Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, May 03, 2007

How else to explain the fact that I can brush her for an hour, remove enough hair to stuff a pillow and five minutes later see her visibly shedding more hair on my couch. Maybe there is life on the dog star Sirius and she has come to me from there....

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:10 AM •
Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Here’s one of those things you just never really forget.  I was enjoying a social evening with friends some years back in Barrow. One of the people sitting around the table was a police officer. He told us a story, a story that obviously disturbed him. I think he hoped someone around the table could explain it so wouldn’t seem so bad.

Here’s the story.  A husband and wife were picked up by the police for public intoxication and placed in separate cells for their own protection until they sobered up. This was hardly the first night they’d spent in the drunk tank.  All their children had already been removed from them and adopted out. They had no permanent home since they could never stay sober long enough to get a job. They were often found sleeping around heaters in the lobbies of the new public buildings going up in Barrow at the time. Both had been raised in drunken, violent homes so their lifestyle choice was no surprise.
The cop sitting at the table said that the husband kept calling out to his wife who had already passed out in her cell.  Let’s call the wife Sally. This is what her husband kept calling out to her. “Sally! Sally! I want to make rape with you.”
So when I hear the horrible statistics about rape and Alaska Native women, I can’t pretend to be even slightly surprised. Neither, I would guess, is anyone who has ever worked in Alaska in the field of human services or ever lived and worked in Bush Alaska.  It’s a harsh world out there and the harshness doesn’t necessarily stop outside the door of your home.
Being a woman in a community where there is no protection except that afforded by basic human decency is scary because basic human decency, when soaked in alcohol, tends to disappear pretty quickly. And if you live in a village where your life is dependent on your family and social network, you are not apt to make a lot of waves about something like a rape. If you do, you are as likely to be shunned as the perpetrator. In fact, if the perpetrator is an important hunter or leader in the community, you may find yourself shamed for bringing it up. Your life can become so unbearable that killing yourself, leaving the village or drowning yourself in drinking and drugs are your only options.
Given a choice between being isolated and vulnerable in an environment in which a tightly woven communal society is the only way to survive or moving out into a scary, foreign urban world, many women chose to stay put and endure the beatings and rapes that may ensue. They figure that at least they will emerge from it, most of the time, alive. In the city, the news seems to imply you’re apt to be found dead.
Sending more police into these communities isn’t really the answer because once the police leave, that woman is left to face the consequences of the courage she showed in making a complaint.
Here’s another story I’ll never forget. A very young girl was brought into the Barrow clinic with a sexually transmitted disease. She was afraid to say the name of her abuser. But everyone knew who it was. He was a “respected elder” who has been abusing girls his entire life. He might have even started with his sisters. He sexually abused his daughters and was now doing his granddaughters.
This young girl had an older sister, now an adult, who brought her in for treatment. We took the older sister aside and asked her if she would speak to the police, if she would tell them what her sister was afraid to tell us. We asked her to tell the police what happened to her so the abuser could be stopped and her sister would not have to suffer anymore. Her answer? “I lived through it and grew up and got out. So will she. If I say something, my family will be mad at me.”
To speak about the abuse would have meant being shunned and isolated from her family.  Better not to speak. Better to just endure. Better to drown your pain on a Friday night but know that on Saturday you’ll be able to go have dinner with your family because they won’t be mad at you. Better to be a drunk than be shamed because you spoke of what was done to you as a child, as a young girl, as a woman, by men you were told you needed to respect. Better to endure than be forced to leave your village and live in a town like Anchorage where being a Native women seems to be the equivalent of a death sentence.
If Alaska Native women are treated as less than nothing by the criminal justice system, perhaps it partly stems from the fact that so many Alaska Native men treat them that way while their villages and cultures turn a blind eye to the mayhem, unwilling to face something so shameful.
If their own culture does not treasure them, is it really any wonder why society at large doesn’t either?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:23 AM •
Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Not only do I now know the dialog from every episode of Golden Girls by heart but I’ve recently found out that Family Feud is still on the air with like its 800th host. I am still amazed by the families that show up. In my entire large, extended, loud and crazed family, I can think of maybe two people who would willingly go on that show...and you know who you are Marina and Mary.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:41 AM •
Monday, April 30, 2007

