Elise Sereni
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 •
Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why is everyone always so startled to find out that all men institutions tend to attract men who are homosexual? Seriously, look at the Catholic Church...all men, all the time. Why would that not attract you if you were a gay man?  A group that has institutionalized the segregation of women from their midst.  And now people are shocked, shocked I say, to find out there may be gay basketball players. The next thing you know, someone will tell us that baseball and football have the same issue.  Then America will truly fall apart since these three sports, as best I can tell, form the underpinning for our entire society.
On the other hand, the day a gay basketball player makes the game winning last shot for some big championship, I bet all will be forgiven.  Of course, a gay player may have already done that and we’ll never know.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:58 AM •
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Here’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever been told by a parent.  “I can’t make my kids to go to school if they don’t want to.” The kids in question were in elementary school.

My parents had surprisingly little difficulty in telling me what to do when I was in elementary school.  The had no trouble telling me what to do in high school. And they had no trouble telling me what to do when I was an adult. The only difference was that when I was an adult and not living at home, I didn’t necessarily do what they said. I must hastily add, though, that even then when I defied them, I spent a lot of time worrying that I was about to find out where kingdom come was.
Kingdom come, for those of you not familiar with the place, is where your mother and father promised to send you if you didn’t listen to them.  They didn’t tell you this to threaten you.  They told you this so you wouldn’t be surprised when you found yourself there.  Most of my friends and I spent a lot of our childhood unwilling to risk finding out that kingdom come was not as vaguely glorious as it might initially sound.  If fact, the tone used by our parents in offering us a one-way ticket there was such that we were pretty sure it had nothing to do with Camelot.
So I find myself truly puzzled when parents tell me that they can’t make their children do something as simple as go to school or come home on time when the children referred to are not old enough to ride public transportation alone.  It’s as though the inmates are in charge of the asylum.
If you can’t control your children when they still need your hand to cross the street, I think it’s a given that you won’t be able to control them when they’re teenagers. And yet for many parents I work with, this is the point in time where they look bewildered that things aren’t going exactly as they planned in their children’s lives.
Part of the problem is clearly the excess we dump on our children throughout their childhood, as though things can somehow make up for the absence of our control and influence in their lives.  Go into the room of just about any child in Middle America and you will find enough electronics to open a store.  Each year those electronics are updated because we are frightened at the thought our Johnny may not have what his friend Bobby has and then Johnny will feel bad. 
I think my mother’s response to that would be, “You think you feel bad now? Wait till I send you to kingdom come!”
But this goes beyond drowning our kids in material goods and raising them to believe this is their birthright.  This is about parents abdicating responsibility in their homes. This is about wanting to be a child’s friend, which precludes being their parent. If your child thinks he or she is your equal in the family, then there really is no family.  It’s just a bunch of roommates living together except that two of those roommates get to pay all the bills.
A few years ago, my favorite young friend and I were driving down the New Seward while she griped about the fact that her parents did not feel obligated to buy her a car for her sixteenth birthday.  In high indignation, she vented about the unfairness of it all. Then she turned to me, expecting full vindication, and asked, “How old were you when your parents bought you your first car?” I had to sadly explain to her that both my parents were dead and I was still waiting for them to do that.
I might be very old fashioned in the way I think of family but I must say that I always felt like an integral part of mine. This was not because of what I was given. It was because of the trust placed in me that I would earn my own way and help my family pay the bills to boot. I took pride in contributing to the general welfare of my family.
I turned over every paycheck I ever made directly to my mother until the day I moved out of her house. Those checks paid for my college education. I felt privileged that mom and dad loved me enough to spend my check on me when there were clearly so many things they needed to make their lives more comfortable.
I didn’t expect my parents to buy me a car.  I expected that some day, if I could avoid ending up in kingdom come, I would have the privilege of buying one for them.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:19 AM •
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Get gastric bypass surgery. You’re starting to look like Marlon Brando, the later years.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:44 AM •
Monday, February 26, 2007

I don’t know about you, but I wear sweats and a tiara while eating bean soup and corn bread to celebrate this most glamorous of all nig....oh god, I can’t even fake my enthusiasm long enough to finish that sentence. I watch them to see what ridiculous gowns will appear this year on people old enough to know better. So far, nothing in recent history matches the lady who wore the swan or the one who looked like an anorexic ballet dancer or that see through outfit Barbra Streisand wore when her butt loomed so large.  Each year I keep hoping for another special moment like that but so far have been disappointed. Maybe next year.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:12 AM •
Sunday, February 25, 2007

If you zoom up behind me in traffic as though I could magically leapfrog over the car in front of me so you can continue your mad dash towards death, I promise you this. I will slow down to 35 mph and watch through my rear view mirror while your blood pressure rises until it blows the top of your head off. I will laugh maniacally the entire time.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:16 AM •
Saturday, February 24, 2007

For my Hall of Infamy, I am going to propose any candidate for president who declares his or her candidacy more than twelve months ahead of the actual election. This is America, damn it. No one should be allowed to annoy me longer than that without paying me for the privelege.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 11:12 AM • (0)
Friday, February 23, 2007

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. But I must admit I thought the Dems would hold it together for at least a month after Obama declared his candidacy.  Ah me. What an eternal optimist I am.  Let the bloodshed commence.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:37 AM •

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