“Down to the sea!” my Uncle Ray would call out as his party guests started to leave after midnight. Waving a champagne bottle, he’d corral his friends and me into a caravan of taxis bound for the West Side docks, where, according to newspaper listings, an ocean liner would be leaving for South America or Europe.
As a deluge of rainbow streamers poured down the ship’s hull, he’d lead a charge up the gangplank looking for celebrations. Effervescent, beaming, he befriended strangers who, assuming he was embarking with them, passed out drinks to us. If he spotted a lounge piano, his fingers flew over the keys as he led sing-alongs of raucous show tunes.
Eventually we’d hear the draconian public address system’s blare: ALL ASHORE THAT’S GOING ASHORE! Ray’s music ceased in an extravagant arpeggio. He rose unsteadily to his feet and, waving to everyone, shuffled down the gangplank to the wharf.
“Bon voyage! ” I would hear him cry up at the passengers lining the railings until he was so hoarse that he sounded on the verge of tears.
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