"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in marriage (9)


The Pont of Proposals



Here I sit at a high table in a glass-windowed boat on the Seine, facing the Pont Alexandre III about a half block away, that iconic bridge with gold to the right, gold to the left, gold in the center, four winged horses. Old-timey lamps, tridents with globes on each point. The bridge makes a gentle arch over the gray-green waters that never stop moving, trembling between shadow and light.

"Monday, Monday, got me crying all the time" plays on the boat's sound system. On the bridge, black-clad figures, a few in red. A bus with Paris les Cars Rouges passes.



I'm watching, waiting for the horse-drawn carriage. There it is! It stops half-way across the bridge. Two figures, one I know, help the couple step down from the carriage. Blondie sings "One way or another I'm going to get you, I'm going to getchu getchu getchu." The horse tosses its head.



I see the couple now side by side at the edge of the bridge, gazing east, a figure dancing around them. It's Richard, hired by a Paris company to record the moment one partner pops the question, an assignment he does in various romantic spots.



Has anyone ever said no? I've asked. Not yet, Richard said.



Now I see them settling back into the carriage. I imagine Richard is capturing this moment, too. My phone rings: The horse arrived on time, and the woman said yes. It's a good day when that happens.

I go to meet him on the bridge. We're still saying yes.






Travel Hell (Crete, Part One)


At Paris security check-in: a stack of trays, a line of travelers waiting for space on the conveyor belt. Someone has left his bag in the tray on top of the column. Several men stand behind the stack, nonchalantly chatting, blocking other travelers in front of them from getting trays.

“Whose bag is this?” I ask.

The man lifts it (insolently), as I pick up a tray, plops it back in before I can take a second one.

The Australian woman between the man and me says, “Travel has gotten unbearable.”

“Hasn’t it though.” 


One of my bags is held up. Whoops, I forgot to throw away my dangerous weapon, that bottle of water. The security agent asks if I’d like to drink it. Such an unexpected courtesy in today’s travel. Yes! Apologize and thank her.

In seats past security, Richard and I lace up our shoes. The Australian woman is nearby with a girl who looks like her daughter.

I go up to her. “I just want to say I think the whole world is divided between people like you who are awake, and people like that narcissistic egotist who put his bag on top of the stack of trays.”

Wasn’t he terrible?” she says. “He shoved in line between me and my daughter.”

“Just charming.”

“Thank you for saying this to me.”


Richard and I find seats in the gate area with two and a half hours to wait for our plane. To the right, several young men on high stools play video games. The varieties of mindless escape are everywhere and multiplying.

In a café area to the left, a man and woman in their late 40s, she with lips so swollen she looks like a blowfish, hair pulled back tight and blonde on her skull.

R.: “Do you think she’s had plastic surgery?”

K: “Ha ha, more like plastic savagery.”

The boys get up from their seats. A camera case remains on one stool. Richard grabs it, chases the departing young men.

“No,” says one. “It was there when we sat down.”

Richard opens it. There’s a memory card inside, no identification. “I’ll look at it when we get home to see if there are pictures that would identify the owner. What a lousy end to a Paris vacation, losing your photographs.” He goes to find a bathroom.


I open a paperback Richard found at a Left Bank bouquiniste, Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By. He quotes from R.D. Laing’s The Politics of Experience, about the briefly schizophrenic/shamanic experience of Jesse Watkins, a British wartime naval officer, now a sculptor:

“The voyager, as he tells, had a “particularly acute feeling” that the world he now was experiencing was established on three planes, with himself in the middle sphere, a plane of higher realizations above, and a sort of waiting-room plane beneath. … According to Jesse Watkins, most of us are on the lowest level, waiting (en attendant Godot, one might say), as in a general waiting room; not yet in the middle room of struggle and quest at which he himself had arrived. He had feelings of invisible gods above, about, and all around, who were in charge, and running things; and in the highest place, the highest job, was the highest god of all.

