Astoria Characters: The Guitar Guide Guru

How hard – or easy – is it to play the guitar if you’ve never done it before? Instead of answering, Mike David Papapavlou, aka the Guitar Guide Guru, takes an acoustic off the rack and places it in my hands. He positions my right elbow securely over the bulky blond body and puts my left hand on the instrument’s neck, informing me that there are six strings, numbered 1 through 6, with the latter being closest to my face. “What would you like to play?” he asks. When…

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Astoria Characters: The Comic With the Punch-Line Life

If you didn’t know that Michelle Adrienne Slonim is a new mother, you need look no further than the room that used to be her living room. Instead of a rug, a child’s foam play mat covers the floor; its giant-jigsaw pieces are decorated with animal shapes in tasteful shades of white and grey. On top of it, there’s a bouncer whose brightly colored dangling toys are designed to delight little eyes and hands – and trip up mommies and daddies as did that dastardly Dick Van Dyke ottoman. …

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Astoria Characters: The Couple Walked by the Wheaten Terrier

When the front door opens, Henry springs into action like a Pogo stick on speed, jumping up and down, planting wet kisses all over the place. Sometimes they even land on the face. His parents, Constantine and Stavroula Venetis, echo his warm welcome but in a more restrained manner, bringing out a platter of pastries and handing out coffee in cups adorned with Henry’s baby pictures. Henry, who just celebrated his second birthday, is, in Constantine’s words, “our best buddy.” He…

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Astoria Characters: The Salsa Master

Salsa In Queens is going to open soon, so Jean Franco Vergaray grabs a broom and starts sweeping the wooden dance floor. He moves back and forth, back and forth and back and forth again. Over and over and over. Once his feet feel the beat, he establishes his own methodical rhythm, his movements reflected in the studio’s wall of mirrors. This simple dance for this simple task is a far cry from the spicy, sassy salsa steps students come to Jean Franco’s studio to master. Whether…

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Astoria Characters: The Daughter Who Took Over the Family Business

When Gerri Domenikos was growing up, she always figured that she would go into the family’s commercial heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration business. After all, she had been involved with Bayside Refrigeration (now AirLogix) since she was 5. Her father, a Greek immigrant, had founded the company in their home in Bayside in 1984 two years after she was born. To make it a success, he had to work all the time, and the only way he could see Gerri was to take her with…

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