Monday, December 31, 2007

Setting the Tone for the New Year

I believe it's time for a new direction for casinos.

Down.

Straight down in big fat heap.

I didn't create this video, but it's become a family favorite. And so, as we transition to a New Year, I invite you to sit back with a cup of your favorite beverage, gather the kids around, turn up the volume and press PLAY.

And remember... No Ca-si-no! No Ca-si-no! No Ca-si-no!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Truth and Consequences

I’d like to thank all of you who took the time to read my 6-part blog/story A Casino Carol.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

It was a lot of fun to write - not to mention interesting. I attempted to imagine the motivations of others, and what it would really be like living with all those "impacts" we keep hearing about - those potential consequences of casino gambling in Massachusetts and what they could mean for our little corner of the Commonwealth.

And there are so many potential consequences… In the last chapter of the story I tried to envision our world, based on the real-life impacts I’ve learned about in my research, and I didn’t even have time to cover them all.

In addition to my research, some of the scenes in the story were also based on personal experience. When Cratchit gets a phone call while at the gaming table from his son, I was essentially retelling a story a friend had recently shared with me. He’d been at a casino in Canada, and watched as a gambler took several phone calls from his child, and each time he would lie into the phone, telling the child he was at work and would be home soon. Needless to say, he wasn’t home anytime soon. How many times have we read about the effect of compulsive gambling? How many times have we brushed it off? The fact is - it's real. And real people suffer. Children suffer. Families suffer.

Also sadly true-to-life, is the fact that many people in and around Middleboro are already familiar with the reality of gambling related suicide. After attending a funeral at the Nemasket cemetery, I walked over to the grave of a high-school classmate who’d fallen victim to gambling addiction and killed himself just a few years ago. As I stood beside his grave, I realized with no small amount of revulsion that a future high-rise Middleboro casino would loom ominously over it. My research has already confirmed that the close proximity of a casino will indeed loom ominously over the lives of many, many local victims yet-to-come, along with their friends, families and their entire communities.

The truth, I realized, the longer I wrote, was that if casinos come to Massachusetts, the only fiction in a story like A Casino Carol will be the ghosts.

Yet another true-to-life tale I incorporated into the story - in chapter 1, when Flynn drives up alongside the anti-casino protestors, and yells out something about 'a casino not coming for 11 years' – in fact, I was out one afternoon collecting signatures on a petition with some fellow CasinoFacts members, when Flynn did this very same (very odd) thing. And, just like in the story, I asked him to step out and talk to us. But apparently Mr. Flynn doesn’t feel the need to speak to his constituents - even the ones concerned enough to stand in the hot sun holding signs and collecting signatures - with people lining up to sign them!

Another time, I witnessed Flynn's town car come to a stop out in front of my house - where he was apparently contemplating my No Casino sign. I was there, in the front yard – but once again, apparently not important enough to warrant Flynn's interest. You know the reason I have such a big sign? Because people like Flynn aren't listening. I write him letters, he never writes back. I hold a sign - he ignores it. I help collect 600 signatures in a few hours in his own home town - and he could care less. The quality of life in the region he represents is put up on the auction block - and he stages a love-in for the bidders at the State House.

So, as you can see, Flynn really did make for a perfect Scrooge!

But he wasn't the only candiate unwittingly auditioning for the role of Scrooge. One of the biggest disappointments to me, during this entire conflict, has been the extent to which some of our elected officials will turn a deaf ear to the very folks who voted them into office, or how easily they'll disregard the precious character and quality of life of the same places they are elected to represent. From our governor, who feigned impartiality all summer, even while his mind was clearly floating in as much Kool-aid as Flynn’s, to Senator Pacheco with his singular focus on the dog track and his bizarre multi-tiered fall-back on mitigation, to the quick-gaveling, budget flubbing Boards of Selectmen in Middleboro and Bridgewater.

So, thank goodness for those who've reaffirmed my faith in government - like the Selectmen in towns like Lakeville, Berkley, Carver, Halifax, Plympton, Kingston, Wareham and Rochester. And thank goodness for the Regional Task Force and the intelligent conversation it is having about potential casino impacts. And thank goodness for Rep. Tom Calter, who proved that even a made-up mind could be opened with enough evidence. Mr. Calter sited receiving thousands of letters of opposition. Good work, people!

As we segue into the new year, and into the next chapter of the casino debate, let’s not let up on the letters and the phone calls to our elected officials. Because of our involvement in this issue, we know a lot about it - more than some newspaper reporters care to write about. So keep sending those informative editorials to the papers. But, most importantly, stay involved. You've been the real three ghosts in this casino story all year long. You are the spirit, the guiding light, and the voice of this fight. And the fact that there even is an active debate going on means that you’ve made a difference.

And that makes it a truly Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

A CASINO CAROL
Chapter 6

Read Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
________________________________________

He needed no ringing clock or unfamiliar voice to wake him at this hour. A dark uneasiness had settled over his sleep, and somehow he knew it was time.

Flynn sat up.

Across from his bed stood a seven foot specter dressed in a black hood and robe. It had no face at all that Flynn could tell. A chill crept across his back.

Without being summoned, Flynn stood and walked to face, such as it was, the Ghost of Casinos Yet to Come.

“I’m not sure why,” said Flynn to the Ghost’s mysterious visage, “but I fear you more than any of the others who’ve come tonight. I suspect there’ll be no Rat Pack, or cigars with you.”

With a hooded arm, the Ghost slowly motioned toward the bedroom window. Flynn walked to the window while the Ghost pointed to a spot on the horizon, about a mile away. The center of town.

Flynn turned to the Ghost who, with it’s other arm, pointed at Flynn.

And then Flynn was flying – flying through time – toward the very spot the ghost had pointed to, trees and snow and lights passed by in a blur - until his back hit the genuine leather passenger seat of his own town car. He turned to find The Ghost of Casinos Yet to Come at the wheel.

The two were sitting in traffic in the center of town - a long and temperament-testing experience on any day of the week - and at the moment, it was at it’s worst. Backed up almost to East Bridgewater. And the busses! Where had all the busses come from? He couldn’t see the traffic lights ahead due to a trio of gigantic fume-belching behemoths in front of him.

“What is this? College commencement? A parade?” he asked. But the Ghost sat at the wheel without speaking.

After a half hour of silence and bus exhaust, the town car had finally managed to make it to the town square. There Flynn was able to see that the same traffic jam he was stuck in stretched all around the rotary, and down each road coming in and out of it. The Christmas decorations on the Common told him it wasn’t college commencement, and there was no parade in sight. Apparently, in the future, this was just normal.

“Damn!” he cried in frustration, “Can’t you get us out of here, Ghost?”

The Common melted, the town car melted with it, and Flynn found himself standing in an empty parking lot. It was Castaways – his favorite spot – but it looked closed. The windows were boarded up. A weathered ‘For Sale’ sign stood where the restaurant’s sign should be.

“This place would never close!” He said, even as a thick stream of traffic rolled by, “It’s one of the hottest places in town! Everybody loves it here.”

He turned to the Ghost, who pointed down the direction of Rte. 28. And suddenly, Flynn found himself in another parking lot. But unlike the last, this one was packed. Frustrated drivers in need of a parking spot made angry gestures at each other. It was the same Dunkin’ Donuts plaza he'd always patronized, but where had the dry cleaner’s and the pizza place gone? They were no where to be found, and instead, their units were now combined into just one business – one with it’s windows painted gray so that you couldn’t see inside. It’s sign proclaimed it to be someplace called the “Take a Chance”.

“A slot parlor?” Flynn said out loud. He’d seen these pathetic places down South or way up North, but there was nothing like this in Massachusetts – and certainly not in Bridgewater.

He faced the Ghost. “There were only going to be three licenses! Slots at the tracks! Resort casinos – not… not..this.”

The Ghost merely pointed to the donut shop. Flynn nodded his head. “I could use a cup of coffee and a friendly face.”

But inside, not only could Flynn not find a friendly face, he couldn’t even find a familiar face. People looked at the ground or up at the ceiling, not speaking. They grabbed their coffee and grumbled out the door.

Ghost, let’s leave this place.

Once again, the Ghost pointed into the distance, and Flynn found himself standing on gravel. He thought he recognized the place, but something was missing. Then he realized it – it was the school – the antique one-room school the Youth Sports group had revitalized. And it was missing.

“What happened to the old school?” he asked the Ghost.

The Ghost pointed to the ground, where the front page of an old newspaper tumbled in the wind like so much discarded trash. Flynn scooped it up and read the leading story – “Fire Consumes Historic School While Emergency Services Tied Up.”

Flynn skimmed the story, which related how one evening Bridgewater’s Fire and Police had been answering emergency calls related to drunken driving accidents, and were unable to fight the blaze. Mutual aid calls to surrounding towns went unheeded, as they were also busy answering similar calls.

Flynn looked at the empty patch of ground. What a tragedy, he thought. What a waste.

Then, something on the lower half of the newspaper caught his eye – a picture – of his grandson! Young Flynn!

Flynn smiled until he read the headline, “Flynn Defeated in Re-election Bid by Own Grandson.”

“Damn!” He shouted, ripping the newspaper in half, and tossing the pieces to the ground.

A horn honked behind him. The Ghost was sitting in the town car, indicating that he wanted Flynn to sit shotgun again. Dejectedly Flynn walked around to the car and got in.

“Why, Ghost? Why? I just tried to do my best – so the folks at the track wouldn’t lose their jobs, so Bridgewater could collect some mitigation money. That’s all…”

As they drove down the same country road to Middleboro that Flynn himself had traveled down the day before, he noticed that there were no more No Casino signs. But there were plentiful “For Sale” signs. Even quite a few “Auction” signs. Many houses showed signs of being vacant. Others, clearly single family, had upwards of 8 cars in the driveway. Odd, thought Flynn. This had been a nice area for families.

