Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America






























The Cribbage Match

On a rainy day during the summer of 1999 when I was on vacation down in Cape Cod, I was playing cribbage with Elaine Wall, my father’s mother. My father taught me how to play cribbage when I was about eleven years old down the cape. I found out that day that Elaine was a good cribbage player because she beat me in three straight games.

Also during the game, I found out how my grandparents first met each other. It is kind of ironic that I was playing cribbage with my grandmother and found out how my grandparents met while playing the game. This is the story that she told me on this boring, rainy day. Maurice Wall, my father’s father, was a Navy sailor, who had just gotten back from World War II in 1946. On the other hand my grandmother, according to her, was the only girl that could play cribbage at Tinny Beach in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

They first encountered each other because she would play the sailors in cribbage, and she played my grandfather one day during 1946. It was a sunny afternoon on this day in 1946, Elaine had just gotten lunch, as she was coming back she saw Maurice and she challenged him to a game. During the game, she got an early lead, but it was dead even by the end of second street, and finally she eventually beat him about four hands later. That was their first game, but they continued to play a couple more games of cribbage after that, and this turned into a daily routine for them. Elaine told me that at first she did not like him because she thought he was too dull, and she liked another sailor instead of him.

My grandfather was determined and treated her extremely nice and they started to date. What would you know? Elaine Wall eventually got married to this guy that she thought was too dull in August of 1948. Ever since that day they have been married for 53 years. At the end of this day in August 1999, I took away a couple of priceless lessons from my grandmother’s story. I learned from my grandfather that no matter what, keep trying and follow your instinct. Not only did I learn to be resilient, but I also learned that I should give people a second chance because something wonderful could happen to you. Lastly, I learned that you can learn something new everyday, and that this day turned out to be a fun and interesting day.












As you drive along the primarily straight street called Landseer Street, you will find this place that I have so fervently observed for two short weeks.  Near the end of this street is a brand new asphalt driveway.  Here there is a strip of grass that runs the length of the driveway, and amongst the grass and plants there is a cherry tree.  Annie Dillard said, “There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises.”  During my short time of observing, I attempted to find aspects of this place that you can not see with the naked eye, and surprises lying in wait.
     Throughout my time at my spot, cars sped by and people walked by straight pass this barren cherry tree amongst the wilted plants and overgrown grass.  Red, orange, and brown leaves that piled up around the base of the tree, as if it was like a skirt around a Christmas tree, were decaying.  As I saw this pile of leaves, I started to remember all the big piles of leaves that me and my friends use to make in Autumn on the strip of grass that runs along the driveway.  The tree seemed to be enjoying the pile around the base of it because the bare branches were not sagging, they stiff and strong, swaying in the wind.  It appeared if it was a solider standing erect for a general.
     Emerson once said, “The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable.” He is saying that the vegetable (nature) is part of “me” and “I” am part of the vegetable.  In what seemed like a long thirteen days of observing this cherry tree, I started to feel that I was part of it and that it was part of me.  This feeling started me to ponder and contemplate a number of things.  Why do people cut down trees and kill forests today and in the past, if Emerson said we are one?  Is it because Emerson and Dillard looked deeper at nature and see that we are one, a mirror image of us?  Do the people or companies that deforest the trees in the world see that this is dangerous to our survival?  Or do they just look at the profit they can make from lumber, paper products, etc?  More and more today people are taking trees for granted just to make profit, and this ignorance of the problems it causes could eventually lead to less oxygen in the air, and less available wood and paper products.
     By the end of the time I had to observe the cherry tree, I had a greater appreciation for nature, and I started to see how you look deeper at nature and you will get a reward.  Nature is hard to understand, but if you take your time in observing you get a better understanding of it.  I finally had become like Emerson said, “… a transparent eyeball.”









