Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Games Children Play

“Were your neighbors halfwits?” Andrea often asks when she thinks back to a conversation we had a while ago about playing Tag in my neighborhood. She just can’t get over that we called the”Safety Zone” in the game “ghoul.”

“Do you mean goal?”

”No, ghoul.” She shakes her head and wonders what kind of kids would do such a thing.

We weren’t lovable scamps. It was me and a group of three (and eventually four) brothers that hung out at the end of my block. There were some special guest stars from around the corner or across the park but, for the most part, it was we four playing and, more often, torturing each other. We played games like Mercy where we’d hold each others hands and try to bend the other person’s wrists backwards until they screamed, “Mercy!” There was Iron Horses where one guy would get on the shoulders of another and attack another mounted pair until someone toppled.

There were less-violent games like Statue Tag, Red Light/Green Light, and Mother May I. But, during these peaceful contests we’d be doing some of our running monologues like “What’s Grosser Than Gross?” This recurring topic consisted of trying to verbally create the most disturbing image possible. “What’s grosser than gross? Falling off a ten story building and catching your eyelid on a nail on the way down.” “What’s grosser than gross? Finding a pubic hair in the bottom of your mayonnaise jar.” And so on. That two of the three brothers in our group were older made for some interesting additions to my vocabulary (like pubic).

The age disparity also gave me early insight into sex (Playboy Magazine) and violence (the graphic novel for ALIEN). This neighbor family also gave me my first glimpse of White Trash. While my family quietly seethed and put on a happy middle-class face, this White Trash family had no problem with knock-down drag out fights, trash strewn back and front yards, and a collection of KISS posters that I envy to this day. If it wasn’t for them, I’d have never seen the famous Farrah Fawcett poster in its proper context or have gained exposer to Black Sabbath.

While my Mom had me listening to classical music in an effort to broaden my mind, my neighbors were peppering my speech with song lyrics. For example: whenever someone would express a desire for something they usually garnered the response, “Anyway you want it, that’s the way you need it, anyway you want it.” Any painful injury where tears were imminent was accompanied by the chorus of “Jamie’s Crying” and other “ classic rock” taunts ("If you want it, here it is, come and get it") fit other situations with ease.

Sometimes I think that we were halfwits. The rest of the time I think we were just bored.

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