Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Green Light


A New Yorker, through and through, Joe DiGilio has a unique perspective on most of life’s experiences. You won’t want to miss a single word of his delightful story of a teenage baseball star/budding photographer Coming of Age in New York City. Then stay aboard to view some of his amazing shots of “The City” after the story's poignant ending.


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!

  Michelle Alton


The Green Light

Waiting for the B Train

I grew up in Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs. The son of a New York City police officer and the oldest of five, I was a typical teenager of the early 60’s. I hated school, liked ROCK N ROLL, girls, TV, sports, photography and Mom’s apple pie. I dedicated most of my time to sports, especially baseball, my first love. By the time I was 16 I had become a fairly good high school varsity baseball player. I was so fast the coach gave me “the green-light” which in baseball terminology meant I had permission to advance / steal / take the next base any time I wanted.

Like most American boys I had grandiose visions of becoming a big league ball player someday but other dreams, such as those cultivated by raging hormones, began to compete for time between my ears. I began to notice girls, the girl who lived next door in particular. Funny how that happened, this was the same freckle faced girl I teased when we were in the third grade. The same skinny girl whose braces I’d made fun of and who I'd thrown snowballs at. And the same girl who told my mother that I cursed and smoked cigarettes. All of a sudden she had become interesting. How was I going to get her to forget about our history and become interested in the new and improved teenage me? I started by smiling, saying hello, and taking the same bus she took to school. One day I sat in the empty seat next to her. I felt like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar when she caught me admiring her ample attributes. But instead of admonishing me she cocked her head in a knowing sort of way and shot me a come hither smile. Instead of the dirty look I had been getting for years,she gave me “the green-light."

Young Love

Now the lines of communication were open and “the good neighbor policy” was in force. Our chance encounters became more frequent; taking pictures at the park, at the supermarket, soda fountain, the school dance, she even came to some of my games and photographed me as if I were a star.

As time passed our attraction to one another and natural curiosity became stronger. We were spending more and more time together and it hadn’t gone unnoticed by our parents. Her father, a burly hard drinking steam fitter with an attitude, had always said “Hi Joey” to me in the past. Now he looked at me cockeyed with a, “you had better watch your P’s & Q’s around my daughter” scowl when he saw us together.

The houses in our neighborhood were close together and our bedroom windows directly across from one another. Some nights we would sit at our open windows, listen to music and talk until it was late.Aand some nights we’d arrange to take out the garbage at the same time and steal a kiss or two under the stars. The heat was on.


One night I noticed her blinds weren’t completely closed. I could see her changing, slowly into her pajamas. The show became a regular thing, more revealing and theatrical as time passed but we never spoke of it. I think she even had her father rearrange her bedroom furniture for my benefit. I was going to bed earlier than I had in years!

Behind the Blinds
On Saturdays we would tell our mothers we were meeting friends at the movies and rendezvous in the darkest row of the balcony where we would kiss until our lips were swollen with passion. One rainy afternoon, while sitting on the big wrap-around porch of my parent’s home, listening to music, looking at pictures, and discussing what we wanted to do with our lives, she told me she wanted to be a model and asked me to take a couple of B &W head shots of her with my Argus. She liked the way they came out and asked if I would photograph her wearing a two piece bathing suit too. She didn’t have to ask twice. I took my time, focused again and again and double checked my light meter too. They were all keepers. I can still see them through my mind’s eye bathed in the veil of the green-light.

Argus C3. An Oldie but a Goodie
One day when both our families were out she invited me in. The conversation turned to her modeling career. She told me she had a new two piece bathing suit for me to photograph her wearing. I had no 35mm film for my camera but she had a little Kodak that used 127 film and Blue Dot flash cubes. She changed and came out wearing a little number that was skimpy for the times. She was only 16 but she filled it out well. We kissed between pictures. It was getting very hot in there. She told me she trusted me and wanted me to photograph her topless. I thought I’d died and went to heaven. She had her father’s Playboy magazine and imitated some of the poses. I fired away with that little Kodak. Then without warning she turned around dropped the bottoms and posed with her back to me, just like the women in the magazine. It was only a 12 exposure roll; I was out of film in no time. She pulled the bottoms back up and turned to me, the “the green-light” brighter than ever. We embraced passionately and trembled with excited anticipation. Without breaking our hold we awkwardly climbed the stairs to her bedroom peeling my clothes off along the way. But before we could surrender to one another we heard a car door slam. Her mom and dad had returned home. We scampered around like frightened mice gathering our clothes, flew down the stairs and out the back door. We put our shoes on in
my yard then hopped the back fence and went around the block, buttoning our clothes along the way. Once we felt safe we laughed nervously about our close call and wondered when our next opportunity might come.

The following day she gave me the film. I took it to school and developed it in the lab where I discovered it wasn’t ours. These were family party pictures. She searched for our film but couldn’t find it.


The next day when I got home from school I heard her mother screaming next door. I opened the window in my room to hear better. I clearly heard her mom ask her, “Who took the pictures?” The lost film had been found. She didn’t give me up right away but when I heard her mom yell, “JOEY!” I knew I was dead meat.

Then it became quiet. I saw her standing at her window. We looked at one another with tearful eyes. Our lips moved in silence and our young hearts broke.

Veil of the Green Light

I thought about her father too and what his reaction might be so I went down the block and waited at the corner for my own father to come home from work. Dad was a tough guy but he was always fair. The truth went a long way with him. I flagged him down and told him I was in trouble and we had to talk privately. I told him the whole story. He just sat there and listened.

