Bob Sipchen knows California. He grew up in San Bernardino, near citrus groves, covered education, immigration, and the great outdoors, among other things, for the Los Angeles Times for two decades, and now heads Sierra magazine from San Francisco. His love for the land is clear in his answers to our Q&A.

Q. What do you wake up to?
A. The view out of my San Francisco apartment, looking out toward the Western Addition.

Q. What is your favorite word?
A. Callipygian.

Q. What inspires you?
A. I’m inspired by nature, landscapes and interesting people.

Q. What comforts you?
A. Beautiful waves, beautiful streams, beautiful mountains. The wind in the desert.

Q. How would you describe yourself in five words or fewer?
A. Husband, father, writer, editor, outdoorsman.

Q. If you could live in any other time, past, present or future, when would it be?
A. I know I should say the Italian Renaissance or England in the time of Shakespeare. But I think the honest answer would be California, circa 1940, when I could have surfed all day at Malibu or Rincon and had the waves to myself.

Q. If you could take only one more journey, where would you go?
A. I’ve never been anywhere in Africa, and I’d like to see as much of Africa as I could.

Q. What profession would you like to practice in your next life?
A. I think it would be fun to be a brain surgeon.

Q. Whose talent would you like to have?
A. There’s too much talent that I envy in the writing and editing realm, so let’s leave it at Yo-Yo Ma.

Q. What is your fondest childhood memory?
A. Running barefoot through Orange Groves in Southern California with my friends or cousins, having orange fights and dirt-clod fights.

Q. Who is your favorite Beatle?
A. George Harrison. He’s underestimated.

Q. What is your most prized material possession?
A. I have a life vest that I got when I went to guide school for a story. I’ve since used it river-rafting and it makes me feel sort of cool.

Q. What’s your favorite season?
A. Autumn in California is unbeatable.

Q. What teacher or professor, if any, changed your life?
A. Barry Farrell. He was a mentor to many at UC Santa Barbara. He was a great journalist who wrote narrative journalism and was so dedicated to the craft, so concerned about le mot juste, that he really inspired a lot of people.

Q. What promise do you make to yourself that you break most often?
A. That I will chill more.

Q. Who is the one person living or dead that you’d love to have a beer with?
A. Other than family members and friends who have passed away, I’d say Shakespeare. To raise a pint in a nice pub.

*Photo by Aaron Salcido.


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