Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, March 16, 2007

I don’t mind the firing of all those federal prosecutors as much as I mind the boldfaced lies of the administration in claiming that it wasn’t political. For god’s sake, we aren’t idiots out here, even if we did elect Bush twice.  But to have hard evidence of correspondence between the White House and the AG’s chief of staff showing the political plotting and manuvering, and then to find out that friends of people in high places got appointed to the suddenly vacated positions, and then to see the good evaluations those eight prosecutors received proving that the terminations had nothing to do with their competence, then to find out about investigations of Democrats that weren’t going fast enough for endangered Republican candidates in the last election....to see and hear all this and then have the president claim it wasn’t political...well, maybe he has a right to treat us like idiots. After all, he got away with it in the last presidential campaign and he was re-elected. He lied to us then and got away with it so why shouldn’t he feel that he can lie to us now and get away with it.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 07:21 AM •
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Halliburton is leaving the US and setting up its new corporate headquarters in the mid-East. You know what this means, right?  Quick, check the US Treasury. We must be totally out of money.,

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 07:39 AM •
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Now that Fur Rondy and the Iditarod have safely made it through Anchorage with all the snow they could possible want, would it be horrible of me to suggest that I’ve had it with winter.  I’m done with ice.  Snow has lost its amusement value for me.  Bragging to my relatives about how low the temperature got last night is no longer fun. 

I’m tired of the twenty-minute dressing routine I have to go through every day before I walk my dogs. My feet long to stroll without little wire grippers between them and god’s earth.  My hands long to feel the air on them and not be stuffed inside fur mittens that have perhaps seen one too many Alaskan winters. I’m tired of the boots and jackets and parkas over jackets and scarves over hoods that seem to be the only sensible attire when outside in single digit temperatures.
I want to bring my trashcan to the end of my driveway without risking serious injury due to the fact that the surface is now one solid piece of ice. I want to go out into the bright sun and experience its warmth, not just the memory of how warm it used to be.
I know. I know. I’m being a wimp. A real Alaskan wouldn’t complain so long and loudly. A real Alaskan would accept that there is at least another month of winter before we can even hope to venture outside for any prolonged activity without being wrapped up tighter than a drum in seven layers of insulated clothing.  A real Alaskan would be strapping on skis, jumping on a skidoo, hooking up a dog team or slogging out in snowshoes. 
Except the truth is that this is my 35th winter in Alaska and in every one of them, real Alaskans are the ones I have heard complain the longest and loudest each year about this time.  Real Alaskans are the people filling the planes heading towards Hawaii and Mexico. Real Alaskans are the ones I bump into at the Las Vegas airport baggage carousel.  Real Alaskans are planning gardens and checking out their fishing gear in the hope that this year their spouse will let them buy even more plants and rods and nets and all those toys that make our short Alaskan summers so great.
I spend a good deal of my winter now wondering how I ever survived my first 28 in Barrow where it is colder, darker and winter lasts ever so much longer.  I remember my first winter in nurses’ quarters at the Barrow hospital, staring out my window at the frigid darkness and writing with my finger in the frost on it, “Help me. I’m from Brooklyn.”
My friend Elaine and I walk together on weekends and marvel at how we complain about above zero weather when, in Barrow, we consistently walked in below zero weather and reveled in the challenge.  Once, after a particularly windy snow storm totally shut down our usual route along Fresh Water Lake Road, Elaine kept insisting that if we just got over the next frozen snow drift, we would find clear road on the other side.  I don’t know why I listened to her.  But she sounded so very sure of herself.
So we climbed up one drift and down another. The only way we even knew we were still following the road was by turning around and locating Barrow’s tiny skyline in the distance.  Eventually, the dogs stopped dead in their tracks, looked at us as though we’d lost our minds and refused to scramble up over another drift.  I took that as a hint we should give it up and accept that we just wouldn’t be able to have our walk that day.
So why is it that here in Anchorage I complain if the city hasn’t plowed the walking path I use? Why do I wear more clothes for above zero here than I did for below zero there? Why, when I now live in a place that gets at least some daylight even in the darkest part of the winter, do I find myself talking more about cabin fever than I ever did during Barrow’s two months of total darkness?
And a little voice whispers in my ear, “Because you are old.”
But I know that’s not the truth. The truth is I complain because I am a real Alaskan and it is my right...nay, some might say my obligation...to whine as long and loudly as possible until the warmth returns.  Then I’ll complain about the heat and mosquitoes and long for the return of winter. 
Because being a real Alaskan means never running out of seasonal reasons to whine.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 07:13 AM •
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I am always highly amused when I read letters to the editor in the local paper in which some yahoo points out that we could not publicly complain or criticize our government if we were in Iraq and so we shoudl shut up and support whatever the administration wants to do. And I think to myself, “But isn’t that the point?” Alas, that kind of nuance is lost on the letter writers.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 07:32 AM •
Monday, March 12, 2007

