i borrowed my parents' car along with their costco card this morning so i could take renata present shopping for her china trip. when i got to her place (making sure i didn't step on any dog poo which often dot her sidewalk), she was trying to find the telephone number of the mechanic who was fixing her car (misaligned axle for a nasty pothole). for some reason they weren't listed in the belmont yellow pages so finally renata had to call 411 for the information. turns out her car was fixed already so i drove her to the mechanic so she could get her car back. after she dropped off her vehicle at her place, i drove renata to the everett costco. even though i've been there many times i've never actually driven there myself, but i was able to find the place without any problems, even managed to drive through the tufts campus, our alma mater.

while i returned a defective portable car battery, renata had run ahead to do her shopping. after i was done with customer service, i grabbed a shopping cart and went inside to find renata. i found her roaming around with a shopping cart of her own. we consolidated our items (i got a new replacement battery in my cart) and roamed the aisles of costco looking for china gifts. based on the suggestions my parents gave to renata, she bought a lot of food items (craisins, blueberries) and vitamins (centrum). she also got some scenic massachusetts calendars. besides the battery, i also got some bags of chips, and a large package of toilet paper (for my father, only he called it something else). because the costco card wasn't in my name (and the photo on the back looks more like my father than it does me), we couldn't pay with a check or credit card (since they'd need to verify my id), so we had to pay with cash (this we already knew). the final total came out to something like $230, paid with a stack of $20's that the cashier carefully counted just to be sure.

"did you eat yet?" renata asked me, which set up the perfect opportunity for her to take me to her favorite bread shop, iggy's, hidden behind the burger king restaurant on concord avenue across from fresh pond. renata's claim of "coming here all the time" was verified when the men working behind the counter all said hi to her. there were a few people ahead of us in line, which gave us time to decide what we wanted. we ended up going with some pizza on foccaccio bread, then drove back to renata's place to eat lunch. renata also fixed me up a hot cup of thai tea. later, i went around her apartment taking photos of things that will remind her of this place when she's gone. renata even demonstrated how she sleeps at nights, wrapped up tightly underneath her blankets in a fetal position. she also gave me a stack of old national geographic and smithsonian magazines she didn't want anymore.

we went to the arsenal mall to find more presents. renata was impressed when i grabbed a parking space by pulling into it rear-end first. our primary destination was the bath & body works, where we both stocked up on fragrant anti-bacterial deep cleaning hand soaps, the kind that comes in a pretty pump-dispensing rectangular tube. next we visited a card shop, where renata got some postcards (showcasing new england traditions such as lobsters and cranberry harvesting) and ribbons, then off to cvs for some terry's chocolate oranges.

since i had to return the car, renata followed me in her car after we went back to her place. i dropped it off at the cafe, where my mother and aunt were there. william wu dropped by, here in town visiting his sister; i know william from my western china trip 4 years ago. renata and i left soon afterwards, driving to the star market near my house to get some ingredients for making thai red curry. simply out of habit, i almost walked back home even though we had the car. when we got back i started making dinner. renata asked if she could help but told her no, and she passed the time by reading my oversized lonely planet travel book. neverthless, she did help me chop some broccoli and stir the curry. when it was all done, we ate in the living room, watching an episode of the most extreme on animal planet.

after dinner we headed into boston (free public transportation) where renata wanted to hang out with her friends jane and michael a little bit, who were partaking of some first night festivities. on the subway i brought out my private commuting journal, which includes more personal thoughts i'd never post online. i let renata read a page after i made sure there was nothing incriminating. this only seemed to whet her appetite as she begged for more pages. we got to the hynes convention center and paid for our first night buttons to get inside. the place was crowded with people and the task of finding her friends within the mass of spectators seemed daunting. thank god for cellphones! we finally caught up to them at a comedy show. unfortunately there weren't enough seats so renata and i drifted off to the side of the room to watch. a muslim comedienne was performing on stage but i didn't like her brand of cultural humor because i didn't know whether i should be laughing or not. some seats cleared up prior to the next act and jane and michael were able to save us some seats next to them, as we made our way to where they were. this comedian had some good material but seemed like a very utilitarian funnyman, an almost seemingly generic humor. when that was over, we went to go see a latin band performing. there were people dancing by the stage, including jane and michael who didn't hesitate to join in. renata talked me into dancing for a slow song, but i was so nervous i probably kept my eyes on the floor the whole time. realizing perhaps that i was a lost cause, renata and i sat down and watch some of the other people dancing, including a few couples who seemed like obvious ringers who dropped by just to show off.

the four of us left the hynes convention center and started walking towards copley square. channel 4 had some sort of countdown party set up in the courtyard of the trinity church, projecting colorful lights and patterns onto the façade of the boston public library. around the arlington train station we parted company, renata and i making our way through the crowd into boston common looking for ice sculptures, arms interlocked so we wouldn't lose one another. surrounded by people, renata and i both agreed that this wasn't the quiet and peaceful new year's eve we wanted to be spending, so we got back onto the subway and headed back to cambridge. even though the tran was crowded, everyone seemed quiet, either too wiped out from an early night of partying, or the weight of new year's eve resting heavily on everyone's heart.

originally renata and i were going to spend this night watching the stars, which is my own new year's eve tradition; unfortunately, the weather was cloudy so we couldn't do that. then i thought wouldn't it be cool if we could drive out to the beach somewhere and watch the surf as we ring in the new year; renata didn't like that idea because she was afraid of too many drunk drivers out on the road tonight. so as the final minutes ticked away, this is how we spent new year's eve: on my couch, watching animal planet, falling asleep together. renata was happy to see me sleeping for a change. and i was happy to spend the last few moment of 2004 with my favoritest person in the world.