Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Monday, April 14, 2008

You know you’re really irrelevant when you throw a birthday dinner for the pope at the White House and he can’t find the time to attend, even though he’s in town.
Are you listening, George? You have now become totally irrelevant. You have become so irrelevant that some polls list you below Brittany Spears in world influence.  Man, that’s gotta sting! You can’t beat out a psychotic, aging pop diva whose main claim to fame in recent years has been that she married the most useless man on the fact of this earth. Ouch!

Elise Patkotak • 03:41 AM •
Sunday, April 13, 2008

My sister and brother are at the Outer Banks in North Carolina trying to stay warm in sixty degree weather. I am in Anchorage waiting for the snow predicted for Monday and wondering how I could have been so stupid as to take off my studded snow tires before May.  Yet I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. Because the other day I took a walk in the gently falling spring snow while listening to the birds complaining like hell about the havoc the snow was wreaking on their nest building plans and the buds on the trees visibly shivered and wondered if they got the date wrong.  It was a magical walk. Hmmmm....I once again must wonder how we all came out of the same womb. Did my mother fool around with the iceman nine months before my birth?  I guess I’ll never know.

Elise Patkotak • 03:37 AM •
Saturday, April 12, 2008

Today Leslie turns sixty. I’d feel a whole lot more like gloating over that were it not for the fact that she still looks better than most women half her age...and certainly better than me. I’ll save my gloating until she actually looks her age. No matter how long I have to wait!

Elise Patkotak • 03:18 AM •
Friday, April 11, 2008

I took my snow tires off a week ago. Clearly I was tempting the fates with that move. The fates have responded with snow. I apologize. Next year I won’t take the snow tires off until July.

Elise Patkotak • 03:30 AM •
Thursday, April 10, 2008

Every once in a while, I am forced to face the fact that the war on drugs is an abject failure, yet lack of a spine in way too many politicians has made a rational, national discussion of this issue practically impossible.  Which is just pathetically sad because the billions of dollars and thousands of lives lost to this hopeless war could have been much better spent in treating people with a problem, to say nothing of how much we’d save if we emptied our jails of people whose only crime was pot.

This issue comes to the forefront again in my life because of its impact on the work I do with children.  It is apparently OK under state law to adopt children out to parents who drink so long as their drinking is not a problem. So if they have a glass or wine with dinner or a cocktail before a play, the state deems them acceptable adoptive parents. But if a person smokes at all, even once, even away from the child, the law considers them unsuitable and they are asked to get substance abuse evaluations.
Considering that alcohol is a gazillion times more likely to be the problem causing children to be removed from their homes, this simply doesn’t make sense. It makes even less sense when the assumption is that anyone who smokes pot has a debilitating addiction but anyone who drinks is considered healthy unless proven otherwise.
There are a lot of people in this state with a severe drinking problem. Whether we like it or not, many of them overcome that addiction by replacing it with pot.  That might not be the ideal solution, but as someone who has worked with abused kids for over thirty years, if that’s what it takes to make a home where kids are safe, fed and allowed to sleep through the night without blood spattering their bedding from dad beating mom, then I say give them all the pot they want. Most people on pot do not get violent, rape their children or forget to feed them.  Maybe not the ideal situation, but I’ve been around long enough to know that people rarely achieve perfection.
I have been to more than one meeting on abused children where participants go off to dinner after a full day of workshops and order a cocktail or glass of wine to help them unwind from the day.  They see no irony in sipping that beverage while discussing the problems that drug abuse causes in our state and nation. They simply see no connection between their use of alcohol and substance abuse.  Because although they are all intellectually aware that alcohol is a drug, the knee jerk reaction of almost everyone in this country is to mentally exclude our use of alcohol from thoughts of drug use.  Yet it is a drug, albeit a legal one.
So if we can so easily accept alcohol as a regulated drug acceptable for adult use and only a problem when abused, why is it so hard to start a real discussion about pot use?  Seriously, when was the last time you picked up the paper or watched the evening news and heard about someone going nuts on just pot and committing a heinous crime?  If an honest discussion were ever allowed about pot in this country, we’d all have to admit that one of the most violent drugs in our society is the one that is legal – alcohol.
I find it amusing that at this late stage in my life I am writing a column in defense of pot.  It feels like something I should have written in the sixties. The truth is that in an ideal world, all parents would raise their children in safe, sober homes where the strongest substance used was caffeine. But Ozzie and Harriet don’t exist anymore and no home is ever really as perfect as the one they portrayed. So we go with the best possible homes we can create to raise our children. In some cases, that’s a home where parents might smoke pot.  In my experience with troubled families in this state, if forced to choose, I find it highly preferable to alcohol.
It’s like I said, it’s a sin we can’t have an honest discussion about drug use in our society. Because if we did, alcohol would probably end up banned and pot use would be legal.

Elise Patkotak • 03:15 AM •
Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I fill my tank...I avert my gaze from the price per gallon sign...I drive away depressed.
Thank god oil company executives have their annual income safely stashed. I would hate to think of them having to worry about this the way us common folk do.

Elise Patkotak • 03:43 AM •
Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Have they been taken back up by the mother ship? Or are they hiding their heads in shame at the fraud and deceit they perpetrated on America? Or do I just follow the wrong news and that’s why they seem to have disappeared from sight?  Then again, where is Condi Rice?  Hmmm...never mind. I’d just as soon we didn’t find her either. Knowing the whereabouts of George Bush is all the pain I can stand today.