As they drove over the Taunton River, where Flynn had fished as a boy, the Ghost rolled down Flynn’s automatic window.

“What’s that stench?” cried Flynn, reaching for a handkerchief to cover his nose.

The Ghost pointed down at the river, where the unmistakable aroma of effluence - sewerage - rose like an unseen and unwelcome cloud.

“Disgusting! They’ve spent years cleaning up that river – why’d they muck it up again! Damn!”

The Ghost merely kept driving. Soon they found themselves in back of a tour bus.

“Damn tour busses!” shouted Flynn out the window, shaking his fist.

As they turned a corner, Flynn could see the whole road in front taken up with cars and tour busses.

“Ghost, isn’t this enough. I know where you’re going with this, I really do.”

The Ghost pulled the town car up beside the cranberry bog Flynn had admired just the day before – the ‘quintessential New England scene’ he’d called it.

Except that it wasn’t a bog anymore. The cranberry bushes were all brown and dead. The bog was dry. Yet another ‘For Sale’ stood at it’s edge. Flynn scratched his head.

And he wrinkled his nose – what was that smell? The smell of smoke from wood stoves had inexplicably been replaced with the smell of – what was it?

Dumpsters. Dumpsters, exhaust fumes, and the smell of oil seeping off the on the road surface even in winter.

Then Flynn slowly became aware of something else. Though it was the middle of the night, he could clearly see what was left of the bog. In fact, he could see the entire neighborhood.

Flynn stepped out of the town car. Towering over the bog, over all the trees and homes - was a skyscraper. It was lit up some sort of mutated Christmas tree, and it was illuminating the sky as if it were high noon.

Then Flynn tried, to no avail, to locate a single star in the sky.

And at that moment, in a dusty corner at the back of Flynn’s mind, a burgeoning understanding of the term “Quality of Life” began to blossom.

Enough, Ghost. Please. I’ve had enough.

The Ghost only pointed again. This time, in the direction of the skyscraper.

As time flung him forward, Flynn expected to find himself, for the second time this evening, at a casino, but he was mistaken. Instead, he and the Ghost came to a stop on the opposite side of the skyscraper – in a cemetery.

Flynn recognized it as the oldest cemetery in Middleboro. Thanks to the light from the skyscraper looming over it, he could easily make out headstones. He could also hear the cacophony of trucks and cars and busses on the highway, Rte. 44, just down the hill.

“So much for ‘resting in peace’” thought Flynn to himself as he looked around.

Flynn then realized that the Ghost had moved further away, and was now motioning Flynn to join him beside a newer-looking gravesite.

As Flynn walked to the grave, he discovered that he and the Ghost were not alone. A car was idling off to the side with a woman in the driver’s seat. And on the ground, kneeling in front of the headstone, was a boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old, with a head full of dark curly hair.

He was crying inconsolably. Flynn went around the headstone to comfort him. He sat on the ground, putting his arm around the boy, knowing he wouldn’t be able to feel it, though it made him feel better to do something.

A shadow moved in front of the skyscraper. Flynn looked up to see the Ghost, who was pointing down at the headstone.

“No!” whispered Flynn, “No, it can’t be!”
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The Ghost turned and pointed at the Skyscaper.

“No! It can’t be! Tell me it’s not true!”

“Tim, we’ve got to go now.” It was the woman from the car. Flynn saw that the vehicle was piled high with boxes, with even more tied to the roof. It was as if an entire house had been packed up and stuffed into the car.

The boy reluctantly stood up, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. As he walked down the hill, he turned to take a last look back at the grave of his father. After a few minutes the car, containing mother and son, and all their belongings, drove off into the night.

Flynn looked at the ground, then up at the Ghost. “Take me home,” was all he could say.

The lights went out.

Somewhere, bells were chiming. The bells at the College resounded with the sounds of Green Sleeves.

Flynn opened his eyes to find his bedroom flooded with the light of a new day. He looked around – no showgirls, no Donald, no scary 7 foot hooded specter of death. Flinging aside the covers he raced to the window. The town was covered in a pristine blanket of fresh snow.

He threw on a pair of pants, boots and a scarf and ran out the front door and into the town car. Without waiting for the car to warm up, he jacked it into reverse. The car weaved and wound it’s way through the snow to the center of town. As he drove he passed by a No Casino sign on someone's lawn. Flynn hit the brakes and the town car slid for some twenty feet before stopping. When it did finally stop, Flynn lept out and ran over to the sign.

“You’d better not be thinking about stealing that sign!” shouted a man from a font porch.

“No sir!” Flynn shouted back. “But I was wondering if you could tell me – have they built a casino yet?”

“What are you – from out of town?” replied the man, “Of course they haven’t built a casino yet!”

A wave of genuine hope washed over Flynn. “Thank you, sir! Thank you! Um… could you tell me where I could get some of these? Maybe say, a couple hundred or so?”

The man on the porch smiled, “There’s a web site on the sign. That’s the place to start.”

Flynn read the web site address at the bottom of the sign. CasinoFacts.org.

“Thank you! Thank you!”

“Here,” said the man walking down the driveway towards Flynn, holding two more signs.

“All you have to do is ask,” he smiled as he handed them to Flynn.

Flynn smiled back, raced back to the town car where he threw the signs in the back and drove to his office, immediately noticing a lack of tour busses along the way.

He pulled into the Dunkin’ Donuts, confirming happily the slot parlor was gone and rightly replaced with the dry cleaner’s and the pizza place.

Once inside, a friendly face took his order. “You have a nice day now!” She said to Flynn as she handed him his coffee.

“You bet I will!” shouted Flynn, “You bet I will!”

On the way out the door he found himself face to face with Louise, the bushwhacking do-gooder from the day before.

“Louise!” he shouted. Louise looked alarmed.

“It’s OK Louise! I’m so glad I found you!”

“Um… really?” She replied, no less alarmed.

“Yes! I wanted to ask you – what’s the best way to help someone who has a problem with gambling?”

Louise smiled uncertainly. “Well,first,” she said, “Get them some help. Some professional intervention. And second, don’t let them build casinos in the middle of the places people are trying to live.”

Flynn beamed and grabbed a completely-alarmed Louise and gave her a bear hug. “Thank you, Louise! Thank you! Of course you’re right!” Then Flynn planted a smooch on her cheek, and while she watched dumbfounded, Flynn tore out of the parking lot on his way to the center of town.

Circling the common, he saw the anti-casino protestors again. He pulled the town car up alongside them. This time, he saw them all smirk.

Undeterred, he rolled down the automatic window. “Hey – what’s the best way to stop this casino?”

“Are you serious,” asked one of them.

Dead serious,” Flynn replied, and with a jerk of his neck he indicated the signs in the back seat.

“Your vote, Mr. Flynn. Your vote is a good place to start,” she said.

“And the vote of your fellow legislators,” said another protestor.

“And a donation to our group!” shouted yet another.

“And your SUPPORT!” from a fourth.

Flynn winked. “That you can count on!” and he steered the car back onto the road.

Finally at his office, Flynn flung open the door. A red-eyed, but nonetheless alert Bob Cratchit sat at his desk, phone to one ear.

“Good morning, Mr. Flynn,” he said.

Good morning, Cratchit? Don’t you mean it’s a great morning!”

Cratchit, for whom it was not a great morning, not even in the slightest, feigned an expression of enthusiasm for his boss.

Flynn leaned in toward Cratchit. “Bob,” he whispered, taking a moment to glance at the photo of Cratchit’s son on his desk, “I’d like us to have a talk later. Man to man.”

“Yes sir,” replied Cratchit, a sensation of fear building in his gut.

“In the meantime, Cratchit…” said Flynn, digging out his wallet, “I think it’s time for your Christmas bonus.” Flynn folded a one-hundred dollar bill into Cratchit’s hand.

“And don’t you think it’s time you taught that son of yours how to ride a bike?”

Relieved and astonished, Cratchit exhaled at last, then gazed down at the first Christmas bonus he had ever received from David Flynn.

Flynn winked. “Get the Governor on the phone, Cratchit!”

“Yes, sir! Right away.”

Flynn walked into his office and sat down.

“Oh, sir!”

“Yes?”

“I forgot – I have some other people holding on the line for you – um – a bus driver, a selectman from Middleboro, and a union guy.”

Flynn scowled. Then smiled.

“Cratchit, can you somehow manage a conference call with those fellas?”

“Certainly, sir, no problem,” Cratchit replied.

“Even better, Cratchit – when you get hold of the Governor – can you put them all on the same call to me?”

Bob Cratchit, raised a concerned eyebrow. Had his boss gone off the deep end?

“Um…yes sir. No problem.”

“Then do it!”

Thirty seconds later Cratchit knocked on Flynn’s door. “Your conference call is all set to go sir – just push the talk button whenever you’re ready.

“Oh, I’m ready,” thought Flynn as he hit the button. “Hello gentlemen! What can I do for you today?”

The four men began to speak simultaneously. Flynn leaned back in his chair, smiling as he tapped the “speaker phone’ button.

“Thank you for the business!” the bus driver exclaimed.

“I’ve got some business I’d like to discuss with you...” the Middleboro selectman was saying.

“All this business about a casino - we should be working together...” said the union guy.

And from the Governor of Massachusetts: “Flynn, let’s get down to business. What’s it going to take to get my casino proposal accepted?”

Flynn put his feet up on the desk and lit a cigar. He stared down at the gold lighter in his hand – then tossed it in the trash.

“Gentlemen,” he said calmly, “Mankind should be your business.” And with that, Flynn put down the receiver, stood up and walked out.

“Cratchit, I’m going out. I’ve got some signs to deliver.”

“Um… yes sir…”

Flynn left the office, took the signs from the back of his town car and walked over to the Common. As he made his way, drivers seeing the signs honked their horns and gave him the thumbs up.

When he reached the common, Flynn stopped and sank a STOP THE CASINO sign into the snow. The protestors across the street clapped and cheered. “No ca-si-no! No ca-si-no! No ca-si-no!” they shouted in unison.

