Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America






























Ellen Brennan to America

I looked at my hand, which had four kings and an ace. My eyes slowly moved around the table to each player’s facial expressions. The poker game was very slow. It would often be paused for a few minutes because someone around the table had to tell a short story. I usually didn’t pay much attention and focused more on the game. My grandmother’s stories or her friends that sometimes played with us were not interesting to me because they always dealt with boring things from the past. I was just anxious of setting my cards on the table to see if I had won the round, when my grandmother said her frequent words “yah know...” Hearing these two words made me cringe in my seat, knowing it would be another five minutes before the game would start back up. However, this was not another repeated story of the time she missed her curfew as a teenager and her father made her sleep outside. The story she began to tell happened long ago before she was born. A story that told part of the origins of our family and the reason why I am living in America.

Ellen Brennan was a sweet girl that lived in Ireland with her family. She was poor and lived a deprived life. At age fourteen her mother sent her to America for one reason, to simply live a better life. Her mother wanted her to get a job and start a family in America. The young and brave girl obeyed her mother and came across seas to America.

One day she set across the sea waving goodbye to her family whom took care of her and supported her all her life until this moment. The boat departed from County Cork Island and her destination was to Ellis Island in New York. On her boat ride, she spent days and nights with many whom were sick, and she slept wherever there was room on board. When they reached New York she had to go through many shots and physicals. She was extremely tired and since there was not much to eat on the boat, she was starving, as well as many others.

Walking down the streets she felt uncomfortable and couldn’t help noticing the signs saying “Do Not Hire The Irish!” That night she slept in Ellis Island and the next day her Aunt picked her up and brought her to Boston. Growing up she worked in the mills at a box factory. She finally moved out of her Aunts house when she married a Cronin. They moved to Allston, Massachusetts and bought a house. Ellen had four boys and two girls. One of her boys being my Grandfather whose name is James Cronin; he passed away before I was born from lung cancer.

I never did find out if I had won that round in poker, nor did it matter to me at that moment. The story my Grandmother had told us, left the others thinking for a few seconds before they decided to ignore the game and turn it into story time. I on the other hand just sat in my chair and started to think. I have seen poverty and poor families on television shows and on movies, however I was unaware that a piece of my family once lived this way too. I had tried to imagine myself in Ellen Brennan’s shoes, though it seemed impossible for someone at such a young age to leave not only her country but also her family on her own. I wish Ellen Brennan were still alive today so I could meet and thank her for the courage that she had. For those who had relatives leave their country, I think we should be more thankful and appreciative towards the fact that we are Americans. And the reason for this is because someone in our past changed and risked their life for not only themselves but for future family, which they will never meet.













Five steps from my backdoor nature exits in a very much lonely state. Along the old brown fence lays old brown vines, a grapevine asleep for the winter. For two weeks as I observed my spot I have noted changes that have occurred. My senses played an important role as usual in life, except this time even more so important and they were even more so appreciated. All the surroundings I took in, I realized it was an American Place. A small spot of nature on my land, a quiet place yet in a loud city. Thoreau said, “The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it.” This is true for the grapevine, the wind will continue to blow there, nature will grow and life will exist, though only few will appreciate it. I am one of the few who noticed this spot and the changes that took place.
     The season’s cold surrounds me, leaving my body covered with goose bumps as I stand directly beneath the grapevine. It stretches from the ground up along the rotten fence and across to the side of my house. Observing the lonely and bear grapevine, I expected it to shiver, as I was, if only it was not so frozen. From it’s poor condition I almost felt sorry for this grapevine, treating it as if it was part of my life or me. Yet what use would a grapevine do for one in the winter? Especially one that is barely visible, hidden from the world.  If one were to walk by the grapevine they would view it as completely dead, perhaps their view would travel right through the grapevine and would be more interested in the broken picket dangling on the fence.  I on the other hand have other feelings for the grapevine.  As much as it seems lifeless, I have noticed life.  As much as it looked bear and ordinary, I observed it to be full and complicated.  As much as the grapevine will and has been ignored by people, I have studied and appreciated it.
     Everyday is a new day for it.  Slowly the crunchy brown leaves fall to the ground.  The few grapes that are left are hard as rocks and them too fall to the ground one by one or in a bunch, soon to be covered by the grounds soil.  As I enjoyed spending time near the grapevine, for a split second my eye caught a leaf fall.  The leaf, from its heaviness and being shriveled up, plunged to the ground.  It was as if the grapevine could no longer hold on to it.  It lost its strength to keep its spirit and joy for winter.  Nor am I very excited about the cold, but looking forward to spring and summer, as well as the grapevine.  In the warmth of the seasons it will regain its happiness and grow its large green leaves and sweet purple grapes.  
     The obvious is happening to the grapevine as the days become colder and extremely dead. The colors have been changing from a light brown now to a sick dark brown and black. Leaves and grapes have fallen to the ground. Even some of the vines have died and been buried by the dirt. One day as I carefully examined the vines I noticed something I’ve never noticed before. The details of the vines and the creative path they have chosen.  The tip of the vine when born had a choice of what it wanted to do; go left, right, make a circle then hang towards the ground. Each American has a choice of what path we wish to lead. Those leaders and heroes act as the tip of those vines, some choose to curl at the end and others are still straight and continuing to grow.  There are obstacles and pleasures that we face in life, and the leaves and grapes grow off of the vines creating a change of course.  Though the American must continue forward, continue to grow, and continue its path.
     In some spots of nature people fail to recognize its details and beauty. Why has such an amazing piece of nature so great grown on the side of my house where it is never noticed or looked at? Why don’t the few viewers of the grapevine ever stand back a ways and admire natures work? It is unfortunately a shame that the grapevine is unnoticed, though the “few are the ears that hear it” are indeed most fortunate.















