Denise Kiernan is a journalist and writer whose work and travels have taken her from the undulating and stiletto-crippling cobblestoned streets of Rome to the Great Wall of China and soccer stadiums of Central America. Most recently she dove headlong into the lives and formerly classified documents of the Manhattan Project for her latest book, the New York Times Bestseller, “The Girls of Atomic City.” In and around Seattle, she finds a variety of atomic age inspiration.
The Pacific Northwest often brings to mind towering Douglas Firs, soaring white-capped mountaintops, gleaming majestic rivers hopping with salmon and Starbucks addicts hopping with caffeine. However, the state’s history as a center for scientific research and its nuclear legacy reach all the way back to World War II when the Hanford Engineer Works, one of the three key Manhattan Project sites, first came to be. Since then, research continues, history endures and nods to the atomic age abound. “The Girls of Atomic City” author, Denise Kiernan, gives you pointers on where to find some “atomic” treats in and around the Emerald City.
Climb the Space Needle
400 Broad Street
Seattle, WA 98109
Yes, the Space Needle. Why, you ask? Just look up at its about-to-orbit shape and remember that one of the hallmarks of post-World War II design was an architectural style that became known as “Googie.” Architect John Lautner, who designed Googie’s Coffee Shop on the legendary Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, is credited with inspiring many a boomeranged, starbursted, atomic age building. The Space Needle, a northwest beacon of otherworldly atmospheric fabulousness, may be the Googiest of them all. Hungry? Grab a bite at the revolving SkyCity Restaurant and enjoy a 360-degree view of the city without ever abandoning your atomic cocktail.
Trim your bangs and get your garage on with this local no-frills band that describes itself as “freaked-out, hormone-infused, angular cult-rock-dance dirges.” Throw in some psychedelic surf for good measure. Having played Seattle haunts such as Chop Suey, Lo-Fi, The Funhouse and the Comet, they are now on tour for their latest album, “Dead Air.” Visit their website for upcoming shows up and down the west coast. Their retro-atomic aesthetic lends itself to posters worthy of any wood-paneled, 1976-era den (if your dad was a mid-century hipster, that is).
Originating in the French Quarter of New Orleans, this troupe of corseted cuties now calls Seattle home. Bourbon Street meets Pike Place as Ruby Mimosa, Kitten La Rue, Honey D. Luxe and the rest of the gorgeous gang take the stage. Want to catch a show? You may have to travel as far Shanghai, Portugal or Amsterdam. When in town, you are likely to find them shimmying for audiences at the Triple Door Theatre or Columbia City Theatre. Their tassel-swinging, hip-displasia-inducing moves have been featured on PBS’s Full Focus, MTV.com, in GQ, and—color us shocked—Bust magazine.
Chow Down at the Atomic Ale Brewpub & Eatery
1015 Lee Blvd.
Richland, WA 99352
With beers like Half-Life Hefeweizen, Plutonium Porter, Atomic Amber, International Proton Pale Ale, Backscatter Blackberry Wheat, Cherenkov Cascadian Dark Ale and Strontium Session Pale Ale, there’s no doubt you are drinking in some history in the land of the world’s first full scale plutonium reactor. “Scientific proof that flavor still exists!” their site proclaims. The usual roundup of apps, salads, soups and sandwiches are augmented by wood-fired pizzas. Try the Manhattan Project or Reactor Core pizzas,or venture beyond your comfort orbital and dig into an Atomic Red to push your taste buds to their fiery max. Features historic photos from Hanford Engineer Works, one of the three main sites of World War II’s Manhattan Project.
Visit the Columbia River Exhibition of History Science and Technology
95 Lee Blvd.
Richland, WA 99352
Check out hands-on science and history exhibits that transport you back in time. There you’ll experience the region’s natural and technological legacy as well as its key role in the Manhattan Project during World War II. Old transport buses and pre-fab housing exhibits give you a glimpse at life on the country’s most top secret endeavor. Lasers! Sound waves! Robotic arms! Learn about the radioactivity in common household items. (Fiesta ware, anyone?) And who doesn’t love a good old Van der Graaf generator? Just get up close and personal to render your hair positively Einsteinian.
Denise Kiernan’s book “The Girls of Atomic City” was published in March 2013 by sister company Simon & Schuster.