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The Japan Trip: Day Two

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
Photo Credit: David July — The skyscrapers of Shinjuku from 52F, Shinjuku Park Tower, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 Waking up on Sunday, 16 March, I was excited to get out and exploring. Steven steven managed to get this day off from work, so he suggested some key places to visit and we were our way. Our destination was Harajuku Station harajuku-eki on the JR East jeiaru higashi-nihon Yamanote Line yamanote-sen , the circle connecting most of the major stations in Tokyo tokyo . Our schedule would give us a sampling of both old and new Tokyo, plus a few surprises along the way. Located in the Shibuya shibuya-ku special ward of Tokyo, known for its large shopping and entertainment areas, the station was definitely busy. Emerging into the daylight at the Omotesando omotesando exit, we proceeded across the bridge over the rail lines south of the station toward Yoyogi Park yoyogi koen and the Meiji Shrine meiji jingu . Dedicated to Emperor Meiji meiji tenno (1852–1912) and Empress Shoken shoken kotaigo (1849–1914), the Shinto shinto shrine was established in 1920 to honor their role in the Meiji Restoration meiji ishin . Walking under and past the Torii torii gate at the entrance to the complex into the wooded park area, the city fades behind you leaving a breeze of fresh, oxygenated air and the sights and sounds of nature. There are many visitors here but the spaciousness of the stone walkway allows uncrowded movement. After passing a display of wine* donated for consecration and artfully decorated sake barrels* whose full history remain locked in the Japanese-only sign*, we approached the main buildings.  * links to images coming soon As I took pictures waiting for Mom to purchase an omamori o-mamori , I noticed a professional photographer setting up and taking portraits. The formally dressed subjects were an older man and woman seated in front with two young girls and a man in uniform standing behind. By now several other visitors had stopped to watch and take pictures, so it was quite a treat for everyone when suddenly a woman dressed in an all white, traditional wedding kimono kimono walks by escorted by two individuals. I would later see her in another part of the shrine having photographs taken. Photo Credit: David July — A Japanese bride is escorted through Meiji Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 We next approached the Chozuya chozusha pavilion and Steven explained the purification ceremony for which it is used. Ablution complete, we proceeded to the main yard and shrine. Although destroyed by fire in 1945 from air raids, the present structures built in 1958 retain the feel of the original Nagerezukuri architecture. I particularly enjoyed the design and spent some time walking around and looking at things like shide shide , omikuji omikuji and ema ema . Photo Credit: David July — Roof detail on the structure surrounding the main yard, Meiji Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 Slowly we made our way back to the entrance for the second part of our visit in Harajuku harajuku . Steven said the area by the shrine entrance and station was a weekly meeting place of people whom kids in US high schools would pejoratively term "freaks." As we approached, you could see things had picked up even more since we arrived earlier. There were artists and street performers painting, singing and dancing. I stopped and watched a group of teenagers with signs advertising "free hugs" that were happy to hug any who approached. Quite a number of kids were wearing all sorts of crazy clothes and jewelry, some emulating the Lolita gothic and takenoko-zoku takenoko-zoku styles. By far the most interesting person there was a man wearing a pink apron, pink stuffed animal and a pink tiara with bunny ears. He wanted nothing more than to wish us well and pose for a photo (that is his akomeogi akomeogi I am holding). Photo Credit: Steven Patten — David and Mom pose with the guy in pink near the Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 Continuing on north, we stopped at Snoopy Town snoopy town , an officially licensed Peanuts gift shop across the street from Harajuku Station. Peanuts, known as Snoopy in Japan, and the cartoon gang are apparently popular so this store had everything you could want with a character on it, like the World of Disney store in Orlando but not quite as large. Mom purchased a gift for a friend and we proceeded to the pedestrian-only shop-lined Takeshita Street takeshita-dori , followed by a stroll down the Omotesando avenue. While these areas normally attract many locals and visitors alike for the wide variety of shopping available, it was particularly busy this day for a reason that quickly became apparent. Green beer. Green T-shirts. Flags of Japan and Ireland side-by-side. No shit, we stumbled into the beginnings of the 17th St. Patrick's Day Parade Tokyo