Exclude Categories

Ok, I had change the front of community theme and my code is this:

<div id="main-column"><br />
<?php $page = (get_query_var('paged')) ? get_query_var('paged') : 1; query_posts("cat=&showposts=5&paged=$page"); while ( have_posts() ) : the_post(); ?></p>
<p><div <?php if(function_exists("post_class")) : ?><?php post_class(); ?><?php else: ?>class="post"<?php endif; ?> id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>"><br />
<h1 class="post-title"><a>" rel="bookmark" title="<?php the_title(); ?>"><?php the_title(); ?></a></h1><br />
<div class="post-content"><br />
<?php the_content(__('...click here to read more', 'bp-community')); ?><br />
</div>

Now what I can't figure out, is how to exclude a category and where the code goes, I know you can, under the way the codex in wordpress show, exclude=273 but no matter where I place it within this code, <?php $page = (get_query_var('paged')) ? get_query_var('paged') : 1; query_posts("cat=&showposts=5&paged=$page"); while ( have_posts() ) : the_post(); ?> can I get it to work. What is throwing me off, as this is not in the codex at wordpress, is the way the community theme uses the ; 1; in this part of the code, get_query_var('paged') : 1; query_posts("cat=&showposts=5&paged=$page"); What I do know is that "1" is the main home page super category and pulls from all the categories which is fine, I just want to exclude categories #252, 253 and 273 but not sure how or where the code goes.

I would actully prefer to make the code show "category X, Y, Z" so I don't have to exclude large numbers. Any help is appreciated. Thanks, rg.