The Garden Guys

At the end of Hazen Street, where the cars on Astoria Boulevard whoosh by like rockets, a garden center grows. Verni’s, as it is called, is shaded by a green awning that is the color of a woodland forest. The sun is out, the plants are panting for a cool drink, and Frank Verni puts down his breakfast, a bowl of cold cereal, and takes up the hose. He and his brother, John Verni, divide up the daily duties, and he is the water boy. “To do it right,” he says, “you have to go…

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The Saw Lady

The sound swells like an ocean wave until it fills the room with its eerie, otherworldly vibrations. At its height, it screams like a Siren then suddenly sinks into a soulful sotto voce. Does this tune come from heaven or hell? It emanates from a saw — the carpenter’s tool that’s used to cut wood. “People tell me that it doesn’t sound anything like they thought it would,” says The Saw Lady, who gives the instrument its voice. “Some people even think I’m…

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The Dogs’ Best Friend

At the top of the stairs, Dexter the pit bull is waiting exactly where Wendy DeSarno told him to sit when she went to answer the door. His pencil-thin tail is wagging, and he’s sniffing and licking me as I stand as still as a statue, but his cute little butt is glued to the floor until she gives the word. Wendy is a dog trainer. She has CPDT and CTC behind her name. But Dexter doesn’t know that. He also doesn’t know that CPDT stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer and that…

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The Bouzouki Balladeer

Near the end of a residential street of attached row houses, there’s a small storefront whose plate-glass window proclaims “ALPHA SCHOOL OF MUSIC” in bright gold letters that are surrounded by a melody of dancing musical notes. The front door is adorned with a golden treble clef. In the waiting room, whose walls are lilac with dark purple trim, an eclectic variety of stringed instruments that range from the oud to the electric guitar are suspended from the ceiling like clothes in…

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The Hi-Tech Twins

“I’m Dom,” says the twin wearing the black T-shirt. “I’m Tom,” says the twin wearing the blue T-shirt. They answer the door in that order — Dom Tancredi, Tom Tancredi. They have their routine down to a T. In this case, Dom’s T has a bright blue pyramidal design that matches the color of Tom’s T. Different yet just enough alike to declare their common identity. There’s a reason the Tancredi twins go by Dom and Tom: It’s the rhyme. “We…

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