Elise Sereni
Tuesday, December 01, 2015

I don’t know how the national news is not yet covering this. Murres, a sea bird, are dying at record numbers in California, washing ashore starved to death. Here in Alaska, Bird TLC has had over 30 admitted in the past few weeks, all starving, and none of them anywhere near where they should have been.
So what’s happening? And why isn’t the national news interested? Oh, that’s right. No Kardashian is involved.

Elise Patkotak • 03:08 AM •
Monday, November 30, 2015

As I lay in bed last night, warmed by the two little doggies bodies curled up close against me, I wondered again how people without pets survive. Kids and spouses may be ok substitutes but they will never equal the real thing.

Elise Patkotak • 12:05 PM •
Thursday, November 26, 2015

Remember 9/11? Of course you do. It’s not a day any of us are likely to forget. Soon after it, American flags showed up on everyone’s porch and people were spotted wearing t-shirts that said, “These colors don’t run” superimposed over the red, white and blue.  Sure is embarrassing to remember that now as our esteemed Republican presidential candidates and multiple governors tuck their tails between their legs and run in fear of refugees. I guess in their world, the colors do run.

A certain segment of America insists on their right to pack heat in visible sight everywhere they go, from Starbucks to Wal-Mart. They act macho and tough. But you have to wonder if that gun on their hip is just a substitute for something else they have that isn’t as big. Just saying, for a group of people who insist on their right to defend themselves in Starbucks, they sure start looking pretty cowardly when confronted with a 5-year-old refugee whose home has been blown up.
I don’t know about you, but I want my country back. I want it back from chickenhearted leaders who talk big and act small. I want my country back from people who claim to be Americans but are willing to trample everything we stand for because they are so frightened of something a little out of their comfort zone. If we are going to start banning people who we suspect might carry out a terrorist attack on American soil, we should probably arrest all Caucasian males between 13 and 40 since they have killed more people in shootings on American soil than any terrorist has since 9/11.
Let’s consider the situation at Guantanamo Bay.  We are scared to death, more than 13 years after 9/11, to place the remaining prisoners there into American prisons on American soil. How cowardly can you get? We don’t mind keeping them on Cuban soil but they aren’t allowed in an American prison because… well, quite frankly, I’m not sure why except that Republicans seem to be on the leading edge of little old lady screams of panic and fear at the sight of someone who even whispers of a mid-East background.  I assume the US House of Representatives realizes that these people will not be placed in condos in the suburbs but will be in maximum security prisons. You know them. They are the same prisons we trust to keep those young men confined who have actually killed in our malls, churches, movie theaters and colleges.
ISIS wants to cast the current struggle as one of a clash of civilizations, East versus West, the Crusades redux. We feed into that scenario every time we do something so cowardly as to close our doors to people whose homes we may have very well blown up. Unless we allow the East and West to mingle in a place where assimilation and sharing of foods, traditions, clothing and cultures can happen safely, this will truly become a clash of civilizations. For every refugee we turn away, who must then return to a country torn by war and bombed by Western forces, we potentially create another radical terrorist. For every refugee we admit to our country, we lessen that chance.
These terrorists can call themselves whatever they want, but they do not represent Islam anymore than the Westboro Baptist Church represents Christianity or the young men who continue to open fire in crowded American venues represent young men in this county. Similarly, the cowardly Republican presidential candidates and governors who are running around like Chicken Little declaring the sky will fall if we admit Syrian refugees do not represent the view of most Americans.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe Americans want to run from refugees who lives have been torn apart by years of war. I believe being an American means we offer them the security and safety we have enjoyed all these years since we started bombing their country.
I think John Wayne would hang his head in shame at the cowardice being shown by people vying to be our leaders, whether as governors or presidential candidates. And if you are one of those people packing a visible symbol of your manhood on your hip while running like a frightened rabbit from the threat of a refugee, shame on you.

