I decided that my life was not going to be fodder for neighborhood talk. I knew I had to act early. My aunt's next-door neighbor's son knocked up his girlfriend in sixth grade; they got married, had the kid, and moved in with my aunt's neighbor. So I chose an unpopular high school, Holy Cross Academy, near the porn theaters in Times Square. I found myself a best friend from the East Village who was Ukrainian. I took to that culture like a duck to water. Pierogi? You bet. She had never seen an artichoke. The boys were tall and blond and thought I was exotic. I went away for college, a neighborhood no-no, and from there I left. I lived in Europe, India, Southeast Asia. I ate beef bourguignon and curry, and noodles dressed in peanut sauce instead of tomato gravy.