Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America

















The Story of My Parents

My Father is a very intelligent man. So when I asked him about what he did for a living before I was born, about 5 years ago, he told me a long story with a lot of detail. Eventually the conversation evolved into him telling me the story of himself and my mother.

This story was not passed down from any ancestors, but hopefully it will be passed down to my kids and then to their kids and so on, until it is looked at as a story from the “olden days”. Although my Father knew my Mother during High School as friends, they started dating after a bond was struck watching one of the first Saturday Night Live shows in 1973. My Father was eighteen years old and a senior at Norwood High School and my Mother was in her first year at Bryman Medical School. They were both athletic and spent a lot of their time together playing tennis, camping, and traveling to Cape Cod and Northern New England.

Both my parents lived at home during college and were able to see each other almost nightly as well as on the weekends. After my Father graduated from college they were married in St. Catherine’s Church. My now three uncles were ushers and my aunt was a bridesmaid on my Father’s side and another aunt on my Mother’s side. After eight years of marriage they had their first child, my sister Jennifer and shortly after, almost two years, I was born. As of right now, this story has not yet had an impact on the United Sates or the world.

It has, however, touched many members of my family and might even affect them in their lifetime. I know that somehow it will have an influence in my life somewhere along the way. Whether I simply tell my kids or I tell every citizen in the United States, which could, in return, be told around the world. This story will live forever in my family and me.












     Rocks are usually looked at, sometimes kicked, and maybe studied, but then forgotten soon after.  In my case I observed a rock, but did more than observe it, I examined it, got to know it, and even named it.  I called the rock Herman Rock.  Herman Rock plays a major role in my back yard.  It serves as a home for birds, worms, and moss, but it also is used to decorate the yard, and make my yard different from everyone else’s on the block.  When I was studying Herman Rock I looked at it as if it was the center of the world in my back yard, and watched it as nature revolved around it.
     From the beginning of time there have been rocks.  They are always around us, and you cannot be in a natural environment without seeing one.  After observing Herman Rock for two weeks I have a greater appreciation for rocks.  I now know that they are more than things that kids throw at each other when they are angry and are used in the rough roads that you cannot roller blade on.  They can also be used for homes for many different living things and without them the harmony of nature would be thrown off drastically.  
     I once learned that rocks have nutrients in them that can enrich the soil and help plants to grow, and by looking at the plants around Herman Rock, I can easily see this is happening.  All around Herman are flowers, that are dead now, but in the spring and summer flourish into a beautiful array of yellow, orange and green.  Also the bark mulch that is all around Herman Rock seems healthier than any other patch of mulch in the yard.  I know that if Herman Rock was not there then the flowers and bark mulch would not be as strong and healthy as they are.  
     There is very little human interaction with Herman and the only time a person ever seems to be around Herman Rock is when someone wants to cut through the yard or someone accidentally hits it with the lawn mower, but after that no one will take a second look at it.  It is this aspect of neglect that makes Herman Rock an American place.  Everyday people go through their daily lives and routines taking many things for granted.  The best example of this is our freedom.  We live in a country where we can speak what is on our mind and not have to worry about getting in trouble for it.  We can be in whatever religious sect we choose, and are not forced into studying a religion we do not believe in.  In some countries the citizens have no rights and cannot say what they want to and they are required to have faith in certain gods and rituals.  Another reason why Herman Rock is an American place is because it has been there since the beginning of America.  Herman Rock has been on American soil since it was created.  It has been through everything that America has, all the good times and the bad times.  Herman Rock will probably be there forever and will always be a true American place.
     After my two weeks of studying Herman Rock I know that rocks are more important to the environment, but more importantly it made me realize that simple things in life should not be taken for granted.  Without the little things the world would not be the same.  These things that people think are insignificant really play a large role in their lives and as soon as they understand that they will start to live better lives for themselves and everyone around them.            












