Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America
Contents

Origins

Nature

Humor

Literature

Sport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A True Saint Patrick's Day

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade happens annually on the Sunday that falls closest to the March seventeenth. This is a great day to wear green, to listen to Irish music, and to drink beer. I was ready to leave with my shamrock hat and my famous "Kiss me, I’m Irish" shirt, not to mention a nice bottle of straight Irish Whiskey tucked down my pants, but my Uncle Mike stopped me on the way out of my house.

He was dressed in an elegant black suit, along with a black and gold striped tie, and although I don’t see my uncle that often, this attire was not his norm. I started laughing uncontrollably and wondering why he looked so formal, and realizing that we had been to church already, this situation was both perplexing and amusing. He asked me to start up his car and change my shirt and I did as I was told, still unaware of Mike’s intentions and what he was trying to prove.

Uncle Mike began, "St. Patrick’s Day is not supposed to be a holiday where the people of Irish descent can find out how drunk they can get, rather it has a more spiritual meaning. St. Patrick’s Day marks the occasion when all of the snakes, which represented evil, were driven out of Ireland. Although it may be a date for celebration, it is also a day to remember family and the heritage that goes along with it. Each and every St. Patrick’s Day, as early as I can remember your father and I along with our parents, would all dress up and take a drive to your great-grandparents’ grave stone. There my Dad would share stories about his parents, which would range from the struggles they met in Ireland, to the parties they would throw at their farm. Whether they be serious and historical, or holding a humorous ring to them, culture and family would always be present on St. Patrick’s Day.

When I was your age, I used to dread giving up half of the day to sit around and talk with my parents. Partying was my main priority on St. Patrick’s Day, and I thought recognizing I was Irish and going to Church were enough to fulfill this holiday’s obligations. Now that I am older, and looking back on the time spent at your great-grandparents gravestone, I can honestly admit that after sharing various stories, I feel that I have a strong grasp of what kind of people they were. Murphy traditions and customs took priority for them, and this habit seemed to have rubbed off on me. My intentions were not to drag you out here and keep you from the parade, but rather to pass on the memories and stories that have been a part of our St. Patrick’s Day rituals for years.

There is more to this holiday than the commercialized shamrock, and hopefully you will figure that out on your own. Just remember when you throw on your "Kiss me, I’m Irish" shirt, you are a part of a rich history, whether you recognize this or not."

At first, I was furious that Uncle Mike would have the gall to keep me from the parade and drag me out to a cemetery to tell stories, but as he went on with his story, I was fascinated at how much knowledge and culture could be shared through family. These stories were not books and materials loaded with facts and statistics, but were stories that were passed on and shared with family every St. Patrick’s Day.

Surprisingly, I asked Mike if we could stay a while longer, and maybe he could share some of the stories he felt amusing about his grandparents. Whether these stories would amuse or leave an impression on me was unknown, but I recognized that I now had the obligation to pass this unique tradition down to my younger brothers and hopefully one day to my children as well.

St. Patrick’s Day is a time of remembering family, culture, and why you celebrate your Irish heritage. The true Irish people are not the ones who can devour four entire pints of Guinness, but are the ones take with them pride in their history and their Irish background. Church and family are also important on St. Patrick’s Day, as well as any other day, so before you head to the Pub with a Notre Dame sweatshirt and three-hundred dollars of "beer money," realize that you are celebrating your family’s tradition and culture, and that there is more to St. Patrick’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we sit down at the kitchen table or swing a Louisville Slugger baseball bat, we are using products of nature.  As all probably know, trees provide wood that make every day items, and most of the time we don’t recognize it.  The tree that I was able to observe doesn’t provide the world with kitchen tables or bats, and simply serves the purpose of being a tree.  It’s not large or strong structured, and its leaves during bloom a mere red, but there was more to this tree as I later learned.  It’s not just a Quanza Cherry Tree, as Thoreau states, "Whenever a mind is simple, and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away…"  To look at the tree as a mere item of nature isn’t necessarily wrong but  in order to understand and interpret it, along with other parts of nature, one must look for the deeper meaning as well.  If you take the simplicity of a tree and combine it with your analytical findings, you are then experiencing nature.
         Seeing this tree for what it looks like, isn’t seeing it for what it is.  Just like judging people, you fail to recognize the true meaning of it unless you use imagination along with reasoning and interpreting.  If I were to have observed this as a general thing of nature, no major changes and developments would’ve been noted because I would be searching for outward appearance and not seeing what any change meant, just what it was.  It simply lost a few leaves and there was a potato chip wrapper one day, and it was gone the next.  This is factual evidence, but the part of the tree that makes it special is that there weren’t major changes.  It was consistent and reliable, the tree held true to his character and didn’t portray itself as something that it wasn’t.  We could all learn a lesson or two from this piece of nature.
     When people view nature, they take it for its external appearance and look for major changes in it as any good observer would.  However, looking at this tree taught me that maybe seeing nature for its changes is covering up something more, something having a direct comparison with human relations and behaviors.  Like people, trees contain characteristics and traits that make them unique from all of the others in their class.  By this tree not showing any drastic changes to the naked eye, it is revealing that it’s true "personality" is based on consistent and reliable concepts.  Humans can be compared to trees because the outside appearance has no reflection on inner emotions.  We can’t tell by looking at a person who’s smiling that something may be terribly wrong with their life, just like we can’t tell that a tree maybe dying of old age because the outward perception is irrelevant to the internal truth.

