• “Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote eminent American poet Robert Frost in his “Mending Wall.” I recollect several mealtimes with Robert Frost sitting at our dining table in Eliot House at Harvard, a House that was his residence for a whole school year. The stone fences in New England came from farmers clearing their land and putting stones along the borderlines. If a careless farmer plowed across a mending wall of stones it surely could break his plow, and that fact would be a good reminder.
If I were to begin to recollect all that is worthy coming from the instillation of Barack Obama in our White House, I think I would be rewriting “Much Ado About Nothing.” Imaginary borders in our minds help us divide our thoughts into useful consequence, as fences or walls separate our lands from those of our neighbors. Globalization has made us more vulnerable. It creates a world without borders and makes us aware of the limitations of our present politics to meet its challenges. When President Obama’s spoke in campaign speeches about “fundamentally transforming” America, I experienced a cold shudder. People who wish to change our Constitution fundamentally (something which was never dared by Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and the rest of the Founders) are not hesitant about plunging us into their brand of chaos. America will always use its Constitution, which allows for changes through the ages and has provided for them by amendments that can add material without altering the original. Mr. President, you are the one who extended the invitation to the thousands of youngsters who are now invading our U.S. borders — some of whom may, perhaps, be members of drug cartels and even may be carriers of dangerous diseases. Then you simply walked away from them, and the problem. Are you going personally to send them back home or are you going to provide them, at our expense, with housing, schooling, health care, and jobs, that will carry them far into the foreseeable future as U.S. citizens — and make all those good things scarcer for us present-day Americans? Nations are defined by three important entities: culture, language and borders. We are fast losing all three.
• Musical reprieve: At the beginning of the opera season at the Metropolitan, there is usually much dissention during the ironing out of union contracts. I feel that I should remind all concerned that opera is a very expensive luxury. There will be Grand opera in New York only as long as the combination of endowment, expensive ticket prices and sold-out seats in the house continue to exist. In New York City, the City Opera folded not long ago. Now the Met is in financial trouble, and has 15 unions to deal with! This commentator was a member of American Guild of Musical Artists for many years, and wishes the best for all the workers who depend on their jobs in the unions that combine to make opera possible. All this activity has not stopped ticket selling however, at least for now. (My prediction is that the ultimate solution will be: in-home paid TV opera transmissions nationwide from the Met.)
• My good neighbor and his family are in Natchez, Miss., this week visiting the historic homes there. He’s an architect so he is probably richly rewarded. He just called to say that now he’s headed to New Orleans for some fine dining. I suggested Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, and Arnaud’s. The last time I dined in the 1812 Room of Antoine’s was after an opera I had just sung with Eleanor Steber and Leonard Warren. Singers usually eat sparingly before a performance and make up for it generously afterwards. New Orleans is the ideal place to do it. For a rousing musical dessert, go to Royal Street and enjoy a Dixieland Band.
• Every fall, my Winter Park High School pals and I used to line up on the Park Avenue sidewalks to assess the new strolling crop of Rollins College co-ed freshmen. We were very discerning but lenient in our criticism.
• This morning b.w. smiled as she read to me from the Observer that Winter Park taxes are not going to be raised. This is the second time she has smiled in the 34 years since we got hitched.