A funny thing happened

Here’s the year 2011 as chronicled in the opening lines of stories published in the New Yorker throughout the year. What a year!

One recent afternoon.

One afternoon in early March, the shoe designer Christian Louboutin decided to go for a ride on his Vespa.

One day last March, students crammed into the Great Hall at the University of Ghana, outside Accra.

One sticky morning last summer, Sara Blakely, the inventor of Spanx, which over the past decade has become to women’s foundation garments what Scotch is to cellophane tape, was sitting in the Park Avenue offices of her husband Jesse Itzler, confronting a new challenge: the male anatomy.

One day in June, Jaron Lanier was lounging barefoot in the living room of his house in the Berkeley Hills.

One day in July, Hélène Grimaud was practicing piano in a hotel room in Munich.

One bright September morning in Rome, when it still felt like summer, Her Serene Highness the Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi stood with half a dozen Japanese tourists and a German couple under “Jupiter, Pluto, and Neptune,” the only painting Caravaggio is known to have executed on a ceiling.

One day last fall, Ted Mann, a Brooklyn restaurateur, got a call from his father.

Late one October evening, I flew into Urfa, the city believed by Turkish Muslims to be the Ur of the Chaldeans, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham.

One cold, wet morning in December, I headed into Istanbul to watch the Besiktas soccer team play a match against Bursapor, a team from the city of Bursa, the original Ottoman capital.

One afternoon last December, inside a long tent pitched beside a busy road in a southern district of New Delhi, a punchy young drunk was shouting, “Why are you not including me? Take my photograph!”

One morning last month, Lady Antonia Fraser was stuck in a security line at the Toronto Airport and missed her plane.

One recent afternoon, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach stepped onto the patio of his neo-Gothic mansion in Englewood, New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and nine children.

One afternoon this spring, the twenty-one-year-old country pop star Taylor Swift was in the back seat of an black Escalade going up Madison Avenue, on her way to the annual Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum.

One recent Tuesday, a tall man entered F.A.O Schwarz and, beelining through the stuffed-animal displays, stopped at the Whatnot Workshop, a kiosk where you can design your own Muppet.

On January 20th, the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, a group of fifteen staffers who had worked in the Kennedy White House held a reunion at a local D.C steak house.

On the afternoon of March 11th – a Friday – the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, on Japan’s Pacific coast, had more than six thousand workers inside.

On the morning of March 12th, Osama ben Sadik, a volunteer ambulance driver, arrived for duty at the red Crescent clinic in Brega, an oil-refinery town in eastern Libya.

On May 30th, as the sun beat down on the plains of eastern Pakistan, a laborer named Muhammad Shafiq walked along the top of a dam on the Upper Jhelum Canal to begin his morning routine of clearing grass and trash that had drifted into the intake gates overnight.

On June 13th, a fifty-four-year-old former government employee named Thomas Drake was scheduled to appear in a courtroom in Baltimore, where he will face some of the graves charges than can be brought against an American citizen.

On a bright Sunday afternoon shortly after one o’clock in Manhattan, a few days before his eighty-fifth birthday, which he would modestly acknowledge on August 3rd by dining at a neighborhood restaurant on the East Side with his wife Susan – who, within a few weeks would be celebrating her own, forty-fifth birthday – Tony Bennett was standing behind a microphone at the Avatar Studios, on West Fifty-third Street, rehearsing a few lines from “The Lady Is a Tramp” while awaiting the presence of Lady Gaga.

On a chilly Tuesday morning in November, so early that the previous night’s full moon was still glowing in the dark sky, Ree Drummond, a blogger who calls herself the Pioneer Woman, drove her family’s pickup truck to the middle of a winter-brown pasture in Osage County, Oklahoma.

On the night of November 20th, two weeks before elections for the State Duma, Vladimir Putin set aside the cares of the Kremlin and went to the Olympic SportComplex for an ultimate-fighting match – a “no rules” heavyweight bout between a Cyclopean Russian named Feodor (the Last Emperor) Yemelianenko and a self-described anarchist from Olympia, Washington, named Jeff (the Snowman) Monson.

On a warm December afternoon in Rangoon, the largest city in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the country’s most popular politician, sat in the headquarters of the National League for Democracy.

On a recent morning in Miami Beach, a middle-aged man in a tracksuit was walking along Lincoln Road, the glitzy strip that runs from the ocean to the bay, where he veered away to investigate an orchestral tumult emanating from a nearby park.

On a recent morning in the rain forest of northern Brazil, a wiry man in a faded T-shirt and shorts leaped from a marshy riverbank onto the trunk of a palm tree.

On a recent flight from Tokyo to Beijing, at around the time that my lunch tray was taken away, I remembered that I needed to learn Mandarin.

On a recent Friday, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, showed up for her morning power walk along the Potomac.

On a recent Sunday, I woke up around 8 A.M.

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