Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Excuse me, but I just have to say this. Darn that Sarah Palin!  And believe me, when that phrase first popped into my head, darn was not necessarily the euphemism that came with it.  I know life is not necessarily fair, but this is ridiculous.  I look more pregnant when I’m constipated than Palin looks two months before delivery.  Where is the fairness in that? I have friends who swear they looked more pregnant seven minutes after conception than she does now.

This woman was doing shoots for Vogue magazine when she was at least four or five months pregnant, and they weren’t pictures of women who look good pregnant. They were pictures of powerful women who just look good period. If she is trying to lose the vote of every woman who has ever run through the grocery store with a hoodie pulled up over her head because she was having a bad hair week, she’s done it.
Then, just when I thought she had finally pushed me to the limit, what with being beautiful and having a seemingly great husband and nice kids and a good job and all that stuff, I read this quote from her in the newspaper story that broke her pregnancy secret. “To any critics who say a woman can’t think and work and carry a baby at the same time, I’d just like to escort that Neanderthal back to the cave.” And I fell for her all over again.
Young women entering the workforce today may not completely understand what this means to those of us who entered the workforce at a very different time and under very different circumstances.  Let me illustrate.
When this story first broke, a professional organization I belong to was in the process of lining up its May luncheon speaker.  Palin had been at the top of the list of people being considered. Needless to say, the idea that she might go into labor while addressing the group gave us some pause to discuss alternatives. And so a flurry of e-mails ensued about whether it was a good idea to invite someone so potentially close to her due date to be our featured speaker.
One of the people engaged in the discussion described how, when she was pregnant with her first child, her employer made her stop working a full month before her due date despite the fact that she was having a healthy pregnancy that was not in any way affecting her job performance. She suggested that perhaps that employer had the ulterior motive of forcing her off the payroll before the paid Christmas and New Year’s holidays happened.  This same woman then went on to write that when her daughter had her first child, she worked up to the day before she delivered and no one really saw anything strange, odd or scary about that.
Today’s young women in the workforce didn’t even blink when they read that Palin went back to work as Wasilla’s mayor the day after her last child was born; it was business as usual. But to those of us of a certain age, it signified a victory. Those young women who today shy away from being called feminists or libbers have the freedom to do so because us old ladies wore those names proudly and refused to be held back due to prejudices and misconceptions about how gender affects workplace performance.
I’ve actually heard men defend the male monopoly on positions of power because of their fear that if a woman was having a baby when a crisis occurred, she wouldn’t be there to do her job. And all I could think was that George Bush was probably more sedated when he had his colonoscopy than most women are while delivering.  And no one worried that because Bush had a colon, he couldn’t be president.  There were lots of other reasons some of us didn’t think he could do the job, but his colon wasn’t one of them.
I will eventually get over the desire to stand up and scream at Sarah Palin, “Are you kidding me here? You’ve seven months pregnant? Where are you carrying this baby?  In your pocket?” Once that impulse has passed, I’ll be left with a quiet feeling of satisfaction that I was of the generation that led to all the Sarah Palins who dot the American landscape today. Happy baby, Governor!  Way to show’em how it’s done!

Elise Patkotak • 06:21 AM •
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The politician’s faithful wife by his side, her face pulled into an unreadable expression, as he admits to indiscretions, to cheating on their marriage. As he publicly humiliates her yet again, there she stands, by his side in the same picture we have of so many wives.  Now it’s Mrs.Spitzer’s turn. And I wonder why one of these wives doesn’t just look their husband in the eye and say, “Screw you. Go out there and face the music yourself. It’s your music. Not mine.”

Elise Patkotak • 06:47 AM •
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

For all you who are awaiting my reaction to the fact that our governor is seven months pregnant and had to tell us because she still wasn’t showing, be patient. This week’s column should answer all your questions. Meanwhile, all you ladies should feel free to eat ALL the leftover Valentine candy in your house and any Christmas candies you find between the couch pillows. It is simply the healthiest first response to this announcement.

Elise Patkotak • 06:25 AM •
Monday, March 10, 2008

Am I the only one who finds it funny that even OPEC won’t listen to George Bush? In case you missed it, they refused to up their output despite his request based on the theory that he screwed up the American economy and there was no reason for them to rescue him. Yep, you know your reputation in America really sucks when even OPEC is dissing you and no one defends you from them.

Elise Patkotak • 06:41 AM •
Sunday, March 09, 2008

When it comes to George Clooney I am absolutely a limp noodle. It must be the Italian in him. God I hate being part of the crowd.

Elise Patkotak • 06:12 AM •
Saturday, March 08, 2008

Thank god I am a civilized person. I was waiting to turn left and traffic was just about to break to let me in.  Except for one car that was traveling slower than all other traffic and was weaving a little too.  Sure enough, when the driver got close enough for me to see, she was on a cell phone while leaning over to the passenger’s side like she was looking for something in the glove compartment. And all I could think was that she was very lucky I didn’t just crash my car into her in anger and frustration. When you are driving, damn it, just drive!