“B.B.”, Betty yells from behind the cash register in the cafeteria as Brendan (Burke’s) eyes light up.  For he knows that his sausage, egg, and cheese (and sometimes ham) is ready.  These two simple letters bring so much joy to Brendan, and he leaps out of his chair when he hears them.  This is a ritual that Brendan goes through every day he has a study before lunch.  He puts his order in as soon as he gets in the café, then he goes and sits down for attendance, and waits in anticipation for his initials to be shouted.
     You can always tell when Brendan is about to, or, going to have his breakfast sandwich because of how drastically his mood changes.  Before he puts in his order Brendan is tired and in a bad mood, but as soon as he knows that a sandwich is being made special to his order, he goes through a mood swing from sad to overwhelming joy.  This state of ecstasy can also be seen in the people around Brendan.  When he is in a good mood he tells hilarious jokes and does even funnier impressions.  One of Brendan’s trademarks is his amazing ability to remember quotes from movies and television shows.  Brendan knows quotes from everywhere.  From “The Simpsons”, (which is one show that Brendan seems to know every line of every episode), to movies like “Coyote Ugly.”  For example, everyday Brendan comes back to his table saying, “Did you guys see ‘Seinfeld’ last night.”  Then Chris Adams will come in with “Ya it was wicked funny one”.  Soon after Brendan will usually imitate Kramer.  
On certain occasions one sandwich is not enough to hold Brendan over until lunch, so he goes and puts in his second order.  On these days, which do not happen very often, there is a mood of happiness over the entire café.  These classes always are the ones that seem to go by the fastest, because no one is worried about their homework.  They are all concentrating on Brendan’s comic relief.  These are also the days when no on gets any work done.
Sometimes the wait can seem like hours because of the anticipation of the sandwich.  On the days when the café is full of students where is usually two batches of sandwiches made, and if Brendan’s sandwich is not in the first group, then he becomes impatient and angry.  Then when his sandwich is ready it makes the sandwich taste a lot better.  To make the wait go by faster sometimes he will get his tray ready by putting ketchup on napkins along with a knife and fork.
     This habit is one that Brendan has become accustomed to over the last year or so.  These sandwiches bring out a side of Brendan that no one has ever seen before, and if they can make someone so happy, then I say that habits should not be broken, and I think that Brendan would not be the same if it wasn’t for the two letters “B.B.”














     Walt Whitman is a poet that uses real blue-collar people to convey his thoughts on the American society.  A good example of this can be seen in “I Hear America Singing”.  In this poem Whitman shows appreciation and gratitude toward the everyday middle class worker.  He acknowledges that every position no matter how big or small has an impact, and makes a difference, on the overall scheme of civilization.  

     “I Hear America Singing” is such a powerful poem because after one reads it, it makes them really think about themselves and the role they play in society and how important the working class people actually are.  Could you imagine what the economy in our country would be like if these workers did not do their jobs everyday?  Most likely it would be ruined.  This workforce is the backbone of America, and each one’s role in society is very important.  That is the message that Whitman expresses in this influential poem.  The way he goes about putting this across is by basically listing all the tough laborious jobs and saying that all these people are singing while they work.   The fact that they are singing shows that these people are content with their jobs and they are proud to be doing their own line of work.

     “I Hear America Singing” provokes a sense of nationalism, not only for Americans, but for people all around the world, from any country.  This poem brings out nationalism so powerfully because it makes you think about your country and what these people actually do for it.  In every line of the poem Whitman hints as to what that particular worker does in his day’s work.  Then at the end of the poem, in the last line Whitman says, “Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”  This line pulls the entire poem together because it shows that Whitman strongly supports these people and what they do for the country and for their fellow citizens.

     Whitman speaks about the workers in certain ways to show that he greatly appreciates the work that these people do everyday.  One way Whitman does this is he briefly describes what each person does in his or her normal workday.  By doing this, Whitman tells the reader what kind of manual labor these people really do.  Another way is, Whitman in every line says that that specific worker is singing or he says something about the worker’s song.  Whitman uses singing as a common bind between all of these different occupations, and the fact that all of the people are singing together makes the message in the poem so much more direct.  In line nine of the poem Whitman says, “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.”  This particular line shows that each person plays their own role in the social order and it is unique to them only.

