Sunday, July 02, 2017



I don't know anyone outside of Wisconsin who identified Paul Ryan as the national danger he is before I did. Really. Long before Paul Krugman ever mentioned Ryan, DWT was already turning up the volume on the alarm signal. He was chosen as the fresh face of an old evil. We knew we had to help stop him. The DCCC and the rest of the venal DC Democratic establishment didn't agree... and enabled him. Blue America has been working for almost a decade-- sometimes with others, sometimes all alone-- trying to recruit a candidate to beat Ryan in his swing district that Pelosi's DCCC had declared "off the table." This year we hit pay-dirt: Randy Bryce, a salt-of-the-earth, independent-minded, values-rich iron worker and union and veterans activist who worked for Bernie's election in the 2016 primary. When Randy officially announced, just 2 weeks ago, he had already put together the best team in the political business-- as evidenced in that announcement video that took the country by storm.

When Randy announced, he had 7,000 twitter followers. Last night he went over 100,000. In just 11 days he seems to have broken all fundraising records-- in terms of the number of small, grassroots donors-- who have ever contributed to a congressional campaign. Yeah-- June was going to be a good month for me. And I was spending it in one of my favorite cities in the world: Paris. (I just got back a couple days ago.)

I visited Paris for the first time in 1969, fresh out of college-- and on my way to India overland. I had bought myself a brand new VW camper at the factory in Germany with my last dollars from my college marijuana business and I was off to places unknown-- after visiting Paris and London. When I got back from 2 years in Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, I settled down in Amsterdam for, as it turned out, 4 years. I got a job in the meditation center, the Kosmos. I ran their macrobiotic restaurant and taught darkroom techniques as a form of meditation. It was a good life. One of my closest friends-- the only friend I had who would speak English with me-- was a very beautiful, very talented, very sympathetic young woman named Eveline Pommier. I still had the van and we would drive to Paris frequently to visit her parents (and Paris). Eveline's dad was French and her mother Dutch. Her mother, Hilda Pommier, and I bonded probably around 1974. I was still in my 20's, just a kid, and she introduced me to French artistic and intellectual life. In the years since-- over 4 decades-- I never went to Paris for anything-- mostly business trips, as my company had an important French affiliate I loved to visit-- without stopping to visit Hilda... until this trip.

Eveline, a painter still in her 20's, did the overland-to-India trip in the 70's. She caught cholera and died... alone... in India. She was Hilda's only child. I don't think Hilda ever fully recovered. Could anyone? Hilda was a painter as well but she had some fame in Europe for another reason. Born in 1922, when she was in her early 20's, Holland was occupied and brutalized by the Nazis. She and her two brothers, in what became a famous incident, blew up a Nazi troop train. After the war she was named a hero of the Netherlands and given a pension for life. In the last years, that pension had been paying for her to stay in a retirement home in Amsterdam. That's why I didn't see her when I was in Paris last month. She was in Holland. I used to love her apartment in Paris, where I stayed so many times. And her wonderful and wondrous atelier that I always loved visiting. They're gone.

Paris was wonderful for me this summer. I rented a 3 story home-- an old abbey older than the U.S.-- in Montmartre, from a writer who is residing in Pondicherry (a former French colony south of Goa in India) right now. The house has paintings and other art works on every wall and more bookshelves and books than I've ever seen outside of a public library. The vibe in the house... pure writer vibe. The house even has a yoga studio in it, and my office, where I sat and wrote when I wasn't out exploring Paris, was on the third floor that looked out onto a large quiet veranda with a gorgeous hanging garden, home to countless wild birds who hung out there everyday. And I thought about Hilda a lot and being in Paris and not seeing her. I thought about cobbling together a quick side trip to Amsterdam to see my friend Willy's art exhibit open and visit with friends... and see Hilda. She's 95 and fragile and I knew I wouldn't have many more opportunities to see her and hear her stories. But Willy's art exhibit wasn't opening 'til the day I had to be back in L.A., and my best friend in Amsterdam-- Toon, Eveline's former boyfriend-- was going to be spending June in Albania. And Roland wanted to visit the beaches and cemeteries of Normandy. So... I never did get to Amsterdam on this trip.

Wednesday Toon e-mail me that Hilda had passed away, peacefully in her bed. She blew up a Nazi troop train when she was 23 years old. I don't know anyone else who ever did that. THAT'S Resistance-- a 23 year old Dutch girl and her 2 brothers going out into the country with a plan... and pulling it off. I hope it never comes to that here. Oh, I really, really do. Please, God, don't let it come to that here.

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At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

I saw Hilda when I was in Amsterdam three years ago when we were walking around with Toon and Mieke. She was being pushed in a wheelchair by her niece, Charlotte, who it turned out had been on that pirate radio ship that played music. Courage must be in the family's genes. I cried, sobbed even, when I saw Hilda, thinking of that summer when Howie and I went to Paris with Toon and Eveline and the sadness of her death in India.

So glad you went to Paris, Howie. So sorry I missed this trip.

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to say that it will almost certainly come to that here. It may even come to that in the EU.
When a society gets this bad, it never seems to recover without outside intervention, total collapse or massive violent resistance. And a third of americans are so evil and have that insatiable lust for power that they can't be "fixed" without it.

May she rest in peace. I'm glad she won't have to see this all happen again.

At 7:35 AM, Blogger M. Angela said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I'm sorry for your loss.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a sad loss. I guess we should remember that, even in the midst of terrible things, it matters what you do with your life, and it touches other people if we do the right things.


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