Elise Sereni
Saturday, February 10, 2007

Since my two new dogs shed like there will be no tomorrow, dog hair is becoming a problem.  So, I went to Value Village today to buy some king sheets for my downstairs futon, my upstairs couch and the car.  As I checked out, the lady smiled at me and asked me if I was sixty.  I swallowed my urge to run screaming from the store and said yes.  She told me it was Senior Day and I got a discount on everything I bought. So those $2.99 sheets only cost me $2.40 cents each.
So now I have a reason to be glad I’m sixty. I get discounts at Value Village.  Try not to be too jealous.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:19 AM •
Friday, February 09, 2007

A priest fathers three children in Alaska but the Jesuits claim he is not responsible for child support because he took a vow of poverty.  Funny. That vow of chasity didn’t seem to be a stumbling block for him. Best of all, the Jesuits to whom he supposedly gave all his money also claim they are not responsble for child support. Yep. That’s exactly what I think Jesus would say. Screw the little children.  Yep. Sounds just like him.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:10 AM •
Thursday, February 08, 2007

It was cold here and it snowed. Then it got warm and things melted. Then it got cold again and everything froze up. That frozen stuff is called ice. When it’s on the road, you can’t stop quickly unless you use the bumper of the car in front of you as a brake.  Try and remember this as you speed down the street while on the phone, drinking coffeee and, for all I know, having sex in the front seat. Because I swear to god the first one who actually hits my bumper as opposed to skidding crazily behind me while stomping on their brakes will be buying me a new and very expensive car.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:32 AM •
Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The news coming out of Fairbanks concerning misspent federal grant money got me thinking about my days writing grants for the North Slope Borough Health Department back in the seventies.  I was new to the business of grants and had to learn on the job what did or didn’t impress the feds.  I also had to understand that their learning curve about Alaska was nothing short of mind-boggling in its slow, painful progress.

Each year I would write renewal grants to Indian Health Service for a variety of programs serving our eight North Slope villages.  Each year I would submit a budget that detailed how the money would be spent.  Each year some fun bureaucrat back in DC would respond to my proposal by asking me why I was flying everywhere as opposed to taking a train or bus or just plain driving myself. And each year I would send them a large map of the North Slope pointing out the lack of roads or train tracks. 
It eventually just became a running joke in the office.  Which OMB reviewer would this year request we cut our travel funds by using a more economical means of transportation to our villages? And just how big could we blow up the map before someone in DC got seriously insulted by our obvious disrespect for their knowledge of the area for which they approved grant funds? And just how slow is molasses? I left the department after eight years of grant writing and still did not have the answer to any of these questions.
In reading about the charges being leveled at Jim and Chris Hayes for misuse of federal grant money, I couldn’t help but notice that the feds apparently required a detailed budget to get the funds but required nothing more than a statement that the funds had been spent for follow up reporting.  No one apparently required that the grantees show they actually spent the money for the purpose stated in the budget.
I don’t know about you, but I want me some of that federal grant money.  The kind where I can merely report back that I spent it and the feds take one look at my kind and honest face and accept my report with no further details needed.  Unfortunately, the only federal grants I’ve ever been let in on had lots and lots and lots of reporting requirements, many of which centered around proving that I’d actually spent the money the way I said I would.  Now I’m starting to feel somewhat discriminated against in that no one ever told me about this other pot of money.  With the money I got, I had to send grocery price lists in to back up receipts for a five dollar apple in Nuiqsut.
But mostly at this point what I feel is a sadness for Ted Stevens.  He’s had a rough few years of late. His son’s tortured ethics have caused him no end of embarrassment. His “pipes are the Internet” explanation gave so many comedians so much fodder.  Add to that his reputation as a pork barrel senator (which outside of Alaska is not considered a good thing), and his wife’s troubles flying around this great country because some idiot in airline security thinks she’s a middle aged rocker who used to be called Cat Stevens, and any decent human being would want someone to cut this poor man a break.
Instead, he earmarks money to an organization run by a minister and friend who swears he will work with troubled youth - how much safer and more humane a cause could there be - and it blows up in his face.
I am probably not Ted Stevens biggest fan.  I don’t agree with him a lot of the time.  But I have never questioned his ultimate loyalty to this state or his real desire to do what he feels is best for Alaska and Alaskans.  He deserves better than what these supposed friends have done to him.
I guess finding real friends is hard when you wield power.  You never know if they want you for your friendship or for what proximity to you will bring in benefits to them.  In this case, it’s pretty clear that Ted Stevens seriously misjudged the purported friendship offered to him by the Hayes.
As I said before, I may not be Ted Stevens’ biggest supporter but I still think he deserves better than what these two people did to him.  In this case, his heart was in the right place but his trust was seemingly not. How sad for him.  How much sadder for them.
Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:25 AM •
Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I may not know much about policy and war and such but it does seem to me that it’s hard to win a war when the enemy is not fighting us but each other. If the Iraqis had gotten involved in our civil war, they couldn’t win because we weren’t fighting them. And we sure in hell weren’t going to listen to anyone who tried to negotiate a peace. North and South each wanted victory to support their world view and would take nothing less. That’s why we ended up in the war in the first place.  So why do we think we can have victory in Iraq when the people there are fighting each other and our soldiers are just bodies getting in the way of their killing each other?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:04 AM •
Monday, February 05, 2007

