Elise Sereni
Sunday, June 03, 2007

A sixty year old woman just gave birth to twins...voluntarily, not as part of some sick and twisted experiment. And then she stated that this event will redefine aging.  I can only say, DEAR GOD, HAVE WE ALL LOST OUR MINDS!  It’s bad enough that I can’t be my grandmother’s sixty when I feel I have done to much to earn that right.  I can’t wear comfortable orthopedic black tied shoes or a shapeless black dress with an apron or spend a lot of time sitting in my chair regaling young people with tales of life in the dark ages before tires were round. No, I have to wear decent shoes and pants with waists and go to Curves and pretend that age has slowed me not a whit. I have to pretend that sixty is the new forty and that I’m happy with it. And now this lady wants sixty to be the new twenty. Now I have to feel guilty about not wanting to run after kids and change diapers into my seventies.  Is she insane?  She’ll be a seventy years old running after twins. TWINS!  Sweet lord, take me. Take me now.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:25 AM •
Saturday, June 02, 2007

I just want to thank all you people up north who keep reading my stuff and sending it around. I wouldn’t have as many readers as I do without you. Keep up the good work. Remember, as that wise old sage whose name I can’t remember once said, it doesn’t matter what they say about you so long as they spell your name right.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:11 AM •
Friday, June 01, 2007

I’ve decided that one of the scariest things in life is walking around my neighborhood in the spring without my glasses. Now you would think that walking around my old Brooklyn neighborhood would win the prize in this category. But until you’ve accidentally run into a moose and her calf, you really don’t know what heart stopping fear is. Of course, if my dogs would bark half as much at the moose as they do at my neighbors, I’d have some early warning. But no, they just lift their heads a bit and sniff the air and I’m supposed to figure out that means danger is close by.  Since I can’t see much without the glasses, I pretty much have to be on top of the moose before I realize the big, dark thing in from of me is moving so It’s probably not a tree.
Thank god I get my glasses today.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:52 AM •
Thursday, May 31, 2007

Last year this time, Alaska had the most unpopular governor in the country. This year we have the most popular. Since her views are actually to the right of the former governor on many issues and would cause great heartburn among her many admirers if she actually pushed those views, this popularity can only be viewed as a case of brilliant PR. This woman understands the media and uses it judiciously.  Whoever her advisers are in this area, you all deserve a raise.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:53 AM •
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The pictures in the paper last week of the Barrow boys’ football team frolicking in the ocean off Florida were geared towards only one response.  Everyone was supposed to say, “Aw.”

Once we get past the cute factor, however, some hard questions need to be asked. Perhaps first and foremost should be how a community justifies the hundreds of thousands of dollars it will spend on a handful of boys on a football team while cutting back on academics, eliminating many bilingual education programs and totally ignoring the entire female population of the school.  Or did I miss the mention of a sport for girls that’s been started for anywhere near that amount of money?
I know all the arguments for the football program. It will encourage young men to stay in school and graduate. It will give them a taste of discipline and working as a team. It will enhance their feelings of self-worth and perhaps make them feel good enough to go out and succeed in life and not succumb to drugs, alcohol and the kind of despair that leads to suicide. Anyone living in Alaska has got to be aware of the horrifying statistics of suicide rates among young Native males.  So it should be a no brainer to support this program, right?
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but all those reason for starting an extremely costly program that will ultimately affect very few students, are the same reasons I heard for years in Barrow to justify maintaining an equally expensive basketball program. The only difference is that at least the basketball program included girls.
I have to wonder if any studies have actually been done on the North Slope to show that students who participated in basketball did better after graduation than those who didn’t.  Or even so basic a study as to show how many basketball players actually went on to graduate with a degree as opposed to a certificate of attendance when compared to non-players.  Wouldn’t you think that before pouring that much into starting up a program that will only suck money from a shrinking budget, some proof would have been required of its ability to deliver on its promises?
And let me add again, what about the girls?  Do they already graduate in sufficient numbers that we don’t have to worry about them? Will the school board find another couple hundred thousand dollars in order to start a program specifically designed to keep them in school until they graduate?  Maybe we should just eliminate academics altogether and focus on sports since that seems to be what people think these kids do best. I’ve certainly not heard of any academic competition getting anywhere near this much funding.
A whole lot of money is being spent on a feel good program that ultimately has questionable value at best if the hoped for outcome is a better future for the students. And putting this much money into the program in a time of tight budgets that lead to cuts in academic programs gives the absolute wrong message to students about where the emphasis should be.
High school is supposed to be about learning skills and knowledge for your future. Sports are a great adjunct to academics and used wisely can enhance the experience. But at a time when many high school seniors can sink a basket but can’t read and comprehend the front page of a newspaper, to put this much money into a sports program that affects so few is questionable at best.
When do these kids get to learn that it’s about more than scoring a point? When does someone stand up and cheer because they received an 800 on their math SAT or are graduating with a 4.0? When will we have pep rallies before sending students off to a battle of the books?
Most employers are more worried about how well you read than how many three-point conversions you can make. That’s a cold bath in reality for a student who has coasted through school simply because he was a good athlete. If we’re worried about young men feeling good about themselves, then we should be very worried about the first day they wake up after graduation and find that being a good ball handler won’t get them anything but a pick up game at the school gym after their friends get off work.
(One a personal note: This is my last column with the Voice of the Times. I’ve had a great run and great fun.  My editors have always shown me and my work the utmost respect. I appreciate that and wish them well in their new endeavor.)

