Astoria Characters: The One and Only Gildo

“I bet you can’t guess what this is,” says Gildo Spado. Gildo, the diversified artist. He holds up a round metal object whose center pole is surrounded by rods of different lengths. Is it the frame for a fancy lampshade? Or could it be a funky cake pan? Before I can answer, he brings out a violin bow and starts playing it, sending forth scary, swooping sounds. He explains that it’s a waterphone, a musical instrument invented in the 1960s that caught his eye and his ear. Before…

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Astoria Characters: The Pedaling Pedagogue

Ben Sherman is standing outside his apartment building eager to hop on his bicycle. Ben works for the city’s Department of Education. A former high school principal who works for the city’s Department of Education, he rides to work in Downtown Manhattan virtually every day on his own two wheels. Even when he takes the subway, he rides a Citibike to and from the Queensboro Plaza station. For Ben, it always feels like the first day of school. He can’t wait to get to work so…

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Astoria Characters: On the Street Where I Live — 10 Years Later

When I started writing Astoria Characters 10 years ago, I didn’t know how long I would continue it, and I didn’t know where it would lead. The Green Farmer The premise was simple: Every week, I would write a profile on a person who lived in our neighborhood. I would tell the story of each person’s life – in pictures and words. I was still new to Astoria, and I didn’t know any of you. I saw all of us as supporting actors in a major motion picture, the characters, who in…

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Astoria Characters: The 99-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor

After she settles herself into her favorite chair, Margot Karp puts on her spectacles. The lenses, big and round, are rose-colored. Margot was born in Dresden. Margot, elegant in a black dress, stockings and dress shoes, lips a subtle shade of rose red, just turned 99. She’s a sparrow of a woman. When asked how tall she is, she deftly answers, “You mean how short am I; I’m 4 foot 11. In my heyday, I was five feet and one-half inch.” Ninety-nine is a very long time to live,…

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Astoria Characters: The Paper Engineer

From the stack of books on his desk, Gene Vosough brings forth a gold-tooled tome that’s the color of red henna. Gene is a paper engineer/graphic designer/illustrator. He opens it and tucks in a tab or two, transforming it into a six-sided sculpture that looks like a lantern-style lampshade. The book, which served as a wedding invitation for a couple in India and took six months to complete, is one of the many carefully choreographed cutouts that Gene spends his time creating. Gene’s…

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