Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, November 28, 2014
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Snowy jumps off the bed in the middle of the night because somewhere in the distance is the sound of a dog barking. He responds by barking madly, trying to wake me up to what is a clear and present danger in our lives. When I refuse to see that imminent danger, when I refuse to jump out of my warm bed to let him out so he can scare the demons away, he finally turns sadly back towards his bed. He has done what he can to save me. When that terrible thing comes bumping into my night, it won’t be his fault. He tried his best to warn me.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:30 AM •
Thursday, November 27, 2014

Writing a column about Bill Cosby as a probable serial rapist is not something I ever thought I’d be doing. I mean, we’re talking about Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the man who probably made President Barack Obama possible by making African American men less scary and threatening to the nation at large. He was the first black man to star in a network TV show (I Spy) and the first one to show an educated black family with a professional mom and dad and a home life to which we could all relate. In fact, he showed it in such a normal light that most of us wished our family was like his. We wished our dad would talk to us like he talked to his kids. We wished our spouses would embrace us the way he embraced Clair. Now we’re finding out that behind that goofy grin of Dr. Jekyll lurked the frightening smile of a Mr. Hyde.

In our heads Bill Cosby was never really Bill Cosby after his Cosby Show became a Thursday night staple in the 80s. From then on we looked at him and always saw Cliff Huxtable, the lovable, wise patriarch who liked shoot ‘em up Westerns from the 50s and sandwiches from the White House Sub Shop. Through all the succeeding decades, despite the whispers within the industry itself that would never quite die, the reality of who he might be was quashed by the quiet threat that his power held. He could make or break your career. He could make or break your show. He could see that you never got an audition again if he wanted. So no matter what he did, best to keep quiet because you were never going to be believed next to Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
You don’t have to be a genius to see the parallels between the Cosby story and our own National Guard scandal. In both cases powerful men kept the truth from emerging. Or, at a minimum, powerful men kept the allegations from ever getting a thorough hearing with some level of reasonable results. So the victims became twice victimized and the perpetrators, almost always men, kept their power and reputations intact.
Thanks to a few brave victims who would not shut up and go away, both Bill Cosby and the Alaska National Guard will now face a day of reckoning and, if we are lucky, the system that allowed the abuse to flourish below the radar will be fixed so that it can’t happen again. It’s just that I’m not holding my breath for that to occur. Perhaps with the National Guard we have a chance of a systemic change that will make the whole process fairer and less fearsome to those who have been assaulted. But in the case of Cosby, I’d have to guess that there never will be any sense of justice for his victims. He’s already paid off multiple women to make the whispering go away. But even he apparently did not have enough money to pay off all the women he’d assaulted. All his money and power couldn’t keep the whispers from becoming loud statements spoken publicly. Sadly, it seems there are always other powerful men who will try to suppress the ugliness of their actions towards women, believing as Cosby apparently did that they are invincible.
The Cosby story comes to light as Alaska once again deals with the fact that we are the most dangerous state for women in the nation. Come here and you are apt to be murdered more, raped more, physically and verbally abused more than anywhere else. Makes it hard to think of something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.
As we head into that holiday and express thanks for the things in our life that are good, take a moment of silent thought and prayer for those to whom not much feels good at all. These are the men and women still living with violent physical and verbal abuse who are too intimidated to know how to change their circumstances. Look around your dinner table at your friends and family and thank whoever you believe in for giving you a safe place to be, a safe home to host a dinner, a safe bed to lie in at night. These are the blessings so many of us take for granted without realizing just how many in our society are without them.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:16 AM •
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

As we enter that time of year where many men overeat and then sit in front of the tv watching a football game with their pants unbuttoned and often also unzipped, may I make a plea from the other half of humanity. WEAR LOOSE PANTS OR PANTS WITH ELASTIC WAISTS. Have some pity on those of us trying to digest food and gagging at the sight of your unbuttoned pants.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:19 AM •
Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I thought I’d written something both yesterday and Sunday on the blog. At the time I was taking medication for vertigo. I can only assume that I did, in fact, write those entries but that I was writing them on the blog in my head and they never actually made it out of there. Yep, getting old is fun at the best of times. Getting old with vertigo… priceless.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:17 AM •
Saturday, November 22, 2014

