Previous posts here have mentioned pirates; an experience I had yesterday prompts another. I was eating a late midday lunch on the third floor balcony of Pier 17 before going sailing a shift of public sails as volunteer on Pioneer. Beside me on a teak deckchair sat a Chinese woman and a 10-year-old I took for her grandson. She was having lunch too while the boy crouched at the front of her chair immersed in a hand-held video game. The scratchy sounds emanating from the v-toy bothered me, but I felt generous, buoyed by a general joy about my life and the sights and sounds of the East River. No, Alice was nowhere to be seen, but so what. The grandmother, however, seemed unhappy; to any question she posed the boy [in some dialect of Chinese I understand nothing of], he grunted in a way that in any language means “don’t bother me.” Any food she offered, he declined. Any sight she pointed out, he ignored. He contorted his body such that his vision and his hands converged around the game. His avoidance of her and tuning into what I deemed grating electronic sounds went on for about 15 minutes. Then the black ship below approached the pier.

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In tones less whiny than before, she called his attention to the ship. She repeated a sound that I took to mean “ship.” The excitement in her voice became palpable. “Ship, ship” she repeated, and for once the boy looked up. “See the captain,” said she, pointing to the helm where a man in black hat sat with a mysterious double.

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A loud distant voice rose from the ship, counting down; then a simultaneous puff of white smoke and a loud boom, followed by echoes clattering off the buildings of the island of Manhattan, echoes like impact, tangible impact and not just sonic ones.

The grandmother’s voice had energy now, and the once ensnared boy put down his v-toy. Another puff and boom and he handed the toy to his grandmother, who took it as she continued to narrate the events to her grandson. She had all his attention now, she and the black ship.

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Young voices now roared from the deck of the black ship. As the red-capped pirates lowered the sails and furled, the young pirates waved swords and shouted.

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And the grandson, only moments before begging in a whiny voice for his grandmother to leave him to his electronic device, now seemed petitioning her as the powerful one in his life: “Please, grandma, may I go? Please let me join this band? This would be exciting. My life is so boring. Let’s go meet them at the dock.”

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So grandmothers and grandfathers of all ages; hope for v-toy addicted young’uns exists only as far away as the end of Pier 16. Pirates sail again to liberate us from electronic dreariness!

Departing at 1 pm July 22 and August19, both Sundays at pier 16. $20 for young’uns and $30 for adults. Reservations: 212-748-8786.

All fotos, you guessed, Will Van Dorp

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