Astoria Characters: The Space Shuttle Cafe and the Guy with the Spiderweb Tattoo

On 48th Street right off Ditmars Boulevard, there have been recent repeated reports of a UPO – an Unidentified Parked Object. The Space Shuttle Cafe at 48th Street and Ditmars Boulevard. The shiny black and white shuttle-shaped UPO, which like an ostrich looks as though it can fly but cannot, is patriotically decked out with peeling decals of the Stars and Stripes. Big, bold black letters bellow: “Space Shuttle Café United States.” The intruding shuttle cafe is no small matter…

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Astoria Characters: The Doggie Den Mother

Step by step. That’s how Viviane Matano likes to take things. Viviane’s the owner of Vivi Pet Care. Thus far, in her 56 years, her steps – some small, some large and several that were admittedly sideways – have landed her right where she wants to be. Which is standing in a pack of playful pups who are wagging their tails like flags and jumping up, her mask be damned, to give her wet, sloppy kisses. Viviane, who grew up on a farm in São Paulo, Brazil with dogs, cats, cows…

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Astoria Characters: The Energy Healer

Sometimes, in the middle of things, you just need to stop and take a break. Nilcee Kitani Schneider walks to the courtyard of her apartment building and unfurls her bright-pink yoga mat on the concrete pathway. Nilcee is a reiki teacher. Nilcee, who is wearing a diamond-shaped crystal around her neck, kicks off her sandals, takes a deep breath and settles into a cross-legged position. She raises her eyes to the sky, then gently closes them, leaving the world behind. Opening her arms…

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Astoria Characters: The Scout Who Set Up the Little Free Pantry

Lucas McGarvey is standing on the sidewalk stocking the Little Free Pantry, something he does at least once a week. Lucas is a member of Troop 65. He’s glad he stopped by today, because there’s not much in there — just a couple of cans of carrots and soup and a box of cereal. He opens his shopping bag and pulls out packages of pasta, arranging them artfully on the shelves. Lucas, a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 65 and earner of 30 merit badges, opened the pantry on…

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Astoria Characters: The Visual Artist Eyeing His New Life

Sitting on the stoop sipping coffee, Ahmed El Shaer can’t help but marvel at his good fortune. Ahmed’s a visual artist. A visual artist, he’s just moved into a new apartment that has a back yard and enough space for him to paint and create videos. He looks toward the front window, where he can see the unpacked boxes piled up in the living room. His year-old black rescue cat, Tomasa, stares back at him with owl-like amber eyes. Ahmed, who has curly black hair, a soft voice and…

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