The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness: A Review


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⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 4 big bright stars for this beautiful book.
It was on my TBR list for a year and then I found it included in my library’s cloudlibrary audiobook list. I downloaded it and began reading (listening) immediately. This was a book that was enhanced by the listening experience because Sy Montgomery, the author, read it with such admiration and love for her subject matter, that it was infectious. I’ve read reviews that were critical of her writing style and that the book was less scientific than they expected. Believe me, it had more than enough science supporting the physical and behavioral descriptions of Athena, Octavia, Kali and Karma, the octopuses (definitely not octopi) featured in the book. However if it’s a truly scientific book you’re after, The Soul of an Octopus is not for you, but the name itself tells you that.

By the end of this book, you may or may not believe octopuses have a soul, but you will have absolutely no doubt that they are highly intelligent animals that have the ability to remember what they learn, to differentiate and remember people they meet and to have preferences. Whether those preferences are based mainly on the taste of the person (they have eyes, but they gain a large part of what they learn through taste via there many succors on each of their eight arms and they use them to suck enthusiastically on fingers, hands and arms) or something more esoteric, is not certain. The book is filled with fascinating facts about these intriguing invertebrates: they have three hearts, their neurons are in the brain, but of their 500 million or so neurons, around 350 million of them are clustered along the arms, so that their arms are capable of making decisions like finding which device holds food, or which color to use for camouflage depending on the location or problem-solving, including the ability to navigate mazes and open jars.

Though the octopus can be seen as foreign and alien, slimy and weird, almost scary in appearance, one finds oneself feeling as bereft as the author when the octopus she has learned to know and love, dies. You leave the book wanting more all things octopus, even perhaps one day engaging one in person. I look forward to reading an earlier book by Sy Montgomery, The Good, Good Pig.

Finding Chika: a little girl, an earthquake, and the making of a family: A Review

Four loving stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ for Finding Chika: a little girl, an earthquake, and the making of a family. Mitch Albom’s book, Tuesdays with Morrie was, by way of books that most touched my heart and soul, one of my life time favorites. Finding Chika is not the second coming of Tuesdays..., but it was pretty damn close. That these two people, Morrie Schwartz and Medjerda “Chika” Jeune came into the life of Mitchell David Albom was in itself a miracle. That Albom was able to translate his experiences with Morrie and later with Chika into books was a glorious gift to the world. In Tuesdays With Morrie Mitch Albom says about Morrie that he was able to “pull out of me a better, previous version of myself,” which he goes on to use 22 years later to help this young Haitian child almost as much as she helped him. 

There are so many moments of wonder throughout this small book of 235 pages that it made this agnostic reader think twice about god and prayer, both of which are staples in Chika's and her new family's lives. The central figure in this story is of course Chika. She is born into an earthquake in Haiti which kills her mother and she thankfully lands in the Have Faith Haiti Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, operated by Mitch Albom and his wife, Janine. Chika gets diagnosed with a rare, debilitating and deadly disease, DIPG. “Mr. Mitch”, which is how Chika refers to him, and Miss Janine,  become her "adoptive guardians", bringing her to the United States and their home, for treatment. Chika in her characteristic ways wins them over head over heals. Chika was wise beyond her years, brave, stubborn, resilient, extremely cheerful and playful and hopeful and often exuberantly loud and exuberantly loving. Chika was born tough. She was funny, brash, loud, bossy and she would wind up needing all of that to fight the insidious disease she had and so she did. Albom writes, “ no matter how engrossed we got in the medical struggle, you were indefatigable when it came to fun. You awed us with your spirit.” My recommendation is, read Finding Chika, before or after reading Tuesdays With Morrie. Then sit back and let it all soak in. I can guarantee you, you will be a better person for the experience.



I give this book a 2-1/2 stars rating. There were times while reading Christodora that I was thinking it to be a 3 star read, while at other times it definitely was 2 stars. Unfortunately one is made to either round up or round down your number of stars. Overall, I chose to round up. 

