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Ballerina Clown by Jonathan Borofsky, Venice, California

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another."

     -- Anatole France 

One of our greatest fears about moving to Paris was that we’d miss our family and friends too much.

But almost no week goes by when a friend or family member doesn’t visit. And the best part is that we see them while they’re in a state of relaxed enjoyment, giddy from the beauty of this city, even while jet-lagged.

This week, Chris and Alice, friends from Los Angeles were here. He was on his way to Lyons to teach a three-day class in myth and film. She was in the midst of real estate business by phone and computer even while staying in Paris several days.


Downtown Playa del Rey, California

No one is a better source than Alice for what’s happening on the ground in our last hometown. She was once a writer, and brings a writerly sensibility to understanding character and people’s domestic desires and dramas.

When Richard and I taught myth in L.A. and beyond, in discussing the Greek gods and goddesses and their various realms, we’d always emphasize that genius, one’s daemon, is not just a description of artistic originality. Genius can be found in any field. And as we discovered in working with Alice on the huge challenge of selling our house in Playa del Rey at the very bottom of the real estate market, genius can and does shine in real estate brokers, too.


Venice canals

Richard and I each lived several lives (he six years and I four) in Los Angeles before meeting each other. We met in 1994 (the year of the great earthquake) when we lived within several blocks of each other in Venice. For that and other reasons, Venice is my favorite spot in L.A.

It’s where I lived in the ‘70s after crewing on a schooner and crossing the Pacific from Honolulu to Marina del Rey. It’s where the crew hung out with Ken Kesey and his gang of wild women and men.

It’s where I used to go when I’d come to L.A. in the ‘80s as a traveling art dealer.

It’s where I lived when I moved from Santa Fe to Los Angeles in 1990.

It’s where I experienced the Malibu fires in the distance, and the L.A. riots closer at hand in 1992.

After meeting Richard, it’s where we bought a fourplex and lived from 1995 to 2001.

It’s where we became close friends with Jane and Alex Eliot and so many other friends of a lifetime.


Sumo tournament, Venice Beach

It’s Gold’s gym, the beach, the boardwalk and the Rose Café, where we helped run a poetry series in the late ‘90s. It’s where we met most of the poets in L.A. and many from around the country, too.

It’s where we lived when we both went back to Antioch University, L.A., for graduate degrees in writing.

And it’s the place we left in 2001 to buy our dream house in Playa del Rey.


View from our former house, Playa del Rey

Richard and I loved that house, but we discovered that it changed our lives from living in a beach town where you could walk to almost everything, to one where you had to drive to get almost everywhere. And that made a huge difference in our lives.

When we decided finally to move to Paris, the market decided to stop us. The house was on the market, then off, on the market, then off, as home values plummeted and fear reigned. We wondered if we’d ever sell the house. 

Enter Alice.

She began with a stern talk on being realistic about the price. We listened to her, and adjusted it accordingly.

Then came the painful part. Feng shui! She Feng shuied our house, every corner of it, and began to stage it so other people could come in and imagine themselves there.



She began by taking my most precious piece of art, a stylized papier-mâché cross made of antique leather book covers that my sister Jane had made me as an Antioch graduation present, and placed it at the top of the inside stairway. I had my own strong reasons for its placement elsewhere, but Alice was intransigent. Then she took my favorite brilliant-colored Indian rug, a gift from my parents, out from under the dining room table and positioned it in the entrance hall. The first thing you saw on entering the house was a joyful splash of color on the wooden floor and at the top of the stairs.

She added mirrors, pillows, rugs, shifted paintings around—it took all evening. Richard went to sleep nauseated, and I did too. I know a thing or two about creating an inviting home (you would, too, if you had my mother).

But in the morning, I saw what Alice had done. Genius! We had looked for years for the right piece of art for the top of the stairs and Alice saw immediately that we already had it.

It was amazing how, even representing both buyer and seller, she managed to dissolve every single obstacle that came up in the final negotiations with the right buyer. And there were considerable obstacles. At one point, when we’d packed up most of the house and were essentially living out of just the master bedroom and kitchen (boxes were piled high everywhere else), with some of our possessions already on the way to Paris, an inspection revealed that the entire master bedroom oak floor would have to be removed so that two beams holding up the second floor balcony just outside the bedroom could be repaired. (Termite damage.)

Alice got several other contractors’ opinions, and found one who had an ingenious method of ridding the beams of termites without tearing half the house apart.

There were numerous such examples. She kept her cool when Buyer was balking, and calmed us when it looked like we were not going to be able to move to Paris after all.