seventeenth st. patrick's day parade tokyo . Photo Credit: David July — A Guinness float passes Shakey's Pizza during the 17th St. Patrick's Day Parade, Omotesando, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 Since all I had consumed thus far was a bottle of water and a large can of Kirin kirin Sparkling Hop sparkling hop , we decided to stop and grab a bite at Shakey's Pizza shakey's pizza , the Californian pizza chain that now has more locations in Asia than in the US. After waiting for a table in the stairs leading up to the restaurant, we somehow managed to be seated at one of only four window booths. Were tipping a custom here, I would have slipped the host a bill for sure. From this perfect location, I had the truly unique experience of eating Japanese pizza at Shakey's while watching a St. Patrick's Day parade go by on the street below. The restaurant was buffet-style, yet another detail I did not expect, but it worked out well for trying the various selections. They included tuna and onion, octopus, corn, shrimp mayonnaise, mayonnaise corn, potato bacon, beef and onion, cuttlefish and olive, anchovy and tomato, Japanese curry and of course, good ‘ole pepperoni. I really liked the corn, Japanese curry and octopus pizzas, but did not care for those with mayonnaise. Photo Credit: David July — Looking northwest up Omotesando avenue from the pedestrian overpass, Omotesando, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 Fortunately, the parade ended during our meal so we were able to walk a less-crazy Omotesando, stopping in various stores like Oriental Bazaar oriental bazaar and Kiddy Land kiddy land to browse and pick-up a few items. We finished around 1600 local and decided to head to our next destination before we lost daylight. Steven and I grabbed a beer at the Harajuku Station convenience store and we all got back onto the Yamanote Line, destination: Shinjuku Station shinjuku-eki . Before continuing, it seems like a good time to mention a few social behaviors that we observed. For example, eating and smoking on trains or while walking around is frowned upon and in many cases prohibited, but drinking including alcoholic beverages is acceptable. I took advantage of this frequently because, hey, I was on vacation and you can get delicious Japanese beer and canned cocktails everywhere. Talking is rare but does occur on trains and lifts, but cellular telephone use, while seemingly more popular than in the US (i.e. everyone has and uses one constantly), is for the most part kept to SMS text messages while in public places. Signs inside subway cars state no telephone talking should take place and ringers are to be switched to vibrate or silent mode. Thinking back, I can recall only a few isolated instances where I heard ring tones at all during the trip. That was nice. Smoking, as popular as it remains in Tokyo, is relegated to designated smoking areas that are clearly marked and always provide an ashtray. I noticed people adhere to the regulation and do not light up unless near one, despite their sometimes-infrequent locations. Most restaurants offer smoking and non-smoking sections, sometimes separated by floor, room or partition. Trains do not allow smoking, except in designated cars on the Shinkansen shinkansen , and stations have smoking areas during certain hours only (one sign indicated a smoking prohibition during the morning commute rush hours). As I mentioned before, the Yamanote Line is one of the busiest in Tokyo. While waiting on the platform for our train to Shinjuku shinjuku , I opened my beer and it foamed and spat a little. Steven laughed and mentioned a time where he saw that happen to someone while on a busy train. Talk about embarrassing. Needless to say, I was additionally cautious during the standing room-only ride to the busiest train station in the world (3.52 million people per day in 2006). Photo Credit: David July — The 243 metre (797 foot) Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Number One, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 After navigating Shinjuku Station to the exit, we walked down the street beneath the many skyscrapers, some of which I saw the evening prior when Mom and I stopped to look around on our way back to the apartment. Looking up at the towers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building tokyo tochosha , I learned Steven's plan was to take us inside where you can ride up to a free observation deck on 48F (floors of buildings are labeled as such: B3F, B2F, B1F, 1F, 2F, 3F and so on). After a brief security sweep, we were on our way to the northern tower atop Building One. Although part of the view was obscured by a restaurant, the windows available offered an excellent look at the Shinjuku skyscrapers and the city as a whole. Helpfully mounted at each window was a labeled picture identifying the major structures visible, an excellent tool for labeling my own pictures. As was the case the day prior, there was some haziness but you could still see buildings in more distant parts of the city. There were quite a few people up here taking pictures, so you had to wait or squeeze in to get vistas and photographs. