Astoria Characters: The Sit-It-Out Comic

It’s the left eyebrow that gives Mike Rockwitz away. It arches, mischievously. Check out Mike’s eyebrow. Mike’s eyes, celestial blue marbles, take the cue, bugging out as his mouth settles into a colossal clown-like grin. It’s a wickedly funny look, and Mike, a big guy with a Santa snow-white goatee and tons of tatts, plays it for all it’s worth. He loves getting laughs, but you’ll never catch him on a stage in front of an audience. This aversion to stand-up comedy…

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Astoria Characters: The Goth Gal

Raven-haired Christina Loza, black bustier showcasing her silver chain mail necklace and winged chest tattoo, sits on a bench under a leafy maple tree and removes her large horn-rim glasses. Christina works as a nanny. Her look – you can call it Alt or Goth, she doesn’t really care – attracts a lot of attention. That necklace has a tiny silver sword. When a big guy stops to stare, Christina, who is 5-foot-3, gives it right back to him, searing him with her blue-grey neon eyes. After…

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Astoria Characters: Nick The Balloonatic

Once you’ve learned how to make a balloon dog, you can make everything else your hands and your eyes can imagine. Allow the great Nick The Balloonatic Rotondo to demonstrate. Check out Nick’s balloon earrings. From his black pack, he plucks a straw-thin canary-yellow balloon and puts the end of it on what he calls “the Cadillac” of all pumps. Before you can blink an eye, he’s twisting and turning the long yellow tube, forming the body, head and wagging tail of the pooch. Now,…

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Astoria Characters: The Present on the Porch

On my front porch, smack in the center of the top step, there appeared a mysterious package. I had spent the morning masked in Manhattan, and it was the first thing I saw when I opened the gate upon my return. This is what I saw on my porch. I have received more than my fair share of misdelivered parcels – I could tell you about the Pampers that arrived during the pandemic, the license plates that were for a neighbor around the corner or the time I chased the UPS driver down Ditmars…

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Astoria Characters: The Woman Leading Hour Children

The fastest Alethea Taylor has ever driven is 125 miles per hour, and it was only for a second or so. Alethea is the new executive director of Hour Children. “When I got close to 100 and the car started bucking, it was really scary but exhilarating,” she says. “I stayed at 90, where I felt comfortable.” She’s as new at racecar driving as she is at leading Hour Children, the 35-year-old organization founded by Sister Tesa Fitzgerald that takes incarcerated and formerly incarcerated…

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