A typical day at school consists of students asking each other for some spare change, so that they can get an ice cream, or some candy.  Most people consider Tony to be a "cheap" and "poor" person, and reminds me of George Castanza from Seinfield.  Whenever Tony is asked by another student to borrow some money he either doesn't have any or left his wallet at home, even though sometimes he just bought something to eat or drink.  A similar situation occurred a few weeks ago between Tony and his friend Bob at lunch.
     On this day, like most days, Tony brought his lunch to school and he took seventy-five cents out of his brown paper bag to buy a can of Pepsi.  As Tony was pick his crust off the bread of his sandwich, Bob came back with a tray of fries, ice cream, and some chicken fingers.  Tony reached across the table and tried to grab a couple of French fries, but Bob took them away before he could get them, and says:
"What are you an unclean kid or something, why don't you get your own?"  
"Be quiet, I don't have any money", Tony responded.  
The three other kids sitting at the table all got a good laugh from what just happened between Tony and his friend.  After that not very brilliant attempt by Tony to get some fries, lunch went the way it usually does until towards the end of the lunch period.
     After Tony finished his crust-less sandwich, he went up and bought himself a soggy, grouse looking cheeseburger and some French fries.  
"Hey, Tony can I have a fry?" Bob said jokingly.  
"No" said Tony as he was hoarding and shoveling the fries down his mouth.  
"You're a mess," said another kid at the table to Tony.  
"I can't believe you won't give me two fries, what did you not eat breakfast today or something?" Bob said as laughter once again broke out from the table.  
Bob wanted to get something out of the vending machines and all he needed was a quarter so he decided to ask Tony, "Tony do you have any money?"  
Tony responded as usual "No, my wallet is empty."  
"Tony," Bob said, "you just bought all that stuff how do you not have any change?"  
Tony said, "it cost me exactly three dollars."  
An exasperated Bob said, "Wow, you are poor, cheap, and unclean, aren't you?"  "Shut-up you dork!" Tony responded angrily.  Finally the teacher came and told them to clean up the table and that it was time to go outside.












           Emily Dickinson was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she wrote about 1,775 poems that were mostly letters to close friends and relatives.  In this poem like most of her others she does not use proper punctuation, and uses the hyphen to end most lines, which makes her poems unique.  The main theme throughout this poem is death.  Of the 1,775 poems, three of her poems, which we read in class, are narrated from the afterlife or beyond death.  One of those poems is “Because I could not stop for Death” and in this poem not only does she narrate the poem from the afterlife, but also Dickinson personifies death.

             In “Because I could not stop for Death” Emily Dickinson uses the hyphen in the middle of lines and to end lines instead of the typical coma or period.  When she uses the hyphen to end a line, this means that the line doesn’t end there or it is “to be continued,” an example of this is “At Recess-in the Ring-.”  Emily Dickinson uses the hyphen repeatedly to make the reader think or reflect on what she is saying.  She wants the reader to finish the line for her in his or her own mind, and because she saw “poetry as possibility”.  This constant use of the hyphen with no regular punctuation does appear to be weird, but it is what makes this poem and most of her other poems unique.

     Emily Dickinson’s personification of death in “Because I could not stop for Death” is another unique aspect of this poem.  Death becomes personified at the start of the poem in lines one to four “…He kindly stopped for me-….”  This person (death) takes Emily Dickinson back through her life and to eternity in lines five to twenty-four, and this proves that death is inevitable (lines one and two).  Finally at the end of this poem, the reader realizes that death lasts forever.

             The most unique aspect of this Emily Dickinson poem is the narration of the poem.  In “Because I could not stop for Death,” Emily Dickinson actually imagines herself as dead, she actually narrates this poem as if she was dead.  It is quite obvious that she is speaking as if she was dead because of she uses the past tense of verbs in this poem, for example “passed,” “paused,” etc.  She says, “The Carriage held but just Ourselves-/ And Immorality.” (lines three and four).  Also she says, “I first surmised the Horses heads/ Were toward Eternity-” (line twenty-four).  These lines clearly state that she is imagining herself in the afterlife and that “death” takes her back in time through her life.

            Throughout “Because I could not stop for Death” death is a major theme, and by placing herself in the afterlife, Emily Dickinson makes this poem tremendously unique.  The personification of death shows that death can not be avoided because it just comes when it is time and that is lasts forever.  In addition to that, Emily Dickinson’s use of the hyphen states that each line is not over, that the poem is not over at the end of the last line, and although a person maybe dead their image and spirit lasts forever.






















