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He told me I should join him in a rally race and that he'd provide the car for me. But it wasn't damaging the car at 90 mph that I was worried about. It was me going through a windshield at 90 and bleeding to death in a desert.

I asked if he had any other tow-truck stories. He said that on slow nights, he'll go to bars. One insurance company gives you four free tows a year, and he tells the bartender that if anyone has had too much to drink, he'll offer to tow their car. That way, they get home safely with their car. And the insurance company foots the bill.

Mark said, "I showed up at one bar, and this woman had driven 15 feet down this hill in the parking lot. The cops were there looking for the owner. She had gone back into the bar and was afraid to come out and possibly get a DUI. I went in and told her she didn't have anything to worry about. It's a way to get out of a drunk-driving accident. If you have something like this happen and go into a bar, the police can't give you a ticket for being drunk, because you may have gotten drunk after the accident. It will always get thrown out of court. The police knew this woman was drunk, and they lectured her, but she didn't get a ticket. And I towed her home."

Anne has a brother named Steve, whom I had seen taking pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Old Town. And I saw him when we went to the same court reporting school. I quit the school after only being able to type 140 words per minute. (You have to type 225 to be employed.) He told me, "I got up to 200 but quit. I'm working for the D.A.'s office. They pay me the same as a court reporter, so I gave up the school."

We talked about the 90-percent dropout rate of court reporters, the students who went for ten years not realizing they might never get up to that speed. It's a tough thing to learn. And you abbreviate so many words, trying to read your notes sometimes is like trying to figure out a new language.

I heard that Steve got his nephews presents that included the skull-dissecting kit from the TV show CSI and a George Foreman Play-Doh grill set. Wow. And I thought Operation was a cool game!

Anne was given a doll called "Mr. Perfect." It was supposed to be the perfect man. When you squeeze its hand, it says 16 phrases, including "Honey, I hope we can spend the holidays with your family again this year." Another was "I've made you breakfast in bed again." I did wonder why the doll wasn't life-size.

When Anne got some French perfume, she wanted me to smell it. I stuck out my hand and she said, "You won't be able to smell it on your hand." I asked, "What are you talking about?" She said, "You cannot smell perfume on yourself." We argued about this for ten minutes. When she finally sprayed it on my palm, I smelled it. I told her I could smell it fine and she said, "Well, mixed with your body chemistry, you can't smell it properly." Ah, okay. Maybe you're supposed to spray it in the air, walk through it sniffing, and that's the only way to smell it. I'd be willing to bet it smelled exactly the same as it did on my hand.

Another guy was telling me about parties he'd had in college. He said that they'd charge $5 per person, and so many people showed up, they'd make $3000. He said, "We paid for the kegs, paid the band, and had enough money left over to pay the rent. We didn't need to work, just threw parties and it paid the bills."

Anne kept bringing me food and updating me on all the people at the party. She said, "There are Italians here, Jewish friends, Mexicans, as well as all the Samoan and Portuguese. It's several cultures coming together."

Since her mom is Samoan, I asked about their traditions. Anne said, "The Samoan kids are happy and polite and grateful for whatever they get as gifts. They aren't as spoiled as some kids in the U.S. They learn how to share because many Samoan kids are from large families."

She told me, "In Samoa, they have modern things, like video games, and some similar traditions. They start things on Christmas Eve. They sing hymns and pray to thank God. Before midnight, they attend a church service or have a big feast. They seem to value the family more than the actual gifts. When I went there to visit my dad, it was different than I expected. Everything revolves around church. My brother once got in trouble for swimming at my dad's beach in back of his house. It was on a Sunday, something you never do in a Samoan village on a Sunday. Late at night on Christmas, the kids would go from house to house dressed in white as angels. They sang from 2:00 a.m. until 4:00 a.m. It was beautiful. They are taught harmony from an early age. I've never heard a bad Samoan choir. The language is very melodic, too. And the kids don't get a lot of presents on Christmas. They get their gifts on New Year's Eve."

As I left the party, I thought about my weird family traditions. Having a Jewish mom and a Catholic stepdad, we had a tree and a menorah. Good Fridays for me were just okay Fridays. I went to confession, but I'd bring an attorney with me.

My tradition now, as an adult, is to meet friends at the Casbah to watch the Dragons do their Rolling Stones set, which they've done for the last 15 years on Christmas Eve. As I look around the bar, I wonder why these people aren't home with their families.

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

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