It was a warm summer day of July and Joe was once again working on a Saturday at "Sunny Beach Restaurant". From the inside he could view the hundreds of people laying on the sandy beach leading into the ocean. It was tough for Joe; there was always large woman in bikinis and the men with beer bellies in Speedos walking by the window. It's been three long and pathetic years serving many slobs that choose to eat there. Many of them gave Joe their hungry attitudes and left him with a small tip and a bad day.

One customer in particular Joe hated serving because he had the nerve to treat Joe like his servant. His name was Mike and his grin alone aggravated Joe. When Mike sat down at the table Joe came over saying "Hi my names Joe and I will be your waiter for today". Mike looked up at him with a grin and wiped his forehead while saying "It's a bit hot in here don't you think". Joe ignored him and set his table filling his glass with water. "You know what Joe?" Mike said,  "Maybe you can go into the other room and turn the air conditioner up". Joe smiled at him and gave him a nod leaving the table and went into the other room.  

Five minutes later while Joe was serving his friend, Mike from the next table started to wave his hand like he was signaling a taxi, to get Joe's attention. Joe came over, "Can I help you?" Mike replied, "What are you trying to freeze everyone in here? Go turn the air conditioner down." Joe went into the other room and came back a minute later with Mike's spaghetti and meatball plate and a coke. Mike surprised Joe with a "Thanks" but then said "Turn the air conditioner up I am going to sweat eating this hot meal." Joe went into the other room and then came back out with his friend's meal. His friend looked at Joe nodding his head back over to Mike who was stuffing his face. The spaghetti was all over the table as well as his white shirt. A small piece of meatball was slowly sliding down his chin like a snail leaving a trail of sauce. Staring at him you could actually see waves of sweat splashing across his fat face as if you were examining his face with a magnified glass. Only it was noticeable from yards away. He looked up from all the hard work he was putting into eating the meal of his and again signaling for Joe. Joe walked over saying "Can I help you again sir?" Mike replied, "First off you turned the air conditioner up too high because I am freezing so you can turn it down now, and secondly I want my check."

When Joe came back with the check Mike was sitting there finished with his meal and had the same old grin on his face, sauce smothering the top of his teeth. "Have a good day" Joe said, and walked into the other room to get his friends check. When he came back out Mike was gone and his friend seemed a bit curious. His friend asked, "Why didn't you just throw that guy out? Weren't you at all mad that he made you adjust the air conditioner so many times?" "I don't care." Smiled Joe. "We don't even have an air conditioner."














      Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Brain-is wider than the Sky-” is a very unique and intelligent way of expressing how she compares ordinary humans to nature’s great space. She uses the brain as a simple reference to humans. Dickinson shows and compares how Americans interact and compare with the largest areas of nature in our world.

     Dickinson begins her poem saying, “The Brain- is wider than the sky-”, comparing humans to the immeasurable sky, she tells us that Americans have a nation wide affect on the world in a positive way. All the good things we do as Americans is so great that it stretches further than the sky, carrying on into other countries across the world. Our positive impact on others is clearly expressed when she compares it to natures longest area of the world. The reason Dickinson interacts Americans with the sky is so she can clearly carry her point across of how important we are to the rest of the world. If we are now to look up at the sky an at the same time think of how the impact of Americans on the rest of the world is much greater than the length of the sky, it will change the way we look at things.