Elise Patkotak • 03:18 AM •
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

As of midnight tonight, we officially enter the guilt free zone of Thanksgiving eating. May your pants be tight, your stomach be full and your smile be as broad as can be when you rise from your holiday table. And remember, neither carbs, nor fats, nor sugars matter on Thanksgiving. On this one day each year, they all come with only positive health benefits.

Elise Patkotak • 03:18 AM •
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Putting your turn signal on AFTER you have squeezed in front of me to pull into my lane despite the snow and ice making the distance between us NOT SAFE, it doesn’t count! Turn signals, as their name implies, signals you want to turn. Put it on BEFORE you turn, you asshole!

Elise Patkotak • 03:16 AM •
Monday, November 23, 2015

If we elect Donald Trump, aside from throwing up in our mouths every time we say the words “President Trump”, we’ll save on a whole salary since that thing living on his head can be his VP. I mean, seriously, who would want to be his running mate?

Elise Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Sunday, November 22, 2015

The weather is so odd. The sky is a grey white. The trees sway in the breeze. The snow has wiped out all color on the ground. It’s like being inside a satin lined coffiin except it’s colder. Yep, all I want to do is recite The Raven or Annabelle Lee.

Elise Patkotak • 11:10 AM •
Friday, November 20, 2015


“It remains one of our best, and most imaginative, literary magazines.” ------Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books
Editorial Offices Ronald Spatz, Editor
Alaska literary giants lead the celebration of Alaska Quarterly Review ‘s 33 years of continuous publication with its 2015 Fall & Winter issue.
The edition’s exclusive special feature is “They Were My People” by Alaska’s Pulitzer Prize and Grammy-winning composer John Luther Adams. In this 80-page selection from his upcoming memoir Silences So Deep: A Memoir of Music and Alaska, John Luther Adams writes about his music and deep friendship with conductor and composer Gordon Wright and poet John Haines. They were for him “larger-than-life figures” and “the embodiment of Alaska.” Filling out the book are 4 compelling personal essays including “Man of Letters” by Alaskan essayist and poet Eva Saulitis; 9 powerful short stories; and a stellar collection of poetry by 25 poets.
Gordon Brooks Wright (1934-2007) was a unique and acclaimed Alaskan composer, symphony conductor, music professor, writer and environmentalist. John Mead Haines (1924 –2011) was Alaska’s greatest poet recognized by a lifetime achievement award from the Library of Congress. Composer John Luther Adam is Alaska’s sole Pulitzer Prize winner and his deep friendship and these with these two Alaskan giants of music and letters (and the music that came from it) is shared in Alaska Quarterly Review’s publication of Adam’s memoir “They Were My People.”
The program includes commentary and readings by Susan Dererra, Ronald Spatz, Alyse Knorr, and Gary Holthaus, and chamber music featuring Anchorage Symphony Orchestra musicians Nathaniel Berry (violin), Katie Wasko (violin), Koree Guzman (viola), and Jon Genziano (cello) performing pieces by Beethoven, John Luther Adams, Samuel Barber, and Mozart.
For more information contact Ronald Spatz at 907-333-4779 or ().
EVENT: Alaska Quarterly Review Publication Celebration Reading and Concert
DATE:  Friday, November 20
PLACE: Blue Hollomon Gallery
TIME: 7:00 PM
COST: Free and open to the public. Suggested donation is $20.

Elise Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Thursday, November 19, 2015

Back in my misspent youth, I was a registered nurse for a brief nanosecond of time. Then I realized that real nurses had something I didn’t have… a desire to be a nurse. So I got out of the profession. But before I did, I spent more than my fair share of nights in the emergency room of Long Island College Hospital, a hospital that handled some of the meaner streets of Brooklyn. Overdoses were pretty much a daily routine. On the weekends, overdoses became something close to a marathon. You could hardly push some Narcan into one overdose before the next was carried in. Narcan (the brand name for naloxone) is an instant cure. Within moments of injection the almost dead overdosed person is sitting up and mad at you for dumping the rest of their stash while he or she was out.

