Lanny Budd, Hero for a Lifetime: a Pilgrimage to Juan-les-Pins

Lanny Budd lived somewhere on this hill .
Lanny Budd lived somewhere on this hill .

He’s been part of my life for more than fifty years – dashing, smart, generous and always on the side of the angels.  With him I wandered through most of the 20th Century in the company of critical figures including playwright George Bernard Shaw, powerful arms dealer Basil Zaharoff,  Adolph Hitler and his brilliant propaganda director Joseph Goebbels, Leon Blum, the first Socialist (and Jewish) Prime Minister of France and of course Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin, as well as the infamous “modern dance” pioneer Isadora Duncan, Chinese rebel leader Mao Tse Tung,and, among so many others,  Albert Einstein and of course, FDR, whom he served as a Secret Agent from before WWII to well after the war.

When we met, he was 13 and I a couple of years older and, much like the NYT’s Julie Salamon, my mom introduced us and from our first meeting I knew that I would love him forever.  His remarkable life revolved around his home base of Juan-les-Pins,  where he grew up, and to which he always returned.

The house was built on the top of a rise, some way back, from the sea. It was of pink stucco with pale blue shutters and a low roof of red tiles. It was in the Spanish style, built around a lovely court with a fountain and flowers; there Lanny played when the mistral was blowing, as it sometimes did for a week on end.

Last week we went there, where Lanny  lived, with Beauty Budd, his artist model mother.  Though she and his father Robbie Budd, a New England arms dealer, never married, Robbie visited often, struggling to transmit his conservative capitalism to a young man living in dire danger of corruption among artists, journalists, socialists, communists and wealthy ladies, many of them an earlier version of trophy wives.  Their fierce conversations were a wonderful window on the conflicts of those times.

Lanny is, of course, not real – at least not to everyone; he’s the hero of eleven novels written by the prolific Upton Sinclair (yes, he’s the one who wrote The Jungle) tracing world history between 1913 and 1949.   Best-sellers all when they appeared in the 40’s and early 50’s and translated into 16 languages in 20 countries, the books formed much of my political and historic perspective and I was hardly alone.

When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime, I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to Upton Sinclair’s novels. — George Bernard Shaw

As we walked through the village I turned to my ever-tolerant husband with a catch in my voice, said – surprising myself with the depth of my emotion “I’ve known him almost longer than I’ve known anyone except my family.”  He and the saga that surrounded him felt, in so many ways, just that real.

One of Lanny’s childhood friends, Silesian, and bitter of the deprivation caused by enormous war reparations after WWI, became a Nazi; another, British and liberal, a fighter pilot and socialist.  His first wife ended up hanging around with with the Nancy Astor and the pro-German “Cliveden Set.” My political perspectives and world view were formed through their eyes and conversations and the events they faced as allies and sometime adversaries.

The books, Lanny and the characters who moved in and out of his life were, for me – a very personal window on the horror and violence, courage and evil, glamour and idealism that was the first half of the 20th Century.

Oh, and of course, it being the South of France, the literary folks hung around there too.  We had lunch at Scott Fitzgerald’s “Villa Saint-Louis”, just down the hill from Lanny’s neighborhood and now the Hotel Belle Rives.

Belle Rive fitz patio
“With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Cannes and Nice) I’m happier than I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one’s life seems to be going well.” 
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, March 15, 1926, Juan-les-Pins (Plaque outside the hotel that was his home on the Riviera)

Clinton confidante Lanny Davis was named for Lanny Budd.  The late NBC News anchor John Chancellor once told me he wanted to be Lanny Budd.   At 15, I wanted to marry him.  Even more though, I wish I could have gone up the hill to the pink villa, rung the bell and just thanked him for all I learned from him, how much more available I am to travel and political thought and my own role in the world because I’ve known him.  He may not be “real” but his impact on me, and so very many others, was profound and just plain wonderful.

Thanks Lanny, and Upton Sinclair, and my long-suffering husband who tolerated a pilgrimage to a place where not so much happened in the “real world” but plenty happened to me.

The Jews of Girona, Their Exile – and Bruce Springsteen (Seriously)

Girona refl 2 fix

This is Girona, home to a large, prosperous, and effective Jewish community until a confluence of events took it all away.

