Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, July 02, 2015

Last week was one heck of a week, wasn’t it? The Affordable Care Act got upheld, marriage equality was extended to all people in this country, Obama sang Amazing Grace a capella and actually pulled it off and Bristol Plain proved the efficacy of the abstinence program she advocated for so long as they were paying her a lot of money. Yep, what a way to begin the summer.  Alaska’s fires stopped making national headlines. Our earthquake was lost in the fog of funerals. Even Donald Trump’s insane rantings couldn’t get him front page coverage in the face of such formidable other headlines.

I’m not sure what else can be said that hasn’t already been said about the happenings of the past few weeks. I feel as though all the words have been used and all the emotions exhausted on both sides of every issue. It’s summer. We’re supposed to be thinking about smoking salmon, picking berries, going outside without four layers of clothes… you know, things important to Alaskans. We have just lived through one of the most embarrassing legislative sessions ever and want nothing more than to relax and enjoy the sun and heat.
But before we leave all those headlines behind, I think that there are a few points to be made that are very specific to Alaska. First and foremost, a big shout out to all the people in Willow and surrounding areas who are helping their neighbors rebuild their lives after losing almost everything. Next a big shout out to PETA to get their attention. Alaskans mushers did not lose any dogs to the fire despite that fire being in the heart of mushing country. Most mushers made it clear they would not leave without their dogs no matter the danger to themselves. That, PETA, is what real love and devotion to your animals is all about.
And it wasn’t just the mushers. Friends and neighbors and strangers alike opened their land and hearts to our own local sports heroes and made sure the dogs had a place to be safe until the danger had passed. Once again, PETA, that’s what a real commitment to animals looks like. I’m not saying that all mushers are great or that all Alaskans are great pet owners. But most of us respect and love our animals and do what’s needed to keep them safe no matter the cost.
To all the fire fighters who came from around the country and from our own towns and villages, who risked their lives to save ours, you deserved to be in the headlines way before Donald Trump and his running mate. Oh, hadn’t you heard? He’s nominating that thing on his head as his vice presidential candidates. Don’t anger it. I understand it can be quite vindictive.
My brother spent his adult life as a volunteer fire fighter. He fought structural fires. It scared our whole family that he was one of the people running towards the fire as others ran from it. I can’t imagine the courage (or insanity, take your pick) it takes to run towards a forest fire. I mean did you see those pictures that were all over the papers and the Internet?  Positively frightening. But because of our firefighters, those flames were beaten back and the destruction from the flames contained.
You can define heroes in many ways. Some say Caitlin Jenner is a hero for publicly showing a side of society that has hidden in the shadows for millennia causing pain to those who felt different and could not express that difference. Certainly those nine people killed in South Caroline are heroes for living the Gospel of Christ that calls for peace, for turning the other cheek, for not courting violence in the house of their Lord. And all our mushers who thought first of their dogs and then of themselves are also heroes as well as their neighbors who rushed to help instead of running to safety. And every firefighter who put their lives on the line for us, who deliberately walked towards those blazing infernos are heroes.
You don’t have to make headlines to be a hero. Everyday heroes are all around us. And in Alaska, we seem to be blessed with a super abundance of them. Way to go, Alaskans. Thanks for making me even prouder to call this state my home.

Elise Patkotak • 03:02 AM •
Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I’m not sure there is anyone in the history of the world who has had less luck, whether it be in a casino at a slot machine or buying a raffle ticket. The one time I left Vegas with more than I’d arrived with, I got home and my hot water heater exploded. Cost me three times what I thought I’d won.
While visiting my sister in Atlantic City, I played the slots one night and might as well have just handed my money to the cashier and gone for a sub. The casino got it all anyway. And tonight I will be staying at a casino in California. There goes another $40 down the drain.
The only way I handle this great streak of losing is by reminding myself that I have so much to be grateful for in my life that many losing at gambling is the price I pay. But really god, I couldn’t hit the jackpot just once without some concomitant disaster happening at home? Would that really be so terrible?

Elise Patkotak • 03:27 AM •

I’m not sure there is anyone in the history of the world who has had less luck, whether it be in a casino at a slot machine or buying a raffle ticket. The one time I left Vegas with more than I’d arrived with, I got home and my hot water heater exploded. Cost me three times what I thought I’d won.
While visiting my sister in Atlantic City, I played the slots one night and might as well have just handed my money to the cashier and gone for a sub. The casino got it all anyway. And tonight I will be staying at a casino in California. There goes another $40 down the drain.
The only way I handle this great streak of losing is by reminding myself that I have so much to be grateful for in my life that many losing at gambling is the price I pay. But really god, I couldn’t hit the jackpot just once without some concomitant disaster happening at home? Would that really be so terrible?

