Home / View from Pope's Hill /

Presidential thoughts

"Proper Association: associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company."

By George Washington

Because George Washington's birthday is actually this Sunday, I thought this would be an excellent way to start off this week's column.

In the Irish Pastoral Centre's latest newsletter, we saw that there was a trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino scheduled for last week. I called Mike Shields and told him that we would like to go. We had not been to Mohegan in about two years and thought that it would be fun to go. With daughter Sue and pal Eileen with us, we were at a parking lot on Hancock St. in Quincy before 7:45 a.m. There were, already there, quite a few cars with people in them waiting for the bus. Within a few minutes, the bus pulled into the parking lot and we boarded. This is the first time I had traveled in a bus that could hold 55 people. I kidded a couple of people as I walked up the aisle, "Do I have to show my passport? What a big bus!"

Hubby took out the Herald and began to read. He told me a couple of stories and then his voice faded away. I was out like a light. (I had been up since 5 a.m.) The next thing I knew there was a hand on my leg. Sue had reached back from her seat in front of us and said, "Mom, you're snoring." I apologized and fell back to sleep again. About two minutes later, I woke myself up with a heavy breath. (Notice I am saying this politely and did not use the word "snore.") I startled myself awake and said to Sue, "I woke myself up with that one, Sue." The man sitting across the aisle from us started to laugh so I hung my head in shame for the rest of the ride. I did manage to stay awake until we arrived at Ledyard, CT.

When we arrived at Mohegan, an employee came on the bus and gave us some coupons, $15 for food and three coupons for gambling. I knew that Hubby would go to "the wheel" and use his coupons. I don't know how to bet on the wheel so I gave him my three coupons. Within five minutes, he was back with me, with his eyes cast down. He had lost all six tries at "the wheel."

Sue had never gambled at Mohegan so off she went to get a Player's Card. (She had, however, been to several concerts there.) Hubby asked one of the clerks where to get a cup of coffee so Eileen and Sue went into the smoke-free area while Hubby and I went toward the coffee area underneath an arched area. (No, it was not McDonald's.) We had coffee and split a sugar-free blueberry muffin that was delicious. What a relaxing way to start the day!

We went back to the non-smoking area. The smoke really got to me this day. We found two slot machines, the video poker ones, side by side, and plunked ourselves down. I like "Deuces Wild" so I chose that game. Hubby played a regular poker game on his machine. He blew $10 in about 10 minutes. I put in $5 and, with the "Deuces Wild" game, I was able to get it all the way to $7, which, for me, is an achievement. That took me about 25 minutes. I cashed out, figuring, with my bad luck, I would lose my original $5 bet, plus the $2 that I had won.

With the $7 ticket burning a hole in my pocket, we decided that we would go toward the retail stores' area. I first found the Swarovski Store, which is my favorite. We never go inside the shop; we just look at the items in the windows. I saw a tiny silver heart pin, with gorgeous Swarovski Crystals. It was perfect for Valentine's Day. There was an $80 price tag. All I needed to win on the slot machines was $73 more to go with my $7 that I had in my pocket and I would be back to buy it.

Hubby decided that he would go and explore all the retail and restaurant areas. I found a bench and sat down, chatting with the man next to me. I noticed that my second most favorite store was gone. I used to love watching the fish swim over my head in the arched Aquarium store. I could not even find a sign of the arch. That was a disappointment. The fish were so pretty to watch.

Hubby and I kept our eyes on our watches. Our bus driver Gil had advised us to go to the Season Buffet at 11:30 a.m. We told Sue and Eileen that we would meet them there at that time. When we arrived, we gave Sue our free $15 coupons and she checked us into the buffet. Hubby and I had never eaten at the buffet. Neither had Sue. It was a revelation. There was such a variety of food offered. The four of us headed for the salad area. (Sue and I like that area best.) There were peppers, onions, even green beans and hard-cooked egg halves, in addition to the usual salad items. We had a ball there. Then we went for the entrees. Hubby came back with a big smile on his face. There was a carving station with roast beef, plus Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. He didn't care about gambling any more. He was satisfied. He even found some fried chicken and took a piece of that. I saw Sue steal the skin from Eileen's chicken. She didn't get a chance to grab Hubby's chicken skin because he had eaten his chicken too quickly.

Because we had eaten a large salad, we didn't go overboard with the main offerings. Sue had a "sticky bun" but I didn't succumb to the temptation. I had left a little room for the real desserts. There was a whole area of sugar-free desserts. There was a layer cake with a strawberry filling. That jumped into my hand. So did some big strawberries, my favorite, that were in the fruit section. I positively would have a smile on my face for the rest of the afternoon. I must mention that I saw a lemon tart on pal Eileen's plate. I almost succumbed to that temptation but didn't, thank goodness.

Back we went to the smoke-free area. Sue went to her favorite machine; Eileen, to hers. Hubby and I found two video poker machines together once again and began to play. Hubby lost $5 more. It took me a relatively short time to blow the $7 on my casino ticket. The Swarovski pin would never be mine. Oh well! I wasn't going out to any place fancy on Valentine's Day anyways.

At 3:30 p.m., we met Sue and Eileen and sauntered toward the bus areas. There must have been a few more buses that were leaving at 4 p.m. because the waiting area was quite full. Our driver Gil pulled up about 3:50 p.m. All our fellow travelers were right on time so we were able to leave a few minutes before 4 p.m. The ride home was wonderful until we hit the junction of Routes 24 and 128. Gil managed to maneuver our big bus through the heavy traffic and we were on the Expressway in about 10 minutes. Just before we pulled into our parking lot, Mike, the organizer of the trip, said he would plan another trip to Connecticut for late May. We dropped Eileen at her home and arrived at our home about 6:15 p.m., a great time. It was a very pleasant day.

I was sorry to read in St. Gregory's Bulletin that Fr. Daily is forced to stop the 5:30 p.m. Mass on Saturdays at the church. We have taken advantage of attending that Mass when we are unable to make the 4 p.m. Mass at our church. I understand that Fr. Daily was forced to do this because of the lack of priests. It is a sign of the times.

Thanks to my co-worker Barbara, I learned about the new designs for the lowly penny, as some retail establishments deem it. The Lincoln Penny, in honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday, will have four new reverse or "tails" sides during 2009 while the traditional Lincoln profile will remain on the front or "heads" side of the penny. The reverse side of the first new penny features a log cabin, to bring focus to Lincoln's early childhood in Kentucky. The second new penny will bring attention to Lincoln's formative years in Indiana and shows Lincoln, as a railroad log-splitter, sitting on a log while reading a book on a work break.

The third new penny will show Lincoln standing in front of the old Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, honoring his professional life in Illinois. He was nominated for the U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket, a race he ultimately lost. The final change in the Lincoln penny to honor the 200th anniversary of his birth shows the U.S. Capitol, with its dome as yet unfinished, just as it looked on the day that Lincoln took the oath of office. The first of these new pennies was issued last week on Feb. 12, Lincoln's actual birthday. Watch for them in your change.

St. Mark's is collecting new, gently used, and clean blankets on the weekends of February. The blankets will be distributed to the Shattuck Shelter, Fr. Bill's Shelter, and the Gospel Church on Columbia Road.

Here is a quote from another great president, Thomas Jefferson, from 1787:

"Read good books because they will encourage as well as direct your feelings."