I thought I was the only one who did that

"The first time he farted loud enough for anyone to hear, Radish yelped and ran out the door. The next time it happened, he turned and barked at his butt."

-- Bill Vaughn describes his dog in "Living in Dog Years," anthologized in the book Dog is My Co-Pilot.

Science marches on

Writer Paul Theroux, traveling by train through Turkmenistan, shares a compartment with an elderly Muslim man and a student who translates for the man.
I heard the whistle blow. The train slowly pulled out of Ashgabat station, and within minutes we were in the desert. The old man was delivering a monologue.

"He says that some years ago a man went to the moon," the student said. "He was from America. When he got to the moon, he heard a strange noise. It was an azan" -- the call to prayer, usually issued by a muezzin chanting from a mosque. "The astronaut recorded it. When he came back to earth, the scientists in America analyzed it, and they came to think that it was the voice of the prophet Muhammad."

"On the moon?"

"Yes. On the moon."

"Furthermore, he says that because of this the astronaut became a Muslim and began praying five times a day."

The old man was facing me, as though defying me to deny the story.

"I haven't heard this story."

"He says he believes it."

"What does he think about it?"

When this question was translated, the student said, "For him, it's good news."
-- From the article "The Golden Man" in the May 28, 2007 issue of The New Yorker.

Second grade

Ooh, Miss Schneider has a boyfriend! And he's an Army Man! And he's just back from Vietnam and coming to class today! This was the highlight of second grade. Some of us had never heard of a teacher having a life outside of school, or met a real Army Man before. Standing in his olive green uniform, he was the tallest person in the room, by far, and his hair was so short. He restrained himself from giving Miss Schneider a romantic embrace and kiss in front of the class, as we understood boyfriends and girlfriends did all the time. We got to ask him questions about Vietnam but he didn't give out any gory specifics. He did help Miss Schneider teach part of that day's lesson about how the Star Spangled Banner came to be written.

Later that year was another crazy thing we never had before. A substitute music teacher (not the usual Mrs. Harvey) brought a record player to our classroom and talked about patterns in music. The crazy part was when the teacher made her point by putting on a Beatles record.

Up until this point, our teachers had spent all their spare time getting kids to be quiet or sit down or stand still or some other boring thing. So when the visiting teacher put the needle on the record and we got to hear "Birthday" from the White Album, it was a naughty thing we were getting away with and all the kids giggled. A rowdy song in the middle of the school day! Now we were all seven-year-old hippies.