REPORTING From the u.S.
 

I started off writing for the City Section of the New York Times.  I spent a week in the Bronx after 9-11, doing a circuit of bars, churches and schools, writing about the prayers and the people who never came home. I wrote about two daughters searching for their lost mother in brownstone Brooklyn. I wrote about Russians who refused to register to vote, disenfranchising themselves because of lingering skepticism about the word “Party.”

I wrote about how most lox in New York isn’t really lox. I panicked when I was supposed to write about Hillary Clinton but failed to turn my tape recorder on. Later, I wrote about $600 haircuts and rich novelists and dancers. I went to Cuba and wrote about the ageing director of the Ballet Nacional and how everyone on the island, even government officials, knew all the words to banned songs. Here are some of those stories.

 

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IS HYSTERIA REAL? BRAIN IMAGES SAY YES

Hysteria is a 4,000-year-old diagnosis that has been applied to no mean parade of witches, saints and, of course, Anna O.  But over the last 50 years, the word has been spoken less and less. The disappearance of hysteria has been heralded at least since the 1960's. What had been a Victorian catch-all splintered into many different diagnoses. Hysteria seemed to be a vanished 19th-century extravagance useful for literary analysis but surely out of place in the serious...

A FAMILY TALE, TONED DOWN FOR FICTION

IT is a truth acknowledged in the Niederhoffer family that a man in possession of six daughters must be in want of a son. The man in question is Victor Niederhoffer, son of a Coney Island cop, who in the mid-1990's was recognized as one of the most successful (and most idiosyncratic) money managers in the nation.  On a recent Sunday his ex-wife, Gail, his current wife, Susan, who is divorcing him, and five of his six daughters -- Galt, Katie, Rand, Artemis and Kira -- 

SKILLED AMERICAN LABOR HEADS OVERSEES, IN TOE SHOE

ON Nov. 22 Armando Braswell, a young dancer who graduated from the Juilliard School late last month, put down a $547.63 wager on his future. That bought him a plane ticket from Kennedy Airport to Milan and back again, via Amsterdam. His classmate Bryna Pascoe made a similar bid, but her plane ticket cost $30 less. The goal of both journeys was the same: to make the leap from being a dancer with grand ambitions to being...

 
 

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THE IMPERIOUS VISION OF CUBA'S OTHER RULER-FOR-LIFE

AS the curtain closed on the final gala of the International Festival of Ballet in Havana in November, Alicia Alonso, the aged matriarch of Cuban ballet, stood unsteadily at center stage, her arms outstretched toward the raucous adulation of the crowd. Silent and still, a gracious smile chiseled on her face, she seemed less a woman than a monument. She has presided over the biennial festival since 1960, and her power is such that she -- and perhaps she alone -- is able to draw the globe's best artists to her slight, impoverished nation to dance.  Ms. Alonso, who is 83, has ruled the Ballet Nacional de Cuba -- has been the Ballet Nacional de Cuba -- for nearly six decades. 



DEVIL'S IN THE FOLLOW-UP

LAST Sunday, Lauren Weisberger, fresh off a 6 a.m. flight from Toronto, where she had been promoting her new novel at the International Festival of Authors, had brunch at the Mercer Kitchen with three of her friends. The festival, she told them, was packed with young authors and had involved some ''committed drinking.''  ''It sounds like a mixer,'' said Kyle White, who is Ms. Weisberger's colorist.


SALLY INC.

IT was a hot wet Wednesday, altogether too swampy for anything but the briefest outdoor interlude, so the tour of Sally Hershberger's prodigious penthouse balcony quickly came to what is so often the point: real estate.  Ms. Hershberger, the hairstylist famous for giving Meg Ryan her shag and for driving the price of a haircut to a dizzying $600, pointed to the penthouse apartment next to hers. ''That's for sale,'' she said. ''I almost bought it.''

 

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Father Imperfect

ON a cold night in mid-November, seven men sat in a tight circle in a spare classroom in East Harlem to learn about fatherhood. One was Javier Sanchez, a baby-faced Puerto Rican in an oversize white T-shirt.He had left his only child four years before, two and a half weeks after his birth, and now he wanted him back. "What qualities does a man have to have in order to be a good father?" asked the caseworker leading the session. 