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:21 AM •
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

When I rub Blue’s belly, her jaw goes slack, her eyes glaze over, tiny drops of drool come out the sides of her mouth and she makes very odd moaning sounds. I’ve never gotten that good of a reaction from any human whose belly I’ve rubbed. And that’s why I have dogs instead.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:12 AM •
Monday, May 28, 2007

One of my birds, Kenya the Senegal with a big boy attitude, got hysterical when I first showed up without my glasses.  Didn’t recognize me at all. Went to the corner of his cage and just glared at me with his little red eyes pinning.  I thought he’d eventually figure it out after the first few meals and cage cleanings. Apparently not. He still acts like an unknown monster has entered his space every time I get near his cage. I wonder how he’s going to feel when I have glasses again this week but they have a different frame. Will his little brain be able to grasp that concept? Or does he just see this as an opportunity to show attitude and he wants to milk it for all it’s worth?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:10 AM •
Sunday, May 27, 2007

I have eliminated carpet from almost every part of my home and yet when one of my dogs has an accident at night, she always seems to find the little bit of carpeted space left and uses it. Why is that?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:38 AM •
Saturday, May 26, 2007

What in the hell is it with this new trend of keeping vegetables soaking wet at the store? I bring home a bag of little carrots for the birds and the carrots are dripping wet inside the bag. I try to dry them out so they won’t rot before I use them and they grow a slimy something all over them. I nuke them in the microwave in an attempt to then kill the slime and I end up with slimy, nuked carrots that the birds won’t go near with a ten foot pole. Who was it decided we needed to keep vegetables soaking wet in the store? And whoever it was, stop it.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:34 AM •
Friday, May 25, 2007

Since I have to wait a week now that I’ve had the second eye surgery before I can be refracted for glasses, I find myself in the interesting position of sweeping by instinct since the world is so fuzzy. When you have birds, you have to sweep every day.  I sweep where I remember they drop seeds the most and then go over the part of the floor that the dogs seem most interested in a lot. I figure I can’t see, but the dogs can still smell. And Blue can sniff out one uneaten sunflower seed from three rooms away.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:31 AM •
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Will no one be the first to say, “No more. Not now. Not ever. We will never print Brittany Spears’ name in our paper/weblog/magazine or any other place its appearance might sully optherwise civilized surroundings”.  Is there no one out there who will finally shut the door on this most annoying ever personality of all time. Bring back Don Imus.  Bring back Tom Cruise.  For god’s sakes, bring back Madonna and her metal tits. But spare us another word about this sad, pathetic creature.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:34 AM •
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I don’t want to get all huffy and possessive about this scandal stuff, but I do feel obliged to point out to those people weeping, wailing and wringing their hands over what has befallen our pristine state that this is not the first corruption scandal ever in Alaska. So we should stop acting like a virgin on her wedding night.