God made turn signals on cars in order to allow the driver of car one to let the drivers of cars two through ad infinitum know that he or she was planning to turn onto a street or into a different lane. This is not a hard concept. Putting your turn signal on when you are already halfway into the other lane is plain stupid.  Most of the cars around you already get what you are planning to do and are cursing you silently under their breath for not signaling in advance.  Putting your turn signal on at that point merely proves what they already think of you....and it’s not very nice.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 07:30 AM •
Sunday, March 11, 2007

Well, I visited my dentist for my annual exam this week and, in a tremendous break with recent tradition in my health care, nothing was wrong.  Talk about a freak occurence...me, going into a health professional’s office and coming out with no new diseases, problems, aches, disabilities or need for more medication or surgery. I guess miracles do happen.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 07:05 AM •
Saturday, March 10, 2007

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that Best Friends is where I want to go when I’m old. It’s the largest no kill animal shelter in America and it is a magical place of kindness and love and joy for many animals who had precious little of that before their arrival at Best Friends.
Anyhow, Best Friends is looking for donations of items like blankets, towels, old pet beds, kitty scratching posts, toys for birds or dogs or cats that your loved and lucky pets no longer use...anything like that. They could also use packages of Pill Pockets to help the medicine go down.
In particular, Britney the Pig is longing for a sweater...blue is her preferred color. And I’m talking about a real pig here, not some shavened head pop star in need of serious emotion help.
So if you have any of this stuff hanging around your house and want to make it useful again, send it to Best Friends at 5001 Angel Canyon Road Kanab, Utah 84741
Just think how good you’ll feel as you walk out of the post office knowing that in a few days a pig will be smiling in Utah.
You can go to their website for a more complete list of items they need. http://www.bestfriends.org

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:30 AM •
Friday, March 09, 2007

So the headlines say Bush is turning his eyes towards Latin America. Some would say he’s doing that to distract attention from the Mideast. All I know is that if I were Latin America, I’d be very, very nervous.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Thursday, March 08, 2007

My first thought on hearing that Dick Cheney had a blood clot in his leg was that I hope he had to go to Walter Reed and wait in line with our vets while the bureaucracy shuffled him around and then, when he finally got to care, it was substandard.  And actually, I don’t really care if that makes me a horrible person. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:47 AM •
Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Here’s the thing about kids. They have a talent for sniffing out hypocrisy.  If you want to know why the war on drugs is such a miserable failure, you need go no further than this.  “Don’t smoke pot. Drugs are bad for you,” has limited effectiveness when spoken by someone holding a glass of wine. It’s the hypocrisy factor.

