Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, November 06, 2014

The holiday season is here. It used to be three separate occasions – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Now it’s one long sprint to the finish. Those campaign ads will rapidly be replaced with ads suggesting your family cannot possibly have a good holiday unless you spend yourself into near bankruptcy.


I liked it better when these holidays were each their distinct own moment. But now Thanksgiving seems to be but a way station on the road to the exorbitant spending that occurs in an orgy of frantic shopping and leaves most people with that regretful hangover of surfeit physical possessions.  Holiday decorations now appear in stores the day after Labor Day. Thanksgiving is a feast squeezed into a short hour or so before the mad rush for pre-Christmas sales.
I liked our Thanksgivings growing up. They were about food and family. No one was flexing their credit card muscles for use later that day. There was actually no place to use a credit card because nothing was open except for the occasional corner grocery store catering to whatever you forgot to buy for your favorite family recipe. Back then people actually believed that Thanksgiving was a day to spend in lively conversation over actual home cooked food. No one was keeping an eye on the clock for when the insane rush for bargains would begin. That would happen on Black Friday.
It’s sad that we seem to have lost Thanksgiving in our rush to out buy our neighbors. It’s sad that materialism has overtaken the one day a year when it never really mattered. You didn’t give presents on Thanksgiving. No one was expecting an envelope with a card and money stuffed in it. No one was expecting anything except a wonderful meal. I miss the leisurely pace that once was Thanksgiving. In my family, we drove sixty miles to join the rest of the relatives for the day. We ate, the men napped while pretending to watch football, the women did the dishes. The kids played, helped clean the table and then, because cleaning up took at least two hours, all the food went back on the table so everyone could have a snack before departing. The snack often took as long as the original meal given that the men had gotten their second wind by then. My aunt would then pack sandwiches for us to take in the car on the ride back home because you never knew how hungry you might get in the 90 minutes the drive took.
Somewhere from then to now, the spirit of materialism, sales and greed hijacked Thanksgiving. People who work for certain stores (that shall not be mentioned by name but do not pay their salespeople a living wage) are made to work the holiday if they want to keep their jobs. Great employers like Costco that consciously close on Thanksgiving and wish their employees a happy day with their families have become fewer and farther between.
I wish we could once again enjoy a time and place where each of these holidays was celebrated by itself, where one didn’t slosh over into the other while bringing with it a level of greedy materialism that is distinctly unappealing as a national trait. But that’s probably never going to happen so let me make this suggestion instead.
If you are going to basically give up the relaxation of a day filled with food, friends and family in order to be part of a crazed horde trying to push into a store to get something you probably don’t need at a price that seems to be a bargain only if you ignore the family time you’re missing, then at least do this too. Before you start the shopping, before you max out your credit card, before you go into the kind of debt that will take until next Christmas to pay off, look around at the many charities and causes in our community from the Food Bank to Brother Francis Shelter to Bird TLC. Make a conscious decision to either put aside money for them at the holiday or put aside hours for volunteering. At least in that way, some of the spirit of the child being celebrated at Christmas will be able to squeeze through that horde of crazed shoppers and make the holiday season brighter.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Wednesday, November 05, 2014

My little BuddhaBubba had some kind of seizure on Sunday evening. I felt so helpless, just holding her and telling her she was going to be ok and not being able to do anything for her. Thankfully my friend Janis was here and drove us to the PET ER. Of course, once we got there, BB just trotted around like everything was fine and she had no idea why everyone was making such a fuss. sigh. For what a Pet ER visit costs, you’d think she could have at least foamed at the mouth a little.
We go to her regular doc on Friday to see if there is any actual brain between those two adorable ears. I’m guessing not.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:10 AM •
Tuesday, November 04, 2014

... then turn your computer off, get your ass off that chair and go vote or do not complain about anything in government or politics for the next two years. You forfeit your right to be disgusted by a government for which you did not even bother to vote!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:08 AM •
Sunday, November 02, 2014

