i woke up this morning cold. "people at the office will understand when i call and let them know i can't come to work today because it's too cold," i thought to myself, trying to soak up the warm underneath the comforter. but work i must, as bills demand paying. i fed the fish, washed up, got dressed, and left the house, a fresh layer of snow on the ground from last night. i didn't even bother shoveling, i was going to be late. i had my mp3 player with me, the first time in a long time, the music put some energy back into my monday morning commute. it wasn't very cold, just a brisk 20 degrees.

katrinka, who wasn't at work on friday, upon learning that some how the office majority decided we'd be going to jillian's as a cheap substitute for the tiki lounge, put her foot down and rescued me from an evening at suck ass lansdowne street. her reason was pretty much the same as mine, that the jillian's atmosphere wasn't appropriate for our get-together, and besides, there was only bar food. so during our monday meeting, we had to pick a new place to go, or reschedule the already belated office holiday party to another day. i would've been happy with either a nice restaurant in chinatown or the north end. the north end was deemed too far, and adam doesn't do chinatown. we finally tentatively decided it'd be at kings, that posh bowling place in boston. i could sense that some people weren't happy, but at that point i'd happily take anything over jillian's. later when we called to make a reservation, they told us that kings would be closed for a private party after 8pm, and we could only be there for 2 hours. we avoid one crisis, only to face another one. it's as if the gods of party planning was against us. there was a strong buzz to just reschedule the party altogether at that point. dana had left his present at home anyway (we were doing a gift exchange), alex's girlfriend april couldn't make it, neither could carly's husband paul, and kristine had pulled out her "i don't mind not going" card. i was against rescheduling, i had my special guest (renata) arriving, i think i was lucky to have coaxed her away from her busy schedule, who knows when she'll be able to do it again. katrinka then suggested marliane's, an italian restaurant in the heart of downtown crossing. with some grumblings, everyone agreed, the sense of a cursed outing not quite abated.

i didn't eat lunch, and the day went by pretty fast. i managed to get by with a box of garden herb triscuits and plenty of water, as well as a can of congee. we had server problems today, our ftp and our mail access worked intermittently, especially unfortunate on a day when we had a client delivery. it was just a very stressful day for the office as a whole, that's all.

when 6pm rolled around, everyone left for marliane's except for me, i was in the office waiting for renata to show up, which she did minutes later after having gotten lost from my slightly confusing directions. i gave her a quick tour of the facilities, then we walked to downtown crossing. we found the restaurant on bromfield street, several stories above street level, windowed walls with a beautiful midlevel view of the buildings around downtown crossing. funny how i never knew this restaurant was here, an extremely quaint place with a lovely atmosphere. there was some out of season christmas decorations on the walls which further enhanced the "holiday" nature of our party. the restaurant was empty (several of us wondered how they stay in business, or can afford a place like this), we were the only people for a while, later a table of 4 showed up at the far end of the restaurant. renata and i sat next to adam and michelle and zella. i've known renata since 6th grade, but adam knew renata from way in preschool. i got to see firsthand how energy draining taking care of a toddler can be! zella was constantly running around, speaking baby talk, playing with food and her toys. getting her attention is also kind of weird, sometimes it seems like she's looking right at you, other times it seems she's oblivious to your presence. at the far end of the table sat katrinka and brian and carly and dan and elle and alex. in the middle table, kristine and her roommate nikki, then later james and jaime. nikki asked me about costa rica, then made several references to my website, which i found both very honored yet at the same time scary. it is the weirdest thing when strangers talk to me knowing everything about me from my website. i can't even explain it, it's like i'm living in a state of public reality, and the details of my life is common knowledge. "do you make a lot of flan?" james asked. "yes, yes," i stammered, and i wanted to ask, "how do you know?" but i already knew the answer. some how we started talking about "blue" people (those suffering from silver nitrate poisoning), and jaime revealed that she's actually cousin to the silver patriots guy we see all the times in newspapers and on television.

i had the white clam sauce linguine, while being surrounded by people having either the eggplant parmagiana or the ziti. the food was okay, i've had better italian in the north end, but what it lacks in flavor it more than makes up for in the atmosphere, which i just absolutely loved.

after dinner, it was time for the present exchange. dana had come up with the idea of giving away bad christmas presents instead of buying anything, so we were all given the assignment of finding a bad present from christmas past to regift to someone else in the office. numbered were randomly picked, and one by one presents were picked off of the table. nikki went first, amongst other things, she got a green shirt sprinkled with glitter with disney's winnie the pooh characters on it. next came alex, who picked my pink wrapped box. inside was the woody woodpecker doll meghan gave me at a SRM secret santa swap, a box of ecology cards amanda garnier had given me for another SRM secret santa event (she also gave me a toy cardinal that year, which i still have), and a bobble head dog manny gave me one christmas. alex seemed to really love the bobble dog, and said he'd put it in his car (i'm happy it's able to find a good home finally). kristine's present was a creme brulée gift set, not sure if it included a miniature blowtorch (which alone would be worth the price of admission). james and jaime (sounds like a dance team) exchanged presents with dana and elle, the two couples who forgot to bring their presents so instead had IOU's written on pieces of paper. i heard something about some piece of golf equipment and a nutcracker. katrinka got a set of shot glasses, while brian made out with a lovely photo frame. i was the second to last person and picked out adam and michelle's present, which was a hello kitty 2004 day planner, which i totally want and think is a great present, a perfect transition from my hello kitty 2003 calendar. adam and michelle received a box of wineglass markers.

the evening was starting to wind down. our waitress turned off the air conditioner in a not so subtle hint that we were overstaying our welcome, despite the fact that it was still early at just 9pm. renata took some liberties with my hello kitty day planner and wrote her birthday inside, in case i should forget. carly told us that 2004 is a special year for hello kitty because she turns 30 years old (which coincidentally is when we turn 30 as well, those born in 1974). we all left, walking back to the train station. in my haste to take a departing photo of marliane's, the nikon coolpix 4500 carelessly slipped out of my hand and smashed to the floor while everyone watched and winced. this was bound to happen sooner or later, it's inevitable. i've dropped all my cameras before, and the nikon 950 that i had for the longest time sustained several near fatal drops in its lifetime. the flash on the 4500 had popped opened, but nothing was broken or shattered. i quickly turned on the camera, which seemed to operate just fine. the only injury suffered was a nasty gash wound in the metal casing, but this battle scar will just adds more character to the camera. renata and i caught the red line from downtown crossing, where we played with the jar of glitter i had in my bag. i said good bye to her at porter square and came back home.

this month's rent was waiting for me on my computer when i stepped into the living room. my father briefly paid me a visit to get some equipment after spending a day down in new york city getting entry visas for my mother and himself at the chinese embassy. after he left, i went across the street to star market in their last hour of business to buy some ingredients for tomorrow night's dinner of lasagna and rice pudding.