Due to the unfortunate timing of a bout of vertigo that precluded me from getting on the plane to fly to my 50th high school reunion, I found myself stuck at home and not able to move much without a lot of nauseating dizziness resulting. So I decided to watch a movie as a way to kill a few hours while sitting quietly. In some weird tribute to the reunion I’m missing, I watched Jersey Boys. They were the background sound of my teen years.  And they were from Jersey and Italian. What more could I ask? I was fine right up until they started singing You’re Just Too Good To Be True. At that point, for some reason, I burst into tears remembering how many times I sang that song at the top of my lungs when no one was around and I was in the midst of my first major unrequited love storm - and seriously, is there any love more unrequited than your first one when you’re a teen? It brought me back to New Jersey and Philly and all those years of the sixties. Despite the sobbing, I’m going to say they were good years. I wallowed in the memories until my birds and dogs told me to get a grip and feed them. Nothing like cold reality to wipe away the tears of over sentimental pathos.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:08 AM •
Friday, November 21, 2014

So we know that African elephants have now reached the tipping point towards extinction because the number being born each year does not equal the number being killed by poachers. Yet the NRA opposes closing a loophole in federal law that allows ivory to be imported into this country if it is “fossilized” claiming it is another scheme to take away their guns by denying them ivory handles. So when they have killed off all the elephants, what kind of handles will they make for their guns?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:35 AM •
Thursday, November 20, 2014

Let’s call this a view from the sidelines. I’m not a talking news head: not someone who lives and breathes politics as an occupation. But I am someone who, like you, gets to live with the results of elections. So let’s take a look at our recent elections and ruminate on what these results portend to those of us who live in the real world where people don’t shower us with gifts and money in return for our votes.


We can start by taking a look at the national voting average for this last mid term election. It was 38%. So let’s do a little math with that number. In most races, the votes were split rather closely down the middle. Even though Republicans won the majority of the battles, their majorities were not all that mighty. By almost any stretch of the imagination, the Republicans did not get so much of a mandate from the American people as a great big bored yawn aimed at both parties. Neither could get the electorate off their cell phones and into a voting booth in any great number. The Republicans just managed to get slightly less of a yawn from Americans.
But let’s be generous and say that on average they garnered 55% of the vote while the Democrats garnered 45%. That means that the Republicans earned a little over 20% of the votes of potential voters. 20% of our population decided who would be our leaders and who would craft our laws for at least the next two years. Of the approximately 62% that did not vote, one must assume something truly earthshaking kept them from the polls. Perhaps the Dancing with the Stars finale was on that day. Or perhaps they are so terribly content with the way things are that they saw no need to register their preferences through voting. Whatever it was, if you can’t show me your “I Voted” sticker, you are not allowed to complain about anything government does until the next election.
Now let’s move on to the blathering and bleating of the winners over how they are heading to Washington to bring their agenda out of the backroom and pass it and cause all things in America to be right and good again. Or will they?  As an outsider looking in, things don’t quite seem to jive with the rhetoric. And once again it comes down to those pesky things we call numbers. You see, having a simple majority in Congress doesn’t really make you some sort of superpower. Unless you have a veto or filibuster proof majority, your agenda is basically going nowhere. That’s the lesson the Republicans have been teaching the Democrats for the past few years. My guess is that the Democrats are well schooled in it by now. And God knows if there is anyplace on earth filled with enough hot air to naturally support a filibuster, it’s the United States Congress.
One of the things I keep hearing about from the Republican leadership is that they are going to Washington in a spirit of conciliation and cooperation. Aside from some required hot air about ending wars, reducing the national debt, curtailing job loss to 3rd World countries and finally resolving my weight problem, they are acting as reasonable men should act. Which really annoys the crap out of me. Because if they have had this in them for all these years, if both the Democrats and Republicans have always had this capacity to work together and pass meaningful legislation and they chose not to for some bizarre reason, then I am really major mad.
Sadly, the best I can visualize about the next few years in Washington is more of the same, except this time it’s the Democrats, not Republicans, who will be doing the filibustering. But it will still be depressingly more of the same, about what America has come to expect from this Congress. I can’t imagine how many years it will be until anyone in America can say they respect the legislative branch of our government with a straight face. A whole generation of kids will grow up knowing the truth to what Will Rogers once so aptly said, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Or is Mark Twain closer to the truth with his observation that, “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
Either way, heaven help us all.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:21 AM •
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Packed to travel out to the reunion last night. Realized about ten minutes into the process that I probably should have done some clothes shopping.
Does a twenty year old Kivgiq sweatshirt count as business formal wear if you add earrings?
Will people in the lower 48 ever understand Alaskan fashion sense?
Will bunny boots ever really work as dressy shoes outside of Fairbanks?
Quick, I need answers to these questions before Saturday.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

As the date draws nearer for my 50th high school reunion, I keep wondering how all those people got so old when I didn’t. Hell, I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. Maybe a super model....

