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Since I had several holiday parties to attend, I didn't always bring my camera and recorder. I went to a few Hanukkah parties where I wished I'd had a note pad. At the first one, an Indian gentleman who is a teacher at UCSD told several interesting stories. I remember he told me about one of his colleagues at the party who met a woman through a dating service. She lived in L.A., and the colleague decided to get a job at UCLA to be near her. At the other Hanukkah party I attended, everyone got high before I showed up. They couldn't stop laughing as they spun the dreidel and then we were forced to play Bingo.

The next day, a friend brought me to her work Christmas party. Again, I left the camera at home and wished I hadn't. The gift exchange was interesting. Several people brought wrapped bottles of booze. Other people brought gift cards. Everyone stole the gift cards, which was allowed at this gift exchange. I got a two-pound box of See's candy, which I was able to trade for a set of James Bond books. After we traded, I discovered the guy had opened them -- he said he didn't know if they were DVDs or books. I told him I should've opened the See's chocolates and bitten a few before I handed them over.

As the gift stealing was wrapping up, a woman next to me asked if I liked my set of books. I said, "My dad will love them. I'm going to re-gift them." As she asked me more questions, I realized that she was the last person who would be stealing a gift. She said, "I won't feel guilty about stealing your gift, since it's not even for you. And I love reading." I had been duped. I would never have been that honest if I knew what she was up to. At the last minute, she decided to steal something else.

When we were on the back patio drinking wine, I realized she had something on her foot. "I just had my toe amputated the other day. When I was little, I got my foot caught in the spokes of my bike. They were able to save the toe, but it was badly damaged. They needed to cut it off now because of some complications." She told us that she took off her bandages to gross out kids. Her boyfriend said, "I've got to take good care of her. She took care of me when I was going through my cancer treatments."

The group looked at me, and it was silent. I said, "Yeah, well, I stubbed my toe on the coffee table this morning. It's still throbbing." They laughed, and she said, "I won't have to worry about that anymore."

She asked the lady who does her nails why it wasn't any cheaper, since she has one less toe to paint. Her boyfriend added, "Yeah, and it's the biggest one. Instead of being 10 percent off, it should be about 18 percent off."

The following day I went to a Christmas party where I did bring my camera. Susie in Del Mar had hosted a holiday party last year, and I missed it. This year, she asked everyone to bring a toy for the Toys for Tots program, and by the time I left the party, she had over 140 toys under the tree.

I showed up early because I had plans to meet friends later in the evening. The only people there were the guys in the band, 20 Miles South. One said, "We actually broke up. But we get together for gigs like this."

I wanted to light a cigar but forgot my matches, and nobody in the band had a lighter.

One guy asked his buddy, "Is that your dad's sweater?" When his buddy told him where it was from, the guy said, "Interesting. Where are the stains from?"

Someone standing nearby told me about a holiday party that he went to the previous week that had an ugly Christmas sweater theme. He said, "I couldn't believe how many ugly Christmas sweaters are actually made."

Susie, a petite Asian woman, was running around trying to get things organized. She came over, offered us drinks, and then ran back into the house.

One guy in the band had an unusual name, and we started talking about weird names. Someone said that his dad's name is Terry Kerry, but he goes by Terrence. Another guy said he knew a woman named Robin who married a guy with the last name Hood.

There was Christmas music playing, and when "Santa Baby" came on, someone said, "I bet nobody here knows who sang this." The first name that came to me was Kat-erina Witt. I corrected myself: "Oh, no, wait, I think she's an ice skater. I meant to say Eartha Kitt." When someone asked who that was, nobody could remember the TV show she played a villain in.

A bus pulled up, and a large crowd got out to join the party. Someone had rented it to pick up a bunch of people who live in PB. A guy in a Santa Claus suit came out, and one of the band members said, "I think Santa has been on Phen-Fen. He's looking thin." Santa was popular with the crowd, and I had to laugh every time he adjusted his beard as he was talking to someone. (I had played Santa twice and found the itching to be the worst.)

There were fake reindeer around a tree, and two guys were trying to make them mate with each other. Just then, Susie's mom arrived. She came down from Monterey. I wondered if she saw what the guy was doing with the reindeer.

One guy showed up in a white suit and red shirt. He came over and introduced himself to everyone and shook our hands. When he walked away, one guy said, "That was weird." Another said, "It looked like he was wearing one of those Don Johnson suits from the '80s."

I heard someone say, "Hey, Salsa Susie, when will you be dancing?" She said, "Probably around 9 o'clock."

As the band started playing, it started to rain. There was a canopy on the back patio, but it was raining hard, and someone said to me, "Look at all the water that's seeping over to the amplifiers. What will happen if one of those guitarists gets electrocuted?"

"I'll have a great ending to my column."

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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