Oh sweet lord! Even his mother doesn’t want him to run. Another Bush or another Clinton. Helluva choice.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:47 AM •
Saturday, November 01, 2014
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I just couldn’t resist. It’s way too good.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Friday, October 31, 2014

Any current politician standing on your front doorstep asking for a donation is scary. Add Ted Cruz and you have reached Friday the 13th terror.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Thursday, October 30, 2014

This is my last column before the general election. Can I get a “Hallelujah”? In just one week the positively depressing, ugly, noisy campaigns of truthiness will be over. I already voted. Whereas just a short week ago I felt at least a slight twinge of guilt when I walked from my mailbox straight to my recycle bin with all the political mailers, now I do so with a completely clear conscience.

I recently spoke with a friend who explained that he was not voting for anyone this year. I was shocked, as I knew him to be a conscientious voter. He then clarified his statement by adding that he would be voting. It’s just that all his votes would be against someone, not for the person whose name he actually chose on the ballot. I thought about that and realized he was probably speaking for more than a few Alaskans.
Just think for a moment about some of our choices. Don Young stands out as particularly cringe worthy. On a good day, anyone following what he says and does would assume the early stages of senility. But Alaskans who have had the privilege of being represented by Don in Congress for the past two hundred years know that this is just Don being Don. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is. We keep voting him into office no matter how embarrassing or abusive he becomes. Or maybe we just figure sending him to Washington keeps him out of Alaska and that’s a good thing.
Poor Forrest Dunbar, he’s not nearly crazy enough for us to elect him. I mean, with Sarah out of office, Don is the last joke we have on a national stage. Who else would we laugh at if he were gone? Who else would cause us such embarrassment when outside relatives ask us what we were thinking when we voted?
But enough about poor Don. Let’s take a look at the senate race. Begich versus “the other” Sullivan. Has there even been a campaign in Alaska more filled with half-truths, innuendoes and smears than this one? I think my favorite lie comes straight from one of the many outside groups supporting Sullivan. That’s the one where they state that Begich was the deciding vote for the Affordable Care Act. They are apparently running that same ad in every state where an incumbent Democrat is running for re-election. Of course, Begich and those outside groups supporting him are running some pretty questionable ads too. For instance, is there a law somewhere that I haven’t heard about which defines exactly how long you have to live in Alaska to be an Alaskan able to run for public office without having your bona fides questioned? I mean, aside from the law defining Alaskan citizenship for purposes of the PFD, which every true Alaskan has memorized.
The governor’s race is probably the one that has seen the most dramatic change of fortunes. Thanks to the horrific mess at the Alaska National Guard, the incumbent, who should have been able to run on his Choose Respect program and pull in women from all walks of life, is now trying to prove that he’s not some sort of chauvinistic pig who ignored rape, sexual harassment and a vast quantity of other abuses at the Guard. And a lifelong Republican who is running as an Independent with a staunchly Democratic running mate is cleaning up in the polls. In so many ways this all could only happen in Alaska where being an Independent actually attracts votes.
Finally, the initiatives. Ah the initiatives. They range from legalizing and regulating pot to overturning a city ordinance whose main purpose seems to be to cripple the police and fire departments while extending a middle finger to unions. There are ads claiming that Begich’s legacy as Anchorage mayor was a multi million dollar debt. If we don’t repeal the labor ordinance, Sullivan’s legacy will be a weakened police and fire department that could lead to unthinkable tragedies.
I guess that’s about it. I promise not to write about the current election again unless Alaskans do something positively amazing like ousting Don so he can get the care he obviously needs for his increasingly erratic behavior. That way, we get a fresh face in Congress to surprise us with all the new and interesting ways he can think up to embarrass Alaskans.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:35 AM •
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In a little over two weeks, I’ll be heading East to my 50th high school reunion. For a generation that swore to never trust anyone over thirty, this number is painful. On the one hand, I’m glad I actually managed to live this long. On the other hand, I can’t believe I managed to live this long. Given some things I did in my past, the betting would not have been in my favor.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:14 AM •
Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I find myself wondering if a dictatorship is really all that bad? At a minimum, we have to ask if it’s as bad as a political campaign season.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Monday, October 27, 2014

