But this blog is not about the game just described, which I played forty-five years or so ago—and one, by the way, that withered on the vine with just about every other street game after my generation, the baby boomers, retired our spaldeens. No, this “Red Light…Green Light” game that I played some forty-five years ago was a One Night Only affair, an on-the-spot creation of yours truly as darkness set in one chilly, pre-Christmas December evening just before suppertime. I was nine years old and playing outside with my six-year-old brother. We did that sort of thing in the 1970s. We were outdoors as much as physically possible, even in cold weather and without the light of day.
So, yes, I got a spiked that night—beneath my chin—and the blood flowed. Without delay, Mom brought me to our family doctor up the hill on Kingsbridge Avenue, a mere block away from the notorious red light. The old sawbones stitched me up—I have the scar to prove it—and informed my mother and me that a half-inch or so to the left and I might have been impaled. The following day, my best friend in grammar school at the time—a kid named Mark D—mockingly pointed out to my peers that I was wearing “one bandage over another” on my chin. What are friends for? This, in fact, is how I can remember how I old I was when the near-impaling incident occurred. I’ve got a signed report card envelope to prove it.
Postscript: I've noticed that modern-day fences of the kind that nearly impaled me are sans spiked tops. They're flat. And this flatness is a good thing. I’m glad, though, that I was permitted to go outside and play a game—for lack of a better word—that I conceived in the moment. I’m happy, too, that there was a family doctor still in his office to patch me up—one bandage over another—without any fanfare. Kids with their smartphones just don’t know what they’re missing.
(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)