As my first paragraph suggests, I would relate my experience of reading Christodora by Tim Murphy akin to a roller coaster ride. The ups and downs regarding my appreciation of what I was reading were sometimes dizzying. That it was a book firmly based in New York City pulled me in initially and that aspect remained consistent. I tend to really enjoy books that center in on what we who live here, or at least near here, call "The City". In this I was not disappointed. 

Meanwhile in 1928, the Christodora House, from which the book takes its title as well as a major role in the novel, "was erected, its handsomely simple new sixteen-story brick tower on the corner of Avenue B and Ninth Street —an edifice that loomed over Tompkins Square Park and the surrounding blocks of humble tenements". I suppose, if truth be told, the fact that the New Yorkers we were introduced to were Jewish New Yorkers, didn't detract from the pleasure I was taking initially from the book. The familiarity was pleasant and reassuring.

"Felix Traum, who had long left the Lower East Side for the tonier Upper East Side and was already playing a leading role in the building of the new Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue in midtown, a limestone Romanesque pile that would become the most prestigious synagogue in America", was the grandfather of Jared, a main character in the story. Jared's father, "Steven would would find himself taking his wife, Deanna, also an academic, and their two small children, Stephanie and Jared, down from the Upper East Side to the old neighborhood where his family had first landed in America, inside the humble, semi-derelict synagogues and then to Katz’s Deli for pastrami on rye."Oh, this was promising to be a great read. 

The great read continued throughout Part 1: Urban Dwellers (1981-2010) and into Part Two. As the main characters were introduced into the story: Jared, Milly, Ava, Mateo, Hector, then later Drew, Sam, Issy and some of the more minor characters, I remained interested in getting their backgrounds and learning about their early days. But at some point, as the book jumped around in time and place, my interest began to dwindle. I thought the development of the characters, Hector and Ava, Issy and even Drew, were especially strong. That of Milly, Jared and even Mateo were less so. As the book moved along these characters, for me, became cloying, annoying and not all that believable. One of the minor characters who especially annoyed me was Mateo's (later to be Milly and Jared's and finally, Milly's) psychotherapist, Richard Gallegos. His interactions with his clients did not at all ring true to this longstanding participant in psychotherapy, as a client. With the exception of the few enticing characters, I did not perceive great skill in character development. 

What mostly kept my attention was being reminded of and learning about the beginning and ongoing history of the AIDS Epidemic, particularly in NYC in the 1980's and 90's. The mixing of real people, places and events with fictional ones added to the story's interest. From the AIDS perspective, Christodora is a strong and important book. However, I did not feel as engaged with many of its characters and their relationships. The author, Tim Murphy is first and foremost a journalist. I think perhaps, his skills as such were evident but did not translate as well into good fiction writing.


Book Review: "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy

There is so much thought provoking writing within the covers of this book regarding the events, the history, the Indian culture and language, the characters, places, themes and feelings, not to mention the confusing given names and surnames (you truly have to keep a scorecard, but luckily Kindle does this for you..just click and hold on a name and it gives you the background).

The main reason I gave The God of Small Things 4 stars was the author's use of language, an abundance of engaging, endearing, funny, wonderful, beautiful, allegorical, lyrical language. I highlighted a lot of examples and made them public in Goodreads. Here are just a few examples: "A cock crowed in the distance and its voice separated into two. Like a sole peeling off an old shoe."   "When Margaret Kochamma saw her little daughter’s body, shock swelled in her like phantom applause in an empty auditorium."  "And a greenwavy, thickwatery, lumpy, seaweedy, floaty, bottomless bot-tomful feeling."  Would that I could write sentences like those!

It is no wonder that Arundhati Roy won the 1997 Man Booker Prize for The God of Small Things. I went to a reading of Roy's new book, 
“The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”, a book that people have been waiting twenty years for. I look forward to reading it. 

Book Review of The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

"A line came into my mind, something that Hannah Arendt once said about the poet Auden: that life had manifested the heart's invisible furies on his face". Any author who takes a quote from Hannah Arendt, a German-born American political theorist, professor and writer of books like The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem, who was the subject of the fascinating movie, Hannah Arendt, to be the title of his book, is an author to take note of and I took 40 of them as I read The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. What amazes me is that I hadn't heard of this author before becoming aware of this book. How I became aware of this book is thanks to Elyse, a most voracious reader and reviewer, who I'm proud to call my Goodreads friend! She called it the best book of 2017 and bubbled over with enthusiasm for the writing, the characters, the dramatic backdrop of Irish politics, culture and church. Elyse was passionate about the book and I dare say, I am too. 

