Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Monday, February 02, 2015

I’ve finally figured out so much of life that puzzled me in the past. But now I’m too old to be able to enjoy half of what I’ve finally figured out. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 12:12 PM •
Sunday, February 01, 2015
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My poor cousin Joe. He doesn’t stand a chance against these cuties. Add that darling little Ivy Ma, who was not available for this photo session, to the mix and he might as well just get out the checkbook and give them all his money. They have him right where they want him. Some of us could not be happier about it… or laughing harder.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 12:14 PM •
Friday, January 30, 2015
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See that control at the bottom of the picture. That’s the heating pad. And that is BuddhaBubba’s bed under which it is placed. Carm decided to get in on the action. Climbed in over Bubba and stuck his head behind her butt so she couldn’t see him there. She sat up and refused to lay down again until he moved. He didn’t move. So for the next five minutes I listened to BuddhaBubba doing her best imitation of a growl to scare her brother out of her bed. It didn’t work. She eventually forgot what she was growling about and went back to sleep. He slept with his face shoved into her butt. All was happy and well again in my household. Oh yeah, Snowy was on the next bed watching with bemusement. Then he fell asleep too.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Thursday, January 29, 2015

I used to have big dogs that loved to walk. My three new ones came with a different idea about walking and the outside. They are little dogs. The girl won’t even go out for her bodily needs once it’s below 32 degrees. Both the boys love going out for about ten to twenty seconds. Then they are done with the walk and it’s time to go get warm and get treats. I soon realized I needed something to substitute for the miles I was no longer walking. I got a stationary bike. And believe it or not, I use it every night. Finally, a piece of exercise equipment that isn’t a clothes deposit system in my living room.

I work from my home. My dogs are with me twenty-four hours a day. This creates what some might call a tight bond and others might call a significant neurosis on the part of the dogs. If I am farther than five feet away, they panic and have to get up and move to wherever I am. So when I move from the kitchen to the living room couch, they all follow. If I get up from the couch to use the bike, which is less than three feet away, they have to also get up and reposition themselves on blankets directly behind the bike. I assume this is on the off chance the bike might take off and they’ll need to follow. The little girl is the only one who doesn’t follow this routine. Since I put the heating pad under her bed, she doesn’t like to get all that far from it. Not even the distant screeching of the parrots can rouse her when the heat hits her belly.
This is my home. This is my life. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. For me a roof over my head, a heater blowing hot air and a toilet that flushes are my minimum requirements. Warm cuddly dogs and loud joyous birds are just an added bonus. But after following the stories in last week’s ADN about some of the homeless in Anchorage, I realize that home can be defined in many ways. And a lot of those ways would horrify most of us.
The people highlighted in those stories were both homeless and alcoholic. It’s that last part that causes us to start losing any sympathy we might have felt. If all they have to do is stop drinking to get their lives together and get off the street, then they should just do that, right? Just grab those bootstraps and pull yourself up.
But maybe it’s not so easy. And maybe what we call home is not something everyone might want. Or maybe it’s not something everyone can attain. Alcoholism is a deadly disease. The physical problems it can cause often stay with someone years after sobriety has been achieved. Achieving and maintaining sobriety is often a goal beyond the reach of someone whose body and brain have already been ravaged by alcohol. But a good look at the camp sites being dismantled and reassembled all over town shows a sense of home is still alive and well in this population in the way those tents are filled with personal items and life’s memorabilia.
As I read the articles, I found myself going beyond the alcoholism and seeing people who still wanted a home, even if it was just a tent in the woods. And people who still wanted love and companionship, even if it is of a variety that is hard for most of us to comprehend. In the end, the heart wants what it wants and doesn’t care about the circumstances that would seem to preclude love ever being present. What this piece taught me above all else is that these people we see on the corners looking dirty and smelly and holding sloppily inked signs are very much human beings with all the same wants and desires and needs as the rest of us. For some reason, whether mental illness, substance abuse, or just bad, bad luck, they ended up on the streets while you drive by in your warm car on your way to your warm home.
In the end, it wasn’t the differences I remembered. It was the humanity we have in common. To paraphrase John Bradford, “There but for the grace of god, go I”.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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If Bruce Springsteen had any sense at all, he’d want Jimmy as his best friend. Oh yeah, that’s the house Bruce grew up in. Way to celebrate!
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 09:49 AM •
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6 North Mississippi Ave. The heart of Ducktown in Atlantic City. It’s painted blue now. Dad had it painted green. Upstairs the windows on the left were our living room. The windows on the right, mom and dad’s bedroom. All of downstairs, dad’s Italian grocery store.  Walk down the block and get a sub at the White House Sub Shop, still the best in the world. But the bakery is gone. And so is Katy’s little store. And Letizia’s grocery store. And Petrillo’s Shoe Repair. And Catanese’s Swimming Pool chemicals building. But St. Mike’s is still there. And considering how much of my childhood was played out inside the walls of the church and school, it has always been as much a part of my childhood memories as my own little bedroom in that apartment over the store. I look at this picture and sixty years fly away in an instant. If only…
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Every once in a while I wonder what it would be like to be rich enough to actually buy a politician. It’s been so long since there has been anyone in DC who represents me and not their moneyed overlords that I really do forget what it feels like to actually be part of representative government.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Monday, January 26, 2015

I didn’t think a deafening silence could get much quieter than the one that greeted Mitt Romney’s statement that he’s might make another presidential run. The lack of anyone actually excited by the announcement seemed truly monumental. Then Sarah Palin goes to Vegas and hints she might run. And lo and behold, the silence greeting this news nationally was even more deafening than the one that greeted Romney. For Hillary’s sake, I’d like to see either one of them run. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:03 AM •
Sunday, January 25, 2015