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time preventing reflections but some images came out well. Photo Credit: David July — Shinjuku Park Tower (left) and Tokyo Opera City Tower (right) from 48F, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Number One, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 After watching a rather lackluster sunset from the observatory, we headed back downstairs and proceeded to walk to one of the buildings I just saw and photographed—although I did not realize it at the time. It was our next and final destination for our evening with Steven, the Shinjuku Park Tower shinjuku paku tawa , home to retail stores (1F–7F), office space (8F–37F) and the Park Hyatt Tokyo park hyatt tokyo (39F–52F). Photo Credit: David July — Library on 41F, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Shinjuku Park Tower, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 It was 1900 local and dark when we entered the 1F lobby from the south side of the building. Walking through, we passed the banks of lifts designated for groups of floors eventually making our way, with the help of a building attendant, to the north entrance and the lifts to the hotel. As the lift doors closed in front of me, I anticipated and heard the ding-dong and swish audible in the 2003 film Lost In Translation lost in translation . I love that sort of thing. I have previously stated I felt coming here was a cliché American thing to do, but my reason to do so was simple. If you have not guessed by now, I have a thing for tall buildings and the lights on them. The view offered by this building and the overall ambiance of enjoying a little luxury at 235 metres (771 feet) were all too compelling to pass up. The doors opened at 41F dramatically revealing the Peaks Lounge peaks lounge atrium overlooking the city. We continued past the Girandole girandole restaurant, through the library and into the reception area that is more like a stylish bank branch with desks and chairs for guests to sit and check-in. From here, we took one last lift to 52F. What I said before about the doors opening dramatically is multiplied by ten when you arrive at 52F, the elevator ding-dong, door swish and all. You are greeted by a dimly lit reception area that consists of one small room, one large window, a friendly hostess and her podium. The view was incredible here but enjoying it more would have to wait, as the hostess was quickly ready to whisk us away to our table in the New York Bar new york bar . Photo Credit: David July — Inside the New York Bar on 52F, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Shinjuku Park Tower, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 We were not important enough to get a window table, but we were next to one and it sat empty for the first half of our visit. The saxophone and piano male duet played some great jazz tunes while we looked over the unexpectedly large menu, ordered and clanked our glasses with kanpai kanpai . I ordered a Suntory suntory Whisky whisky on the rocks a la Bill Murray bill murray , which was met with some confusion by the waiter because they apparently had several choices. Since I had not seen them, the waiter turned the pages in my menu and pointed to a section where the only English word in the title was "Japanese." I guess their whiskey is really popular. I selected the one in the middle, costing around ¥2,000 JPY ($20 USD). We sat and enjoyed ourselves for an hour, making trips to an unoccupied seating area behind and below us from where we could take pictures at the window, and to the restroom, featuring the most technologically featured toilet I have ever seen. Photo Credit: David July — The toilet control panel in the New York Bar men's room, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Shinjuku Park Tower, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2008 After paying our tab which included a 10% service charge and ¥2,000 JPY ($20 USD) per person cover charge, we started our trip back to the apartment, stopping in the building throughout to look around and take pictures. As we walked back toward Shinjuku Station, I thought that it was nice after three whiskeys not to have to worry about leaving my car somewhere and fetching an expensive taxi ride home. Once back, Steven and I ventured out again, stopping at various Three-F three-f stores for food and drink while walking the neighborhood to chat and pick-up a package from the post office, offering a 24-hour counter. It was hard to believe another whole day (305 pictures) had passed, but I went to sleep well with anticipatory thoughts of the next.
Mount Sutro mount sutro presents The Japan Trip Series the japan trip series [ Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six ] Photograph Gallery
Photo Credit: David July david july
Photo Credit: Steven Patten