Elyse mentioned in her review that the dialogue of a particular character, Mary-Margaret Muffet, was particularly funny. I will expound on that. The first two parts of the book, and the end of the last part, are filled with dialogue that for me was LOL funny. The humor in this book is one of its characteristics that I most enjoyed. I highlighted several examples on my Kindle (one of the many functions I love about Kindle), which can be found on Goodreads (one of the functions of Goodreads that l like, as well as the other readers and reviewers it allows you to meet). 

Boyce is in fact a master of dialogue and wonderfully skilled in  the way he draws his characters, both of which frequently put me in mind of the great story writer, O. Henry (I wondered if O. Henry was an influence on Boyce's writing). In fact, I think it is the dialogue per se that serves to draw the memorable characters, starting with Cyril, the narrator and central character. His life starts in Ireland in 1945 and ends there in 2015 when he dies. Between those years Cyril lives in Amsterdam and New York City. The book visits Cyril every seven years throughout his life. We see what it was like to be Gay in Ireland where it was illegal and thought to be disgusting and could only be hidden because gay men were routinely beaten and even murdered for their sexual orientation, with no repercussions. We see how life in Ireland is fundamentally influenced by the Church and more specifically the Priests and the hypocrisy therein. Cyril's life carries us through the book, but it is often the other characters, for example his "adopted" parents, Charles and Maude, his best friend and object of his lust and love, Julius, a few of the priests, his "girlfriend", Mary-Margaret Muffet, and others who give the book its gusto and hilarity. 

“I always called them Charles and Maude, never ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’. This was on Charles’s insistence as I wasn’t a real Avery. It didn’t bother me particularly but I know it made other people uncomfortable and once, in school, when I referred to them thus, a priest punched me around the ears and told me off for being modern.”

This novel was as insightful as it was long (close to 600 pages) and I would not delete one word. It's one of those books that makes you laugh, cry, think, learn and wish it would never to end. 

Book Review: Mr. Chartwell by by Rebecca Hunt, Susan Duerden (Narrator)

I listened to the audiobook edition of Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt. As is my habit, I added it to my library list of books that are available in the audio format way before I got the audiobook from the library. I only wish I could remember how this book came to my attention. In my opinion, the most important component of an audiobook is the reader (performer, narrator). Mr. Chartwell was read by Susan Duerden and she had the perfect clipped British accent. She made each character an individual with her voice and articulation. I always seem to prefer books read by British performers. It adds an appreciated charm aspect. I came to the book knowing that it was somehow about Prime Minister Winston Churchill. I soon learned that Chartwell was the name of Sir Winston Churchill's home, where he lived along with his wife, Clementine, who, as it happens, was Winston’s emotional rock and most trusted confidante. What I did not know was that Churchill suffered from depression. 

The book opens in July 1964, where Winston Churchill wakes at dawn in his bed chamber at the  Chartwell House. There’s a dark, mute “presence” in the room that focuses on him with rapt attention. That this presence is a dog slides slowly into my consciousness  Soon after, in London, Esther Hammerhans, a librarian at the House of Commons, widowed for two years, decides to rent her late husband’s study. When she goes to answer the door to her new lodger, "through the glass she sees a vast silhouette the size of a mattress". His name is Mr. Chartwell and though Esther is astounded to see what seems to be a huge dog, standing there, it all becomes quickly, if not completely, plausible to Esther and to the reader. Though many reviewers begin with the all too real metaphor of Mr. Chartwell, to be known as Black Pat as the book moves on, as a physical representation of the blackness of living with depression, this reader initially had no idea. I think my cluelessness worked to my advantage. It allowed me to be put smack into the story from the very beginning and pretty much stay there to the end with my eyes and ears open and accepting. Mr. Chartwell, the dog, was written from the first with such wit and impudence, charm and repulsion, appeal and disgust, intelligence and fatuousness, that I not only accepted him, I relished in him. As the book proceeds, Sir Winston Churchill, Esther Hammerhans and Mr. Chartwell's stories intertwine, coming together in a very satisfying way.

