Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We now come to that time of year when, for want of something better to do for amusement, I decide who merits entry into my Hall of Infamy 2006. The criteria are fairly lax.  Nominees mostly have to have annoyed the heck out of me or in some other way caused me to want to chase them off this planet during the past twelve months.

Just so we’re clear at the outset, Tom Cruise has achieved permanent residence in the Hall of Infamy.  So have Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and any variation of their names that combines them into something that makes me want to toss my cookies. And finally, Donald Trump’s hair has its own wing in the Hall, and since he and that hair seem to be inseparable, he’s not eligible on his own for entry.
Having dispensed with the preliminaries, let’s take a look at who has received nods for the honor this year. Brittany Spears, of course, has received numerous nominations as has her about to be ex.  But even a Hall of Infamy needs some standards and since neither of them apparently has any, I’m afraid they don’t make it in.  However, if the media persists in calling Mr. Spears “Fedex” throughout the coming year, he may get the nod in 2007.
Condoleeza Rice received quite a few votes as the year progressed.  I thought she would make it in till I realized that, despite being Secretary of State and traveling about 90% of the year, she still has a more active social life than I do.  I think that should be reward enough for her this past year.  She’ll just have to wait her turn - or wait till I have at least as many dates as she does - which means she may be waiting a very long time for the honor.
Of course, there were those mean people out there who nominated the Spears, Cruise, Madonna, Pitt/Jolie children. But I don’t feel you should be able to ride your parents’ coattails into this Hall. And while I am the first to admit that the Cruise child in particular could almost cause me to disregard the above restriction, I then find myself confronted with the antics of Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie and realize that I shouldn’t sell Suri short. Given time, she’ll probably be able to enter the Hall all on her own.
So who or what actually will get inducted this year?  Well, two who and one what have made the cut.  In order of their ranking I give you:
Number 3, Hillary Clinton.  The presidential campaign hasn’t even begun and I’m already sick of hearing about her, whether she’s had plastic surgery, whether she should have left Bill, whether she can beat Obama, whether her election would signal the end of life as we know it. Enough already.
Number 2, Barak Obamba.  This man has done virtually nothing yet to prove himself, but has already been crowned a demi god.  No offense to Mr. Obamba, who I am sure might someday become a credible politician, but if he weren’t of mixed heritage would anyone be this excited?  Wasn’t Martin Luther King’s dream about a world in which we were not judged by our color?
And finally, drum roll please, the number one entry into the 2006 Hall of Infamy is people on cell phones, whether driving their cars or walking through airports seemingly talking to themselves.  May your cell phones all blow up in your hands simultaneously thereby cleansing the world of many potential future inductees at once. 
I am sick and tired of sitting at a stop sign watching the person in the car in front of me in animated conversation on a cell phone thereby making them functionally unable to pull out into traffic in either a safe or timely fashion. And I am tired of sitting or standing next to someone in public and listening to their latest life crises, job crises, child crises or what an SOB the guy in the next cubicle is. I don’t care.
I know the world will not soon give up cell phones. I know I will probably be the last living person on earth without one.  But as God is my witness, it will take some effort for anyone or anything to annoy me more than they do. 
My fear, of course, is that in the next year someone will take up that challenge and win.  Happy 2007. Let the new nominations begin.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:00 AM •
Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The pope apparently spoke at midnight mass in Rome about taking care of the world’s children in honor of the child whose birth he was celebrating.  Here’s a thought.  Sell a couple of the Vatican’s pieces of art or ancient properties. You’ll make enough to feed, clothe and house a whole lot of children. I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus would do.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:50 AM •
Monday, December 25, 2006

No, really, today is the day I am absolutely taking a day of rest from my blog...oops, there I go again....i ruined my day off by writing about it.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:56 AM •
Sunday, December 24, 2006

This is my day off from my blog...though now that I’ve written this, it’s not really a day off, is it?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 02:55 PM •
Saturday, December 23, 2006

I was filling the water dishes for the dogs last night when it occurred to me that if I bought bigger water dishes now that I have two dogs, both of whom are bigger than Mr. T, I could save myself some time and effort. Then I thought that this was probably not bad exercise and if I bought a bigger bowl it would just stop me from the extra bending and lifting and that wasn’t necessarily good.
So this is what my life has become...I hold silent debates in my mind about whether small dog water dishes are better for my health.  Take me, take me now!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:59 AM •
Friday, December 22, 2006

