By MARY BETH MAASSEN
I recently attended one of the Los Alamos County Brand Action Plan presentations.
Los Alamos – Where Discoveries Are Made was a great presentation and I think holds a lot of promise for moving our community forward. One of the participants mentioned the difficult stigma the community of Los Alamos has with some people. I certainly understood this because once upon a time I was one of those “some people.”
I met my now-husband, then a geologist with LANL, 26 years ago at the Midsummer Music Festival in Telluride. I was there with singer/songwriter and social activist Jackson Browne–I was working for him, not dating him (heavy sigh)—and we were there to raise money and awareness around some environmental issues.
When Jackson went on stage I went out front to listen to the band. That was when this handsome guy with a bad haircut starting chatting me up. The all-access pass hanging around my neck was a great way to attract new friends.
And in spite of the bad haircut, we seem to hit it off. However, when he told me he worked at Los Alamos, I physically took a step backward in alarm.
As an environmental and social activist I had envisioned Los Alamos in my mind many times. I saw abandoned nuclear cooling towers with tumbleweeds blowing by. No town, no people, just devastation. Kind of a Chernobyl-esque place. I was surprised to learn that people lived in Los Alamos. Children lived there. People drank the water and breathed the air there. WHOA! REALLY!?!
Now we will quickly fast forward through several months and many deep, heart-wrenching conversations. First to a better haircut for the handsome guy, a move to Los Alamos, and a wedding, all of which sounds easy and seamless. But, it was very difficult for me to integrate into the Los Alamos community. My family, friends, experiences, and expectations for my life were all at odds with what I could realistically manage from Los Alamos.
Eventually I made my own discoveries here. I did make friends, I found people who understood the way I thought, and I figured out a way to make it work.
My husband tried to be supportive (watch for the upcoming column “Help! I Married a Scientist!”), and he was mostly patient as I struggled to fit in without losing myself.
I can say now it has worked out pretty well. For most of the last 20 years I have been a terrific advocate Los Alamos. When I worked for the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, my office was in the visitor center. I chatted with visitors every day about the history, the beauty, and the controversies regarding Los Alamos. It was a terrific experience.
The purpose of my column this week is two-fold, one is to support the Los Alamos – Where Discoveries Are Made, branding effort. Because every day I discover new things about Los Alamos that make it an even better place to live and work.
Before too long I will write a column about a recent experience that has left me awestruck at the kindness and generosity of the community. In regard to the branding, I think if we can all help make this effort successful then the entire community will benefit.
If Los Alamos can turn me into an advocate, the possibilities are limitless.
The second purpose of my column is to share the story about my valentine, Larry Maassen. This is because the Daily Post wants to hear your Valentine story. It does not have to be about how you met, it does not have to be romantic, or even about you. It can be any story about someone you love and how they have helped to make you into the person you are today. Any story you find meaningful or funny that you are willing to share would be perfect.
Send your favorite Valentine story to email@example.com with the subject line Valentine Story no later than noon Tuesday, Feb. 7. The top five stories as selected by the editorial team will be published in the Los Alamos Daily Post Thursday, Feb. 9.
From the top five stories the Los Alamos Daily Post editorial team will select one winner. That winner will receive dinner for two at the Blue Window Bistro and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.