At some point, even this, slightly dense reader began to understand the metaphor working in Mr. Chartwell and that Churchill had lived with the black dog of depression for many, if not most of his years. As for Esther Hammerhans, Mr. Chartwell has come to her as well because the loss of her husband has left her depressed and feeling empty, but not nearly to the extent of Churchill. The fact that Winston Churchill was hounded (no pun intended) by the "black dog of depression" became the conceit for Rebecca Hunt's novel and from it she wove a tale that for me was more than entertaining. It was one of the most gratifying and captivating books that I have read in a very long time. And, while you never forget that depression is serious, she made it possible to laugh as you dry away the tears.



♫ Christopher Robin and I walked along 
 Under branches lit up by the moon

♫ Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore 
As our days disappeared all too soon 

♫ But I've wandered much further today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way back to the wood 

♫ So help me if you can, I've got to get back

To the House at Pooh Corner by one 
You'd be surprised, there's so much to be done 

  1. ♫ Count all the bees in the hive ♫

  1. ♫ Chase all the clouds from the sky ♫       

  2.                                             ♫

♫ Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh ♫

♫ Winnie the Pooh doesn't know what to do
Got a honey jar stuck on his nose 


♫ He came to me asking help and advice
From here no one knows where he goes 

♫ So I sent him to ask of the Owl if he's there
How to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear 

♫ Help me if you can, I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one

You'd be surprised, there's so much to be done 

Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh 

♫ It's hard to explain how a few precious things
Seem to follow throughout all our lives
After all's said and done I was watching my son
Sleeping there with my bear by his side ♫

♫ So I tucked him in, I kissed him and as I was going
I swear that the old bear whispered, "Boy, welcome home" 

♫ Believe me if you can, I've finally come back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
What do you know, there's so much to be done 

♫     ♫     ♫     ♫    ♫     ♫     ♫     ♫      
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
Back to the ways of Christopher Robin
Back to the days of Pooh


Meg Wolitzer and Me!

Who knew that I would find commonality with a well-known, accomplished novelist, Meg Wolitzer, You may wonder how this happened. It was not from her novels or an interview, but from listening to The Moth, True Stories Told Live on NPR. Having not heard the introduction, I missed who was telling the story, but the story caught my attention immediately. I stopped what I was doing, sat down and made listening to the radio my only undertaking. Her story was about her childhood, summer experiences at sleepover camp. Most sleepover camps, she explained, consisted of the all-important Color War and the sappy songs they sang, about how new friends were great and old friends were better and we all get along in all kinds of weather. I laughed, knowingly.

Then, one summer she went to a new camp and she loved it. Her fellow campers talked about such things as philosophy and important events and they shared their hearts and souls. Meg found herself more at home at this camp and she was most excited when she was on the camp's theater stage. As it happened, the acting instructor was a well-known actor who knew lots of well-known people and took her job very seriously. I think it was about this time in the story that I realized it was the author, Meg Wolitzer speaking. Meg loved the acting, but felt, no matter what she did, she could not please this acting teacher. Martha, one of her very good friends at camp, however, could and did please the acting teacher, a lot. Martha was one of those girls who was lovely to look at, wearing long flowing hair and even longer flowing hippie skirts. She would be the kind of girl who inspired sweet woodland critters gathering around her feet and a chirping bluebird perched upon her finger (picture scene: Lily Tomlin dressed as Snow White in the wonderful film, Nine to Five). Martha was pretty much what most of the girls wanted to be, and who most of the boys wanted to date. Meg, on the other hand, was well liked, but not for her looks, rather for being funny, sometimes outlandish and other times, really out there. The acting teacher never did warm to Meg, nor give her the encouragement and accolades she shed upon Martha. The good news is that all these years later, Martha and Meg are still the best of friends. The even better news is that as an adult, Meg is certain that what she most appreciates about herself now, are, among other things, the very same characteristics that the acting teacher dismissed back then.

