The New York Times, Nov. 16, 2014

Sting was breaking a promise he had made to himself.

Back in the ’70s, when he was earning his wages performing nightly for passengers aboard the S.S. Oriana, he swore he would never set foot on another ship. That is, he said, “until I owned the thing.”

Yet there he was on the Queen Mary 2, docked that bright October afternoon in New York Harbor. It seemed the boy in him, who grew up in the industrial northeast England town Wallsend — “in the shadow of a shipyard,” as he put it — couldn’t pass up the chance to perform on the world’s largest ocean liner.

“It’s not every day you’re invited aboard the Queen Mary 2,” he said. That such an invitation could still flatter a man who, at this point, might very well be able to purchase the vessel is a testament to just how large ships loomed in his childhood. Shipbuilding, in all its grit and glory, is the stuff of the new Broadway musical, “The Last Ship,” for which Sting wrote the music and lyrics.

That afternoon, against the twinkling backdrop of the ship’s Royal Court Theater, he performed a few of its numbers before a crowd of 200. Though dressed in his usual rock-star attire — black leather pants, a denim shirt, a loosely wrapped red scarf — he inhabited some of the musical’s characters, belting out anthems and waltzes in a northern brogue. For the tender ballad “August Winds,” though, his voice returned to its natural, silvery tenor.

For his encore, he set aside “The Last Ship” to play a few Police hits. The strongest applause came from the crew in the balcony. “I’m sending out an S.O.S.” Sting sang, adding, “C’mon, Captain, you know how to do it.” Afterward, on the ship’s bow, Sting talked about his hometown, the inspiration he drew from its landscape and his days as one of the crew.  >>> continue reading at nytimes.com >>>

The New York Times, June 22, 2014

John Waters was safely ensconced in his Greenwich Village apartment, which is unexpectedly tasteful — Oriental rugs, carefully arranged books — for the filmmaker known as the “Pope of Trash,” thanks to movies like “Hairspray” and “Pink Flamingos” that traffic in camp, gore and, ahem, bodily functions.

He had survived his eight-day hitchhiking trip across America two years ago, the subject of his new book, “Carsick,” and he didn’t seem worse for the wear. Sitting in his living room, he looked refreshed in a black and gray suit jacket, a pressed white collared shirt and his signature pencil mustache. He swore, though, that by the end he was so weather-beaten he looked “like a Walker Evans character.”

Although he’d hitchhiked along America’s coasts decades ago, he never did a cross-country trip. A man now in his 60s could have respectably counted that as a regret, not a dare, but that’s not Mr. Waters’s style.  >>> continue reading at nytimes.com >>>

The New York Times, June 16, 2014

Maureen Sheridan’s search for her biological mother began in the late 1990s, after she had a precancerous mole removed and her doctor suggested she look into her medical history. That research led her to the New York Public Library, where in 2001, sifting through a vast trove of vital records, Ms. Sheridan discovered the name she had been given at birth: Beth Lyons.

She does not know the name of her biological mother, who gave her up for adoption in 1976, because New York State laws dating to the 1930s deny all adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Still, Ms. Sheridan said, at least she learned that her mother had “cared enough to give me a name.”

With two sons of her own now, who have both had medical scares, Ms. Sheridan, 38, an administrator at the New School, said she felt even more compelled to unearth her medical history, even if she never connects with her biological mother.

“My original birth certificate sits in a building in New York City, and I’m not entitled to it,” she said. “I have a big issue with the fact that, as a group, we’re kept by law from accessing our own records.” >>> continue reading at nytimes.com >>>

The Ochberg Society, January 10, 2014

For the three weeks I was in Port-au-Prince, I stepped into its streets only once. It was to buy sugarcane from a man selling it out of his wheelbarrow. With his machete he peeled one long, dark stalk to its sticky white center and chopped it into pieces. Pulling one from the plastic baggy and sucking out its juice, I walked back to the running car where André, my fixer, was waiting.

Before last October, I’d never been to Haiti or, for that matter, reported a story beyond America’s northeast. Yet there I was, driving around Port-au-Prince in André’s green Toyota 4Runner, because I’d received a fellowship to write about American evangelical Christians who run orphanages there. Some of them arrived in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, and I was investigating what effect their organizations were having the country — good or bad? >>> continue reading at ochbergsociety.org >>>

The New York Times, November 17, 2013

In the mid-1980s, before microbrew was even a term, let alone a trend, in the United States, Garrett Oliver, a brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, began creating beer in his home in New York City just so he could drink something other than the “thin, fizzy yellow liquid” that bars served at the time.

His hobby was quickly turning into a profession, as he sought to recapture his experience of London, where he’d lived and, between stage-managing rock concerts, fallen in love with bitter, as the English called their pale ale. “It just had waves and waves of complex flavor,” he said.

Today Mr. Oliver travels abroad at a breakneck pace to share his brewing techniques. And in February, Brooklyn Brewery will open its first brewery abroad, the New Carnegie Brewery, a partnership with Carlsberg, in Stockholm. “Like us, the Swedes have been importing their beer culture from the rest of Europe,” Mr. Oliver said. “Now you’re starting to see more Swedish interpretations, if you like.” >>> continue reading at nytimes.com >>>

The New York Times, October 27, 2013

“On the back of a motorcycle with my soon-to-be husband, who at the time was my secret Italian lover in New York,” is how Gabrielle Hamilton, chef of the New York restaurant Prune, said she discovered Rome.

Every summer for the next 11 years, her husband played the city’s ambassador to her and eventually to their two sons. “And that is beautiful,” she said, “but denies you certain self-discovery experiences.”

Three years ago, after their marriage had come to an end, Ms. Hamilton decided to go to Rome again, this time on her own.

“I was like, ‘Damn it, I’m going to take this city,’ ” she said. That meant renting a Vespa and making her way through Rome by asking directions in what she calls “hilarious, bad Italian.”

“There’s nothing like being part of that swarm of wasps,” said Ms. Hamilton of riding a Vespa. “It puts you on the inside.” >>> continue reading at nytimes.com >>>

The New York Times, September 8, 2013

“Fashion Week is fantastic people watching.”

Heather Cocks should know. With her writing partner, Jessica Morgan, Ms. Cocks whips up witty commentary on celebrities and their woeful sartorial choices for their fashion blog. Having covered the event for New York magazine every season since 2006, she can attest that there’s no better place to gawk at celebrities than New York Fashion Week, which runs through Sept. 12.

Living in Los Angeles “is like going on safari,” she said. “You can see celebrities in the wild, and maybe you don’t want to poke at them.”

“Whereas Fashion Week is kind of like going to the zoo,” she said. “They are there for you to look at.” >>> continue reading at nytimes.com >>>