In a single year, two historic moments changed western history and Jewish history, too.  It was 1492.  The very Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, partners in a marriage made to consolidate power, threw all the Jews out of Spain.  Immediately.  Convert or get out.

At the same time, of course, these same “Catholic Kings” sent Christopher Columbus on his way to the “new world” and forever changed faith, power and geopolitics.

The Jewish History Museum of Girona beautifully documents much of this story:

Two "JIDE" - Jewish figures from the 1050 "Creation Tapestry" and also seen here.
Two “JUDEI” – Jewish figures from the 1050 “Creation Tapestry”

The letters floating above these two little people say “JUDEI” – Jew.

Girona mikvah dating from 1465

This 14th Century mikvah was found only recently. How haunting, especially with the recent mikvah scandal, to see before us evidence of how long women have honored this commitment.

Words from a tombstone (see next picture)
Words from a tombstone (see next picture)

For some reason, this just felt extra sad.  There are so many little boys in my life – and some big ones – so maybe that’s part of it.  Beyond that though, the humanness and loss felt so real, and the suffering of those times so much more concrete as I absorbed the words of this one grieving parent.

But what, you may ask, does any of this have to do with Bruce Springsteen?  Well, as I entered the lovely museum gift shop, attended by this equally lovely gentleman, I heard Bruce on the radio. Gradually, I realized that he was singing My Hometown. 2015-06-23 11.32.28

BRUCE My Hometown

Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to your hometown  

Last night me and Kate we laid in bed Talking about getting out
Packing up our bags maybe heading south
I’m thirty-five we got a boy of our own now
Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said son take a good look around
This is your hometown

Exile and loss, pain and deprivation can be understood on so many levels. Just as the Jews were brutally ejected from the homes and community they had so painstakingly built, so were workers throughout this country as the factories and mines and mills that had sustained them for so long collapsed. Although on a different scale, they too lost everything they knew and the life they had loved, and were forced to find another, unknown place to call home. Although less brutally required to depart, they had no choice, really.

Loss of home, love, family and community is a hardship experienced by more and more people throughout the world. Hunger, terrorism, civil war, drought, economic collapse and religious, gender and racial discrimination hurt in different ways and to different degrees, but the pain is the same in nature if not in degree. The only thing that changes is the faith, or class, or color of the refugees.  We still certainly don’t seem to have learned to care much more today when it happens to people who aren’t us.

Battles and Bougainvillea in the South of France

Maquis of the French Resistance

There’s lots of history around here – spread out among the beauty that distracts from most of it.  For the second time, today in the village of Borme Les Mimosas, the flowers overwhelm.  Borme wins the best in show award for the region regularly and it’s not hard to see why.   But before I share the loveliness, here’s a cool fact: the WWII resistance fighters known as Maquis got their nickname from the dark green plants and shrubs that covered huge swaths of ground and offered perfect hiding places – so perfect that the brave men and women they sheltered came to share the name.

War history haunts the fields and French villages crammed with memorials and statues, villages also overflowing with flowers, climbing the walls, overtaking public walkways and making very turn in the tiny streets a wonderful new surprise.

So for the second and probably the last time, here are the award-winning blooms.  This time: the flowers of Borme des Mimosas.

Multicolored Bloomd og Borme
Multicolored Blooms of Borme
Bourn purple red
Borme purple and red
Bourn flower petals
Flower petals fill a tiny square
Bourn Bougenvillia path
Borme’s purple pathway
Bourn covered passage
Flower-decked covered passageway

How’s that for a treat and a break from all the awfulness that seems to haunt us lately.  Whoever urged us to stop and smell the roses – well. . .



Hyeres, France
Hyeres, France

Flowers are a big part of the beauty of the Mediterranean. Since the constant activity of this trip has kept me from posting every day, here’s a non-verbal look at some of what grows around here.

STR Ft Grimaud beauty flowers
Fort Grimaud, France
Eze, France
Aix-en-Provence, France
Rome - at the Forum
Rome – at the Forum
Bonifacio corsia
Bonifacio, Corsica

See what I mean? More “real” posts soon.


