Big Block of Cheese Day


My favorite nights in Washington, DC, were those when the clocks would tick well past closing time and the full team was still at the office. Eventually someone would run across the street to buy a six-pack of beer as the rest continued tapping furiously on our keyboards – drafting speeches, editing reports, filling in spreadsheets with mind-numbing repetition.

It was not glamorous. It only barely qualified as fun. But it was home. We were a small band of believers those nights.

As a friend of mine discovers The West Wing for the first time, I am compelled to re-watch some of my favorite episodes. Big Block of Cheese Day episodes are always a heartwarming fallback.

Once a season, Bartlet Administration Chief of Staff, the lovable Leo McGarry, commemorates the day President Andrew Jackson became the bewildered owner of a 2-ton wheel of New Yorker cheese, stored in the White House foyer. Big Block of Cheese Day is dedicated to hearing the issues of small interest groups – those that would not normally merit a meeting with senior-level White House staff*. Once upon a time, deep in the pre-KONY 2012 era, we may have qualified for just such a meeting.

At the end of Season 1, Episode 5, President Bartlet has made chili for the full senior staff to celebrate his youngest daughter’s visit. In a moment of emotional Sorkinese candor, Mr. President, Leo, and Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman discuss their female colleagues with admiration as the camera pans over each woman in turn. The scene may be a touch overdone, but I have been craving those moments from my own life – the occasional break from a state of constant stress and determination despite our youth and naïveté.

Let me return to the days of too much to do and good people to share them with. Saint Louis has already lost its appeal.

* My inner geography nerd particularly likes the Season 2 Big Block of Cheese Day (Episode 16) when Press Secretary C.J.Cregg and Josh learn about mapping projection distortion.


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