Every night, when all of the other children in the
neighborhood had fallen asleep, Nora Murray sat under the windowsill
waiting for her father to return home. Around midnight his singing would
usually fill the lane and Nora and her mother Hannah felt a deep relief.
Every few weeks, however, Patrick Murray would not return home for a
period of days.
It was during these times that Nora and Hannah tossed and turned in
bed worried about what had happened to him. Everyone knew that Patrick was
more than a baker, and that he did many “things” for the IRA, but these
“things” were never discussed. Nora and Hannah were never notified where,
when, or what he had done, so these sleepless nights remained quite usual
for the family. All of the people in the neighborhood that the Murray
family lived in, that is all but Hannah and Nora, respected the work that
Patrick did for the Cork City Branch of the IRA.
He was considered a true patriot, a true Irishman, but his
reputation came with a price. His was involved in several dangerous
terrorist activities that could have left him dead or in jail. Finally, it
was in the spring of 1951, that the true degree of danger was realized,
and that the Murray family would be forever changed as a result of these
activities. Nora Murray, my grandmother, has told our family the story of
her father time and time again. Unlike most other family stories this one
is interesting in that it actually changed the whole dynamic of family.
She always begins the story with, “It was the longest two weeks of
my life, but I had to remain strong for my mother.” It was during these
two, in the spring of 1951, that her father remained away from home for
the longest period of time to date. Nora and Hannah received no word from
Patrick for two weeks. This was the first time they were in true fear that
he might have been caught. Hannah read in the paper that a terrorist act
had been committed to the Protestant newspaper and two policemen were
killed. Two police officers showed up at the Murray house to question
whether or not Patrick had made contact with them. Hannah knew that
Patrick must have made some sort of mistake, for he was no murderer, but
she also knew that this time the family would be seriously affected.
After two weeks, a strange looking man showed up at the Murray house
and told Hannah and Nora to pack as quickly as possible. He took tem to a
small farmhouse about fifty miles outside of Cork City and explained to
them what had happened. Patrick and another IRA member had set fire to a
local protestant newspaper late one night, unaware that two British police
officers were acting as the security inside the building. Both of the men
were killed and now Patrick and his partner were being charged with
murder, breaking and entering, and destruction of property.
For these charges he would spend the rest of his life in jail. He
told them that Patrick needed to get out of the country and that the
family would travel to the United States in order to escape the
punishment. Hannah and Nora were taken to Dublin were they finally saw
there father again. Patrick told them that it was an accident and that no
one was supposed to be inside the building. The family would be leaving
the next day on a boat bound for Boston, Massachusetts. When they arrived
the family took a train to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where they stayed
with Hannah’s sister, Molly, until they could get settled. Eventually
Patrick bought his own house and did what any true Irishman would do,
opened up a bar. He raised his family in Fitchburg, and the bar remained
in our family until 1981. When Nora got married to Paul Dewey, my
grandfather, he took over and ran the Shamrock Tavern. In fact, my family
still uses the glasses from the bar.
My grandmother’s childhood was one lived in constant fear. When the
family moved to America they were able to erase the past, begin anew, and
become honest hard-working people. This is the greatest aspect of America,
to be able to become a new person, and start out with a clean slate.
Peoples throughout the world come to America in search of a better life
and a more hopeful future. Luckily, for my family’s sake the Murray’s left
An American Place
Thousands of people have passed it by without a second glance. It
was as if it didn;t exist, as though the lush green landscape was just my
mirage. There is a place, nestled between the buckling concrete of the
West Roxbury Parkway that few have noticed and even fewer have interacted
with. In this place I have looked past the scarcity of vibrant trees and
exotic vegetation; I have looked past the abundance of trash, and I have
found a piece of land that nobody knows exists. Sure, dogs may be walked
through this island of concrete waters, and people may cross over it, but
no one has ever stopped to realize what is really there. Crossing a bare
common;without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good
fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration,” said Ralph Waldo
Emerson. When I began my observations of this place I expected only to
find raw useless data, but instead I received the greatest gift
imaginable. Emerson said, The greatest delight which the fields and woods
minister is the suggestion of an occult between man and the vegetable. I
realized that this was not just a piece of public property, but instead it
is a piece of me.
I was once naïve enough to think that man had control over nature. I
thought that our actions helped dictate the death or preservation of our
surroundings. Most Americans feel the same way. Deforestation and
littering are looked down upon because we think we are destroying our
environment. What we fail to realize is that all the things that make up
this world are bound together. The human soul as well as the rock is part
of a bigger picture, a universal spirit. We are all equal in this
Oversoul. Everything plays a part, and although some may appear to be more
productive or more important than others in the end we have all
contributed in our own way.