Real friends show up at a charity auction dressed in strange bird outfits and work their butts off all night to help make money for a cause they know is important to you. Real friends spend hours making a quilt to be auctioned off at the affair because they know it’s important to you.  And real friends drag their kids to the event to be free labor for the evening because everything we get for free leaves that much more for the birds.  Thank you Carol and Barbara, Kate and Elaine and Page and Lelani and Nick.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:00 AM •
Sunday, February 04, 2007

For anyone who wonders why I love my birds, let me tell you this story. 
I put Abdul, my African Gray Parrot, on my counter while I cut up a pineapple.  I took the top of the pineapple and put it on the counter where she was in case she wanted to chew on it or shred it or destroy it in some other creative way. Parrots love destroying things and this seemed like a good idea. But that pineapple top was new to her and strange and scary. In the wild, parrots are a prey animal and so they tend to be very cautious around the unknown. You never know when something might suddenly jump up and eat you.
I turned my back on her as I continued cutting the pineapple up.  A few minutes went by and then she started whistling a very non-chalant, “I’m-not-worried-you-can’t-scare-me” whistle.  I turned and watched her saunter carefully around the pineapple top, all the while whistling and pretending that she wasn’t really noticing it was there.  With each new whistle, she took another step towards the top.  Then she’d back up and then she’d go forward again.  She continued this till she was actually up to the pineapple top and could bite it.
And then, alas, her courage failed her and she came running over to me telling me she loved me over and over again.
And people wonder why I have parrots.  Could there be a better life than mine with Abdul and all the rest of the flock?  I think not.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:11 AM •
Saturday, February 03, 2007

Seriously, we actually paid someone to come up with the slogan “Big Wild Life” for Anchorage.  Bring back the dancing moose!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:07 AM •
Friday, February 02, 2007

When my mother was alive and spoke about my birth, the one thing she remembered above all else was the snow storm that raged that day and how my poor dad had to crawl to the hospital with the car.  Maybe that’s why I moved to Alaska. Snow is in my blood.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:00 AM •
Thursday, February 01, 2007

I opened the Lifestyles section of our local paper yesterday only to find a full page spread on how Nancy Pelosi is bringing pearls back into fashion.  Why is it that I can’t remember one full page fashion spread on Dennis Hastert or any other male House Speaker in all my many decades of life? Why did what she wore while sitting behind Bush when he made his State of the Union address to Congress get prominent mention but no one bothered to comment on what Dick Cheney was wearing?  We’ll never really be equal, will we, until the media stops focusing on what we wear and focuses on what we say.  No one is judging Barack Obamba by his hairstyle or clothing choices.  So why do I hear jokes about HIllary Clinton’s pantsuits all the time?  Is it just society’s subtle way of making sure we know our place even if we do manage to get some power?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:04 AM •
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It was the look on my brother Phil’s face as I invited him into the eagle mew to rake it out that told me more clearly than anything else that maybe, just maybe, not everyone voluntarily enters an eagle’s pen when the eagle is in residence.  He told me he’d take my back and be ready to fling the door open if the eagle attacked but that was as close as he was getting to the whole situation.