The Japan Trip: Day One

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Photo Credit: David July — A sign welcomes air travellers to Japan in a corridor at Narita International Airport, Narita, Japan, 14 March 2008 When I first announced my decision to take a holiday in Tokyo tokyo, Japan nihon, there were only forty-six days until departure. While that may be sufficient time to plan a trip in the United States, it felt a little sudden for a trip to the other side of the world. However, I was not particularly concerned about getting along. In fact, I think we did remarkably well all things considered. The two quick mishaps I can recall immediately are a few minor miscommunications and twice exiting the subway car one station too soon. As time passed, my Mom—who as you will recall accepted my offer to join me—called me with ideas for places to visit and things to do. Her extensive experience with personal, global travel for pleasure was an invaluable tool in deciding what to do and when. I will admit it was one considering factor in my original invitation! By the time I loaded the car and headed toward Intestate 10 eastbound on Thursday, 13 March 2008, a basic idea of our daily itinerary existed. First on our list upon arrival was a visit to the monetary exchange booth and the East Japan Railway Company higashi-nihon ryokaku tetsudo kabushiki-gaishai (JR) office, both conveniently located in the airport terminal. Ahead of those items but after my two and a half hour drive from Tallahassee to Jacksonville existed the longest two-flight segment of my life. The itinerary was as follows: Northwest Flight 1581 was scheduled to depart Jacksonville International Airport (KJAX) at 1205 EDT, flying 827 miles (1331 kilometres) in two hours twenty-seven minutes on a McDonnell Douglas DC 9-30 aircraft where I sat in window seat 18-A. It was scheduled to arrive at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (KDTW) at 1432 EDT. This flight would be followed by Northwest 11 leaving Detroit at 1530 EDT, flying 6398 miles (10,296 kilometres) in thirteen hours (!) on a Boeing 747-400 where I sat in window seat 53-K. It was scheduled to arrive at Narita International Airport narita kokusai kuko (NRT/RJAA) at 1730 JST on Friday, 14 March 2008 due to travel through the International Date Line. Overall, the flights were uneventful. I was looking forward to taking pictures of the mountainous regions I anticipated flying over, but was quickly disappointed to learn we would likely not fly so north as to penetrate the Arctic Circle nor pass over the mountains of Siberia. This information was provided on the in-cabin video system, which consisted of a three-color projector in each cabin section and television monitors in the ceiling above the aisle near the flight attendant galley and toilets. Photo Credit: David July — Northwest Airlines Flight 11 cabin GPS displaying our present location, somewhere over Canada, 13 March 2008 Not only did it show our flight plan and GPS position en route, but also text data in English and Japanese including (as recorded during flight at 1825 EDT passing north of Calgary, Alberta, Canada) altitude (31,992 feet / 9751 metres) groundspeed (515 MPH / 829 KPH), headwinds (65 MPH / 104 KPH), outside temperature (-57°F / -49.4°C), distance travelled (1412 miles / 2272 kilometres) and distance remaining (5021 miles / 8080 kilometres). Photo Credit: David July — Peering down at the mountains from 32,000 feet, somewhere over western Canada, 13 March 2008 Of course, the in-flight "entertainment" took precedence over this useful and interesting up-to-date information so it made brief appearances at the start of the flight, a few times between television sitcoms and Discovery Channel shows, after the movies and right before and after landing. Photo Credit: David July — Beautiful mountain terrain in the snowy cold of the Last Frontier, east of Valdez, Alaska, 13 March 2008 Using Google Earth and aeronautical charts, I have been able to pin down part of our course to Tokyo and identify the airports we saw from the airplane. In between airports, we saw lots of snow and some pretty impressive mountains. The first image of an airport I captured is of lesser quality (not pictured here), after early surface vistas and before the mountains of Alaska. I was not able to fix the location of this airport. I originally suspected Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada due to the distance travelled between this photograph and the second airport spotted, but finally ruled it out by satellite image comparison. Photo Credit: David July — Beautiful mountain terrain in the snowy cold of the Last Frontier, east of Valdez, Alaska, 13 March 2008 The next airport I spotted was next to a smaller city and near some mountains. I have confirmed this location to be Valdez, Alaska. The population of 4020 enjoyed a high of 37°F / 2.7° C and a low of 19°F / -7.2°C the day we flew over. Photo Credit: David July — The City of Valdez and Valdez Pioneer Field Airport (PAVD), Valdez, Alaska, 13 March 2008 The last and largest airport and city we flew over was Anchorage, Alaska. The 282,813 municipal residents comprise more than two-fifths of Alaska's total population. They enjoyed similar weather with a high of 31°F / -0.5°C and low of 21°F / -6.1°C for the day. Photo Credit: David July — The Municipality of Anchorage and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (PANC), Anchorage, Alaska, 13 March 2008 Having fixed our location at two US airports, I