Eyes roll, remembering, as a child, digging your heel into the mushed tar in the street, melted from the scorching sun. Perhaps you scoff disgustedly at your previous run-in with the substance at the beach, and how it’s only slightly worse than the natural liquid found on beach-bathroom floors on the gross hierarchy.
And you’re absolutely right to feel that way. There is no good reason to see a pool of tar with fake mastodons attempting to rescue one another – give up, Manny, he’s not sinking any lower and, besides, you can’t move your trunk.
Yet it draws in tourists as it used to attract dire wolves (see hundreds of canis skulls in the museum.) What is it about naturally occurring tar in the middle of Wilshire that attracts so many visitors?
I doubt if a pit of a tar existed in Detroit it would get half as much attention. Location, location, location, I suppose.
While the tar draws in the crowd, the museum gives exposition on it – Los Angeles as it was during the last Ice Age (10,000 and 40,000 years ago) when saber-toothed cats and mammoths roamed the L.A. Basin. Through windows at the Page Museum Laboratory, museumgoers can even watch bones being cleaned and repaired and incorrectly guess what type of animals they came from.
But if you want to see humankinds’ fascination with tar, explore the adjacent Hancock Park, where small puddles of black melted-gold have bubbled to the surface. All ethnicities and all ages can be found breaking sticks off trees and fiddling them into the tar – it’s like taking a trip back in time, back to the age when humans broke sticks off trees and fiddled with the tar.
Page Museum is located at 5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.tarpits.org.