A wonderful thing, a daughter. It's what the creator gave me instead of a way with money or a firm jaw line. I have two daughters, the oldest of whom is accompanying me to London for a week of work. She is lovely. She is patient. She is . . . gasp . . . 25?
"I-can't-wait, I-can't-wait, I-can't-wait," she says a few days before we leave.
But we get along well, she and I. There is a sort of mutual respect. She is the oldest of the siblings; I am the oldest of the parents. We both understand the rigors of seniority.
Before we depart, I lay out the ground rules for the big trip:
* I occasionally need and enjoy a nice nap.
* I don't drink during the brightness of day nor the pitch black of night. I drink in that dreamy netherworld between sunlight and darkness, usually starting at 4 p.m. and running till about 8. I do so with dignity and honor.
* In a new city, I talk to everyone -- cops, bartenders, muggers, millionaires. Some people are put off by this. I don't care. I once had a two-hour chat with an old guy in a stamp shop ("Hey, where'd you get that great sweater?").
* I never ever buy souvenirs, but I have a weakness for any sort of street food and will always leave a buck or two to street musicians, even drop a fiver in the hat if they are any good. It's my way of supporting the arts.
* I like to eat where the locals eat and -- to soak up color -- rely almost exclusively on public transit.
* I travel light, with two pairs of jeans, one pair of dress slacks, five T-shirts and a sports coat I've had since 1987, a tweed jobber that you can wad up into a pillow on an airplane or a jail cot and it will spring back to life unaffected. I think it is 30% rubber. It is the best sports coat a man ever owned.
* I get up early and go to bed in the wee hours -- sometimes as late as 10 o'clock.
* I'm told I snore a little.
That's it. Besides those little quirks -- I call them my principles of hearty travel -- I have zero demands on my travel mate, other than to have a good time, for vacation is therapy, a brandy for the brain.
The lovely and patient older daughter seems OK with these guidelines, even though her siblings scoff at them and fear openly about her journey with Dad.
Being young, they have never encountered a man with principles before.
"I-can't-wait, I-can't-wait, I-can't-wait," she says again, like a mantra.
"Are you sure?"
"I-can't-wait," she says.