Back in ought-1, I was woikin' outta Boston and at that time my company had an event at every Christmas party known as the "Yankee Swap" whereby we would draw numbers, open gifts in numerical order, and steal gifts from others along the way. Well, my good friend Chicken-Wing Man and his wife were there, and they had just gotten married. There was a wedding gift they got that nobody wanted so they brought it, original box and all, to the Yankee Swap.
I had a low number, which is undesirable because I could have my gift easily stolen, if it was desirable. Unfortunately for me, it was not. I opened the aforementioned box, and inside was, cushioned in white foam, the ugliest fish platter in creation. It was opaque off-white ceramic, and painted around the edges with purple and blue, as I recall. Try as I could, I could not get rid of the platter. I waved it around in the air at each new contestant's entry into the Swap. I begged, pleaded, and cajoled. Someone, anyone, take this God-forsaken fish platter from me. My coworkers and my date just laughed at me.
And then, a glint of light. My coworker SJK said that she would actually like it. She just couldn't admit it during the game. But after the Swap was over, she'd trade me something she had for the platter. Whatever it was she was willing to trade was infinitely better. I don't even remember what that was. I rushed back to my table to put the Platter back in its box for safe transport home with her.
But the joke was still on me. In my tipsy state, the box/foam arrangement became an impossible obstacle course. I dropped the Fish Platter on the floor of the Black Rhino Special Events Room and it shattered into 5 pieces. The crowd rushed over, guffawing. The trade was off. I was stuck with a broken platter and a broken spirit.
One year later, 2002, I scoured the Boston kitchen-supply community with steely determination. I visited store after store, and then finally in China Fair in North Cambridge I discovered my revenge. They had see-through glass fish platters in three or four sizes. I chose the largest, a beautiful sad fish of a platter and wrapped him up for the show.
It was a big hit. Coworkers swapped the platter around like it was actually desirable. Then I found out why. They wanted to take it out and smash it, for old time's sake. When I heard that, a pang went through my heart. I had invested so much time in the ugly, droopy-faced glass fish. So when my number came up, I stole the platter and took it home with me.
2003 was an off-year for the Fish Platter II. I believe I even used it once to serve something at a party in the Fantastic Fenway Crib. But mostly he just lived a quiet life atop my fridge in the galley kitchen with the view over the Red Sox parking lot.
In late August 2004 I unpacked two big wooden crates in front of my new apartment on Öldugata in Reykjavík. When I unpacked the big box full of kitchen supplies, there he was, my old clear-glass friend. Like something out of another dimension, this glass Fish Platter in Iceland. I put him on top of the fridge. But I was determined to carry on the tradition. So I introduced the whole company to the notion of a Yankee Swap a week before our company jólahlaðborð (Xmas Dinner). I sent out the whole sheet of rules, and talked up the event to coworkers around the coffee machine. Then I went home and wrapped up the Platter in an IKEA lamp box and went off to find my fortune.
It couldn't have worked out better. One of the few people at the company who knew the story of the Platter was the one who took it home. He was attracted by the large size of the lamp box. Everyone oooh'ed and aaah'ed as the brown IKEA box came out of its paper. But then inside was old Fishy. Everyone gasped. My friend glared at me. Nobody would steal the Platter. They laughed and laughed and he took it home.
Then he left the company, although this was mainly not related to Fish Platter II. One morning shortly after this, I came into work early, opened the dishwasher for a coffee mug, and staring out at me with his big peaceful eyes was my old sad NoCam cheap-china-store friend.
The 2005 Yankee Swap was renamed Kanaskiptið, which maintains the spirit of the Swap in a whole new tongue. I boxed up my boy in an old pizza stone box, attached an empty decoy box to the top of that, and off we went. Only a few numbers in, buoyed by beers and encouraged by the generous size of the box and high-precision wrapping job, new coworker HÖ reached for the Platter package.
"No!" warned more experienced coworkers. "It's the Platter!" HÖ plowed forward, scattering wrapping paper and decoy boxes at his feet. It was the pizza stone box. He smiled, relieved. "Open it!" chanted the Greek chorus. ("Put it on!" chanted me.) Inside, carefully sleeved into foam was the Fish Platter.
The FP's new custodian did admirably in his role afterwards. Waving it in the air, calling out to all the new participants from his place in the back corner, offering to trade it for any and all gifts: it was a performance reminiscent of me back in '01. Of course there were no takers. So the Platter lives on.