was able to calculate the mileage and speed. We passed over the Valdez Pioneer Field Airport (PAVD) at 2117 EDT (1717 AKDT) and came to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (PANC) at 2131 EDT (1731 AKDT). At a distance of 108.5 miles, it took us 14 minutes to fly from one to the other at a speed of 465 MPH / 748 KPH or 0.6 Mach. It was 1758 JST / 0458 EDT on Friday when I passed the "Welcome to Japan" sign (in the article header). We exchanged our money and obtained our JR passes without issue, meeting Steven steven in the process. He had graciously agreed to meet us at the airport so we could navigate the intricate and varied subway/train systems of Tokyo with a guide the first time. For the record, I had been up for twenty-two and a half hours at this point and was happy to get to Steven's apartment and to bed. This is not to say I did not enjoy those initial train rides. From the airport we travelled by subway to Shinjuku Station shinjuku-eki, where we transferred to the Odakyu Limited Express to Machida Station machida-eki. Once there we took the Odakyu Electric Railway odakyu dentetsu kabushiki-gaisha Odawara Line odawara-sen to Odakyu-Sagamihara odakyu sagamihara-eki where we finally left the train system via the south exit and took a taxi—our first of only two total trips by cab in Japan—to Steven's apartment. After some quick catching-up with Steven and Emma emma, a needed night's sleep began. The excitement would have been unmanageable if it were not for my complete exhaustion. We slept a little longer than anticipated but needed some amount of rest before beginning our week of walking. Heading out by 1030 JST, we planned to visit Tokyo Tower tokyo-tawa, Minato City minato-ku and surrounding areas. Built into this day was the expectation of some navigational or communication troubles, but we ended up doing quite well I think for our first full day out alone. Our morning walk from Steven's apartment in Sagamigaoka sagamigaoka , Zama zama-shi, Kanagawa kanagawa-ken to the Odakyu-Sagamihara Station was about fifteen minutes and took us past the local Three-F three-f convenience store, a school, numerous homes and local businesses and finally the Sagamihara business district. There you could find a Seven & I Holdings Co., Ltd. kabushiki-gaisha sebun & ai horudingusu department store (the same owners as 7-Eleven, also present in Tokyo), pachinko pachinko parlors, a great Ramen ramen noodle joint called Ramen Jiro ramen jiro and much more. The walk to and from the station would become a daily routine for us. Photo Credit: David July — Looking down platform two, Odakyu Odawara line, at Odakyu-Sagamihara station, Sagamihara, Japan, 15 March 2008 We got to Tokyo Tower just before 1430 JST to find a long, but organized queue. There was a man with a large sign standing at the end to identify where people should join the queue and two staffing a gate before the ticket booth where only so many people would be permitted through to purchase tickets. Once inside the lobby doors, female staff members in bright blue uniforms guide you to the zigzag rope queue that leads you to the lifts to the main observation level at 492 feet / 150 metres. From there we would purchase tickets to the highest special observatory at 820 feet / 250 metres. Photo Credit: David July — Looking up at the 1093 foot Tokyo Tower, Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, 15 March 2008 Also down by the queue and entrance area were the tower's character mascots the Noppon Brothers noppon brothers. It turned out to be less clear than we thought, but the panoramas provided were still amazing. Situated in Shiba Park shiba koen, Minato, Tokyo Tower was constructed in 1958 and claims to be the world's largest self-supporting steel tower. It is obviously modeled after the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France but at 1093 feet / 333 metres is 43 feet / 13 metres taller. An added bonus was the ability to walk the outdoor stairs of the tower from the main observation level to the roof of the main building and into a small amusement park at Foot Town foot town. Photo Credit: David July — Looking north from the the 820 foot special observation level at Tokyo Tower, Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, 15 March 2008 After eating a Japanese pasta dish at Pizza-La Express and a quick walk through the neighboring Shiba Park, we moved into Minato City and explored the Zojo-ji temple zojo-ji and Sangedatsu Gate at Zojo-ji sangedatsu gate of zojo-ji. Zojo-ji is a Buddhist temple founded in 1590, but severely damaged and repaired following World War II. We caught the end of a ceremony being performed by monks complete with chanting, bell ringing and incense. Photo Credit: David July — The northern building of the Zojo-ji temple, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, 15 March 2008 On our way back to Steven's apartment, we made a detour at Shinjuku Station to walk around that popular area at night. We did not stay out too late for fear of missing the train home. It was a great first day packed with fun, learning experiences and 207 photographs. Photo Credit: David July — Looking east down Road Four from the pedestrian overpass near the Sompo Japan Headquarters Building, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 15 March 2008
Mount Sutro mount sutro presents The Japan Trip Series the japan trip series [ Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six ] Photograph Gallery
Photo Credit: David July david july

