Judy Lopez sits on the couch sipping a soda. Her husband, Ricky, settles into the recliner with Dixie, a bug-eyed pug, riding shotgun on its ample arm. It doesn't get better than this. The trio is content to tune in to the flat-screen TV.
One thing has to be perfectly clear at the start: Joan Murphy doesn't have much to say. So she's set the kitchen table for tea. And she's made some of her banana nut bread so things won't be a total loss.
Two vats of sauce are simmering on the stove when Tina comes on duty at Trattoria L 'Incontro. There's enough to feed an army or two. She recalls the first time she had to make such a big batch. How did it turn out? Perfecto!
Moustafa Elshiekh places a color photo reverently on his desk. It was taken this year, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, and in it, he's standing between Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
This is kind of creepy: Evan Makrogiannis is talking about mixing up a batch of blood. The recipe is so simple that even a child can do it, and his sons, 13-year-old Liam and 12-year-old Tristan, are pros at adding red, blue and yellow food coloring to corn syrup.
In the living room, past the pair of wire cages that confine Melanie, Peaches and Shadow, there's a small black table that holds a toy car, a child-size football, a tablet engraved "Georgie" and a large color photo of a handsome man.
The drapes are blocking the sun, but the darkness doesn't dim Charlene Lite's optimism. Yes, she's had good times and bad times just like the rest of us, but she's made it her mantra to see the bright side of everything.
There's no background music playing in Laura Dadap's apartment. This is something to take note of because Laura's life, even before she made her grand entrance squeezed between a bass clef and a treble clef, is centered on music.
It's time for Jose Morales to put on his happy face. He pulls up two straight-back chairs and sets them in front of a 4-foot-high dime store mirror in the living room/kitchen of his thimble-sized apartment.