Astoria Characters: The Kong-tastic Couple

What a Kong-tastic day! Powell  “Chuck E. Baby” Leonard and Ella “Miz E with a Z” Louise Smith are standing on the sidewalk goofing off. Surprise! It’s Ella. They’re cracking each other up with funny, frightening and frightened faces. And throwing punch lines like boxers in a ring. He’s wearing an orange hat and jacket; she’s clad in an electrifying orange and yellow Hawaiian-style shirt. At the same time, they realize they are dressed in matching colors.…

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Astoria Characters: The Immigrant’s Daughter

When Catherine Kapphahn was a little girl, she sensed that there were things her mother wasn’t telling her. Catherine is the author of “Immigrant Daughter.” What she knew was that her mother was from the former Yugoslavia and that she did things that other mothers didn’t — she took dancing lessons, she took miles-long walks around the neighborhood and she felt her friends’ pain as intensely as if  it were her own. And, sometimes, in the middle of the night, she…

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Astoria Characters: The One and Only Gildo

“I bet you can’t guess what this is,” says Gildo Spado. Gildo, the diversified artist. He holds up a round metal object whose center pole is surrounded by rods of different lengths. Is it the frame for a fancy lampshade? Or could it be a funky cake pan? Before I can answer, he brings out a violin bow and starts playing it, sending forth scary, swooping sounds. He explains that it’s a waterphone, a musical instrument invented in the 1960s that caught his eye and his ear. Before…

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Astoria Characters: The Pedaling Pedagogue

Ben Sherman is standing outside his apartment building eager to hop on his bicycle. Ben works for the city’s Department of Education. A former high school principal who works for the city’s Department of Education, he rides to work in Downtown Manhattan virtually every day on his own two wheels. Even when he takes the subway, he rides a Citibike to and from the Queensboro Plaza station. For Ben, it always feels like the first day of school. He can’t wait to get to work so…

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Astoria Characters: On the Street Where I Live — 10 Years Later

When I started writing Astoria Characters 10 years ago, I didn’t know how long I would continue it, and I didn’t know where it would lead. The Green Farmer The premise was simple: Every week, I would write a profile on a person who lived in our neighborhood. I would tell the story of each person’s life – in pictures and words. I was still new to Astoria, and I didn’t know any of you. I saw all of us as supporting actors in a major motion picture, the characters, who in…

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