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Astoria Characters: The Shaman

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 11.29.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

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.

Astoria Characters: The Stand-Up Man

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 11.16.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

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.

Astoria Characters: The Artist in Residence

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 11.02.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

It's the starving part of artist that Daniel Francis finds hard to stomach. His hang-dog jeans, cuffed at the ankles to take up the slack, were made for a much weightier man, the one he used to be.

Astoria Characters: The Guy With Smoke in His Eyes

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 08.27.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

It is while peering through the smoke that Ibrahim Amer sees things clearly. His cigar, resting in an ashtray like a sunbather in a lounge chair, is s...

Astoria Characters: The Tamale Lady

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 10.12.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

The Tamale Lady. That's what everyone calls the weary young-old woman who pushes her shopping cart to the middle of the block and sets up on the sidewalk, selling breakfast for $1 and $2.

Astoria Characters: The Charity Stager

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 08.06.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

The door opens and Roscoe, a kitten who looks like a black and white cookie, sticks his head out and watches Tiffany Schleigh pad down the hallway. ...

Astoria Characters: The Ice Cream Maven

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 09.11.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

At the mention of ice cream, a smile beams like a rising sun on Dolma Yangchen's solidly serious face.

In Astoria, A Big Push to Preserve Real Affordability

Jonathan Westin | Posted 09.17.2014 | New York
Jonathan Westin

For far too long, low and moderate-income families have been squeezed out, or left out, of most of the new developments built or proposed across the five boroughs.

Astoria Characters: The Cookie Crooner

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 09.14.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

The tiny two-counter store is as unassuming as its owner. The name -- Astoria Bakery -- is plain vanilla; a more pretentious man would have called it Jack's.

Astoria Characters: The Laundry on the Line

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 08.31.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

There was a pole and a pulley at the end of my driveway when I moved in. This cave-man apparatus was tethered to the back of the house by an ancient umbilical cord.

A Grassroots Mural Show Brings Explosive Color To New York

Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington | Posted 06.30.2014 | Arts
Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington

When the revered graffiti holy place named 5Pointz in Queens, New York was buffed and slated officially for demolition last fall the collective respon...

Astoria Characters: The Old Kid on the Block

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 08.03.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

It's going on six decades. Even Jimmy Bejanis is astounded when he does the math. That's a long time -- his entire life -- to stay in one place and in one house.

Astoria Characters: The Soul Worker

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 07.27.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

Eleni Petraki used to be a dancer. There's not a bit of regret in her voice when she talks about bowing out of the profession.

Astoria Characters: The Forgotten Hero

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 07.06.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

Nick is the guy who made headlines as the Hard-Hat Hero in October 1996 when he risked his life to save a woman and her son and granddaughter from a crane's crashing boom at a Harlem construction site.

Astoria Characters: The Woman With a Third Eye

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 06.29.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

Manuela Rana never had dreams of the American dream, but when she found the man of her dreams, she didn't hesitate to cross the Atlantic to be with him.

Astoria Characters: The President of the Galician Club

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 06.22.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

It's a windy day, and the four flags of Casa Galicia are flapping like a flock of geese flying south for the winter. The stately wedding-cake white building on 31st Avenue, wedged between a burger joint and a supermarket crowned by barbed wire, looks like a foreign embassy.

Astoria Characters: The Guy Who Seized the Wheel

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 06.15.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

Not everybody who gets a second chance wants it or takes it. Paco Soto was pretty much set in his ways when the opportunity was thrust upon him, but he didn't hesitate to move into the driver's seat and speed into the fast lane.

Astoria Characters: The Man Who Holds the Universe in His Hands

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 06.08.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

Rain. That's what pelted Marco Pereira's boyhood brain, drop by drop by drop time after time, until it finally sank in.

Astoria Characters: The Guy Who Mans Two Counters

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 06.01.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

Nine a.m. comes mighty early when you didn't go to bed until 3 in the morning. That's why Pedro Gonzalez is hiding behind the brim of his black fedora.

Astoria Characters: The Artist Who Draws In Nature

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 05.25.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

She paints. She writes. She welds. She wears men's Tony Lama cowboy boots and dangly turquoise earrings that fly through her long black hair when the wind blows.

Astoria Characters: The Martial-Arts Mentor

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 05.18.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

With his white hair and sky-high sleek physique, Dino stands out in a crowd, making it virtually impossible for him to hide in a corner office, much less in a corner. He's closing in on 53, but he has the enthusiasm of a teenager who just got the keys to his first car and wants to take the whole world for a joyride.

Astoria Characters: The Hard-Driving Couple

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 05.11.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

With one well-practiced pull, Fanny Cedeno rolls up the fortress-like metal gate at Astoria Express Transit. When her husband, Luis Gualotuna, walks in a minute later, she rushes up behind him and smoothes the rumpled collar of his grey sweater.

Astoria Characters: The Dog Tamer

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 05.04.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

Although Judy started her dog-walking business, Woofs 'n Purrs, near retirement age, she has been a pooch pal since she was no more than a pup. Dogs walked into and out of her life, and it was their love that saved her life.

Astoria Characters: The Lady of the Lights

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 04.27.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

It is the light of the sun that brings Barbara Barrow to life. Intently, she watches the flakes fall from the sky. There are no rays today. It looks as though a baker is shaking powdered sugar over an ice-skating rink.

Astoria Characters: The Guy Driving the '55 Chevy

Nancy Ruhling | Posted 04.13.2014 | New York
Nancy Ruhling

There's no seatbelt. Pete D'Andrea throws back his head and laughs. It's going to be a loud, rough ride. He can't wait to rev up the engine.