Barcelona and The Spanish Civil War Revealed

The militias need us!
The militias need us!

This poster recruiting women to join and support the anti-fascist militias was just one of the remarkable graphics and photographs shared during this tour of civil war history in Barcelona.

The tour’s guide, Nick Lloyd offered a passionate, rich, information-crammed account of the war and the complicated situation that preceded and followed it.  The topic is thrilling, but it’s the teacher – the guide – who makes it real – and he does just that.

B Nick 2
Spanish Civil War guru Nick Lloyd delivers his lessons and brings clients to the edge of their “seats” — actually, feet….

The stories are stunning. The first: the International Brigades from all over the world who came to help, including the Abraham Lincoln Battalion – the first integrated US military force,  the second, the alliance among the police, the workers and the community – anarchists, communists, socialists, liberals – all trying to stop the viciousness that was the emerging Fascist machine.  The next, individual courage demonstrated among so many under cruel, sadistic conditions.

The women, of course, did find a place in the movement.  This first poster is the emblem of the Anarchist women in Spain.  The second, was for the “people’s Olympics” conducted in protest of the “real” 1936 games in Nazi Germany.  Young people came from everywhere for the event and many remained to support the struggle to sustain democracy and keep the Fascists at bay.  And the third – a shattering portrait of American “Negro” contributions to Spain’s struggle.

B Women Anarchists poster

B peoples olympics

B NEGRO donors to civil war

Very few stories combine romance, politics, evil, idealism, danger and courage as well as those surrounding the Spanish Civil War. Some of the stories were so moving they were hard to bear. To the people of Barcelona, they are still real, and tangible and tough to hear and recall. For the rest of us, they bring pain and inspiration and sadness at how often similar tragedies have entered our history.  And never seem to have taught anything to those who came after.

Harbors, Cathedrals, Markets and Lavendar UPDATED

AIZ Marseille boats and cathedral
Harborside view of Marseilles and her cathedral

Marseille was a funky town once. Now it’s got a shiny harbor, some beautiful museums and broad vistas, a hugely diverse population and close to a million tourists per year – up from the 20,000 it claimed when we were there in the 1980’s.

On arrival we went almost at once to nearby Aix-en-Provence, and  its markets, lavender shops, cathedrals and history. (Even aerosol olive oil – see second pic.)   AIX Market


2015-06-14 10.56.02The wars are here too, as they always are in Europe – today in memory plaques for the “martyr’s of the Resistance.”  The story of those real participants is scary and moving and true.  There’s also a memorial to those who helped to liberate Aix.

AIX Resistance martyrs AIX WWII martyrs 1

It was really hot in Marseilles so we took this tiny train on a one-hour circle up to the Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde and back.
2015-06-14 15.33.44

And on the way, one more reminder of the continued ghost of WWII here – this tank was part of the liberation of Marseille and sits on a triangle of land among apartments and houses and a plain residential neighborhood. History doesn’t have to repeat itself – it’s still here.
AIX tank cropped

Really Pretty Piece of History: Fortifications and Flowers

STR Ft Grimaud beauty flowers

It was all about the fortifications back then.  This lovely walkway in Fort Grimaud has existed for centuries.  It’s part of the walled village of Fort Grimaud about half an hour outside St. Tropez.

No major earthshaking moments today but still lovely and intriguing, reinforcing the reality that being safe, enclosed and protected – keeping marauders or warriors or other bad guys at bay – that was the bottom line.

As we made our way back to the ship, the Romany (gypsies to many) were out in force – this is just one of the parking lots we passed – jammed with their trailers, laundry trailers, cooking trailers and more.  Our guide kept telling us how everyone had to “watch their wallets.”  These folks have a pretty bad reputation across Europe as pickpockets and other mischief makers.

STR Ft Grimaud WWI memorial STR De Gaulle proc

Fort Grimaud also recalled this: s in the rest of Europe, the World Wars are central to the soul of so many still – all these years later. These two – a monument to those in this small town who died in World War I and a 1940 declaration of peril from French General Charles de Gaulle in 1940 ,the year war once again descended on his country.  London to Lithuania to France – these wars haunt memory and remind residents of fear, and death, and loss.