As we interpret the struggle between man and nature it is very easy
to find ways in which we affect each other. Unfortunately, people only
consider how each can be physically detrimental or physically beneficial
to the other. Before examining my place I would have also responded in
such a manner. However, I have realized that our wealth and our physical
well being are only subordinate to our spiritual and mental happiness.
Emerson believed that, The one thing in the world of value is the active
soul. When we analyze the world around us we see that our emotions and
our spirit are far more powerful than any un-recycled soda-can. Over time,
trash and the activities of people may kill a few plants, but how does
that even compare to what our minds can do? A person who only focuses on
the good can find beauty and splendor during a violent storm. A person in
a cheerful mood might find a barren tree a work of art. Also, a rainbow
may be enough to make a depressed person smile. Nature and man are vital
counterparts of each other. We feed off of each other. Man grooms parts
of nature, and nature grooms the human spirit. In order to live life to
the fullest we must truly respect and understand each other.
We can all begin the process of spiritual enlightenment by finding
our own island of concrete waters. And eventually, we may be able to see
entire countries as a single case of naturebeauty. We must live day by
day, looking forward to what may happen in the next second rather than
what might happen in the next week or month. Give me one world at a time,
said Henry David Thoreau. If we could all just live one world at a time,
we could all fulfill our parts in the Oversoul
James Scanlon had been born into a very proper, and very strict family.
He was taught to always project an image of success, and to do so was
trained to retain a perfect reputation. High school was a tough period
for James because all of his friends partied all night, drank heavily, and
even smoked. Every time he went out with them he felt like an outcast,
because if he were caught partaking in any of these activities his parents
would kill him. Although he developed incredible will power and respected
his parents wishes, certain societal pressures and his desire to fit in,
led James to make the most difficult choice in his life.
Since James lived in Boston he was a huge Patriots fan. When he heard
they would be going to the Super Bowl he was ecstatic. His best friend,
Brian, was going to throw a big party the night before the game, and
although James knew there would be drinking, he had to celebrate.
James arrived at Brian’s house at around seven o’clock on Saturday night.
He felt as though he didn’t belong because he was the only one not
drinking. He didn’t talk to anyone and felt like he couldn’t relate.
After a few hours James was finally convinced that he wouldn’t get
caught. He opened up his first beer with no knowledge of the decision
that would be presented to him later on that night.
At ten o’clock James jumped up and screamed, “I won, I won, I can’t
believe it!” “What is going on?” asked Brian. James had won the
Budweiser Super Bowl Contest. Ten cans of beer with “WINNER” written on
them had been randomly placed throughout the country. The prize was two
tickets to the Super Bowl. But almost as soon as he realized what he had
won, he also realized that he would have to explain it to his parents. He
knew they would be upset about the drinking, but thought the tickets would
make them forget. After all, James’ father was as big a fan as James was.
James left the party and ran home as fast as he could. He ran into the
house and screamed, “Dad, we’re going to the Super Bowl.” His father was
so excited that he didn’t even ask him where he got the beer can. James
went to bed that night with no worries, dreaming of getting an autograph
or catching a field goal.
The next morning James woke up and saw his father and younger brother
pulling out of the driveway. He asked his mother what was going on and
she said, “Your father and brother are going to the Super Bowl, and
because you were drinking, you can’t watch the game.”
In Emily Dickinson's poem, "Because I could not
stop for Death,"
Dickinson discussed the inevitability of death. She also made the reader
realize that death is not a short and sudden event. Although it sometimes
seems like a person has died unexpectedly, the day we were born was
the day we began to die. This poem was particularly interesting because
Dickinson wrote it as though she was already dead. Through her
of death using metaphors, symbolism and euphemisms the reader gained
into Dickinson's fascination with the after-life.
In "Because I could not stop for Death" Emily Dickinson wanted to
explain how inevitable death is. None of us want to acknowledge that we
not be here forever, and in order to prevent ourselves from thinking about
the end, we try to stay busy. As a result we are not ready when Death
for us. "The Dews drew quivering and chill-For only Gossamer, my Gown-My
Tippet-only Tulle." She was not expecting Death to stop for her, and was
therefore unprepared for the long journey ahead of her. Dickinson also
admitted that she tried to remain busy when she said, "Because I could not
stop for Death- He kindly stopped for me." Basically, no matter how much
try to avoid it, death is imminent and nothing can stop it. The sooner we
accept this, the sooner we may realize that death is not a sad process.
slowly drove-He knew no haste." Death does not need to hover over us or
at the chance to take our lives. We will all eventually die and cannot
it. Dickinson was sure to note His "Civility." Death is therefore
polite-allowing us to live our lives because He knows that it is our fate
Traditionally, Death has been portrayed as a dark and evil creature
covered in black, someone who instantly takes our breath from us.
used euphemisms to describe Death as something we should neither fear nor
dislike. She did not recall a dreadful journey filled with sorrow and
Instead of imagining a black creature dragging your spirit away, Dickinson
pictured a carriage ride to the end of time. "We paused before a House
seemed a Swelling of the Ground." Death was like an adventure, a new
journey, one in which we may leave our body in its new home in the ground,
but retain our soul.
