Elise Sereni
Thursday, August 30, 2007

If I was still a school kid, I suppose this column would be entitled, “My Summer Vacation Adventure.” Since I’m not, it might end up being titled, “Why Elise’s Friends Remain Stunned By The Fact That She Has Managed To Grow This Old Without Accidentally Killing Herself.”

It all began quite innocently. I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner.  She and her husband live about four miles away, a straight shot down C Street. Since a nice path is available, I decided to walk there. Because this was going to be such a simple task, I didn’t take much with me, just house keys and tissue. However, because I have had problems in the past with low blood sugar, I thought it prudent to have a little bit to eat before setting out.  It was the last intelligent thing I did that night.
There comes a point in the walk where the path goes down as the street goes up.  Ultimately the path leads to the Chester Creek Trail.  I got to the bottom of the path and had to choose between left and right turns. Right seemed to head straight into their subdivision. Left seemed to head away from it.  So I turned right.
Now I have this habit when I walk of daydreaming.  Sometimes I can get so involved in the daydream that I’m scarcely aware of my surroundings.  The trail I was on was conducive to just such intense daydreams. There was water on my right, woods all around and a total absence of anything that would have indicated I was actually in the middle of a city. The path was filled with people on bikes, walking dogs, pushing strollers, and couples sauntering hand in hand. I completely lost track of time and place.
I finally shook myself out of my daydream (this month it involves Nathan Fillion and the crew of Serenity) and looked at my watch.  It occurred to me that I’d been walking for over 90 minutes. Even at my leisurely pace, I should have already seen some turn off that allowed me to leave the path and enter the subdivision. I stopped people and asked if there was a subdivision nearby. They all assured me I was on the right track. In fact, they assured me, just a little ahead was a lake and parking lot near Old Seward and Dowling and there were all kinds of subdivisions there.
It occurred to me then that I might have taken a wrong turn somewhere. I was now over an hour late for dinner and my friends had probably already called the police to look for a woman in insulin shock in the bushes along C Street. But they’d never find me because, lo and behold, I’d somehow managed to get to Old Seward and Dowling.
The path seemed to turn back on itself at the parking lot so I decided to follow it again.  I don’t know why but at that moment, it seemed a good idea. I eventually found an opening off the path that came out at a subdivision. It did not take long for me to realize it was not the one I was looking for. So I stopped at someone’s garage and admitted my total incompetence in urban trekking.  The two gentlemen there were very kind. They didn’t even laugh when I admitted I couldn’t dial my friends on my cell phone because I didn’t own one and I couldn’t use their cell phone because I didn’t know how. They dialed for me.
I eventually ended up walking to Eddie’s Sports Bar, a landmark everyone but me seems to know. My friends picked me up there and did their best not to laugh hysterically at my tale. Mostly, they were just relieved I wasn’t unconscious and in need of an ambulance.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the story of the missing nurse ran through my mind more than once as I approached strangers for help on my adventure.  I hated that.  This is Anchorage. It shouldn’t even be a consideration in my mind.  And as it turned out, it didn’t have to be. People could not have been nicer, from the man who hunkered down in the dirt and drew a map for me despite his companion pointing out a map on a post a few feet away, to those lovely men in the garage who pointed me towards Eddie’s Sports Bar without any comments on how far I actually was from C Street.
Anchorage is still a good town to have a summer adventure in.  Not that people are apt to let me have another one again in the foreseeable future. But still, it’s nice to know that the town I call home continues to be mostly filled with gentle, kind people who take time to stop and help a stranger.

Elise Patkotak • 06:24 AM •
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I thought it appropriate to wait a few days before acting too happy over Alberto’s resignation.  Seemed to be the polite thing to do. But now that the proper mourning period has passed, let me just say...WHAT TOOK YOU SO DAMN LONG, YOU BUMBLING, FUMBLING, BARELY COHERENT, MEMORY IMPAIRED, MORALITY ABSENT, PARASITE WHOSE LIPS ARE SO FIRMLY GLUED TO BUSH’S BACKSIDE THAT YOU WILLINGLY CO-OPTED OUR ENTIRE LEGAL SYSTEM TO MEET HIS POLITICAL NEEDS!  And that’s why I waited. You can’t imagine what I wanted to say a few days ago.

Elise Patkotak • 06:00 AM •
Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Michael Vicks apologized for bad judgement and immaturity. Really?  You kill dogs with your bare hands and call it immaturity.  You torment dogs till they become so crazed they want to kill each other and call it bad judgement? May you go to hell forever.  And be tormented by people with bad judgement and immaturity till all you want to do is fight and kill the people who ran this dog ring with you.

Elise Patkotak • 06:18 AM •
Monday, August 27, 2007

I believe it was King Louis the 15th of France who once famously said, “L’etat, c’est moi.” For those of you not forced to take high school French with Sister Josephine, that translates as “The state is me.” Am I the only Alaskan who thinks that both Ted Stevens and Don Young are starting to believe this about themselves?  They cut off Louis’ son Louis the 16th’s head.  Ben, beware!