Such was the story, more or less, that Meg Wolitzer told on the Moth Radio stage. Her voice sounded almost familiar. Her style was warm, self-effacing and funny. She reminded me a little of me. I also went to summer sleepover camps as a child.  Furthermore, I experienced both the more typical kind of camp, as well as the ones with a particular focus and a bit more serious, which was more than OK with me. Additionally, I had an experience where a professional acting teacher put me down as I tried to express my acting passions one summer at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC, though I was a teenager, not a child, at the time.

Meg's story telling often made the listeners laugh and I’m pretty sure they were laughing  with her. She just sounded so normal, like a regular person, not like a famous novelist, whatever that means. I found myself thinking, that could be me talking about sleepover camp and what worked for me and what didn't; what made me feel good and what made me feel jealous and unsupported. I too could be telling a story, making people laugh, after-all, I do that sometimes and when they laugh, I feel good. Maybe now and then, they are laughing a bit at me, but also, (hopefully) they are laughing, mostly, with me. I related to and found commonality with Meg Wolitzer, the Moth storyteller and famous author. What caught me up was that she is this well-known and respected writer. I, on the other hand, am just a regular person and a wannabe writer. But then I thought, Meg Wolitzer is also just a person, a person who lives her life and does her job and maybe, just maybe, Meg Wolitzer is a little like me.


Movie Review of Lee Daniel's THE BUTLER

I just watched the movie, "The Butler". The way I see it, there are movies I like to recommend because they are good movies and I think my friends would enjoy them. Then there are movies that I recommend because, in my (humble) opinion, they are movies that everyone MUST SEE. These movies are not only good, but also, important. "Selma", "Lincoln" and "The Butler” are all mandatory viewing

“The Butler” tells the life story of Cecil Gaines. It opens in what I initially thought was a slave plantation because of the atrocious way the black cotton pickers were treated by the white owner, but upon googling it, I found the time was 1926 on a cotton plantation in Macon, Georgia and they were share croppers, which seemed to me to be just another name for slavery. Cecil Gaines, then a little boy, sees his father shot dead in the head because he was about to complain that his wife was raped just a few minutes before, by said plantation owner. As it happens the estate's caretaker and owner's grandmother, has in her own way, enough of a heart to take Cecil into the house and out of the life draining cotton fields and trains him how to be a house servant, which Cecil learns very well. He leaves the plantation when he is 16 (which meant leaving his mother behind, but he knew that she would want him to pursue a better life for himself, and so he does. Ultimately he gets recommended for a position in a hotel in Washington, D.C. and by the time Eisenhower is in the White House, Cecil Gaines finds his way there as a butler to the president. Meanwhile he met his wife and they have two sons.

The story proceeds as a study in contrast between himself as a butler and his older son who goes to Fisk College and becomes a part of the Civil Rights Movement, first as a follower of Martin Luther King and, after King’s death, as a member of the Black Panthers. The conflict that ensues between father and son is heartbreaking. Cecil is a witness to history through the presidential administrations of Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, who was the final president that Cecil Gaines serves, as he begins to feel different about this position he has had all these years. He is a witness to the history of his people, as well as a major part of the history. Ultimately, he and his wife, as well as his son who becomes a member of the US Congress, live to see a black president of the United States, Barack Obama. Never did the significance of the first African-American president seem so poignant as in the context of this movie.

“The Butler” was directed and produced by Lee Daniels, who is known for "Monsters Ball", "Precious" and recently the television series "Empire". It has a blockbuster cast, starting with Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, Oprah Winfrey as Gloria Gaines, Cecil's wife, David Oyelowo (plays MLK in Selma) as Louis Gaines, the elder son, Mariah Carey as Hattie Pearl, Cecil's mother, Terrence Howard as Howard, the Gaines' neighbor, Vanessa Redgrave as Annabeth Westfall, matron of the plantation, Cuba Gooding Jr. as head butler at the White House, Lenny Kravitz as a co-worker butler of Cecil's, Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. The full cast can be seen on “The Butler’s” Wikipedia site.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Butler.