Flynn turned and waved. “No casinos to all!” he shouted back. "And to all... a good life!

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Happy Holidays!
Love, Gladys

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A CASINO CAROL
Chapter 5

Read Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
__________________________________________________

“Get up, Flynn!”

Huh?

From his bed, a prone Flynn cracked an eyelid. What he saw compelled him to sit up straight.

“Come on, Flynn – I’m a busy man.”

“But…” said Flynn, not believing what he was seeing.

“Yeah, yeah… I know…”

“You’re…you’re Donald Trump.”

And in fact, The Donald was standing at the foot of David Flynn’s bed - dressed in an Armani suit, smoking a cigar and looking down at Flynn with a undisguised look of disdain.

“Actually Flynn, tonight, I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present”

“But you’re Donald Trump!”

“Whatever.”

“But why you?”

“You don’t listen to many people, do you Flynn?”

“Well – of course I do – I’m a State Rep! I listen to people all day!”

“Like you listened to those people with the signs yesterday on the town square?”

“Huh?”

“Flynn, let’s face it – you’re not exactly a man of the people. Just some people. Especially big rich important people - like me.”

Flynn shrugged. It was just the way of the world, after all.

Flynn’s bedroom disappeared, replaced in the blink of an eye with a board room, dimly lit despite the hundreds of candles, golden wreaths and pine boughs which hung from the luxuriously wood paneled walls. Flynn’s bed had been transformed into a vast mahogany conference table where The Donald sat at one end with Flynn by his side.

“Here,” said Trump, handing Flynn a cigar, “this is an authentic Cuban. Beats those crap sticks you’ve been smoking.”

Flynn reached in his pocket for his gold lighter, but the cigar Trump had given him had already magically lit itself. Ahh… sighed Flynn, tasting the rare flavor, “This is the good life.” He was liking Christmas Present, very, very much.


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Trump stood up and went to a credenza at the side of the room where a crystal decanter rested on a silver tray.

“What’s your poison, Trump?”

“Me, ah… Dewars, if you don’t mind,” smiled Flynn.

“Funny – I thought you were a Kool-aid man.”

“What?”

“Never mind,” said Trump, handing Flynn a heavy glass. “Hey – let’s get out of here – somewhere with some action.”

Flynn was suddenly feeling quite good. Lightheaded, buoyant, filled with holiday cheer.

Then, The Donald snapped his fingers and they were sitting at a crowded blackjack table.

“Hey, where are we?” Flynn asked, rubbing his eyes which were momentarily flooded with garish light and cigarette smoke.

“We’re at Foxwoods! The world’s largest casino! That enough action for you, Flynn?”

“Marvelous!” cried Flynn. Things were looking up. And as if to punctuate this fine moment – a cheer went up from the table – someone had just hit it big. Flynn was about to ask Trump for some more Dewar’s when he heard a familiar voice at the end of the table.

“I’ll be home soon, honey. I promise. Daddy’s still busy at work.”

Flynn turned to see none other than his right hand man, Bob Cratchit, talking on his cell phone.

“I know I said the same thing an hour ago…” Cratchit continued - even as his eyes remained glued to the activity at the table, “But this time I mean it…”

“What’s Cratchit doing here in the middle of the night? He’s got to be at work for me first thing in the morning!”

Trump turned to face Flynn, “Shouldn’t the question be, 'Why is Cratchit’s kid calling him in the middle of the night?' Or 'Why isn’t he home with his family instead of gambling away the Christmas Club in this overwrought stink joint?'”

“Huh?”

Trump pointed back in Cratchit’s direction. Flynn watched him put the cell phone back in his pocket – then proceed to lose his very last cent.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Trump “Let’s go to a party…”

“Yes, let’s,” replied Flynn, anxious to get away from the depressing image of his aide, a guy he thought he knew pretty damn well, gambling the night away and lying to his kid.

And suddenly Flynn and Trump were in the crowded living room of Flynn’s grandson, a Bridgewater selectman. Across the room toasts were being raised, laughter was filling the air, and Christmas carols pumped loudly from iPod speakers. In a room of teeming with liquored-up humanity, Flynn was in his element – except that this evening no one could see or hear him.

Nevertheless, Trump and Flynn hobnobbed cheerfully and surreptitiously around the room for quite some time. There were several local politicians here, not to mention most of his grandson’s fellow selectmen. Flynn was feeling wonderful – until he was struck - quite abruptly - with the realization that he had not been invited to this party.

“Excuse me, Donald,” asked Flynn, “didn’t you say you were the Ghost of Casinos Present?

“You’re learning, Flynn,” replied Trump.

“Well then, why the hell didn’t I hear about this party?”

“I dunno.” Trump replied, “But let’s go find out.”

Trump and Flynn made their way through the crowd to where young Flynn stood speaking with a small group of friends.

“So, what does your grandfather think about this casino business,” one of the friends was asking.

“Well,” said young Flynn, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “Every time I try having a real conversation about it – he keeps telling me it won’t come for 11 years. And then he changes the subject. It’s really irritating.”

The friends laughed. Then, one of them said, “I’ve heard people are starting to call him ‘Father Slots’ lately – because of his big pro-casino conference in Boston this week.”

Young Flynn shook his head, “Yeah, it’s embarrassing.”

Trump looked at Flynn and laughed, “Well Flynn, I think you’ve got your answer. Looks like your invite to this shindig didn’t exactly get lost in the mail. ”

“Damn kid.” Said Flynn. He turned to The Donald, “This party’s a bore. Let’s go where the action is!”

“Now you’re talking, Flynn! Action it is!”

But instead of finding himself transported to a party or casino somewhere, Flynn and The Donald stood outside the door to Flynn’s darkened office.

“What’s this? No one’s here! It’s after hours!”

“Are you so sure?” asked Trump “Listen.”

Flynn heard a noise in his office. Stepping inside, he found Bob Cratchit leaning over a ledger – the campaign contribution fund ledger to be exact.

“What the hell’s Cratchit doing in my office in the middle of the night?”

“Perhaps he’s here for the wonder of it all.”

“What?”

“Flynn, shouldn’t you be asking yourself, ‘What’s Cratchit doing in my office in the middle of the night after losing his shirt at Foxwoods a week before Christmas?’”

Flynn's face grew a deeper shade of his natural crimson as he walked around behind Cratchit to see what he was doing with the campaign fund ledger.

A look of both shock and anger crossed Flynn’s face. “He’s cooking the books!” he exclaimed! “Damn him! He’s stealing from my campaign fund!”

“Happens all the time.”

“What do you mean ‘Happens all the time?’ You mean he’s done this before?”

“No, he’s never done this before, but chances are, he’ll do it again. It’s a pretty common scenario among problem gamblers. Just wait until the world’s biggest casino is less than ten minutes away! You’re not going to be the only one. Problem gambling effects more than just the gambler. Other people always get hurt. Sometimes they get hurt in the pocket book. Or in your case, the campaign fund.”

“Not me! He’s out of here first thing tomorrow morning!”

Trump shook his head. “Flynn, I’m disappointed. You’re a terrible apprentice. Haven’t you learned anything tonight?”

“Well sure! I’ve learned my trusted aide, Bob Cratchit, is a no-good thieving son-of-a-bitch!”

“Flynn,” said The Donald.

“Yeah?” replied Flynn, still fuming with anger.

“You’re fired.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A CASINO CAROL
Chapter 4

Read Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
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Flynn opened his eyes.

Dust and sagebrush flew by. The desert. He was sitting in the backseat of a Cadillac convertible, red, circa early sixties.

This damn sure wasn’t Bridgewater.

He tried to brush the sleep out of his eyes, but quickly realized that his arms were otherwise occupied. A look to his left revealed that one arm was currently encircling the lovely neck of Angie Dickenson, while the other was occupied shielding the delicate shoulders of Ann Margaret from the wind.

Then, at the same moment, they both turned to him and smiled.

Had he died? Gone to heaven? Thank you God. Thank you!

“How’s it goin’ back there, Flynn baby?” the driver was asking.

Huh?

The driver turned to face him. It was Dean Martin.

Dean Martin, was holding a filterless cigarette, driving a red Cadillac convertible through the desert, and asking him how it was goin’.

“Um..Ah…it’s fine! It’s goin’ great!” Flynn replied.

“That’s right, baby!”

Then the redhead in the front passenger seat also turned and smiled at Flynn. She pointed to a point in the distant horizon and insisted aliens had picked her up there one night after a show, probed her extensively, then brought her back to her dressing room at the Sands. “I just love aliens, don’t you?” she said, pushing her sunglasses down on her nose to reveal that he was having a conversation with Shirley MacLean.

In heaven, thought Flynn, he’d finally become a member of the Rat Pack.

The Cadillac made it’s way down the strip, pulling up in front of a neon-clad casino. Inside, the group made it's way down a glowing red corridor, lined with Vegas icons. Though a thick curtain cigarette smoke almost obscured his view, he could clearly make out the famous faces.

Wayne Newton was lighting Peter Lawford’s cigarette, while Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. huddled in a corner rehearsing a duo. “I’m Jackie Mason, dammit! Jackie Mason!” The legendary comedian was relating a tale of outrage to a shimmering Elvis. He wanted to reach out, to shake hands with these legends … when he suddenly he heard bells. Ding ding ding… Someone must have hit the jackpot on one of the slot machines.
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And that’s when he smelled it. A mix of Channel No. 5 and sweat. Staring at him from the far corner of the corridor was a beautiful showgirl. Six foot four if she was an inch. When she noticed that he’d seen her, she stuck out her finger and curled it inward – indicating him to come hither.

But, as Flynn stepped forward, he discovered his feet were stuck in concrete. A concrete block to be precise. He panicked and flailed. As the smoke cleared Flynn realized he was not mired in a pair of concrete overshoes – but in fact he was still in his own bed, knotted in sheets, while the grandfather clock in the hallway was clanging away at the midnight hour.