Elise Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Once more I am heading to an airport to fly all day to get to a very important event. And once again my normally sunny disposition will be clouded by the indignities of what passes for flying today. I must steel myself for 7 hours of elbows in my ribs, leg room meant for a three year old and exorbitant charges for my audacity in thinking I should be able to bring a suitcase with me for a trip.
Oh god, oh god!

Elise Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Monday, June 29, 2015

I get that the Republican party has no real front runner to be the natural pick for presidential candidate but even so, isn’t it getting a bit ridiculously crowded? How to tell them all apart is the hardest thing What a cluster f..k their primaries will be. At least it will keep me from dwelling on how boring the Dems nomination proceedings will be. 

Elise Patkotak • 05:21 AM •
Saturday, June 27, 2015

Here’s what I don’t understand. I don’t understand why we always seem so surprised at the health care needs of veterans returning from wars. It’s not as though this is something new. Every war supplies us with heartbreaking pictures of veterans living in cardboard boxes on streets; of veterans pushing their legless bodies on wooden boards with wheels begging money; veterans reliving the nightmare of what they saw and what they endured to keep their homeland safe.

These vets are the by-products of war that we seemingly don’t know how to handle. We always find money for war, even if it means borrowing our children’s futures to pay for it. But when it comes to healing those we send to war, we are baffled by how the cost could be so high and how we could possibly be expected to fund those costs. Probably the closest America has ever come to offering its returning warriors anything near what they sacrificed was World War II’s GI bill.
Our vets are promised care we rarely if ever provide to the extent they need. We wave flags, play patriotic music, cheer and clap as they march off to war in neat rows, healthy young men and women going to fight the war some old men and women in Washington have deemed necessary. If we looked closely, we’d realize that it is our future marching in front of us. Some of our best and brightest are heading into hell because we’ve asked them to. But where are the bands and parades and waving flags when their broken, bruised bodies and minds return? Are we all sitting in the nearest Starbucks staring at the latest pictures of some overrated, non-talented reality star’s butt? Better to look away from the wounded. It makes it easier to forget that a war is happening.
And so old people send young people off to fight a war as has happened throughout history. Their exploits in battle are trumpeted. Our army, navy and air force are better than your army, navy and air force. We are all so proud. We chant “USA! USA! We’re Number 1! “ Yep. We are that damn wonderful right up until these kids come home and try to get care for their broken bodies, wounded spirits and troubled minds. Because while many will return to us whole and intact and ready for the next stage in their life, many others will return with wounds both visible and invisible that are not so easily healed. And that’s when all those politicians in DC dig in their heels and suddenly become fiscal conservatives. They tell us we simply don’t have the money to create an effective system to help our wounded service men and women. We have an endless supply of money to wage war. We have limited funds to care for the wounded of war.
The VA had its budget cut this year. Granted there are probably efficiencies that could be introduced to reduce both the cost and waiting time for care but let’s be real here. This is the federal government. Waiting for them to come up with efficiencies in the system means that for most vets, their great grandchildren will still be waiting for the medical appointment they were promised. And if giving more money to an inefficient system causes those politicians to have heartburn, then I’d suggest they cut the Congressional budget to zero because you don’t get much more inefficient. And if you can’t make the VA function effectively for our vets, then the private health care system should be allowed to take up the slack. But no vet should have to wait six months to a year or more for the care they need, anymore than they asked up to wait six months to a year for them to respond to our need for their services.
I once read a quote that said, “Old men start wars and young men fight them”. I can’t but believe that if those old men had to fight them, wars would be scarcer, shorter, and the health care available to those returning would be top notch.  To say nothing of the humor we’d enjoy watching old men swatting at each other while trying to dance away from any actual physical contact. Now there’s a war I’d pay to see.

Elise Patkotak • 03:09 AM •
Friday, June 26, 2015

They stacked the Supremes with conservatives and now have to live with the consequences. My heart is filled with joy for all my gay friends who are finally able to express their love and devotion to each other like straight people have for centuries. And my heart breaks with sadness for so many gay friends I’ve lost who are not around to see this day… especially those two special Joe’s in my life.

