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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, nruhling on Instagram.

Entries by Nancy Ruhling

Astoria Characters: The Lover Left Holding the Daffodils

(0) Comments | Posted May 26, 2015 | 5:23 AM

When I first saw him, he was sitting on the stoop.

I wouldn't have noticed him except he was clutching a bunch of daffodils.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Daffodils are symbols of unrequited love.

The flowers, which were...

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Astoria Characters: The Friends and Family Fellow

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 5:08 AM

"Good morning, Jerry!"

George Kavadias follows this wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee greeting with a hale-and-hearty handshake.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
George at his command post.

He performs the same ritual when Super Dave and Kathy and all the other regulars...

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Astoria Characters: The Be-Positive Being

(2) Comments | Posted May 12, 2015 | 5:13 AM

Fast and furious, the rain falls. Brianna Mercado, wearing a shirt the color of sunshine, is intently watching it through the living room window. There's not a tear in her eyes. In fact, there's a serene smile on her face.


Photo by...

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Astoria Characters: The Novel Teen

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

The bedroom, painted bright blue, looks like a little girl's idea of a fairy tale.

The fantasy furniture is covered with curlicues, and pictures of Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella hang next to Broadway's Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera.

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Astoria Characters: The Editor of Eating

(0) Comments | Posted April 28, 2015 | 5:09 AM

Picky. It's not a word that Stacey Ornstein usually uses, but it's one that makes her plate too full.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Stacey is the founder of Allergic to Salad.

Picky. Stacey, who teaches after-school healthy-cooking classes...

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Astoria Characters: The Grammy Guy

(0) Comments | Posted April 21, 2015 | 5:16 AM

The sound of silence in James Cruz' apartment is deafening.

"Do you mind if I put on some music?" he pleads rather than asks.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
James fine-tunes the sounds on recordings.

His apartment -- home...

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Astoria Characters: The Man at the End of the Line

(0) Comments | Posted April 13, 2015 | 6:44 AM

The rush-hour regulars are lined up when John Zizzo steps behind the deli counter at Andrew & Frank's Catering.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
John is the owner of Andrew & Frank's Catering.


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Astoria Characters: The Sneakers in the Sky

(0) Comments | Posted April 7, 2015 | 5:13 AM

I live around the corner from a private high school. If I ever need to be reminded of this fact, all I have to do is look up in the sky.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Are they lonely at the...

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Astoria Characters: The Rememberer

(1) Comments | Posted March 30, 2015 | 8:34 AM

If you don't know anything about Pedro Fernandez de Unamuno, and most of the world doesn't, look at his hat.

He's wearing it so you'll ask him about it.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Ask Pedro about his Boina.

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Astoria Characters: The Cat Guy

(0) Comments | Posted March 24, 2015 | 5:14 AM

The cats didn't do it. Paul Santell wants that to be perfectly clear before he bares his left arm.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
The cat didn't scratch Paul.

It is covered in a river of red ruts....

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Astoria Characters: The Woman Who's Counting on 90

(0) Comments | Posted March 17, 2015 | 8:58 AM

Minnie Daddario places a plate of pizzelle on the table. There aren't many people who make the Italian snowflake-shaped cookies any more. Minnie thinks that's a shame.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Minnie is a very young 89.


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Astoria Characters: The Senior Stunt Man

(0) Comments | Posted March 10, 2015 | 5:18 AM

It's not as easy as it looks.

Tony Loupakis, who stands a mere 5 feet 4, grabs the bar of the parallel baam, spreads his legs in a V and hooks his feet, like eagle talons, onto the smooth, bare wood.

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Astoria Characters: The Costume Designer

(0) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 4:33 AM

"My house is like a zoo on Saturday mornings," says Erin Black.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Erin is an Emmy-winning costume designer.

So consider yourself warned and enter at your own risk to meet her husband, Eric,...

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Astoria Characters: The All-Around Activist

(1) Comments | Posted February 24, 2015 | 4:09 AM

Even when he's not raising his furious fist to the sky, Mickey Z. is outstanding in the crowd. That's something to say because as a political activist, he's in so many.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Mickey Z. playing the protester.

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Astoria Characters: The Full-Cup Couple

(0) Comments | Posted February 17, 2015 | 4:03 AM

Predrag Grncarski's a cappuccino guy; his wife, Giselle, favors cortados. Not that they ever have time for a coffee break.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Predrag and Giselle are the owners of the OK Cafe.

Which is ironic because...

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Astoria Characters: The Bird Lady

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2015 | 5:38 AM

It's a simple task: Carry the seltzer can outside to the trash can.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Lynne with Jiminy Cricket.

This is not something that Lynne Enman can do right off the bat. She has to plan...

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Astoria Characters: The Cooking Coach

(0) Comments | Posted February 2, 2015 | 6:07 AM

It's flu season, and Joann Pandolfi comes carrying a care package for me. Her Little Red Riding Hood basket contains homemade chicken soup, meatloaf and green beans garnished with ginger.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Joann grew up at the kitchen...

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Astoria Characters: The Sax Player

(3) Comments | Posted January 27, 2015 | 3:58 AM

A pair of pinstriped pants is hanging from the lamp. A breakfast bowl of oatmeal, half eaten, sits at the desk. A mini-trampoline, turned on its side, issues a challenge to a pair of five-pound free weights. A keyboard, clarinet, flute and a couple of saxophones are aching to band...

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Astoria Characters: The Soloist

(0) Comments | Posted January 19, 2015 | 6:15 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 | 4:08 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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