Elise Sereni
Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pharmacies should have two sections. One with medicine bottles headed for a home with children. By all means, put every kind of safeguard you can think on them to childproof them.  Of course, my belief in the ingenuity of children of this great country of ours will be sorely tested if they aren’t able to open them all way before their parents figure out how to do it. But that’s besides the point. The other section should consist of drugs for homes without children but with old farts like me who spend an inordinate amount of time looking for old roach clips from the sixties to use to pull the damn wad of cotton out of the medicine bottle after we’ve taken a blow torch to open it.

Elise Patkotak • 06:37 AM •
Saturday, February 16, 2008

The feds had a huge debt in the late 1990s. But their budget was less than their revenues. So they declared a budget surplus even though that pesky trillion dollar debt still existed. I don’t get it. If you still owe money, how do you have a surplus? And why can’t I balance my budget that way?

Elise Patkotak • 06:34 AM •
Friday, February 15, 2008

Is it possible to die from a sinus infection? Because if you find me dead over the next few days, that will be the cause.

Elise Patkotak • 06:32 AM •
Thursday, February 14, 2008

I’ve told this story before but I think it bears repeating. A class on STDs had a discussion centered on the role of alcohol in child sexual assault. The instructor asked everyone in the class who’d ever been drunk to raise their hand.  Most hands went up. Then the instructor asked those who had sexually assaulted a child while drunk to keep their hands up. All went down.

Recent statistics show that fifty-seven percent of rapists were not using alcohol when they assaulted.  Sixty percent of the victims were sober during the incident. Sexual assault is about power. And what more horrible power can you exert over someone than to force yourself on them in the most violently intimate way possible?  Even worse, only two percent of these assaults occurred between strangers. Being safe at home is not an option for many in Alaska.
The statistics that came out last month came from the Alaska State Troopers.  Statistics for rape in urban areas such as Anchorage where local police respond were not included.  That means these statistics come from outside Alaska’s urban areas. It means that Native leaders throughout the state are cringing again as the reality of how ugly life in bush communities can get for the most vulnerable of their members. It means the good inherent in cultures that have existed for thousands of years is getting swept away in the tide of pain, anguish and destroyed lives that play out every year in small villages throughout this state.
I think it’s probably significant but not surprising that the people addressing these concerns in bush Alaska are almost all women. I think it is equally significant that the majority of people running these villages, and the village and regional corporations, are men. I find myself asking why these men who claim to be leaders of their regions and cultures aren’t doing much, much more to address these problems. Women and children are almost always the victims. Men are almost always the perpetrators. And so it seems to me that at some point these men have to stand up from their corporate desks and council tables and tackle this problem with their peers head on.
The men leading Native communities need to stop accepting abusers and rapists on their boards and councils. They need to go into the schools and the gyms and the village stores and take their young men by their ears and tell them how unacceptable their behavior is on a moral, human and cultural level. They need to make the abusers understand that they will no longer be accepted into leadership positions, they will no longer have the privilege of having their peers look the other way. Native male leadership needs to cleanse itself of those men who make a mockery of the very virtues they claim their cultures hold so dear. If they abuse they should be kicked off their boards and councils. If they abuse, they should no longer be considered eligible to occupy any position of leadership in their community.
Economic and social isolation is as much a problem in bush Alaska as alcohol.  The stress of a fuel bill that’s too high to pay, a job that’s beyond your reach, a wife making a bigger paycheck than you, more kids than your income supports...all these things lead to the feeling of powerlessness that is often only relieved by the unspeakably horrific acts of rape, domestic violence and sexual abuse of children.  Understanding the cause, however, is not a reason to excuse the behavior.
Women are doing all they can to support and protect their children and friends. But the voices full of pain and anguish coming from so many homes in the bush can only be fully addressed when all members of the community are fully engaged. And that means that the leaders of the profit and non-profit corporations, the village mayors and councilmen, the men who claim the mantle of leadership for their people must confront the men whose violence makes a mockery of their values.
Women alone cannot make this happen. And if these ills are not addressed, then the membership of the groups these men lead will continue to be decimated by suicide, murder, prison sentences and damaged lives that cannot ever again be made whole. If that happens, then who will be left for them to lead?

Elise Patkotak • 06:39 AM •
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Just so everyone knows, I’m out of bed, the weather has warmed up into the high teens and I have decided to resume my life. I must say I was surprised to find Blue and Blondie’s postings on the website. I was unaware that they could type without opposable thumbs. But then, maybe opposable thumbs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
At any rate, I think I know now a little of what it must feel like to have groupies.  Blue and Blondie follow me around the house like stalkers. I think they want to make sure I don’t try to crawl back under the covers without first feeding them and taking them for a walk. So they dog my every footstep (pun fully intended) and watch fearfully every time I approach the bedroom.
On the other hand, it’s kind of fun to drive them nuts.

Elise Patkotak • 06:35 AM •
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The longer the cold lasts, the more carbs I crave. I could fall into a bowl of pasta topped with bread and baked with rice and be happy to not emerge until spring...or a temperature above 20.

