Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, February 11, 2016

Remember that old adage, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, there is a strong possibility that it IS a duck. You don’t need science or complicated mathematical analysis to figure that out. Most of us are mere common folk who do not wander the hallowed halls of Juneau pretending to some superior ability to complicate things that should be simple. We prefer the old KISS formula. Keep it simple, stupid.

All this comes to mind as I read the dueling reports coming out of Juneau over the relative merits of moving into the new LIO in Anchorage versus buying the building versus moving into a place the state already owns. While most of us are not financial geniuses, the simple truth is that anyone giving even a cursory glance at this debacle knows that the answer is to move to the Atwood Building and get out from under the financial burden that is the renovated LIO.
In case you don’t follow these shenanigans closely, you should. It’s our money being spent to house the Legislature in a building whose trash cans salute them as they walk by. The state had been paying $682,000 a year in rent for the building. After a negotiation that would make Donald Trump cringe, we get to pay $4 million a year for the renovated space. Now, in an even more byzantine gambit, the landlords have come up with a solution to that high rent that will cost the state only $37.9 million.
I do not deal in high finance. My idea of an expenditure that keeps me up at night is buying the more expensive espresso coffee maker. Cheapness is a family gene I cannot shake completely. If what we were getting was some truly amazing facility, it might have been something we could have considered back in the day before we blew all the money that came with this boom (see history of the Anchorage PAC). But those days are gone. We’ve reached the point where there are credible discussions occurring over whether or not to tap the Permanent Fund. Anyone who has been in Alaska over ten minutes knows that is one of the major signs of the Apocalypse.
I simply do not understand how anyone could, with a straight face, negotiate a lease that increased the annual cost to the state from $680,000 to $20 million even when we were flush. Seriously, guys. This is Alaska. We are supposed to have citizen legislators, not crowned royalty. If there was already a perfectly good building that legislators could have used, why was the deal even started? Aren’t we the state of fiscal conservatives… well, fiscal conservatives when it comes to either taxing ourselves or taking our PFD check away. We are fiscal liberals of the nth degree when it comes to spending oil company money.
But that tap has dwindled to a trickle. We are in a time when we are cutting programs that help abused women, dysfunctional families, children with learning disabilities and public safety. Yet our legislators continue to try to justify moving into the Taj Mahawker, whether as renters or owners, and that is just ridiculous. We are asking Alaskans to tighten their belts, to fill in the gaps now glaringly evident as services from the state are reduced in so many critical areas and, god forbid, pay taxes. Yet our legislators still think that this is a subject open for debate. It isn’t.  Most of us may not be financial geniuses but we sure in heck can recognize a bad deal when we see it.
No one is suggesting that our esteemed legislators live in squalor or a building apt to pancake during an earthquake. But if the Atwood Building is good enough for regular Alaskans who work for the state, I don’t understand how it’s not good enough for our legislators. As my mother would say with as much dignity as possible, when they exit the water closet, they leave behind the same stink as the rest of us.
If a regular person, as opposed to a legislator, decided to move into a million dollar mansion after losing his or her job and already being in debt, we’d call them something between crazy and criminal. Well, if the shoe fits…

Elise Patkotak • 03:23 AM •
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Seriously, shouldn’t I win at least once every hour or so?

Elise Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Seem to be having a bit of a problem securing my financial future through those damn penny slots. They keep taking my money instead of giving me extra back.
But… today two of the most wonderful young ladies in the whole world… and the mom who helped make them that way… are joining me. So life is good.

Elise Patkotak • 03:19 AM •
Monday, February 08, 2016

Off for my annual girls’ week in Vegas. Planning to once again secure my financial future via the penny slots.
Hey! It’s bound to work one of these years.

Elise Patkotak • 03:16 AM •
Saturday, February 06, 2016

Joe came over to bring me flowers for my birthday with his mom. I finally remembered to return a little car that he’d left at my house a few years ago and I had carefully saved for him. He and his mom visited for about 30 minutes during which time we were only in my living room and office. And yet, when he was leaving, he couldn’t find the car. Neither could we. How do little boys do that? I swear it just de-materialized in his hand. And I also know that I will not find it again until I accidentally step on it in the dark some night. And then it gets thrown out. Because saving a little metal toy car for over three years for a boy who is no longer interested in those cars borders on insanity. And I’m already close enough.

Elise Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Friday, February 05, 2016

SARAHPAC, our very own half governor’s fund to keep her “relevant “, paid out $66,000 last year for speech writers. I have only two things to say about that. One, Sarah has speech writers? And two, I want some of whatever those speech writers are using when they crafts her speeches. That must be some very special stuff.