Yeah, that was the sucky part of the job. These addicts didn’t wake up and say thank you. No, they woke up and wanted to know what you did with the rest of their stuff. And when you explained that you disposed of it so that they would neither get arrested for possession nor manage to actually die with the next injection, they were not amused. Heroin is like that. It makes life with it seem more attractive than life without it. Better to die in the ecstasy of a high than to live in the dull, monotone world of sobriety.
Now that heroin is resurging here in Alaska, everyone is sitting up and taking notice of just how horrible it can be. Heroin is an equal opportunity drug. It strikes the poor, the middle class and the rich with equal ferocity. Kids raised with all the love and support they would ever need to succeed in life make the mistake of trying it once and suddenly a bright future is snuffed in a haze of heroin. Some people can take a hit of heroin and never take a second one. It’s like Russian roulette, there may only be one bullet in the gun but is it wise to take the chance that this time the bullet won’t be in the chamber. Is it wise to hope that you aren’t the person who will become addicted?
Because teens are not especially known for logical follow through on parental advice, and because teens tend to be much more prone to peer pressure than ever before in their lives, the appearance of heroin at a party might strike them as just something to do to be part of the crowd. And no matter how much great parenting you’ve done, when the pedal hits the metal, you can only hope that your kids will remember what you taught them and not be overwhelmed by the desire to fit in.
Unlike a parent burying a child who died of natural causes, a parent burying a child who died of a heroin overdose, or any overdose on an addictive drug, is burying a child who voluntarily chose to use that drug. At least, it was voluntary at first. Then, one day, it is no longer a voluntary impulse but what your child has to do to get through the day. Then one day it simply kills them. Your heart breaks knowing they chose the method of their death the day they did their first hit.
With Narcan, your child has a chance to wake up from an overdose and maybe, just maybe, reconsider what they are doing with their life. Without Narcan nearby and ready for instant use, you may never have a chance to know what choice your child might have made. But for all the times that Narcan can save them, the day will inevitably come when Narcan will be too late. So the only answer is to keep fighting for that lost child because that kid can no long make reasoned decisions. He will probably wake up from his overdose angry that you threw the rest of his stash out.
We need to do all we can to help those in our midst who have been taken prisoner by an addiction most of us can only dimly comprehend. But let’s keep that cure nearby so we at least have a fighting chance of giving them a fighting chance to change their path.

Elise Patkotak • 03:06 AM •
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What more is there to say? Seems as though every week brings another horror, another tragedy. We bomb the crap out of them. They terrorize the crap out of us. And we all do it in the name of a merciful and loving god.
Talk about giving religion a bad name.

Elise Patkotak • 03:10 PM •
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Donal Trump running for president with Sarah Palin as his running mate… she’d wear a sash, of course.
Ben Carson… well, doesn’t matter who is running with him, it’s a nightmare. 

Elise Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hi all,
As you all know Bird TLC has been receiving emaciated common murres that are lacking their waterproofing. Thank you so much for all of your support as we handle the influx of common murres. We are up to 16 currently here in the clinic and a total of 20 intakes. Our current need is frozen smelt (preferably 4-5” in length), squid and octopus. If anyone knows of facilities that can donate smelt, squid or octopus in large quantities please let me know. Thank you!
Katie Middlebrook
Avian Rehabilitation Coordinator
Bird Treatment & Learning Center
7800 King St.
Anchorage, AK 99518

Elise Patkotak • 04:50 PM •
Friday, November 13, 2015

On the one hand, I don’t think watching TV is an inherently non-intellectual thing to do. I think you can admit to having a slavish devotion to NCIS: LA and Elementary and also be a reader. On the other hand, having reached the demographic that is no longer desired by advertisers, I find less and less that interests me on either the TV or Internet. And that’s a good thing because I’m in the middle of rereading Vanity Fair and am once again thoroughly enthralled.

