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AND THEN I'LL HELP REBUILD IT

In the early 1990s, Robert Waller was in the public eye fairly often. The Iowa native's novel, "The Bridges of Madison County," became a best-seller and, later, a movie. Waller has written many other words since then, but perhaps none quite so poignant as his statement last week after someone apparently set fire to the 119-year-old covered bridge that was the centerpiece of the story: "I have lost an old, dear friend with whom I spent many quiet hours." Now he's writing a check for $10,000 to reward anyone supplying information that will lead to convicting the culprit.

IMAGINE MY SURPRISE

Most journalists learn early in their careers not to become personally involved in the stories they cover. Then there's Lars Gustavsen, a reporter for the Ostlendingen newspaper in Elverum, Norway. He was assigned to a police chase when he stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. They were zipping along, having a pleasant chat, when 10 minutes later, Gustavsen had to stop at a roadblock. His passenger, who turned out to be the suspect in the case, was arrested on the spot. Said the reporter: "He looked like a normal guy."

Winner – and still champ: Big Apple is No. 1 US city

Despite the terrorist attacks of last Sept. 11, New York remains the most popular US city for nonresidents, according to the Harris Poll. "The city that never sleeps" has held the top spot since 1999. The research firm in July asked more than 1,000 adults nationwide where, other than their own hometowns, they'd choose to live. The top 10 answers (with last year's rank in parentheses):

1. New York (1)
2. San Francisco (2)
3. Seattle (4)
4. Orlando, Fla. (12)
5. Atlanta (9)
6. Denver (5)
(tie) Chicago (7)
8. San Diego (2)
9. Dallas (not ranked)
10. Los Angeles (11)
– PR Newswire

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