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The Twin Cities

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The philosopher John Stuart Mill claimed that our western civilization was in a pickle because it had one foot in Athens and the other in Jerusalem. I give you a case in point: Minnesota's twin cities. There's St. Paul, with a Christian name, and across the river, Minneapolis, with an Indian name turned Greek. Twin Cities indeed. There they sit across from each other in Minnesota, at the head of navigation on the Mississippi River, glowering. They're not identical twins. They're not even fraternal twins; fraternal twins speak to each other.

There's St. Paul, the queenly port city, built by the steamboat trade from the south. The steamboats are still there in spirit, along with Southern grace and charm that came with the boats. The ornate domes of the basilica and the Minnesota state capitol, and the grand old Victorian homes along Summit Avenue watch over the meandering river below the bluffs.

Nothing in Minneapolis ever meanders. Even the Mississippi has been locked and dammed to get work done. Minneapolis turned away from steamboats and sent railroads out in every direction. Minneapolis is flour mills and banks and tall glass office buildings.

These feuding twins have put all of Minnesota in a pickle. Even the smallest village out on the prairie is divided. The St. Paulites, the upper crust, live removed from main street behind rows of evergreens, and flock to St. Paul each year to see the king and queen of the Winter Carnival crowned in front of the immense palace made out of crystal blocks of ice. Minneapolitans, on the other hand, those who run the Dairy Queens, sell insurance or real estate, and make up the junior chamber of commerce, are too busy with high school basketball to take a winter break. They wait until summer to attend the Minneapolis Aquatennial parades and canoe races.

If it weren't for all that snow in Minnesota keeping a lid on emotions, the whole state might end up in civil war, led by Minneapolis and St. Paul, and become two states: Minne and Sota.

We Illinoisans are much more civilized—or at least more united. Outside of Cook County, none of us can stand Chicago.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.