When discovering that what I was looking at wasn’t just a Cherry Tree, but a Quanza Cherry Tree, I realized that we can’t generalize this natural place.  I could’ve given it a name like Bob or Bill, but that wouldn’t have any meaning.  Perhaps I could refer to the tree as "my Tree," capitalizing the "tree" to show that its not just any tree, and adding the word "my" in front of it to claim ownership.  My mother’s father, meaning my grandfather, planted this tree in my yard so maybe it could be called "his tree."  The tree would blossom, then the leaves would fall, would blossom, and then come more cold weather, the leaves would fall.  My mother shows affection to the tree because it is a living example of my father, but only she knew and felt it, no one else.
     My father and brothers park their cars in front of the tree and play football around it, but never see past the bark and branches.  After talking with my mom, I now know that this  is also her Tree, and my grandfather’s Tree, something that has meaning to my family, but to any one else would lack any significance.  This tree doesn’t produce fruit, doesn’t cast a huge shadow in the summer, and doesn’t serve a major understood purpose, but it can now be called "Our Tree," and that’s significant enough for me.  I wasn’t looking to name this tree, and wasn’t losing sleep over the fact that it lacked one, but I did find "Our Tree" suiting because I was now a part of nature.      
      The term "Natural Behavior" signifies that a human being is representing good moral decision making and is acting in an appropriate manner.  Our Tree symbolizes this natural behavior because it does not get angry for having a bad day at work, and does not complain when the temperature drops below freezing, it simply acts in a way that is stationary. It is expected to bloom, its leaves are being anticipated to fall off in September, and it should not demonstrate any negative actions because that would be out of character.  Our Tree doesn’t make good moral decisions but is a natural part of life, but upon looking at nature from a different angle, I learned that humans need to strive towards the consistency that trees represent, mainly because they show a genuine flow of life that is not good nor bad, but is unique and constant.  Our behavior and actions should be consistent, trees may help some of us to demonstrate this, only if we look inwards to the tree’s meaning, not just its appearance.
         How many trees help create things like the Green Monster, a Boston favorite for sports lovers?   I’m sure society could have a basic rough estimate on this topic, but nature seems to lack recognizable importance in our daily lives.  Our tree isn’t a part of the Monster in Fenway Park, but it is a part of nature.  It’s not only important to my mother, it is also is important in playing a specific assigned role in God’s natural world.  Seeing a tree in nature for what it means, rather then for what it is enlightens us all to see that God does things for her a purpose.  It could have easily been destroyed in a hurricane or infested with termites, but God chose it to bloom in peace in my backyard.  This tree symbolizes an independent life form that is art to the eyes, but also a part of our natural world, whether we realize this or not.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Welcome to McDonalds, may I take your order?" Is this phrase such a challenge, such a tongue twister?  John Dormier, an overweight single man in his late thirties, was a strong supporter of the fast food world, but lately lack of communication, common sense, and pronunciation from drive though employees had began to sway his opinion.
     
    For instance, driving through Dunkin Donuts was usually first on John's agenda.  A large cup of coffee and three jelly donuts would hold him over until his lunch.  He rolls down his window and the voice from the drive through speaker almost always says , "Hi, Bwa-Bwamp-Bwa-Bwamp." Of course the voice trails off and mumbles some sort of "gibberish." "What are you talking about," is the response John has used one too many times. "Will that be all Sir?"  "Will that be all? I haven't ordered anything and I have no idea what you just said," is the response when John get extremely irritated with the service.   The drive through speaker then replies something like, "Will that be large or small."  Now irritated, John exclaims " Will what be large or small?! I haven't ordered. All I want is a large regular coffee and three jelly donuts if you don't mind.!" "Oh the time is 9:00am sir. Now how many muffins was that?," says the drive through worker, for John can never quite his order in for breakfast.  Ironically, John's lunch trips are just as draining.
     