Thank goodness for Netflix, since there are virtually no video (DVD) stores left. It is not on Netflix, but on their DVD rentals. However you get your hands on the movie, “The Butler”, get it and watch it. I suspect it will be viewed very differently by anyone born in the last 30+ years, as opposed to baby boomers, like myself, who lived through much of the time period being shown. It is important that everyone see this movie in its proper context. “The Butler” is a good movie. It’s an important movie, as well.


Magic Lamp and My Very Own Own Genie, Alissa

It's 4:12 PM Friday, April 10, 2015. When I awoke this morning I just sat on the edge of my bed with my eyes closed. I wanted nothing more than to sleep. So I found a place for myself lying down and stayed there until 2 PM, when I got up. I had breakfast and continued watching MASH episodes. The last was about a little boy who'd been wounded and the MASH unit couldn't find his parents or even the village he'd been from. Long story short, Trapper was going to adopt him. Meanwhile each of the main characters had their fair time interacting with him lovingly. The little boy was so cute, you could just eat him up. As might be expected, his Korean mother shows up near the end of the episode and takes the little boy with her. Mixed feelings were had by all, but especially by Trapper, who was heartsick, feeling like he had lost his adopted child, while he was also being happy that the boy was reunited with his mother. This story would make anyone teary-eyed, but it left me weeping. I thought about the grandchildren I wish for, desire, hope for and dream of, but may not have, or at least not before I am too old to appreciate them the way I want to.

Weeping also for my niece, Alissa who died in February, 2015. It's still so raw, tragic and sad.  I wrote a eulogy for Lissy and in it included an explanation about  a small silver painted pot she had given me for my 60th birthday, 3 years ago. It always reminded me of a Genie's Lamp. I think Lissy would have liked that connotation.The pot has a removable top and around it's rim, the words DREAM, HOPE, WISH, and DESIRE. Inside the pot were several little scrolls of paper neatly tied with little silver ribbons, on which I was to write a wish, desire, dream and hope. And so I did back in October, 2011. 

Today I opened it up and took out all of the little scrolled and tied papers, unrolled them and on 3, wrote a new hope, wish and desire. On one I wrote, that I HOPE, despite my cynicism, there is in fact, an afterlife and that Alissa is finally at peace, tranquility and maybe even bliss. I further hope that all four of her grandparents souls have their arms wrapped lovingly around her. On another I wrote, I WISH that I will have grandchildren from Rachel and Jeremy whom I can read too, play with, love and cherish, before I get too old to appreciate it. On the third, I wrote a more selfish DESIRE, that I will always have enough money when I need it. There were a few of the originals that continued to be relevant and yet unfulfilled, so I just left them tied and in the magic pot. Magic lamps are the natural habitats of genies, who are magical creatures that grant wishes to people, when the lamp is rubbed and the genie comes out. I have my own personal magic lamp and my very own genie. 



Sherril Smoger-Kessous, of Bloomfield, NJ, went to Israel at the impressionable age of 16, with a teen-tour called The  National Bar Mitzvah Club. (National Bar Mitzvah Club  = boys and girls age 16 .
7 week program enables Bar and Bat Mitzvah boys and girls to accumulate funds and prepare them-selves to participate in a specially designed trip at age 16. Includes lectures, trips to archeological and biblical sites, and a brief European stopover. Members of the Bar Mitzvah Club are oriented for the trip during the three year period through educational materials. Kashruth and Sabbath observed. Fee $850.). 

The trip was a pivotal exerience in my life, in that Israel made a deep impression on me, which would stay with me for the rest of my life, and, as importantly, Eileen, a fellow traveller from San Antonio, Texas, also made a deep impression on me, as throughout that summer, we developed  a profound friendship. Eileen and I remained friends for a few years beyond the summer of 1968, but unfortunately lost touch sometime during our college years. I made some attempts through the years to find Eileen, but was not successful. Then in the beginning of the year, 2015, 47 years after we met, a connection was finally made, albeit, in a round-about way, via Facebook. 

This blog post is a tribute of sorts to that summer of '68 in Israel, the friendship that developed and the following year when we reunited at each others houses. Unfortunately, I cannot find the pictures from my visit to Texas. Fortunately, I do have them from when Eileen came to visit me in Bloomfield during the winter of 1968 or '69.  She had the good fortune to come when we had a major snow storm. We had a reunion party with some of our trip-mates from NJ. And we had more time to bond as friends. 