Elise Patkotak • 06:52 AM •
Sunday, August 26, 2007

And neither of us will ever let the other see how much gray hair there is on our heads. On any given birthday from now till we both die, we send out our special love to those people who help us keep our secret...the hairdressers who dye that gray away.

Elise Patkotak • 06:34 AM •
Saturday, August 25, 2007

When I walked Mr. T, I had a free hand to hold an umbrella in the rain. Now I walk two dogs and have no free hand for an umbrella. I get very wet. So do they.  But they seem to enjoy it anyway. Maybe I need to rediscover that part of the joy of my childhood....running through the rain and laughing.  Or maybe not.  Maybe I’ll just be content with bitching and moaning about how wet and cold and miserable I am when I get back from these walks and how happy the dogs should be that I love them so much.

Elise Patkotak • 06:32 AM •
Friday, August 24, 2007

I am traveling to another family wedding in October. I will get to wear the same outfit I wore to the past two. My sister approves so far. Since the next generation has reached the age where these events will happen more often than not for the foreseeable future, I find myself wondering how long I can get away with wearing the same outfit before my sister sneaks it out of my suitcase and burns it.

Elise Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Thursday, August 23, 2007

PBS recently ran a special on The Sixties. For my generation at this point, that could refer to age as well as a specific time period. So I should clarify that in this case, it had nothing to do with the need for calcium supplements. It was about the decade that will forever define my generation, no matter what else we may accomplish.

Being a typical, self-absorbed, over indulged member of that generation, I settled into my recliner, unwrapped my calcium chews, and settled in for what I thought would be a pleasant romp down memory lane.  Yes, I was actually one of those hippies who surrounded the Pentagon in the fall of ‘67, chanting “Ohm” in the belief that it would cause the building to levitate and all the bad spirits would fall out.  Ah youth! 
But the journey turned out to not be as much fun as expected because every time music started playing that caused me to sway to its beat, a tragedy would intervene.  When we remember the sixties, we tend to remember the dancing, free love and belief we could change the world by wearing serapes with bellbottoms and wishing everyone peace and love.  We try to forget the part where Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy get killed; where entire city centers go up in flames; where Mayor Daley showed how close to fascism this country could get when frightened about losing control.  We don’t want to remember when our classmates and friends came back from war broken in mind and spirit, or just came back in boxes. Those are things we’d prefer to forget.  In our memories, we are forever wearing flowers on our heads and beads around our necks with pot smoke swirling in the air while we shout, “Hey! Hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?”
I found tears uncontrollably streaming down my face as I listened to Martin Luther King, Jr. give an extemporaneous speech the night before he died. The tears continued as the scene in California unfolded and Bobby Kennedy once more lay on the floor with blood streaming from his head. It took me a moment to realize that I wasn’t so much crying over their deaths as I was over what those deaths meant. 
These were leaders who dreamed big dreams and then pulled us into their vision through the sheer force of their personality and passion. These were not the political leaders of today who first take a poll to find out what Americans want and then craft a message that purports to give it to us. These were people who did not feel it was as important to give America what it wanted as it was to show us their vision of a better America and then make us want it too.  They didn’t kiss our butts. Instead, they challenged us to get off of them and make our country a better place.
I miss having a leader who makes me want to be a better person than I am.  I’m tired of leaders who cater to the lowest possible denominator.  Has someone blown up towers in New York? Don’t worry. Be happy. Go shopping.  Spend money. That’ll show them they haven’t defeated us.
Leaders who only give us what the polls say we want scare me. We are the people who made pet rocks and monster truck rallies popular.  We are the people who watch programs like “Bridezillas” and “The Jerry Springer Show” in large enough numbers to bring them back for multiple seasons. For god’s sake, we tuned in to Paris Hilton’s court proceedings! Who in their right mind would try to lead us where we claimed we wanted to go in view of this stark evidence of regular national insanity?
Yes, we want leaders who hear what we have to say. But don’t we also want leaders who will appeal to our better selves? Leaders who will challenge us to look outside our comfort zone in an effort to make our world a better place? Is it easier, in the end, to honor Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. as martyrs than it would have been to work with them to achieve their vision?
Maybe those tears I was shedding were not only for the lost promise of those great leaders, but also for the void that still exists in the leadership of this nation. We need heroes. We need visionary leaders. We’ve got politicians.

Elise Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

If I die and get reincarnated into a really hot body, will I know what to do with it?

Elise Patkotak • 06:02 AM •
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

While I will grant you that as a fairy great-godmother I might be prejudiced in thinking that Rhodes is absolutely the handsomest, most wonderful child ever born this millenium, I must also confess that as I look at one of these pictures, I question whether or not his future will entail a tool belt around his waist.  He is, I fear, channeling the spirit of Dan Akroyd.