The Journey's End

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Photo Credit: David July — Looking down platform two, Odakyu Odawara line, at Odakyu-Sagamihara station, Sagamihara, Japan, 15 March 2008 Once this article is online, I am heading right to bed. This will hopefully mark the start of my internal clock’s re-acclimation to Eastern Daylight Time. After leaving Detroit some two hours late due to snow, not to mention the two and a half hour drive from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, I made it to bed just before midnight on Friday, 21 March. When I woke up at 1800 on Saturday, I was not at all surprised. Nor when I stayed up all night and went to bed at noon Sunday. I woke up today at 0430 and immediately decided to get up, shower, dress and ready myself for work. By the time 0530 rolled around, I was anxious to do something more than sit and read the news online, so I headed to work and started an hour early. Leaving early is always nice, so I managed to get some errands run, too, before returning home. Needless to say, the trip to Japan was as unbelievably wonderful as I had hoped and expected. There is obviously much to say about the adventure, so I will be writing several installments over the next few weeks. Included with these articles will be select photographs from the nearly 1500 I took while in the Tokyo metropolitan area and Hiroshima. I am looking forward to getting these memories in print, if for no other reason, my own reference and backup. Until then, oyasuminasai (oyasuminasai, goodnight).
Mount Sutro mount sutro presents The Japan Trip Series the japan trip series [ Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six ] Photograph Gallery
Photo Credit: David July david july

The Big Block of Cheese

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Photo Credit: David July — Sixty-Five Foot Lookout Tower, Key West Shipwreck Historeum Museum, 1 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida, 25 November 2007

After I graduated high school in 1999, I was still on campus doing technical and administrative work as an OPS employee for Seminole County Public Schools. During the course of my normal duties one day, I happened upon stacks and stacks of old textbooks destined for the great book in the sky.

When I spotted copies of my American History textbook used by teacher and friend William Dempsey, I asked permission to take one. My request was denied because each book is returned to the publisher for credit, but I was allowed to tear out one page.

When Erik and I discovered in class the graphic and caption about President Andrew Jackson's big block of cheese, we were highly amused. It quickly became a matter of reference in conversation with our friends. When I found the books, I could think of no better high school memento than this graphic and quickly scanned the souvenir once home.

Thanks to two episodes of The West Wing—season one's "The Crackpots and These Women" and season two's "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail"—Jackson's cheese gained popular notoriety.

Original Art Credit: Benjamin Perley Poore — "Jackson's Great Cheese Levee" (1886) Scanned by David July, 1999
"Jackson's Great Cheese Levee" by Benjamin Perley Poore, 1886

(Click to Enlarge)   President Andrew Jackson thought of himself as the "Tribune of the People," and symbolized this by throwing a White House party that anyone could attend. Hundreds of people showed up and ate or carried away most of a 1,400-pound block of cheese.

In the context of The West Wing, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry semi-regularly instructs members of his staff to take meetings with special interest groups and individuals who would not normally receive personal attention from the White House, like the Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality who discuss the Gall-Peters projection map. Each Big Block of Cheese Day as it is known usually starts with an introduction by McGarry.

"President Andrew Jackson in the main foyer of his White House had a big block of cheese. The block of cheese was huge—over two tons—and it was there for any and all who might be hungry. Jackson wanted the White House to belong to the people, so from time to time, he opened his doors to those who wished an audience. It is in the spirit of Andrew Jackson that I, from time to time, ask senior staff to have face-to-face meetings with those people representing organizations who have a difficult time getting our attention. I know the more jaded among you see this as something rather beneath you. But I assure you that listening to the voices of passionate Americans is beneath no one, and surely not the people's servants."

I am pleased and entertained so many people are interested in this small fact from our nation's history and hope this fictional idealism has a place in our government.

Photo Credit: David July
Original Art Credit: Benjamin Perley Poore

The New Domain

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Sutro Tower fans are invited to visit sutrotower.org, the new gateway to my comprehensive feature article on all things Sutro. In addition to updating the information and links, I have reorganized and rewritten much of the text. Check it out and while you are there, feel free to share your Sutro Tower news, blogs and photographs. In other news, things are back to normal after the web server suffered a hard drive failure on 01 February 2008. You may have noticed some downtime that day and night as the server was rebuilt. In an unrelated problem, I have disabled the search term highlighter because it was coloring text without a search performed. A fix for that and other issues are on hold for now, as planning for my vacation in March takes precedence. That's a full lid.
Photo Credit: Troy McClure SF