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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 Queen of Ice Cream

(0) Comments | Posted September 1, 2015 | 5:02 AM

Jane McGinn has always had a sweet spot for ice cream. She loves it in and of itself, but her affection for the beat-the-heat summer treat is more than cream deep.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Jane grew up on ice...

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Astoria Characters: The Shrines

(2) Comments | Posted August 25, 2015 | 5:02 AM

A decade ago, when I settled in Astoria, there was a saint squatting in my front yard.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Mary, lashed to the fence.

She was standing right next to the pink flamingo and the...

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Astoria Characters: The Man Who Makes You Feel Right at Home

(0) Comments | Posted August 18, 2015 | 5:07 AM

The comforters aren't stacked straight, and it's driving Thal Tembelis crazy. He scrambles up a step ladder and adjusts the plastic packages so they are lined up in the light like soldiers at roll call.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling

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Astoria Characters: The Woman All Set for Success

(0) Comments | Posted August 11, 2015 | 5:06 AM

The fingernails on Jamuna Gurung's hardy hands are just the right length: Short enough to do work, long enough to be stylish.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Jamuna runs the nail salon at Shade Bar Spa.

Painted a translucent...

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Astoria Characters: The Woman Who Sees the Good in Everything

(0) Comments | Posted August 4, 2015 | 4:50 AM

Unfurling her collapsible cane, Cynthia Groopman strides toward the door of her room. Once she's in the hallway, she feels around the lock with her fingers until she "sees" the slot for the key.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Cynthia's been...

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Astoria Characters: The Old-Timer You Won't See Any More

(0) Comments | Posted July 28, 2015 | 5:02 AM

Madeleine's Hosiery, which has been on Steinway Street forever, or at least for as long as anyone can remember, probably won't be there the next time you pass by.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Madeleine's Hosiery on Steinway Street at 30th...

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Astoria Characters: The Flamenco Dancer

(5) Comments | Posted July 21, 2015 | 5:01 AM

If there's one steady thing that can be said of Gabriela Granados, it's that she can't sit still.

A woman of fluid movement, Gabriela bends her body into a stiff office chair.

2015-06-21-1434900332-3598987-Gabriela18.jpg Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Gabriela is the founder...
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Astoria Characters: The Music Mama

(0) Comments | Posted July 14, 2015 | 5:03 AM

Singer. Songwriter. Musician. Performer. Wife. Mother. Worker.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Shelly strives for balance.

Shelly Bhushan lists these labels -- she doesn't think she has left any out -- and adds juggler. That's the one word...

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Astoria Characters: The Wedding Photographer

(0) Comments | Posted July 7, 2015 | 5:07 AM

Casey Fatchett picks up his camera. Now he feels more at ease.

2015-06-07-1433676993-2614038-Casey9.jpg Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Casey's an award-winning wedding photographer.

He's always the one taking the pictures, and he doesn't know what to do when the eye of the...

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Astoria Characters: The Souvlaki Lady

(1) Comments | Posted June 30, 2015 | 5:01 AM

The smoke swells as the souvlakis sizzle.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Elpida pushes her pushcart onto her corner.

They sear swiftly, so Elpida Vasiliadis has to turn them promptly while she's serving the people who...

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Astoria Characters: The Newborn Doula

(0) Comments | Posted June 23, 2015 | 4:53 AM

The call came at 10 at night. Annie LeVasseur had been eagerly expecting it, but, still, it made her nervous.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Annie grew up in the South.

It meant that a baby and Annie's new...

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Astoria Characters: The Woman Wiping Tears From Her Eyes

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2015 | 5:01 AM

Ann Kos cannot meet you at the front door. She lives on the middle floor of her three-family house, and she can't go up and down the stairs any more without a chaperone.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Ann was born...

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Astoria Characters: The Cerebral Cowboy

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2015 | 5:05 AM

Does it smell like cigarette smoke?

Jim Ruchalski, a pack-a-day guy, has gone to a lot of trouble to clear the stale-smoke scent out of his apartment. That's why the candles are burning and the fans are humming on high.



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Astoria Characters: The Fairy Godmother

(0) Comments | Posted June 2, 2015 | 5:10 AM

In between a boisterous bar and a game's-over gambling den, the Arabesque Couture Boutique opened its single plate-glass door, elevating the end of the block from gritty to glittery.


Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Shireen owns Arabesque Couture Boutique.

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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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