I got a call from Susie in P.B. who was turning 28 and planning a holiday party. She requested toys be brought for the Toys for Tots program. I went out and bought a toy for a boy and a toy for a girl. I had tickets for a show at the Belly Up Tavern the same night, but figured the show would be over in time to make it to Susie's party. Because bands were late setting up, I didn't leave the club until after 12:30 a.m. I called Susie the next day to offer her the toys, but she had already taken the bundle in. I attended a holiday party at Balboa Park hosted by California State Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña. All donations were going to benefit the Monarch School downtown. Monarch provides more than 100 homeless youths an accredited education and takes care of their basic needs.

I debated whether to wear a suit or not. I compromised and wore slacks and dress shoes. A few people dressed up, but I also saw a guy wearing shorts, sandals, and a knit cap. My friend Bonnie said, "Maybe he's one of the homeless."

There were tables filled with various appetizers, but the plates were so small they only fit four or five tortilla chips. I had to be one of those guys who would grab a brownie with no plate and munch it while walking back to my seat.

Saldana got up and said a few words. She's a politician who sounds like she cares. She wasn't just BS-ing the room.

For entertainment, the Pacific Beach Elementary School Choral Group sang Christmas carols as their teacher played piano.

Then, with the lights dimmed, the Bayside Bayettes performed a Vietnamese dance with candles.

I didn't stay at the benefit long enough to see the Gay Men's Chorus of San Diego or the Malika African Drum and Dance Troupe. I was off to crash an office holiday party.

After dropping Bonnie off, I went to the Cheesecake Factory in Mission Valley. Introductions were awkward. The boss of the company said, "You guys asked me if this crasher person could come, and I said I didn't think it was appropriate. Why is he here?" I said, "Hey, that's cool. I can take off." Two guys pleaded with their boss, who agreed that I could stay. He asked me not to mention the company's name. When the waitress asked me what I wanted to eat, the boss said, "We only paid for 25 dinners. He can't eat." I told the waitress I would pay for my own meal.

The conversation wasn't flowing well, and I didn't feel like initiating it. The two guys who invited me to the party were friendly, but they could sense that my presence was awkward for everyone. One of the guys gave a few gifts out, and the boss said, "I thought there were memos saying that no gift exchange was going to be done this year." The guy must be a blast to work for.

One of the gifts was the Sin City DVD. A few of the guys argued who was hotter in the movie -- Jessica Alba or Brittany Murphy. I told them I thought Rosario Dawson looked the best. Before you could say "Check, please," we were all piled into an SUV in the parking lot so that a person who hadn't seen the movie could judge for himself.

Every time he was asked who he thought was the hottest, he'd say, "This movie is violent." Someone responded, "That's why I bought you March of the Penguins and not this."

The gang headed back into the restaurant, but I decided to bail before the boss gave me any more grief.

Bonnie, whom I had dropped off earlier in the evening, invited me back to a small party at her house in Rancho Bernardo. Her friend Chas, who smokes pipes, had a hookah by the fire pit that looked like an octopus from hell. It had three long sections, so that people sitting across from him could smoke from the same pipe.

I met Bret, a sax player from Los Angeles, and asked him about the difficulty of playing saxophone. He explained the various breathing techniques.

There was a short redhead there who was annoying. Every time anybody started a story, she'd interrupt to tell a similar story, or to tell us that her husband had a great story. She'd ask her husband to tell the story, but he wasn't enthusiastic about telling it.

I went to the kitchen to pour some wine, and the redhead followed me. She grabbed some cheese off a plate and said something about her coworkers not liking her. She wondered why. I gave her a few reasons, which she seemed to take well. I wish telling people that they were annoying was always this easy.

Chas and Bret knew a lot about music, so we listed our favorite bands. Miles Davis and the Beatles didn't surprise me, but their love of John Mayer and the Counting Crows did. We argued and probably got louder than if Bret had been playing his sax.

Somebody proposed a game that consisted of weird scenarios, and you had to choose which scenario you would rather be in. The premise was interesting when it was explained. "Would you rather be blind or deaf?" I said, "Everyone would rather be deaf, that's an easy choice." An argument ensued. Someone said I'd never be able to listen to the Doors. I explained that I'd rather be able to drive and watch movies than listen to songs I've heard thousands of times.

Once we looked at the cards in this game, we realized how lame it was -- "Would you rather have a bucket over your head for a week or boxes over your feet for two months?" We weren't even sure what they were asking. Could the bucket have holes to see through? Could you eat with a bucket on your head? Could you walk with boxes on your feet? It was an interesting concept, but a stupid game.

I quit and went back to enjoying the apple-flavored hookah.

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

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