Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, July 06, 2006

My sister and her friends show up in about ten days and suddenly I’m noticing the dust and cobwebs that seem to never be there when I’m home alone.  I take a broom to my shoulder and head into the webs with courage in my heart and the hope that the spiders are all away for the day.  If not, please just ignore the screaming you’ll hear emanating from my home.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 09:35 AM •
Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I first noticed the odor a few weeks ago. But I was busy getting ready to leave town and figured it would wait for resolution until I returned. The smell was even more obvious upon my return and was clearly emanating from the corner of my bedroom where Mr. T takes his regular 20-hour naps.

At first I thought it was just him smelling like the little old man that he is. So I tried bathing him in banana scented dog shampoo.  He was not amused and ultimately it didn’t do much for the odor. So I decided it was time for his dog bed and quilt to be washed since they seemed to be at least fifty percent of the problem and, unlike Mr. T, I could throw them in the washer with strong detergent and hot water.
Mr. T will probably remember the day I took his bedding up for cleaning as one of the most traumatic of his life.  After his morning serving of chicken strips, he went as usual back to his bed to recuperate from breakfast.  And bed wasn’t there.  He stood staring in the corner for longer than I care to admit. Maybe he thought if he stared long enough, it would return from whatever hell had grabbed it.
Eventually it dawned on him that his bedding was simply not returning in the near future and he was going to have to go with an alternative plan if he was to get his usual amount of sleep for the day.  He heaved his body around the bedroom and living room, testing every possible surface from floor to carpet and back again.  Like Goldilocks, he could find none that was just right.  Apparently the thought of going downstairs to his bed in my office never occurred to him because that bed was for afternoon naps. Eventually he came and sat by my chair glaring at me in a way that made me very grateful he didn’t have enough teeth left in his head to carry out any attacks he might plan.
In fact, I was somewhat sympathetic to his predicament to the extent that I think we all have certain routines and expectations of the way things are. When those expectations are dashed or routines disrupted, we feel off balance as if all is not quite right in the world.
I think that pretty much explains how I feel about the legislature meeting in July. It’s not that I don’t think they need to meet and finish their business; it’s just that they are supposed to meet in the winter, not the summer.
Summer is for fishing and long lost friends and relatives from the lower ‘48.  Summer is for mosquitoes and stunted trees struggling to survive the onslaught of moose lips.  Fall is snow tires and darkness, ice and quiet. Visitors leave and the holiday season begins. Winter is when the legislature goes to Juneau and all sane Alaskans go to Hawaii. It’s when snow starts out as fun and ends up making us want to scream - not unlike our feelings for the legislature. Spring is when more snow melts than falls in any given month and the sun stays up long enough to matter. Spring is when politicians pass a flurry of bills they’ve been mucking with all session and then leave Juneau so the rooms can be cleaned before the tourists arrive. 
So having legislators meeting in Juneau in July just throws our whole calendar off. Especially when some of us resent paying them to meet to resolve issues that should have been dealt with during the regular session. It’s as though adjournment sneaks up on them each year and they are surprised it’s happening again.
Completing tasks on time is something we are taught in elementary school.  It just seems to me that we should be able to hold our legislators to the same standard we hold a first grader.
All of us who work in the real world face deadlines daily. While we may be excused for occasionally blowing those deadlines if we have some clearly extenuating circumstances, there are few bosses who would put up with it on a regular basis.  Blow enough deadlines and you will soon find yourself looking for another job.
Which is maybe the standard to which those people in Juneau should be held.  Either get the work done on time for which you were sent to Juneau or we will send you packing and find someone who will.  Because right now you are just messing with my mind by meeting in July.  And I’m not sure Alaskans should be all that eager to have outsiders meet their legislators en masse.  What with the average age of our tourists, that could be a recipe for disaster.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 09:20 AM •
Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Today I will miss my aunt’s pickled green tomatoes and the fried bread with some kind of flower in the middle that my family used to make for the July 4 picnic.  And I’ll miss all my aunts and uncles and mom and dad who were always part of the day.  But mostly, I’ll remember the summer I brought my friend Sandra home to meet my family. Sandra was, at the time, a 15 year old Eskimo girl.  Grandpop Rocco met her and in the thickest possible Italian accent said to her, “Welcome to my country!” I think that says all that needs to be said about what immigrants bring to this land.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 09:00 AM •
Monday, July 03, 2006

