Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America




















Ther are few areas of nature left in Dorchester, the largest section of Boston, Massachusetts.  Among the noise of cars whizzing by on the highway and sirens screaming through the crime-ridden streets lies a peaceful clearing.  The clearing is located in the back corner of the Garvey Park.  It is bordered by basketball and hockey courts on one side, an alley opposite to these, and I-95 on the third, however is surrounded entirely by trees and bushes.  After watching the area for a couple of weeks, I observed and analyzed its interactions and changes.
         In the center of the clearing is a picinic table.  There are beer cans, liquor bottles, blunt fillings, car parts, and various other forms of human refuse strewn about the ground.  It is made clear by the content of the garbage that people come to this place to escape from society.  The same trees that prevent any substantial greenery from sprouting provide cover for the local parriahs to feed their dependencies.
         Bums and smokers, however, are not the only specimens that appreciate the spot.  On a few occassions I noticed a family of racoons creeping about the premesis.  Like the people who accompany them, they too seek refuge in this place of nature.  They too, are trashpickers.  They too fear being seen by humans, shunned for their activities just as the homeless are.  It raises the question, what is it that attracts these stragglers?  What draws them?  Is the air somewhat cleaner, the setting more peaceful, or is it the sole factor of seclusion?
        Thoreau said,"The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as the rich man's abode." I have found the almshouse of nature. Neglected, unappreciated, disregarded by most, the small piece of nature remains. Leaves pile up, decompose. They grow back, and fall once again. The cycle continues, and this is one place of nature that will never go unappreciated again.  








    My friend Will has a serious disease.  Her name is Stephanie.  This is no ordinary sickness.  Their "relationship", if thats what you want to call it, has been festering like a sore.  They are constantly fighting like a married couple, even when they are for the moment broken up.  What's in fact broken up is the girl's self esteem.  Stephanie always finds her way back like a ho-ming device.  Her problem is that she can't stand on her own two feet.  She always needs a man to lean on and usually ends up crushing him.
         Stephanie was particularly hostile toward a girl named Tina.  Tina and Will had had some good times together, but always remained friends.  However, under Stephanie's reign, Will wasn't allowed to have any girl friends, and that was the "bottom line", as she put it.  So  Stephanie beat the crap out of Tina.
         She is not a big girl, mind you, but when it comes to assuring that no one else take interest in Will, the beast is unleashed.  Tina was ruined in the fight.  Steph had the eye of the tiger and then some.  It tok three guys to finally stop the brutality and save what was left of Tina.
         I later asked Stephanie what she was trying to prove.  She replied that she was seeing to it that
         "No chicken head tini bopper best be steppin to my boo, or I'll have to regulate!"
         "But I thought he broke up with you?" I replied
         "That's what he thinks! I'm a hafta beat some sense into that fool, ya heard!"
         "He doesn't want to be with you!"  I couldn't believe I was saying this.  I had gone to far.  The next memory I have is waking up in the hospital.  It turned out thatshe had pulled out a nickel role and completly knocked me senseless, along with breaking my nose.  I still have nightmares about the terrible ordeal, and I am currently seeking help.
         The dent that this bully left in my pride and my face are nothing compared to the constant twich that she left in my nerves.  It took me three hours just to type this essay because of it.  One thing that I learned is that Stephanie has some twisted emotional problems.  Lucky for her, she just found a new boyfriend.  His name is Rob.  He's an 18 year old junkie with no job and an illegitimate child.  Best of wishes to the happy new couple, but I for one am staying far, far away.












     In Emily Dickinson's "The Brain- is wider than the Sky," she uses incredible imagery to make a bold statement about the endless possibilities of human thought.  It is a much needed contrast from her array of gloomy poems which deal with death, in many cases her own.  This piece is consistent, however, with Dickinson's unfailing ability to build on a concept at different levels of examination.

         The aformentioned boldness lay in her use of metaphors.  The brain, in reality, is clearly not wider than the sky.  Here she uses contradictory statements to enforce the theme of the verse.  Her willingness to stretch the potential of the brain reinforces the concept that there are simply no limits.

          The one exception to her theory of this potential is God.  God, although more a force than an exception, is on a higher level of understanding.  Contemplation is an endless journey that is baffled by the mysteries of time and creation.  God is the one being that stands before the mind, and they differ as "sight from sound".  Just as the syllable is a product of sound, so too the mind is a product of God.  It is almost a separation of church and state, where Dickinson has drawn the line.  For the mind is open to contemplation, but there will always be questions to which only God has an answer.

         Dickinson puts nature, as well as God, against the brain.  Although in this case, the mind is the consuming force.  It is wider than sky and deeper than sea.  In this portrayal, she represents the mind as a force to be reckoned with, dominating all aspects of earthly existence.

         Dickinson compresses so many ideas into such brief verse.  The message is positive, and ground in by her powerful metaphors, comparisons, and imagery.  These factors do great justice to her convictions and beliefs.  But the foundation of this work is that the poem in and of itself is a living testament that the brain is truly wider than the sky.
























   The origin of the game of billiards has been disputed over the years, as its generally accepted rules seem to have been adapted from many different countries.  However, there is enough evidence to show that it clearly descended from Europe.  The influence, however, of the sportís development in America has given it a different image, some might argue for the better, others for the worse.  Put a few drinks down, and some dollars while your at it, and youíve got a competition as intense as any found on a field, a court, or a diamond.
     It was the hustling mentality found in pool halls and bars from coast to coast that gave the sport its somewhat trashy image.  In the 1960ís, for instance, the pool hall was the place you didnít want your folks to catch you.  They were associated with drug dealers and swindlers.  During the 60ís the only women youíd see hanging around the pool halls were hookers.  Nowadays you see families playing together.  This can be attributed to the fact that you have an entire generation of hustlers, the guys that really began to push the limits of trick shooting, and whatís possible, that has grown up.  These men have settled down, and those that were good enough have been able to make a career out of it.
     ďI never thought, sitting in a dingy, smoke filled, dive of a pool hall in 1967, playing for my next beer, that one day it would be paying my mortgage.  Today we face the possibility of seeing pool turn into an Olympic sport.Ē(Smith, Bill)
     The sport has indeed been through some rebellious times, but it has matured into a televised event, with numerous national and international leagues, not to mention the  endless corporate sponsors.  Not all billiard patrons, however, are necessarily happy with the direction it is headed.  As pool reaches a greater range of players each year, more and more places are cracking down on the gambling that goes down.  A former regular at Boston Billiards relates,
     ďA week or so back an old lady ratted me out for betting when I won all her sonís cash.  10 years ago sheíd a been chased off with a stick.  Now Iím banned from the hall I been hustliní at for 15 years.Ē (Hutchinson, Will)
     There is something to be said for this manís anger at the sport attracting new crowds.  After all, in any professional competition, there is money on the line.  Team owners invest millions, and the more they win, the greater the return.  Many would argue that the only difference between professional game and a 20 dollar game of eight ball is that the 20 dollars isnít taxed.
     The issue of money is not a new one to a sport on the rise.  It can be a blessing, and at the same time an obstacle. Weíve seen it cause strikes in other professional level leagues.  At the same time, more money going into the sport means a higher level of study and skill for the next generation of players.  Regardless of where poolís expanding nature may take it, it is certain that this is an American characteristic.  Therefore, whether the sportís future means more money, more problems, or a rebirth of the hustler that changed it forever, one thing is for sure.  The American pool hall is here to stay, a trademark of our culture, a piece of American pass time, and breeding grounds for hustlers.