The Shrines

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 one-eared Lamb of God, which non-religious folks call a sheep. Although I saw her every day, our paths did not cross, so there was no occasion for us to speak. But I felt her eyes staring at me, imploring me to make the first move. Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling On the winning team. Someone told me her name was Mary. I&…

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The Man Who Makes You Feel Right at Home

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 Thal adjusting the stock. As the owner of Home Comforts, a homespun mom-and-pop version of Bed, Bath and Beyond, Thal is always putting things back in place. “I don’t like it when it looks messy,” says Thal, who has thin white hair and the thick muscles of a college kid. According to Thal’s brain, which is …

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The Woman All Set for Success

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 white, they are tipped with silver sparkles. It’s a subtle touch. Jamuna’s not the showy sort. Jamuna, placid, polite and petite, runs the nail/waxing/threading/facial/pedicure/spray-tanning salon at Shade Bar Spa. “I really love this, honey, because what I do is an art,” she says. “By doing something as simple as shaping an eyebrow, I …

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The Woman Who Sees the Good in Everything

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 blind for more than a quarter century. If you’ll be so good as to take her arm, she’ll give you directions to the patio. She likes to sit out there. She can’t see the sun, but she can feel its golden warmth on her face. Cynthia, a small, all-smiles woman who’s largely independent, …

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