Newsletter: Essential California: Memories of Vicks VapoRub, as strong as the scent of eucalyptus

Emannuel Juarez, held by his mother, Esmeralda Orozco, visiting from Oregon, smells a jar of Vicks VapoRub at Santee Alley in downtown Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 27, and here’s what’s happening across California:


They call it Bibaporru, Beep Vaporú, El Bic, El Bix, El Vickisito. And many think of the sticky, stinky menthol goop as their own, even though it’s used around the world. In the Latino community, Vicks VapoRub inspires a curious, nostalgic devotion — for its many nicknames and uses far more creative than relief for the common cold and muscle pain. “If I say to someone, ‘Hey, bring me El Vah-po-ru!’ they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about,” said Luciano Roldan, 78, of El Sereno, who has been rubbing VapoRub all over, including up his nose, since he was a kid in the countryside of El Salvador. Los Angeles Times

Behind the story: Hunting for the mystique behind “Beep Vaporú.” Los Angeles Times


Protecting the accused?

The eruption of sexual misbehavior claims against powerful, previously unassailable men has done much to make public what used to be private misconduct. But when it comes to upending the power dynamics of Hollywood and other industries, the internal investigation remains an opaque instrument that often favors the company and the accused, advocates say. Los Angeles Times

Closing the loopholes

L.A. County is expanding its smoking ban to vaping and smoking pot. The Board of Supervisors has updated the county’s legal definition of “smoke” and “smoking,” expanding an existing ban on using tobacco products at beaches, parks and government buildings to include electronic cigarettes and pot. Los Angeles Times


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Still at school: Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Giannulli, daughters of actress Lori Loughlin, remain enrolled at USC, according to a university spokesperson, amid a sweeping college admissions scandal that has ensnared the elite private university along with other top colleges across the country. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Prosecutors are ratcheting up the pressure on parents with new charges. Los Angeles Times


Happening at LAX: Federal authorities say about 300 people, including law enforcement officers and volunteers, will take part in an active shooter drill at Los Angeles International Airport over two days this week. Los Angeles Times

Didn’t know that! How annoyed Hollywood concertgoers sparked the idea for freeway soundwalls. LAist

Scary numbers: “Three years into Los Angeles’ Vision Zero initiative — a campaign to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025 — hundreds of people continue to die each year in crashes citywide.” Curbed LA



He wants a new trial: Defense attorneys say Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman should get a new trial because jurors improperly followed media coverage of the sensational drug conspiracy case. Associated Press

Strained: A surge of migrants strains the Border Patrol, as El Paso becomes the latest hot spot. NPR

The latest stats: “Daily attempts by undocumented immigrants to cross into the United States from Mexico over the past month surpassed daily averages not seen since fiscal year 2006, according to Customs and Border Protection data.” NBC News



Potentially on the ballot: California voters could be asked to impose an estate tax, replacing the one Trump loosened. Los Angeles Times

2020 watch: Inside Sen. Kamala Harris’ small-dollar fund-raising operation. New York Times

Plus: In the first major policy proposal of Harris’ presidential campaign, she is focused on an unprecedented investment in teacher pay and toward programs dedicated to teacher recruitment, training and professional development. Los Angeles Times

Big picture: What do lawsuits against California unions mean for teachers, public workers? Sacramento Bee


Ahoy: Berkeley has some ideas for its new pier and ferry service to San Francisco. San Francisco Chronicle

That’s what friends are for: Former U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez loaned state Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva $430,000 to buy a house in Orange County —an arrangement that some legal experts labeled unusual, but that both politicians said was not improper and resulted from their friendship. CALmatters


Behind the headlines: For Michael Avenatti, a luxury lifestyle built on a purported house of cards. Los Angeles Times


Plus: Mark Geragos, attorney to the stars, finds himself on the other side of the law. Los Angeles Times

In D.C.: The Supreme Court is closely divided again on whether to stop partisan gerrymandering. Los Angeles Times

Discrimination case: A jury awarded $7 million to a former Baldwin Park police chief who sued the city for gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation, affirming that she was fired because she is a woman. Los Angeles Times



Don’t land on me: A couple of super bloom visitors landed their helicopter on the flowers, much to the dismay of officials. Los Angeles Times

A couple landed a helicopter on the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
(Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve)


Spoiler alert! The ending of “Us”: Jordan Peele on who the film’s real villains are. Los Angeles Times


A sinister lens: “Us” took Hands Across America and made it a death grip. New York Times

Farewell: “It’s the end of an era at the San Diego Zoo as the last two giant pandas will soon leave for China.” San Diego Union-Tribune

Suspended: “San Francisco Giants CEO and president Larry Baer has been suspended without pay through July 1, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement Tuesday.” An altercation between Baer and his wife, Pam, was caught on video. ESPN

Yum: Check out this year’s edition of the Rogue 99 restaurant list. It will make you hungry. L.A. Taco


Hollywoodland: Producer Gavin Polone explains the long-shot way Hollywood writers can win the war on agents. The Hollywood Reporter


Los Angeles area: partly cloudy, 69, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 68, Thursday. San Diego: partly cloudy, 68, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 66, Thursday. San Francisco area: showers, 59, Wednesday; showers, 58, Thursday. San Jose: showers, 62, Wednesday and Thursday. Sacramento: showers, 63, Wednesday; showers, 61, Thursday. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Nancy Schmitz:

“Born in California in 1929 and later questioned in my Virginia high school about safety regarding Indians and Mexican bandits, I would relate early experiences driving on Wilshire Boulevard with empty lots protecting the privacy of the stately homes of Hancock Park. I always looked for the parrot that was housed in a cage in the yard of one of these homes. My grandmother’s house was the most fascinating, as it had a basement with a stage, lights and lots of stored items; a discovery trip for a 7-year-old. It was the West Adams area, safe for exploring the magnificent houses of early California developers. A shopping trip to Bullocks would include lunch in their formal dining room with me dressed in appropriate dress, gloves, shiny black Mary Jane shoes and socks that would inevitably disappear into the shoes themselves. Manners were demanded: ‘Sit up, use the right utensil, eat what’s on your plate.’ ... Good memories of a lifestyle long gone.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (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, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.