“Damn clock! Ruined a perfectly good dream!” As Flynn untangled the bed sheets, he realized that across the room stood a six foot four showgirl in ostrich feathers, sequins and five inch heels – the woman from his dream!

“Good evening, Mr. Flynn” the vision said.
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“Well… um… Good evening Miss… uh… do I know your name?”

“I'm the Ghost of Casinos Past.”

“Oh sh…”

“Enough! I’m not here on a social call. I'm here to take you back in time. To the past.”

“Bah! I know more about casinos past than anyone as young as you possibly could – the Rat Pack, the headliners, the corruption, the the glory days…”

“I’m older than I look…” said the showgirl, and at that, Flynn’s living room melted into a junior high school auditorium. A boy stood at a podium on stage making a speech.

“Do you recognize that boy?” Asked the ghost.
“Why, that’s me! I remember – I ran for student body president in 8th grade.”
“Did you win?”
“No. Not that time. But I didn’t quit!”

Suddenly the auditorium melted away and Flynn and the ghost of a Las Vegas showgirl were standing on a sidewalk, unheeded by passersby, watching as a young man walked up to the front door of a white farmhouse. After knocking on the door, a woman answered.

“Hello ma’am, my name is David Flynn," he said, holding out his hand, "and I’m running for selectman. I was hoping I could count on your vote on election day.”

“Why should I vote for you?” said the woman, who not only didn't shake Flynn's outstretched hand - but also completely ingored it - allowing it to hang awkwardly in the space between them. “I don’t even know you. What exactly have you ever done for me?”

“Well…” began Flynn, dropping his hand to his side.

“Listen young man, there’s a lot of things wrong with this town. Are you gonna be the one to fix ‘em?”

“What kind of things? Talk to me. I just want to make this town a better place.”

“Well," she laughed "that’s a pretty good place to start.”

The woman continued to speak, but the scene was melting away again, and suddenly Flynn and the showgirl were on the town square where people all around them held Re-Elect Flynn signs and shouted his name.

“Those were the days, I tell ‘ya!” Shouted Flynn to the ghost. It filled him with joy to remember how it felt to see those signs, reading his name, and to look out at all those people who believed in him. “Look,” he said to the show girl “- that woman I was just talking to at the farmhouse – that’s her over there – she became one of my biggest supporters. Dammit - what was her name…”
PhotobucketThe town square faded and became an indoor celebration. “This is my victory party!” Flynn exclaimed. “After I got re-elected for the first time! I knew I was on my way after that! Oh those really were the days!”

People were dancing, singing, cheering, holding up glasses of champagne.

The woman from the farmhouse made her way over to the young and newly elected Flynn. “Congratulations, David,” She said, as she shook his hand, “You’ve not only made it - you've made a name for yourself. Now all you have to do is make a difference.” And she smiled at him.

The present day Flynn remembered that smile and that handshake. How warm they both were, full of confidence in his ability. That had been the moment when he knew he’d chosen the right career.

And, just like last time, the party faded, to be replaced by a new scene - Flynn's old office. It was dark, another late night – one of many - and a middle aged David Flynn sat at his desk across from a man in a sharp business suit.

“I’d like to thank you for all your help, Dave,” said the businessman. “So here’s a little something for your trouble.” The man passed a box of cigars across the table to Flynn.

“Do you know who that man is?” the showgirl asked.
“Yes,” snapped Flynn, “I know damn well who it is.”

The man got up, shook Flynn’s hand and began to walk out of the office. “Oh, one more thing,” he reached into his pocket and removed a small wrapped gift which he placed in Flynn’s hand. The man winked and left.

In the dark quiet of his office, Flynn unwrapped the gift. A solid gold lighter, engraved with the simple phrase, “In Appreciation”.

Suddenly he remembered that moment as clearly as if it were yesterday, and watched as his younger self gazed lovingly at the lighter, watched him squeeze it, turn it around, marveling at how warm and heavy, and rich it felt in his hand. And he remembered how powerful he had felt.

Flynn looked on as his incarnation lifted a cigar from the box, flicked open the top of the lighter and spun the little gold wheel with his thumb. A strong glowing flame leaped straight up, like a torch straight from the bowels of hell. Shadows began to dance on the walls of his dark office.

Flynn turned to the ghost, “Please take me home, Miss. I’ve seen enough.”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A CASINO CAROL
Chapter 3

Read Chapter 1 Chapter 2
______________________________________________

He’d originally stopped at Pub 99 for some takeout, but after looking at the crowd, Flynn decided to take his ribs at the bar instead. It was a good looking group – flushed cheeks, holiday smiles, hearty laughter – a great place to soak up the constituency.

And it had certainly proven to be a fruitful afternoon.

He’d heard from the owner of a bus company, a selectman from Middleboro, and a couple of union guys. And,because of his publicly pro-stance on slots, he’d gotten free drinks all day long. From the bus guy for future business opportunities, from the selectman for helping to nudge his impulsively signed agreement with the casino folks closer to reality, and from the union dudes by promising them a couple years of work (never fails).

His own cheeks were flushed as he wrapped his scarf once again around his neck, full of ribs, good company and more than ready for home and a warm bed.

Until those two do-gooders bushwhacked him on the way out.

“Mr. Flynn?” Said the lady bushwhacker.

“Um…yeah?”

“My name is Louise. This is my friend Paul. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Well… folks, it’s my pleasure,” And he shook their hands.
“Mr. Flynn,” continued Louise, “I hope you don’t mind… we heard you talking today about the casino…”

Wonderful thought Flynn, more love… more votes...

“Yes!" He cheered, "The casino – lots of jobs, business, all that… you’ve got my word on that!”

“Well, actually Mr. Flynn, Paul and I work in the medical and mental health fields, and we think there are some pretty important things you should know about casinos before your big meeting this week. Could we have a moment of your time?”

Flynn’s good mood took a nose dive. Nothing worse than a meeting up with a do-gooding bushwhacker on your way out the door. But he wasn’t a political animal for nothing. He leaned back against the bar, wearing one of his most rehearsed facial expressions - abject concern - as Louise and Paul both lobbed depressing statistics at him for over five minutes.

In reality though, Flynn was far, far away from the world of Louise and Paul, and the issue of casino gambling had been already been decided upon as far as he was concerned, and they weren't going to change it. No, while the two bushwhackers made their case, Flynn was privately ruminating on more pressing matters - such as which brand of cigars The Donald smoked, and who he’d like to see on the next season of Dancing with the Stars.

It was a cross between Ann Margaret and Angie Dickenson when somehow the lady bushwhacker managed to penetrate his thoughts with an emotional plea.

“…and only a small percentage of these compulsive gamblers, just a minisule percentage of them, will ever even seek treatment,” She was saying.

Then the gentleman bushwhacker jumped in. “And no one sees the damage the compulsive gambler does to his or her family. They’re ultimately the victims of casino gambling.”

Oh brother, thought Flynn. For the bushwhackers, however, he smiled. “Not to worry, folks – you won’t see a casino over there in Middleboro for at least 11 years…” This was the standard line he used to diffuse the anti-casino people. The response was always the same – a confused expression – which was just enough of a break in the action to let him get away.

“Goodnight, folks. And happy holidays!” And with that, Flynn walked out of the 99 and into the crisp air of a glorious winter evening. It just was starting to snow.

“Mr. Flynn!"

Oh for the love of … she was chasing him. What was her name? Flynn turned around.

“Don’t worry Louise!” he responded while unlocking his car door. “Governor Patrick’s plan gives plenty of money to help the gambling addicts! Don’t you worry!”

“But like I was saying, Mr. Flynn – only a very very small percentage of addicted gamblers ever even seek treatment…”

But he didn't hear her. He'd shut the Town Car door in the nick of time and, while Louise and Paul looked on, drove off down the snow covered street, cursing do-gooders and bushwhackers alike for turning a delectable order of ribs and an afternoon of comlimentary drinks into a utter case of indigestion.

Finally home, he let himself into the kitchen door and found no one home to greet him. That's when he remembered that he had the house to himself for the week. Ah… some peace and quiet and a stiff drink before bed. Wake up tomorrow ready to fight once more for slots, The Donald and The American Way.

Flynn lit a fire in the fireplace and sat back in his easy chair, contemplating the flames through the liquid amber in his whiskey glass. He was about to take a sip when a knock came at the front door.

“Damn bushwhackers!” They’d followed him home!

Flynn swung open the front door, brimming with indignation (but naturally masked with his trademark expression of concern) to find – nothing. Nothing but fresh snow on the stoop. No footprints to indicate kids or grownup bushwhackers knocking on the door.

“Must be getting hard of hearing.” Flynn assured himself. He closed the door. CRASH! The sound came from the kitchen. He ran there expecting to find a brick on the floor by the sound of it – but instead he found nothing. Not so much as a broken whiskey glass as far as he could tell.

Then, the doorbell rang.

“Damn kids… “ Because he was now convinced that this immaturity was being perpetrated by future and not current constituents, Flynn ran to the door to catch whoever it was in the act. But once again, there was no one there, and the stoop and front lawn were still covered with a pristine cover of snow.

He stepped outside, looked around the bushes, shook his head and decided it’d been a long day. Too long. Time for bed.

He shut the door, locked it, and headed for the stairs.

“Good evening, Flynn!”

To successfully survive over forty years in Massachusetts politics, one must necessarily ready oneself for almost anything. And therefore, Flynn did not flinch, cry out or even wet his pants, like a lesser man might do. No, instead he turned, slowly – slowly - slowly - to face the spot where the voice had come from. The living room.

And while forty years in politics may have readied Flynn for a voice coming from his living room, it surely had not readied him for what he found sitting in his chair and holding onto the same whisky glass of Dewers that he had himself been holding only minutes before.

A ghost.

