Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, September 20, 2007

The most interesting reaction I had to the column I wrote last week about the zoo and Maggie came from a lady who wrote to me that when she first started reading it, she thought it was going to be about politics and politicians again.  She expressed great relief to find that when she got into it, it was actually about an elephant.

I guess that’s where we are at this point. Anything that will turn our minds from the headlines detailing just how sleazy our politicians are is a welcomed relief. Heck, I’m even glad to see OJ back on the front page. At least I expect him to be a sleazoid.  No surprises there.
I’ve ruminated a long time on the current phenomenon in our land, the feeling that politics has taken over every headline the way Paris Hilton’s jail sentence once did.  And I must ask, who ever thought we’d long for the days of Paris Hilton crying out in despair as she’s led away to three whole weeks in jail? 
In order to try and clear my head a little, give my psyche a break, and get rid of the dead plants hanging over my front porch, I spent the weekend in my yard. This is not something I usually do, and never do I do it voluntarily unless the situation has gotten so bad I’m afraid the neighbors might be calling the police because they’re afraid they lost a kid in the tangle of my raspberry bushes. Besides, I figure by this time of the year, most self-respecting bugs have nestled in underground and won’t be nearby to freak me.  So I went out, pruning shears in hand, and started hacking away.
Here’s a word of warning for all my readers. It is probably not a good idea to think about local political scandals while you have a sharp object in your hand and greenery surrounding you.  I started at one end of my raspberry row thinking I would just cut back those branches that were reaching across the yard and starting to climb up the wall of my house.  But once they were trimmed, the mess under the bushes seemed to stand out - a political analogy even when I wasn’t trying for one. So I thought I’d trim up the bushes enough to get under them and rake out the debris.  But then I cut one a little too short and had to cut the others to match. Do I really need to continue here? Where I once had raspberry bushes climbing to the sky, I now have totally naked ground with the occasional little stem sticking up.  I also have about four hundred pounds worth of raspberry bushes on the ground waiting for the garden fairy to bag them all up and drag them to the end of my driveway for me. If I’m a really good girl and go to sleep when I should and keep my eyes shut really, really tight, it will happen.  Of course, I also believe that if I do that often enough, when I wake up there will be people representing me in government who don’t make me want to run screaming into the night.  We’re all entitled to our fantasies.
Here’s the trouble with being old. Not only do those fantasies never come true, but you end up with a naked yard, a pile of dead branches and a back that is essentially your chiropractor’s ticket to his children’s college education.  And because the caffeine had not yet worn off and I was still in a snit about job offers in warm climes in exchange for votes, I cut my hanging plants back before putting them to bed for the winter.  I mean, really cut them back.  I don’t want to directly blame anyone for my garden woes, but someone owes me new hanging plants next spring.
So you’d think that a weekend with no new headlines from trial testimony and all that physical labor in the garden would cause my normally cheerful personality to reassert itself.  Throw in the OJ headlines and I should be ecstatic.  Here’s someone who did something bad and we didn’t elect him to anything. How great is that?
But a weekend is simply not enough time to really take a break from it all. And now the weekend is over, the trial has resumed, the testimony spills out and all the ugly little secrets of our representative democracy become fodder for late night pundits.  I never imagined that a democracy would be a neat and clean form of government, but I never imagined it would be so scummy either.  I feel less dirty coming in from an afternoon in my garden than I do after listening to the tapes being played at Pete Kott’s trial. And it isn’t the language that most offends me.
All in all, it was a really lovely weekend. The sun shone, the air was crisp, and the mosquitoes seemed otherwise occupied. I took long walks, cleared out my garden, and got to watch pretty people in pretty dresses at the Emmy awards.  But now the weekend is over. Reality has reasserted itself. Bummer.

Elise Patkotak • 06:41 AM •
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Just as I was thinking I might have enough money to paint the inside of my house when I got my PFD check, Blondie decides to blow out the ligament on her knee thereby requiring surgery that is just slightly more than the check itself.  Maybe I should just give up and tell everyone I painted the inside of my house dingy gray deliberately.