     Dickinson then goes on to explain how the brain is “deeper than the sea-”, by this she explains no matter how deep the sea is, our thoughts and decisions that effect our society are so deep in thought that no area of size can compare to it. The depth of an ocean is one of the ways Dickinson chose to compare the thoughts of a human. When challenged to think of how the sea and your thoughts can be similar, you actually have to dig deep in thought and have a deep concentration. Our decisions we make in our society must be very deep or else it could be harmful to your peers, if you made quick decisions all the time. The American people must always have deep minds and take time and have much thought into each decision we make in order to make our country stronger, weather you’re an important politician or an average person with an average job.  

     Emily Dickinson believes that everything in our lives, from making decisions to acting upon our thoughts, can all be almost important as your faith. “The Brain is just the weight of God-” She goes to great lengths to say this because she really wants to push her idea forward and capture the readers attention by saying that ‘something’ in our lives is almost important as our faith. This ‘something’ that she says is just as important as our faith is everything that Americans think and do while we live our lives. This is true because if we choose to do good things that will help others around us then your faith will become stronger. At the same time that our decisions affect our faith, our faith affects our decisions, and Dickinson ties them together saying that their both just as important.

     Dickinson did a great job of making us think differently about Americans and their affect on our world and life by comparing it with the largest areas of nature. We seem to think that nothing is larger than these parts of nature she mentions. However she thinks our impact and decisions are even larger then the sky or the sea, and better yet much more important. She makes the reader think differently about nature, and makes the American feel proud when they view the great ocean, the sky, mountain or plain, knowing that what is inside them is much larger and important.





















   The game of billiards, also known as “pool”, is a famous game played throughout the world and is very popular in America. This sport as well as any other sport is a game played by more than one person competing for a chance to win. It originated in Northern Europe and France mostly played by nobles and presidents but also everyone else. The game was played outside on grass and later to be brought indoors on a table with green cloth to resemble the grass and a border so the balls would not fall off. Throughout America there are a number of professional pool players and an overwhelming number of people who play for fun. The popularity of the sport Billiards has numerous explanations from different people with different opinions.
There were many types of games played. At first there was not even sticks to hit the balls yet the players hands pushed them. After time it developed more like the game we are familiar with today. When most likely Dutch and English settlers brought it into America, the game spread out throughout the colonies. It was reported that even our first president George Washington won a match in 1748. Private rooms devoted to Billiards started to appear in America and the game quickly became popular. Michael Phelan, the father of American billiards who emigrated from Ireland wrote the first American book about billiards. He made rules and even added diamonds on the table for aim, and developed new table and cushion designs. The dominant American game of pool was called four-ball billiards, played with only four pockets. It then went on to 15-ball pool and changed numerous times throughout the century. Today the game of Billiards has many types of games but is usually played on a table with six pockets and of course pool sticks.
There have been many people who dedicated their lives to this sport for the love of the game and also to make it popular. Terry “Texas Terry” Bell spent several of his years on the professional circuit competing with many other professional pool players and he has won numerous titles as well. His idea for a “centrally controlled nation wide amateur pool organization” has popularized the sport for the average pool player. When Bell noticed how popular billiards was becoming, he realized that there was no “organized system for recreational league”. He got together with another professional player named Larry Hubbart and they founded the American Pool players Association, Inc. This organization would popularize the sport of Billiards by getting more players involved with the sport and playing it as a serious game, not just a game to be played with your friends at someone’s house. Bell’s explanation on why the sport has become so popular is because himself and Hubbart developed a handicap system called “The Equalizer”. This is to level the playing field in the league so more people would be interested knowing they had a chance even against a large crowd of players, some more experienced than others.
Billiards is viewed today in America as a game of fun. A game that is played while at a pub or game rooms while you are with your friends. The majority of the people who play pool do not play on teams or are in clubs but because they enjoy the addictive sport. When I asked my friend Mike Dewey, an “amateur” pool player, about his opinions on the sport in our country, he basically said what every other teenager would say. He felt that Billiards is just a fun game that is played by people who get together at someone’s house or have nothing to do so you go to a Billiards hall. “Playing pool is just like going in your backyard with a few of your friends to shoot some hoop. You can make bets with your friends and have tournaments and this simply attracts the American interests. It’s a relaxing game played by everyone, almost like a break from your competitive high school sport. You are home on a Friday night and your in the mood for sports, pool is the best choice.” This is completely true for the average pool player. Especially for older teenagers and young adults, the game is just something to do while you “hang out”. It is rarely thought about during the week yet somehow you just end up playing the game at least once on the weekend and you don’t even think about it. Almost like having a conversation with your buddy.
     There are many opinions on how Billiards is such a popular sport in America. Of course the experienced professional will have a different view on Billiards in this country than the average pool player who might only play once a week. “Poolrooms” continue to be very popular in America today and everyone from all ages loves the game.