or New York City can survive the nextrnfew months. These decisions rest withrnan authority much higher than the mayorrnof New York.rnHerbert I. London is John M. OlinrnProfessor of Humanities at New YorkrnUniversity and was the ConservativernParty candidate for governor ofrnNew York in 1990.rnLetter From thernLower RightrnJohn Shelton ReedrnThe Mississippi Hippies andrnOther Denizens of the Deeprn(South)rnJanuar’ in Jackson—well, it wasn’t Aprilrnin Paris, but it had its pleasures, amongrnthem the chance to compare the MagnoliarnState to the more northerly Southrn1 knov’ better. I was lecturing at MillsapsrnCollege, staying in a nearby motel with arnview from m’ window of the quaint littlernobservatory that figures in the delightful,rnmade-in-]ackson movie Miss Firecracker.rnMillsaps is a small college with a goodrnfacultv, so its students may get worked arnlittle harder than average, but campusrnlife seems to be pretty much standardissuernSouthern collegiate: “Inez-burgers”rnand beer at the student hangout, “meanbadboogie”rnby a group called the MississippirnHippies, and so forth. The onlyrnthing that struck me as odd about Millsapsrnwas its emphasis on security: therncollege is a heavily patrolled, fencedrncompound with only two entrances,rnboth guarded after 6:00 P.M. Turns outrnthere’s a reason for that.rnAs the state capital, Jackson has pickedrnup some of the accoutrements of yuppiedomrn—fern bars, fitness centers, evenrna bookstore good enough to stock myrnbooks. But these amenities coexist withrnconcentrated poverty of a sort thatrnyou’ve got to get pretty far off the Interstatesrnto hnd in North Carolina theserndays. Jackson’s the first place outsidernthe Third Wodd, for instance, where I’vernseen cigarettes routinely sold one at arntime. Within sight of its downtown officernbuildings are blocks of squalid shotgunrnhouses adjoining old Farrish Street.rnNow that the black middle class hasrnmoved to the outskirts of town and patronizesrnthe same malls as everyone else,rnthe once-vibrant commercial district ofrnNegro Jackson has become a shuttered,rngraffiti-scarred wasteland. Take thisrnresidual poverty, add the crack scourgernamply documented on local televisionrnnews shows, stir in some pockets of relativernaffluence like Millsaps, and you’verngot the ingredients for a serious crimernproblem. Razor wire sales are obviouslyrnbooming, and burglar alarm systems andrnprivate security patrols seem to be increasinglyrnordinary expenses of middleclassrnlife. Of course, Jackson’s notrnunique in this respect (we had a drive-byrnshooting a half-block from my house inrnChapel Hill last April), it’s just that therncontrasts are starker than I’m used to.rnMost of the city’s problems, includingrnthis one, are tied in one way or anotherrnwith race, so it should be said on therncity’s behalf that relations between blackrnand white folk strike a visitor as relativelyrnamicable. My racial animosity sensorsrnare in pretty good working order and I’verndetected more —^both ways—in somernsingle days in New York City than in arnwhole month in Jackson, 1993. Blackrnand white Jacksonians alike were uniformlyrnciil and usually more than thatrnto me and, as far as I could see, to eachrnother. A very important contributingrnfactor has to be that the spokesmen forrnthe black community (at least the ones Irnencountered) are serious, sober, and constructive.rnOne Jackson image that will stick withrnme is that of a disconcerting “ghostrnmall” not far from the college, abandonedrnwhen the surrounding residentialrndistricts changed their demographicrncomplexion. Next to it was a billboardrnoffering the Virgin Mary’s 800 number inrnBavside, Queens. (For some reason, thernpoorer sections of Jackson were blanketedrnwith these signs. The local Catholicrnbishop took to the pages of the Clarion-rnLedger to deny any connection betweenrnhis diocese and this enterprise.) Acrossrnthe street, in a security-gated hole-inthe-rnwall, you can find Tony’s Tamales,rnwhich I recommend. Tamales have longrnbeen traditional fare for black Mississippians,rnalthough no one has ever beenrnable to tell me why.rnTamales aside, I figured culinary Jacksonrnwould be typicall)’ Southern: a meatrnand three vegetable plate-lunch townrnwith an oerlay of all-Ameriean fast foodrnand a few pretentious expense-accountrnjoints where waiters tote big pepper mills.rnI don’t have to go to Mississippi for anyrnof that, so I figured I’d eat Special K forrna month, save some money, and lose thernweight I gained over Christmas. But Irnunderestimated both the hospitality ofrnJacksonians and the quality of the restaurantsrnthey’d take me to.rnJackson does have good country cookingrn(try the restaurant at the Farmers’rnMarket). Midway between Memphisrnand New Orleans, it also has good ribsrnand passable muffeletas. But my favoriternrestaurant—and not just because I wentrnthere with Eudora Welty—has a sign outrnfront that says “Bill’s Burgers, God BlessrnAmerica.” In typical Mississippi fashion,rnits owner isn’t named Bill and itsrnspecialty is seafood. Jackson’s proximityrnto the Gulf means it has at least a halfdozenrnfine fish places, most of them runrnby Greeks like “Bill.” The Mayflower isrnanother, downtown near the capitol; arnJackson fixture for decades, it is run by arncouple from Patmos.rnOne weekend I took a leisurely drivernup through the Delta to Memphis. Thisrnrich bottomland between the Yazoo andrnMississippi rivers is the subject of myrnfriend Jim Cobb’s fine new book, I’hernMost Southern Place on Earth, and byrnsome criteria it may be that. Certainly itrnoffers the largest concentration of ruralrnblack poverty in the United States, as itrnhas for over a hundred years, and the recentrnintroduction of large-scale commercialrncatfish farming hasn’t donernmuch to change that. I once made funrnof V.S. Naipaul’s book on the South forrnoverusing the “one could have been in”rngimmick, but with the semitropieal landscapernflat to the mistv horizon, thernramshackle recycling of building materials,rnthe gormless decoration with primaryrncolors—well, one could have beenrnin Nigeria.rnThe Delta has been fertile in so manyrnways. Even its place names are rich in associations,rnfew of them happy, and itrnhas exported its children by the scoresrnof thousands. My route took me first tornYazoo City, home of Willie Morris andrnJerry Glower and lately both Clinton’srnSeeretarv of Agriculture and the newrnchairman of the Republican NationalrnCommittee. On to Indianola, home ofrnB.B. King and the White Citizens Council.rnPast Parchman, the notorious staternprison immortalized in a Mose Allisonrnlyric (“Sittin’ over here on ParchmanrnFarm / 1 never did no man no harm /rnJULY 1993/47rnrnrn