Wake up, Mr. Quinn!
The oldest story I know about my family involves my
grandfather on my Dad’s side. My father told the story to me, as my
grandfather had already passed away.
His father shared this
piece of family history with him when he was a young boy and my father did
likewise with me. The story was very real to me, as I was able to read
actual newspaper accounts that my grandmother had kept. As so many others
of his generation, my grandfather immediately enlisted in the armed forces
as soon as war was declared. During World War II, he was in the U. S. Army
and fought at the D-Day invasion in France. He was a tank commander. He
was also known locally as a war hero for saving a group of soldiers.
The men were all in a foxhole, when a grenade was thrown in. To stop
all of the men from being injured or killed, he put his helmet over the
grenade and then jumped on the helmet. This action contained the explosion
to a minimum. However, by doing this my grandfather incurred many serious
injuries, including a temporary loss of his hearing. By the end of the war
he had won three Purple Hearts, the Medal of Honor, the Bronze Star and
the Silver Cross.
My grandmother has a scrapbook full of
newspaper clippings, which document many of his wartime experiences. The
end of the war was not the end of my grandfather’s military service; he
stayed in the Army for twenty years. My grandfather heeded the call of his
country, as did so many others of his time. He fulfilled a dream of being
a hero that most servicemen aspire to. The freedom that we all enjoy in
this country today is due in part to the contribution that he made.
You don’t see many rotaries around, do you? Rotaries are a
rarity in this country being limited mostly to only the New England
states. Even around here though, some people don’t come across them very
much. There is a rotary across from a police station, an elementary
school, and a church. It is in the middle of Centre Street and the West
Roxbury Parkway in West Roxbury. It is filled with trees, bushes, and
grass. It regulates the heavy traffic that passes by and is very much
unappreciated. Hundreds of cars swerve by fellow drivers and dodge
occasional pedestrians, without even taking a second look and noticing
what the rotary really is. For twelve days I decided to take that second
look. Emerson said “To be great is to be misunderstood….” I believe
Emerson’s words can be applied to the rotary because people do not
understand it, and it truly is great.
Although it may create some traffic jams, the rotary prevents many more.
Historically, the rotary served as a landmark for planes flying overhead
on their way to Logan Airport. Many people from this area do not know
this fact, or any other fact concerning the rotary. It represents the
American way of getting something as quickly as possible. The rotary is
in existence so that drivers can get where they want, quicker and safer.
When I used to go by the rotary I saw what everyone else sees now.
Nothing. I just saw some trees and bushes that didn’t interest me, and
my mind would drift away to something more important. Now, I see much
more. I see the individual trees and bushes, that someone dug holes for
and watered until they could live on their own. I see grass that someone
once planted all over the bare ground. They are not just regular trees
anymore that have shed their leaves, but trees that in the spring will
have buds and berries on them. I saw nature at its best in a place where
I once saw nothing. It suddenly became an oasis in the middle of the
pavement, a welcome glimpse of greenery.
Everyday going to school I seem to get held up waiting to get on the
rotary, so I can make the circle around and go down Centre Street. I am
held up because so many people are driving along the rotary. There is
even a huge sign indicating when leaves will be picked up during the Fall
season because the city knows that most people around here will see it
because of their frequent trips around the circular island. During
political elections, the rotary is a choice spot for campaigners to
promote their candidates. The circle is thick with campaign signs every
morning and evening during rush hour, taking advantage of the prime
location that it is. I can honestly say that in my sixteen years of
living near the Parkway I have never been near the rotary when there has
not been a car going into it or coming out of it. It is a center point in
the Parkway area, constantly being used.
In my twelve days of observing the rotary I noticed some things that
really caught my attention. The trees which were once heavy with foliage
are bare now, and the fallen leaves are gone. Some perhaps taken by the
wind; others scooped up by city workers. It is a stark contrast to the
dense greenery of summer days, and much more open to the elements. There
are two circular walkways that wind around the interior of the rotary. I
have never seen these paths used. Sidewalks are for walking, yet I see no
one walking inside the rotary. It is a small area, and probably not worth
the leap of faith it takes to cross the busy intersection, but don’t you
think that people would explore the one piece of nature that they go by
almost every day? If it wasn’t meant to look good, to be appreciated, and
to be used, then why is there a sidewalk, why are there bushes, why are
there trees, and why is there grass?