So I’m watching the 4500th rerun of the Nanny as I feed and clean my birds in the morning and on comes that commercial for Boniva (Boneeva?), a calcium supplement that Sally Fields is flogging. Once I get over the shock of the Flying Nun being old enough to do a commercial for calcium supplements and actually listen to the copy I realize she’s suggesting it’s easier to remember to do something once a month rather than once a day.  Huh? Do advertisers really think we’re that stupid? And the pitch she gives is that she has a friend who has to take time from her busy scheduled ONCE A WEEK to take her calcium but with this Boniva she only has to worry once a month.  Seriously, taking a pill once a week that will prevent your bones from collapsing in on you is an inconvenience? And somehow remembering to do it once a month is easier and less time consuming?  Exactly what are these women doing prepartory to taking this pill besides pouring a glass of water?
I don’t know about the rest of you out there but it’s easier for me to remember something I have to do once a day. Put the pill bottle out by the coffee pot and see it there each day. But remember once a month?  Remember which day each month? Remember to look at the calendar or wherever else I wrote it down? Is she kidding or do they all really just think we are idiots?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:31 AM •
Sunday, April 29, 2007

I can’t believe another year has gone by and I’ve once again been left off People Magazine’s list of 100 most beautiful people. Sure, Brangelina made it again. And that silly George Clooney.  And all those other people who are just such yesterday’s news. But me? A beautiful, mature woman who wears her years proudly if only because she can’t afford plastic surgery?  Once again, I have inexplicably dropped off the end of the list.  Damn!
PS - George, if you like a little salt and pepper in your salad, call me.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:25 AM •
Saturday, April 28, 2007

I have three smoke alarms in my house, all hard wired into my electric system. I thought I was set.  Never had to worry so long as I could look up and see that comforting green light saying they were working.
Well, it turns out that smoke alarms have a life span of about ten years before their efficiency starts a pretty steep downward spiral. Who knew?
I know now because a very nice friend who is also a rabid fireman came over, checked them all, pulled them off the walls, bought me three new ones, and installed them, all in less that two hours. And now my birds and dogs and I are very, very safe again.
So I’m passing this knowledge on for what it’s worth...and it might be worth your life.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:40 AM •
Friday, April 27, 2007

Washington State is poised to pass a bill forbidding text messaging while driving. Other states have banned anything but hands free cell phone use.  Here’s a suggestion. Why not just ban the idiots who think they can do those things and drive. Think of how much safer and less congested our roads would be. Think of how it would help global warming.  Think of what a pleasure it would be to drive without fear that some fool is watching a video while driving.  Think!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:23 AM •
Thursday, April 26, 2007

You know it’s summer in Anchorage when everyone just seems to open their doors and let their dogs run loose. It certainly gives a whole new tenseness to taking a walk with my dogs.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:51 AM •
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

There’s probably not much left to be said about the shooting at Virginia Tech last week. But I do want to say this. I don’t want to live in a society in which we have to arm teachers in the classroom so they can kill anyone threatening our children. That’s how it may be in war torn Third World countries. But not here. Not in America.

That may sound ludicrous, but it was the first response of one of my friends as a way to avoid future tragedies.  “Arm all the teachers”, he said. And he was serious. “If just one of those teachers had a loaded gun, he could have taken out the shooter before he killed all those people.”
I guess I don’t have to mention that this friend is a staunch member of the NRA who feels that any restriction on the Second Amendment is the beginning of the end of our country as we know it.  I probably do have to mention that despite that, he and I have been friends for years. I truly respect him; and every once in a while, he actually drags me to the dark side and gets me agreeing with him on issues where we would normally be worlds apart.
It’s because I respect him that I listen and give him a fair hearing when we disagree. I think he’s pretty intelligent and I figure if this is his point of view, then I should at least investigate it before rejecting it out of hand. This has led to many long and loud discussions that have left his wife rolling her eyes and wondering how soon she could take polite leave of the remnants of her dinner party.
But on this issue, no amount of discussion is going to change my opinion. When we enter a world where teachers have to be armed to protect their students, we have taken such a huge step backwards that even reality TV will look blameless by comparison.
So the question really becomes one of choices. What we are willing to tolerate?  In the immediate emotional aftermath of an event like this, our tolerance for guns tends to be at an all time low and cries for regulation become loud and insistent. This usually causes 2nd Amendment protectors to gnash their teeth and explain that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Meanwhile, they ratchet up their fight against any attempt to regulate what they see as their constitutionally protected right to bear arms.
Most of us reside somewhere in the middle of all the rhetoric, horrified by what guns can do when used by angry or isolated people bent on making their point, whatever it may be, in blood, but not sure that banning guns is the answer.  And the sad reality is that, like with drugs, you can ban the hell out of them and they will still be around and available. Their price just doubles and an entire underworld builds up around their illegal sale and distribution.
So it’s not a question of whether or not we have guns in our society. When and if we, as a society, ever reach the point where we don’t need them, we won’t have to worry about banning them. They will disappear through simple attrition. The question really is whether there is any level of legislation short of banning all weapons that would give us peace of mind as we send our children off to what should be a safe place to learn.
The answer is, unfortunately, no. Someone bent on destruction will find a way to cause that destruction no matter what roadblocks we throw in the way.
The world is overflowing with people and the simple rules of probability tell us that some of those people will be mentally or psychologically disturbed. While the university seemed to have had some warning that this student was disturbed, nothing known before the shooting could have told them that he was capable of this level of evil.
Will common sense regulation of firearms protect us from a crazed loner bent on destruction? Probably not. Will those same regulations abrogate Second Amendment rights? Again, probably not.
But the war on drugs hasn’t solved our drug problem because people still want what drugs offer. And a war on guns won’t solve our problem so long as we are still a society soaked in violence.
Check out your local video store. Check out the latest video games. In a culture in which violence is worshipped, it’s not the guns that are really killing us.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 11:07 AM •
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

