WASHINGTON -- They celebrate the holidays a little differently in the U.S. Capitol, where I have been enjoying a little recreational time with friends.
At Union Station, the magnificent Beaux Arts-style train station where boutiques with upscale merchandise compete with the dignified marble architecture for attention, an enormous Christmas tree is the first item riders on the Metro see as they emerge from the subway.
The towering fir is a gift from the country of Norway. And, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of native artist Edvard Munch’s birthday, the tree is festooned with 150 ornaments in the shape of his most famous work, “The Scream.”
You’re probably familiar with the painting that shows an open-mouthed bald figure apparently running from something that terrorized it.
“The Scream” symbolizes the way we all feel sometimes. Maybe, you feel that way when you’re stuck in traffic.
Perhaps, you feel that way when you’re running from store to store looking for that one toy your child just has to have this Christmas.
Or you have probably just had it with all those erectile dysfunction drug commercials on TV.
To remind you that childlike wonder and whimsy constitute the true spirit of the season, an elaborate electric train scenario is encased in glass on the first floor. Three different locomotives pulling everything from passenger cars to sawed-off logs steam past bucolic stores and houses worthy of “The Waltons” or “The Andy Griffith Show.”
The National Christmas Tree, which I have seen from about 6 feet away, is a gloriously lit array of purple, blue and white lights. They are so miniscule that they create the optical illusion of not being physical lights at all; rather, legitimate outgrowths of the tree branches.
The toy train motif is evident at the foot of the national tree too, as multiple cars on multiple tracks wind their way through the serpentine scene.
Drawing attention away from the National Christmas Tree is an almost international shrine in light of recent events. The statue of Nelson Mandela in front of the South African embassy in the District of Columbia is surrounded with flowers and tributes to the human rights activist who died last week at the age of 95.
However, in all honesty, it’s difficult to tell whether more people in Washington are mourning Mandela or the Redskins.
Knowing they couldn’t blame their hideous record this season on quarterback Robert Griffin III without risking massive fan rebellion (After all, the man is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.), the media rightly have turned to eviscerating head coach Mike Shanahan, who has been shifting enough blame for everybody.
Meanwhile, the citizens blithely brave two consecutive snowstorms with the collective dismissiveness usually reserved for the latest congressional stalemate.
School is closed. Federal offices open two hours late. Ho-hum. What else is new? Is House Speaker John Boehner still orange?