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"Bad News from a Black Coast"


Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 25, 2000

There are those who consider the little-known Moritz Thomsen one of the best American writers of the century. Washington Post Book World, 1996.

The very last time I visited Moritz Thomsen he was sitting in his grungy little house on the steamy banks of the Rio Esmeraldas, a half mile from where it emptied into the Pacific Ocean, reading aloud from a book that he was writing called Bad News from a Black Coast.

I already knew from his two earlier books that Moritzs style was one of caustic honesty and brutal self-introspection, but this sounded like his most potent stuff yet. Go, Moritz, I thought, this is what literature is all about! The twenty-some years he had spent, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer and then as a tropical dirt farmer, futilely trying to hack a living out of the jungle on the northwestern coast of Ecuador, had left him with few illusions.

"I always thought the world would make a bit of sense to me by the time I reached 70," he once told me, "but the worlds more screwed up and beyond my comprehension than it ever was."

I told him I hoped that this new book would soon be published. It was a book that needed to be published.

"Hah!" he snorted. "Theres not a chance of that. My agent cant even read!"

It was a typical Moritz statement: ironic, hopeless and downright hilarious. It was a stretch to imagine that this worn-out old man - this hermit in every sense of the word - who was crippled and likely dying from a host of jungle infections and fevers, not to mention his emphysema, even had an agent. But he did, and a well-known and respected New York agent, at that.

Moritz had gone broke as a Northern California pig farmer back in the early 1960s and at the age of 48 joined the Peace Corps, for the noble and idealistic reason that he had run out of options and didnt know what the hell else to do with his life. The Peace Corps, in spite of its lofty and idealistic notions, has long been a means of escape for Americas malcontents, and Moritz was not the first nor the last to take advantage of its prepackaged two year tour to the fringes of the third world.

Moritz had been born into a family of great wealth and comfort, but had long been estranged from his cold and domineering father, whom he seemed to hate with a gleeful vengeance. The Peace Corps proved to be the cathartic experience that he needed and once his term was up, there was no .....
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Cold talk on a cold day

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 25, 2000

Last Friday, the Fillmore County Board met in its last session of the year 2000. Although the agenda was light, even with sub-zero temperatures occurring outside the building, there was a lengthy discussion on a noisy ..... 
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MPCA erred in Reiland expansion

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 25, 2000

Fillmore County District Judge Robert Benson ruled on Friday, December 22, that the MPCA Citizens Board erred when it found that an Environmental Impact State-ment (EIS) was not necessary for the proposed Reiland Farm ..... 
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Election 2000:

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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One for the history booksBy Al MathisonMonday, November 13, 2000

Fillmore County voters turned out in large numbers last Tuesday, November 7. The auditors department reported that as of 7 a.m. on Election Day there were1 ..... 
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The Plight that Failed

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 25, 2000

I did not make any New Years Resolutions for this year. My wife told me the one that I made last year was enough to last her for a lifetime. It wasnt so much that she told me not to, it was the way that she made her ..... 
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The Gift of Life

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 18, 2000

When the phone rang at three a.m. last Monday morning, my husband Joe sat straight up out of a deep sleep, "Baby time," he said.

With one foot on the floor, he then heard me saying, "Yes, you can dry ginger a ..... 
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Educating a State

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 25, 2000

What are our educational problems? There is no such thing as a perfect school, but we can try to get as close as we can. Minnesota has many education problems in its system, some of which were addressed at an open for ..... 
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Simply to be trusted by a shy wild creature enhances one's self-respect. -Alexander Skutch

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, Decmber 25, 2000

Alexander Skutch is one of the great naturalists of our time. Almost seventy years ago, he went to Central America to study plants, but the tropical birds there quickly captured most of his attention. For ten years, he ..... 
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Bird Brains

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday,December 11, 2000

While some may beg to disagree, I believe most birds are smart, real smart. Far more intelligent, in fact, than science ever gives them credit for. Unlike many ornithologists (bird scientists) who evaluate avian though ..... 
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