It couldn’t be – but it was! A ghost in what used to be one of those orange prison outfits. He had a long gray ponytail and was inexplicably wrapped in a giant chain. And somehow – he looked a little bit familiar.

“Don’t I know you?”

“No – nobody really knows the real me. You probably saw me in the newspaper or on TV.”

“Yeah – that’s right,” said Flynn with dawning recognition, “you’re that Wampanoag guy – that chief who wants to put a casino in Middleboro.”

The chief chuckled. “Yup! That’s me!”

“But you’re not dead!”

“Tell that to my PR company. And no, I’m not dead, but my spirit lives on in Middleboro and all over this state for that matter.

“That doesn't explain what you're doing in my house!”
“I’m here on a mission.”
“A mission?”
“Yes. To save you from your own stupidity.”
“Bah! Save yourself!”
“Ha! Too late for me, old boy, but you – you still have a chance.”
“What the hell are you talking about?!”
“You see this chain?”
“Well – yes…”

The Ghost stood. “This is the chain I forged in life. Lie by lie. Misstep by bitter misstep.”

“But why bother me! That was all your business!”

Mankind should have been my business!” shouted the Ghost - so forcefully that it caused Flynn to cower on the carpet.

“Now, let’s get this dog and pony show over with – this chain is heavy and I’m getting tired.”

“Please don’t hurt me!”

“Oh, I won’t hurt you – I have people for that. No - this evening you will be visited by three more ghosts. The Ghost of Casinos Past, the Ghost of Casinos Present and the Ghost of Casinos Yet to Come.”

“I can’t be taking visitors in the middle of the night – I’ve got a big day tomorrow!”

But the Ghost was fading – disappearing slowly into nothingness – and the whiskey glass in his hand dropped to the hearth, where it shattered into a thousand pieces. At the same time, the Dewar’s spilled into the fireplace igniting dying flames, which detonated momentary into a fireball, or, it seemed to Flynn, like a torch, delivered to his living room straight from the bowels of hell.

And that’s when Flynn ran to his bedroom, jumped into bed, pulled the covers up over his head, and told himself over and over that it was just a case of indigestion, probably brought on by bad ribs or do-gooders, until he fell asleep.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Mashpee Wampanoags Show Their Hand

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The Mashpee Wampanoag's show their hand - and guess which finger their holding up for the people of Middleboro and the South Shore - and for the future of Massachusetts - by invoking the Church Bingo and Las Vegas Night exception - just like the Pequots did in Connecticut!

Just another example of an effective Good Neighbor Policy, brought to you by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Read More!


(p.s. before I get angry comments about the doggy in the picture - please understand that no dogs were hurt in the making of this blog posting. This picture is a parody of an iconic 1973 National Lampoon Cover - which was also a parody. I'm old enough to remember this cover, but realize a younger generation may have missed it. I personally really like dogs and would never put one in harm's way. - Gladys)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A CASINO CAROL
Chapter 2

Read Chapter 1
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“Cratchit!”
“Yes Mr. Flynn?”
“I’m back!”
“Yes sir.”
“Have you gotten hold of the Governor yet?”
“No sir. Not yet.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Well… he’s in China right now, so …”
“The hell with China! What the hell’s the damn governor of Massachusetts doing in China? Giving away the recipe for Clam Chowder?”
“Actually I think…”
“China’s overblown. You know where we should be, dontcha?”
“Um… no?”
“Yu-go-slavia.”
“Yugoslavia, sir?”
“You listen to me – Yugoslavia is where all the action’s going to be in 10 to 15 years. I have this on good authority.” And with that, the Honorable Rep. David Flynn (D-Slots) winked knowingly and closed his office door.

“Yes sir.” His aide, Bob Cratchit sat down behind his computer with every intention of working on his spreadsheet, when the phone rang. It was his wife, reminding him to pick up his son’s Christmas present – a brand new bike and the only thing he’d wanted all year – on his way home.

Cratchit smiled and glanced at the framed photograph of his son on top of his desk. Six years old. A thick halo of dark curls and bright green eyes. Small for his age, but with an enormous spirit which never failed to lift his own, especially when money was tight, and free time hard to find.

He looked forward to teaching his son to ride his new bike right after Christmas dinner. In the future, he could see them biking uptown together, then, as Tim got older, down on the Cape, and up in the mountains of New Hampshire. Cratchit loved time with his son, and slipped his hand into his jacket pocket to reassure himself that the envelope with the $100 was still there.

Yes, he assured his wife. He had the money she’d left in the envelope. He was leaving early to pick up the bike.

As he hung up, Flynn burst through the office door.

“Was that the Governor?”
“No sir. It was my wife.”
“Damn!”
“Yes sir.”
“Get Trump’s office on the line!”
“Yes sir.”
“Oh the hell with it.”
“Yes sir.”
“I think this day’s been long enough, don’t you Cratchit?”
“Yes sir.”
“I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow Cratchit – and then we’ll work on The Donald with a fresh frame of mind, whaddaya say?”

“Sounds excellent, sir.”
“Good man. Lock up, won’t you Cratchit?”
“Yes sir.”

Wrapping his scarf around his neck against the cold outside, Flynn paused long enough by Cratchit’s desk to see him glance at the photograph of his son.

Remembering that all politics are local, Flynn asked, “So what does Jimmy want for Christmas this year?”

“Timmy…”
“Timmy! That’s right! What’s little Timmy looking for under the Cratchit Christmas tree?”
“A bike, actually. I’m off to pick it up now, after I lock up.”
“Oh a bike! That’s perfect! Pick him out a good one, now – with a bell and a horn and all the other gizmos kids like so much.”
“Yes, sir,” smiled Cratchit. “I’m planning on it.”
“See you tomorrow Cratchit – big day – lot’s of important people coming to this hearing.”
“Yes sir. You have a good night, now. And Merry Christmas.”

But Flynn was already out the door.

Bob Cratchit straightened his desk, slipped on his coat and locked up the office. In the car, on the way to the store, he turned on the radio, flipping through several stations before landing on the one that did the 24 hour Christmas carols. It never failed to put him in the holiday mood.

Johnny Mathis had just finished up “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland”, when a commercial for Foxwoods casino and resort in Connecticut came on.

This made Cratchit laugh. What a time that was! Only two weeks earlier he and his wife had gone to Foxwoods for the first time. He’d only brought along $50 – he figured that was enough to lose – especially for someone who’d never gambled before. Five hours later, to his, and his wife's utter astonishment, he was up $30,000. Not only this, but he’d made lots of new friends and was having the time of his life.

As he sipped his fourth free beer, he imagined the look on his wife’s face when she opened the door at Christmas to find a new car in the driveway with a big bow on top – just like in those commercials. Or maybe a Hawaiian vacation. Or better yet – put it away for Timmy’s college. All the people around him were smiling - saying he “had the Midas touch”, that he’d been “born under a lucky star.” He suddenly felt important. He'd never been the kind of guy who needed to feel important, but it felt good anyway. Things were definitely looking up for the Cratchit family. It was like some sort of a dream.

Then, in one move, he lost it all.

It had to be a fluke, he figured, and walked over to one of the many ATM machines out in the lobby to get some more money. He was sure he could easily work his money up again, but his wife said he'd had enough – as if he were too drunk to drive – and took him home.

Since then he’d been itching to go back. But it was Christmas. Money was tight and time was hard to find.

And then suddenly it occurred to him that he had an envelope in his pocket with $100 in cash. And his boss had just given him the afternoon off. And he'd already proven he could turn $50 into $30,000 – what could he do with $100?

And this time, he’d know when to stop.

Bob Cratchit, loyal political aide and loving father drove steadily down Rte. 24 for the space of a few minutes contemplating the possibility that he might not win. That maybe he ought to go straight to the store like he'd planned.

Then, at the next exit, he turned off and headed down to Foxwoods to chase a dream.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A CASINO CAROL
Chapter 1

“Cratchit!”
“Yes, Mr. Flynn?”
“Get the Governor back on the phone.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Flynn, right away.”
“Damn that Donald Trump!”
“Yes sir, Mr. Flynn.”

Massachusetts State Representative David Flynn (D-Bridgewater) of Plymouth’s Eighth District, dropped the newspaper he’d been reading onto his desk, squinted and pinched hard the bridge of his nose, as if trying to rid himself of the latest headache in the casino debate.

Flynn had been not so quietly seething since anti-casino forces at the Statehouse had put together a forum for legislators, “educating them” them about all the “dangers” of gambling addiction. And dammit, the forum had been effective – even influencing a fellow pro-gambling rep from a neighboring district to change his position.

Being a man of action, not to mention the chair of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, Flynn was not about to be outdone, and had spent the last two weeks hastily putting together his own panel of experts to paint a more positive picture for the State’s decision makers.

So far he’d managed to stack the deck of the casino hearing panel with seven proponents along with one token opponent to speak about legalized gambling. He was getting cozy with the Governor, and lately, had been grinning like a Cheshire cat, sitting on a top secret surprise guest to top off his panel like a multi-million dollar maraschino cherry - until the Boston Globe unceremoniously informed him that The Donald would not be joining them.

“Damn these people!,” cursed Flynn at no one in particular.

In the next room, Flynn’s good natured and long-suffering aide Bob Cratchit knew his boss appreciated feedback. “Yes sir, Mr. Flynn.”

“You get hold of the Governor yet?” Bellowed Flynn, who meanwhile pulled a cigar from his desk drawer and fired it with a ancient solid gold lighter. On the side of the lighter was a simple inscription, “In Appreciation”. A lifetime ago it had been a gift. Funny, he couldn’t remember who it was from. Some union maybe? The track people? Both, probably, he grinned, taking a moment to bask in the satisfaction, if not the clearest memories of a long political career.

Well, until he could speak to the Governor, he knew he’d feel better if he got up and did something. “I’m going out.”

“Yes Mr. Flynn. Any idea when you’ll be coming back to the office.”
“When I’m damn good and ready!”
“Yes sir, Mr. Flynn.”