“Those all around him in the madhouse were on their ways—awakening—to assume in their own time that top position, and the one now up there was God. God was a madman. He was the one that was bearing it all: 'this enormous load,' as Watkins phrased it, 'of having to be aware and governing and running things.' 'The journey is there and every single one of us' he reported, 'has got to go through it, and you can’t dodge it, and the purpose of everything and the whole of existence is to equip you to take another step, and another step, and another step, and so on….'"

With ten minutes to boarding, I go to the restroom, get in line. A tall drag-queenish woman with long black hair butts in front of me, J’étais ici. She and a smaller blond woman in glittery tops and glittery purses with chunky chains, shout Arabic at each other in guttural voices.


Onto the plane. Richard has paid for seats at the wing exit so that we have extra leg room. His clammy hands signal his nervousness before flying.

An announcement: there will be a delay due to mechanical problems, which they hope to be able to fix. Terrific, just what Richard needs, proof that he has good cause to worry.



We talk. I read Myths to Live By.

“Astonishment! There is no “other” shore. There is no separating stream; no ferryboat, no ferryman; no Buddhism, no Buddha. The former, unilluminated notion that between bondage and freedom, life in sorrow and the rapture of Nirvana, a distinction is to be recognized and a voyage undertaken from one to the other, was illusory, mistaken. This world that you and I are here experiencing in pain through time, on the plane of consciousness of the ji hokkai, is, on the plane of consciousness of ri hokkai, nirvanic bliss; and all that is required is that we should alter the focus of our seeing and experiencing.

“But is that not exactly what the Buddha taught and promised, some twenty-five centuries ago? Extinguish egoism, with its desires and fears, and Nirvana is immediately ours! We are already there, if we but knew. This whole broad earth is the ferryboat, already floating at dock in infinite space; and everybody is on it, just as he is, already at home. That is the fact that may suddenly hit one, as “sudden illumination.”

45 minutes later we lift off. We pass over an extraordinary range of mountain peaks, high, jagged, capped with snow.

What are they? I want to know the names of these peaks and islands farther on. I listen carefully to the steward's announcements over the loud speaker. He sounds like Peter Sellers playing a role in which he’s messing around with the passengers by speaking French that’s too rapid and muffled to hear, English that’s even worse, with an atrocious accent added to the mix.  I glance over at a Frenchman to our left. He shrugs, hands up.



I’ll ask a flight attendant. I take the flight magazine’s map of Europe to the back of the plane, ask the attendant in French if he would mind marking our path on the map. He’ll ask the pilot, he says.

“Do you know which island we just passed over?”

“Grow a sea.”

“Could you please repeat that?”

“Grow a sea.”

“What is the word in English?”

“I’m not sure. Grow AH sea?”

Back in my seat, I turn the word over in my mind. Surely I know this island. I’ve traveled this part of Europe and the Mediterranean before. Sudden illumination—Croatia! Maybe it’s the island of Zlarin, from which Richard’s paternal ancestors came, six generations ago.

The flight of three and a half hours seems swift. Just before we disembark, the flight attendant brings me the map, with an arrow passing from Paris south to the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Croatia, and down to Crete.


Everyone cheers as we land. The majority of passengers seem amazed that we made it.

At Nikos Kazantzakis Airport in Iraklion, we wait at Carousel Three for our bags. Mine arrives at last. Richard’s doesn’t.



We file a claim at the Transavia Airlines office. The agent, a dark-haired woman in her 30s, seems entirely relaxed. Much too relaxed, as if this happens all the time. Or is this just the Cretan manner, I remember now, no tension, no worry?

Our taxi driver finds us, shows us the sign with Richard’s name. His name is Constantine, he’d waited an hour outside, was worried.

“Does this happen often?” I ask the agent.

“Once in a while,” she says, as if, yes, bags do wander off to Switzerland or Sweden or right into someone’s home in Iraklion.

“Is there much theft of bags here?” She doesn’t seem to understand.

“Is it likely we’ll get the bag back?”

“Oh yes, probably by tomorrow night. We’ll send it to your hotel.”