And, may I add, our previous corruption scandal involved people who couldn’t be bought for anything that didn’t have six to seven figures before the decimal point. They would have scorned the amounts being cited in current indictments.
I’m speaking, of course, about the North Slope Borough’s very own beloved corruption scandal of the 1980s.
Before I go any further into this topic, a disclaimer. I was raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Almost everyone who was mayor of Atlantic City since my birth went directly from his office to jail.  When it comes to corruption, Alaska has a far distance to go before it will even get close to my home state.  In New Jersey, most politicians wouldn’t get out of bed for anything less than five figures unless they were being asked to do so by the same people who inspired The Sopranos.  If you didn’t have muscle to back up your request in Jersey, you needed lots and lots of money.
And this is where our Alaska legislature has greatly disappointed me.  In a state where thinking big is a badge of honor; in a state where a governor once seriously suggested a water pipeline to California and is, even now, considering a tunnel to Siberia; in a state that claims the biggest, largest, most enormous everything; it turns out we have legislators who think so small as to be almost pathetic.
Now I realize no trials have yet occurred and no one has been proven guilty of anything yet. But the guilty pleas already entered and the recordings cited in the indictments certainly cause one to believe that there might have been something other than the people’s business happening in Juneau.  But who would have ever thought Alaskans could be bought so cheaply.  The money changing hands in that hotel room wasn’t enough for dinner and drinks for two at Simon and Seaforts. Heck, it wasn’t enough to gas up the boat for some fishing or fill up the RV for a leisurely drive to the cabin on the Kenai.
If New Jersey has any lesson for Alaska, if the North Slope scandal of the eighties has any lesson for Alaskans, it’s this. Don’t sell yourself cheaply. You will go to jail for the same amount of time whether you took five thousand, fifty thousand or five hundred thousand.  Once you’ve hit felony level, the rest is just details.  And since the other lesson from Jersey and the Slope is that you will inevitably get caught, why not at least have a good time while you’re free.  You can’t afford a good time in Alaska on a roll of twenty-dollar bills.
Heck, Dishner and Matthisen of North Slope scandal fame would have scoffed at such a picayune amount. They lit cigars with twenties.  When they went for the gusto, they grabbed with both hands. No hesitation, no second thoughts, no concerns that they were taking too much.  Because really, how much is too much when you’re on the take?
I don’t know how our current political scandal will be resolved. I can’t imagine who will roll over on whom.  I can only speculate about how many more indictments are yet to come.  There’s an old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Pretty much the same can be said about money.  Except in this case, for whatever reason, the legislators allegedly on the take seemed to have sold themselves to the lowest possible bidder.  That’s usually only a plus when awarding government contracts.
As a former New Jerseyite, I find this whole mess disheartening. As a current Alaskan, I find it depressing.  Last year we were the laughing stock of the country over our bridges to nowhere. This year we will be the laughing stock of the country over how little it takes to buy one of our legislators.
Whatever happened to dreaming big in Alaska?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:01 AM •
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You know you’re in trouble when you come home to find your house looking like an earthquake might have happened that you just didn’t feel. You’re in worse trouble when you look around and realize the earthquake only happened in a few rooms and there are two VERY guilty looking dogs plastered up against the back door trying to get out before you notice. Could they look more guilty?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:30 AM •
Monday, May 21, 2007

The sun finally came out in Anchorage this weekend. Blondie, my happy retriever/lab/ridgeback/mutt sat in the back yard in bliss, basking in it. Blue, my wannabee blue-heeler mix, on the other hand, doesn’t like to be cut off for even five minutes from her favorite food source...the bottom of the bird cages. She chooses to stay inside where she can detect the sound of a crumb falling to the bottom of the cage from four rooms away and catch it before it bounces twice.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:22 AM •
Sunday, May 20, 2007

I am less than a month away from leaving for the East Coast for a wedding and birth and the woman who said she would house sit for me has casually announced she won’t be able to do it and has been meaning to call me. Wonderful. I have a non-refundable ticket, six birds and two dogs and no house sitter.  I wish I were rich enough to have a full time live in housekeeper. Life would be so much simpler.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:39 AM •

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