Astoria Characters: The Special Teacher

Growing up, Nicholas Alexandrakos was always interested in his family’s history. With grandparents from Greece and Italy who spoke their native languages at home, how could he not be? “So much of my upbringing was talking about foreign lands I’d never been to,” he says. “When we celebrated the holidays, everyone talked about how it was done in the old country.” That’s why he changed his last name. Alexander, not Alexandrakos, was the one bestowed upon him when he…

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Astoria Characters: The Artist in Training

In the spare bedroom of his apartment, Jose Mota is standing at a monumental work table, using an oil-paint marker to create the black, undulating lines that define his latest work. The mixed-media abstract painting, , is part of a series of 20 large pieces titled that, when viewed together, form a complete picture. The works consume most of the space in Jose’s makeshift studio. And all of his free time. Of which there is not very much. Jose, who makes his living as…

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Astoria Characters: The Guitar Guide Guru

How hard – or easy – is it to play the guitar if you’ve never done it before? Instead of answering, Mike David Papapavlou, aka the Guitar Guide Guru, takes an acoustic off the rack and places it in my hands. He positions my right elbow securely over the bulky blond body and puts my left hand on the instrument’s neck, informing me that there are six strings, numbered 1 through 6, with the latter being closest to my face. “What would you like to play?” he asks. When…

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Astoria Characters: The Comic With the Punch-Line Life

If you didn’t know that Michelle Adrienne Slonim is a new mother, you need look no further than the room that used to be her living room. Instead of a rug, a child’s foam play mat covers the floor; its giant-jigsaw pieces are decorated with animal shapes in tasteful shades of white and grey. On top of it, there’s a bouncer whose brightly colored dangling toys are designed to delight little eyes and hands – and trip up mommies and daddies as did that dastardly Dick Van Dyke ottoman. …

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Astoria Characters: The Couple Walked by the Wheaten Terrier

When the front door opens, Henry springs into action like a Pogo stick on speed, jumping up and down, planting wet kisses all over the place. Sometimes they even land on the face. His parents, Constantine and Stavroula Venetis, echo his warm welcome but in a more restrained manner, bringing out a platter of pastries and handing out coffee in cups adorned with Henry’s baby pictures. Henry, who just celebrated his second birthday, is, in Constantine’s words, “our best buddy.” He…

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