Constantine has bottles of water waiting in his shiny black Mercedes taxi. He drives fast and expertly along the coast from Iraklion to the Mirabello Hotel. I ask him if he grew up on Crete. Yes, he did, in Aghios Nikolaos.

“And do you like living there?”

“Yes. But the Germans ruined our economy. The Euro austerity is hurting everyone.”

Richard asks him if we might stop at a market before arriving at the hotel. It is late, past 9:30.

Constantine calls the market, asks them to stay open for us, and they do. (Now here is one advantage of living in a small town.) The market is open all along its front, packed with racks of T-shirts, boogie boards, sunglasses, tanning lotions, and directly across from the hotel. This shocking hotel—how greatly it has changed since our honeymoon and marriage here in 1997!


A smiling golden-skinned Cretan woman greets us shyly at the entrance to the market.

Another older woman, radiant, benevolent, welcomes us from behind the cash register. 

We find oranges, bananas, plums, Greek yogurt, walnuts, almonds, rosemary and olive leaf crackers, and six-packs of our two kinds of water, bubbly and plain. Pay and get into the cab with our bags to drive across the street.

The Mirabello Hotel, an earthy, funky, intimate place to stay right on the Cretan Sea. We’d stayed in a bungalow here to rest after a five-week honeymoon all over Europe. We’d had the vision here of how to shape our marriage vows right before the celebration with family and friends at Elounda Beach.


Only now! Now it is a mega-hotel, glossy, glassy, mammoth and utterly changed. In the lobby, deafening drums, the blasting sounds of disco. Huge sweep of marble counters, bare hard floor. The hotel clerk, a grim but efficient young Russian woman. We sign in and are immediately charged for ten days upfront.

We’re taken to the “village” across the street. The stone paths and planting remind us of Enchantment in Arizona; the white-washed bungalows, of Mykonos. The room opens onto a private patio and the sea, a net of jewels spread out in the town across the bay. 

Richard has told them we’d been married here, were returning to renew our vows. On the table is an array of fruit—watermelon! pineapple!—and a bottle of champagne on ice. Rose petals are strewn across the pale blue coverlet. Rose petals float in the bathtub and across the counter and sink. Ah, this blissful world!





Angels in the Architecture

Fourteen years ago in June, Richard and I honeymooned in this city, on our way to getting married on the island of Crete.  We did everything backwards: first bought a place together, then moved in, then had a honeymoon, then got married, and now we date.

Anyway, our time in Paris in 1997 coincided with a tour co-led by our friend Phil Cousineau, and a new (then) friend, the architect Tony Lawlor.  Tony helped open our eyes to Paris above the first floor.


Normally in Paris, one walks with eyes toward the sidewalk, because the 2.5 million Parisians are so delinquent about cleaning up after their six billion or so dogs.

But Tony urged us to look up, regardless of the consequences, because so much of the soul of architecture was in the embellishments, the flourishes, the frou-frou elegance and sometimes downright silliness.  It's always the human touches that liven up the essential utility of the spaces we build to protect us from the elements.

So this Paris Play (number 60!) is a salute to our friend Tony, with a shout-out to Paul Simon, who wrote these delightful lyrics that Richard still sings every time he points his camera upward:

He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen and Hallelujah!




















A Eulogy for Jane Winslow Eliot (9/27/26 — 7/31/2011)


Time and space do not exist.

I heard these words as I washed the breakfast dishes this morning.

I was thinking of Jane Eliot.

It had been just over 40 days since she died.

I wanted to try in meditation to accompany her through the bardos.

But I couldn’t.

Maybe it’s that I do not experience death the way that Tibetan Buddhists do.

Or maybe to some extent I do, but I don’t have the inner stillness to stay on that journey for long.

Or maybe my sense is that Jane had already moved through a panoramic review of her life while she was alive.

I remember her deep honesty in her memoir, “Around the World by Mistake.”




It’s extraordinarily difficult to say who someone is, to approach describing their identity.

What is her effect on you? Is it lightening? Darkening?

Does he give you energy? Take it away?

Maybe we know others mainly through their effect on us, inspiring or disheartening.

