Buried Treasure


We had just finished cleaning our plates and draining the last cocktails at the magazine’s 50th-anniversary party when we began digging. Well, we didn’t dig—a couple of maintenance workers at our office building burrowed the hole into which we lowered a time capsule to commemorate our half-century of extolling and exposing the city. Inside the tube, handmade with PVC pipe and etched with our logo, were touchstones and everyday artifacts of Los Angeles circa 2011: a Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer,” a retired cell phone, a purple American Apparel T-shirt, a ticket stub from the ArcLight, a toque signed by five top chefs. The moment we cranked the lid shut and sealed it, I felt wistful. After two months of planning and preparation, I’d grown attached to Project Time Capsule. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me—I majored in history, after all, and I’ve subscribed to Archaeology magazine as long as I have Entertainment Weekly and The New Yorker.

On a plaque that hangs above the burial site we’ve instructed that the capsule be exhumed 50 years hence. Presuming I’m still around to bear witness as younger, surer hands pry it open, I’ll be 91 years old. That doesn’t sadden me—I’d be happy to make it that far and can’t wait to laugh at the quaintness of a $16 movie theater ticket. What struck me as I watched the time capsule disappear was this: The city as I knew it at that minute had instantly become part of the past.

I realized that my attachment to the time capsule mirrored my feelings about the magazine. Every month we create a document of the city, sealing it at the end of a four-week production cycle, twisting the lid on a moment in time. Fifty years from now a reader can leaf through this issue and gather a sense of place and time—this was Los Angeles, August 2011. We had street preachers (see L.A. Archetype) and high-end closet designers (see Tastemaker), a museum that was reenergized (see Speak Easy, with LACMA director Michael Govan) and a housing market that had bubbled over (see Business). Read our annual “Best of L.A.” in this issue 50 years from now, and you’ll learn a few things about our propensity for gourmet food trucks, feather hair extensions, and online Buddhist meditation. The difference, of course, is that rather than bury this glimpse of the city, we open it up to all of you. I am always exhilarated yet a little blue when each issue is put to bed. But the melancholy never lasts long—next month awaits! 


Illustration by Leif Parsons