Lorenzo and Gerard






Then there are these — we were the first customers for Lorenzo and Gerard in their new shop – gorgeous earrings for me!  AND then lunch with some new friends and the best salad (with extra summer tomatoes) ever…..

How Pizza Margharita Got It’s Name PLUS Enchanting Dolceacqua

DA BRIDGE SIGN 5 That’s the Castello at Dolceacqua, alongside Claude Monet’s wonderful portrayal of it.  It stands at the start of the stone pathway that crosses the bridge and leads into this ancient, wonderful beehive where, since the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries people have lived, shopped and tolerated the tourists.


It’s a quiet, special treasure, a bit mysterious, mixing the distant past with today, and far more fun and exciting for us because we hadn’t expected much at all from this trip designed to get us out of the shopping center that is San Remo.

GIUSIANA 1NOW – about that Pizza Margharita.  Our wonderful guide, Giusiana, as we passed a statue of “Regina Margharita” added yet another factor to her wonderful narrative.  WHAT is the reason the much beloved Pizza Margharita bears her name?  A baker created it in the colors of the Italian flag: tomato sauce for red, basil for green and mozzarella for white — and dedicated it to her in thanks for her just and creative role as the first woman ruler of Italy.

And there you have it – another brief, photo-heavy offering.  It’s late again – and it was a wonderful day.  I am reminded every day as we move from place to place of the value of travel – learning the narratives and dreams and history of other cultures and finding within them lessons for our own.


Done with Bonaparte: Portoferraio, Mark Knopfler and Napoleon

2015-06-11 09.41.29

This little fountain sits behind Napoleon’s “summer residence” in Elba, where he was exiled in disgrace after a horrific defeat — one Mark Knopfler described in his beautiful Done With Bonaparte.  Napoleon never lived here; this house outside Portoferraio Italy was not his home but was to be a summer retreat.  He fled Elba before he ever spent a night there.

The small island  also includes several other beach towns with lovely harbors.  There are also some lovely – and some weird, — sights.  I’ve added a few below.

Right now it’s really late; I’ve shared some of Knopfler’s lyrics from his meditation on the suffering of Napoleon’s soldiers in the defeat that cost their leader his command and position, and cost them far more:

We’ve paid in hell since Moscow burned
As Cossacks tear us piece by piece
Our dead are strewn a hundred leagues
Though death would be a sweet release
And our grande army is dressed in rags
A frozen starving beggar band
Like rats we steal each other’s scraps
Fall to fighting hand to hand

Save my soul from evil, Lord
And heal this soldier’s heart
I’ll trust in thee to keep me, Lord
I’m done with Bonaparte

I pray for her who prays for me
A safe return to my belle France
We prayed these wars would end all wars
In war we know is no romance
And I pray our child will never see
A little Corporal again
Point toward a foreign shore
Captivate the hearts of men

Save my soul from evil, Lord
And heal this soldier’s heart
I’ll trust in thee to keep me, Lord
I’m done with Bonaparte

2015-06-11 10.25.40
Everybody needs a Mussolini apron – buy one just outside Napoleon’s summer house!
2015-06-11 10.09.26
Old Portoferraio in oil
2015-06-11 11.18.43
The harbor in Porto Azzuro


Grazie Roma

arco with menorah fixed
Two very full days in Rome, jet lagged but determined. The Coliseum and the Forum captured our imagination in new ways as we learned more about the lives of early Romans, their gladiators and their rulers. Jewish slaves helped to build the deadly theater. The famous Arco di Tito – Arch of Titus – bears images of a menorah because along with those Jewish slaves, captured at the fall of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the conquering Romans brought treasure, including Jewish artifacts, and chose to represent them on Titus’ arch.


We did so much more but our first night on the Sojourn is almost upon us and we need to be up early to see Napoleon’s summer home.  Here are a few more pix of Rome.   ROME CHRISTMAS WINDOW ROME a shop


ROME bike skeleton 1

OH and Grazie Roma? It’s the best sports anthem ever, and the TODAY SHOW’s 1985 Rome week closed with Antonelo Venditti singing it, along with huge crowd of happy Rome residents, as we all celebrated on the Spanish Steps.