Editor's note: Like much of the rest of the country, Governing will take a break over the holidays. But David Kidd, our photojournalist and storyteller, has put together some unique holiday images he has collected from his travels around the country, together with the story that lies behind each one. So, enjoy and see you in the new year.
The Biltmore Palms
Legend has it that Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas sitting by a pool at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. The treetops might be glistening in December, but it’s safe to say children won’t be listening to hear sleigh bells in Arizona’s biggest city. In the last hundred years of record keeping, less than four inches of snow has fallen on Phoenix.
According to recent data compiled by the National Weather Service, residents of Maine, upstate New York, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia as well as the Rockies and Sierra Nevada have the best chance of seeing snow on Dec. 25. As defined by the Weather Service, one inch of snow on the ground qualifies as a white Christmas. Guests of the Arizona Biltmore who want to see snow on Christmas can make the 11-hour drive north to Crested Butte, Colo. where the chances are close to 100 percent.
A Decorated Communist
Communism collapsed 30 years ago and so, too, did the innumerable heroic statues of party leaders in Eastern Europe. Surprisingly, a fallen statue of Vladimir Lenin was resurrected and now resides in Seattle, specifically, in the Fremont neighborhood, a liberal enclave of artists and counter-culturalists, techies and professionals. Commissioned by the Czech Communist Party in 1988, the 16-foot-tall bronze likeness of the Russian revolutionary stood in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic for just one year.
It was saved from an ignominious end when it was discovered in a scrapyard and purchased by an American English teacher. He hoped to preserve the artifact for its historic and artistic value, and later to promote his planned Slovak restaurant in a Seattle suburb. But his untimely death put the statue in the hands of his family who sent it to a foundry in Fremont to be melted down and the metal repurposed. But the foundry’s owner thought the work of art worthy of display.
Since its public unveiling in 1995, the statue has regularly been decorated and vandalized with intentions both silly and serious. The revolutionary’s hand is routinely painted red to symbolize the blood of those who suffered and died because of him. The sculpture was not immune from threat of removal during the recent kerfuffle over Confederate monuments, but there’s nothing anyone can do as long as it remains on private property.
Since 2004, Lenin’s likeness is decorated for the holidays, draped in Christmas lights with a big star placed over his head. It’s all in keeping with Fremont’s mock Latin motto: De Libertas Quirkas, roughly translated as “freedom to be strange.”