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How Much Is That Dancer In the Program?

LAST February, at the Atlanta Ballet's annual gala, Lynda Courts saw an item up for auction that she just could not refuse. The evening's performance was ''Romeo and Juliet,'' and Romeo himself was on offer.  ''Much to my husband's consternation I kept bidding,'' said Ms. Courts, who has been on the board of the Atlanta Ballet for 20 years.  Five minutes and $3,000 later, Ms. Courts held a photograph of her prize: John Welker, the evening's star, whom she had purchased the right to ''sponsor'' for the next year. (She got a deal. At the Atlanta Ballet, dancers of Mr. Welker's stature usually go for $10,000 a year.)  

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Amid grip of Cuba, a market for culture

Behind the chipped facades and rusted iron filigree of many of Havana's humblest-looking homes lie stashes of fabulous electronics equipment: cellphones, new computers, CD players, a VCR or two, perhaps even a DVD player.  This hidden infrastructure supports a thriving black market of information and entertainment. These days, the illicit traffic of carpets, chairs and computer parts that has long swirled through Havana's crumbling streets also contains the latest movies, music and art.

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Those Who Serve, Those Who Are Served

ON a recent Monday afternoon, men gathered like crows around a black Lamborghini parked outside the Pierre Hotel. Tucked into their dark suits, they all had the conspicuous sheen that comes from a lifetime of elliptical training, beef cheeks and Chateau Margaux.

A Day in the Life of Twyla Tharp

TWYLA THARP appeared at 6:03 a.m. on a recent Wednesday wrapped in a brown DKNY trench coat, her mop of silver-white hair bristling with energy in the predawn torpor of East 91st Street. At 6:04 a.m., she tripped over the prong of a forklift parked in front of Eli's Bread. Her newspaper lurched out of her hands. A fan of credit cards spilled from her wallet. She tumbled onto the street, hitting the ground hands first, executing a near-perfect forward roll and landing in a reasonable semblance of the splits.

 

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So Pink, So New York

THE seriousness of fall, with its early twilights, overbooked restaurants and new television shows, has descended, and the simple, enduring rituals of city life that seemed impertinent in the heat are reviving. In other words, brunch is back.The quintessential New York brunch involves a deceptively simple triumvirate: bagel, cream cheese and lox. It is salmon that lies at the heart of this classic dish, and salmon that lies at the heart of its mystery. 

Neighborhood Report: Red Hook; Chubby Stole a Bomb, Big Vic Left Town, And These Sands Street Boys Carry On

Mikey is not dead. The news came after the backslapping, after the meatballs, after the cigarettes had burned a while, and long after the neighborhood was lost. "They told me Mikey died," said Bullets, a big man. His voice was wrecked. "No," Johnny Apples said. "It was Ralphie that died. Ralphie died, not Mikey. In the house, all by himself." 

Seeking a Seat at the Table

THE benches along the Brighton Beach boardwalk were packed. It was 40 degrees, and the sky had been scrubbed clean by a determined wind. Yet there they sat, the aging and aged, taking in the sun beneath great mounds of fur coats, homburgs, leather jackets, scarves and sunglasses. Men gathered around a chessboard,
their pawns and kings marching strategically through the afternoon. 

 


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Shadows Across the City; Nine Miles Away

NINE miles lie between the World Trade Center and Highbridge, a Bronx neighborhood of 34,000 just north of Yankee Stadium. The streets here are a jumble of bright sunflowers, broken glass, six-story brick apartment buildings, neat row houses and sagging porches. An occasional rooster pecks at the sidewalks, most of which are cracked with weeds.

'Our Mother Missing' 

KARIN DICKSON spent 29 years in a white stone building at 857 Union Street, at Seventh Avenue. There is a solid grace about this stretch of Park Slope. The brownstones stack up neatly. The trees are old and generous. The flower boxes are well tended. Ms. Dickson fell in love here, had a child here, gave tea parties for her neighbors. Those who know her say she lost her mind here.