with Ruth Riddick
by Aileen Kyoko Haugh
Even in the midst of a crowded, neighborhood filled Café Regular, when Ruth Riddick steps in, you notice her. I was waiting patiently for her arrival and 5 minutes after our scheduled meeting time she walked thru the swinging doors and announced in a lingering Dublin accent “I’m on time for Irish time ”. She immediately got my attention with her exquisite and confident presence. Ruth was wrapped up in a large fur coat and wore vintage pearl earrings, and several gorgeous colorful rings on her fingers. With perfectly styled hair, a soft complexion and piercing eyes Ruth exuded a gentle but witty soul.
Ruth ordered a double cappuccino and joined me on the cozy window seat at the 11th street location and told me all about her connection with the café, love for words and why she is a committed feminist. Ruth found Café Regular through a combination of neighborhood exploring and a NY Times article. Upon moving from Washington DC to New York (where she swears is the cultural capital of the world) she was in search of a coffee shop to be her new home away from home. When she laid eyes on Café Regular she immediately thought “well, that’smy kind of place! From the name of it to the look, this is absolutely for me!” One day Ruth met Oliver, our owner’s son working behind the counter and was impressed with his first class service and gregarious personality. From then on Ruth frequently found herself with her nose in a New Yorker sipping her cappuccino at Café Regular; finally she found her escape and a piece of sanity. She chuckled “this is Brooklyn, the person sitting right next to you typing furiously is probably working on their next film script. I am used to going to stimulating public places of refreshment where creative activity is going on”.
Ruth admits that she was drawn to the café by the unique “French-ish” designs. “When I first went to Paris I truly thought I had died and gone to heaven. I used to say that if things didn’t work out for me in Dublin I would move to Paris and become a dishwasher.” Ruth was also drawn to the personal and intimate feel of the café, saying she prefers to support local businesses rather than cold, large establishments.
When asked what she does for a living, Ruth sighed, took a sip of her coffee and explained “I find that question, almost impossible to answer. I come from a consciousness that is bohemian that really doesn’t understand career paths. However one of the things I do is help people with communications and marketing.” She told me that the best example to what she does dates back to the medieval times. Scribes in those days would write “a love letter, business document or whatever resume you would need in those days.” Anything that requires words to be beautifully strung together, she can do. “In Ireland, at the end it all comes down to words. We have two exports from Ireland - Guinness, now owned by the French, which leaves us with words. I am part of that Dublin tradition of exporting words.” Ruth’s love for words has stretched over into her personal poetry pieces she writes. When I asked her what she writes about she rapidly responded, “The thread in my poetry is the awfulness of being born female in Ireland.” Ruth took me into a period in her life where she fought for a purpose she strongly believed in – women’s rights, in particular reproductive rights. As a brave and smart feminist Ruth was disgusted by the way women were only considered wives or mothers without much alternative. She was part of the generation that took their passion to the streets. This group of women began to really name the issues and highlight them for the public.
Ruth ran the Open Door Counseling Center, a support service for women. She worked to empower women opening the doors for their ability to make the decision that was best for their life circumstance. As a feminist myself, I was excited and in admiration of Ruth. I am aware that in her generation it was even more difficult to create a stand against inequality.
Nowadays Ruth is happily settled in Brooklyn, NY, observing and participating in the eclectic world of NYC. She chuckled as she told me about the major differences between Ireland and America. “Americans are locked in the future and the Irish are locked in the past. We come here to find the future and Americans visit Ireland to find their past.” I was more than happy to speak to the fascinating Ruth Riddick. Her poise and lady-like appearances are complemented with a brave and fierce heart. Next time you see Ruth in the café say hello – she’s got plenty of inspiring stories to tell.