It snowed all day Wednesday and there wass a total white out happening. I made it to my chiropractor’s appointment only by driving up onto a sidewalk twice. I then came home...very, very slowly...and canceled the vet appointment on the other end of town.  And yet...and yet....the dogs got their three mile walk. I had snow down my back, snow up my pants and snow...well, other places. But they got their darn walk. So yes, I must be an old softie.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 05:21 AM •
Thursday, December 21, 2006

The paper yesterday carried an article about a laugh clinic. You make an appointment to see a therapist who has groups in which he or she leads you in laughter. It’s considered healthy for you. You know what’s healthier?  Renting Talledega Nights and laughing naturally.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:15 AM •
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Since I plan to use my New Year’s column for a list of the people and things that have annoyed me the most this past year, I figured I’d better do something nice for my Christmas column or risk being driven out of town by all the little elves that are making me crazy with their Christmas cheer. And so, here it is - my reason to be grateful this year.

I am grateful, finally after more than fifty decades, that my friend Grace had her birthday before me.
I guess we need to go back a bit to explain this. I first met Grace when we were both about 3 1/2 years old.  Actually, she was 3 1/2. I was only 3 1/4.  And that bugged the heck out of me the whole time we were growing up together.
She got to do everything first.  She became a teen first. She got her ears pierced first. She was eligible to get a driver’s license first. She even became a woman first...in, I should clarify, the old fashioned sense of becoming a woman.  She hit sweet sixteen before me.  And she got to drink legally first. 
I spent a good deal of my youth thinking it was just so darned unfair that she got to everything before me. I couldn’t wait to grow up so that things would be even between us.  Ah the foolishness of youth.
Now, as I approach a milestone birthday, I find myself quite happy to have her go first.  In fact, as we have approached a variety of milestone birthdays over the years, I have grown more and more content to be the second to reach them.  I would, at this point, be not at all unhappy if I was a year or two or five behind her instead of three months.
But that’s not likely to happen so I guess I need to learn to be grateful for the three month gap which gives me some time to catch my breath as I realize just how old she is.  And just how old I’ll soon be.
I’ve never particularly had trouble in the past with birthdays, even those considered the milestones of our lives.  If you were never the pretty young thing, and I wasn’t, you don’t have as much to lose when you are no longer young. In fact, you have a lot to gain. I’ve always been better at being older than I ever was at being young.  My life began in earnest when I hit forty and felt that I’d finally grown into my head.
The problem, as I see it, is that I liked forty and found fifty not bad either. But beyond that there seemed to be this yawning chasm of varicose veins, veggie induced gas and aches and pains that caused strange sounds to come out of my body when getting in and out of my car.  Whether this vision is true to reality or not, it seems to be the one stuck in my head that keeps replaying as I think about hitting new milestones.
And so I watch my friend head into this new decade and look to see if there are any visible changes that should cause me to worry.  Her knee aches.  She’s got some new medical problems.  But her life hasn’t slowed down. She teaches full time, is getting ready for her second daughter’s wedding and is never at home because she just has too many places to go and too many thing she has yet to accomplish.
This gives me hope that I will not fall completely apart on my next birthday. And for that I am grateful.  Finally, I’m not jealous that she’s reaching milestones before me.  I’m happy to be trailing her lead.
Oh, and did I mention that I’m also very grateful this Christmas that I still have my friend from so long ago in my life? That is truly one of the best gifts I have ever received.  Her continued friendship has been a kind of anchor for me. If I ever became too full of myself, all I had to do was call Grace. She would remind me of the days spent on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City screaming for Ricky Nelson.  Or the afternoon spent in my mother’s kitchen trying to pierce my ears with a sewing needle, ice cubes and a potato. Or the times spent in her mother’s parlor - the formal one with the plastic on all the furniture - trying to teach ourselves to dance to 45s like they did on Bandstand.
We were nerds together when we were young. We’ve remained nerds most of our lives. And as we gallop into old age, I imagine both the friendship and the nerdiness will remain intact.  For this, I am immensely grateful.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:38 AM •
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The girls are keeping me way busy. They are much more active than Mr. T was for the last few years of his life. Actually, growing mold was more active than Mr. T was for the last few years of his life. So I’m getting used to walking fast on icy sidewalks and picking myself up with dignity after falling. I’m getting used to using only a small portion of my bed so I don’t interfere with their sleep.  I’m learning to adjust when I get up, when I eat and when I go to sleep so that their day is comfortable for them. Yep, all in all, I’m once again in charge of my life.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:53 AM •
Monday, December 18, 2006

The most annoying invention of the past two hundred years...unless you count the earplug/microphone attachment that makes everyone look like a candidate for psychotropic drugs because they are talking to themselves.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:06 AM •
Sunday, December 17, 2006

