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A reporter’s trek from Alabama to L.A., along the broken supply chain

Container ships docked at the Port of Los Angeles.
Delays at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, pictured here in November, have contributed to supply chain issues across the country.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Nov. 19. I’m Marisa Gerber, filling in for Justin Ray.

Before making the drive from Alabama to Los Angeles in a moving truck last month, my colleague Connor Sheets decided he could transform his cross-state slog into a reporting road trip.

He wanted to learn more about America’s broken supply chain, so he rumbled west in a 16-foot truck loaded with his family’s belongings and stopped in several states. Along the way, he talked to Main Street retailers and clerks at big box outlets, and in each city he learned something about how the backlogs at California’s ports were upending people’s livelihoods across the nation.

His 2,668-mile journey takes us to a cemetery in Mississippi that is using cement placeholders for headstones because granite is on backorder, a small city in Texas with a barbershop called “Jesus Shaves” and a college town in Arizona where a gas station hasn’t had XXL-size soda cups in months.

[Read the story: “From Alabama to California, a trip along the broken supply chain” in the Los Angeles Times]

A clot in the flow of goods at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, he learned, will eventually impact businesses all along the southern U.S.

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In the small Texas city of Carthage, a shop owner told Connor that much of the merchandise he’d ordered ahead of the Christmas season had been seriously delayed. When he’d called to ask for an update, the shop owner was told it was stuck in transit.

“The shipping is killing us,” the shop owner said, “and we don’t want to raise prices, but unfortunately we’re probably going to have to.”

Want to know more about the impact of the delays?

  • Look inside the lives of sailors who boarded cargo ships months ago and are now marooned in the floating traffic jam off the coast of Southern California.
  • Follow along as we trace a container filled with board games from a manufacturer in China to its destination in the Midwest.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

A high school junior in El Monte recounts how, as a child, she was taught that Spanish missionaries had “saved the souls” of Indigenous people. Years later, she said, her ethnic studies teacher helped broaden her perspective. LAist

There’s a whimsical narrative of childhood stardom that goes something like this — a cute, charismatic kid gets noticed at the grocery store, moves to Hollywood and almost immediately gets cast in a hit movie. But in reality, it’s a complex world of labor laws, contracts and fierce competition. Want some advice from experts in Hollywood’s child-acting scene? Don’t be “that parent” and know that the jobs that pay well still run through talent agents and studios, not TikTok popularity. Los Angeles Times

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If you’re a fan of this newsletter, you’ll love our daily podcast “The Times,” hosted every weekday by columnist Gustavo Arellano, along with reporters from across our newsroom. Go beyond the headlines. Download and listen on our App, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and follow on Spotify.

CRIME AND COURTS

The fate of the first law enforcement officer prosecuted in an on-duty shooting in L.A. County in 20 years is now in the hands of a jury. If convicted, L.A. County sheriff’s Deputy Luke Liu faces up to 11 years in prison for fatally shooting Francisco Garcia at a Norwalk gas station in 2016. Los Angeles Times

A mother of three in the Central Valley filled out court papers saying her abusive husband had access to a gun and had threatened to kill her in a nearby orchard. Not long after that, he shot her to death in a parking lot — a devastating example of how the protections afforded domestic abuse survivors vary depending on where you live and the judge who handles your case. CalMatters

A San Francisco Chronicle investigation found that a prominent civic organization that acts as a launchpad for young leaders and boasts alumni including judges, senators and former President Nixon, enabled a culture of sexual violence. San Francisco Chronicle

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A geropsychologist opens up about how the pandemic reshaped his job as a mental health provider who specializes in treating older patients. Zócalo Public Square

Remember the bomb cyclone that pummeled Northern California in late October? Researchers say that peak individual wave heights during the storm reached 60 feet. Los Angeles Times

Water levels at Lake Mead, a key reservoir on the Colorado River, have dropped to the lowest point since it was filled in the 1930s. Confronted with that precarious reality, water officials in California, Arizona and Nevada are now discussing plans for how to use less water from the river. Los Angeles Times

Lake Mead is at its lowest level in history since it was filled more than 80 years ago.
Visitors view the “bathtub ring” at Lake Mead. The nation’s largest reservoir is at its lowest level since it was filled more than 80 years ago.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

As a teenager, Maya Angelou worked as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco, an experience she wrote about years later. When asked what she’d taken away from the gig, she said, “I learned I am not afraid to work, and that’s about all.” SFGate

Before her chicken tikka masala went viral on TikTok, Kulwant “Kimi” Sanghu and her family struggled to make ends meet. After an encouraging conversation with her son, Sanghu began selling freshly prepared meals and her family eventually launched Cali Tardka, one of the first licensed at-home restaurants in Riverside. L.A.Taco

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Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Cloudy 68 San Diego: Cloudy 66 San Francisco: 61 San Jose: 64 Fresno: 66 Sacramento: Rain 57

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Haydee Sanchez:

As a child in the 60s, visiting Point Fermin Park in San Pedro was always magical. My parents kept a careful eye on my sister and me as we gleefully gazed out upon the ocean, through the concrete “stars” that made up the retaining wall of the picturesque walkway. It was like looking through a portal to a vast world of wonder. I still get giddy every time I visit the silent, steady fortress of concrete stars.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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