Richard and I came back to Paris from the joyful celebration of our friends’ Loire Valley wedding, and heard from a mutual friend that Jane Eliot had died.

It often seems to happen this way. A great upsurging of joy, then sadness, sorrow breaking through.

I left out what happened at our wedding in Crete. Alex and Jane had encouraged our notion of being married there, because Ancient Crete was one of the last partnership cultures. 



During our wedding dinner, one of my relatives said to our friends that she wished their oldest daughter had been there. Both parents were storm-tossed with sorrow at her sudden death in her early 20s. Steve wept at the table. Rain ran into the nearest bathroom. Some of us followed her. Some of us comforted him.

And one of my family said, softly, “Oh, I wish they hadn’t ruined the celebration this way.” But no, I thought, and said, There are always these parallel channels of grief and joy. The day is richer for their tears.

And Jane Eliot? Her death was different. Her life was long and rich, fulfilled.

I’m circling and circling my memories of her.

Whatever you brought to her, she greeted it, surrounded it, examined it, enlarged it or lovingly tossed it away, laughed or seriously addressed it.




I’m circling and circling memories of her:

In the very first week of blossoming love between Richard and me, when we discovered that we lived only four blocks from each other in Venice, California, he invited me to a neighborhood block party at the home of his friends, Jane and Alex Eliot.

There was an odd symmetry to where they lived in relationship to Richard’s place. He and they each lived in a house on the same block of Paloma Avenue, each one house away from the end of the block.

The block party was the first social event, besides the poetry readings where we’d met, to which we’d gone as a couple. Jane and Alex, a generation older than we, instantly became the couple with whom we were closest.



What did we talk about at this party? Not the neighborhood. We talked about our love for myth. Alex had written a number of books on myth. We talked about the mythosphere, a term Alex coined for the place where myths live, where the stories of the soul dwell.

In those first days of our new life together, Richard and I discovered much about one another through the mutual passions we shared with Jane and Alex: mythology, especially Greek myth, Greece and the Greek islands, Venice Beach, poetry, art, a marriage of kindred souls that included lively spiritual and intellectual dialogue, writing, room for solitude for writing, as well as for romance, a contempt for mean-spiritedness.



We laughed at the same things, especially dumb, pompous human behavior and dismissed the same things as a waste of time.

We saw each other at our home for dinner and parties, and at theirs for the same. Jane’s specialty was a smorgasbord of meze.

We met at Figtree’s Café on the beach for breakfast, or the Rose Café for lunch or Lula’s for Mexican dinner.

During the three years that we and three friends ran a weekly poetry reading series at the Rose Café, I don’t think Jane and Alex ever missed a single reading.

When I think of Jane, I hear her laughing—a merry boisterous laugh which delighted in generosity, surprise and beauty, and had a touch of scorn for human idiocy. 

Jealousy? She understood that she was unique and so is everyone else.

Jockeying for power? She and Alex had been at the pinnacle of power in New York City and gladly given it up for creative freedom and time.



Greed? What does anyone need beyond food, shelter and time for love and creativity? And adventure!

Snobbery? She didn’t see people in hierarchical terms at all, much like my father. If you are really aware of each person’s uniqueness, how can you put anyone above you or below you?

Unkindness? A sure sign of unkindness towards oneself.



I called her Athena. She was a Libra, and shared that sign’s affinity for the goddess of peace, earthy intelligence, inventiveness and fierce strength. Nike!

Wherever you walked with Jane, she exclaimed over the beauty of her natural surroundings—birds, trees, the sea.



Well into her 70s, she’d walk down Paloma several blocks for a swim in the Pacific Ocean, which is colder on winter mornings than you can imagine. (Or so I hear.)

What Richard and I loved best to do with Jane and Alex was to sit at Figtree’s or the Rose Café (whose names, naturally, come from nature) and talk. Really talk. Talk that ranged all over the world—the earth and her creatures, humans they had known—Dali and Gala, Frida and Diego, for starters, or their noisy neighbors—and spirits of the mythosphere.

To Jane, the invisibles were as real as birds, as people. You felt relieved in their company to escape the tiny cage of rational materialism.



