Martha's Vineyard, meet Bill Clinton.

Greet the reluctant vacationer. See, firsthand, the man who tells others to relax while he careens inexorably toward rest and recreation.After a trio of birthday salutes, President Clinton is poised to soak up the laid-back atmosphere of this quiet, one-time whaling village on an island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Clinton is 47 years and one day old, and if he's growing tired of "The Birthday Thing," who could be surprised.

"One time, good. The other time, not so good. The time I led it, very good!" exclaimed Vernon Jordan, Clinton's good friend and unofficial adviser. Jordan was beaming about the birthday party he held for the president Thursday night.

A relatively small crowd of about 30 of the president's best friends attended the party for Clinton, his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea. There were two birthday cakes, Jordan said, and plenty of merriment.

That was the semi-official kickoff to a rare Clinton vacation - the one that'ssupposed to last until Aug. 29 and include dinners, golfing, jogging and schmoozing.

And for all the talk of a staid Martha's Vineyard, where the local populace at rest would take the visit of a president in only a matter-of-fact countenance, there actually was excitement here Thursday.

It wasn't just the kids in the Martha's Vineyard Boys and Girls Club who sang "Happy Birthday" as Clinton emerged from his DC-9 Air Force jet at the local airport. It was the hundreds of people who waited patiently for the first family's arrival, greeting them with vociferous cheers as they walked across the tarmac.

For his part, Clinton immersed himself in a sport that may rank second only to golf - the sport of mixing with crowds, signing autographs, posing for pictures and glad-handing as many people as can be reached.

"It was awesome," exulted Shawn Palacois, 12, who lives here year-round. "He said, `Thank you for the warm welcome and for the birthday.' "

So large was the crowd that greeted the Clintons upon their late-afternoon arrival that traffic was incredibly snarled. People parked their cars every which way along the access road to the airport, and the bottleneck kept all but the presidential motorcade more than an hour in leaving the airport.

"Welcome Bill, Hillary, Chelsea and Socks," beckoned a sign plastered across a clapboard building on the airport grounds. Other signs exhorted the president to test the local coffee and souvenir shops - and any other offerings the merchants of Martha's Vineyard could muster.

When Clinton ventured out into the darkness for the Jordan party, hundreds of the local citizenry lined the roadside to fete this Very Important Visitor.

Clinton seemed to relish all the attention, as he had last winter when the family attended the Renaissance Weekend on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

The Clintons are staying in an Atlantic Ocean beach house owned by Kennedy administration Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. Presidential aides, declining to be named publicly, said Clinton decided to stay in the McNamara guest cottage rather than the main house because he didn't want to seem overly ostentatious.

Reporters couldn't get close enough to confirm the president's housing accommodations.

There has been widespread speculation that Clinton would likely call off this pleasure trip before the Aug. 29 departure date. Press secretary Dee Dee Myers joked about that Thursday, suggesting it was Jordan's job to keep the president entertained and that Jordan looked "like a determined man."