Now, here in Paris, over salmon and lamb and Côtes du Rhône in our favorite bistro, we learned from Alice and Chris that Venice is booming. Stretch limos prowl Abbott Kinney. Robert Downey, Jr. bought a loft on Abbott Kinney for eight million dollars, I think Alice said.

Rose Avenue, right adjacent to where we used to live on Fifth Avenue, has turned into the next Abbott Kinney, with shops and chichi restaurants.



The movie producer Joel Silver just bought the charming 1939 post office building on Windward Circle with the murals of Venice and Abbott Kinney himself. Last November, Google moved into the Frank Gehry-designed "binocular building" on Main Street, directly across from Richard's old duplex. While we HATE the name, the three-mile strip from Santa Monica to the tip of the Marina del Rey peninsula is home to so many tech start-ups that the industry (and press) has dubbed it Silicon Beach.


Parc Monceau, Paris

It is wonderful to spend time with a couple who love each other and are full of news about so many things that interest us. But that night I lay in bed wondering if we should have sold our fourplex in Venice. Wouldn’t it have been great to have a pied-a-terre there? I mentioned it to Richard at breakfast. He reminded me that we wouldn’t have moved to Paris if we’d kept that place. I know, I know.

One thing has to die for another to be born. And in spite of realizing how deeply American we are, how the U.S. will always be our country, our favorite city in the world is Paris, and we did not make a mistake in moving here.  As Gertrude Stein put it, "America is my country. Paris is my home town."



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Reader Comments (26)

LOVED this Kaaren!

Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 18:27 | Unregistered CommenterElena Karina Byrne

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~C. S. Lewis

I always read your posts, even if I do not comment. I really enjoy sharing these transcendent moments with you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 19:35 | Unregistered CommenterChris Ernest Nelson

Lovely. You two continue to be an inspiration!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 20:03 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

Oh how I loved this story! And what an incredible view from your former home !

Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 23:34 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy


We LOVE hearing this and are so grateful.


Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 0:34 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Chris,

I'm going to be thinking of this C.S. Lewis quote tomorrow at breakfast as I crack three eggs. Thank you.

And for enjoying these photo-essays, whether or not you comment, a big thank you.

And for letting us know, a HUGE thank you.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 0:47 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Connie,

Thank you! It makes us happy to give you a bit of inspiration.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 0:50 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

What tranquility. I envy you. This election has my stomach in knots. It's impossible for me to believe Romney is neck and neck with Obama. Obama used a wonderful phrase (actually a sentence) in a recent interview: "I have made mistakes but my compass is true." I can't calm the anger I feel when all these dunces bring their religious righteousness to the table and try to destroy women's equality. Their position on abortion is nothing short of savage and cruel. The latest is that abortion should be forbidden even in rape cases because it's God's will. Revolting.

Well, now that I've vented a bit on to more mundane things. Who was the guy who got rid of the termites in your beams without upending the whole house? Termites love our beams and we'd love to get rid of them without tearing everything apart.

As always, we adore your tales of Paris. Ruth & Bill

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 0:54 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Lansford

Your posts are art thrown to the wind. Sometimes I gasp as they fly by.

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 4:14 | Unregistered CommenterTristine

Dear Ruth & Bill,

I so agree with you about the savaging of women's rights that the Republicans seem bent on enacting. For us this election is a referendum on values: noble ones (where the compass is true) or shameful ones that stretch back to the founding of our country and the injustice and bigotry that were inflicted on Native Americans and blacks, and continue to this day, against women and gays as well. I thought the country was finally healing in the election of 2008. But the counter-surge is so reactionary, so ignorant, that I wonder. This election will tell us much, won't it.

We will ask Alice to answer your question about the contractor when she returns from Lyon. The right contractor is a joy indeed.

Thank you so much, Ruth and Bill. We love your comments.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 16:46 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Tristine,

That is our humble wish, that these posts deserve the name of art. We do know that they contain a huge amount of love.

Thank you so much.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 16:48 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

What a lovely piece.

And it was so good to find about your whereabouts in your missing years.

I am so happy for you both.

Love ya,


Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 16:50 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Moody

Dear Bruce,

Thank you!

We did lose touch with each other for a few years, but what's a little time between friends? And then, it's good to catch up on each other's adventures once we're back in touch.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 17:04 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

I had to ask the Betsys we know to discover that it was you, Betsy Storey, who commented. In your response you said,

"I loved the post -- and also would love to see a picture of the Cross you talked about-- I collect crosses -nothing as fine or special as yours but most of them all have memories connected to them from trips or events!"

So here is the link to Jane's crosses:


If you look in the bottom row you can see the cross she made for me, Prayer to the Muse. The colors are various shades of burgundy and gold, stronger in person than in this photo.