Elise Patkotak • 06:25 AM •
Monday, February 11, 2008

With my luck, the following will turn out to be the one, true religion:

Frisbeetarianism: The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

Elise Patkotak • 06:15 AM •
Sunday, February 10, 2008

There are rumors floating around that some pet birds can do things like sing and dance that my birds can’t do. I just want to make it clear that it’s not that they can’t do it, it’s that they do not choose to do it. I believe their distaste for performing comes out of the fact that they have had the misfortune to observe the sad results of one of the flock learning how to sing and dance from me. They feel their dignity will not allow them to repeat the activity.
Abdul, my African Gray who knows no better, hangs upside down from the top of his cage swinging in a figure eight pattern while singing Rock Around the Clock. Unfortunately, he learned the song from me. I can neither sing, carry a tune, dance or know the actual words to the song. So while he hangs upside down swinging madly, he is singing in a one word barked monotone, “Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock.” The other birds laugh at him. He can’t hear that because...did I already mention this...he’s upside down and all his blood has rushed into his ears so all he hears is what he considers his mellifluous voice singing one word over and over and over again.
Yes, my house is strange. But would yours look any more normal if the outside world suddenly peeked in?

Elise Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Saturday, February 09, 2008

She’s still lying there, under the covers, muttering she can’t type because her fingers are all cracked from the cold. But all is not lost. She can still work the can opener.

Elise Patkotak • 06:03 AM •
Friday, February 08, 2008

Hi. This is Blue and Blondie. We are writing this for mom because she refuses to get out of bed.  She just lies there muttering something about the cold and that people should be allowed to hibernate like bears.  Can’t quite catch all she says but every time we wag our tails and make a breeze in her vicinity she yells something about her old bones freezing and pulls the covers up over her head.  We are worried about her.
Rumor has it that she once lived in Barrow which, according to what our doggy senses tell us, is way far away in an even colder place. So why won’t she come out from under the covers? Why does she keep muttering, “Not until it’s above zero”? Humans! Go figure. If they had fur like we do, they wouldn’t care how cold it got.  We still can’t figure out for the life of us how they got to be the dominant species. Oh, that’s right.  They have opposable thumbs.

Elise Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Thursday, February 07, 2008

A very dear friend of mine recently got some bad news. She’s ill. Very ill. The kind of ill that involves hospitals in the lower 48, chemotherapy and a lot of fervent prayers.
My friend is an amazing woman who generates deep love and affection in anyone who takes the time to know her. She and her partner raised two beautiful young ladies, the kind of young people who give hope for the future.

Her partner would like to stay with her during the next month while she’s in a hospital so far away.  That’s not too surprising considering that they have lived and loved together for almost twenty years.  It wasn’t always easy, and there were times when I found myself wondering if the struggle was worth it. But the love they shared seemed to be worth the prejudice they often faced in a small community in which alternative lifestyles were something to be viewed with suspicion.  Ultimately, they won over most who simply could not deny the evidence of the good their lives produced.
And now my friend’s partner faces the reality of what a vote a few years ago by the people of this state means to her on a very personal level. Because we, as a people, have forbidden my friend and her partner the right to marry, she is not considered family. And because she is not considered family, she is not entitled to family medical leave from her job. She’ll use up as much annual leave as she has. But there will come a point where a choice will have to be made between going back to work to keep her job or staying by the side of the person most dear to her in this life while that person undergoes some pretty harsh and debilitating treatments.  I find that so unfair that words fail me when I try to express the level of outrage I feel.
I routinely work with heterosexual couples that shouldn’t ever be allowed to breed or marry. They are drunken, abusive wastes of air and resources and make it clear that they have little desire or ability to ever become contributing members of society. I look at these people, who can walk into a court building and walk out with a marriage license based strictly on an accident of birth and wonder how, in any sane world, they are recognized as a legitimate couple with the ability to make life and death medical decisions for each other but my friends aren’t. A man can beat his wife beyond recognition and still be the person who gets to make the decision on the kind of care she can receive or when the plug can be pulled. He would be eligible for family medical leave even if he never set foot in the hospital his beating landed her in. But my friends, who have never been anything but kind and loving to each other, their multiple pets and just about anyone else who happened into their lives, are denied that automatic right, which would come with marriage. Because they are gay.
That is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.  My friend’s partner should not have to choose between a job and her life partner.  My friend should not have to face nights alone in a hospital with an IV dripping poison into her blood to try to kill the cancer without the comfort of the woman she loves.  How barbaric a country are we when we force those choices on a person?
My friends will get through this because they are surrounded by people returning to them just a fraction of the love they give so freely to us all these years.  There is enough annual leave to keep them together through the first round of treatment. But if we don’t win this medical battle on the first go round, if there is a second or third, how will they manage to stay together to comfort each other during some of life’s darkest moments? 
Is this really what Alaskans wanted to do when they voted to define marriage as only between a man and a woman? Did they really foresee the long-term consequences of their vote? Could they have even imagined the pain and heartbreak they would be creating in people’s lives? 
My friends gave love without regard to a person’s race, color, creed or sexual orientation. I think we owe them at least that much back in return.

Elise Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Wednesday, February 06, 2008

By the time I put on the extra socks and the boots with the metal things on the bottom, put on a t-shirt, a sweat shirt, a polar fleece liner, my parka, a scarf and my gloves, I feel as though I’ve already done all my exercise for the day. The walking just seems extraneous.  Yep. I’m ready for spring please.

Elise Patkotak • 06:25 AM •
Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I lost my checkbook in my office for over 30 minutes after having it in my hands and putting it down without ever having left my office. That either says something about the state of my mind or the state of my office.

Elise Patkotak • 06:58 AM •
Monday, February 04, 2008

If no one likes black jelly beans, why do they still make them?

Elise Patkotak • 06:39 AM •
Sunday, February 03, 2008

Since I didn’t remember to get a card in time, the next best way to tell you happy birthday is through this wonder of modern communication. So happy birthday to one of the most beautiful young ladies it has ever been my privilege to know. And a big kiss for Rhodes.

Elise Patkotak • 06:50 AM •

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