I told Mr. T that Aunt Judy was coming in just ten days. I know he got excited because he blinked.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 PM •
Sunday, July 02, 2006

Last week I was required to put makeup and a bra on two days in a row for some meetings. Here’s hoping this week is less stressful. Working out of my home definitely has some advantages...though the mailman may occasionally feel as though he wants to tear his eyes out.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 09:31 AM •
Saturday, July 01, 2006

Under the heading of music news on AOL is a story about Brittany Spears posing naked for some magazine. I guess I haven’t been paying attention for a while because I find myself wondering exactly how this is music news.  Does she play the banjo with her nipples?  Pound a drum with her butt?  Or is this just another desperate attempt by some “has been” to become an “is” again?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 09:04 AM •
Friday, June 30, 2006

So now the newspapers tell me busts are out and butts are in for women.  Wouldn’t that figure since I have the Sereni curse - the deformed butt that shows up on the front of my body as though I were always seven months pregnant but is totally flat in the back.  Damn that J Lo!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 05:21 AM •
Thursday, June 29, 2006

First we were told to worry about our cholesterol numbers.  Then we were told to worry about our LDL and HDL - while apparently remembering simultaneously which was good, which was bad, which should be high, which should be low and what those numbers should be. Now we have to worry about some kind of small particles that can only be detected through a VAP test - a Vertical Auto Profile.  Seriously, at what point is enjoying a steak and just dying less trouble?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 10:43 AM •
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My friends in Coronado, California had a daughter graduating from high school and another graduating from college. The day before the college graduation we had a small party for family and friends to celebrate. I was there because thirty years of friendship has made me part of the family.