Then all the noise will stop. At least, the noise coming out of politicians’ mouths. But then will start the Christmas screeching. Oh god. Oh god. The noise will only end when I never turn on a tv or radio again or look at a magazine, newspaper or the Internet. I wonder if there’s a cave someplace I can occupy?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 10:10 AM •
Sunday, October 26, 2014
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How to stay warm on a cold morning after your mean mom gets you shaved because your butts were hairy, dirty and stinky and you insist on sleeping with her anyways.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:46 AM •
Saturday, October 25, 2014
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:37 AM •
Friday, October 24, 2014

You know your relationship with your iPad has gone too far when you find yourself relieved that the reason the battery wasn’t charging was that your house outlet was broken and not your iPad!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:49 AM •
Thursday, October 23, 2014

They sat across from me at dinner. It was my treat to celebrate their wedding. Their smiling picture, in which they held out their hands with the wedding bands showing, had appeared on the front page of the ADN the day after the ban on gay marriage was overturned in Alaska. They hadn’t planned on becoming the face of gay marriage here but the quirks of fate had made it so. They were the first to apply for a license in Barrow and, when the three-day wait period was waived, the first to marry.

Whether or not their marriage will be successful is still as much of guess as it is for any couple that weds. Statistics show that living together before marriage, as they did, doesn’t necessarily improve the odds on the marriage working. I think statistics will eventually show that marriage is hard whether it is straight or gay and that both marriages are equally subject to the vicissitudes of daily life.
But all that is in the future. For this one night, I was sitting across from two young ladies who were grinning from ear to ear in total joy at the fact that society had finally given them the right to express themselves as other couples have done through the ages. They’d made the public commitment to each other that had for so long been denied them. There were no cloying signs of affection, no “look at me” PDA moments. There was just two happy people talking about the future they planned together, discussing whether and when they might bring children into their lives, debating the finer points of a variety of locations for building their life together.
The next day I checked in with some of my heterosexual friends to see if their marriages had survived the legalization of gay marriage. They all proclaimed that not much had changed and they were still on course with their various spouses. Apparently, despite the fear mongering that seems to somehow surround this topic, gay marriage does not destroy straight marriages. Actually, I was never sure of how that would really work.
Then I read our governor had decided to appeal the lower court decision and asked for a stay on these marriages. The stay lasted mercifully few days, but as we went through them, I thought of that smiling couple sitting across from me, celebrating their love and devotion to each other. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how anyone could deny them the right to love and marry the partner of their choice, so long as both were consenting adults. I could less understand why the state had any right to be in their bedroom determining whom they could or couldn’t love.
Given the amount of hate in today’s world, can we really afford to turn our backs on any love shared by two people? Given the amount of children in state custody needing a forever home, can we really afford to deny any loving and committed couple the chance to share that love and commitment with a child in need?
If your religion tells you this is wrong, so be it. You should not now, nor ever, be required to marry such couples in your church, mosque, synagogue or temple. But our state is not based on a particular religion. Our state is, and must remain, secular. It must remain an entity of law, not religion. And as such, it has no basis to deny the right to marry to consenting adult couples, no matter who it is they love.
I’ve known one of those young ladies sitting across from me since she was a child. Her mother was a dear friend until leukemia took her from us much too soon. Her mother was also gay. It was only thanks to the state government’s recognition of same sex couples’ benefit rights that her mother’s partner was able to take the two years needed to nurse her from the beginning to the end of that disease. Her mother was never able to marry her partner but her partner stood by her side night and day with as much devotion as any spouse would ever show.
No one should ever be denied the right to marry the person they love or to care for them in sickness and in health. Why doesn’t our governor get that?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Too bad there isn’t a central number I can call into to notify everyone that I already voted early and they could stop calling me, ringing my door bell, stuffing my mailbox and ruining my tv watching with ads for candidates and ballot measures. It’s been going on for a year or better now. If I didn’t know the issues and candidates at this point, I should probably not have been voting.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:12 AM •

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