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For MoonPie’s birthday I gave him the gift of me playing hooky. It’s a tradition, couldn’t be helped. He gets to call the shots this one day. We set out heading to Melody Lanes to bowl, get fried food for him and maybe even a moon pie from the vending machine. But he changed his mind along the way and we wound up taking the subway to the Financial District to visit an African burial ground and check out the Native American museum. Are you sure this is what you want to do on your birthday? This is why my sisters call you BBC Boy.

My pictures are tiny because neither of us have any interest in figuring out the settings on his Smartphone.

The National Museum of the American Indian NYC location is free every day and housed in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. MoonPie was pretty giddy as he’s a history nerd buff. The outside of the building features huge statues of the twelve seafaring nations. It’s a grand sight, but wait till you go inside. You can enter at street level, but a walk up the front stairs feels like stepping back in time.

After the guards gave MoonPie a funny look for carrying candy corn in his very manly purse, we entered the Rotunda pictured above. Those are frescoes and statues of explorers framing the ceiling. You can read about the building’s history or just sit on a cushy bench and look up, glad the city has left this part of the building open to the public.

The museum section is actually an annex site. It houses one large room of Native American artifacts, a room of jewelry and a rotating exhibit. My eyes glaze offer at jewelry, but I was happy to discover the dance costumes downstairs. Walk down the elegant staircase to see video of different ceremonial dances and the clothing worn. Here’s what young girls wear during the Fancy Shawl Dance somewhere in South America.

The exhibits are worth seeing, but I wasn’t impressed by the museum as a whole. There are 566 federally recognized Native American Nations (a woman there told us). I guess I expected more context. The artifacts are displayed with dates and the name of the people and sometimes the use. Some were more than 3000 years old, but many were made in the 1980’s and 90’s. We saw some cool stuff, but didn’t learn much about what life was like for the people who made the items beyond that they were resourceful and found ways to use every part of animals and plants. We’ll have to visit the DC location soon.

Temperatures were in the single digits and it always feels cooler on the southern tip, but we couldn’t resist walking to Battery Park a block or two away. When a large body of water is near, it’s only right to pay a visit. One wavie to a chunk of floating ice and we were off in search of a cafe for MoonPie’s birthday cappuccino. This is a tall order on a cold day when suits storm the streets looking for a quick lunch. After deleting the dozens of salad places, we found a deli with booths and decent coffee.

chunk of ice. Oooooh

chunk of ice and my thumb – Oooooh

Wander around enough and you’ll find a few lovely streets like this. Here’s the thing, it takes little will power to resist lunchtime margaritas in winter, but cozy pubs with steamed up windows are an evil gateway. You go in thinking soup but when you order soup it comes out sounding like two margs, please. It’s only acceptable to call them “margs” on a birthday, fyi.

Warmed up by first coffee and then margs we walked north to the African burial ground. There’s a small, free museum where you can learn about the uproar in the 90’s to save the site from developers. The people actually won in this city where land is at a premium. The site is a National Historic landmark protected by the National Park Service. The monument is closed for the winter, but you can see it from the sidewalk on Worth street just off of Broadway. The actual burial ground is 6.6 acres. 15,000 free and enslaved Africans were buried there between 1690 and 1794. The site was rediscovered in 1991. How did the city lose track of its existence? The website says landfill and redevelopment. We weren’t there long because the museum portion is small, but I’m glad we stopped by.

It started to snow after that. We wound up walking through Chinatown and stopping for bubble tea. MoonPie had a bowl of congee made from scratch just for him. We spent the night watching crappy horror movies (his pick) and eating one of the best cakes I’ve ever made – gf vanilla funfetti, a layer of jam in the middle and coconut frosting on top. And The Beatles sang him their birthday song, of course. It was a fun day, but I still want to go bowling and smell fried food. Surprise birthday 2 will be later this week.