     “I Hear America Singing” is a poem that makes the reader think about these lower class workers and the hardships they go through everyday at work.  It also arouses an emotion of nationalism and patriotism.  Most importantly it makes the reader think about their country and what they can do for it.

















          When one thinks of the word “sport” many will think of one of the four major sports, baseball, hockey, basketball, and football, while totally disregarding many other sports.  Sport is defined as “An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.”  Tennis obviously falls under this definition and is also one of the most competitive sports there is.  Tennis is a one on one match, which makes it more intense for the players and spectators.
     Tennis is a one of a kind sport in that it was one of the first head to head sports invented.  It was first made-up before the twelfth century, but did not become popular before the thirteenth century.  The sport originated in France and was introduced to America around 1874.  The form of tennis that America adopted was called “Lawn Tennis”.  This is when it is played on a marked out surface with no side or end walls.  Then the Americans expanded on this game and called it “Court Tennis”.  This indicates that tennis is played in a specially court with walls on four sides.  
               Once this sport caught on in America in the nineteenth century it took off in a big way.  Americans were mastering the sport and making it their own.  The fact that this sport was invented in another country and then mastered by Americans is how this sport has become “Americanized” over the years.  This has happened with many other sports besides tennis.  For example the game of hockey was originated in Windsor, Nova Scotia around 1800.  Now hockey is a mainstream sport in the United States and is enjoyed by millions of people across the nation. (Vaughan) Another way in which Americans have made the sport their own is by changing the name from “Lawn Tennis” to just “Tennis”.
               Alex Bogdanovic is an amateur tennis player from Great Britain.  Last year Alex finished up being ranked No. 230 in the ITF Junior World Rankings, but that changed in a big way after the U.S. Open.  His biggest Grand Slam achievement, before making it to the U.S. Open last summer, was making it to round of 16 at the Australian Open. After the U.S. Open, Alex increased to No. 14 in the ITF Junior World Rankings. He also made it to the quarterfinals of the Kentucky Derby.  Though Alex’s goal is to become a professional as soon as he can, he is sure to finish out this calendar year with a top ranking in the juniors. (Frost)
                 Someone who was able to make it as a professional tennis player is Patrick Rafter.  Patrick turned pro in 1991.  His highest career ranking is No. 1, which was reached in 1997 after his first U.S. Open win.  Patrick then, in 1998, defended his U.S. title, and since then has only gotten better.  Although Patrick is ranked among the best in the world he remains very modest.  Patrick once said, "Money is nice, but I came into tennis thinking that if I can buy a two-bedroom home, I'm ahead of 90 percent of the people in the world."  (Leah) Patrick says he loves the game of tennis and hopes to be playing for as long as he possibly can.
                Although tennis, at one point, was considered to be a major sport, the public’s interest in it has decreased over the years, but there are still many people who follow and love tennis.  One of these people is John Yandell.  He has committed most of his life to teaching, studying, playing, and writing about tennis.  In 1984, he founded the John Yandell Tennis School in San Francisco. In 1985, he produced a best selling tennis instructional video with John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl called "The Winning Edge."  In 1991, his book Visual Tennis was published, and in the same year, he released the Visual Tennis video.  He writes on tennis for the San Francisco Chronicle, and his articles have appeared in Tennis, Inside Tennis, and Tennis Match. (Yandell)
                 The public’s disinterest in the sport could mean a couple of different things.  One reason for this could be Americans think that it is boring now that they have become so good at it.  Or it could be because Americans started to get introduced to more sports since then and tennis has faded out of the picture.  Either way this shows that Americans become easily bored with something when something new, but not necessarily better, comes along.  
     Tennis is definitely a unique sport.  It was introduced to the United States moderately late to when it was invented and died out even quicker.  The people of the Untied States should not lose interest in such a great sport because tennis is a good sport for a person of any age or skill level.  So pick up a racket and give tennis a try.