With Jane—and Alex—I could talk about the mythical vision I’d spent years discovering. When Richard and I shaped our combined mythical knowledge into a workshop at the C. G. Jung Institute, Jane and Alex were in our first class of students. (Oh, the irony, "teaching" these two masters of the mythosphere.)

Alex and Jane had lived all over the world, been top journalists in NYC. She had worked at CBS for Edward R. Murrow and at Time magazine; he had been Art Editor for Time, until his pension and a Guggenheim Fellowship allowed him to retire early and take his family to Greece. For four years they’d lived in Greece with their two young children, writing, home schooling the children, and exploring sacred sites.

There was only one respect in which they seemed to be bound by the conventions of their generation. Alex continued to write and publish books on art and myth, and now was working obsessively on a poetic memoir.



Yet she, when we first met them, was not as disciplined a writer as he.

She had published a book on children’s education, Let’s Talk, Let’s Play and written a highly original cookbook, Beyond Measure; A Cookbook for People Who Think They Can’t Cook, and published other books and journalistic articles in such magazines as The Atlantic, Smithsonian, Horticulture, Travel & Leisure.

But the assumptions of her generation mostly held: the woman would care for the home, children and relationships, while he worked.

Yet you could hear in the leaps of imagination, the sensory precision of Jane’s conversation that there was a longer story she needed to write.

And then she suddenly did it: created a studio for herself on the top floor of their duplex (so that was why she never managed to find the right tenant), and wrote, edited and published her memoir, Around the World by Mistake.

The title delighted us, containing all her qualities of humor, adventurous spirit, trust in serendipity, and largeness of experience. And the story itself unfolded in sparkling, sensuous prose, a vivid sense of weather and the sea, absolute clarity about others’ character, and the most brilliant example imaginable of how to inspire children.



The memoir tells the tale of how, in the summer of 1963, the couple, with their two young children, signed on for a trip around the world. The Yugoslavian freighter was scheduled to deliver goods from Yugoslavia to Osaka and back, a trip of seven months with sixteen passengers. But this is no ordinary trip. They discover that they are in extraordinary danger. But I won’t spoil the story, when you can order it and read it yourself. That’s Jane on the cover with a seagull on her head.

And then, Jane listened with great sympathy and understanding to my account about the last few years of my father’s life, his deepening dementia. She understood my longing to stay connected to his soul, beneath the dismantling of his rational mind.



And she rejoiced with us that my father was able to die at home, most certainly aware of his family’s love.

Jane’s mind, which was so alive, original, and warm—began to fade a few years after my father’s death in 2006.

By then, we had moved to Playa del Rey. In the sad way that driving distances separate people in Los Angeles, we saw Jane and Alex less often. They didn’t like to drive at night. One of us didn’t like to drive at all.

We’d bring dinner to Jane and Alex’s or meet at the Rose Café. Her mind wandered in conversation, but Alex, and we, assured her that it didn’t matter, she was still Jane.

And when we walked back to their house on Paloma, always, always, she pointed at birds, trees, the sea, with love and glee.

She was my wise woman. Magnificent Jane.

After the first sorrow, after the tearful call to Alex, a strange thing happened: I haven’t mourned Jane at all. It’s as if she hasn’t died. She is present, alive, vivid, much as my father continues to be.

Honestly, I don’t think we know a single thing about death. All I know is that Jane is still here, and oh, how we loved her. How we keep on loving her.





Voices: Wedding Day


It is difficult to write non-fiction. By that I mean, I heard many compelling stories the day of Porter and Louise’s wedding. And their story alone is worth hearing in detail.

But I cannot tell you any of these stories without being indiscreet.

Porter and Louise were married amid the scaffolds in an eleventh century church, Notre Dame de Rigny, which Porter’s Birmingham, Alabama family is helping to restore.



This Notre Dame, built on an earlier eighth century church, was one of the stops on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It was the church where King Louis XI worshipped when he wasn’t slaughtering deer and boar in the royal forest of Chinon.



