The Mayor of the Block

gilbert-kelley-290We woke up two Saturdays ago to find that Gilbert Kelley, the homeless man who had lived on our leafy brownstone block in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn and had taken care of everyone’s garbage and swept the street, was dead. The man we knew only as Kelley was shot around 4:30 in the morning in front of a house a few doors down from us. Neighbors heard male voices talking and someone laughing. Then a single shot was fired, striking Kelley in the chest. He died on the way to the hospital.

I always figured that Kelley’s days were numbered—he was living a hard life on the street for nearly twenty years—but his death hit me with a surprising force, the shock of which I still haven’t absorbed, and not simply because he was murdered twenty-five yards from where I sleep with my husband and two small children. I’m not alone in feeling this way. The Friday evening before last, seventy of my neighbors—along with a handful of Kelley’s kids, whom none of us had met before—held an informal memorial, singing and lighting candles at the tree next to where he was killed. Residents of several of the blocks nearby, along with the local post office, where he’d once been a mail carrier, and our police precinct, have taken up collections for a plaque in his memory. Even the sanitation truck carries a sign reading “R.I.P. Kelley” on its side….

Kids’ Vacations Highlight School Segregation

Motto at

School kids in classroom  As a high schooler in Connecticut in the 1980s, I spent a spring break shivering in my bikini in our backyard, where I watched episode after episode of General Hospital and As the World Turns on a television that I had dragged outside. But back at school, despite my equally bronzed face and arms, I still felt myself deflate inside while listening to my classmates’ excited chatter about chartered yachts in the Caribbean. I knew that my family, while solidly upper middle class, didn’t have as much money as many families at my private suburban high school. But I never felt it more acutely than around school vacations.

Thirty years later, different variations of this scene still play out, and not just at private schools. Families at public schools in wealthier neighborhoods in many major American cities and suburbs do their own share of jetting off to exotic locales. And for schools trying to integrate students from various neighborhoods and socioeconomic backgrounds in an effort to prevent the resegregation of schools, school vacations can highlight disparities and fracture the sense that students are equal in the ways that matter most…

How One Wealthy Manhattan School is Fighting Inequality


In many American cities, property taxes no longer cover all the things that used to be considered standard fare in public elementary schools: art, music, dance, working copy machines. As a result, parent associations, or PTAs, in affluent communities have morphed from peddlers of sweet treats and organizers of apple fests into fundraising juggernauts, with galas, festivals, and auctions, all organized by volunteers, and budgets to rival a mid-size nonprofit with a full-time staff.

Schools in low-income communities where the parents lack the time, and more importantly, the access to vacation homes and hot theater tickets to auction off, are out of luck. Of course, this differing ability of schools to raise money exacerbates existing economic inequities, but few parents from either side of the income divide have occasion to dwell on the other’s reality. But this may be changing…

Elle Magazine
Life-Coaching-Better-Than-Therapy-mdnYour body is a template on which you can learn to manage your mind,” says my new life coach, Laurie Gerber, as we enter a fitness class to which she occasionally takes clients. Called IntenSati (the word intensity combined with sati, an ancient Indian word for “awareness”), the class is like boot camp—if it were led by Mr. Power of Positive Thinking Norman Vincent Peale. In the back row, I struggle to follow along with the 50 other participants as IntenSati’s leader and founder, Patricia Moreno, takes us through a complex sequence: Knee pump, fist jab, knee pump, lunge. “Confusion?” the class demands in unison. “So what!” Fist jab, lunge, leg lift, jump. “Fear? Bring it on!” Squat, straighten, jump, clap. “Failure? Try again!” Next to me, Gerber, a slim, attractive 37-year-old with light blue eyes and a wide, flat mouth, is smiling beatifically and repeating, “I am done complaining! I set myself free!” In front of me, a heavyset man in bike shorts squeezes his elbows together. “I am the change I want to be.”…

Your 24/7 Personal Trainer

Elle Magazine

elle-silent-motivator-xln-xlnThe first thing I do when I wake up every morning is slip off my UP, a health-monitoring bracelet made by Jawbone, and plug it into my iPhone to see how I’ve slept. There’s something consistently interesting, almost magical, about seeing my slumber deciphered in blue and orange graphics on the bracelet’s accompanying app: how long it took me to fall asleep; time spent in bed versus time spent actually sleeping; number of awakenings; and, the most magical of all, hours (hopefully not minutes!) spent in deep versus light sleep…

Coming To Terms with A Family Secret

More Magazine

me and dad look of love more

When I was 24, I learned that there are two kinds of deathbed secrets: those that loved ones choose to reveal in an 11th-hour coming clean about who they are and what they’ve done, and those that you stumble across when sorting through their things. Either way, just as you lose this person you love, whose image you are trying to freeze in your brain, you begin to wonder how well you knew him or her at all…

Pulp Princess

Elle Magazine

Pulp-Princess-4-mdnMiasha, a 28-year-old novelist, is walking through the Los Angeles Convention Center, home to the 2008 BookExpo America, an annual publishing conference. Sporting large diamond hoop earrings, sequined Manolos, and a short lime green dress with a keyhole neckline that reveals impressive cleavage for her tiny frame, Miasha, an African-American novelist who is one of the biggest names in urban fiction, looks as if she has wandered by mistake into the crowd of predominantly middle-aged white women clad in comfortable flats and faded lipstick…