"Only in American can you be pro-death penalty, pro-war, pro-unmanned drone bombs, pro-nuclear weapons, pro-guns, pro-torture, pro-land mines, and still call yourself 'pro-life'". ~ John Fugelsang, actor/comedian
Eileen and I moved to Los Alamos, NM, in June/2017. It's an unusual place...it's not a city, town, or village. It is a census designated place. WTF? White Rock is another census designated place in Los Alamos County. There's no "city government"...just a county government that makes decisions for the county and its occupants. About 65% of the people here work for the national labs where atomic bombs are still being researched, updated, and made, along with the toxic waste associated with that research. Other research is done here, as well, but the main efforts are nuclear.
The main thing that I notice here is: it's all white people. Not really, but I can count on two hands the number of non-white people I've seen in the last year. I'm sure there are more non-white people here than what I've seen, but the overall impression is WHITE. Another thing that stands out is that there are no old buildings here, except what remains of the Los Alamos Ranch School that was taken over by the U.S. military in 1942. Until about 1957, it was primarily a military base and is where the atomic bomb was developed. After that, it was opened to the public. About 3/5ths of the land up here on the mesas is owned by the Dept of Energy and not open to the public. Housing is very tight here because of the small geographic area available for houses to be built on. While driving on roads that go through DOE property, all vehicles are subject to random searches and aerial surveilance over DOE land is routine.
Another oddity here: almost no crime. The amount of crime that occurs in Los Alamos County annually is about what one would expect to occur in about 5 minutes in a major city. No joke. People leave doors and windows unlocked. Haven't seen that since living in upstate NY back in the 1950's. I think some of that has to do with how out of the way Los Alamos is located. Like Silver City, NM, where we used to live, Los Alamos is not on the way somewhere. You have to want to drive through here, perhaps to see the Valle Caldera that is some 15 miles southwest of Los Alamos. That's one of the reason that the U.S. government and the military chose this place for the Manhattan Project. Also, Robert Oppenheimer and his brother owned a piece of property near here, so he pushed for this site to develop the atomic bomb.
Now, in its favor, Los Alamos is quiet, safe, and very educated, but I believe that most people who have lived here for a while have a poor conception of what life is like in a bigger city. It is located up on 5 mesas, at the foothills of the Jemez mountains. Elevation here is about 7400', with the mountains at about 10,000'+. Scenery and surroundings are beautiful. Yes, there is still pollution here from the 1940's/1950's/1960's and there have been "accidents" where harmful material has caused problems here. Oh, it's also the second most affluent city in America. Washington, DC, is the most affluent city in America. For town/city of less than 100,000 population.
There is a decent brewpub here, the Bathtub Row Brewery Co-op, and a couple of good restaurants. Even decent sushi and a recently opened French bakery. There is NO GOOD PIZZA here. Period. So, I make my own or we go to Santa Fe. Fortunately, Santa Fe is only about 35 miles from here. Once there, many options are available from arts, music, beer, food, entertainment, etc. It makes the move here much more tolerable.
One of the things that I like to do is lift weights. There are two places here for that and the YMCA is one of them. Now, I have been lifting weights regularly since the early 1980's and the YMCA in Los Alamos has to be one of the worst gyms I've been to in 30 years. Now, in their defense, there was a vote in the past year where money could have been allocated to help replace the aging YMCA building with a new one, but it was narrowly voted down. Too bad. Another negative is cell phone/internet connectivity. I expected top shelf stuff here, but that has not been the case.
Another oddity has been the lack of interaction between people while out and about in Los Alamos. In Silver City, it made not a lick of difference if people knew you or not, everyone said hello to everyone else. Well, it seemed that way. We've been here over 6 months and only recently have people begun to open up and say hello. Now, whenever I encounter someone, I say hello just to see what the reaction will be. Fun to shake them up a bit. Another oddity, New Mexico's suicide rate for those 10-24 yrs of age is twice the national average and Los Alamos County's rate is twice what the rate is for New Mexico, so, Los Alamos County has a suicide rate for the 10-24yr old group that is 4 times the U.S. national average. Incredible!
Overall, I like small towns and the low crime rate is great. Will we remain here after Eileen retires? Not sure, but I'm willing to bet we will move back to Albuquerque at that time. But, with the future, we won't know until we get to where we have to decide. I will say that, if all the towns/cities in the U.S. were like Los Alamos, NM, I would move to another country. While the low crime rate is appreciated, the lack of personal interaction with people is very weird. People here don't say hello, don't casually talk with strangers, and it's everywhere. Restaurants, bars, stores, on the streets, everywhere...people do not socialize like I experience elsewhere. I have been going to the Bathtub Brewpub for over a year now and I know the name of one person who works behind the bar. The interaction of the bartenders is so very different from other brewpubs, as well as the grouping of people who come there who most likely work at the Labs. While the groups talk with each other, there is no interaction between groups...period. If this was one of the neighborhood bars back in my hometown of Glens Falls, NY, I would know just about everyone at the brewpub by now. And the bartenders would know what I usually drink.
We will be here for the duration, until Eileen is ready to retire and, hopefully, in that time we will get to know some people up on "the Hill", as Los Alamos is fondly referred to. What we have learned since we moved out of Albuquerque in 2006 is that small town life is quite pleasant. With that said, we'll have to see where we'd like to move to considering that small town life is pretty good. Large cities have more to offer, but with significant negatives that are not present in most small towns.
So, a brief annual report from the new kids on the block in Los Alamos, NM. Stay tuned for more from My Side of The Ride. Now, to close, a tune to entertain y'all... Always Look At The Bright Side Of Life performed by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. Seems appropriate. Have a good one!
Cycling Along The Way...
- Patrick Lyford
- Silver City, NM, United States
- Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?