Dickinson believed that death is also a reintroduction to our lives.
passed the School, where Children strove At Recess-in the Ring- We passed
Fields of Gazing Grain- We passed the Setting Sun." The school
her childhood-and recess her innocence. Fields of grain symbolized her
maturity into adulthood. We grow and mature much like crops. Finally,
sun set on her life. We may be leaving people and things we love, but we
will never forget them. "Since then-'tis Centuries-and yet Feels shorter
than the Day." She assured us that new joys are also going to come. This
journey is not one that we will regret. In fact, it is more like life
we think, passing us by quickly, as though it were coming to its own end.
Dickinson had a gift. She was able to turn a subject as grim as Death
into a symbolic adventure. Reading, "Because I could not stop for Death"
helps us realize that as soon as we can cope with our fears we can embrace
Billiards originated in fifteenth century France as
an indoor extension of the popular lawn game croquet. At first, the game
was only played by nobles and aristocrats. Eventually, however, Captain
Mingaud, a prisoner of war during the French Revolution, mastered the
game, and went on a traveling exhibition throughout France. As time
progressed so did billiards, spreading to several other European nations
and developing into several diverging forms, including snooker, carom
billiards, and “pool.” American craftsmen began to make tables in the
beginning of the nineteenth century. Private tables were still too
expensive for the average man, but several public tables were opened up
throughout the country (Hickok). Over the centuries this “sport” has
become an integral part of our nation’s culture, often helping to define
what our country is truly about.
For most nations a “sport” is any competitive activity that
requires physical aptitude, with the primary purpose of generating fun and
exercise. Americans, however, are more obsessed with the competitive
aspects. Anything that can sustain rivalry and allow betting is what we
consider a “sport.” Therefore, billiards is the perfect American example.
The first tables were very expensive, and as a result billiards had very
shady beginnings in the United States. The first public pool halls were
plagued with drinking, fighting, and hustling, an image romanticized in
Paul Newman’s 1961 movie, “The Hustler (Hickok).” Rick Williams, the
general manager of a billiards school described it best when he said,
“…they thought that if anybody had a cue in their hands and was drinking,
they were going to end up breaking it over somebody’s head (“Changing
However, over the past few decades billiards has emerged as a
very popular and very respectable game. It has spread to the general
public, and now even female players are quite common. According to the
Billiards and Bowling Institute of America, over forty million people
played at least once in 1995. The Billiards Congress of America has
established several amateur and professional leagues (Hickok). Now it is
played competitively across the nation, from national tournaments to
friendly games. “Some of the most exciting moments are when you are
already down twenty bucks, and you have to sink the next shot,” said Tim
Roddy, an amateur player, about competitions with his friends. “I don’t
know what I like more about the game, the time and practice it requires,
or the thrill of beating you friends five games in a row.”
Billiards has now become “Americanized,” and has been transformed
into much more than a sport. Billiards is an extraordinary game in that
you can become far more than just a player. “You’re an artist and an
athlete,” says Jeannette Lee, a professional player known as the Black
Widow, “Every time you break the balls you have a completely different
picture (Cook 16.”
Lee, like most other players have completely changed their mindset about
the game. It is no longer just sticks, balls, and pockets. When you play
you can become an artist with a forever changing canvas, a mathematician
analyzing the angles, or a physicist measuring speed and force. America
is a unique place in that our culture tends to take the best aspects of
all other cultures and make them better.
Billiards has become a nationally recognized and publicized
sport. Each year the number of “frequent” players increases and pool
revenues increase as well. The growth of this sport parallels the way
this country was founded. Billiards was a small outcast with little hope
for survival. But with the ultimate desire to become the best, it
prevailed. It has become far more than a sport, “Pool is my game, but
it’s also my mission,” said professional player LoreeJon Jones (“My
Passion” 72). Americans have and will always want to be the best at
everything. Our nation is very young compared to most, but over the short
amount of time in which we have been here, we have developed political,
economic, and social institutions that set us apart from every other
nation. We are constantly striving to make all aspects of our society
better, and this was especially reflected through billiards. Once a
“ruff-neck” game that few acknowledged and even few fewer played, it is
now one of the most popular sports in the country.
When billiards was introduced to the United States it was by no
means a popular sport. Over the decades we have crafted our own rules and
regulations, but more importantly developed an entirely new viewpoint
towards the sport. It has become more than a sport, and certainly much
more than a “game.” We have “Americanized” it into something very
special. It is know an open playing field in which our mental stamina is
equally important as our physical endurance, and where our imaginations
can run rampant.