Elise Patkotak • 05:59 AM •

I am an ardent supporter of public broadcasting. Until last year, I had been on a board or commission for public broadcasting since my first stint at KBRW in Barrow in the late seventies. I was there as public radio brought the Inupiat language into the public sphere by broadcasting in Inupiat as well as English. I listened as people from far-flung villages wished distant friends and relative’s happy birthday on the birthday show.  I anchored a show on Saturday mornings called Discount Radio. Its motto was, “You get what you pay for and I’m a volunteer.” This tamped down any expectations that I knew what to do when dead air went out over the airways because I had once again hit the wrong button.

While public broadcasting receives some government money, its heart and soul is really its donors and volunteers. There are people all over this state who have spent years giving their time and expertise freely and gladly to keep their station going. Tundra Drum messages became a lifeline in many of Alaska’s more remote locations. And hearing their Native tongue spoken on air was a joy for so many Alaska Natives whose language had been forbidden to them for so long.
So when our current budget battle began, I knew that public broadcasting would have to take a hit along with many other programs that people in the state had come to rely on. I made a vow to not write a column begging the legislature to leave public broadcasting funds alone because I understood the depth of our financial crisis and knew that we were all going to have to tighten our belts. What I’d clearly forgotten was the depth of devotion some of our legislators had to the oil companies. Cutting education before cutting oil company tax credits still boggles my mind.
What really rankles though are the people who claim that public broadcasting is some kind of liberal cabal that uses public funds to achieve the nefarious goal of creating a mindless population of liberal zombies who wander through life with glazed eyes screaming “Give me Prairie Home Companion or give me death.” If only liberals could ever be that single minded and focused.
What people who complain about public broadcasting don’t acknowledge is that public broadcasting airs all view points but does so in a civil manner. This is why anyone who actually tunes in will find themselves listening to news shows in which both sides of any argument are always presented. Each side is usually represented by a thoughtful and respected spokesperson. And that’s where I think the problem lay.
Conservative voices heard on public broadcasting are usually reasoned, reasonable and coherent. They are not the screaming, loud, incoherent, and angry at the mere mention of Obama, talking heads usually associated with Fox News products. While liberals may have created public broadcasting out of a desire to ensure that all Americans, even in the smallest of markets, would have access to news, weather, community events and the world in generally, the implementation of that plan was not some liberal plot of indoctrination. Quite frankly, if you know any liberals, you know that they spend a lot of time tripping over their own belief that everyone has a right to be heard so long as you don’t use that right to shout so loudly all other voices are drowned out.
I’m saddened that KUAC in Fairbanks will no longer carry APRN.  It is still the only place in this state reporting local news locally. I’m saddened at the loss of Steve Lindbeck to our system. His is a voice and skill set that will be hard to replace. I’m saddened that this amazing resource will be diminished despite knowing that public broadcasting had to take financial hits like everyone else in this time of belt tightening; except of course if you are an oil company in Alaska in which case our legislature has your back.
But mostly I’m saddened by the continued attempt to paint it as something it isn’t. Public broadcasting is not a mouthpiece of liberalism; instead it is a forum for public discussion of the most important topics of our time, a forum held in a civil, adult tone that eschews the screams and rants that some would try to pass off as reasonable discussions in today’s media.
Public broadcasting is not Fox News. It is not MSNBC. It’s a place where intelligent people can hear the pros and cons of a topic discussed in a manner that does honor to civic life.

Elise Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Thursday, June 25, 2015

I am traveling and somehow got locked out of my website. Anyone who knows me will find that perfectly understandable. Thanks to that wonderful lady Sonya Senkowsky for getting me back on.
I have been posting on Facebook so you can go to my Facebook page… which anyone can see because I honestly have neither the strength nor interest to try and figure out how to put privacy controls on it… and catch up on what’s been happening.
Thanks for being patient - assuming of course there is anyone left checking out this site. Oh wait, I know how to make that happen.
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin Sarah Palin

Elise Patkotak • 06:00 AM •
Friday, June 12, 2015

Carm has been pissed since the suitcase came out. He is now hiding under the desk, refusing all calls to come out for treats or hugs. I’m probably lucky he hasn’t peed on it… hmmm, maybe I should check on that…

Elise Patkotak • 03:54 AM •
Thursday, June 11, 2015

It’s funny how progress gets made sometimes. We often don’t even recognize it as such until we stop and ponder the implications. On first hearing the news last week that same sex couples receiving health benefits through the state employee system would now have to be married, my gut reaction was that this was just another effort to deny same sex couples their rights. Then I remembered that same sex couples have the same rights as anyone else to marry here, and I realized this requirement was progress.

