The Sister Act

“Everybody says we look alike,” says Francine Amendola. “But our mother says we don’t,” adds her sister, Laraine Amendola. (“It’s spelled L-a-r-a-i-n-e; I’m a stickler on that,” she says.) OK, there’s no way that Francine and Laraine could ever be mistaken for twins, but at the same time nobody would ever deny that they are sisters. Francine, the older, dresses a little more conservatively and her features are slightly more refined, but…

Continue Reading →

The Dedicated Doctor

Dr. Tom Moulton arrives cradling an orchid in one hand and a loaf of home-made soda bread in the other. My white phalaenopsis is wilting, so he rushed right over. “Oh, it didn’t make it! But don’t worry, the white ones are common,” he says soothingly as he presents me with the yellow orchid he brought as a replacement. “You can easily find another one.” Tom is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center who takes care of kids who have…

Continue Reading →

The Man to the Mansion Born

Shrill as a scream, the cry pierces the air. There’s a squirrel climbing the tree, but no squirrel ever emitted such a sound. Behind the high emerald-green gate, two bear-cub-like dogs are howling their heads off. This isn’t the country, this is 41st Street, where the raw-edge warehouses live. The cry comes again; it’s a good-morning crow from a red-headed rooster! Michael Halberian, a genial fellow with over-the-ears silver hair and a lad’s spring in his step, pops his head…

Continue Reading →

The Fig Thieves

I have a big fig tree in my back yard. When I moved in, it was nothing more than a twig, but through the years, it has grown straight and strong as an ox with no help from me. By August, its burly branches are loaded with the purple globes that are as sweet as pure cane sugar. Let me clarify that: I assume they are sweet for it is rare that I am allowed to taste them. Before I pick them — poof! – they vanish like rabbits in a magician’s hat. One of the few figs the Fig Thieves…

Continue Reading →

The Artistic Acupuncturist

There’s a guitar right in the middle of the living room floor. On the bookcase, there’s a mannequin’s head marked up with acupuncture points whose colored lines make it look like a subway map. And in the art studio, visible through the glass-knobbed French doors, there’s an unfinished oil painting of bright yellow flowers in a vase. The lights are low. The sweet scent of incense fills the air with Zen serenity. “Let me sing for you,” says Kenny Lockwood. Kenny…

Continue Reading →