Another mensch from Nazareth, &c.


In the current NR, there is an excellent piece on Texas governor Rick Perry, by our Kevin Williamson (himself a Texan). I kind of wish he’d run for president. (Perry, I mean, but Kevin would be even better.) Where is people’s ambition? So many people who might run, aren’t. And that leaves the field open to candidates who would be C-list, at best. (I’m not really knocking them — I myself am more like Z-list.)

Some people say, “Well, Perry can’t run for president, because the country isn’t ready for another governor of Texas — another Texas governor as president.” I don’t know. Could be. In politics, you never know. I do know this: You gotta want it.

Bill Clinton did not have a glittering perch to run from: governor of Arkansas. The Bush campaign, in their desperation, ran an ad depicting Arkansas as a hellhole of failure. But, by golly, Clinton was determined to be president — and he willed himself into that position.

I’m not saying I admire such willfulness, but . . . whole lotta Republicans demurring this season.

As regular readers know, I grew up in southeastern Michigan — and, over the years, I have written about the agony of Detroit. Let me quote from this article, published last week: “The flight of middle-class African-Americans to the suburbs fueled an exodus that cut Detroit’s population 25% in the past decade to 713,777, according to Census Bureau data released Tuesday. That’s the city’s lowest population level since the 1910 census . . .”

When I was growing up, I heard about “white flight,” and how rotten it was: how racist, how damnable. I did not quite believe it. I figured that these were decent people, at least ordinary people, not wanting to live in a city where they had to be afraid. There is not only white flight, there is “black flight.” Are these ex-Detroiters racist too? It seems to me that people vote with their feet, whatever the color of those feet — and the feet aren’t necessarily racist.

I wonder, in light of recent developments: Can the white fleers of Detroit get an apology, for being tarred — for so many years, and so passionately — as racist?

A reader sent me a February 2010 article from the Wisconsin State Journalhere you go. It says that the highest-paid city employee in Madison is a bus driver: a Mr. Nelson, who in 2009 made $159,258. I thought of my great-grandfather, who operated a streetcar in Kalamazoo. When buses came in, he drove those. We could have been rich!

The article explains that the union contract “lets the most senior drivers who have the highest base salaries get first crack at overtime.” Ah, yes. I’m reminded of an old saying — one usually uttered with a cluck and a sigh: “The rich get richer.”

Not being totally unethical — only partly unethical — I don’t review my friends. But I’d like to mention something, here in Impromptus, about a recital given by Heidi Grant Murphy, the soprano, and her pianist husband, Kevin Murphy. This was on Friday, at Adelphi University in Long Island.

They performed a varied and appealing program, consisting of Debussy, Brahms, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, and spirituals. All of it was done at the usual Murphy level — very, very high. The Rachmaninoff songs were dizzying. But I’d like to say something in particular about the spirituals.

I grew up with recordings of Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, Leontyne Price, a few others. Then I heard, in assorted concert halls, Leontyne, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Kathleen Battle — all of them.

I don’t think I have ever been more moved than I was by HGM, Heidi Grant Murphy, this white girl from Bellingham, Wash. Spirituals, of course, belong to all Americans, and to all people. They are universal, transcendent, and immortal. I wish you had heard HGM sing “Give Me Jesus,” particularly. Thought I might lose it.

Anyway, I’ll be seeing you. (There’s another song!) And, before I go, I thought I’d say something — kind of pluggy — about the below-advertised book (speaking of plugs). Last week, a lady asked me to inscribe a copy to her father, for Father’s Day. That’s planning ahead! Maybe people will want copies for Mother’s Day first?



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