This American Life: The Youth in Asia


Monday, November 26th, 2007 — 11:30am PST
Comments 2

Photo by: John Bollwitt on Flickr

One thing John and I do when we have hours to kill, whether it be at a beach laying out in the sunshine or flying across the country, is hookup our headphones to a splitter and listen to podcasts he’s downloaded to his ipod.

I’ve mentioned a couple favourites before, but I just need to reiterate how greatly I appreciate Ira Glass and the This American Life podcast.

One of the episodes we listened to while flying over the Black Hills of South Dakota was all about humans’ interaction with their pets titled, In Dog We Trust. It opened up with a short story, The Youth in Asia, written and read by David Sedaris. I don’t think I’ve consistently laughed like that while listening to any other podcast or radio show for that matter.

Here’s an except:

In the early sixties, during what my mother referred to as the “tail end of the Lassie years,” my parents were given two collies they named Rastus and Duchess. We were living in upstate New York, out in the country, and the dogs were free to race through the forest. They napped in meadows and stood knee-deep in frigid streams, costars in their own private dog-food commercial. According to our father, anyone could tell that the two of them were in love.

Late one evening, while lying on a blanket in the garage, Duchess gave birth to a litter of slick, potato-sized puppies. When it looked as though one of them had died, our mother placed the creature in a casserole dish and popped it into the oven, like the witch in “Hansel and Gretel.”

“Oh, keep your shirts on,” she said. “It’s only set on 200. I’m not baking anyone; this is just to keep him warm.”

The heat revived the sick puppy and left us believing our mother was capable of resurrecting the dead.

Faced with the responsibilities of fatherhood, Rastus took off. The puppies were given away, and we moved south, where the heat and humidity worked against a collie’s best interests. Duchess’s once beautiful coat now hung in ragged patches. Age set in and she limped about the house, clearing rooms with her suffocating farts. When finally, full of worms, she collapsed in the ravine beside our house, we reevaluated our mother’s healing powers. The entire animal kingdom was beyond her scope; apparently, she could resurrect only the cute dead.

The oven trick was performed on half a dozen peakish hamsters but failed to work on my first guinea pig, who died after eating a couple of cigarettes and an entire pack of matches.

“Don’t take it too hard,” my mother said, removing her oven mitts. “The world is full of guinea pigs. You can get another one tomorrow.”

Eulogies always tended to be brief, our motto being “Another day, another collar.” (Continue Reading – Part One)

From “The Youth in Asia“, a part of Me Talk Pretty One Day, a book of essays.

David Sedaris on YouTube: Jesus Shaves, The Squirrel and the Chipmunk, Bend Over and Say “Ah” or read this review including the short story about the turd – one of John’s faves.

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2 comments

  1. Meg says:

    I am pretty crushy about Ira Glass… I was just telling someone that this morning. And David Sedaris is my writing idol.

  2. […] on the Globe and Mail site. Listening to Sedaris reminds me of two things: This American Life, and our trip to Iowa last fall – oh, and he’s brilliantly […]

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