Astoria Characters: The Woman Living a Mindful Life

As the morning sunlight streams in through the windows, Manaslu Gurung places a plump pillow in the center of the floor. Manaslu is from Nepal. As she sits on it, crossed-legged, she positions a brass bowl in front of her. She closes her eyes. The room – and her thoughts – disappear. In 20 to 30 minutes, she will emerge from her reverie, calm and collected and ready to start the rest of her routine. “Meditation sets an intention for the day,” she says. “It really makes…

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Astoria Characters: The Poet Who Lets Her Work Speak for Her

Poets are known for their skillful economy of words, so it’s not surprising that Olena Jennings culls hers carefully even in casual conversation. Olena is the founder of Poets of Queens. She is forthcoming about the basic facts of her life, but there’s a sense that there’s far more meaning behind her words than she conveys. Olena, a tall woman with big, beautiful blue eyes, is sitting on a large, overstuffed sofa in her living room. There’s a significantly sized flat-screen…

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Astoria Characters: The Mobile-Meditation Maven

Kristin Westbrook is sipping a cup of coffee and smiling, letting the morning light run its warm fingers through her long, blond hair. Kristin is the founder of Calm City. Pinky, her pit bull, has just returned from a romp in Astoria Park and, exhausted, is lounging in a pillow-piled bed by her side. All is calm and peaceful, as if Kristin and Pinky have not a care in the world. Kristin’s career is in graphic design. Kristin, who is being treated for metastatic breast cancer,…

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Astoria Characters: The Bard of Baseball

Porky McDonald has told the story of the disposing of Roy Riegel’s ashes dozens of times. Porky is a lifelong baseball fan. They were die-hard Mets fans, you see, and when Roy died – on, of all days, the season opener on April 8, 2008 – Porky wanted to do something special to honor their friendship, which had commenced when they were boys going to battle with ball and bat. “His death hit me hard,” he says. So, he added, did the fact that the Mets lost to the Phillies that…

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Astoria Characters: The Comeback Kid

Greg Kritikos is pedaling his bicycle on 30th Avenue near 42nd Street. This is the place he grew up in, and everything – the good and the bad, the things he can’t forget and the things he doesn’t want to remember – happened to him in this neighborhood, which he’s called home for most of the past half century. Greg behind the wheel. Greg, a producer, stand-up comic and actor who has been compared to Jackie Gleason, is a larger-than-life lovable tough guy with slicked-back black…

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