Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
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 •
Friday, May 16, 2008

I had some for a snack before I went to bed last night.  I dreamed about our former governor, our current US Senator and vegetables.  Yes, vegetables. They played a very important part in the dream and neither politician was seemingly able to grasp the importance of vegetables to America’s security. Seriously, what the hell are they putting in Wheat Thins anymore?

Elise Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Thursday, May 15, 2008

My sister is not exactly a bird lover. She lives across from a migratory bird sanctuary but over the years some birds decided to build nests in her front yard instead. Daphne Duck returned annually for about five years. She’d lay her eggs and then defend her clutch against anyone trying to get up the front stairs. Having a cool summer drink on Judy’s porch while watching the sunset on the bay took on a whole new meaning when accompanied by a mad mama duck trying to attack you.

This year, a robin chose to build a nest in a tree planted close to her front door. Judy has to use her back door now because approaching her house from the front leads to an attack from a tiny but furious mother robin.
And in what has to be the crowning moment in Judy’s relationship with birds, she has had more seagulls poop on her while she walks the Boardwalk in Atlantic City than anyone else I know. I tell her this is karma because the birds sense her antagonism towards them.
My feelings about birds are quite different.  I don’t know why I have such a passion for them. As a youngster, I had exactly two connections to birds – the seagulls on the Boardwalk mom used to let me feed, which constituted my weekly contact with nature; and the pigeons my grandfather tried to grab in parks and bring home on the trolley for my nona to cook. Yet somewhere in there I fell in love with birds and the freedom they seemed to embody.  Maybe it has something to do with my childhood fixation on being able to fly like Mighty Mouse. Is it really such a big leap from a flying mouse to an eagle?
OK, maybe it is. But however I got to where I am, here I am, doing volunteer shifts every week at Bird TLC, our wild bird rehab center in Anchorage. I feel privileged each time I enter a mew with an eagle and stand so close to such primal power. Being next to such a magnificent creature brings me closer to the wild nature that is still humanity’s heritage than I ever thought possible. I know that eagle could take me down in a second. But it doesn’t. It eyes me warily and gives me the benefit of the doubt.  Well, the fact that I’m carrying dinner might also have something to do with its tolerance. 
One of our eagles, One Wing, died last week after almost twenty years in residence with us. Most people in Alaska, and many people around the country, know One Wing’s story.  A victim of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he ended up spending the rest of his life teaching us how to make lemonade out of lemons.  A tragedy took his wing, but it couldn’t take his spirit.
So every Tuesday I would search through our freezers for a special treat for him and his mate, Old Witch.  Maybe a rabbit one week, a squirrel the next, a turkey after that. Each week I tried to put some variety into the daily ration of salmon that nourishes our eagles most of the time.
Eventually Old Witch lived up to her name and got old. When we knew she couldn’t make it through another winter, we set her free to fly again in a better place. One Wing was now alone. I spent time with him when I could, talking to him, listening to his replies – which mostly ranged along the lines of “Where’s my rabbit, woman? Now get out of my mew and let me eat in peace.”
We didn’t know we’d be saying good-by to him so soon. One Wing is flying free with Old Witch now. Bird TLC volunteers appreciate how privileged we were to get to know a spirit as amazing as his. Walking by his empty mew will always make us a little sad.  We know, though, that he’s happy now, happy and free and as light as a feather, memories of an oil spill that crippled him faded into the past.  That takes some of the sadness away, but doesn’t stop the ache in our hearts for the eagle that stole them so many years ago.

Elise Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

After my dogs are through with their morning bathroom call in the yard, they do that lovely doggie thing of scrapping the dirt with their paws and trying...at least in their minds...to cover up what they just did. I always thought that was so silly, especially since nothing ever really gets covered up. Then I got up from my morning break today, reached under the bathroom cabinet, pulled out the air spray and spritzed the bathroom.  And as I did so, I found myself wondering if I was all that far removed from my dogs.  Aren’t we both, in essence, just trying to cover up our scent?

Elise Patkotak • 03:47 AM •
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I go to Bird TLC for my shift today and will once again have to pass by One Wing’s empty mew. Dr. Scott says if you want to send a message to someone who has passed on, you send it on the wings of an eagle.  So here’s the message I want to send to my mom and dad - it was Philip’s fault!  Everything naughty that happened when we were kids, Philip either did or thought up.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Elise Patkotak • 03:21 AM •
Monday, May 12, 2008

Please, Hillary. Get out with dignity. You can’t win this and as much as that must stick in your craw, there is nothing you can do about it now short of literally stealing an election through brute force. So bow out gracefully and keep enough goodwill to fight again another day.

Elise Patkotak • 03:19 AM •
Sunday, May 11, 2008

Is there anyone left in this world who has been online for more than three minutes who still answers those e-mails from people who want to send you money?  I mean seriously, how stupid do you have to be to answer them at this point?

Elise Patkotak • 03:21 AM •

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