Elise Patkotak • 03:42 AM •
Thursday, February 04, 2016

My maternal grandparents were married on the same date that would, years later, become my birthday. Given that I am the grandchild of immigrants with no connection to the families left behind in Italy, any little piece of information like this is another thread tying me to people I never really knew.

My grandparents emigrated a little over 100 years ago. They came to America with no money, no English and limited skills. The only things they had was their traditions and the hope that this new life would be better for their children than what they’d left behind. Three generations later their grandchildren include doctors, bankers, lawyers, engineers, teachers, West Point graduates and one philosopher who still has his father confused. Their dream came true.
Like so many immigrants before and since, they faced prejudice, hate, threats of violence and claims that they would change the character of American life. They were “other”.  My mother told me the reason Italians in her small neighborhood built their own church was because the existing church was populated with Irish who made it clear Italians weren’t welcomed. This was but a generation or two away from when the Irish would have faced the same issues with the Germans who first populated that area of Philadelphia.
My grandparents lived in a small, all Italian enclave where they could feel safe, surrounded as they were by friends and neighbors who spoke the same language, had the same customs and cooked the same food. It was being cradled in that security that allowed them to fulfill their ambitions for their family. When everything around you is strange, you need something familiar to cling to in order to anchor the chaos of your world.
Immigrants continue to flock to America to make a better life for their families. The vast majority of them, whether they are documented or undocumented, are hardworking, law-abiding people. Their children, given a chance, will be great assets to our country. I know as the grandchild of immigrants that I grew up hearing what an amazing country America was and how I was never to forget how lucky I was to be born and raised here. While the Mafia might leave a bad feeling in some people about Italians, the truth is that the Mafia got a lot of press but represented a very small percentage of Italian immigrants – you know, like terrorists and Muslims.
Today we face people immigrating to America who wear unfamiliar clothes and pray to an unfamiliar god. Although the majority are good citizens, because they are so different we are afraid, so afraid that some condemn them all for the sins of a few. If that had been the case when my grandparents moved to America, we’d all have been thrown out when Al Capone became the face of Public Enemy Number One.
I was educated in Catholic schools. The women who taught me wore long black gowns with stiff white cardboard like things around their necks and faces. Short of actually throwing a bag over their head, they were as covered up as any conservative Muslim woman wearing a hijab, and only slightly less covered up than someone wearing a burka. There was a time when these nuns were the “others” to be feared. They came from the old world and brought old, conservative ideas with them. For our Italian community, they were perfect. Outside of our little world, they drew looks.
Nuns are no longer considered so “other”. This may be caused by their more modern dress or just because years of proximity have removed their unknown factor. If we’re lucky, someday women in burkas or hijabs will get no more than a passing glance because they too will have become just another piece of the fabric of America.
My father’s little Italian grocery store had provolone cheese hanging from a bar over the counter. At the time, we all wanted nothing more than to assimilate and become mainstream – we wanted the provolone gone. Now a store like my dad’s is considered a specialty store and Italian food, culture and dress has become Italian-American and part of the mainstream.
We should not fear immigrants and the changes they bring. It’s what keeps us a young, vigorous country. Seriously, would you really want to live in an America without Olive Garden?

Elise Patkotak • 03:17 AM •
Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Yesterday was my birthday. I am now officially at a point where I can sincerely regret not taking better care of myself. I never really thought I’d ever get this old. I was never going to trust anyone over 30. And I was certainly never going to be over 40. Damn!

Elise Patkotak • 03:49 AM •
Tuesday, February 02, 2016

I know they love me and want to be close to me. They are wonderful dogs. But I am having serious claustrophobia issues in bed at night. They get so close on either side that I risk crushing them if I turn over. Getting up to pee in the middle of the night means waking completely up so I can carefully extricate myself and not accidentally toss one of them to the floor trying to get out of bed. I bought a queen size bed thinking it would solve the problem but all it’s done is given me acres of space to view from my the tight space I’m allowed to occupy.
Thank god they are so damn cute!

Elise Patkotak • 03:45 AM •
Monday, February 01, 2016

Reality TV with people who should not be on public view ever
Presidential candidates who embody the worse of the lowest form of Americans
Snow in New York City but not Anchorage
The price of oil below $30 a barrel
What the hell is happening to us?

