The Charity Worker

Although it takes up an entire tree-lined block of Long Island City, the CMMB Distribution Center is a remarkably unnoticeable building. The only thing that announces the presence of the long and low cream-colored 33,000-square-foot structure is a grey blend-into-the-background metal front door with a small sign so far overhead that you have to crane your neck to read it. It notes, in robin-blue lettering, that this is the home of the Catholic Medical Mission Board. Ralph Barberio, the longtime manager of the CMMB, is similarly low-key. Self-effacing and soft-spoken, Ralph, who is grandfatherly grey, doesn’t want to talk …

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The Guy Who Owns the Car Spa

Even if you and your car wanted to, it’s impossible to pass by Astoria Auto Detailing Center without gawking. Amid the boring brick buildings of the block, it presides, in construction-cone orange and caution-light yellow, like a psychedelic peacock. You have no choice but to slow down and watch the workers hand wash and wax the cars in a complex choreography set to the siren sound of Latin pop songs. Their soap-and-shine water ballet plays out against a backdrop of murals that sport classic cars, automotive logos, and because this is New York, the Statue of Liberty and the …

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The Costume Queen

“Every day is Halloween for me,” says Suzie Sims-Fletcher. “I always dress in a different costume.” Right now, Suzie, who also answers to suzQ, is wearing tones of teal and turquoise and a black, blue-dotted jumpsuit. Tonight, for trick-or-treat, she’ll really go out all. She made the jumpsuit to celebrate the 80th birthday of her mother, Dorothy, who goes by Dottie or Dot. Dots for Dot. Get it? “When I was young, she used to wear this itsy-bitsy blue polka-dotted bikini, and she used to paint rocks,” Suzie says. “Her tagline was Spots on Rocks by Dot.” But the …

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The Guy in the Tutu

“Before I do anything else, I have to put on my tutu,” says Alistair Williams. He drops his canvas gym bag on a chair outside Madame Sou Sou Café on 33rd Street, which is where he usually hangs his tutu. Like a magician with a rabbit, he pulls out a scrunched-up circle of black tulle. Alistair, tall and lean in jean shorts, Yankees cap and sleeveless Broadway Bodies T, slips it over his big, black Nike Air Force 180s and does a little dance. Ah, that’s better. There was a time, and it wasn’t all that long ago, …

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