Treating all people equally in civil society is the mark of a civil society that actually believes in what it claims to be. Religion should not be involved in this decision because it has nothing to do with anyone’s particular belief system.  We are a country of laws and the law should treat us all the same.
Our younger generation gets that in a way that my generation may not. Most young people I know are baffled about the whole raging debate. They have grown up knowing people who are gay, watching shows with gay characters and sharing life’s experiences with gay friends. It became evident to them early on that gay people are just people who love someone of the same sex. No big deal.
A few weeks ago when Ireland voted to legalize gay marriage there was a lot of talk that the vote was really a repudiation of the moral authority of the Catholic Church there. Whether it was abusing children physically and sexually or taking babies away from mothers and selling them, the church had lost the trust of the population.  After the votes were tallied, the only response from the Vatican was a spokesman for the Pope calling the vote, “a defeat for humanity.”
This left me saddened. It seemed as though Pope Francis was hiding behind his spokesman so as not to have his developing reputation as a liberal and liberating force in the church be challenged. This was a chance for this pope to welcome with open arms many people who want to be fully involved Catholics but who can’t because the Church views them as living in sin. That statement released by the Vatican served no purpose other than to further alienate people who were already on the fence about the Church. 
The general public is well aware that the Catholic Church disapproves of what it considers a sinful lifestyle. This one little statement didn’t reveal anything new in the Church’s attitude. It didn’t change the outcome and didn’t create a positive discussion of the matter. In fact, it didn’t make the slightest difference except for the bad taste it left in many peoples’ mouths.  Given the Church’s recent past in Ireland, it could be said that their protection of pedophiles was a much bigger defeat for humanity than same sex marriage.
I just heard that my childhood church had finally fallen to the changes in Atlantic City and would be closing. I felt a twinge of sadness at that news. It had been the central focus of my life from the time my memories start until I left for college. But that twinge of sadness was all about nostalgia and nothing else. In talking with family and friends, the majority reacted the same way I did. A twinge of sadness at the memories the church held but no regrets that a church was closing.
That’s because most of my contemporaries have long since left the church, driven out by a variety of reasons that mostly comes down to the church insisting on a medieval mind set in a modern world. Don’t think of just the gay issue here, think birth control and divorce. If the church is hoping to once again appeal to them, it should probably stop putting out statements that recognizing the rights of gay people in a civil society is a defeat for humanity. Until it regains its moral authority in the western world, those words come out like a taunt to the adults still dealing with the trauma of priestly sexual assault.
The Catholic Church does some wonderful work in this world. The new pope seems poised to actually move the church into the new millennia. His efforts are only hurt when these statements are released. They help no one and only harm the church in the eyes of many of the people the church wants to woo back to its pews.

Elise Patkotak • 03:35 AM •
Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I depart today on the first part of my journey to the East Coast. I used to do this in one day, leaving at 1 or 2 AM and arriving the next evening on the East Coast. But those days are long past. Now I go to Seattle and spend the night in a hotel in a real bed. Then I take the non-stop Alaska Airlines flight to Philly the next morning. It cost more this way but when I land in Philly I am a pleasant person… well, as pleasant as I ever am. Mostly I’m not a misery from trying to get comfortable in a plane seat that was clearly meant for your smaller sized midgets, dwarfs and three year old children.

Elise Patkotak • 03:26 AM •
Tuesday, June 09, 2015

My new used TV is dramatically larger than any tv I’ve ever had. In fact, it’s almost as large as the screens in what now pass for movie theaters. I can watch TV from almost anywhere on my second floor without really having to either turn my head or squint. I think back to those little screens of my childhood and wonder how I ever survived without being able to see exactly how many pores there are on Mark Harmon’s face.

Elise Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Monday, June 08, 2015

OK, Alaska. I have found a company that actually includes Alaska in its sales pitch when it says free shipping.
http://www.wayfair.com
The lady said that not all items may be covered by this policy but they are sending me a mailbox for the cost of the box plus free shipping. I even called the 800 number to be sure I had it right. I guess there are some places in the lower 48 that understand we are part of the CONTINENTAL United States.

Elise Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Sunday, June 07, 2015

Why is it that whenever we picture aliens we picture them green? Is this some prehistoric memory wired into our genes or do we just think green is a weird color?

Elise Patkotak • 03:38 AM •

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