    Wiffle Ball is a version of baseball that originated in Connecticut.  The wiffle ball and eventually the yellow, plastic bat were created because of a problem that most young kids face when trying to play baseball or any sport that involves a ball or puck in their friends yard.  “In Connecticut in 1952, David Mullany (12 years old) had this problem, he says ‘We were the smallest, youngest gang in the neighborhood’” (Vara).  His friends and himself couldn’t play on one of the ball fields, so they used one of their own yards, until Mullany broke a light on the wall of a house. This is the same problem that many people have faced over the years, and that is what makes wiffle ball so much fun and affordable.  They tried a perforated golf ball, but it didn’t work it was too hard on the pitchers arm, so that is where David’s father, named David, comes into play. “David (father) started to experiment with some molded plastic spheres used to hold cosmetics” (Vara).  Thus after a few trials, the wiffle ball as we know it to be today was born all because of a broken light.  
             A sport is any athletic activity that requires tremendous amount of skill, practice, and physical ability.  Also is an activity that people enjoy playing and receive tremendous amounts of gratification from succeeding in a particular sport.  In today’s world, sports have become tremendously competitive, which is okay, but it takes away some of the fun in playing any sport.  Competitiveness is good to have throughout any sport, but when winning and losing becomes the most important thing, then it is really not a sport.  Lastly, a sport should be anything created to provide pleasure, or an adaptation of a sport to make it different or new such as wiffle ball.
          Wiffle Ball is a classic game usually played throughout the summer months by kids of all ages that is similar to baseball.  This is clearly a sport because it is an athletic activity that does require skill and physical ability because of the difficulty that is involved in all aspects of the game like hitting the ball.  It is a version of baseball played with a plastic, hallow bat, and a plastic, hallow ball that has slits on one side.  Those slits are what makes the sport so difficult to play because the ball moves all over the place for the pitcher, which is where the skill comes into effect to make contact with the ball.  Also there is some competitiveness involved, but most do not care that much about winning the try to have fun.
          This version of baseball has been adopted by mostly kids varying for six to about seventeen years of age. Although it is like baseball, the rules can vary depending on who is playing the game at the time, and one difference is that some allow you to throw the ball at a player to get him out.  The Americanization of wiffle ball has come from people taking the great summer pastime of baseball and converting it into a game that anyone can play and is in some ways easier and more enjoyable to play.  
          Some will say to you that they don’t know what wiffle ball is, but the truth is that it is a popular summer time activity.  This is quite evident because at toy stores, grocery stores, or your local convenient stores you will find wiffle ball bats usually yellow, and wiffle balls for sale.  The popularity of wiffle ball shows that America is always trying to take things and adapt them to make them wither easier or more enjoyable to play.  Another example of this is the Americans adaptation of the game of ice hockey into roller and floor hockey.
           The popularity of wiffle ball is quiet evident with the establishment of the United States Perforated Plastic Baseball Association (USPPBA) by Jerome Coyle, and the sixteenth annual World Wiffle Ball Tournament.  Coyle created the USPPBA because he says, “its hard to find a team to play” (“The Future’s in Plastic”).  According to Coyle, his team the Lakeside Kings go throughout the country to play the game, and that the USPPBA hopes to create leagues, hold playoffs with players playing by rules with exceptions similar to baseball.  Lastly, Coyle says, “It’s the next best thing to baseball,” and reminds the author that “There’s nobody who can beat us.”  Although that could be true, there are some pretty good wiffle ball players in the city of Boston, which could translate into a good team, but most of them play it whenever they get a chance.
           Patrick Robinson is currently a junior at Boston University, that enjoys the game of baseball, and if he has enough time on the weekends he enjoys a game of wiffle ball with some friends.  “It is hard to play,” Robinson says, “I don’t have a lot of time and you have find more players, but the game is a lot of fun” (Robinson).  This is a problem with the game of wiffle ball there are people that enjoy love to play the game, but can’t find the time or players.  That is why especially in this area of the country and throughout the United States, there needs to be one large association or league, so that players like Patrick can put more time and possibly dedicate more time to a sport that continues to grow.
           Any sport that can be adapted and made into something new or different that requires some skill is also a sport.  Wiffle Ball is a good example of this because it is an adaptation of baseball, and it takes an American sport that is changed into a more Americanized sport.  The popularity of wiffle ball is a reason why this sport has remained in the American culture, and shows many different things about America.  So if you want an extremely cheap alternative to real baseball, wiffle ball is the way to go because this sport uses a hollow, plastic bat and ball, and it is increasing in popularity each year.  In the future, look for the sport of wiffle ball to become a professional sport with an array of interest.