I realize I am not what one would call a Christmas person...to put it mildly.  But even so, it seems to me that this year, despite the start of Christmas carols before the Thanksgiving turkey was even cooked, and the appearance of Christmas decorations at the same time that Halloween costumes were being advertised, this Christmas has little joy or expectation. It seems strangely flat.  Just an observation from the scroogette on this end of the keyboard.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:14 AM •
Saturday, December 16, 2006

I love to sit at the breakfast bar in my kitchen and sip my coffee and watch the wild birds at my porch feeder. Then I watch one of my dogs, Blue, try to do a header through the glass sliding door to reach them. She gets a concussion each time. To be honest, I’m surprised she hasn’t broken the glass yet.  But she seems to be catching on. She sees them now and heads for the door and then tries to put the brakes on as she reaches the glass. Unfortunately, I have a slippery floor so she can’t always stop in time.  Oh well, eventually she’ll figure it out.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:48 AM •
Friday, December 15, 2006

Our new governor seems to be appointing people with ethics, intelligence and skill. What is her problem? Is she just trying to make everyone else’s appointments look bad?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:40 AM •
Thursday, December 14, 2006

So it’s going to be one of those winters. First lots of snow and cold. Then lots of warmth and melt. Now freezing again...just in time to turn all the melted snow to ice, making the simple act of taking a walk a death defying adventure...especially when pulled by two dogs who have no problem with slipping and sliding.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:14 AM •
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I’d been out of town for a few weeks so you can imagine my reaction when I returned and scanned the headlines of the papers that had piled up while I was gone.  I felt like Alice falling through the looking glass.  The Alaska State Legislature is going to be led by a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans.  That and a falling sky are the two sure signs of the Apocalypse if I remember my Bible studies class correctly.

For a moment I thought maybe my misspent youth in the sixties was catching up with me and some time bomb that had been left behind in my body had finally exploded into a late life psychedelic trip.  Otherwise how to explain the fact that there is every chance in the world that, if only for a short span of time, Alaska politicians will actually lead America in trying to find the middle where most of us live while giving us the kind of government all our high school civics classes led us to expect as our right.
I say this may only last for a short span of time because, to be very honest, I find few people who have a good feeling that this coalition will make it beyond the first thirty days of the session.  There are some I speak to who are unwilling to make book that it will last for the first thirty hours. And then, of course, there are always those diehard cynics who think thirty minutes is longer than the center will hold.
Call me Pollyanna but I’m hoping it goes the distance, or at least a good part of it. Because honestly, more than just about anything else in government right now, we need people working together.  I know I’m not alone in being sick and tired of the politics of division and distrust that seems to be the only politics available today.
I expect we usually get the politics and politicians we deserve. But I seriously doubt we have been so bad for so long that we have deserved the pandering, self-serving, morally righteous while personally repugnant politicians that seem to have filled our public airwaves the past twenty years.  Too often the people who have held themselves out as our leaders have turned out to be reprehensible scumbags in reality.
Think Bill Clinton and cigars. Think Mark Foley and e-mail.  Think any number of religious leaders from the left and right whose private morals would make a dog blush.  Think of the cynical way these people must have viewed us to assume that they could blather and bleat about what was morally right and good for this country while keeping their dirty little secrets.
Their greatest sin of all, to my mind, was to rule this country through division and distrust.  Instead of uniting us, they strove to point out our differences and then use those differences to make one group hate another.  Simple disagreement was not allowed.
Did people from both major parties question Bush and Rumsfeld’s strategy in Iraq? Why they weren’t just questioning an easily questionable policy. No, they were cut and run cowards who wanted to aid and comfort the terrorists.  As though there was some strange world out there in which these people would have an advantage if the terrorists won.
And now, here in Alaska, in my very own wonderful state, the first steps are being taken to close that divide and bring people together to work towards the common good. Why, it’s as if our politicians have actually read and understood not only the Alaska constitution but the US Constitution as well.
No, I’m not Alice and I didn’t fall through the looking glass. And I’m not Pollyanna either. I know that people will inevitably disagree on how to get there from here in the best way possible for this state. But by coming together for the good of the state, I believe that our legislators are at least acknowledging the legitimacy of varying viewpoints without the need to ascribe evil motives to those who disagree with them.
Considering the political landscape of this great country right now, that’s the best sign of hope I’ve seen in a long, long time. And it’s coming from my very own legislature. Who’d have ever guessed?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:32 AM •

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