The guys at my regular coffee spot have progressively changed their attitude towards me, becoming less chatty and frankly quite rude. It was only this morning whilst preparing for my journey round the block I realised I had never tipped them. Do u tip in Starbucks? But this isn’t Starbucks, it’s the little star cafe and I’m certain those servers rely on customer gratitude. I feel terrible and march around the corner, greeted by a stoney face, I order my hot drink, lay down 10 dollars and run, embarrassed by my previous visits to the traditional diner.
Our second full day in Manhattan, a big breakfast of avocado, poached egg and greens prepares us for the day ahead as we set off on foot along Fifth Avenue towards Central Park. Our destination is the American Museum of Natural History but we take in the vibe of Mid-Town en route, enjoying the grandeur of couture shops and plush hotels. Our first pit stop, the famous FAO Schwarz toy store, where Ruby finds it difficult to regain posture and a sense of calm as her eyes dart from ceiling to floor, excited at the prospects of what this magical place can bring. Plushies of every animal Imaginable, a candy store filled with Wonka, Hershey’s and M&M’s, enough paint and art materials to paint Trump Towers twice over and not forgetting the ‘Big Piano’.
I only just managed to prize Ruby away to continue our journey and we marched forward towards Strawberry Fields. It’s obligatory to visit this small homage in Central Park which is just in line with the Dakota building, where Lennon was assassinated. You do not have to be a Beatles fan to feel the atmosphere surrounding the beautiful mosaic gifted to New York by the city of Naples, Italy.
My last visit to the shrine was much of the same experience and I bought a framed picture of the Imagine mural. The same guy at the same cart, selling the same merchandise and we are having the same conversation, four years apart. He’s a fan of The Average White Band and is delighted to hear my Dundee twang. We discuss the bands recent tour and he gifts me with a free Lennon portrait and gives Ruby some NYC magnets. What a cool guy.
With a spring in our step we race on towards the museum, which is the setting from one of Ruby’s favourite New York movies, ‘A night at the museum’.
I’m utterly astonished as Ruby informs me that she has memorised the floor plan (how many times has this kid watched this film.) so we head straight towards the hall of African Mammals, on a hunt for a Capuchin Monkey named Dexter. As we snake around the museum, I realise I learn more from Ruby than I do the exhibitions as she tells me tales of Teddy Roosevelt, his explorations and his time as US President.
Lunch in the park, in Shakespere’s garden to be precise and it’s implicitly impossible to believe that such an idilic and green location can be set in the heart of such a populated city. A stroll through the ramble, over the lake and past Alice in Wonderland we make our way to the ding-dang-dong Plaza Hotel. Once more Ruby has a moment, a wee girl standing in the set of another favourite movie. We take selfies in the elevator, lay opulently across the chaise lounge in the loos and pretend to be Kevin McCallister in the lobby. We stay for drinks and chocolate brownies and have an hour pretending to be posh before catching the subway south to Soho for some shoe shopping. A large purchase in the Dr Marten store and a visit to the famous Goorin Bros bold hat-makers, finds us stampeding towards Little Italy for some famous New York pizza slice.
The subway home (which he haven’t quite mastered) and again asleep for 9pm. It’s tough and it’s tiring in the city that never sleeps.
Long live the VEF and Ruby Scanlan the American History QUEEN.