NPR: Jacki Lyden

Thursday in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art officially reopens its fashion galleries after a $40 million, two-year renovation.

Named for Vogue magazine's editor, the Anna Wintour Costume Center features an inaugural exhibit of the work of Charles James, a flamboyant designer considered America's first couturier. This caps days of glamorous events at the Met, including the Costume Institute's benefit gala, presided over by Wintour — with Hollywood stars.

Last year, there were more than two-dozen shootings on or near college campuses in the United States. This past Tuesday, that number went up, with the fatal shooting of a student at Purdue University. Then Friday, a fatal shooting at South Carolina State University. It will, of course, tick up again.

The Bark River is my backyard, childhood river. And yet, in a lifetime of travel, I'd never explored it.

I knew it carved the land from the Ice Age to settlement times, from the Black Hawk War of 1832 (in which young Abraham Lincoln appears) to the era of grist mills. But the Bark also flows past impressive Indian mounds. It nurtured poets, naturalists and farmers.

When former Marquette University professor Milton Bates published his Bark River Chronicles through the Wisconsin State Historical Society, I jumped at the chance to learn about the river with him.

In the 1960s, Al Black could be found cruising up and down Route 1 in his blue-and-white Ford Galaxy — with a trunk full of wet landscape paintings.

At the time, he was a salesman who could snatch your breath away and sell it back to you. As artist Mary Ann Carroll puts it, he could "sell a jacket to a mosquito in summer."

"A salesman is a con-man," Black readily admits himself today. He's a storyteller. And does he have stories to tell.

In the 1960s and '70s, if you were in a doctor's office, or a funeral home, or a motel in Florida, chances are a landscape painting hung on the wall. Palms arching over the water, or moonlight on an inlet. Tens of thousands of paintings like this were created by a group of self-taught African-American artists, concentrated in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Ever wanted to just disappear into a secret garden of earthly delights, of twists and turns of evocative ruin, exuberant tropics, the Zen of a Japanese teahouse?

Consider Chanticleer, in Wayne, Pa. It's part of the old Main Line ring of estates around Philadelphia. In fact, right across the street from the garden is the former home of Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, the heiress portrayed by Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story.

With a bit of reverence, librarians carefully wind an antique library clock near the circulation desk in a temple of learning called the Providence Athenaeum.

This is one of the oldest libraries in the United States, a 19th-century library with the soul of a 21st-century rave party. In fact, the Rhode Island institution has been called a national model for civic engagement.

The Iraq War may be officially over, but for thousands of Iraqis who fled to America during the conflict, there's no going home. Many left successful careers to settle in Detroit, where finding their future is a challenge.

The U.N. estimates several million Iraqis are now refugees — either inside Iraq or outside the country. Almost 60,000 of them have come to the Detroit metro area since 2006, drawn by the large Arab community that's been there for years.

What if you could hold on to time in your hands? You can, you know. You can crack open, on this New Year's Eve, the unsullied, unhurried, un-trammeled pages of an old-fashioned datebook — the kind that still arranges seven days into a week; the kind you write in with a pen and which never, ever, beeps at you to remind you of a meeting or errand.

A good friend of mine is a Marcel Proust scholar and former milliner. She had just been to see fashion icon and brewery fortune heiress Daphne Guinness's exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology's Museum at FIT in New York when she sent me this email:

Aramaic is the lingua franca of the ancient Middle East, the linguistic root of modern day Hebrew and Arabic.

"Once you understand Aramaic," says Karen Stern, "you can read anything. You can read Hebrew, you can read Phoenician. I always call it the little black dress of Semitic languages."

As you enter Cocktail Culture, an intoxicating exhibit of apparel, accoutrement and ephemera at the Rhode Island School of Design's Museum of Art, it's hard not to think of Billy Strayhorn's lyrics in his jazz standard "Lush Life":

I used to visit all those very gay places
those come-what-may places
where one relaxes on the axis of wheel of life
to get the feel of life
from jazz and cocktails

Last in a three-part series.

For prostitutes looking to get drug free and off the streets, the Magdalene program in Nashville, Tenn., provides a model for healing. Magdalene offers housing, therapy and a self-sustaining small business that allows the women it serves to make money and gain respect.

That business is Thistle Farms, and the recovering women who run it make body care products by hand and paper made of thistle.

Second in a three-part series.

One-hundred-and-fifty former prostitutes have been through the Magdalene recovery program in Nashville, Tenn. It's a private two-year program for women with criminal histories of drug addiction and prostitution.

On a recent Saturday night, two women who completed the program drive their former "tracks" — the places prostitutes walk.

"This is the Bottoms," says Sheila Simpkins, behind the wheel.

First in a three-part series.

Nashville, Tenn., is hardly a mecca for prostitution. But it thrives there just as in any other major American city.

It's also trying to break the cycle of prostitution, and often that begins with an arrest.

One afternoon in February when the vice squad went out on an undercover detail looking for prostitutes, it almost immediately found Brittany Messina.

Joao Silva. Lynsey Addario. Tyler Hicks. Tim Hetherington. Chris Hondros: the names of photojournalists grievously wounded, kidnapped or killed in the line of duty since October 2010. The names and casualties of journalists harmed during conflicts seem to be mounting, leaving many of us who knew them or who have worked with them or - even those a few steps more removed - feeling a bit more vulnerable.