Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate August 2001

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My 22nd birthday has arrived and while it is completely insignificant compared to last year I have been looking forward to it just as much. I have a birthday tradition that keeps me anticipating September 18th every year and I think that it is such a good idea that I want to share it with you in the hopes that you can brighten your own special day just a little bit when the time comes.

A few years ago my dad (Tony numero dos), uncle (Drake and or Buckethead, depending on how well you know him) and myself went to my cabin for a weekend of hunting, fishing, drinking and all-around testosterone indulgence. It happened to fall on the magic date and I declared that it would have to become a yearly endeavor because despite the bad sunburn and hangover it was the best birthday I could envision.

So it was spoken and so it has been.

I know to some of you this doesn't have the allure of a night at the bar with a bunch of people buying you shots but it has become a very special occasion in my life. You see, there is more to it than celebrating another year gone by, it is a celebration of all that is good in my life.

First off, the cabin is my favorite place in the world. A lone building on the bank of the Upper Iowa River, secluded unto itself by miles of timber and farmland, it is the place I seek refuge from the world no matter what is plaguing me at the time. If I'm lucky I get up there three times a year now even though it's only a couple hour's drive because of the pace of my life now, whish when I think about it is all the more reason for me to get there more often.

Few people understand the solitude of being in a place where no outside factors can bother you, no phones, no people, scarcely an airplane flies overhead, we are completely alone there. That may sound scary to some, in fact it is to a lot of the people I take there for the first time. But if you take a look at the night sky in the dead of winter in such a place, an eerie calm will fall over you and I assure you it isn't hard to understand.

I know; it's still a trip with a bunch of guys. So true, but these are the guys that have meant everything to me and given me everything I now have. Drake has been a big brother, bad influence and uncle when I needed him to be my entire life. My uncle Brian, who also makes the trip, has taken me to golf courses that I don't deserve to play, snuck me into bars all over the Midwest and been a best friend when he could easily have played the superior adult role instead.

Dad has given me everything, taught me everything, kept me in line by being a hardass and still made it clear how much he loves me.

And, as it happens, the four of us were the men that built this new version of the cabin a few years back.

Somewhere between grilling dinner and me winning all of their money in a card game I break out the bottle. It was an idea that came from a sitcom that I once saw and couldn't forget. The deal is this: I break out this bottle of high-class whiskey once a year on my birthday. Myself and whoever else is present (I make it a point to do this with these guys) each have a drink, say our piece and I put the bottle away again until the next birthday.

You can tell how much the little ceremony means to me when you consider that a premium bottle of whiskey has survived this long on a shelf in my apartment.

During the day we go fishing and hunting, usually fishing because of the heat the last few years, but nothing is as much fun as sitting at that stained table with the men in my family and bonding over massive quantities of food and alcohol.