Jim Newton is an editor-at-large and columnist at the Los Angeles Times and the author of biographies of Chief Justice Earl Warren and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Before participating in a panel on L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first year in office, he told us why he keeps rereading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and what slogan he’d use if he ran for election in the Zócalo green room.
What cheese best describes you?
I’m going to go with Humboldt Fog. Just because it’s the first cheese I can think of. It comes from my hometown, the Bay Area.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I hate the word unprecedented and the misuse of the word massive.
How many hours of sleep do you need?
I probably need eight or nine. I usually get five or six.
If you ever ran for election, what would your slogan be?
When I was in college my roommate ran, and we ran him on the slogan, “Vote for Edward, he already told his mom he won.” I’d probably use that.
What book have you reread the most?
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. For me the fun part was rereading it a few years back, because there’s a father-son story in it that was kind of invisible to me as a young person, and reading it as a dad it had a whole other resonance for me.
Are you good at keeping secrets? If so, who can vouch for you?
Yes. I’m not sure I can tell you. But I spent a lot of years working as a beat reporter covering LAPD, and I had to keep a lot of secrets.
If you had one more hour in the day, what would you do with it?
I would read for pleasure.
How did you get into trouble as a child?
I had a couple traffic scrapes, stayed out late a few times that I shouldn’t have. I didn’t get in a lot of trouble though, frankly.
Which of your friends or colleagues tells the best jokes?
My friend [writer] J. R. Moehringer.
What do you do to clear your mind?
Walk, sometimes swim. Walk the dogs.