I really couldn’t complain. After all, he’d come all the way up from Delaware to spend a week in Alaska and here he was washing poopy bird dishes and cutting up smelly salmon during my Bird TLC shift.
Being Italian, I firmly believe that there is nothing that is so bad that a good meal can’t fix it.  You can do all the soaking and wrapping and antibiotics you want, but if you don’t make a good presentation of a tasty dinner, the bird will never get well.  Not that you will necessarily ever find that in a textbook. It’s just something Italian mommas have known since time immemorial.
So when the injured birds arrive at the clinic and need their veggies, I find myself tastefully arranging them on the plate.  Grated carrots in one quadrant, beautifully strewn rotting parsley in another.  Sliced apple drops like little dollops of joy on top of slightly moistened game maintenance kibbles.  No one can resist the right presentation.
Of course, this belief was sorely tried the first time I had to thaw out frozen mice and plump them up by injecting an IV solution into their abdomens for an owl.  No matter how I arranged them, they still looked like mice that died from some serious form of malnutrition that had left them with grotesquely swollen bellies.
And of course, if it’s hard to make a pleasant presentation of mice, rats are darn near impossible.  No matter what you do, they have that funny little overbite that anyone who ever lived in a big city will never look at neutrally.  After treating babies in a pediatric unit of a major inner city Brooklyn hospital for rat bites on their toes and head, I find it hard to not run screaming from the room every time I have to take them out of the freezer.
But worse of all when it comes to presentation is food prepared for ravens and magpies and the occasional lost crow.  If rats and mice don’t look all that hot the first time around, there is no describing what it’s like when you have to cut the leftovers up to feed to these scavengers.  Perhaps this is why I get so much quiet time in the kitchen to mull over life while I’m preparing food.  There have been days where I saw people visibly flinch before coming in as I cut up a particularly ripe piece of hooligan or day old rat.
Working at the Bird TLC kitchen means getting used to opening freezers and seeing Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail curled up in frozen balls waiting their turn to become part of the cycle of nature...or, as One Wing and Witch would call it, lunch.  And this is from a woman who used to routinely brave ice cellars in Barrow to haul up frozen duck and geese for dinner.  Hum, sounds like I’ve really come full cycle. From making them for dinner to making dinner for them.
The eagles are really the easiest to feed.  Cut up a hunk of salmon and they act as though they are dining at the Corsair.  Of course, ever since I started cutting up that old salmon for them I’ve found myself less and less inclined to order salmon at dinner.  Halibut is ok but the smell of salmon will never hold the same connotation for me today as it did before I found out how to feed the eagles. 
I’m not complaining though. I’ve got the best job there is at Bird TLC.  I don’t grab the birds in blankets so that they dread my appearance. I don’t suture their injuries, wrap their wings, medicate their feet or shove tubes down their throats.  When I show up, I have food in my hand that has been lovingly prepared from both a nutritious and visual perspective. And I like to think the birds recognize this and that’s why they don’t try to bite my face off. 
As Martha would say, “And that’s a good thing”.
Join Bird TLC this Saturday evening, February 3, at the ConocoPhillips Atrium for a fun night of food, drink, and Mr. Whitekeys at our annual fundraising auction. Call 562-4852 for ticket information.  Help us help injured birds return to our skies where we can all enjoy their beauty.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:26 AM •
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I can remember sitting in my childhood home with my parents watching Rich Little on Ed Sullivan.  Now I find out that the Washington Press Corps has chosen him to give the speech at their annual dinner with the president. For those of you paying attention, this is the same dinner that Steven Colbert addressed so brilliantly last year while Bush sat a few feet away grimacing. Seems the only jokes he can take are the ones he perpetrates on the people of this country by calling them his policies.  But even for the gutless wonders that call themselves the Washington Press Corps, this is embarrasing.  I mean, when was the last time you saw or heard of Rich LIttle outside of flashbacks from old sixties and seventies shows?  When the president can so intimidate a group that is supposedly our watchdog in DC, it’s time for them all to resign and let someone with actually cahones cover Bush.  How pathetically sad the press corps has become!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:09 AM •
Monday, January 29, 2007

I went to the store the other day with my usual load of cloth bags.  As I checked out, the bagger wanted to put my Cornish game hens, which were already double wrapped in plastic, into a plastic bag in case some drop of moisture should escape their double wrap and touch the cloth.  I explained that the bags were quite washable and that I did not want any extra plastic if I could avoid it. To which the young man checking me out replied, “You rock”. So now it’s official. I rock. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:06 AM •
Sunday, January 28, 2007

I find myself wondering if Bush has little dialogs in his head with one voice saying “I’m the decider” and then another voice comes in and says, “I’m the decider”.  And then another voice comes in, let’s call this voice “Reality” and says, “No, you would need a brain capable of holding two thoughts at once in order to be a decider.” And then I realize that this could never really happen because that would be three voices at once in his brain and it would probably explode from the pressure. So could someone very slowly and gently explain to this man that in order to decide something, you actually have to consider a variety of options and not pick the only one your brain has held for three years?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:29 AM •
Saturday, January 27, 2007

I brought my diabetic dog to the vet this week to see if I could use my blood-testing machine to test her blood daily for better diabetic control.  Right!
Actually, my blood tester would have worked except that no matter where we pricked Blue, we didn’t get enough blood. We tried her ear, her back, her belly and, when the vet started trying around her butt, I called a halt to the proceedings by announcing I was not pricking my dog’s butt on a daily basis. That, apparently, is where I draw the line. 
I don’t know who was more relieved, the dog or me.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:50 AM •

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