It always happens: A woman sets about lighting the bonfire and somebody immediately starts singing "Kumbaya." Sadly, the mood here is so laid back that nobody smacks the impromptu folksinger. We're on a private beach in West Seattle, celebrating the half-birthday of our host. "I hate that I only get to see all my friends in one place once a year, so I figured I'd celebrate my birthday twice," he says.

Nobody's accusing him of birthday hogging, either, because we all get a beach party out of it. The sky's gray, but the rain's holding off, and there's beer, bratwurst, and s'mores enough for everyone. The menfolk are taking turns swatting golf balls into the ocean. It's an incredibly satisfying thing to do, especially since the Fauntleroy ferry keeps chugging past. "I'm totally going to hit that fucking ferry this time," a guy who's never golfed before says as he tees up. He misses the ferry, but hits a dinghy, which is a good consolation prize.

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Partiers are tossing footballs back and forth and chatting. I hear someone say, "The next thing we knew, there were pirates all over the bathhouse!" but the tantalizing conversation gets lost to the wind. I catch the half-birthday boy carrying a tray of fresh strawberries around like a waiter would, and I ask why he's doing all the work. He explains, "This way I get to talk to everyone at the party." It's the most copasetic celebration I've hit up in a long time, and a perfect way to start saying goodbye to the short-lived summer of 2007.recommended

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