Elise Patkotak • 06:12 AM •
Friday, March 07, 2008

A friend and I recently had an e-mail exchange about silence versus...well, anything that makes noise. He went through a great deal of trouble to find a portable radio that meets his living and exercising needs. Exercising is also his excuse for owning an iPod.  I don’t own an iPod.  Or a Blackberry...in fact, I’m still not even sure what a Blackberry is. I’ll figure that out as soon as I figure out what Blue Tooth means. Anyhow, I realized that I really am different from the majority of people in that I seek and crave silence. When I walk, I can’t imagine taking an iPod or radio or cell phone. I want the total silence of the day broken only by the sounds of the birds in the trees. I can get so far into my head, whether creating stories or writing a column or thinking about a difficult children’s case, that I have actually found myself totally stopped in the middle of the road. I just got so engrossed in my head that I forgot to walk. At night, when all the birds have gone to sleep and the dogs have found their bed for the first part of their night, I love to sit up doing a crossword puzzle or reading a magazine and reveling in the silence that surrounds me.
Is that really weird or what?

Elise Patkotak • 06:05 AM •
Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hillary Clinton seems to have a problem with the inspirational aspect of Barak Obama’s campaign. She wants details. That’s funny coming from a woman whose husband once said, “There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what is right with America.” Sometimes politicians forget that it’s not just the nuts and bolts of a plan that change the landscape. Sometimes it’s the words used to inspire a people to be better than they are, to achieve goals they thought impossible.

All the great leaders of history have known that this is an integral part of leading. Is there anyone who made it through school without hearing Churchill’s stirring words as England faced the might of Nazi Germany virtually alone?  Churchill had little to offer at that point but words. But oh the power of those words!
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
I can’t read those words even today without feeling a chill down my spine.  They were meant to energize a country facing a dark and iffy future. Instead of giving them a detailed defense plan, Churchill gave them words that stirred the English people to greatness during the darkest days of the blitz - words of hope, courage and defiance in the face of all that Hitler could throw at them.
Hillary Clinton, a policy wonk if there ever was one, has some detailed programs to offer. When she and Obama meet in debates on substantive topics, she can match him point for point. So I can understand how frustrating it must be for her to watch him catch the wind and soar on the fluid melody of his words.  Hillary, try as she might, is simply not an inspirational speaker on the level of Barak Obama.  What he does effortlessly, she cannot achieve with all the practice in the world.
And so maybe it isn’t fair that he came out of seemingly nowhere to take the wind from her sails with his rhetoric. But America today thirsts for the words he offers - words that urge us to come together and be better than we’ve been. After too many years of hateful, divisive politics in which no standard was too low to achieve, this country longs for a leader to inspire it. We have the chief decider right now whose message to us after 9/11 was to go out and spend money.  I don’t know about you, but I wanted something more than being told to go to Costco and spend a little more on extra large packs of paper towels. I longed to be challenged to greatness and was instead sent shopping.
The sad thing is that Hillary comes across as looking somewhat petty and petulant when she mocks Obama’s calls for this nation to unite and be great again.  She’s right that words alone won’t do it. She’s right that Obama needs to have plans with details that show they are workable. But she’s playing the fool if she thinks that mocking his charismatic speeches of hope will help her cause. 
I want more, not less, of those words.  For far too long we’ve had to travel back to JFK’s inaugural speech or Ronald Reagan’s morning in America speech to find inspiration.  We need a leader today who asks us to give to our country in more ways than a buying spree in Nordstrom’s.  If Barak Obama is cleaning Hillary’s clock because of his speeches, he is doing nothing neither more nor less than great leaders have done since time immemorial. He is using the power of words to move a nation.
As I finish this column, I have no idea of the results of Tuesday’s primaries. Maybe Hillary pulled it off. Maybe Obama smoked her. Either way, I can only hope that Obama will continue to call this nation back to greatness, will continue to push a message that forces us out of our comfort zone, will continue to excite our youth about the political process.  Even if he doesn’t win the nomination or doesn’t win the election, if he does that much, he deserves a nation’s gratitude for reminding us that we should always strive to be better than we are.

Elise Patkotak • 06:01 AM •
Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I just got my New York Magazine with the nude photo shoot with Lindsay Lohan recreating Marilyn Monroe’s nude shoot. May I just say that Lindsay should go home and give it up. Her size 0, little boy, straight body with no boobs or curves is NOTHING compared to Marilyn’s voluptuous size 12 to 14 body that came complete with boobs that mattered and curves that wouldn’t quit. Now that was sexy. This androgynous stick trying to pretend to Marilyn’s breathtaking sensuality is just pathetic.

Elise Patkotak • 06:15 AM •
Tuesday, March 04, 2008

If power makes a man sexually attractive, how to explain George Bush who has all the sex appeal of an aging Alfred E Newman? 