Elise Patkotak • 03:38 AM •
Monday, April 07, 2008

My friend hired a limo to take everyone to and from her 50th birthday party. Good for her. Keeps the roads safe and let’s people have a chance to drink and let their hair down without worrying about making it home ok. Problem is that the limo picked me up first and I had to direct the driver to everyone else’s houses for pick up. I felt so stupid sitting in the back of this stretch limo...a very bad Driving Miss Daisy kind of feeling. I felt compelled to make small talk. I felt compelled to make friends with the driver.  I’m lucky we got to the first pick up point before I found myself inviting him over for Sunday dinner.  I am best driving myself.

Elise Patkotak • 03:36 AM •
Sunday, April 06, 2008

First I bought an 8 track and cassettes caught on. Now I have a DVD player and I’m told something called Bluetooth is winning. Hell, I didn’t even know there was a competition happening. I thought blue tooth was something rappers wore who couldn’t afford diamond teeth. I don’t even know what a Bluetooth looks like.  Oh god. The world is truly outstripping my ability to even pretend to keep up.
So I’m guessing this means that I should throw out my eight track player because for sure it’s not coming back. Right?

Elise Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Saturday, April 05, 2008

My trees are starting to put out buds amidst the snow flakes coming down.

Elise Patkotak • 03:04 AM •
Friday, April 04, 2008

My friend Sandra turns fifty today. She is very, very old. You now need to treat her gently and make sure to yell into her good ear when talking to her. Thank god she’s aging faster than me or her turning 50 would mean I was older than dirt.

Elise Patkotak • 03:33 AM •
Thursday, April 03, 2008

It was sometime in the early or mid nineties. My sister and I were in a Tibetan monastery outside of Lhasa.  We were there only because the Chinese government realized it could not subsidize this region forever. Tibet needed to contribute to the national coffers.  So China allowed some monasteries to reopen as a draw for tourists.

We sat in front of a shrine of Buddha.  Tucked in every nook and crevice in the wall behind the Buddha were pictures of the Dalai Lama.  A very old monk brought us each a cup of yak butter tea. Maybe it was the tea. Maybe it was the altitude sickness Judy had been experiencing ever since we’d landed in Lhasa, 12001 feet above sea level. Maybe it was just the whole ambience of the monastery. Whatever it was, Judy took one look at the monk, one look at the tea, burst into tears and sobbed for reasons she found impossible to express.
The monks that heard her crying came running and gently led her out to the courtyard.  I followed, not sobbing, but definitely feeling somewhat unnerved. Maybe the altitude was bothering me too, or maybe it was the almost unearthly sense of peace that overwhelmed us when we first entered the monastery.  We never did figure it out. Eventually, she stopped crying and we went on with our tour.
The Chinese government, ever mindful of its image as an occupier in Tibet, made us take a Chinese government guide with us to Lhasa despite the fact we had hired a Tibetan guide and driver for our time there. No amount of effort by the Chinese government, though, could hide what was blatantly evident to even the most naïve of tourists. Having traveled throughout the world for over twenty years, my sister and I had seen just about every form of government, life and civilization this earth has to offer. But only in Tibet were we aware from the get go that we were in an occupied country. Trucks full of soldiers filled the streets. Ethnic Chinese faces were much more prevalent than indigenous Tibetan faces because the Tibetan people had been dis-invited from their capital and sent into the countryside to live.
As I read about the recent unrest in Tibet, I remembered our young guide and the way he would sidle up to us so that the Chinese nationalist guide couldn’t hear him. Then he would talk to us in his broken English, begging us to not forget Tibet and its people, asking if we had one more picture of the Dalai Lama we’d maybe forgotten to give him. 
Our Chinese national guide was a lady named Mary. She wanted to be a doctor. But the government told her that she had to be a guide first while she waited to get into school.  She’d never been to Tibet before. She had altitude sickness as bad as my sister. She could have cared less what our Tibetan guide and driver said to us in those whispered conversations so long as the Tibetans didn’t care what she said to us in her whispered conversations. What she said was that she would love it if we could send her books about America, books in English that would help her language skills, books that had nothing to do with the drabness of the life she faced.
Almost fifteen years later, I wonder if Mary ever made it to medical school. I wonder if our Tibetan guide and driver are out on the streets of Lhasa protesting or in a prison somewhere. I wonder what happened to the old monk who was so grateful for the picture we brought. Was he allowed to stay in his beloved monastery? Or was he made to leave when the tourist dollars didn’t justify his keep? 
But mostly I wonder how any free government in this world can possibly go to Beijing for the Olympics while China holds Tibet in its iron grip.  I know the Olympics are ultimately just games, but it seems to me that in going there and celebrating them, we are giving credibility to a government that does not deserve it.
My sister and I will never forget that moment in the monastery when we felt a sense of peace and tranquility that no foreign occupation could dispel and that no other place we’ve ever traveled to could engender. We remember and our hearts break for Tibet.

Elise Patkotak • 03:53 AM •
Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What is it with spammers and my website?  Seriously, what is it???? What is attracting them? Or is it the story of my life...I’m just one of many convenient sites so they might as well try me when they try all the others. I mean, seriously, that pretty much defines my dating life back when I had one.  And now they’re hitting on my site instead of me.  Sigh.  I guess that’s progress. Better my website than me.

Elise Patkotak • 03:32 AM •
Tuesday, April 01, 2008

As I was leaving Providence Hospital after visiting a friend, I noticed a note taped to the exit doors. It read simply, “Watch out for moose”.  Immediately outside the exit door was a very large mound of moose nuggets.  And I thought again how hard it would be to live anywhere else in the world.

Elise Patkotak • 03:52 AM •
Monday, March 31, 2008

When I was young, a drug fueled evening of debauchery meant pot and lots of munchies. Now, when I really want a drug filled evening of debauchery, I take Advil PM and some tums.  Ah old age......

Elise Patkotak • 03:05 AM •

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