Several minutes later Flynn pulled his white Town Car into the parking lot of Castaways, a popular local restaurant and tavern. He stubbed out his cigar outside the door, ”Damn smoking ban!” and took a seat at the bar. He ordered up a Dewar’s and sat at the bar while waiting for his sandwich, chatted up the regulars, and started feeling better.

“Whattaya doing for Christmas, Dave?” asked the bartender.

“I'm planning on finally legalizing slots in this State, that’s what I’m gonna do!” Flynn shouted, raising his glass.

This elicted laughter from most of the patrons, starved for some excitement between Keno games on this sleepy winter afternoon.

“God,” thought Flynn, basking in approval, “I love this place.”

After his lunch, Flynn took a drive around town, circling Bridgewater’s old fashioned town square, strung with lights and painted plywood cut-outs of Santa, candy canes and snowmen. Neil Diamond was crooning a carol on the CD player, and Flynn puffed on his cigar, smiling to himself and marveling at how much his hometown reminded him of the picture perfect world inside one of those glass holiday snow globes at this time of year. It was even making him feel better about the whole Donald Trump thing - when suddenly he saw something up ahead which caused his imaginary snow globe to go crashing to the pavement.

A small group of protestors stood at the side of the rotary holding bright red signs which said “Stop the Casino”, “Get the Facts”, and “No Casino”.

“Damn these people! They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about…”

Flynn drove around the rotary two more times before pulling his Town Car to the side of the road next to the protestors.

Rolling down the side window he shouted “Don't worry - a casino can't even get approved for 11 years!” He took a moment to puff on his cigar, “You don’t know what your talking about!”

Then, satisfied he’d given them what-to-for, Flynn pulled back into traffic. That'll shut 'em up, he thought.

“Mr. Flynn!” called out Mary, a protestor who lived in Bridgewater, “Come back and talk to us!”

Flynn just laughed, and turned left at the light. "Bah!"

“Who was that guy?” asked Mike, from Middleboro.

“Unfortunately, he’s my State Rep,” said Mary. “He lives here in Bridgewater, so I thought he might actually care about this town and what a mega casino next door might do to us. So I wrote him a long letter. Never heard back. Now he's holding a pro-casino hearing in Boston on the 18th.”

“What was that thing about 11 years?” asked John, who called Plympton home.

“I have no idea… that’s a new one on me.”

Then, Carl from Lakeville laughed, “Judging from all the cigar smoke, maybe he’s not too worried about what the town will look like 11 years from now.”

Mary smiled, “Well… I do. That’s why I’m here holding a sign.”

Flynn’s Town Car traveled a short way down Rte. 28, then pulled into a Dunkin’ Donuts. Flynn needed a cup of coffee. He didn’t like the drive-thru. He preferred to press the flesh in person. Work the room. Feel the love.

He walked right up to the counter, chatting up the friendly woman who served his coffee, still managing a pleasant conversation with the police officer behind him in line, and an elderly couple at one of the tables. On his way out he raised his Styrofoam cup in the air, turned and wished the group a hearty, “Merry Christmas!”

As the door swung shut, the policeman rolled his eyes, the woman at the counter shook her head, and the couple at the table waved their hands in disgust.

Flynn turned the Town Car down an old country road. At the corner was an old one room school house. It had been rehabilitated in recent years as a youth sports clubhouse. Flynn had to smile. He could remember back when it was still a school.

As he headed South he passed by a home with a giant, hand painted sign in the front yard. He slowed down and stopped to take a look. “Always good to know what the folks are saying,” thought Flynn.

A casino in Middleboro is bad news for Bridgewater,” read the sign.

“Damn these people!” he thought, “What are they afraid of? Jobs? More business? More money coming into this town? Bah! Humbug!”

It was all enough to make him choke on his cigar.

He kicked the Town Car into high gear and headed out down to Middleboro, passing over the Taunton River, beautiful even in winter. He remembered fishing there as a boy. Bass, mostly. Great fun.

As he wound his way into the next town, he saw more No Casino signs dotting front lawns.

Then, rounding a corner he passed by a small cranberry bog, where a soft coating of frost muted the red carpet of berries. He sighed. Ah, now… that’s something, he thought – the quintessential New England scene. And that’s what these ya-hoos – these malcontents – these bleeding hearts - should be focusing on! This is a great place to live! Nothing’s going to change around here if a damn casino comes!

A few minutes later Flynn arrived at the proposed casino site in Middleboro. He spent a little time driving around it, then stopped the car. Putting down his cigar and rolling down the window, he could smell smoke from a nearby woodstove. God, how he loved that smell.

If these people were smart he thought, they’d harvest all this wood for kindling and sell it before they break ground for the casino.

Looking into the property, he saw nothing worth getting worked up about. He didn’t understand these people. No not one bit.

“Trees! Bah! Humbug! Who needs ‘em!” And with that, the honorable Mr. Flynn got into his car and drove back to the office.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Earmuffs

There’s a cute scene in the movie Old School in which the Vince Vaughn character covers his young son’s ears with his hands, referring to it as “earmuffs”, so that he and his friends can have an adult conversation.

And I have to admit – the first time I read Deval Patrick’s November 29th comments to the Worcester Economic Club in which he defended his three-casino plan by claiming that all he’s heard “is the emotional argument” – the first thing to come to mind was the image of our governor, thoroughly earmuffed and possibly signing, “La la la la la la la…” in a sort of silly effort to drown out the commotion created by mounting financial evidence that counting on casino revenues is risky business.

I’m not going to lie – I’m a little worried about the Governor. I mean, why has he only heard "the emotional argument?"

Could Deval’s advisors be pulling the earmuffs down over his ears while they engage in adult conversation with moneyed casino investors, the State Treasurer and other interested parties? Instead of the whole picture, are they feeding the Governor only the “emotional” highlights of the casino debate – you know, like gambling addiction, child neglect, domestic abuse, bankruptcies, foreclosure and suicide – none of which obviously concerns him outside of the obligation to stuff a couple of big bills in the mitigation kettle.

Or is he otherwise too busy daydreaming about his future to listen? Do visions of high-profile cabinet positions, multi-page spreads in Newsweek, long walks with Oprah and a boundless political future dance like so many sugar plums in his head while the Commonwealth gets flushed down the same pro-casino toilet which has swept away states like Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island - while leaving them with higher taxes and dependant on gambling revenue?

Or maybe it all has to do with the ladies. The League of Women Voters has, ever since the early 80’s, maintained that banking on legalized gambling is bad tax policy. (And you know how emotional women can be… ) Perhaps Deval has turned a deaf ear to the League and what they're saying in the letter they hand-deliver to his office every day in much the same way he’s learned to tune out his wife’s daily description of the drapes she’d like to buy for the dining room. Oh wait a minute – Deval is into drapes.

While in DC not long ago, I found myself in conversation about Deval’s recently released casino plan with a nice attorney from slot-torn Philadelphia, who struggled to comprehend how a fellow lawyer, not to mention Harvard graduate, could think that casino gambling could actually benefit any state in the long-term.

“He must be smart, right? I mean, he can’t be stupid, can he?”

I found I couldn’t offer him any more than a blank stare.

Since May I’ve watched a lot of lawyers do the casino rain dance, from Middleboro selectman Adam Bond, to so-called Tribal law experts, to the Tribe's lawyers, to the Governor of Massachusetts, and I’m not sure any of them are actually stupid – but I’m pretty sure they think the rest of us are.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Under the Rainbow


Dear Auntie Em,

It’s been eight long months since the tornado picked up me and the farmhouse and swept us out of Kansas.

I hope you and uncle Henry still aren’t living in the root cellar, and have since found a new place to live. I haven't seen the farmhouse in awhile.

I just wanted to let you know that I got home late that day because I’d met a very important-looking man named Professor Marvel on the way home from school. He claimed to be able to see the future. Then he gazed into a crystal ball and told me that certain things were inevitable. That didn’t seem right to me, so I got out of there as fast as I could.

I ran home, but once I got there, the tornado was in full force, and no one could hear me stamping on the root cellar door.

And that’s when the tornado picked me up and took me away.

After a pretty wild ride, it eventually dropped me in a strange and miraculous place called the Land of Oz. At first I felt all alone - like I stood out like a sore thumb - being from another place and all.

But I wasn’t alone for long. I soon made some friends who didn't think things were inevitable, either. So we decided to stick together.

Like I said, Aunti Em, Oz is a very strange place. There are wicked witches, good witches, flying monkeys and Lollipop Guilds. Perfectly nice looking trees throw apples at us. And then there are the lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

Everywhere in the Land of Oz, Auntie Em, vast fields of poppies spring up out of nowhere. They look so beautiful, and smell so lovely, that many people cannot help but to lie down and fall asleep, where they dream of wondrous things.

But I’ve learned that those poppy dreams can quickly turn into nightmares. And when you wake up, all you have is a big headache.

Sometimes Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, helps us out with the poppies. Sometimes all it takes is some fresh clean air and the truth.

So, in June I thought it would be a good idea to start a journal, because I didn’t think anyone would believe all the strange things I saw and experienced here in Oz if I ever made it home again. And I let everyone read it.

Mid-way through July, my friends and I started traveling down the Yellow Brick Road. This road took us to some faraway places, where I met many wonderful people, and made even more friends.

But, at the end of July, things got really crazy in a place called Munchkin Land. A plane flew overhead, and I was sure it was someone come to rescue me and take me back home. But it was not to be.

So, I dusted myself off, and prepared to be stuck in the Land of Oz for a while.

In August I found out that when the tornado dropped our farmhouse, it landed on top of the Wicked Witch of the West’s equally wicked step-brother. This is not as bad as it sounds. He was really pretty wicked - and not in a good way. All that was left of him was an orange t-shirt and a gray ponytail.

