they knew it'd drive me crazy so of course they kept on honking the car horn outside. fortunately most of my neighbors are still away on holiday so i wasn't totally embarassed. i turn off the tv (i was watching jessica simpson talk about her daisy dukes on the view) and went outside. i got into the car with renata and trayce, driving down to the providence airport so trayce can go back home to washington where hungry attention-starved cats and thirsty neighbor's houseplants were waiting for her return. after renata got some gas at the self-serve pump near fresh pond ("su-no-co," renata enunciated), we were on our way south for the 1+ hour drive to the airport.

talk of a lost thermometer got us to discussing the how-tos of invitrofertilization with donor sperms. apparently there seems to be a lack of asian (particularly korean) donors. some jokes were made at my expense about pulling off to the side of the road. the whole issue seems complicated for both donors and recipients. donors can choose to be anonymous to any offsprings born through the use of his genetic material, but there are always ways of finding out who the biological father is. i don't think i could ever do it and be anonymous, that i'd be curious to know how the kid turned out. choosing the father is sort of like catalog shopping, and i asked if it's like looking at a photo book and picking the hottest guy, but there's a screen of anonymity so of course photos are out of the question. you pick based on their educational background, stated interests, medical history, and some physical attributes, particularly height. that of course rules me out as a donor since i am almost a midget.

there was a touching farewell at the airport since the two friends wouldn't be seeing each other until after renata comes back from china close to the beginning of summer. trayce, arms loaded with boxes, shoulders heavy with bags, walked inside the terminal.

driving back into the city of providence, we thought about what we could do to entertain ourselves until dinner with her parents later in the evening. renata suggested some beach action, but later rescinded that offer, possibly because the weather was already pretty cold, perhaps more so along the shorelines. then we thought maybe we can wander around the city a little bit, but we managed to missed our exits and wound up in pawtucket instead. since it was close to where her brother marsian lives, we decided to drop by and visit. renata wanted to get some food for him since he was sick at home, so we stopped at a busy vegetarian restaurant to get some stuff to go. renata treated me to a vegetarian chili dog. there was a 30 minute wait for our order, so we passed the time slurping smoothies by the bar and reading up on the latest tsunami news in the providence journal.

marsian's place was pretty cool, the rooms arranged in a circle. if i had to guess, i'd say it's a 1200 square feet apartment, and there were times when i found myself disoriented, confused as to where i was in the house. not only that, but from the 2nd floor bedroom window we caught a glimpse of the amazing backyard, a nice large tree for summertime shade, with rows of colorful chairs waiting to be sat in. the pink tinsel christmas tree that i helped renata get for her brother sat as the centerpiece in the living room, hung with "interesting" christmas ornaments.

marsian was having some heating bill issues so renata and i helped him find creative ways to conserve heat. we moved his bed and his sofa away from the windows (wearing his platform shoes to protect our feet), and got him to put a "door snake" by his front door (the gap was large enough that i could probably stick my hand all the way through). we relocated the tree so it was up against the window, visible from the street below, fluffing the wire branches to give it a more natural pink tinsel christmas tree look. that was followed by helping marsian put up some framed photos, making sure they were aligned correctly. marsian, ever the diva, would sometimes boss us around, ask us for our opinion about things, spray us with CK eternity cologne, or treat us to snacks like chocolate peanuts or popsicles. before we left for renata's parents' place, we watched an old circa 1984 "making of 'we are the world'" video, along with the video itself. the slow tracking shot of michael jackson tapping his crotch foreshadows troubles later on. renata used the hello kitty crochet as a belly blanket.

when we got to renata's parents' place they weren't home yet. renata had a set of keys and once we got inside she ran into the house to disable the alarm. i set my pair of cantaloupes on the kitchen island. we heated up a pot of beef stew sitting on the stove. candles were lit throughout parts of the house. when her parents came home, her mother started cooking the rest of the dinner while i watched. once the food was ready we assembled in the dining room. "aren't you forgetting something?" renata asked me, laughing. i wasn't planning on taking any photos, but seeing that nobody minded, i got the camera and took some snapshots, my bad habit, my unwitting enablers.

after dinner renata wanted to see the scary santa claus photo gallery i sent her (it wouldn't work on her computer at home). when it came time to leave, i got some more photos of the christmas tree ornaments. "mom, tony wants some leftovers too," renata said, making her mother give me an equal share of tonight's booty. renata also took some leftover presents from her parents, boxes of biscuits and chocolates, to take back home and disperse amongst her acquaintances. we left with a page of printed instructions leading us to la salette shrine in attleboro, a 15 minute drive north.

la salette shrine is famous for its grand scale christmas light displays. having never seen it, i wanted to experience it before the holiday season was over. before we got there, renata reminded me that she wouldn't put up with any crazy cold nonsense.

when we arrived i called james, who came out to meet us minutes later. we did a quick tour of the place, the lights too dazzling a spectacle to know where to begin taking photos. several small hills were closed off to the public, perhaps concerns over liability issues with icy steps.

we also visited the souvenir store where you can buy rosary beads, portraits of saints, books about jesus, and other faith-based merchandise. hoping to find the source of the hot apple cider we saw people carrying around in cups, we went to the cafeteria. here we found families huddled together in the dimly-lit room, puffy in their oversized winter jackets, sitting around waiting for something to happen.

all sorts of people come to la salette, but the bulk of them had a warm and fuzzy townie vibe. though beautiful, the place had a scariness factor that i get from all religious institutions. james was very knowledgeable in la salette lores (living nearby and being a frequent visitor), and provided us with tidbits of info as we walked around. renata was very patient despite the cold, but was happy to get back in the car once we were done touring the area, satisfied in the knowledge that she was with me for my very first la salette experience.

the drive home was very quick, weekday night with light traffic. renata even managed to find the shortcut to my house with no help from me. she was insistent that i take some of the presents when i got back, and wouldn't take no for an answer. a check of my e-mail revealed an urgent bug report while i was away. i spent some time fixing it and when i was done i started working on the weblog. tired, i soon fell asleep with the warm laptop resting on my groin, sealing my fate of never being able to father any children. i woke up later to brush my teeth with eyes closed and jump into my cold bed.