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09.16.09

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Phaedra

Todd Newberry

Ten Questions for Todd Newberry

The retired UCSC biology professor and author of 'The Ardent Birder: On the Craft of Birdwatching' explains his gratitude to LBJ and his aversion to waiting rooms.


What do you do for a living?
Retired after a long career in just one place (part of Cowell College's first faculty) teaching biology (mostly, unabashed natural history) at UCSC. But maybe you are asking me, how do I pay the bills now that I am out of a job? Thank you, FDR! Thank you, LBJ! Thank you, Mom and Dad! Thank you, patient counselors of good sense! Thank you, lucky stars!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing that?
I am sure I would have taught somewhere. But what if I were not to teach? I cannot imagine that.

What do you do in your free time?
In retirement, "free time" carries complicated and even ominous nuances. In his own old age, my wife Louise's wise father used to warn of "the waiting room." I spend a lot of my time now making music, reading/writing, of course birdwatching, and avoiding the waiting room.

What brought you to Santa Cruz?
UCSC. What a grand idea! What a good try!

What's your favorite street?
Many streets, even Pacific Avenue, for a few early morning hours. After that the list shortens; by late afternoon, maybe Walnut between Chestnut and Center.

Name something you're excited about.
Publicly, Obama. He has scarcely begun. Privately, shaping notes into music and words into writing and peering into the actual lives of other creatures.

Name a pet peeve.
Easy! Nighttime cyclists riding invisibly without headlights.

What are you reading?
Novels: this past summer, stunned again by Anna Karenina and transported by Tom Jones; and year in and year out, Proust, over and over. And a steady onrush of essays.

What's the most important thing you've learned in the last three years?
That "the journey, not the arrival, matters."

Recent personal food trend?
Another easy one! Widower's take-out: from all over this wonderful town.

TODD NEWBERRY, author of 'The Ardent Birder,' leads 'Hike and Birding' forays at Natural Bridges State Beach this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19 and 20, at 7:30am; $30 (includes copy of the book). Info at www.bookshopsantacruz.com.


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