Elise Patkotak • 03:01 AM •
Thursday, November 12, 2015

I’m guessing that by now there are few in Alaska who haven’t seen or read about the incident in Sitka where three police officers are shown Tasering a drunken teenager. It’s pretty tough to watch. It’s even tougher for those of us brought up to respect the police as the ones we should run to when we feel we are in danger. While the teenager in question is clearly being less than cooperative, the idea of directly Tasering him to convince him to take his clothes off is just horrifying.

The young man’s name is Franklin Hoogendorn. He was, at the time, a student at Mr. Edgecumbe. He’s since left the school but did manage to graduate before returning to his home village of Koyuk. In an interview with the Alaska Dispatch News, Hoogendorn said that watching the video was “really intense” and that, “I hope something good can come of it.”
Well, some good has already started to come out of it. Backing slightly away from his position that while it may look bad, his officers did nothing wrong, Sitka Police Chief Sheldon Schmitt has invited the Alaska State Troopers to review the incident. So it would seem that the Sitka police are now open to other opinions on what happened in that video. And that’s a good thing because policing in a small town is inevitably very personal on many levels.  In small towns, it’s a rare occurrence when your policing doesn’t run into your neighbors, friends and grocery clerks.
However, there is another good that can come of this if Hoogendorn is truly sincere in wanting some good to come out of what looks so bad. He can open up to his community and his peers about the problems of being knee-walking drunk whether as a minor or an adult. In all likelihood, had he not been so drunk, this whole incident would either not have happened or he would have had enough of his senses still functioning to not resist the police demands that he disrobe prior to being Tased.
The problem is, when you’re so drunk you are staggering down the street, most of your critical faculties have gone underground for the duration and you make stupid decisions. None of this justifies the actions seen on the video, not even slightly, but it does speak to the issue of underage drinking in specific and public intoxication in general.
In case you’ve missed the headlines of the past few months, heroin is on the rise again and seems to be the drug of choice for many middle class youths. This has led, not surprisingly, to a re-evaluation of the penalties associated with drug use and cries for more treatment and less jail. While the heroin problem continues to grow in Alaska, it is still nowhere near the major problem that alcohol is. Young people who get drunk on a regular basis are killing the very brain cells they need for future success just as much as those shooting up heroin. Along with Spice, the decision to use any of these substances is about as stupid a choice as you can possibly imagine.
So if Hoogendorn really wants some good to come out of this terrible incident, he shouldn’t wait for the trooper’s report. He shouldn’t wait for an apology from the Sitka police force. He shouldn’t hold out for any kind of settlement to reimburse him for pain and suffering. What he should do is get out into his community and let his peers know just how terrible the consequences of being slobbering drunk can be. He can speak from experience… at least, as much of the experience he remembers… of being held down in a jail cell and Tased because he was too drunk to realize what a bad choice resisting actually was at that point.
This won’t change what happened to him. It won’t change a police culture that sometimes seems to act as though using a Taser instead of a gun justifies using it as much as possible. It won’t change the past. But it can possibly change the future for some of his friends and family. Sharing his experience can be the good that comes out of this horrible incident, no matter what any investigation shows. He can make a difference. I hope he does.

Elise Patkotak • 03:26 AM •
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

So started out at 10 AM in Laos. Flight delayed two hours. Connection to Bangkok missed. Very nice Lao staff find us in terminal and say they’ll re-book us. Terminal, BTW, is about Barrow size so not hard to find us. Come back and say we’re re-booked on another flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong but all boarding passes have to be reissued and their machine is broken. They are waiting for IT. We get to Bangkok only to be told by airline that they can’t issue our tickets for America. We have to do that in Hong Kong. And oh, they say to my sister, your luggage is only booked to Hong Kong. Did she want it to go all the way to America with her? And just to keep things complicated, you have to go through security every time you change planes even if you don’t go out of the gate areas. And then you go through security again to actually get to your gate. Finally got through it all and sitting at gate in Hong Long when a man comes up and says we went through security too soon. Had to go back out and barely sat down when they told us we could now go through. I may never leave my house again.

Elise Patkotak • 03:04 AM •

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