2017 California Trip: Hancock Park and the La Brea Tar Pits

Okay, so one of the points that is often made about the name “La Brea Tar Pits” is that “la brea” is Spanish for “the tar,” so the name is the “The Tar Tar Pits.” But it’s actually worse, I guess, than that. because the name may have the word “Tar” in it — twice — but the substance that oozes out of the ground around that area is actually asphalt. Tar is  a similarly goopy manufactured substance made from wood (generally pine) or peat or even coal.

I’ve been to Hancock Park three times now, and neither Thomas nor I recognized it the second time we went. They’d apparently done some renovations in between our visits. I wonder if Thomas still has the pictures we took on our first visit. I have some fun memories of that first visit. Asphalt oozes up out of the ground randomly around there and on our first visit they marked those spots with traffic cones. Thomas and I watched a rottweiler try to run off with one of the traffic cones. The rottweiler’s person was *not* happy.

My mom always kept a diary of our trips, listing where we went and when we went there and sometimes I really wish I was in that habit because I cannot for the life of me remember which trip it was when Thomas and I went to the George C. Page Museum, which is kind of the centerpiece of the park. The museum holds most of the major discoveries that they’ve found in the pits and also has the labs where they clean the fossils.

I’m pretty sure that the first time I went to the museum was during our 1999 trip to Los Angeles, which was when I was pregnant with Alex (on this trip Alex and I put a lot of emphasis on returning to places where I had gone while pregnant with him). They were shooting some kind of program on, if I recall correctly, Jenna Elfman, at the museum and that helps not at all because I can’t find any such program. Of course, Elfman is a Scientologist, so maybe it was some kind of video for internal Church of Scientology use?

The park itself has quite a bit of interest. First, of course, there’s the famous (and kind of distressing) statue of a mammoth dying in a tar pit. There’s  also a lovely garden and when you look more closely, you see that the plants are all the same kind of plants that lived there when the mammoths, dogs, and other animals found in the tar pits lived there.

There is also an observation pit, which wasn’t open during any of Thomas and my visits, I don’t think, and was closed for the day when Alex and I were there.  Also, when they were building the parking lot for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, they found more fossils. They put this material into 23 boxes and dubbed it “Project 23.”

Project 23 cases 5A and 16.
Okay, maybe “boxes” understates it a bit. These are some of the Project 23 boxes (and it took some doing to get this picture. I had to hold the lens of my camera up to a hole in a wire fence to get it). I think that’s part of the art museum there in the background

They aren’t planning to open any more pits to excavation, but between the boxes of Project 23 and the tar pits that are likely to be found while the city develops its subway system, they aren’t likely to run out of material any time soon.

Our Amazon link today is less gratuitous than usual. It’s the movie The Last Action Hero, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. This link brought to you by Danny standing next to Jack watching Jack wiping the tar off himself and opining that tar sticks to some people.

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