We all start out life thinking our parents are omnipotent. The first time we catch them in something less than the truth is usually the first time we start to question their previously unquestioned power in our universe.
When I was young, my parents didn’t have much money. They worked hard in a little mom and pop store that was open six and a half days a week. Sunday afternoon was their only break. So if we were going to do something as a family, that’s when it would happen.
Being on a short financial string meant my parents had to be somewhat creative in figuring out what to do together.  I don’t know how it evolved, but eventually Sunday afternoons meant a ride to either the near-near airport or the far-far airport. Of course, my brother and I always opted for the far-far airport since this was back in the day when our parents did not chauffeur us around all week. This car ride was a very special occasion.
But my parents were often exhausted by Sunday afternoon. The idea of driving to the far-far airport - a good sixty minute round trip - didn’t thrill them. The near-near airport was only a twenty minute round trip.  So we would all climb in the car and dad would drive around the block a few times and then go to the near-near airport while claiming it was the other one.
When my brother and I figured this little scam out, we took our first step towards independence. Our parents were no longer the absolutes in our world. They had lied to us. And if they lied to us about the airport, what else did they lie to us about? 
So when we talk to kids about drugs and alcohol and why they are substances that can ruin their lives, we have to be very careful to tell them the truth.
This is a problem we all face in dealing with our children. But in Bush Alaska, it is an even bigger problem because there is no place to hide. In any given village, everyone knows everyone else’s business. If you aren’t being one hundred percent on the up and up with kids, they’ll find out.
It’s been over twenty years since the Alaska Native sobriety movement first stirred in the Bush.  People looked at the devastation in their villages and decided that the only way to deal with the problems was to deal with them soberly. Getting sober simply had to be the first step.  It’s a great concept and a wonderful ideal to aim for.
But the sad reality is that in too many villages throughout Alaska you can still be a drunk or a druggie and hold a position of power.  You can sit on councils holding themselves out as leadership for their community and its youth. Some leaders only use substances when out of the village in the big city and think that no one will know or that it doesn’t count. People still go to the polls and vote for active alcoholics and drug abusers and then wonder why their children have problems staying sober.
Communities still led by active alcoholics and drug abusers are communities whose heads are collectively stuck where the sun don’t shine.  Young people look at these supposed leaders and the only message they get is that it doesn’t matter if you are sober or not. What matters is who you know, what your family connections are, and whether you are getting messed up with the right people.  It doesn’t matter what you say to young people if your actions give them an entirely different message. They just need to look at your life and know what they can get away with.
The Native sobriety movement is undercut every time a Native leader who is still using holds him or herself out as some kind of model to their youth when, in fact, they are only models for hypocrisy.
Getting sober won’t solve the problems our villages or our state face. But getting sober is the fist step in actually facing them. Until then, hypocrisy will continue to lead to troubled villages, drunken youth and statewide levels of domestic violence and sexual assault that horrify all but the most calloused among us.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:18 AM •
Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I’m pretty sure that if I die, my dog Blue will be sad.  But first she will carefully check all around my body and nudge her nose under my body to ascertain that I didn’t spit up some food as I fell to the floor or didn’t have any on me when I passed.  If she finds even one crumb, her sadness will lift because she’ll know my death was not in vain if it provided her another morsel or scrap of anything even vaguely resembling food.
This dog simply must have some Italian in her. Food cures all for her...which is exactly what I was brought up to believe...especially food with tomato sauce on it and parmesan cheese.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:49 AM •
Monday, March 05, 2007

Is there anything scarier for those poor people hit by tornadoes last week than to have Bush show up to tell them he’s sending FEMA in to help them?  They’d be better off with more tornadoes.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Sunday, March 04, 2007

I can’t believe they finally buried that Smith woman and no one, absolutely no one, even remotely famous bothered to show up.  Gee, what could that mean? Could it be that even the luridly famous have some bottom line of taste and discretion they will not cross?  Or did Hugh Hefner fear if he showed that he would be looking in the mirror of his future with his 27 year old fiancee? Or maybe, just maybe, this woman was not worth the free air she’s been given almost nonstop for the past few weeks.  TV has once again risen to the occasion and proven what Newton Minow said so many years ago. It is, indeed, a vast wasteland.
Do yourselves a favor.  Pick up a book. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:41 AM •
Saturday, March 03, 2007

Just because I complained about winter, god made the winds come.  They blew so hard I couldn’t walk the dogs. Now the dogs are bouncing off the walls. I’m not saying they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box but I don’t know how else to explain their reaction to the weather. I let them out the back door into the yard and they do what they have to...after I’ve physically had to shove on Blue’s butt to get her out the door...and then run in like the wind is a prelude to the coming of the Hounds of Hell. Then they run straight to the front door, eager for their walk, as though they think that the weather will be better in the front than the back. And when we finally go out the front door, the look of bewilderment and disappointment that they haven’t escaped the Hounds of Hell is palpable.
Dogs...you’ve got to love their totally unwarranted enthusiasm for something better just around the corner no matter how many times that enthusiasm has been dashed against the shoals of reality.  I guess in that way, they aren’t much different from the Bush administration.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:58 AM •
Friday, March 02, 2007

Each fall I look forward to the first snow of winter. It’s so pretty and covers up the brown remnants of summer’s green.  And each year about this time I think, “OH SWEET LORD MAKE THE COLD AND SNOW AND WIND AND COLD AND SNOW AND SNOW AND COLD GO AWAY BEFORE I LOSE WHAT LITTLE IS LEFT OF MY MIND.”
And then I go crawl under a blanket and whimper for an hour or so and feel better.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:26 AM •

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