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Monday, November 17, 2014
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This is a special picture for all my old Barrow friends who follow my blog. I know you’ll remember Fran. She served the best Mexican food north of the Arctic Circle and did it with flare for over thirty years. She’s still alive and kicking as this shot shows when I visited her recently. Don’t tell her I posted a picture with her hair looking a little messed. I’ll never hear the end of it.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:54 AM •
Sunday, November 16, 2014
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Thank you Sandra Hopson(!) Stuermer for my beautiful new parka, just in time for the holiday season. And what a stunning ruff. She was taught by the best.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:37 AM •
Saturday, November 15, 2014
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My brother (standing) and my Uncle Joe in his beer store circa 1970/80 something. This is currently hanging in the best specialty beer store in Newark, Delaware. Called The Delaware Growler (48 East Main Street Newark, DE 19711 302-454-7695), you won’t find a greater selection of those little beer breweries that people into beer really like. And if you go there, you’ll see the original of this stunning picture showing two things… that selling beer is simply in our blood and my brother should not sport a mustache.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:02 AM •
Friday, November 14, 2014

I just spent two days trying to find my laptop computer that I put away when I got my iPad for reasons unknown. Now I’m traveling East and need it to be able to work while I’m back there. I searched high and lo, in every reasonable place a normal person might put their laptop. I finally found it on the floor of my closet under a pile of clothes due to go to charity. I don’t remember putting it there and I sure as hell can’t think of why.
Yep, old age is going to be an exciting journey that I may or may not ever remember.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Thursday, November 13, 2014

Here’s the sentence that blew my mind last week, and it had nothing to do with Don Young being re-elected. An article about marijuana legalization stated that support for legalization was dropping and had reached a low of 51%.  Who ever thought I’d live long enough to find the bottom line of approval on pot legalization being above half?


How did we get from a time when pot was the devil’s weed to a time when common sense prevailed? Society finally seems ready to put old prejudices away and deal with pot in a realistic and functional manner.
As someone who has worked in human services for many years, I was unfortunately able to become intimately involved with dysfunctional and abusive families. In every family in which addictive use of a substance was part of the problem, that substance was invariable alcohol and/or coke, not pot. If pot was used in those homes, it was to come down from the harsh high of other substances. Homes in which only pot was present were rarely, if ever, violent… unless you were trying to hog the nachos. The worse that could be said is that those homes contained way more junk food than should be ingested by most humans and the choice of TV programs leaned towards cartoons, anime and sports.
I am aware that some people cannot and should not use pot. It is a substance that can be addictive and, like with alcohol, if you become addicted to it there is a raft of problems that can ensue. Some people lose all enthusiasm and ambition and take to a reclined position on the piece of furniture nearest to their game console. In fairly rare cases, some get violent. But the same can be said not only for alcohol, but also for a sugar addiction. The thing is, we need to learn how to cope with the medical issue of addiction in a way that does not criminalize the addict. We already have the largest jailed population in the world. Why we would deliberately add more when there is a simpler, more effective and certainly cheaper alternative?
Addiction treatment is not always successful. For many addicts it takes multiple attempts before they finally climb that mountain. And once on top, they often must cling ferociously to their sobriety since falling off that peak is sadly easy to do. There are many addicts who simply don’t want to be treated. They don’t see a problem with their addiction and don’t understand why the world just won’t leave them alone. Now this may be the Alaskan in me talking but honestly, if they are not hurting anyone else, don’t they have the right to continue to use until their ultimately sad and early end? It may break the hearts of their family members who want them to live happy and healthy lives. And it may cause society in general to look at them with pity. We should always offer them alternatives, but unless they make the choice to use those alternatives, there is little that can be done for an addict who wants to keep using. Taking my tax dollars to pay for them to continue their addiction in jail where drugs are often as available as on the street is simply counterproductive. We spend a lot of money to achieve nothing.
It took society a long time to reach the point where alcohol could neither be used as an excuse or a mitigating circumstance for a crime. If you get behind the wheel of your car drunk and hurt someone, you made a choice, albeit a stupid one based on an addled brain. Just as alcohol is no longer an excuse for hitting someone, neither should pot or any other drug be offered as a mitigating circumstance in a crime. Do the crime, do the time.
But simply being an addict is not a crime. And if we’re going to jail people for not taking care of their medical conditions, then there are a lot of smokers with emphysema who should be in jail to say nothing of the diabetics out there who continue to consume sugars and carbs with no care for the medical consequences.
Pot is not the problem. Addiction is the problem. And that’s a medical, not criminal, issue.
Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:51 AM •
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I just don’t understand why the dog who snores the loudest is the one who feels compelled to climb up onto the pillow and curl up closest to my ear. I end up with dreams of storms and bombs.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:53 AM •

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