...in America who has never watched American Idol or cares to?  For that matter, I seem to have missed the entire reality show craze, having never actually either seen one or felt I was missing anything if I didn’t.  You really want to be entertained, watch Bleak House on PBS.  Now that’s entertainment.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:14 AM •
Monday, April 23, 2007
image

More moments I’m glad no one can see me.  Every Saturday before I give my African Gray parrot Abdul his shower, I turn to the golden oldies music channel on TV. Abdul hangs from the bars at the top of the cage swinging madly in tune. Then he comes out, climbs on top of the cage and we dance together for at least a few songs before he goes to the shower. He’s not great on slow dancing but he’s the best partner I ever had for fast dancing. That bird got rhythm! ,,,,,hmmm, on second thought, he actually is the best partner I ever had for slow dancing too.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:24 AM •
Sunday, April 22, 2007

I think one of my dogs might be a digger. The snow has melted in the back yard finally and I ventured out to peek around the side to see how my little flower garden area had weathered winter and moose feet.  Seems the moose feet weren’t the problem.  The holes where plants used to spend the winter sleeping till spring might be.  Hmmmm....could this be why Blondie disappears around the corner when I let her out and takes what seems to be an inordinate amount of time to do her business?  Thank god she’s not bright enough to tunnel towards freedom. The hole is on the side of the house, nowhere near the fence that holds her in. Oh wait, the side of the house...I wonder how much deeper she has to go to undermine the foundation?  Maybe I should be worried.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:08 AM •
Saturday, April 21, 2007

I guess you never realize how odd your little household sounds till you hear the silence at the other end of the line as you describe it to a potential house sitter.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:32 AM •
Friday, April 20, 2007

Here’s the height of incivility.  Be talking on the phone with someone, hear their other phone start ringing, and suddenly realize they have answered the other phone and are no longer listening to you. I can only assume they were hoping the other person would provide them with more meaningful amusement.  How rude. Cell phones have destroyed what little polite society was left to us after the last century.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:15 AM •
Thursday, April 19, 2007

When you have pets in your life, it is never dull. Just watching them and trying to figure out what’s going on in their minds at any given moment is fascinating.
This morning, Blue was lying at her usual spot by my feet and Blondie was lying in her usual spot on the now snow free deck. Blondie has claimed the deck all for herself. It’s dry, warm, and since it’s on the second floor, she can see everything going on in the streets and yards around her. Something startled her out of her snooze and she started barking. Blue, inside at my feet and totally unable to see anything that might have caused Blondie to bark, instantly sits up and barks too. Only her bark is a little tentative. She knows she’s barking for a reason. She’s just not sure what it is.
This goes on for a few minutes. Blondie barks. Blue looks around the room, loathe to leave her warm spot on the rug at my feet, and barks in response.  Eventually, Blue lies down again, apparently having made the decision that whatever is going on does not deserve the effort it would take to actually check it out. Blondie continues to bark at sporadic intervals.  Blue, from her now resumed prone position at my feet, responds with something that is at this point more half-hearted grunt than bark. Blondie finally goes back to sleep. So does Blue.  Crisis averted. Danget faced down.  Home safe again.
Thank god I have dogs to protect me.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:11 AM •

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