Travel diary entry April 14, 2019. Location: Los Alamos, California
If I hadn’t seen the sign out of the corner of my eye as I drove north up 101 towards San Francisco I might have blown right by it. I couldn’t believe such an important historical site didn’t have more glitz and glamour but as I pulled off my heart was racing at the thought of almost having missed it. I counted myself very lucky that my peripheral vision remains one of my most redeeming features.
I couldn’t find any signs to point me in the right direction, but luck was once again with me as I stopped to ask a ragged-looking gentleman sitting at an intersection and he not only knew exactly where to go but offered to forgo his efforts at collecting charitable donations and accompany me as a guide for what I thought was a very reasonable fee.
Soon we were sitting in the parking lot of a Walmart. He explained that the original site had been torn down years ago, a bit disappointing I’ll admit, but he’d be happy to walk around the store and point out where some of the more important events had taken place. Honestly, I was just happy to leave the car and get a breath of fresh air as the smell of urine was getting a bit overpowering.
Only yards away from the car all of that became a distant memory as I realized I was treading the very same ground where American heroes like Davy Crockett and James Bowie had died so courageously fighting the Japanese as they tried to get at Robert Oppenheimer and the other researchers.
My ad hoc tour guide actually corrected my original belief that they were fighting off the Mexicans, but his counter argument, “Why would Mexicans care if we built an atomic bomb?”, seemed too sound to dispute.
As we made our way through housewares it became apparent that my good fortune knew no bounds as my guide regaled me with trivia that only someone who had grown up around the site and spent a lifetime accumulating such knowledge could ever impart.
Apparently, Davy Crockett and James Bowie were closeted homosexuals who were lovers. Who knew? They always looked so butch in their paintings. Maybe the coon skin caps should have been a tip off.
It seemed like I couldn’t name of a frontiersman or physicist without him rifling off some titillating nugget of information.
Norris Bradbury? Brother of Ray Bradbury. Had four balls.
William B. Travis? Cross dressing midget.
J.M.B. Kellogg? Later went on to start a breakfast cereal company.
James Bonham? Step-brother of Ray Bradbury and had a speech impediment.
Isidor Rabi? Was an actual rabbi and a wonderful salsa dancer.
Micajah Autry? The man that Gene Autry was based on.
Robert Bacher? Was a professional kick boxer. Loved Cuban prostitutes.
John Manley? World class gymnast. Later died of syphilis.
Enricho Fermi? Wore two pairs of glasses at all times. Also died of syphilis.
As did Richard Feynman.
What a magical day. History really came alive. Unfortunately, the time seemed to get away from me and I was unable to take up my new-found friend’s offer to show me the spot where General Custer had invented the hand grenade, only blocks away where the new Bed, Bath and Beyond now stands, but I promised to come back as soon as I could.