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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