Elise Patkotak • 06:42 AM •
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I can’t believe I am actually finding the news about OJ a welcomed relief to the relentless headlines about our local and national politicians.  It may be time to tranquilize me.

Elise Patkotak • 06:51 AM •
Monday, September 17, 2007

Seems as though way more Alaskan politicians than originally named woke up to morning in America in bed with the wrong person.  As they scramble to find their way home while erasing all evidence of their fingerprints, I can only chuckle. What buffoons they are.

Elise Patkotak • 06:23 AM •
Sunday, September 16, 2007

...if only because that means this incessant rain will end.  When I had only one dog, I could walk and carry an umbrella. Now with two dogs and two leashes, my only choices are to get wet or learn how to hold an umbrella in my mouth for three miles. And don’t suggest I use the leash that has two chains at the end but only one handle. My dogs each go their own way and want their own leash.  And it’s not that they’re spoiled as much as it’s just easier to give in sometimes.

Elise Patkotak • 06:43 AM •
Saturday, September 15, 2007
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This picture was taken the day Rhodes realized that this would be some of the last times he’d be seeing that dinner for free till he was much, much older.

Elise Patkotak • 06:10 AM •
Friday, September 14, 2007
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This picture was taken the day that Rhodes’ vision finally came into focus at the exact moment his mom was about to breast feed him and he got his first clear view of his dinner.

Elise Patkotak • 06:08 AM •
Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Alaska Zoo is generating enough bad publicity to make me wonder if they have learned nothing from the travails of our political class?  As the situation with Maggie drags on, negative news about the zoo continues to pile up.  What may ultimately be lost in all this is not Maggie, but the tremendous good the zoo actually does with other animals.

I don’t think anyone but the most diehard of diehards is still trying to justify keeping Maggie in Alaska. The majority of people seem to agree on two things. One, we all love Maggie dearly. Two, Alaska is not the best place for her.  So why is she still here generating bad publicity for an organization that should be getting only kudos for the other work they do?
If you want an example of the right and wrong way to handle bad PR, take a look at the difference in the way Lisa Murkowski handled a recent dust up about a house she bought versus the way Senator Craig of Idaho is handling his little image problem.  In Lisa’s case, she acted swiftly and decisively. She quickly realized that no matter how innocent she might have felt her land transaction was, in the public’s eye it was dirty. As a US Senator she had an obligation to put things right. And she did.  She returned the property.  What was the result of her swift action? Think about it. When was the last time you saw this issue in the headlines?  She cut off the oxygen fueling the flames of the story and the flames died out.
Now let’s look at Senator Craig. First he pleads guilty to a misdemeanor in an effort to bury the story. When that doesn’t work and the media erupt with stories that question everything from his sexuality to his fitness as a public servant, he announces he will resign. He almost immediately changes his mind and announces that maybe he won’t resign. And so the flaming headlines continue.
The way to quell bad news is to face it, deal with it and move on. Lisa Murkowski clearly understands this.  It seems that neither Senator Craig nor the Alaska Zoo yet get it.
For so long as Maggie remains in Alaska, she will be the zoo story.  She garners more publicity than the baby wildcat that recently took up residence; the baby wildcat that should be the zoo’s biggest headliner because this is really what the zoo does and what it does best.  It cares for our orphaned wildlife. But that story got one small paragraph in the paper and was quickly overtaken by more news about Maggie.
So I have to wonder why the zoo board and administration do not get how much damage they continue to inflict on themselves by not moving Maggie as quickly and safely as possible. They say they have to crate train her. Have they even started?  If not, why not?  If they know they are going to move her, why do they have to wait to decide on a facility before starting to construct the container and teaching her to not fear it? Is anyone at the zoo thinking about what it will do to their reputation in the hearts and souls of all Alaskans if Maggie dies while waiting for them to get their act together?
When I moved down to Anchorage from Barrow, one of first things I did was get an annual zoo membership. I loved walking through the grounds on a quiet winter’s day, gazing and contemplating life and nature. However, every time I got to Maggie’s enclosure, that sense of peace fled and I wondered how she stood there all winter without losing her mind.
It makes me sad to think Maggie may be suffering; sad to think she may have to go through another whole winter staring at her unused, publicly funded travesty of a treadmill; sad to think she could die waiting for a home with warmth and grass and creatures around that look like her. But mostly I’m sad because the Alaska Zoo has been her home for so long and people have honestly loved and tried to care for her and now she’s become a symbol of bad publicity that could harm the zoo’s future ability to save abandoned, injured and orphaned wildlife of the north. 
I don’t think that’s an ending Maggie would ever have wanted for her home in Alaska, a home - let’s not forget - that took her in as an orphan with nowhere else to go. She and the zoo deserve better than all the bad headlines she now generates for them. Move Maggie to her new home and let’s get beyond the bad headlines and back to pictures of that little wildcat whose only chance at life right now comes from the dedication of the people at the Alaska Zoo.