When Dad and I walked in the house together Mom knew something was wrong. Dad told me to go to my room and to stay there until he called for me. A short time later I heard my mother crying. I also heard roars from the house next door. Her father had come home. About a half hour later he rang our door bell. Her father and mine went out for a walk alone. They returned about an hour later but there was no call for me until late that night, after I’d had plenty of time to think.

Dad was solemn as a judge and Mom wore a stern expression. I got the third degree punctuated by smacks to the back of the head when Mom felt it was appropriate. I was put on a short leash and my camera was taken away. In addition I received a steady stream of punishment jobs around the house to occupy my time. As for the girl next door, well she became taboo, strictly off limits. Our parents didn’t want us seeing each other anymore. Dad said if I didn’t stay away from her he’d let her father kick my ass. I never caught much more than a fleeting glimpse of her after that. “The green-light” was out “the good neighbor policy” history, and the blinds never opened again. The house next door was sold a month later.

I’m sure our story would have ended differently had we been born a little later, in the age of digital photography where running out of film is no longer a concern.

I will never forget the girl next door. She was part of my education in so many ways. I never saw the pictures either except through my mind’s eye where they remain to this day bathed in the veil of the green-light.


Joe DiGilio’s Bio

Born, raised and formally educated in Manhattan and on Long Island, I could hear the fans screaming from my bedroom window when the Beatles played their first concert at old Shea Stadium.

I am a Viet Nam veteran. I have been married to Linda for 39 years. We have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. We still work but who knows for how long. At this stage of the game we take less and less for granted. Linda works in the accounting department of a non-profit organization and I manage a central monitoring station for a full service security company in Manhattan.

Photography has always been a part of my life. At times it’s played a greater role than it has at others but it has always been somewhere in the foreground or the background. At this juncture it’s fair to say photography qualifies as a passion. I’m self-taught but after 50 plus years of practice even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. I took my first picture at the tender age of 7 with mom’s Brownie Box camera. A Nikon man, I use a D200 exclusively.  I’d like to trade up to a D700 but I have to sell a lot more pictures to justify it.

The streets and architecture of Manhattan are favorite subjects of mine. Our grandchildren, sporting events, wildlife and the great outdoors are also favorites but I’ll try my hand at just about any subject if the spirit moves me.

Michelle stirred my interest with this great idea of hers, a story to accompany a few of my images.
Bonus Images

I have been admiring Joe’s growing collection of images of Life in New York City for several years now. They are wonderful, so I persuaded him to share a special grouping of them. Hope you enjoy the show!

  Michelle Alton


Happy Birthday Mr. President

30 Rock

Lightning Striking Again

Peggy Sue

Break Time


So Long!

Big Apple

Joe has posted another story to Relentless Pursuits.  Here is the link to "The Blue Ladies"

Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list!

All photography in "The Green Light" by Joe DiGilio



dennis murray said...

really enjoyed this story.after reading this story i was compelled to listen to meatloaf's "paradise
by the dashboard lights "

Lana said...

Love the pictures that accompany the story, they sure do make it more real and more interesting

Lorenzo said...

Great story and pictures!
I've alway's admired your style of photography and now your story telling style adds another dimension to your work. Very nice!

Dave Phalen said...

The story is wonderful. The photos are outstanding. Enjoyed both very much!!

Thanks Michelle for bringing both to your blog.

Monnie Ryan said...

Cute story, beautiful photos!

Patricia said...

Very intriguing story. The pictures helped tell the story and I was compelled to read on and find out more. Really great job! I hope to see and read more from you!

Alison said...

Your abilty to capture an image and give it a story has always amazed me. I credit you for peeking my interest in photography as a child and still with each click of your camera you continue to inspire me! As always I can't pick a favorite they are all GREAT!

Sandy Powers said...

Joe! YOU are a man of MANY talents! Sheeesh. I was disappointed when the story was over because I wanted to turn the page to read the next chapter. Then... as if your writing wasn't a treat enough, your PHOTOGRAPHY! WOW! I had my first trip to Manhattan last year, and fell so in love that my heart aches to see photos depicting the life there. THANK YOU... the ache is only painful for a while :)

Michelle said...

Your story telling has the ability to paint the entire picture in my mind! Love the story and of course the photographs!! Your creativity is always an inspiration.

Kirsten Conklin said...

Great story!!! It has really come along ways since the first time I heard it. Excellent pictures and they fit well with the story. I love the creativity.
Nice work Joe!! :)

Anonymous said...

What a lovely story with such great pictures to compliment.
Thank you too Michelle!!

Bob Cammarata said...

We all relish our precious memories of "the girl next door" and this eloquent reminiscence brings back fond recollections of the fears and fumblings of our youth.
Thanks Joe for sharing a truly special memory and some terrific photography.

douglas dimonda said...

photos great. story awakens youthful excitement. thank you pal..doug

Carol said...

Mr DiGilio - I've always been a big fan of your photography but now that your story has left me wanting more I hope that you will continue to write. I look forward to seeing and reading more from you.

LauraEm said...

What a captivating story. I read it wide eyed and brows up! I loved the part about how you used to treat her, (throwing snow balls at her, etc..), and then the akward transition to the green light. Lol...The two BOYS NEXT DOOR to me were nightmares. Their dog "Freckles" was a barking beast of a boarder collie. The parents gave their sons "poop duty" each day and they collected poop in a bucket. Well, when their parents weren't home they'd stand on their big deck and pelt poop down on me. Did this mean they had a crush on me??? Lol...
Great job, Joe!

Melissa said...

I really enjoyed this story and I love the pictures :)

Leslie said...

Wow Joe! You are truly talented. Your short story was well written. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It shows that you have a passion for photography and writing. Keep up the good work.

Newton said...

What a wonderfull story!! Your photographic eye is one of the very best that I have seen. My hat is off to a amazing photography and a realy neat guy..