Observing the rotary for twelve days showed me something that I hadn’t
seen in sixteen years. This rotary is a real place. I really got caught
up in it. I think Thoreau summarizes my thoughts when he says, “It is
remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and
make a beaten track for ourselves.” The rotary I expect, is taken for
granted everyday by most people that use it without taking a second glance
and admiring the scenery. Now, obviously if everyone took time out of
their day to look at the vegetation that grows in the rotary, and to take
a short stroll through its small sidewalks, there would be enormous
traffic jams and car accidents, and it would defeat the whole purpose of
the rotary. So, I am not asking people to do this, but rather suggesting
that when you do go by the rotary, don’t take it for granted, see the
beauty that inhabits it. Watch for the quarterly seasonal changes that
occur, and be happy that someone thought enough of it to put it there for
all of us to appreciate.
"Wake up Mr. Quinn!"
Up until I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, I played CYO
basketball for Holy Name School in West Roxbury. For about three years
straight, our practices were held in the Holy Name school gym at 8:00 AM
on Saturday mornings. Practices were very laid back for this team, so we
could pretty much do what we wanted to do.
During the early years of my stint on this team I also attended Holy
Name. There was a gym teacher there who was well liked, but believed to
be a little eccentric. There were also many rumors about this teacher
living out of his office in the gym. We always liked to joke around about
this, but no one was really sure whether or not there was any truth to the
rumor. Usually, as a joke, we would go up to his office door and bang on
it saying, "Mr. Quinn, wake up!!,"but nothing would ever happen. One day
after banging on the door, we went back to the gym to practice. About
five minutes later Mr. Quinn walked out. He had pajama pants on, no
shoes, "bed-head,"and he was very groggy.
"Guys, I know there are a lot of rumors about Mr. Quinn sleeping in the
gym, but that's not true and I know you guys know that, right?"said Mr.
"Yeah,yeah we know Mr. Quinn,"we all mumbled back, stunned at what we
were actually seeing.
"I was just doing some work here early this morning,"he said.
"Oh,"we all replied trying to hold back the laughs being caused by the
thought of an elementary school gym teacher having to do extra work on a
Saturday morning at 8:00 AM.
"Don't be banging on the door,I'll see you guys later."
"Alright, see you later Mr. Quinn."
After he left, probably to go back to bed, we couldn't hold back our
laughter anymore. We had woken him up, and he still denied living there!
Emily Dickinson wrote 1,775 poems in her lifetime.
Some of these poems are the greatest ever written. However, out of all
1,775, one best represents her innovation in style and subject. It is a
short poem, and it gets right to the point. Emily Dickinson’s “The
Brain-is Wider than the Sky-.” is very unique in that it explores the
broadness of the human imagination.
One unique approach that Dickinson takes is literally talking of the human
brain, not in a technical sense but a figurative sense. She uses lines
The Brain-is Wider than the Sky-, The Brain is Deeper than the Sea-, and
The Brain is just the weight of God-,
to describe how the human imagination, and human thinking have no
boundaries. She uses examples like how deep the sea is, how wide the sky
is, and the weight of God because those are things that cannot be
measured, and Dickinson feels that the depths of the human imagination
too, cannot be measured.
Another innovation Dickinson uses is imagery. Dickinson uses images like
sponges and buckets, and these help to create a picture in the reader’s
mind. “The one the other will absorb-As Sponges-Buckets-do-.” When a
reader can visualize what a writer is expressing on the written page they
can better understand the poet’s message. Dickinson uses simple words to
produce a vivid description of the subject she speaks of. She conveys her
point to the reader using basic images and pictures.
This poem is unique because it has a more profound message than one might
think at first glance, given the brevity of it. Like all poets Emily
Dickinson had to use her brain, to write her poem to the best of her
ability. What makes it unique, though, is that Dickinson was able to
communicate her thoughts on the human imagination by writing a poem using
her own. This is something that I have never seen before in a poem and it
sets it apart from all others.
“The Brain-is Wider than the Sky-’’ is a great work in poetry.
Interpreting it was easy because of the images that Dickinson used.
Although it is shallow in length, its message has depth. The message is
in the title and in every beginning line in each of the three stanzas.
The message being that the power of the brain has endless possibilities.
It makes the reader use their own imagination to interpret the poem just
as Dickinson did while writing it.