with them and I can barely train my dogs to give me enough leg room that I’m not tripping over them every time I move. I realize they are afraid I’m going to go out and leave them alone in the house with the birds, but really? Will they be that much better off if I’m in bed with a broken leg?  OK, don’t ask them that question. Since it would mean I’d be immobile and right where they could be glued to my side comfortably all day, it may just give them an idea they don’t need to have.

Elise Patkotak • 03:18 AM •
Thursday, May 22, 2008

It’s racing towards summer in Anchorage.  People finally feel safe putting their snow shovels away and getting their wading boots and rakes out. Studded tires are removed and replaced by sweetly quiet regular tires that give new meaning to a smooth ride…unless, of course, you accidentally drop off into the pothole from hell that seems to follow me around town like a puppy.

This is one of those times of the year when you have to be careful what you say to relatives outside if you don’t want to get that awkward silence that always follows when you make a bright, chirpy announcement like, “It hit sixty today. Man was it hot. Everyone was running around in shorts with no coats.” You also want to ever avoid making the following statement after a two-foot snow fall at the end of April, “But it all melts right away so it’s no big deal.” People in the lower 48 simply cannot relate to those statements. They only confirm for them the feeling that you should leave the state before you lose what tentative hold on reality you might have left.
In my neighborhood, summer also means rediscovering neighbors.  In the winter, we all tend to go from car to house and back again with little to no lingering. But come summer, the kids are out playing hoops, bikes are everywhere, skate boards blossom, people ready grills and smokers for all those fish they plan to get, the sound of home repairs ring through the neighborhood, and suddenly there is life beyond moose on my block.
I find myself wondering whether the rise in gas prices won’t end up promoting this trend towards seeing actual human beings outside of their homes who are not in cars heading for the coastal trail.  Wouldn’t that be something? Because if there is one thing cars did to us, it was to isolate us from our neighbors.
People used to walk a lot or they took the trolley or bus.  All were a form of communal activity. Walking down the block to get a fresh loaf of bread for dinner when I was growing up, I’d run into others on the same errand. I’d pass the church and say hi to the priest coming out of the rectory. I’d pass Katie’s little store and stop for a moment while she told me how much I was growing and how pretty I was.  I’d see my friends at the bakery getting their evening loaf of bread. As I walked home, I’d see Santo sitting on his porch across the street from dad’s store guarding his parking space until his son brought the car back.
Dad would put his produce outside on spring and summer days and people walking by would stop to check the tomatoes and peaches, Jersey’s agricultural pride, and whether or not they bought anything, they always left something behind. Maybe it was just the latest on their son’s progress at getting upright and walking; maybe it was just a tidbit about the whiff of scandal surrounding a certain lady from around the corner and her increasingly large belly; maybe it was nothing more than a wrap up of expected summer visitors to the shore. Whatever, it was mostly trivial, insular information. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing that would make the evening news. Yet it was this idle chatter that bound the neighborhood together, gave us each a little stake in the lives of others.
Seems to me we could do with more of that nowadays. I know cell phones keep us instantly connected to all our dearest friends and relatives. But between cell phones and cars, we are isolated from the people next door and across the street in a way that would never have been permitted in my old neighborhood.
Maybe if gas prices continue to rise and we are forced carless onto the streets, we’ll rediscover that sense of neighborhood. Maybe if Anchorage put its money where its mouth is and actually funds a decent transit system, we could rediscover the joy of sitting on a bus and daydreaming while watching the city roll by until we reach out stop. 
Maybe we can be eco-friendly, wean ourselves from oil and become good neighbors again.  It’s a dream worth pursuing.

Elise Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Juno - cute but seriously, in what world is that even minimally close to the reality of teen pregnancies.
There Will Be Blood - watched the whole thing and still can’t figure out why the Day-Lewis character was so damned mad. Was he just another drunk?  And his kid… who was holding him at the beginning of the movie? Was that his dad? What happened to him?  Do I really care?....hmm, interestingly not.
Michael Clayton - ohmygod...a literate, intelligent movie with dialog that you actually have to pay attention to and isn’t just filler between explosions. If George Clooney hadn’t already reached god like stature in my world, this would have put him over the top.

Elise Patkotak • 03:01 AM •
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

If you are planning to turn, put your turn signal on BEFORE you are halfway through the turn.  Damn! Is that really such a hard concept?

Elise Patkotak • 03:33 AM •
Monday, May 19, 2008

Have Ashcroft and Rumsfeld gone into the witness protection program? Shouldn’t they have to face the public and answer for what they did to America? One thing though, please don’t let Ashcroft sing that damn eagle soaring song.  I’m diabetic and take insulin and can’t afford to barf up my meals.

Elise Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Sunday, May 18, 2008

I had my deck power washed and stained yesterday. Now it’s cleaner than my house. If I were my mother, this would make me crazy. But I’m not. I am perfectly content to spend my time on the clean deck and let the house keep all its dog hair.

Elise Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ironman.  Who’d have thought at my advanced age I’d find myself loving a movie based on a comic book hero I never heard of before the movie came out? But damned if it isn’t a really good movie. Robert Downey Jr. has always been one of my favorite actors, though his side trip into hell definitely added to that appeal for me....I have always liked my men damaged and dangerous which is why I no longer date. Anyhow, there are few movies I’m willing to see in the theater because of the ridiculous price of a ticket and popcorn versus just waiting until it comes out on CD and I can watch it in the comfort of my own home while eating my own popcorn with no preservatives and have the ability to hit the stop button when I need a bathroom break. But Ironman is definitely the one I’d break the rules to see in the theater.  Go figure!

Elise Patkotak • 03:25 AM •

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