    "Welcome to Burger King, what can I get you?" Finally, a person who can communicate and actually has common sense was John's first opinion.  He usually orders  a number eight with coke to drink. The fast food employees never prove John wrong and their response is usally  "All right two number eight's and what did you want to drink?"  When he gets to this point in the day he is now hungry and irritated, but eager to eat John always says, "A coke, and not two number eight's, just one will do fine."  Despite the clarity of John's ordering a phrase such as "Okay, one more number eight, and all three with cokes correct?" is all too common.  One day John lost his cool and exclaimed,  "Listen guy I missed breakfast, I come here everyday and it's the same holdup, and I just want a simple meal to eat for lunch.  Is that so hard to understand?" A moment later the voice from the drive through speaker responded, "If you wanted breakfast you should've said so in the first place. We have a menu with a variety of choices, for example…" After this particular incident, John concludes that lunch was definitely not worth this hassle.
     
    For a fat single man, the McDonald's golden arch illuminating the road on a long day at work was a thing of beauty.  Always determined to get his order understood and taken precisely, for he was much too lazy to actually get out of his car and order,  John pulls up and begins to order into the speaker. "Hi, all I'm going to have is four cheeseburgers, a large fries, and a large Sprite to drink." John waits for a moment, but sure enough a crackled voice from the drive through window then usually mumbles, "Bwa-Bwamp-Bwa-Bwamp.  Every single day he encounters the muffled voices and the employees who can never get a simple order right.  He always asks, "Could you please repeat what you said?," for he will now do anything for a bite to eat.  Sure enough, "Bwa-Bwamp-Bwa-Bwamp," mumbles the employee.  

    "AGGGGGGGHHHHH!" this time John had reached his limits.  This fast food business has driven him crazy and he was now going to finally do something about it.  He drove towards the food serving window to let the person hear a piece of his mind, he had been patient.  John screamed "You stupid incapable person! You get paid to muffle out whatever you feel like don't you?" After a few more choice words, the employee leaned out of his window,  cleared his throat, and said "Bwa-Bwamp-Bwa-Bwamp!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow demonstrates a unique writing style, for the simple language and vocabulary used in his poetry does not reflect its actual intent.  The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls , is deeper than it appears, and if read critically, reveals an author venting his opinion of the occurrence of death through basic words.  His wife had tragically died, which left a burden of anger and confusion over why it had happened, and instead of taking a reaction based on anger, Longfellow chooses to lighten the tragedy.  He successfully uses writing as an escape from his problems and allows optimism to overshadow the detriments of death.  The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls  may uncover virtuous feelings towards the acceptance of death, or trigger the negative emotions that are associated with this occurrence.  The central theme of death is clearly distinguishable, but acceptance as well as the use of nature is more significant to this poem.  


      The acceptance of death is not present in the literal text of the poem, it is rather a conclusion to be drawn based on how the traveler’s role is examined.  The traveler undergoes the life to death transition smoothly, and it’s easily concluded that he has died with lines 13-14, “The day returns, but nevermore / Returns the traveler to the shore.”  However, death as a natural occurrence, for the tide always continues to rise and fall despite the fatality, is present and obvious, but not necessarily accurate.  The death of the traveler is found in society’s failure to accept and/or nurture him, for there was no human or natural acknowledgment of his presence.  The basic interpretation that the traveler simply died reveals a simplicity towards death, where the idea that the traveler was shunned away and not accepted by the “town” explores the universal understanding that we as people often judge by not knowing, and by not knowing, close ourselves off to humanity and even nature.  Either way, the death experienced is natural and accepted by nature, and especially by the poet.


     Longfellow uses death as a basic and natural occurrence, and its acceptance is designed to become known after the understanding of nature is revealed.  Nature’s repetitive simplicity, just like death, is always present but not always understood.  The fact that the quote “The tide rises, the tide falls,” is simple to handle but at the same time repetitive, can be seen as a direct comparison to life itself, for it seems basic but is much more complex then its outward appearance portrays.  “The twilight darkens” is the simple phrase used to depict a natural occurrence known as “dusk” as nature’s reaction towards death, and adds to the concept that nature is repetitive.  Nature does survive and go on, and although humanity loses a life, the understanding that things happen for a reason and that the traveler’s time had expired is how Longfellow sees death.  Although he lost his wife,  dealing with death in a positive manner enlightens the reader with a unique outlook on the concept of acceptance, and at the same time allows them to look to nature for stability during tragic times.   He may be insensitive and apathetic, but Longfellow demonstrates through his poetry that although a life may end, the greater life of nature continues.