Elise Patkotak • 06:06 AM •
Monday, August 20, 2007

I know I’ve asked this before but I must screamingly ask it again...how is it possible for my dogs to shed so much hair and have any left on their bodies?  Thank god Blondie has those big brown eyes and Blue has....well, whatever it is that Blue has besides diabetes that makes her so irresistible...because I spent a good deal of yesterday picking up gobs of dog hair over every surface of this house. And today...I don’t want to scare anyone so let’s just say it looks as though dog hair, once shed, can reproduce on its own.

Elise Patkotak • 06:02 AM •
Sunday, August 19, 2007

It’s a fight to the finish between me and my dogs over who will get to the raspberries first. They go out, grab the branches they can reach and pull them till they break. Then they sit there and munch on the raspberries they’ve pulled down with the branch.  Apparently no one has told these dogs they are carnivores.

Elise Patkotak • 06:39 AM •
Saturday, August 18, 2007

There should be some sort of federal law that says no matter what the date stamped on the jar might read, all condiments in the refrigerator door need to be recycled through the trash when they become seven years old...even mustard.  Apparently old mustard can make you sick.  Who knew?!

Elise Patkotak • 06:22 AM •
Friday, August 17, 2007

Am I the only one who considers pretzels merely the most efficient conveyance system to get mustard from the jar to my mouth?

Elise Patkotak • 06:21 AM •
Thursday, August 16, 2007

There are probably few Alaskans left by now who have not heard the best lines from The Simpsons Movie repeated again and again, often by relatives living elsewhere who call specifically to quote them to us.  For those of you who have been living in a salmon creek since the movie debuted, those lines are as follows:  “Alaska, where you can’t be too drunk or too fat.” And, spoken by an official handing them money as the family crosses into Alaska, “Welcome to Alaska. Here’s a thousand dollars.” Finally, “We pay everyone in Alaska to let us destroy the environment.”

Yep, between this movie and our current crop of politicians, I think Alaskans are going to need to develop a thick hide and a great sense of humor in the very near future.  Actually, living in the cold has already given most of us a thicker hide than we really want so I guess it’s just the sense of humor that needs to be honed.
Italians learned about the need to laugh over what was being said about them back around the time Mario Puzo started writing his Godfather series and Martin Scorsese started directing movies about wise guys and good fellows.  It wasn’t easy.  Italians of my parents’ generation still remembered the fight for acceptance and the prejudice they faced in trying to assimilate.  They found it hard to be amused by Marlon Brando with cotton in his mouth.
My generation, on the other hand, didn’t face signs that read, “No Italians wanted”. So we viewed these movies as examples of a life we heard about but never encountered.
It wasn’t until a classmate of my sister’s named Crazy Phil went to jail for dumping the bodies of people he’d killed into car trunks in the down beach area of Absecon Island that it occurred to me that those kinds of Italians had been all around while I was growing up. It was just my mother and father’s determination that my brother and sister and I would never be part of that life that kept us in such ignorance.
And then came the Sopranos and suddenly laughing at mob hits became a national pastime.  It was a bit weird but a welcomed relief from Vito Corleone and John Gotti.
Alaskans now need to learn to laugh at the predicament they find themselves in or we’ll spend a lot of time crying over it.  With the demise of the Fly By Night Club, there really is no place in Anchorage where we can go anymore and get the sweet relief that laughter and comedy brings to the all too sad and tragic story playing out across our state right now.  When Whitekeys played his songs, he could make Uncle Ted and Don and Lisa, the Boy Mayor Mark and the goofy governor Murkowski, all seem more like endearingly Alaskan originals than possibly sleazy politicians. For just a few moments, we laughed at them and the only thing sleazy was the bar we were in.
As each day seems to bring some new information that raises even more questions about our political leaders, it occurs to me that we should get a state grant to get Whitekeys back in business on a daily basis and count it as needed mental health for the citizens of this state. Because the reality is that it looks to get a lot darker before it gets light again.  Laughter may be the only sure medicine we have at this point to fortify us against the headlines that threaten on the horizon and the very real possibility that even more of our politicians will soon be doing the perp walk.
If Italians could learn to laugh at Tony Soprano and accept that the characters that inhabited Puzo’s novels did in fact exist in some places, even if they never represented the majority of the Italian immigrant experience in the new world, then Alaskans can learn to find at least some black humor in our current political situation while knowing that no matter what certain politicians think, they are not Alaska. The people are Alaska, you and me.  Our politicians no more define being Alaskan than Sonny Corleone defined being a good Italian son.
Laughter may not be the best medicine for everything that ails us, but right now it’s our best hope for keeping our sanity intact. So go see The Simpsons Movie and laugh, no matter how painfully close to the truth what they say might be. It’s better than crying.
Elise Patkotak • 06:37 AM •

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