Elise Patkotak • 06:40 AM •
Monday, March 03, 2008

I think John McCain is probably an ok guy.  And so is Dennis Kucinich...assuming you give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s really from earth. But does anyone believe for a moment that either of those men would be sporting those particular women on their arms if they weren’t public figures? I guess power does make a man more attractive. On the other hand, it must be something that doesn’t translate well on TV because for the life of me, it makes no sense otherwise. Wait...maybe Kucinich’s wife is from the same planet as he is and she just chose a better body to come to earth in. Boy, would that ever explain a lot.  Now if I could only come up with an explanation for Larry Craig’s wide stance, I could sleep better at night.

Elise Patkotak • 06:14 AM •
Sunday, March 02, 2008

Am I the only one who wonders if Keanu Reeves goes into a pod in between movies to be re-energized?

Elise Patkotak • 06:12 AM •
Saturday, March 01, 2008

Well, my sister managed to barf her way across the world as we traveled. But even this she does in style. This time she waited until she was in the Hotel Del in Coronado. If you’re going to be sick, be sick first class I say.

Elise Patkotak • 06:48 AM •
Friday, February 29, 2008

So I go to freecredit.com to check on my credit score based on their eight million commercials saying my life will suck if I don’t know it.  And lo and behold, the offer is only good in the contiguous United States. Hawaii and Alaska need not apply. And I have to ask how this makes any sense? I mean, this is the Internet for god’s sake. It’s not like the company is going to be charged extra for sending something to Alaska and Hawaii. So exactly what is the problem with this picture? Or are the people running the site just idiots who don’t understand what the words “world wide web” really mean? And if they are that dumb, should anyone be trusting them to actually get the credit report right?

Elise Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Thursday, February 28, 2008

It was one of those moments. I shoved the salmon with pill into the eagle’s mouth as one volunteer held him and another gingerly pried his mouth open. I’d get the salmon down far enough to think he’d surely have to swallow. He’d glare at me and, the minute we let go of his mouth, spit it right back out. Then he’d glare some more.  I’d pick up the now tattered piece of salmon barely holding a melting pill in its center and we’d do the dance again. Eventually the humans won. But it was not lost on me that three adults with opposable thumbs and cognitive reasoning couldn’t outsmart one eagle. Ultimately, we could only out muscled him.

Maybe this is why, in the most important election of this campaign season, it was an eagle that came out on top as bird of the year.  Petra, who has been an education bird with Bird TLC for over ten years, took home the title after some fierce campaigning on the part of her human Todd.  Petra, of course, stayed above the politics that went into the campaign, preferring to keep herself unsullied.  Todd had no such qualms.
Her two rivals, a great horned owl named Gus and a raven named Crawford, feel that if the election had been held after the Kodiak incident, they would have surely won. As Gus so succinctly put it, “You didn’t see a bunch of owls diving in to a slime truck, did you? We are much too wise for that.”
In a world in which presidential campaigns in America seem to stretch on endlessly, one flowing into another with barely a break of a day, the recent election for Bird of the Year sponsored by Anchorage’s very own wild bird rehab center was a refreshing change.  The candidates had three months to make their case. The only requirement was that they do their best not to poop in someone’s house during campaign appearances. Other than that, the expectation was that people would be so wowed by their proximity to creatures of such beauty and grace that they would open their purses gladly and vote frequently.
That’s right, open their purses. Because this was an election in which the candidates openly begged to be bought.  No silly ethics forms to fill out. No APOC checking who made contributions.  No awkward questions about being too close with people who wanted favors. This campaign was all about money...wait, that’s pretty much what all presidential campaigns are about too. Oh, that’s right. This campaign made no attempt to be disingenuous about that fact.
The recent slime truck incident in Kodiak brought the Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC) into the limelight in this state and across the country as the media followed the saga of the eagles that survived the dive.  Most Alaskans reacted with the generosity we’ve come to expect. The salmon flowed in to feed the eagles, money arrived to help pay the extraordinary heating and water bills, volunteers from laypeople to vets showed up to do whatever was needed to get the birds well.
And now, Bird TLC can happily report that almost all the birds have returned to Kodiak. They are somewhere in their aeries regaling their mates with tales of how brave and bold they were when captured by aliens who did weird things to them with hoses and hair dryers. And Petra, after bidding a fond farewell to her compatriots, prepares to take up the mantle of Bird of the Year, representing all of Alaska’s wild birds to the general public. She will carry a message about the need to keep Alaska’s wild spaces wild so that the thousands of birds that call Alaska home will always have a place to land.  Just preferably not in the back of a truck filled with salmon slime.
Bird TLC is preparing for its annual fund raiser on March 5 at the Captain Cook Hotel to help defray the cost of caring for Alaska’s wild birds year round. Mr. Whitekeys and the Spamtones will provide both the entertainment and the auctioneering. Come on out and meet Petra.  She’s probably the only winning candidate you’ll meet this year who will brag about how many votes she bought to cinch the election. And she promises to try and not poop anywhere near the appetizers. Honest.

Elise Patkotak • 06:39 AM •

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