Elise Sereni
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.
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 •
Saturday, June 06, 2015

So the TSA all but strip searches me at the airport and manages to confiscate my deadly bottle of hand cream but they miss the weapons and grenades being brought in as a test of their competency. Yep. Makes me feel perfectly safe flying. Violated, but safe and with only slightly chapped hands.

Elise Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Friday, June 05, 2015

So our august legislators feel that since layoff notices went out on Monday to state employees, they have no deadline for passing a budget. Hmmm. At what point did they ever worry about deadlines? They blew past the time they should have been in session. They blew past the deadline for their first special session. And now they’ve blown past the deadline that would have avoided layoff notices. Yeah, I don’t think this group ever really gave a crap about any deadline. On the other hand, if closing state government because no budget was passed impacted their receiving their per diem checks on time, I bet we’d have a budget instantly.

Elise Patkotak • 03:36 AM •
Thursday, June 04, 2015

Anchorage in the summer likes to think of itself as a city of flowers. And it is. But it is also a city of sounds, sounds that we don’t hear in the winter because we close our doors and windows to the cold. But in the summer, we open those windows and the sounds of everyday life come rushing in.

Last night I lay in bed reading while outside I heard a train whistle, kids playing and yelling to each other, dogs barking, lawnmowers roaring, birds singing – compared to winter in my house, it was a cacophony of sounds. It brought me back to my childhood, to the days when not everyone had air conditioners but just about everyone had windows to open to the street. Our windows overlooked the main street in our neighborhood.
Watching TV in the summer involved a lot of “What did he say?” questions because the TV audio was drowned out by some mother calling her kids in, some guys heading to Victory Billiards, which will forever in my mind be Maratti’s Pool Hall, some girls heading up to the Boardwalk to catch the sunset and maybe the eye of some handsome young man. We couldn’t hear the TV but we heard the neighborhood.
My parents’ bedroom was in the front of our apartment making it prime territory for the sounds of the block. I wonder how they ever slept in the summer. You couldn’t close the windows or you suffocated. Atlantic City has a damp, oppressive heat that discourages all but the most desultory of movements unless you have air conditioning.  So I know they couldn’t close their windows. Maybe, given that they also grew up in an inner city neighborhood where life in the summer was lived outside on stoops and porches, they were so used to it that it ultimately became their generation’s white noise.
My brother and I slept in small side bedrooms, each with one window that opened on to a very small alley. How small? I could reach out the window and touch the wall of the building next door. Opening those windows did nothing to dissipate the heat and humidity. So we got window fans. I’m not sure that blowing hot air around was all that much of an improvement in cooling the room but it sure added a whole new level of sound as the fans whirred and clanked through the night.
Our homes are devoid of outside sounds in the winter here in Alaska, unless you live in the Bush where even the tightest seal on a window cannot drown out the snow machine revving past at 3 AM. Windows are closed and locked against the cold. Birds have gone south to find warmer places to spend our frigid months. While the sound of the occasional snow blower might intrude on our solitude, not much else does. Only on New Year’s Eve do the bangs and explosions of fireworks shatter the calm.
There is a sense of community that occurs when you live life outside on the sidewalks and front yards of your city. It’s a hard sense of community to maintain when the snow falls. Come spring, we all cautiously peek our heads out the door and survey our neighborhood, wondering who has come or gone during the long dark months. We reconnect with our yards and trees. We discover walking without cleats, four layers of clothes, two scarves around our necks and a hood drawn tight over our ears. We revel in the colors of flowers, the red of the raspberries and the white glare of the sun.
I suspect many of us live here because we love winter. I particularly love the silence that accompanies a big snow dump. It seems to quiet the world by blanketing it with white. But I also love the sounds of summer, when Alaska opens its windows and doors to the life outside our front porches.
Mostly I love the sound of that train whistle that brings me right back to my grandmother’s house off of Wayne Junction in Philadelphia. My cousin Toni and I are curled up together in her room listening to the train and wondering who was on it, where they were going and if someday we might also be on the train whistling in the night. Good memories.

Elise Patkotak • 03:10 AM •

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