Astoria Characters: The Illustrator

“I like to collect things,” says Keiko Nabila. Keiko is from Jakara, Indonesia. She mentions this as she walks past the floor-to-ceiling shelves of shoes in the entry hall of her studio apartment/art studio. The featured footwear is displayed in curated lines, toes provocatively pointing out. From earth-tone Uggs to blue-sparkled sneakers, they fashion themselves into a 3-D self-portrait of their owner. Keiko is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts. How many shoes does Keiko have? She doesn’t…

Continue Reading →

Astoria Characters: The Drummer Whose Heartbeat Is Science

For Greg Stein, everything started to come together about a decade ago. What happened was not so much extraordinary as unexpected. Instead of an epiphany, his transformation was an evolution. Greg is a pharmacist who plays the conga. Until now, he never saw the synchroneity in the series of events that sent him to the present moment. Greg, who grew up in Manhattan’s Inwood, was in his mid-20s. He had a good job – he was a scientist in a lab – and was perfectly happy. His employer encouraged…

Continue Reading →

Astoria Characters: Cadillac Man

Tom Wagner, cap and coat in hand, is itching to get outside. He was homeless for two decades, and although he loves his apartment, anything with four walls feels confining. Cadillac Man wrote . Besides, he needs a cigarette. It’s hard to kick a habit you started when you were 10. But he’s down from two packs to two to five cigarettes a day. Out in the street, he leans on his quad cane and lights up. Now he really feels alive. “I like to get the gossip,” he says. As he does every morning,…

Continue Reading →

Astoria Characters: The ESL Schoolteacher

When you have three children under the age of 4, it’s not always easy to get out the door on time. Yamina teaches English as a second language to second graders at P.S. 70. But Yamina Islam-Haque’s got this. She’s an English as a second language teacher at P.S. 70, and being in charge of a classroom of second graders has made her an astute student of childhood behavior. Ruby and Sufi, her 3-and-a-half-year-old twin daughters (Sufi, for some reason, keeps proclaiming that she’s only 2 and…

Continue Reading →

Astoria Characters: The Ballet Teacher

There aren’t any ballet dancers in Kilgore, Texas. You should be aware of that before you hear the story of Eric Ragan. Eric is the founder of the Long Island City School of Ballet and the Long Island City Ballet. Eric, the founder and director of the Long Island City School of Ballet and its Long Island City Ballet, was born and raised in that tiny town, whose only other claim to fame is that it was the home of the celebrated classical pianist Van Cliburn. Early on, Eric showed an interest in…

Continue Reading →