It occurs to me that Penny will be to Kaley Cuoco as Rachel is to Jennifer Aniston.
And those are the thoughts that will sneak up on you as you try to go to sleep sometimes.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:01 AM •
Saturday, January 24, 2015

Filled my tank today. Had 60 cents off per gallon from Safeway thanks to the vast quantities of medication I take each day. Brought the cost of a gallon of gas to $1.97/gallon. Wow. I know this hurts Alaska’s economy buy it felt good!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:06 AM •
Friday, January 23, 2015

Or does John Boehner strike you as the guy you dread your daughter will bring home and introduce as her fiancee?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Thursday, January 22, 2015

I was a bit taken aback at the vehemence expressed by some commenters on my column last week towards seniors in this state. Who knew some viewed us with such dislike? According to these commenters, cutting senior benefits will cause us to leave the state, thus saving the state enormous amounts of money spent on our pensions and tax exemptions. Before kicking us all to the curb, however, let’s review some of the things seniors provide that would be hard to replace.

As I wrote last week, we should all share the pain of budget reductions. Seniors are not exempt from that. But even if benefits are reduced, a lot of seniors will stay here anyway because this is our home and we still have something valuable to offer. So while taking away some economic incentives may force certain seniors to relocate for financial reasons, many of us will just tighten our belts and stay put.
Look at the benefits that accrue to children who have their grandparents, great grandparents, and great aunts and uncles (honorary or otherwise) in their lives. For working parents, retired grandparents are a lifesaver when kids get sick and parents can’t take off from work. Or kids need a ride to an after school activity and parents have to work late. Or kids just need an adult they trust to talk to about something and don’t want to talk to their parents. Grandparents often take up the slack created by an economy that almost requires a two working parent household. They cook meals, watch kids, attend events and are an integral and vital part of family life. Everyone benefits.
If that doesn’t do it for you, look at the multitude of non-profits in this state. Check out how many of them keep their doors open because of seniors who not only work for free, but often bring a lifetime of experience and expertise that the non-profit could never otherwise afford. It’s retired seniors who have the time to spend at these non-profits, even in the middle of the week. There are lots of young people who also volunteer but their time is limited by work and family demands. It’s seniors who can respond to a last minute call for someone to cover a shift or deliver a meal or help out with a program.
Seniors hold the institutional memory for this state. We are a young state, blessed to still have some who were here at the beginning. Imagine having John Adams or Thomas Jefferson around to ask what was really being discussed back in 1776. Well, we have Vic Fischer, for one, and he can tell us exactly what was said at our constitutional convention because he was there. We have elders at our Native corporations, both profit and non-profit, who can speak knowledgeably about the corporations’ beginnings because they began them. This is not something to be lightly tossed away.
Equally important given the financial situation we’re in, many seniors have disposable income that they spend right here in this state. Those of us who were lucky enough to earn a state pension often take the money we receive each month and plow it right back into the local economy. We’ve reached an age where saving for old age is a bit silly since we’re already there. Now we get to do what we said we’d do all those years ago when we started saving. We get to spend it. Without kids to feed or homework to do, we’re much more likely to be the ones keeping the restaurant and art scene vibrant. We can afford to.
As I said at the beginning, the pain of budget cuts will be felt by all of us in one way or another. Some seniors will be able to weather a cut in their benefits. Others will have to leave. Some young people will look at the benefits we receive as the Baby Boomers having taken care of themselves when they were in charge of government by voting themselves a helluva retirement package. Whatever your view is, just remember this. We may be old. We may be gray under the hair dye. Our bones may squeak a bit and our eyes may squint a little more. But we are not freeloaders. Retired or not, we contribute to Alaska every day. Lose us and you’ll lose that.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:37 AM •
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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BuddhaBubba gets up in the morning long enough to get her pain pill. I turn the heating blanket on under her bed and she goes right back to sleep. About two hours later, after everyone else has gone downstairs to my office to get some work done, I hear her race madly across the floor upstairs. She doesn’t go anywhere. Just apparently jumps up off the bed and runs through the kitchen and living room. If I go upstairs to see what’s happening, I usually find her standing by the counter in the kitchen looking shocked, shocked I say, that her food dish is nowhere to be found… and her brother and that annoying other little dog are also missing. And so is that big person with thumbs who cuts up the chicken for her. We go through the same thing at night before she goes to bed. She’ll wander through the living room, kitchen and dining room looking for god knows what. Suddenly, she’ll go from just pacing to racing madly… well, as madly as she can at this point in her life… around the entire second floor. She’ll see me or one of the other dogs, stop as though astounded others live here, and then take off again. About five minutes later, I’ll find her in her bed snoring.
Maybe those pain pills are making her just a little happier than I expected. Can dogs hallucinate?.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:38 AM •
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Do you have your beer chilling and your nachos melting? Are you ready for tonight, the annual Superbowl of presidential speeches?  I do hope you’re planning to watch. After all, where else would you get to watch a man who deliberately makes himself orange preside over a house full of sound and fury and signifying nothing more really than the failure of today’s education system to produce anything that even resembles a statesman… or woman.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Monday, January 19, 2015

“When your dog came in from outside he was all yellow and wet. One of the big dogs peed on him. We gave him a bath.”
You find yourself just wishing that your dog would have been smart enough to move. But he apparently wasn’t. Thank god he’s cute. It’s obviously getting him further than his brains.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:34 AM •

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