But the Wicked Witch was pretty ticked off at me about it, and, for some strange reason, my little dog, too. I'm not sure why she was so angry at me. I’d just been a passenger in a hijacked farmhouse after all. It wasn’t my tornado. And I was just telling people what I saw going on in Oz.

At the end of August we made it to the Emerald City to ask the Wonderful Wizard of Oz for his help. I thought he must be a truly wonderful wizard to live in a city like that, but he turned out to be nothing but a big disappointment. He wouldn’t even grant us an audience. Then, in September, he started sounding a lot like the Wicked Witch of the West. I suspect poppies are involved.

In October we followed the Yellow Brick Road all the way to the Capitol of Oz. There we met people like us from all over the world.

In November I watched 17 great and powerful people, from kingdoms all across the Land of Oz, stand up to the Wicked Witch of the West, and tell her what she could do with her poppies.

But the Flying Monkeys still come at us at every turn. They spit at the Tin Man, hoping his mouth will rust shut. They throw flames at the Scarecrow, hoping he'll burn out. We’ve even intercepted some of their communiqu├ęs - which hint of dastardly deeds.

I don’t know why they do these things, Auntie Em. I have no special powers. I can’t make poppies grow by waving my hand, or draft public policy or sign million dollar agreements. I don't have easy access to bazillions of dollars. I’m not a good witch or a bad witch, and so I don’t have my own broomstick to carry me to high places where I can get lots of attention. All I am, is farm girl from Kansas. I can’t do great and powerful things. So I just tell the truth - and watch great and powerful things happen.

So maybe that's why.

Well Auntie Em, I’ve got to go. I can’t see the end of the Yellow Brick Road yet, but don’t worry, my red sequined ballet flats were built to last. Glinda likes to tell me that all I have to do is click my heels together three times to get back to Kansas and the life I used to know. But I know better. I’ve learned that sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to do the right thing. But it’s worth it. Because there’s no place like home.

Take care, and say Hi to Uncle Henry for me.

Love,
Dorothy

P.S. Please send money. The flying monkeys stole all our signs.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Mitigate This

I know that, to some, it seems like I pick an awful lot on Adam Bond and the other Middleboro Board of Selectmen.

It’s just that they give me so much material.

Back in the day, folks made liberal use of the expression “going off half-cocked” to describe a person who’s actions preceded their better judgment. Or any judgment. And if someone was in fact, “going off half-cocked”, they were dangerous. They did foolish things.

And so “going off half-cocked” pretty much perfectly describes how I perceived the Board of Selectmen and their flock of feathered followers over the summer.

Land was sold, lawyers and UMass Dartmouth professors were marched out, dissension was squelched, opponents threatened and never, ever was there any thoughtful public discussion about the appropriateness or the regional impacts of a mega resort casino.

Except to say that “mitigation” money would solve everything.

It was one big three-month-long Kool-Aid soaked orgy of promises, threats and potential mitigation.

After the Town Meeting, as the dust settled, I figured they'd settle with it. The hangover would fade, and they’d come to their senses.

But no. They’re still going off half-cocked.

In a recent letter to the Boston Globe, Middleboro selectman Adam Bond, double-dog dared Massachusetts Legislators to pinky swear that they’d take all the money they’d collect from a Middleboro casino and return it back to the town and it’s surrounding communities.

See what I mean about going off-half cocked?

First of all, the only reason Deval Patrick wants to carve up our state like a trio of virgin sacrifices is so he can pay for his campaign promises off the backs of the people living in the bull’s-eye.

So it’s a little late for call-outs, don’t you think?

And if a casino, or several, are ever built, do you really believe the State will serve us up a big juicy slice of mitigation pie?

"Mitigation" is a magic word which implies much while offering nothing. It's a word spelled with promises and erased with pet projects. It's the scraps that the kitten gets after the fat cat gets done eating.

Legislators vote themselves pay raises while servicemen and women in combat zones go without effective body amour.

And what portion of the sky-high cigarette tax goes to help wean the nicotine addicted? Well… let’s see… when’s the last time you saw a state-funded anti-smoking commercial?

Believe me, if any casino ‘mitigation’ money ever actually trickles it’s way down to my town, they’d just use it to buy fur-lined sinks for the high school - and I’d still have a traffic jam in front of my house.

And the fact remains, you can’t mitigate every wound with a wad of greenbacks.

I mean, you can fill an empty well with thousand dollar bills, but you can’t bring the water back once it’s gone.

And if Adam hadn’t gone off half-cocked this summer, he’d have known that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Giving of Thanks

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If you think about it, sometimes, you can be thankful for things you never imagined.

For instance, I’m (sort of) thankful for a man I’ve never met, who sold some beautiful land, in my hometown, to some people who wanted to build an Indian casino.

Because it made me come back.

And because it made me sit through my first selectman’s meeting, ever.

Which made me realize I should have been going to selectman’s meetings ever since I’ve been able to vote.

And that made me realize the importance, depleted by years of cynicism and the electoral college, of my one vote. Of my one voice. And of my, and of everyone’s participation in our government.

And I’m thankful for the people of character I’ve met, through a rare hardship we’ve all shared.

I’m also thankful that the few talents I possess have been of some small value to a cause I truly believe in.

I’m even thankful to have been silenced, so that I learned to speak louder.

And thankful to have been edited, so that I wrote more.

I’m thankful for my opponents, however callous, vicious, or persistent, because they've made me realize I can be strong. And I wish them all the happiest of holidays.

I’m thankful to have been born into this time, and this place, which offers me opportunities my predecessors never had, to be counted.

I’m thankful for those people I so admire – the ones who’ve asked me to participate in this fight, and to step outside a place I found safe, and in doing so, to become more than I thought I could ever be.

I’m thankful I’ve had to venture beyond my boundaries, to have faced my fears, to have stood up, to have raised my voice - because I never might have.

I’m so thankful for discovering new places, finding new friends, and for witnessing the leadership of others.

And I’m thankful for you - sincerely thankful for your humor, your kind words, and of your support.

And I'm thankful, more than anything, for my family and friends, who’ve stood by me and supported me through this incredible year. I always just wanted to be there, 24/7, for them, yet in the past 8 months, they seemed to spend 24/7 watching me run off to meetings, rallies, forums and cancel plans, spend hours at the computer, or be otherwise unavailable. Despite this, when they could, they've willingly joined me in the effort. For that, and for everything else, I am humbled.

My friend Jesse Powell always concludes her e-mails with a quote from Margaret Mead:

'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

When I unknowingly entered this ring, back in May, I thought that sentiment was hopeful, quaint, optimistic.

Now, as I dust myself off from the latest fray, look around at my collegues still there, I understand it’s truth. It’s strength. It’s promise.

We've made a difference.

And so, while I’ll never be thankful for this predicament, I hope you'll understand that I’ll ever be thankful for the challenge.

Love and Thanks!
Gladys

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fear and Loathing on the South Shore

Dear Adam,

I just read the Globe article in which you and representative Calter exchanged disparaging comments.

I wanted to let you know that both Calter and Rep. Canessa did indeed argue passionately for Middleboro at the regional task force meeting that night. The only thing missing were some lighted candles and a man playing a violin.

As for insisting that they not attend further task force meetings as some sort of protest - Adam, must I remind you again, that it’s not all about you? These men represent other towns. And by not attending meetings, they miss the opportunity to listen to the concerns other towns have regarding your beloved proposed casino.

In fact, they also represent the town of Middleboro, which, though it authorized you and the other riders of the apocalypse to sign the casino agreement, also voted overwhelmingly that they didn’t want a casino.

But you keep forgetting that fact, don’t you?

But then, facts aren’t necessarily important to you, are they? Because if they were, you’d know that our region does have serious water issues. Nevertheless, you seem confident that "there's plenty of water". Perhaps you’ve already added the title “Aquifer Engineer” to your resume?

Had you ever bothered, Adam, to hold an informational forum for the people of Middleboro with anybody except lawyers or Glenn Marshall, you’d have heard about the water issues, and many, many more issues your pet project has raised - including the anticipated 50,000 cars a day.

Fortunately, Rep. Calter did listen to the issues raised. I applaud him for doing so. I wish he were my rep.

By the way, Adam, I find it interesting that you suggest Rep. Calter should be speaking to the Tribe. I’d like to turn the tables and suggest that you start listening to someone other than the Tribe.

As a matter of fact, why don’t you come to the next meeting of the Regional Task Force? You’re very popular there ever since you responded to their concern about where the all the garbage generated from a casino would go by saying that you didn’t care where it went - as long as it didn’t stay in Middleboro.

I’ll save you a seat.

Sincerely,
Gladys

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You Can Get Anything You Want, At Gladys’s Restaurant…

In honor of the silent auction at Thursday’s CasinoFacts fundraiser, Gladys is asking you to make a bid to:

TAKE A BITE OF OUT OF BRIDGEWATER!

It’s not much – just a bite - enough to get you in the door - and once you’re there – you might want to spread the word that a Middleboro casino will not only siphon off restaurant customers, but their employees too!

So, while they're still open, come sample our fabulous restaurants! See what wonders exist on the other side of Rte. 44! Find out what it's like to dine with folks with no orange t-shirts in their closets! Get to know your neighbors!

Featured bites:

Castaways - Rte. 18/28
Two bars, live bands, dancing or just a nice place for lunch. My recommendation - save your certificate for summer, and then lean back in an Adirondack chair and stretch your toes in the full sand beach out back!

The Chatta Box – Winter Place Plaza – Rte. 18/28
Have an exceptional out-of-continent experience. Voted the Best of the Bridgewaters several years running. A favorite of Gladys and the whole family! Truly - an eat-in or take-out treasure!

Ron Emma’s – Pleasant Street – right off the Bridgewater exit on Rte. 24
A great place to hoist a beer with your foursome after an afternoon at Olde Scotland Links, or to sit out your nightly commute with a pizza or perhaps the legendary lobster roll. And while you’re there – tell Crazy Ron that he’d be CRAZY to support a casino!