Eileen and Barbara Woolf. friend, from the trip.

Then in the summer of '69, I went to visit Eileen in San Antonio. It was a momentous summer all around. Not only did we have another wonderful get-together, but also Apollo 11 was launched and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their famous walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, "One small step for man. One giant step for mankind". 

Then from August 15-18, 1969, the most famous rock concert and festival, Woodstock, took place on Max Yasgur's 600 acre dairy farm in the town of Bethel, NY. 

Eileen and I did not get to Woodstock, but I believe we did
watch the moon-walk together. We also travelled to Dallas to see another kid from our trip and to Houston. 

So, without further ado, here are the photos from The National Bar Mitzvah Tour, summer of 1968...

We stayed in what had been a hospital in Jerusalem, called, Bikur Cholim, but for some reason, I remember calling it Ze'ev. The only connection to that name that I could find was that the architect of some bronze doors in the hospital was Zeev Raban. What I cannot presently figure out is why we were able to stay there because as far as I could find, the hopital functioned as one throughout it's long history. In any case, we would return there as a home base after each "tiyul" (trip) we made. 

Our home base in Jerusalem:  Bikur Cholim Hospital, or as I remember it, Ze'ev Hospital. . 

Eileen in black Bedoin dress, Sherril in white at Ze'ev Hospital, our home base in Jerusalem. . The dresses and the pipes purchased in the "Old City" of Jerusalem, the Arab Quarter.

Mike with flowers in his hair, next to sign: "Do Not Smoke the Grass". 

Yerushalayim Shel Zehav: Jerusalem of Gold.

Tiyul in the Negev Desert

Eileen smack in the middle. Sherril sitting in first row on the ground, 2nd from right. I remeber Bunny and Stuart sitting on either side of me,

New Jersey Group planting trees for Jewish National Fund 

He is either smoking a joint or blowing on a harmonica. You' choose. 

Our Fearless Leaders

Peter, Paul and Mary? No, Randy, Mike and Eileen.

Sherril leaving Zev and Israel, thus the solemn expression.

Trip ended with a few days in Paris, not too shabby!.

Airport in Paris. On our way home.

Now for Eileen's visit to my house in Bloomfield the winter after our trip to Israel. I remember that visit as being So Much Fun!

Eileen and me preparing to play outside in the winter wonderland..

My brother, Michael and Eileen and Snowman Masterpiece

Not sure why I am hugging the snowman, but I think I still have those gloves.

"My tree" "No, My tree!" May the best girl win.

Snowball Fight on left and Snowman is protecting my father's renault on right.

Having fun yet?

Eileen making a Snow-Angel.

Sherril kicking up a storm.

Back inside the cozy house at 987 Broad Street, Bloomfield, NJ, where you can find Sherril and Eileen being playful. 

Me making fish face!

Eileen making fish face!
Eileen faking sleep. 

Sherril faking sleep. 

                 Take note of my bedroom ceiling. Pretty cool, ay? Eileen seems to be contemplating it.

Looks like we are about to go out to dinner with my family.

 Eileen with Jo-Ann, my sister. 

A girl from Texas can't be too far from her 10 gallon hat!

 Down time.

Sisters! Sisters! Never were there such devoted sisters!

Dressed to the T's, Eileen and Me.

Deep in conversation. Note the white princess phone on the table. 

Eileen and I made decoupage pocketbooks. They were so cool. It probably went with all the other stuff up in the attic when my mother moved out of the house. ):

Note the guitar case next to me. I still have that Gibson guitar and same case 47 years hence!

Coy AND Playful.

So sweet!

We had a small reunion with a few kids from the National Bar Mitzvah club and a few friends of mine. 

Jeff Friedman (laughing next to Eileen), a friend of mine. Then Mitch from the trip and the guy on the other side of Eileen, may have been from the trip and the blond guy was a friend of Jeff's. 

Those were the days when playing TWISTER was all the rage and play it we did. 

 FUN! FUN! FUN! till my daddy took my T-bird away. 

Then came the sad day that Eileen had to go home. 

         A trip, a visit and a friend I will always remember!