After a brief consultation about the menu, it was decided that Costco trays could fill most of our food needs.  Instead of cooking, my friend got to spend the day arranging flowers from her garden throughout her house and filling her birdbath with gardenias.  Her husband took on the manly chore of drinks and readied coolers with ice and bottled water accompanied by some beer and wine.
In my youth, back in those days before we even had a sun, we had no Costco or Sam’s Club. The idea of going out and buying prepared food for this kind of party would have struck my aunts as this side of blasphemous.  After all, they would argue, what is the kitchen for if not to do just those chores?
My aunts and uncles showed up for each other for every event in their children’s lives that could possibly call for a celebration.  I have old 8 mm footage of my beloved godparents, Aunt Ida and Uncle Paul, all dressed up and walking with me in my miniscule cap and gown at my kindergarten graduation ceremony.
After the ceremony, the aunts would head to the kitchen to cover their pretty dresses with aprons and get the food ready.  The men would head to the living room to sit with my dad and have a drink while watching a Phillies, Eagles or 76ers game.  They would reappear in the vicinity of the kitchen only when the wine needed a strong arm to pop the cork or someone yelled that the food was ready.
My memory of those days involves a lot of laughter and chatter as the women chopped and peeled and cooked and discussed what was wrong with their kids and husbands.  Priorities were set, theories about appropriate discipline methods were aired, and the latest Arthur Godfrey quip was repeated. The women shared their lives, their loves, their joys and their dreams in that kitchen, never once breaking stride as they prepared pasta and salads and roasts and desserts.
This is where life was truly lived in my home, in the kitchen. While the men solved the problems of the world, the women solved the problems of kids who answered back, refused to go to accordion lessons and seemed determined to send each and every mother to an early grave.  At least, that’s what they told us if any kid was stupid enough to wander into this enclave.
My nonna was frequently found sitting in the middle of this get together, stirring her sauce and smiling as she followed fourteen conversations at once both in English and Italian. For a woman who spoke but the barest approximation of her adopted language till the day she died, she never missed a beat on the conversations held in English about her grandchildren,
I thought this would all get lost when we started to go to Costco for our pre-formed trays topped off by some sinful cake from their bakery.  But I was wrong. The need for women to communicate about their families and things important to their families’ futures overcomes all impediments.  The difference between then and now was that my friend and I were able to sit down over a cup of coffee to discuss these issues instead of over a hot stove. The men no longer hid in the living room afraid of female conversation they wouldn’t grasp.  Her husband, brother-in-law and other male relatives were right there with us discussing the kids and family just as the women now felt free to comment on the ever present game on TV.
So we may have lost something in home cooking but we seemed to have gained something in the participation of the male members of the family in talks about the kids and the future. I may miss the homemade sauces and roasts but I don’t miss the segregation of sexes.
I think if my dad and uncles could come back and see the changes, they would think it was a good thing too.  Assuming, of course, that the pasta sauce still made it to the table on time.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 11:24 AM •
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Oh get your minds out of the gutter.  I was refering to a good handyman and a good mechanic.  And once again, get your mind out of the gutter over the term “handyman”.  I have both and yet I still find myself with a headlight bulb for my car that I’m afraid to touch. I’m afraid to throw it away and I’m afraid to touch it.  I bought a new bulb for the one that had burned out. But my mechanic put both in that came in the package on the theory that the other would probably burn out in the not too distant future. But then he handed me the not yet burned out bulb and said I should keep it for a spare. But how can it be a spare when every time I change headlights, the mechanic puts two in at once. Will I end up with a garage full of almost burnt out headlights that carry warnings saying I shouldn’t touch the bulb because if the oil gets on me I will spontaneously combust and take most of Anchorage with me?  Oh my god...I’m afraid of my headlight bulb.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 07:04 AM •
Monday, June 26, 2006

I was visiting one of my kids at an institution here in town and brought him a taste of home - whale flipper.  Staff came in to try it. They asked questions about the food and the customs surrounding it.  My young friend knew little because his family had, to put it mildly, not been engaged in a subsistence lifestyle while he was growing up. I, on the other hand, was spewing out information like a frigging dictionary of whaling customs and habits. And I realized that I know more about Inupiaq whaling traditions and bowhead whales than I do about my grandmother’s Sunday spaghetti sauce.  Wow.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 05:26 AM •
Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sleeping in is impossible in an Alaskan summer when you have birds and a dog.  The sun is always there and they feel that life should be active for so long as it is. So about 6 AM, the birds start calling out. By 7, my dog who in the winter I have to physically remove from his bed at 10 AM and insist he has to go pee, is pacing the floor by my bed wondering if I died and so won’t be getting up to let him out.  My floor is fake wood. He has toenails.  The tap, tap, tap makes me crazy. And so I find myself reluctantly more productive in summer than winter.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 01:52 PM •
Saturday, June 24, 2006

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 01:35 PM •
Friday, June 23, 2006

Am I just too dumb to live or do other people need a cheat sheet to follow CSI? Why is it that every time they have an “AHA!” moment, I’m having a “WHAT THE...???” moment?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 12:03 PM •
Thursday, June 22, 2006

It’s rainy and cold.  I’ve actually had to turn the heat on at least once a day because the downstairs birds have their little parkas on which I take as a hint that they’re cold.  This is the coldest summer I’ve encountered since I moved here. Much more of what I was looking for than those wimp warm summers of the past few years.  Of course, when my sister and her friends arrive, they might have a different attitude about that.
Meanwhile, will the person who put all the halibut in my freezer while I was out please identify themselves.  It was a nice surprise and my sister and friends will enjoy it. I’d just like to know who to thank.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 02:21 PM •

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