Elise Patkotak • 06:32 AM •
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I had to take a toothbrush and its electric base out of the wrapping today.  I was close to tears before the ordeal ended. I had used a scissors and knife and small saw attempting to get the plastic to let me in. I was walking around the kitchen banging the damn thing on counters and using every four letter word...and more than a few five, six and seven letter words....I know.  I had two cuts on my right hand from the plastic when I finally got in.  What the hell are the geniuses who design packaging thinking?  What are they afraid will happen to this plastic toothbrush and base that requires the kind of packaging the CIA could use to send top secret information around the world.  No really....the Russians would have never broken any of our secret codes if first they had had to tear their way through what passes today for packaging.
I’m not a drinking woman but I think I need to go drink some vanilla or something to calm me down.

Elise Patkotak • 06:12 AM •
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It’s 9/11/07.  Six years ago, George Bush swore he would capture Osama Bin Laden dead or alive and hold him accountable for what he did.  Yeah, right.  Easier to go after an idiot like Saddam Hussein than actually try to go head to head with someone who was intelligent enough to plan and carry out 9/11.
George Bush is a shame to this nation.  Osama Bin Laden’s continued freedom is a slap in the face to every person who died on 9/11 and their survivors.  I don’t know how Bush sleeps at night. He has destroyed America’s moral standing and dissipated all the good will that poured out to us on 9/11 and what does he have to show for it? And endless war and Osama on tape with his beard dyed, looking quite alive and healthy, and warning us all to convert to Islam or else.  That will be George Bush’s real legacy.

Elise Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Monday, September 10, 2007

The more I read about Senator Craig’s little episode and the convoluted and complicated little world of signals and taps and finger signs, the more I find myself thinking:
1. Boys never really do grow up, do they? They still have secret handshakes that make them cool....or secret something they shake.
2. If all this is happening in their restrooms, how come they still go in and come out quicker than 90% of the women I know?  Suddenly, I find myself hoping even more fervently that they take the time to wash their hands.
3. Why is it that women’s public restrooms are nowhere as interesting and fun?  The most that ever seems to go on in there is a mommy changing a baby’s diaper that is so rank that it clears the room out in ten seconds flat.  Is it because we simply have too many layers of clothes to deal with? Or because it would take too long to get our makeup and hair back in order?
4. Is it being too stereotypical to think that it figures that guys can go into the bathroom, have a relationship and come out again all in the space of about ten minutes?
These are the things I think about late at night as I go to sleep.  I think I should start taking sleeping pills.

Elise Patkotak • 06:29 AM •
Sunday, September 09, 2007
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As someone who works for the gaming industry, Judy has learned to smile at everyone. Sometimes it’s easier than other times.  You get to guess which time this is.

Elise Patkotak • 06:29 AM •
Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hey all you Anchorites (or Anchoregeans if you prefer)...don’t forget that today is Bye Bye Birdie at the old Rabbit Hutch site off Old Seward above Potter’s Marsh. Come see an eagle released back to the wild and meet our candidates for Bird of the Year. From 11 until 4.  Bring the kids. There will be all kinds of fun things for them to do.
End of commercial.