Elise Patkotak • 03:13 PM •
Thursday, January 28, 2016

There are some who will claim that this weekend’s earthquake was the result of some natural phenomena concerning plate tectonics or some such thing. There are others who will claim it is nature’s reaction to Trump and Palin being in the same space at the same time – some sort of cosmic overload. I think it was God’s way of telling us we were becoming much too complacent. Just because She’s been sending most of her disasters south recently, we shouldn’t assume She doesn’t have a few left for us.

I reacted as I usually do in an emergency. First I deny it. Then I panic. This is probably why I never did make a very good nurse. When a patient is turning blue, it is apparently considered bad form for a nurse to run around screaming, “He’s gonna die! He’s gonna die!” But that was my go-to move. And it apparently still is my go-to move. Ask my dogs. They looked to me to be strong and calm and show them how we would all survive the quake ok because I knew exactly what to do. They were sorely disappointed. I catch them looking at me now with a distinct sense that they realize I am not the person who will be the calm at the eye of the storm.
I imagine Anchorites and their surrounding neighbors will be talking about this quake for quite a while to come. It certainly re-enforces the message that all those earthquake precautions emergency responders are constantly reminding us about have validity. They aren’t just trying to scare the hoo-ha out of us. The ’64 earthquake may have happened in a different century but its lessons are still relevant. Being prepared is still the best reaction to this kind of emergency.
We can get so caught up in the insanity of the current election cycle, the hysteria over our financial future and the reality that New York City has more snow than we do, that we forget how precious it is to just wake up in the morning to a house that is solidly planted on the ground with our families safely around us. A shake this bad tends to pull us back to the reality of what really matters in life.
This is not to say that whoever is elected president doesn’t really matter or the resolution of our fiscal fiasco isn’t important. But above all else, natural disasters remind us that our families, our neighbors, our routine of life are also important. When it gets shook up, we get shook up. We were lucky that most of us escaped this quake with little to show for it aside from some fallen pictures and broken glasses. Waking up the morning after the earthquake to an intact home, to uninjured animals, to a house that still had running water and heat – that’s about all that really matters in the end. Without those in place, how would I ever have time to worry about whether Sarah Palin is actually capable of forming a coherent sentence or not.
Maybe, in the end, this earthquake will turn out to have been a good thing for many of us because it dragged us back from the precipice and put us solidly in the middle of all that’s most important to most of us. All the extraneous noise goes away as we rediscover the sublime joy that comes from knowing all is still safe in our world, which may have been shaken but has not been broken.
Here’s the bottom line about earthquakes and other natural tragedies. When they happen in Alaska, you know that help is always just a house away because we take care of each other. When one of my dogs got her head caught in my fence, I did not hesitate to run to my neighbor for help. And Clint never hesitated a moment in providing the help, getting my dog’s head out of the fence and never once questioning the viability of a dog with that level of brain power.
My heart and thoughts go out to those who suffered losses with this earthquake. But it takes more than the earth shaking under our feet to make Alaskans panic. You want to see real panic? Take away our PFD check.  Short of that, Alaskans will be just fine.

Elise Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I feel we should start a book called Where’s Jeb? Like Where’s Waldo except all the other figures in the picture would be other Republicans running for president.
Hey, someone needs to find Jeb. He’s been missing in action for quite awhile now and I’m worried that Cruz has put him into a cellar somewhere and is planning to make a coat from his skin.

Elise Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A message to the other 49 states… Sarah is all yours. Thanks for taking her off our hands.

Elise Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Sunday, January 24, 2016

I was in bed when last night’s earthquake hit. Being a true Alaskan, I spent the first part of it lying in bed and expecting it to be over quickly. Then the house started to roll and I thought, hmmm.... maybe this isn’t just a regular little quake. Then Carm woke up and that meant it had to be bad. He’s getting older and it takes a lot to wake him up at night - or in the morning for that matter.
So I jumped out of bed and put clothes on because, due to my Catholic upbringing, I know it’s worse to be outside with just panties on than it is to die in an earthquake. Now the dogs were sitting up on the bed looking at me to make their world stop shaking. That’s about when the pictures and knick knacks started falling. And all I could think was to get under a doorway. The birds had their cages to protect them. I had to get the dogs under the doorway with me. And that went over about as well as you would expect with one crazed lady and two shaking dogs. It was like trying to herd cats. By the time I had managed to grab them both without dropping either one, the quake was over.
I thought about checking for damage and decided to just go back to bed. Since I didn’t smell a gas leak or hear sirens outside, I figured it could wait until morning. The fallen plants were unamused by this decision.

Elise Patkotak • 12:06 PM •
Saturday, January 23, 2016
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Elise Patkotak • 03:57 AM •

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