I've been a published journalist since 1987.

I went from (age 16) a hardcore behavioral modification detention center-like place for bad burnouts and broken kids from broken families (Hi Mom!), to a halfway house type place with junkies, hookers, and teenagers from Rikers Island (it was actually a TC, a therapeutic community, descended from the infamous descended-into-a-cult Synanon) to the United States Army (Missouri, Virginia, Germany) to the State University of New York at Purchase (awards, scholarships, a lot of journalism, magna cum laude) to Columbia Masters program to -- and this was the harsh unexpected part -- the assembly line, the freight elevator, the towel department of Macy's, using a nail gun while hanging from rafters doing construction, listening to Books on Tape while using a jackhammer during the day and sending out magazine query letters at night.

Eventually I got published.

My work has received praise from author and neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks; Dr. Kay Jamison (An Unquiet Mind); Sydney Schanberg (The Killing Fields); author Barbara Ehrenreich (she taught one of my articles - undercover in a psychiatric hospital - in her grad school journalism class at Berkeley); and Dr. David Biro (The Language of Pain: Finding Words, Compassion, and Relief ) -- he teaches one of my articles in his course on medicine and literature at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York.

My articles have been cited in the following books:

  • Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon (National Book Award winner, Pulitzer finalist)

  • The Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson (professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. CIA consultant, and long time director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley)

  • Transforming Madness: New Lives for People Living with Mental Illness by Jay Neugeboren

  • North Korea, South Korea: U.S. policy at a time of crisis by John Feffer

  • Global Ethnography: forces, connections, and imaginations in a postmodern world by Michael Burawoy

  • America Town: building the outposts of empire by Mark L. Gillem

  • Perspectives: Introduction to Social Work (article reprinted), edited by Christine Lowery

  • Blood Evidence: how DNA is revolutionizing the way we solve crimes by Henry C. Lee and Frank Tirnady

    My work has also been recognized and cited by Marian Wright Edelman (president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund); Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; Columbia Journalism Review (they published a four page profile discussing my career); The Poynter Institute; The Village Voice; Business Week;; The Boston Globe; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; New York Press; Vice Magazine; The Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy; The Hip-Hop Network; Mainichi Shimbun (a national Japanese newspaper); MBC (a national Korean television network); and The National Family Caregivers Association forum.

    Lectured on journalism at Hunter College, Queens College, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University’s undergraduate program, NYU, the State University of New York at Purchase, Baruch College, and New York City’s Summer Journalism Workshop Program for High School Minority Students.

    I've traveled to Germany, Mexico, Nicaragua, England (two months living in and reporting on a homeless shelter), Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Brazil, and Afghanistan.

    Completed training at the International Gang Specialist Training Conference ( National Gang Crime Research Center, Chicago).

    Completed Criminal Investigative Analysis Training course (Ft. Lauderdale Police Department).

    Was 2004 President Jimmy Carter/Rosalynn Carter Center Fellow; Reported on Mental Health and End of Life Issues.


    In 2002 to 2004 I went in a different direction: I received New York State and National certification as an EMT and later graduated from an EMT-Intermediate class (intubation, reading ECG rhythms, hooking up IVs). I worked 911 rescue and emergency calls on a paramedic ambulance.

    In 2004 I created a GED program for high school drop-outs on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (through Grand Street Settlement).

    From 2007 to 2009 I was a New York City Teaching Fellow. I worked full time in a detention center teaching journalism and literature to incarcerated teenagers who would say to me "What's good, Heldman" and/or "You need to get your weight up." I miss them and liked teaching them (when it was possible -- it was a momentous struggle to get their attention) a lot except the few who were unusually cruel, shockingly nasty.

    I'm proficient in Spanish. I was married to a Japanese woman, Sumiko Obata, for 10 years. She died in April of 2004, in front of me, home hospice, after almost 3 years of fighting, being tortured by, laughing at cancer -- (and living a full full life - - you would be, I was, shocked) and to this day I am respectful and scarred.


    That's me in the corner losing up at the top of the website on the far right with the hood on appearing in a London newspaper. I was mistakenly identified as homeless but was actually there doing street outreach for a shelter and reporting on two homeless men who I knew before the reporter and photographer and their police and Salvation Army guide led them to the alley where we were. They just assumed.

    That's me on the far left of the page when I was 17 and "kind of " locked up in rehab/reform/detention/warehouse,etc.

    The boy with the gun is a teenage soldier in Nicaragua -- I was there doing a journalism project for my college newspaper.

    The dancer up there is Yumi, photographed by Sumiko. RIP Sumi, I'll see you one day and we'll hug.