     Longfellow’s outlook on the relationship between humanity and nature enforces the poem’s universal meaning.  Nature proves to be superior, but just like death, is both natural and frequently occurring.  The traveler dies for nature.  Negative emotions that are associated with death are erased by Longfellow, for the conclusion that nature has a plan for us whether we realize it or not is all too present. The universal meaning is not only understanding that death is not extraordinary, but more so that the death is just a small part of nature’s plan.  The appreciation of nature and its plan may not be identified, but Longfellow’s job was not to convert us into thinking so, it was rather to reveal that death is unavoidable and that nature is indisputably the most powerful force.


     Considering the natural outline of the poem’s structure, the words and stanzas are plain and simple.  Longfellow didn’t compose this poem so that a young adult could read it and unwillingly understand each and every word, rather he wrote it to express his views on life and teach those who are eager to listen.  The form of this poem is not special and has no extraordinary structure, which was done purposely.  If we look at this poem as common and basic, the them of accepting death suddenly becomes clear.  If Longfellow were to take The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls and incorporate an enhanced vocabulary, a unique poetic form, and a writing style that was difficult to interpret, the theme of death being natural would be a literal contradiction.  Longfellow purposely chose to compose this poem with the fundamental guidelines met to reveal that death is simple, nature is true, and the message of acceptance is present.


