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Nancy Ruhling
Nancy A. Ruhling is a freelance journalist who has had bylines in more than 50 online and print publications, including The New York Times. Her latest postings are on She has lived in Astoria long enough to be an “Astoria Character.” She may be reached at

Entries by Nancy Ruhling

Astoria Characters: The Soloist

(0) Comments | Posted January 19, 2015 | 7:15 AM

Why? Even for Yomar Ramirez, who is an introspective woman, it's not always easy to come up with a simple, satisfying answer.

Sometimes it's better to shrug and go on, which is what she does.

Yomar, a blithe blonde, is sitting in her living room, clutching a 30-ounce beer stein...

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Astoria Characters: The Man Who's Redrawing His Life

(0) Comments | Posted January 13, 2015 | 5:08 AM

The painting, a brooding tattoo of black and white shapes flowing together like a raging river, is wrapped in a cage of thin clear plastic. Anthony Cardillo releases it and holds it in front of his body like a warrior's shield.



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Astoria Characters: The Creek Chronicler

(0) Comments | Posted January 6, 2015 | 5:19 AM

It's going to be a good day. Mitch Waxman knows this because he just saw a black cat with yellow eyes.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Mitch on the waterfront.

He's not particularly superstitious, but every time he's crossed...

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Astoria Characters: The Biz Brothers

(0) Comments | Posted December 30, 2014 | 5:15 AM

As soon as Dan and Shaun Dougherty sit down, they start reminiscing. The brothers come from a large family -- they are two of nine -- so there were few times when they were growing up that everyone gathered at one table.

It's still a rarity to see the two...

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Astoria Characters: The Team Player

(0) Comments | Posted December 23, 2014 | 8:12 AM

The first thing you see when you enter Pete Silletti's office is the company logo. If you don't recognize the "you're in good hands" corporate art, it is spelled out in huge, shiny silver letters: Allstate.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling

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Astoria Characters: The Re-Rooted Florists

(0) Comments | Posted December 16, 2014 | 8:22 AM

There's not enough room in Teddy's Florist for the plants and the people, so George Stelios starts moving the flowers to the street.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
George has always been in the flower business.

He apologizes for...

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Astoria Characters: The Tree Santa

(0) Comments | Posted December 9, 2014 | 5:25 AM

Up against the snow-white fence, there's a pile of Christmas trees, trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Harry started last season.

In the opposite corner of the mini-backyard, there's a box full of...

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Astoria Characters: The Man in Transition

(0) Comments | Posted December 2, 2014 | 5:45 AM

There's nothing ordinary about Clay Nelms' story. So don't let the stereotypical musical-style synopsis fool you: Small-town boy with big-city dreams comes to New York because he's gotta sing and dance.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Clay Nelms was Broadway bound.

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Astoria Characters: The Rx Man

(0) Comments | Posted November 24, 2014 | 6:59 AM

The old wooden floor creaks, and Harry Xidias smiles. He finds the sound comforting.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Harry owns City View Pharmacy.

When he hears it, he knows he's home. Home is City View Pharmacy,...

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Astoria Characters: The Trivia Guy You Saw on TV

(0) Comments | Posted November 18, 2014 | 5:14 AM

Well-known fact: Ken Jennings won $100,000 yesterday on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.

Little-known fact: Tony Hightower is the guy who couldn't give him the right answer.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Tony founded TriviaNYC.

Tony, Jennings' Millionaire...

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Astoria Characters: The Sidewalk Library

(1) Comments | Posted November 11, 2014 | 5:21 AM

On the sidewalk, under the tree, there's a fire-engine-red box with a glass door. It's filled with books for everyone on the block to borrow.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
The Little Free Library on the sidewalk.


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Astoria Characters: The Plant Sculptor

(0) Comments | Posted November 4, 2014 | 5:20 AM

At day's beginning and end, it's black along the patch of 24th Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets. The scarce shops, shuttered, are slumbering. Luludi Living Art serves as a grow-light.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Luludi Living Art...

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Astoria Characters: The Two Cooks in the Kitchen

(0) Comments | Posted October 28, 2014 | 6:20 AM

Elbow to elbow. When Mariantonia and Guillermo Hung are working in the kitchen, that's how it is.

They say that they love it this way, but even if they wanted more breathing room, they wouldn't have a choice. Their husband-and-wife fast-food restaurant, Pao & Cha-Cha, is the size...

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Astoria Characters: The Eclectic Educator

(0) Comments | Posted October 21, 2014 | 9:26 AM

On top of the office refrigerator there is a jar of Skippy peanut butter that is nearly empty. There doesn't appear to be any jelly, but by the sofa, there are an acoustic guitar and a big rubber exercise ball that's give-the-teacher-an-apple red.

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Astoria Characters: The Silver-Lining Pal

(0) Comments | Posted October 14, 2014 | 9:10 AM

It's pouring cats and dogs. That's why Jill Parshley Cardillo and her sunny yellow umbrella are out. Jill likes to walk in the water, saving the drops on her tongue for a rainy day.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Jill became...

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Astoria Characters: The Priceless Pair

(1) Comments | Posted October 7, 2014 | 6:23 AM

It would be flip to say that it was a toss of the coin that landed Jennifer and Frank Greco at Astoria Coins & Collectibles.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Astoria Coins & Collectibles has been in business 65 years.

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Astoria Characters: The Shaman

(1) Comments | Posted September 30, 2014 | 6:06 AM

There's a piano tucked into the corner like a baby in a bassinet. It's guarded by a pair of guitars. But these instruments play second fiddle to the incense. There is none burning, yet the living room is filled with the memory of its sweet, seductive scent.

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Astoria Characters: The Other Mayor

(0) Comments | Posted September 23, 2014 | 5:54 AM

"You're going to be shocked by what I tell you," says Frank Carrado. "Sometimes, I don't believe it myself."

Carrado, who is 84, is talking about the last five years of his life, when newspapers started writing stories about him and everyone began calling him The Mayor of Long Island...

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Astoria Characters: The Stand-Up Man

(0) Comments | Posted September 16, 2014 | 9:31 AM

This is no joke. The pancakes are damn good.

Tom Daddario had wondered whether he should make them. As a stand-up comic, he's obsessed with getting the last laugh.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
People always told Tom...

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Astoria Characters: The Pharmacist

(0) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 8:16 AM

The central aisle of Norwood Rexall Drugs is long and narrow like a train tunnel. It leads straight to Syed Naqvi. The pharmacy counter is tall. Syed is not.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Syed came from Pakistan in 1972.

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