Bob Collins' Twitter alter-ego is the grumpy old man from the movie "Up," a dolorous face scrunched in perpetual disapproval. If it fits the tone of some of his curmudgeon-tinted tweets, it's nothing like the cheerful fellow himself. He's also a sober newsman on MPR's "NewsCut" blog, where he writes about events all over Gopherland.
Ask him about Minnesota and you hear the enthusiasm of the transplant who likes it here -- a lot -- even though it hasn't quite lived up to his first impression. But really, nothing could.
"I came out in March of 1992 from Massachusetts, and it was still pretty snowy. They put me up in the St. Paul Hotel. I got up in the morning, looked outside and there was a fire truck full of guys in red costumes coming down the street, kinda wobbling. The truck took a left, clipped a Volvo, then they backed up and took off. I thought this is my kind of town.
"When I came out for the second interview, it was Final Four weekend, which was being held here in St. Paul. The skyways were full of people with red Indiana sweatshirts, there were people everywhere you looked -- and I thought this downtown St. Paul is a happening place! What a well-kept secret."
Once he learned that the streets were not always thronged with Vulcans and out-of-towners, was he resigned to constant disappointment? No.
"I love winter, and this is the best place to get it. I like St. Paul, the different architecture, the buzz of Minneapolis, and I like being able to drive and be in the country in 10 minutes. There are so many different places in this state, the geographic differences between Duluth and Pipestone, Redwood Falls, for example. One of the first things people find themselves doing when they move from the east, they find things that remind them of back home -- they go to Duluth to remind them of the ocean. I did that, and I kick myself for that because it took a while to see what Minnesota is, not turn it into pieces of other places."
Of course, we're a fine place for outdoor hobbies -- and Bob has a rather conclusive definition of "outdoors":
"I'm building a plane. Home-built airplanes, Minnesota is really one of the hotbeds for home-built airplanes.
"I started the plane in '01. I delivered newspapers while I was working at MPR to make enough money to buy the kit. It's still not done. I might be done this year. I originally started building it because I thought my two kids would go to college back east, I could fly to visit them -- but now they're died-in-the-wool Minnesotans living in the suburbs!"
What would you change?
"I wouldn't change a thing about winter. I would have a bus that leaves Woodbury after 8 o'clock in the morning to take me to work, if that's not too much. But really, it's a great place, and I can't think of anything I'd change. Except fix a few more potholes."