Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America




























My Dad seemed always to have stories to tell about when he was a child, and he told my sister and me about the stories that Nana had told him, too. One story seemed to intrigue us, but my Dad always built up the suspense by telling us how he found out about the story. My grandmother, Catherine Carey, was twenty-three years old when came over to America from County Mayo in Ireland in 1927. She arrived in the city of Boston.

She worked as a domestic before marrying Martin (Mattie) Cunniffe at the age of thirty-eight. They had two children named Mary, my aunt, and Martin (Marty), my dad. They moved to West Street in Hyde Park from Hyde Park Ave.. Nana and grandfather made sure that my father and aunt knew their cultural roots from Ireland. To make sure of this, Nana told my father about her adventures as a spy in Mayo and told him about the hardships she endured during her lifetime. When Nana was about sixteen, the Irish were going through a period called “The Troubles”, which are still going on today.

During this time, the Irish were fighting against the English to get their freedom. Many people joined the Irish Republican Army, which was formed to rebel against the English. Nana joined the IRA when she was only sixteen in order to help them. Her job was to carry messages to the IRA soldiers. Nana would pretend she was delivering lunches to the IRA soldiers, but she was really giving them messages that she had hidden in her bike handles. The English tried to get back at the Irish for fighting. Nana told my dad about how the English would come into their house during the night and stir things up. The English would sneak into their thatched house, and wake up all six sisters and their brother. They did this just to do routine checks on the houses, but Nana seemed to be extremely startled by these rude awakenings.

This story of Nana is one of many that the Cunniffe family has been circulating among us. My cousins’ ages go from being just born to around eighty years old. At sometime in our lives, we are told of these stories of our family like this story. My family is well aware of their heritage and roots. My mother and father have made sure that I am aware of my grandmother’s life and my other grandparents’ lives. They have made sure that I know my Korean heritage and my Irish heritage by telling me stories like this, and they made sure that I know the story of my arrival to America.

The Cunniffe family heritage is something you can never forget. My name is a tradition in our family. Just about five people are named “Martin” in my family. Those five people named “Martin” are only including those who are alive at this time. At family reunions, it is not unusual to see four or more heads pop up when the name “Marty” or “Martin” is called. I never really got to know Nana well because she died when I was only about four or five. These stories help me know Nana better, and the stories help keep our tradition thriving. Yet, my Nana’s old age and my cousins’ old ages allow me and my other cousins to be told of stories from when they were young and stories that go back generations and decades. This keeps the Cunniffe family heritage alive to this day.









   Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay “Nature”, “In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature”. My “tranquil landscape” happens to be at the base of a mountain. To the few who walk by this “landscape”, it is just a pile of rocks that are among the rolling, green fields of Ireland. Although the spot is in Ireland, it holds the keystone characteristic of the American society, freedom. I saw how a land, a vast ocean away, is a mirror image of the American society.
     The smell of sweet, pleasurable grass filled the air as I approached the pile of rocks. My intent was to climb the mountain where the pile sits, not to waste time relaxing upon on the stones. Just as many have done before me, I passed the cold, gray, and firm pile. As my journey up the mountain continued, I became tired and wanted to go back to my cousins’ house, but the house was down the road and past the rocks. The thought of the pile of rocks became more and more comforting as a place of refuge.  
     I sat upon the rocks, weary and tired. I gazed at my surroundings. Surrounding me was some grass, which looked more like a bunch of weeds; the adjacent mountain, Nephin, and the picture perfect blue sky, which made a picturesque landscape. There was a slight breeze which ever so slightly moved the grass that encircled the rocks. The slight breeze and the cool, crisp air seemed to refresh my weary spirit.
Then, I began to think how burdened and empty the grass looked. It only moved when the wind allowed it to move. It was cut down when it got too tall or long for our liking. It had to go with the grain, or be destroyed if it didn’t. The grass became what most people are in our, American, society. Am I afraid of going against the grain or do I like my life how it is? People tend to do what the majority of our culture is doing. They wear the trendy clothes, drive the best cars, and become a group of weeds that are cut down by society if they don’t go by the social constructions. I am part and have fell into this grass-like American society.
           Emerson said, “To be great is to by misunderstood”.  Misunderstood, is how this pile of rocks must feel. Are the best things in life hidden? This pile of rocks became a pile of understanding to me. I realized the pile of rocks has been passed by so many people just like I did. They don’t even think twice about these gray rocks. The hustle and bustle that goes on in this society doesn’t allow us to see the things in special things in life. The reason why these rocks are so cold, gray, and unyielding is because so many people have given the cold shoulder to them. They don’t see that this pile of rocks is a representation of how we make assumptions before we actually experience something.
           As I got up after getting my energy back, I walked down the side of the mountain. I recognized that I had just gained some knowledge, which had been locked away in a treasure chest. The rocks are what we pass by everyday and never appreciate. I saw how one feels when we turn are shoulder on them. They become the rocks, and we become the grass. I left the spot not as a new human like some newly baptized Christian, but I left with a better understanding of how society is changing.  The few people who walk by this “tranquil landscape” are just passing an opportunity to become an individual spirit. The surroundings of the pile of rocks may change, but the pile of rocks never changes.















