I submitted this a day early because I'm going camping, you see...

August 10th is my 45th birthday. I was born in 1957 (I'll save you the math) near the top of the baby boom bell curve. My SSN is ***-**-****. I hope there is something left in social security when I retire. I see that dubya is still planning to try and let people invest part of their hard earned contributions into social security in the stock market. Might as well let us take it to Las Vegas.

This is the week-end I go camping with my family, brothers and sisters that is. I'm the oldest of seven and we all get together the 2nd week-end or so in August. We've been doing this for about ten years. We used to go to Allegany State Park in New York. Now we camp at Cook Forest in Pennsylvania. We sleep in tents but those campers are looking better and better every year. Once we were hit with a big rain storm. Wind and pouring rain left everything wet. In the morning the rain had stopped and we tried to build a fire and took some of our clothes and put them in the cars with the heaters on. Down the road we saw an older gentleman step out of a full size camper. He had dry clothes on and looked well rested, sipping a fresh hot mug of coffee. What a wimp. We would have traded places with him in a New York minute.

I bought a new coffee percolator at K-Mart this week. Its from the endless Martha Stewart Everyday brand series and its the best design I've ever seen. Most important, it's stainless steel1. Whether she designed it or one of her many peons did, it has her name on it. I can't wait to try it out. My old one is aluminum and rarely made a good pot of coffee. It took forever to perc even with a full boil and the coffee tasted metallic. This new one is a birthday present from my wife. She thinks I have a secret crush on Martha Stewart. Maybe I do. She deserves a few weeks toward good behavior for a design like this.

1 "This percolator is made from stainless steel that is classified as 18/10, which indicates that the steel has been alloyed with 18% chromium and 10% nickel. This combinaion gives 18/10 stainless steel the qualities that make it an excellent choice for everyday cooking." -printed on the outside of the box

I told my doctor: "The only vice I have is coffee."

"How much do you drink?"

"About three or four cups a day."

"That's not a vice, that's a necessity."

I picked up the cigar habit while camping in my teen years. It was to keep the bugs away. The first cigar I had gave me the munchies. I remember walking the streets of my neighborhood at 10 p.m. puffing on a stogie I found in my dad's room. The wrapper said It's A Boy!. When I got home I wolfed down two bologne sandwiches. I don't smoke them that much. I'm actually a runner but if I'm not running and getting a runner's high I need something take the edge off. I don't drink...
... anymore.

The weather is forecast to be partly sunny with daytime highs in the 80s. I'm still taking a tarp and a plastic poncho. Be prepared. As a scout leader I've picked up a few camping tips even though I've been camping for 30 years. Our scout troop sometimes camps at least once a month year round. I have a lot of stuff ready to go at a moments notice. Live and learn. Not all of my fellow siblings will be there. Some of them are pissed off at each other over some minor squabble that may have happened the last time. We're Irish catholics and we can hold a grudge so long we might forget what we were upset about. My mother goes with us sometimes. She is 66 and can run circles around us. Sometimes she gets saddled with babysitting.

At night we'll sit around the fire and talk about whoever isn't there and how screwed up our family is (except me, ha ha). I've always had one foot in the gutter and one on the straight and narrow. My right brain and left brain are like a couple of pit bulls. My dad is a workaholic who was never home, and when he was all he did was yell and beat the fear of God into us. My mother's parents were divorced when she was seven.2 So she didn't have a father figure around and she was an only child. When my brothers and I were growing up she wasn't sure what our emotional needs were (since her's were incomplete) and with my father never there we were virtually abandoned emotionally. This was explained to me by a shrink along with a few other insights. After three sessions, I found out I was more normal than I thought for only $360 out of pocket.

2 This was back when it was considered a character flaw if you're parents were divorced. My mother has never talked about it.

That's not the worst of it but that's enough. We have a great time really. Floating down the Clarion River on inner tubes and hiking in the big woods and climbing the fire tower and seeing new faces. Most of all doing as little as possible. You see, its my birthday and I can sit on my ass quite a bit and be waited on and catered to, but birthday or not, it only goes so far.