Their wedding dinner was held in a fairy tale castle, Chateau du Rivau.

Ah, the splendor of the wedding festivities. The bride and groom glowed. If you knew them, or even if you simply glimpsed them for the first time, you’d see that it was a marriage of kindred souls, of true love.

But that story is theirs to tell. I couldn’t do it justice in one short journal post.

What I wish I could tell you are the stories I heard from the wedding guests. Before the wedding, during the ceremony, on the bus to the wedding dinner, and at the chateau that night.



I’m tempted to turn back to fiction, which puts on clothes and names that disguise its origins, and allows you to say almost anything, just as the wedding guests, in donning vintage clothes, freed themselves to tell stories about their twenty-first century selves.

However, I have an agreement with you here on Paris Play. So I will simply weave some snippets of voices that linger in my mind since I heard them on the wedding day.

Voice of a man to the husband of a couple before taking their photos: “Put on your glasses, it’s sexier.”

The voice of the pastor:

    Père…[c]est toi le Seigneur de notre passé,
    de notre présent et de notre avenir.     
    C’est de toi que vient toute bénédiction.”

(Father… you are the Lord of our past, our present and our future. It’s from you that all blessing comes.)



The inner voice of a woman:  Père, Père, Père, and the son and the holy ghost. Where are the women in this spiritual vision which calcified long ago into a religion? In ancient times, vision came from the muses, all of them women. Where are the goddesses?

The voice of moonlight striking water on a warm summer night, Claire de Lune, the voice of Debussy coming through piano keys played by the groom’s oldest daughter.

The voice of the bride and groom’s two-year-old daughter, laughing as she races around in front of the altar.

     “Nous croyons en Dieu le Père.
     Nous croyons qu’il a créé le monde
     Pour l’homme et la femme.”

(We believe in God the Father. We believe that he created the world for man and woman.)

Where is there room in this creed for the voices of women who love women, and men who love men?

The murmuring voices of the bride and groom as they exchange vows.

The sweet innocence of the pastor’s voice in French.



The voices of the naked men and women who climb out of the underworld in a Judgment Day frieze high above the altar. The voices of the dead.

The voice of a man (who is talking to one woman) greeting a second woman outside the door to the church: “Have I ever told you what a fine specimen of a woman you are?”

The voice of a man saying about the groom (whose livelihood is helping people buy and renovate Paris apartments): "Wouldn’t he have to have been married on a construction site?"

The voice of a woman describing how they met:  “Come here,” he said. “Come here, so sexy.”



The voice of a woman who has recently moved from Paris to the country, to someone who has just moved to Paris: “How can you live in Paris? How can you? How can you live in Paris? How can you live in Paris?”

Voice of a single woman describing to a wife what her husband just said about her: 
“He said to me, ‘I’m looking for my wife.’
And I told him, ‘You can always find another one.’
Do you know what he said?
‘Not like this one, I can’t.’”

Voice of a woman who is newly single after many years of marriage: “One day he said to me, ‘I don’t want to be married to you any more.’ No warning. Out of the blue. I’m still in shock. I’d like to move to Paris, but how would I earn a living there?”

Voice of a man watching his daughter and her husband sip champagne together as the desserts are unveiled: 
“I’ve lost a daughter.”
“No, you haven’t,” two women say at once.
“Yes. I have.”



Voice of a woman telling her story of her divorce after a long marriage to an alcoholic: “After the judge heard all of us speak, he said to my husband, ‘You grew up in a good family, you’ve had good fortune in your profession, you have a wife and children who love you, and you’ve thrown it all away. Why? Why have you ruined your life?’”

And I remember the voice of Antonio Machado: “What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?” 

The Wind, One Brilliant Day

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

"In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I'd like all the odor of your roses."

"I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead."

"Well then, I'll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain."

The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
"What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?"

—Antonio Machado (Translated by Robert Bly)



Gods and goddesses,

ancestors and muses,

a prayer for Louise and Porter:

May their garden be fragrant with jasmine and roses.

May they tend it together their whole lives long.

May they blossom.

May they thrive.