The “Borrowing” Dilemma

     “Hey, how are you doin’ Jim?” said Tim
     “Not too bad, yourself?” replied Jim
     “Pretty good. Could I borrow a dollar? I have no money, and I want a candy bar”
     How can you borrow a dollar? By my definition, when you borrow something you use that thing for a short period of time and return it in the same condition to the person. I do not think Tim is going to ask the store clerk, “I need that dollar back, so I can give it back to my friend.”
     It is the same concept as borrowing a cup of sugar. You use that cup of sugar for baking or some other use, but you cannot get the same sugar you borrowed out of your mix to give back to the person. You could purchase another thing of sugar to reimburse the person, but you do not have to return the sugar because they lent it to you. If you don not pay the person back, they will bother you constantly.
     A week later…
     “Hey Jim, you owe me a buck buddy.”
     “Oh, um……. Right. Yea, sorry I don’t got one right now. I’ll give you a buck when I have one.”
     This is a usual answer for those who have borrowed. You are giving the person the false idea you will pay them back, but who knows if you will pay them back. Most likely, you will keep responding with the same usual answers, “I don’t have one right now, but I’ll have one tomorrow.”,  “Um… I don’t have any money.”, or “I’ll pay ya back later”.
       The person will become extremely sick of hearing your false answers. The end result of them becoming so sick is they do not care anymore that they lent you a dollar, and they forget about the whole borrowing of that dollar because they are tired of asking you for it back. When you borrow, you are really taking, and you do not plan to pay them back anytime soon. Instead of borrowing being a temporary gift, it is a financial gain for you, and a financial lost for the person who lent it to you.
     "Could I borrow a dollar?” should be replaced with the more logical and truthful reason, “Could I have dollar?”













Edgar Allen Poe was burdened with hardships and sorrow all through his short life. Death seemed to be intricately wound in his life. Poe’s mother died at an early age of four. He married his cousin Lenore, who died shortly after their marriage. Poe died at the age of thirty-four years old, but his literary works shared a common theme. The common theme of Edgar Allen Poe’s literary works was darkness and death. They represented the suffering Poe went through during his life. In “The Raven”, Poe made it apparent the narrator of the poem was himself, and the raven was the answer to the troubles in his life. “The Raven” allowed us to have a look into the dark, dreary, and murky life of Edgar Allen Poe and humanity.

The mood of “The Raven” allowed us to peer into the confused world of death. It was about a young man who was in grief over the recent death of his wife, Lenore. Poe experienced two heartbreaking deaths, the death of his mother, and the death of his wife Lenore. The line,  “Once upon a midnight dreary, / while I pondered weak and weary.”(Line 1), set the tone for the entire poem. It exhibited to the reader a disturbing scenario of longing on a cold, damp night. It was possible for us to recognize the narrator was in sorrow and exhausted along with the atmosphere of the poem was gloomy. Poe reinforced the fact of the gloomy night by saying, “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; / And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”( Lines 7-). The shadowy language used by Poe revealed to us the narrator was recalling an event that left a mark of grief on his life.  The reader started to see the narrator was in eminence mourning because the narrator had been in bereavement for hours due to the fire had gone out. The narrator was still thinking about his lose. Poe allowed the reader to feel the “bleak December” in their bones, and he was able to have the reader feel the true mourning of the narrator, himself.  

     Edgar Allen Poe lived with the track of death at an early age, which continued for his whole life. With the use of his life experiences in his writings, Poe allowed the reader to read intently at his depressed life. “The Raven” displayed itself as a testament of Poe’s feelings and thoughts that occurred all through in his life. He went through various thoughts and approaches of dealing with the death of Lenore. Poe established himself as the narrator in “The Raven”. When the narrator said, “From my books surcease of sorrow-sorrow for the lost Lenore” (Line 10). We know the Poe had married a young, beautiful girl named Lenore who died shortly after their marriage. Poe wrote numerous poems about Lenore’s ghost. The narrator was saying that the only joy he found in life was reading literature that he had written about Lenore. The books were the only joyous memories he had at this point in his life, but the books turned on him by only bring back the fact Lenore was dead. Poe disclosed to us that he was the narrator. The reader was able to see how Poe was able to deal with a tremendous lost.  
The raven indicated the narrator would never be able to live the life he did before the death of Lenore. The narrator of “The Raven” became psychotic by the end of the poem. He encountered a raven that only spoke one word, “Nevermore”. The word “nevermore” made the man realize he would never be able to experience the warmth and joy that he underwent when his wife was alive. Poe allowed us to see how the narrator dealt with his mourning. We were able to see that Poe “nevermore” was able to experience joy in his life.  The literally works of Poe all had the same starkness and appeal of death in them. “The Raven” seemed to remind the narrator that he would never be able to live a joyous life.

     “The Raven” served as a window to Edgar Allen Poe’s cold life that was plagued with death. The poem possessed the common theme that Poe’s poems and literally works encompass.  It presented to us a testament of Poe’s gloomy, dim life and how one event could drive a human to insanity. Edgar Allen Poe used the poem as a way to communicate to his audience, and the poem was a way Poe showed his true feelings to his public.  





