Also, if you hit the word "Jane" in our "Venice" post, you can go to the website of all her art.

Thank you for letting us know you enjoyed the post. And the view from that house WAS heavenly, as most views of the Pacific are.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 20:52 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Hello Iraqi readers,

We see that we have readers of Paris Play in Iraq. We are quite curious about you, whether you are Iraqi citizens or soldiers? Please drop us a line in this comment box.

At the end of the post, hit Comments. and write your comment. Then scroll down a little farther where it asks you to Create Post (unless you want to Preview Post and change anything). Hit Create Post when you've finished the comment. Then fill in the little box at the bottom with the wavy letters they show you above it. It will be posted when we okay the comment.

Thank you and hoping to hear from someone in Iraq.

Best wishes,

Kaaren & Richard

Monday, October 29, 2012 at 0:21 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Parisian/Venetians... I'm nostalgic reading this because Stuart and I missed so much of your time here since we only met 4 months or so before you left for the City of Light. Ahhh, timing. Venice would be much richer in your company. I truly DO adore Paris Play and its marvelous playground of ideas and images. It's a treat and a respite and, obviously, you have to be there to do it.

France has been calling me too lately. A friend, who lived in Avignon for 17 years, led culinary tours there and gave cooking classes out of her big home just moved back to the states to run a goat farm and make artisan Chèvre. Her Avignon house is available for rent and I have been fantasizing about taking it for a month or so in Spring....;-). It's working into my psyche. I think it's my grandfather's blood riling up; he was Parisian and moved to Boston way before the turn of the 1900's. So... will see. (May have to leave the country if the elections are a bust!)

Jane's Crosses are wonderful!!! — As is the rest of her work. I'm charmed. What a talented family.

Blessings from your old Venice, CA,


Monday, October 29, 2012 at 7:05 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Warfield

Ahhh, another small respite from the craziness. Thank you. And you done the right thing, moving to Paris, no doubt about it. Having to get into the car to go to the grocery store puts me in a funk.....I have to remind myself that I live in an absolutely beautiful neighborhood so as to recalibrate my appreciation. And Richard, those shots! Life even in the inanimate....

Speaking of which, I am claiming my photo. It's the one of the sunset off your Playa del Rey home. It reminds me of you, of us, of our little reading group. How blessed we were. How blessed we still are.

Monday, October 29, 2012 at 16:37 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Dear Joanne,

Isn't it ironic, that all those years we two couples lived in Venice, we only met each other when we were leaving L.A.? The great thing about online journals and social media is that we can stay in touch as if we'd known each other for years. We so appreciate your appreciation.

I think you should just do it, Joanne, take that house in Avignon for a month and explore the country, the cuisine and your own genealogical roots.

Jane's crosses ARE wonderful, aren't they? And Prayer to the Muse is my fave.

Thank you for those Venice blessings! We should switch places for a brief while one of these days.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Monday, October 29, 2012 at 20:28 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Anna,

First, thank you so much for catching that typo. We're still in our writing workshop together, aren't we? And I love your choice of photo. What a great group we had, and how I miss it. And how the blessings still go on even back and forth across the Atlantic.

Driving was harder for Richard to get used to in L.A., having grown up in San Francisco where you can (almost) walk to everything. I never minded it in L.A., but I'm crazy about being able to walk everywhere here, especially to do various kinds of errands--market, pharmacy, bakery, flower shop-- and pleasurable outings to restaurants, cafes, the river, concerts, art museums, friends' apartments--it's all within easy walking distance. It also makes exercise an integral part of daily life, simply part of going out.

Richard will send you that photo--I just put in a request.

Much love and thank you for staying in touch (and for playing!),

Kaaren (& Richard)

Monday, October 29, 2012 at 20:37 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Beautifully written, Kaaren, and photographed, Richard. A wonderful piece filled with memories and vivid descriptions. I wish I knew an Alice! Do you have before and after pictures of what she did to your home? I really like what she did with your colorful rug, even without pictures. She took a beautiful rug and placed it where it welcomed everyone, instead of hiding it under a dining room table. I do like some Feng shui approaches more than others. I love the effect of hanging a mirror at the end of a long hallway or passage. I do that in my home as well as in my garden. That's a big no no in Feng shui. What's a big yes yes in Feng shui is painting the front door red! I bought the paint months ago. Now I just need to do it.

Anyway, thanks for your pieces. I read all of them but haven't been able to do much more than that these past few months. It's called sciatica. A real curse! Your pieces have really brightened some of those down, down days. I really love this last one.

Best to you both,

(Majid says "Hi!")

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 14:56 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

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