Elise Patkotak • 06:05 AM •
Friday, September 07, 2007

Our corrupt state politicians not only can’t successfully pull off a good bribery scheme without being caught redhanded on tape; they not only are dumb enough to print up hats with the logo “CBC” for Corrupt Bastards Club” and keep them around in their offices; but at least one of them also can’t tell the difference between a sleeping pill and a male enhancement pill.  That they haven’t driven this state into the Arctic Ocean is the real mystery.

Elise Patkotak • 06:35 AM •
Thursday, September 06, 2007

There’s going to be a lot of political campaigning in the coming months. Heck, there’s already been more in the past twelve months than probably occurred in the first one hundred years of America’s existence. So much hot air at a time when global warming is already a problem.  So there is every chance that you join me in feeling as though hearing one more word from Obama or Hillary or Rudy or (non-candidate but somehow mysteriously still acting like one) Fred, will cause you to run into the Alaska night screaming, “The horror!  The horror!”

There is hope on the horizon. For lo I am here to bring you word about another campaign that is gearing up for this fall, but one in which I promise you all the candidates will be better looking, better groomed, more succinct and infinitely more attractive on every level than any candidate currently running (or pretending not to run) for any office up for grabs in this country over the next two years. And, as we are all so sadly aware, that includes a huge host of minimally attractive personalities.
I have information about this campaign from a very reliable source who asks not to be named when discussing the it because he or she has not yet received authorization to do so.  But according to Rachel, Bird TLC will soon be launching a campaign to find their Bird of the Year.  And those of you smart enough to attend the Bye-Bye Birdie Event at the former Rabbit Hutch lot off Old Seward this coming Saturday will get a first glimpse of the candidates themselves as they test the waters to find their constituency.
Bye-Bye Birdie will run from 11AM to 4 PM. The event is purportedly to say goodbye to all our migratory friends who, being somewhat brighter than the average Alaskan, head out to warmer climes soon after Labor Day.  But this year, the secondary theme is most definitely to test the waters for the upcoming campaign and see if there aren’t some big donors out there who want to buy the Bird of the Year’s loyalty and vote. Yes, buy. Unlike the routine politics we seem to face on an unending continuum here, these candidates not only proudly announce they can be bought, they also promise that you can vote as early and as often as you want and never get a knock on your door from the FBI wanting to photograph your boxed wine collection.
My inside sources for this campaign swear to me they will try to run a clean and honest one despite the pay as you vote theme. They say there will be no unexpected headlines of bathroom adventures though they can’t promise there might not be the occasional bathroom accident when they are out campaigning. As a general rule of thumb, the candidates caution all their devoted followers to only stand behind them ideologically, never actually.  Both your clothes and your gag reflex will thank you.
As in our national and state political campaigns, the candidates for Bird of the Year encourage you to learn all you can about their platforms and promises before selecting your candidate.  One can’t help thinking that had more Americans actually applied their critical faculties to this exercise in the past few state and national campaigns, things would have turned out much better.  However, knowing our penchant to be captivated by snappy slogans and comely candidates, each bird will do his or her best to come up with a short, catchy slogan to captivate the American public’s apparently limited attention span. And they will try their best not to molt during the campaign.
There will, of course, be lots of other things to do this Saturday at Bye Bye Birdie.  There will be games for families to play that should engage even the oldest child among us.  There will be a presentation about Big Town Owls and one about the broken birds that come into Bird TLC all through the year to be healed.  There’s live music and an eagle release planned.  But above all, the candidates will be there at noon to give you your first peek at their potential for future leadership of the birds of Alaska.
So head on over to the Rabbit Hutch lot above Potter’s Marsh off Old Seward this Saturday and have a fun day with the whole family while introducing your children to the cleanest political campaign of the year. Come and take a stand behind you choice for Bird of the Year.  Just don’t stand too closely behind or it may suddenly become the dirtiest political campaign you’ll ever engage in.

Elise Patkotak • 06:21 AM •

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