     The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls, like nature and death, is not simple, and is not concise, and the theme is not hidden within its lines.  Rather, this poem has an intricately woven pattern that groups acceptance and understanding with death, and allows nature to be seen as a genuine part of the cycle of life and death.   Ironically, whether the death explored and interpreted was due to natural causes or whether it was a death of being an ignored outcast has no major relevance to the poem’s theme.  Depending upon the person, this poem may either trigger emotion because death, according to them is and should be mourned upon, or the person may feel enlightened and newly aware that death does not mean that the whole world must stop.  Nature serves the purpose of the true force that will never fail, and it is also an outlet to uncertainty towards life and death.  The meaning and message may be repetitive, but Longfellow constructed it to be that way intentionally.  If the poem is simple and easily accepted, then the message of death being accepted as the status-quo better affects the reader.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A sport is usually defined as a competition of physical strength, skill, or endurance against opponents or against an objective, but can also be referred to as a source of diversion, or a recreational activity that a person or team is engaged in.   Wiffle Ball, a spin-off from the professional sport known as baseball, as well as the activity known to most kids as “stick-ball,” clearly fits the standard definition of sport.  However, Wiffle Ball tends to relate the most to the obscure definition of sport, to deviate or vary abruptly from a type.  Wiffle Ball was created as a modification of baseball, but is different because it lacks the vigor and intensity found in baseball, but still holds the competitive edge, hence the numerous organized leagues newly formed.  Wiffle Ball, although based on the America’s past-time sport of baseball, is Americanized in its individual way for it evolved from a recreational activity into a recognized sport, while still maintaining its unique rules and feasibility upon where this game can be played.
     David N. Mullany of Connecticut set out to solve a problem in 1952.  As re-told by author Jon Vara, Mullany’s son had the passion to play baseball, yet the fields were overcrowded and backyard baseball had its consequences.  His boy, also known as David, had previously used a tennis ball to engage in his version of baseball, but broken windows, smashed lights, and angry neighbors emphasized the need for a change.  Taking a perforated plastic golf ball and using a sawed off broom stick, David’s dad had went from brainstorming to enacting.  His idea to perfect backyard baseball for his son had inadvertently led to the creation of the Wiffle Ball. The name comes from the baseball slang “wiff,” used when a baseball player would strike out, for the ball curved wickedly and was difficult to hit (Vara).
     Wiffle Ball was Americanized in two simple ways.  One, like the Industrial Revolution that begged for reform and change, Mullany took the concept of baseball, the American past-time which was influenced by cricket, and made a practical renovation. City kids needed a form of baseball less hazardous and more feasible, and like his son, urban kids embraced the idea of baseball without the necessity of full field, glove, and strict rules. Although “stick-ball” was adopted, Wiffle Ball was the formal recognition and perfection of this activity.  Wiffle Ball was also Americanized for economic reasons, for in the 1950’s, the entire nation was not fully recovered from the Great Depression.  For a total of a $3 dollar investment, you have the full equipment necessary and a reasonably flat surface could soon host the perfect ball game.  While some may not  lack the coordination and skill to play organized baseball, Wiffle Ball serves as a recreational activity, and although many take the game seriously, in which the majority can understand and participate in.  
     David Mullany’s newly created Wiffle Ball developed into a sport that did not require its participants to throw 90 miles per hour, nor use steroids or dietary supplements to get the edge on opponents.  The Wiffle Ball bat was shortly transformed from a broom stick into a lightweight plastic bat.  The rules of backyard W      iffle Ball had the flexibility of varying,  depending upon the vacancy of the designated lot and the number of players.  Homeruns could range from a ball hit over the pitcher’s head, to a ball hit by a sewer drain or a chalk mark.  Individual teams could be full of 9 or more players, but one-on-one Wiffle Ball games are also common and accepted.  
     Edgar Gonzales, who participated in the Los Angeles Wiffle Ball City League, before the United States Perforated Plastic Baseball Association was formed by Jerome Coyle(“The Future‘s in Plastic”), said he most enjoyed “The teamwork, as well as the different game-speed compared to standard baseball” (Gonzales).  Edgar made 20 thousand a year, while playing for the Devonshire Dragons, and his 5 year career was inspired by Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente.  When asked about the level of competition, Edgar replied “Of course it got serious, especially when we pretended to play like Major Leaguers!” (Gonzales).  Whether he was joking or not, Edgar found that playing in the LA Wiffle Ball City League helped transform his love for the game of baseball into a money making opportunity to succeed in a sport that required less strength and more finesse.
     Americans have adopted this sport in unique ways.  Wiffle Ball greatly affects the common working-class man, for the sport is not time consuming, not an economic drain, and certainly does not require tedious hours of practice or training.  It is a sport in which the simple hand-eye coordination mastered by baseball players can be taught to children, a sport that teenagers can play during the summer in the beach, and a sport that teams nation wide are becoming more and more involved in.   When asked why he still plays, Ralph Donofrio responded that “My buddies in North Quincy would play in the parking lot of NQ High every day after school.  It would be snowing, and we would be throwing” (Donofrio).  Although an amatuer,  Ralph found relaxation in the sport, and stuck with his newly found tradition.  Whether it be a cookout or after a soccer game Ralph still finds time to swing the bat with his friends and family.  
     Wiffle Ball’s growing popularity is visible in the numerous amateur and professional teams that have been formed, but mainly it’s recognition as an Olympic Sport  has properly given it deserved credit (“The Future’s in Plastic”).  Although a majority neglect the sport, and lack of media coverage and appreciation is often the norm,  becoming an Olympic Sport proves that it is a tradition in the making.  Backyard, amateur, professional, and now Olympic Wiffle Ball still hold one common bond, they are all fun to watch, and even more enjoyable to play.
     Prior to his career in journalism and contributing to the Patriot Ledger, Jr. Hockey News, Boston Herald, and the Boston Globe, my cousin James Murphy was able to capture the art of wiffle ball in years of writing for his school newspaper.  During his UMASS Amherst years, James covered an annual Wiffle Ball tournament his school held during the spring, and although he underwent the basic research to add in his recap, he explained that the affect witnessing such a game could not be summarized by facts.  “It brought baseball to life, right outside my dorm!”(Murphy).
     In his report, James equated his experience to watching a baseball homerun.  "Taping up the bat the right way could make you feel like the Sammy Sosa of Wiffleball because if done correctly, you're goin' yard every at bat!"(Murphy).  Besides covering this tournament throughout his college years,  James also incorporated his Wiffle Ball know-how within his baseball articles, "Every knuckleballer in the majors today had to be the master of the domain in wiffleball"(Murphy). The reference to the “knuckleball pitch” reveals that according to James, in order for pitchers like Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox to successfully control the sporadic spinning, dropping, and fluttering of the ball, they must have started out with the wiffle ball.  
     Wiffle Ball was not created by Ancient Romans in the Gladiator Games, and was not invented in the cold region of Canada, but rather is a part of America’s history that is enjoyed as a game, a sport, and now and Olympic event. An idea and hypothesis on improving a problem reveals how American this sport is, and the way in which its popularity has grown, although not to exuberant amounts, signifies that people have literally “caught onto” Wiffle Ball and have made it a tradition and a new past-time.  Its popularity resulted in the formation of a Pro League, where ironically its lack of popularity eventually earned itself recognition as an Olympic sport, most likely because the previous participants in this backyard dynasty felt as though the masters of this art have earned the right to represent their skill for this country.