We got in on Friday, rented a car in Albuquerque, and using a spiffy Garmin GPS system we borrowed from future daughter-in-law Claire, we found our way to the Natural History Museum, where we beheld Stan the T Rex in all his splendor:
Sadly, Stan is just a replica. However, they did have some real live (more or less) fossils such as a majestic battle between a theropod and a gigantic sauropod. Sadly we only had forty minutes till the museum closed.
By then, hot and hungry, we grabbed a bite at Denny’s and then hit the road for Los Alamos. Beautiful, stark country: so very different from green wet western Washington. As you get further north the land get rougher, with mesas and great canyons falling away from the edge of the road. The land is red here and the plants are tough and hardy desert dwellers. The highways overpasses are decorated with beautiful images from native art, so much nicer than the barren concrete of home.
Finally, we got to Los Alamos and arrived at the Hilltop House Hotel (aka “The Cathedral of Comfort” according to son Peter, because of its great peaked roof. It sits just where the road splits into Trinity and Central (“Trinity” is named, of course, for the blasphemous code name for the Manhattan Project’s bomb. The project being ultra-secret, there was nobody around to object as they did later when they tried to name a nuclear attack sub “Corpus Christi”). Got settled in, and hit the hay early. Next morning, I got up late (a persistent headache made sleep rough) and wandered into town. Caught up with Jan and the guys at the Bradbury Science Museum, where I learned more about the Manhattan Project. Then the fam headed back to the hotel and I mosied up the street to the Fuller Lodge area, where I wandered past some Pueblo ruins and the grounds of the old boys school (a paradise for Boy Scouts and all that was best in American youth in the teens, 20s, and 30s until Robert Oppenheimer picked Los Alamos as the site of the Manhattan Project and the school was hurriedly closed as the town was obliterated from all public records and made the most Super Secret Place on Planet Earth.
Speaking of Oppenheimer, his house still stands at the corner of 20th and Cherry (aka “Bathtub Row, so dubbed because the houses on that street were the only ones with bathtubs and the Manhattan Project Big Brains called dibs on them). I wander past that too. Strange that this ordinary neighborhood was once the focus of such intense national security. From there I mosied over to Ashley Pond which was named by the boys of the school after… Ashley Pond, the founder of the school.
Then I wandered back down Trinity to the hotel and had a little siesta, followed by a trip out to Santa Fe with the Eric and Logan Horne and their adorable kidlets. Jan wanted to see the Miraculous Staircase at the Loreto Chapel, so we checked that out (very impressive) and then Sean headed off to explore while I went to the Cathedral and Jan went in another direction while Pete and Eric and the kidlets went to the plaza and watched some break dancers. Logan caught up with me at the Cathedral and we made our way back to the plaza. There is a sanitized for your protection monument from the 19th century which commends the Union army and various Indian fighters for doing politically incorrect things, so that amused me.
We had initially thought about going to the vigil, but decided instead to feed the kids (who had more or less used Peter as a mobile jungle gym all afternoon, to his delight. We went a place called “Counterculture”. Very good. Santa Fe feels a lot like Seattle in some ways. A wide and eclectic openness to “spirituality” of whatever provenance (including Catholic, which is different from Seattle) and lots of Euro-Americans who are, as they say, “into” what is loosely called “native spirituality”. Of course, some “natives” are “into” it too, but much of the native population is Catholic, which is a disappointment for the white spiritual dilettante. I am reminded of Chesterton’s observation that what many moderns forget about the ancient pagans is that the last thing they did was become Catholic.
Anyway, we headed home and again hit the hay hard, then rose and blasted off to Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, a lovely place full of delightful people. Afterward, we met up with Devin and Katie Rose from Albuquerque for a picnic near the Fuller Lodge. Devin is the author of 50 Roads to Rome, which you should check out.
We had a wonderful afternoon, munching goodies and watching the kids goof around as we talked about God and things Catholic. Eventually, Eric, Logan and their kids turned up just as Devin had to go, so we prolonged the picnic and savored the cool breeze under the poplars. Then, that evening we went out to White Rock for a delightful soup and sandwich supper with a very generous family named Marks. They have two high energy kids who (as is typical) glommed on to Peter and had fun. They also have a 15 year old named Jacob who is interested in everything from animation to insects (he has a pet Emperor Scorpion, how cool is that?) My kids took turns swapping animation coolness with him and everybody enjoyed themselves. Plus, the whole family loves Doctor Who *and* Mom watches “Them” every Mother’s Day, so I was enchanted.
After that we headed home and I half-heartedly fiddled with my MSS, but mostly watched a silly “Ice Age” movie featuring the incomparable Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel, who is the great animated creation since “One Froggy Evening”.
Today, after I hit send on this, it’s back to work to finish the edits on the MSS of my book and send it off. Jan is out toodling and the guys decided to embark on an adventure of their own over to Bandilier National Monument. Tonight we’ll go to a BBQ at the rectory and then I’ll give my first talk: “Salvation: Participation in the Divine Nature“. Don’t miss it if you can!