99 Restaurant and Pub – Roche Bros. Plaza – Rte. 18
Take the family! Meet old friends! Make new friends! The 99 is fun and friendly and always a comfort food heaven.

Roche Bros. Supermarket – Rte. 18
This supermarket was one of the reasons I moved to Bridgewater. Never cook again once you see the new prepared food section. Behold the incredible produce, fine and affordable wines, walk-in cold case, delectable seafood deli and vast ice-cream wing. And much much more! And if that still isn’t enough, experience the rare priviledge of having a nice person cart your groceries out to your car for you.

TAKE A BITE OUT OF BRIDGEWATER is the perfect gift or stocking stuffer for the Bridgewater afficianado in your life!

And please! If you’re going to be at the fundraiser – make sure to introduce yourself! I want to meet you! Give me your ideas for future blogs! Let’s share flying monkey stories!

Come on people! (as Adam would say...) Bid 'till it hurts! Bid 'till it bleeds! We need the money!

Take a chance! Make it happen!

See you there,
Gladys

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Apathetic and the Dead

Imagine picking up the Boston Globe one morning to find, on it’s front page, a large map encompassing several towns, one of which was yours. And, under a swath of red, you recognized the place you called home. And not just your home, but your neighbor’s. And your whole neighborhood.

A key at the bottom of the map indicated that the same Tribe which owned the world’s largest casino, one town over, was interested in taking this additional land into trust for gaming purposes.

It would turn out that this red corridor on the newspaper you were holding included somewhere in the vicinity of 700 residential homes and farms across three towns.

According to the story accompanying the map, there would be millions of casino dollars paid to towns to “mitigate” the “impacts”, and a fair market value would be offered to land owners for their property. Not that anyone living there had much of a choice in the matter, anyway.

Within minutes, you and your neighbors would begin dialing the number to town hall. There would be public outcry. A grassroots effort would be organized. Lawn signs denouncing this action would pop up all around town. Eventually, a referendum, taken in those three towns would pass overwhelmingly to oppose the annexation. An expensive and lengthy legal battle would ensue.

Meanwhile, the Tribe was befuddled as to why these citizens were so riled up. Because, for twenty years, the towns around their reservation hadn’t made a peep. Some people had even encouraged casino expansion. And, when a few individuals had spoken up, their towns did not support them.

Some sort of fractured fairy tale?

No. Welcome to Ledyard, Preston and North Stonington Connecticut circa 1993.

And if you think opening up casinos in Massachusetts, whether commercial, Indian, or both, won’t effect your life, think again.

Southeastern Massachusetts, even the parts considered “rural”, are more densely populated than the area around Foxwoods. Therefore, it is very likely that the negative effects experienced in that location would be amplified in ours.

If you drive a car, have a child in school, own a home or business, if you patronize a local business, if your community depends on a reliable water source, if your emergency services are already stressed, and if you care about, or deal with people in your daily life, you will be effected in ways you probably haven’t even thought of yet.

And if you think Massachusetts will stop at licensing three commercial casinos, I’ve got a prime piece of swamp land you might be interested in.

Think about it... our state didn’t exactly stop at one lottery ticket, did it? No, it found it could make more and more money for the state by issuing more tickets. Now it has come to depend on this lottery revenue. You can’t stand in line at the convenience store without being weighed down with a gallon of milk while the guy in front of you spends twenty minutes picking and choosing scratch tickets with more thought and effort than he probably gives to his diet. And you can’t even escape the lottery in the form of ubiquitous Keno games at the mall or your favorite restaurant.

And it still hasn’t stopped – because now, our state treasurer, who runs one of the country’s most successful lotteries, wants to open casinos in suburbia.

So, do you really think you won’t wake up one morning to find your neighborhood painted red, on somebody else’s map?

Don't wait. Act now to stop casinos.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Seat at the Table

I’m trying to imagine the conversation:

“You do it.”
"No, you do it."
“I don’t wanna do it – you do it.”
“I don’t wanna do it..."
"Hey! Let’s get Tankman!”
"Yeah! He'll do it. He'll do anything!"

However it actually went down, the result was that Pat ‘Tankman’ Rogers, the least offensive member of the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, came to be standing in front of the 18 town Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts, hat in hand, pleading his town’s case for a seat at their table.

And with Task Force delegate Sandra MacFarlane of Kingston professionally gagged, hog-tied, and stuffed in a locked closet somewhere in the Lakeville Library, and her fellow selectman perplexingly evangelizing Middleboro’s glory from his uninvited pulpit at the front of the room, (cheered on at the sidelines by reps Canessa and Calter) it looked momentarily as if good old Tankman might very well be warming a chair at the table by the end of the evening.

Fortunately, smarter heads prevailed.

I’ve heard a lot of reasons why Middleboro does or doesn’t deserve to be a part of the Regional Task Force - which is expected to vote this week on whether to allow Middleboro a seat at the table.

As the only individual from another town to regularly attend meetings of Middleboro’s own Casino Impact Study Group over the course of the summer, I feel I have a unique perspective and valuable insight to offer on this issue.

At that first meeting in Middleboro, I identified myself, the fact that I lived in Bridgewater, and that my purpose for attending their meeting was to better understand what the impacts of a Middleboro casino would be on my own town.

After sitting politely in the audience through 2 - or sometimes 3 hour meetings, I would raise my hand, wait for recognition from the committee chairman, and ask my questions. The committee would politely listen - and then essentially assure me that I had nothing to worry about - that everything would be fine.

But actually, I found lots to worry about just by watching Middleboro ‘study’ the casino on it’s own.

Like, for instance, how they based their formal opinion as to how a casino would effect local crime rates on only one published study – a study which used only small and large cities and riverboat gambling communities as comparison towns.

And as far as addressing the fact that a casino could increase Middleboro’s intake of water by 1.5 million gallons a day, the proposed solution was to lay more pipes to pump in more water – without addressing the fact that other towns depend on the same limited original source aquifer for drinking, industry and agriculture.

And with a 95% employment level and local businesses already hard pressed to hire qualified help, where would the additional 10-12,000 person casino labor force come from? And live? And it’s children go to school? Well, according to Middleboro, a casino could easily tap that last unemployed 5% already living here. Which tells me that they don’t quite understand that at 95%, pretty much everybody who wants a job, has one.

Meanwhile, the school committee was busy suggesting creative ways it could “collaborate” with the casino such as by the “Establishment of a ‘good neighbors’ program which would allow for reasonable access to tribal/casino staff and facilities for the benefit of district students and staff including but not limited to operations tours, guest speakers, discounts and a sharing of expertise and equipment”, and offering their hope that the casino would participate as a site for student career/intern program.

Yikes. This is k-12, right?

And what of the residents whose property values decreased, or the businesses which were going to lose customers to the casino? Well, rest assured - at least Middleboro will be safe. That's because none other than the Honorable Glenn Marshall promised he’d personally deliver a check to local homeowners and restaurants to ease their suffering.

As for the social impacts of local casino, Middleboro scratched it's head and agreed that they just couldn’t figure out how address that – and so decided to rest the entire issue on the Commonwealth’s shoulders. And therefore, something as intuitively essential as a discussion about the effect increased gambling addiction might have on the town and region – simply never took place at all.

And though Middleboro had access to such resources as the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District and the Old Colony Planning Council, the Middleboro casino juggernaut rolled forth without guidance, crushing, gaveling and bullying anyone who disagreed with it. In fact, one of the casino agreement’s biggest cheerleaders was a certain sitting Middleboro selectman who currently boasts on his web site to have handled “the political marketing of the casino concept”.

But, in my opinion, the moment Middleboro officially jumped the shark occurred after I related my own personal apprehension about an increase in traffic. You see, I live on a direct route between Bridgewater and the proposed casino site, and which currently supports traffic to the college, prison, KOA, Rte. 44 and the commuter rail. The prospect of a percentage of 40-60,000 daily casino visitors looking for a back road in, and driving at all hours down the same street where my kids wait for the bus had me quite concerned. But a member of Middleboro’s Casino Impact Study Group assured me that my road wasn't busy. The reason he knows? Well, he drives on that same road twice a day - to and from work. I was incredulous. I live on that street - and, since I work from home, I’m pretty much aware of the traffic situation around the clock. I said as much to the study group, but no, there was no problem. Everything would be fine.

The defining moment however, for me, as an outsider looking in, was that evening when a member of that same Casino Impact Study Group brought up, for the first and last time, the fact that the town of Bridgewater might have some valid concerns - to which another member stated, with a roll of her eyes and a wave of her hand, that she didn’t "give a damn about Bridgewater.”

Apparently my repeated questions and continued presence as a member of one of the surrounding communities had made little impression on the group. And it was obvious then, as it is now, that with their shallow research, pat answers and disregard for the surrounding communities, Middleboro has nothing to offer the Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts.

I’ve heard it suggested that the Task Force allow Middleboro to sit at it’s table due to the intrinsic wisdom of keeping one’s friends close and one’s enemies closer. But I assure you that Middleboro wants that seat for exactly the same reason. And what better place to sit and pass around that pitcher of Kool-Aid, and to whisper in our ears that there is nothing to worry about - and that everything will be just fine.

Bridgewater, a town of 27,000 people, all of whom reside within five miles of the proposed casino, has been unrepresented at the last two meetings of the Task Force. I know this because I've attended both of those meetings.

So, when I’m asked whether I think Middleboro deserves to be at that table, I look at Bridgewater’s empty chair and wonder why Middleboro should, once again, have a voice when I do not.

I am, however, filled with thanks, not to mention hope, as I look upon those many chairs filled by delegates from other towns. And while I realize that their towns and mine may have different concerns, at least I know they share my perspective.

No. I suggest that at subsequent meetings of the Regional Task Force, Middleboro’s place be the same as mine at their meetings - to sit politely in the audience until the question and answer session, raise their hand to be recognized, and then and only then, be allowed to speak.

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