             In a dimly lit, smoke filled room; you circle a felt covered, rectangle like a lion approaching its prey. In the background, the chiming of the beer glasses creates a euphonic symphony. The spectators are babbling about their days as they keep an eye on you. Finally, you pick your prey. You aim. You pull back your pool stick. Crack! You send the rack of balls scattering about the table. This scene is what most people imagine when they think about billiards. Billiards, or pool as it is more commonly known as in America, has become the leisure sport of the United States, and billiard has found its way into the hearts of many teenagers and adults everywhere.
     Billiards is a sport, but many fail to recognize it as one. When someone thinks of a sport, they usually think of two teams or people going head to head in a battle to the end. Although there is no contact in billiards, billiards is a sport because it has a competitive spirit, two people facing off against each other, and a required ability of critical thinking. Billiards is not just shooting a white cue ball at a cluster of balls, but it is a sport that many fail to recognize.  
What many fail to see are the needed skills to play billiards. Billiards is comparable to chess. In order to be a successful player, every shot you take has to be carefully thought out and placed if you want to win. “Each and every shot, you've got to guess what's going to happen with the object ball and cue ball. Then, you must pay attention and see if your results matched your hypothesis.” (Figueroa) It seems as though pool is a game of chance. Billiards is not all chance or luck, but it is about fifty-fifty in terms of luck versus skill. If you are able to use various skills such as mathematics and physics, you will become an accomplished pool player. Not only is careful planning a factor or guessing for that matter, there is the mathematical aspect of billiards. Billiards is a game of angles, percents, shapes, and speed. A billiards player has to be able to use the sidewalls of the table to their advantage in order to get the right shot. The proper angle can result in your favor, but the vicious cycle is that angle can result in your opponent’s favor, too. Besides the geometric approach to the game, you have to be able to use physics to win. The correct speed and force are needed to control the cue ball. Despite what many think, billiards can be a game of leisure, but involves immense skill in other areas.
              Billiard cannot only be found in the backroom of a bar, but it can be found in mainstream America. Many billiards players can be found all over the world. There seems to be different kinds of billiards players. There are the snooker, eight ball, trick shooter, straight pool, and your average-Joe billiards player. Along with findings different kinds of billiard players in the world, you can find billiard tables in bars, basements, and at many game rooms. Billiards has been known as a sport in which one can kick back and relax while playing the game.  
Billiards is known and played mainly as an amateur sport. You can see many billiard halls crowded on the weekends with teenagers and adults who just want to relax and socialize over a game of pool. It is easy to create your own billiards league. Billiards Congress of America is the governing body for billiards in the United States. The BCA makes it easy for one to create a league. The BCA allows amateurs to get a chance to display their talents outside of the local billiards hall (The Billiards Congress of America). The U.S. Amateur Championship is an annual even where amateurs can show case their talents and compete against other amateurs. Amateurs can compete in snooker, 8-ball, 9-ball, and other types of pool. The 1999 amateur champion, Dan LaVoie, said, "I'd rather be playing competitive pool than anything else, and getting the opportunity to play in a field like this makes the game that much more fun,” (American Poolplayers Association). Many Americans across the country experience the feeling that LaVoie feels. Americans want love competition in a sport. The competitiveness in a sport is what gets it national recognition and gains peoples’ interest in the sport. Countless amateur billiard players want to be able to compete against the best in their classes. Billiards natural competitive environment will allow it to become a more prominent sport in America.  
     On the professional level, the American Poolplayers Association (APA) is a group of the elite pros that display their talents on the professional circuit. One of these players is the trick-shooter Mike Massey. This fast-talking Texan has recently won the Worlds Artistic Pool Champion and the North American Artistic Pool Champion titles. Massey seems to defy physics and make the balls dance with his spectacular shots. When asked to describe his style of play when he first started, Massey said, “I was a ‘Barnum and Bailey’ type player.” (Mike Massey)  Every shot he takes in competition comes with a story of how he made up the shot or whom he got the shot from. He has established himself as the premier entertainer in billiards because the audience has just as much fun as he has when he is at the table. Massey thinks if the money was good enough for pool players and billiards received more mainstream attention there would be an influx of professional pool players (Mike Massey). The big multi-million dollar salaries of some professional athletes is what gets more young children’s’ attention, and the children want to earn the big bucks playing the sport. Money seems to be the last thing on a billiards players’ mind. The professional players know playing pool does not bring in nearly as much as other professional athletes earn, but they play, just like any athlete does, because they enjoy playing billiards and are having fun while they are doing it. Even though money seems to attract people to the sport, it has not repelled the interests of many Americans because a pool table is found in every town, basement, or backyard.      
               Billiards is a sport that is known worldwide. A pool hall or pool table can be found in almost any town, basement, bar, or house. Billiards has become a past time for many countries, and it has been found to be a social gathering for many. It has become a common language worldwide just like baseball. Just like bowling, billiards is making a second coming even though it never went away.