Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
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 •
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And once again I have to ask, “How many breakups a year are we expected to live through, lord?  How many before we lose our minds completely, strip naked and go running through the mud till we hit something solid and figure we finally found our car?” It’s December in Anchorage for god’s sake! Why is everything melting?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:37 AM •
Monday, December 11, 2006

AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  MAKE THEM STOP! PLEASE MAKE THEM STOP!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:17 AM •
Sunday, December 10, 2006

So we’ve now had the first indictment of one of our legislators for bribery.  More to come.  For some of us, the perfect Christmas present.  Each day now the newspaper will bring another smile to my face as the indictments continue.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:25 AM •
Saturday, December 09, 2006

So Leslie and I are walking the dogs and engaged in animated conversation when we look up and see two moose about three feet in front of us staring fixedly at Blondie. Blue, of course, was too busy sniffing to even notice the moose.  Blondie was nose to nose sniffing the moose.  Leslie and I quickly turned, dragged the dogs away, and went fast in the other direction. So I guess my dogs are not going to be good moose detectors for me on walks.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:26 AM •
Friday, December 08, 2006

The oldies radio station here has been playing nothing but Christmas carols since the end of November. It’s enough to make an almost sane person cross the line.  Since I barely register as almost sane, I’m the person in the car next to you who is screaming at her radio.  You don’t even want to know what I’m saying.  Suffice to say that it’s not exactly in the Christmas spirit...whatever that might be.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:13 AM •
Thursday, December 07, 2006

My brother and two male cousins, friends for almost sixty years, are putting up a shelf in my sister’s closet.  As these three New Jersey Italian males stand there in the closet, each with his own idea of who should be holding what at what angle, one says, “Can anyone find a stud in here?” I have to run up the stairs to keep my head from exploding.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:53 AM •
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I recently got sick while visiting the East Coast. I was in Center City Philadelphia and could find no walk in clinic so I ended up at the emergency room of the Jefferson Hospital.  Since my cousin Joe has a large portrait of himself in their lobby because of his pioneering work as a doc in their ER, I figured I was golden.  I’d drop his name a few times and get the red carpet treatment.

Well, I dropped his name as loudly and as frequently as I could and it got me nowhere. One nurse did admit that she’d been there long enough to remember him but no one else was the slightest bit impressed. In the end, dropping his name got me a cot in the hallway after waiting five hours to be treated.
As I sat there thinking I’d surely die of whatever bug had gotten hold of me on my plane flight East, I became vaguely aware of the people and problems around me.  It didn’t take long to figure out that for many people there, this was their health care system.  They had no other.  Seeing the same health care provider twice for their problem was just a distant dream. Being seen in an office not even that.
We talk a lot about health care in this country. For those of us lucky enough to have coverage, the conversation is just that - conversation.  We may groan and complain about how long we have to wait to get an appointment or how long we have to sit once we get to the doctor’s office, but the bottom line is that we have access to that office and a means of paying for it.  Too many people in this country are not so lucky.
So I sat there on that bed in a hallway and wondered how much I would access care if this was the only care I could reach.  How often would I bother to hang around for five hours to be seen by someone for whom I was just the next set of symptom amidst a crowded field of people with symptoms? Most likely I’d wait until it was a crisis and I had no choice.
That decision is costly not only to the person who makes it but to the society that ultimately bears the price of treating a condition that has been left too long untreated. As a diabetic, I know that it is easier to treat my diabetes now than it would be to treat the complications that can arise if I don’t. Insulin is cheaper both for society and me than amputations or blindness.
So the question is why this country is having such a difficult time figuring out how to make sure that no one in our society falls through the cracks of the health care system. Poor people have Medicaid. It may not be much, but it’s something.  Older Americans have Medicare. Again, not the ideal but at least a safety net of sorts. Some workers are lucky enough to have employers who provide health care in some form or another. 
But there is a whole world of people in America who make too much to quality for government programs but too little to be able to afford health insurance and their employers offer them no options for coverage either.  For them, the world is a harsh place if they even so much as have a toothache.
The sign in the Jefferson ER made it clear that they would treat you if you needed help regardless of your ability to pay.  Which is a fine and noble sentiment except that in the end, someone has to pay. And that someone is all of us. We pay with higher premiums for our health insurance. We pay every time the hospital charges us $225 for the plastic bedpan they provide.  We pay because the working poor end up not working when they get so ill they need to go to the ER for care and, voila, they are then eligible for Medicaid. 
We pay because people who have to wait until they are so sick they can no longer function, end up becoming dependent on society to care for them.  If they had been able to afford care from the beginning, they might have been able to remain contributing members of the workforce.
I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that what I saw at the ER that long afternoon was not the way a country as rich as America should be handling the health care of its citizens.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:04 AM •
Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Are you aware that there is something called the Bedazzler being sold on TV that puts sequins on your clothes?  There’s a whole world out there that I simply don’t understand.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:49 AM •
Monday, December 04, 2006

To all subscribers to my website mailing list. I don’t have a clue what to use it for but you’ll be the first to know if I figure it out.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:47 AM •
Sunday, December 03, 2006

Here’s the way it goes with me and my sister. She came upstairs wearing a pair of pants and asked me if I thought they looked too big. I told her they looked like something I would wear and she would argue with me about.  I didn’t have to say anything else. They’re at the tailor’s.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:45 AM •
Saturday, December 02, 2006

Time spent in airports is time lost forever from your life. It can never be recouped and it only subtracts from the quality of your life.  Reading ameliorates this condition only to the extent that you can still focus on the text after sitting for eight hours waiting for a delayed flight after you’ve already been traveling for 10 hours. We can send people to the moon in more comfort than we can travel in airports.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:42 AM •
Friday, December 01, 2006

Any MacDonald’s product eaten in an airport while waiting for a flight that has been delayed more than one hour has no calories or ability to clog your artieries.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:40 AM •
Thursday, November 30, 2006

If a politician can’t go on the Daily Show and “get it”, they don’t deserve my vote.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:38 AM •

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