Astoria Characters: Cadillac Man

Tom Wagner, cap and coat in hand, is itching to get outside. He was homeless for two decades, and although he loves his apartment, anything with four walls feels confining. Cadillac Man wrote . Besides, he needs a cigarette. It’s hard to kick a habit you started when you were 10. But he’s down from two packs to two to five cigarettes a day. Out in the street, he leans on his quad cane and lights up. Now he really feels alive. “I like to get the gossip,” he says. As he does every morning,…

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Astoria Characters: The ESL Schoolteacher

When you have three children under the age of 4, it’s not always easy to get out the door on time. Yamina teaches English as a second language to second graders at P.S. 70. But Yamina Islam-Haque’s got this. She’s an English as a second language teacher at P.S. 70, and being in charge of a classroom of second graders has made her an astute student of childhood behavior. Ruby and Sufi, her 3-and-a-half-year-old twin daughters (Sufi, for some reason, keeps proclaiming that she’s only 2 and…

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Astoria Characters: The Ballet Teacher

There aren’t any ballet dancers in Kilgore, Texas. You should be aware of that before you hear the story of Eric Ragan. Eric is the founder of the Long Island City School of Ballet and the Long Island City Ballet. Eric, the founder and director of the Long Island City School of Ballet and its Long Island City Ballet, was born and raised in that tiny town, whose only other claim to fame is that it was the home of the celebrated classical pianist Van Cliburn. Early on, Eric showed an interest in…

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Astoria Characters: The Father and Son Florists

John Patrikis is standing in the back of Ditmars Flowers & Gifts putting the finishing touches on a towering arrangement. John’s the owner of Ditmars Flowers & Gifts. He adds a couple of roses in strategic spots and stands back to assess his work. The Love Forever Tribute, which is 2 feet wide and 3 feet high and made of ruby roses and blood-red gladiolas, is destined for a funeral. John working on the Love Forever Tribute. John, who has been a florist since 1971 and who opened this…

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Astoria Characters: The Full-Schedule Retiree

Don’t let the rocking chair fool you. Yes, Leonard Vogt is sitting in it, sipping coffee from a dainty China teacup rimmed in gold. Leonard is a retired LaGuardia Community College professor. Yes, he’s a bespectacled, 74-year-old retired college professor. But that doesn’t mean that he’s idle. Even his rocking is vibrant and vigorous. As he starts listing all the things he’s involved in, Phryne, his 4-year-old chocolate-color rescue dachshund, comes scampering into the living room waving…

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