“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”
David Attenborough

It’s hard to find an Angeleno that won’t go down to La Brea St., despite how boring it is.  It’s really nothing to write home about.  Any street, however, can be immortalized by history.  I won’t pretend that my story can make La Brea St. world-famous, but there’s a chance you’ll hit the jackpot when your brother-in-law from Texas or grandmother from Iowa comes looking for a decorative place to visit.  Even a brief retelling of this story will make them view the world with fresh eyes, especially if they have had an eye operation – the grandmother, possibly for cataracts, and the brother-in-law, for nearsightedness.

Back in 1875, when Lenin was still an innocent child and the United States was led by Ulysses S. Grant (which is easy to remember through James Joyce and Jules Verne), a group of amateur paleontologists was working in Los Angeles.  In the asphalt swamps of Rancho La Brea, they unearthed some valuable remains, and people say that professionals are still digging there to this day.  Recently, I went to the dollar store nearby and realized that paleontologists have dug up everything around it, as well.

The remains have been reliably marked at 3.5 million years old.  They are displayed in a charmingly antiquated manner at a small museum, which hasn’t changed much since 1977, like an ancient fly in tree resin.  Perhaps the most interesting thing there is the Columbian Mammoth, at a massive 13+ feet tall and weighing 10 tons.  And for those anticipating seeing dinosaur bones, an inscription at the museum kindly gives notice:

“Dinosaur bones were not preserved here, because dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years before the asphalt deposits began to form”.

In addition, Ulysses S. Grant managed to make it on the $50 bill, either thanks to or in spite of the fact he was such a mediocre president (something disputed among his descendants).

I assure you that your grandmother will be pleasantly surprised by your brilliant and diverse  knowledge.  This is better than pointing your finger and saying, “There is our famous hot dog joint, Pink’s Hot Dogs!”  And at some point in the distant future:  “This hot dog stand has been here for 2000 years,” by which time the hot dogs will have inevitably reached the price of Ulysses S. Grant’s $50 bill.


Text: Sebastian Varo
Translated from Russian by Richard Crenwelge

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