About Contoveros

Mindfulness meditation, Zen Christian, Recovering Catholic, Vietnam veteran, Philadelphia Public Defender, a capella music, newspaper reporter, union organizer, student of Buddhism, the Sufi and of the Kabbalah, father and husband. Note: multiple contacts with this site may lead to silliness (Monty Python-type) .


Who is Contoveros?*

I grew up in Brewerytown, North Philadelphia, third son of Achilles Contoveros and Anne Westergom. “Pop” immigrated from Nisyros, a small fishing village that boasted four sub-villages that have thrived for nearly two thousand recorded years on a volcanic island in Greece. Poseidon’s adventure involving the Island had greeted visitors from a frieze depicting the Greek god on one of those ancient temple buildings. (Something called the Parthenon, situated on the Acropolis in Athens.) He and mom, a farm girl whose American heritage only stretched back to the founding of  Mays Landing, NJ, got married after meeting at  the New York World’s Fair some time in the last century.

What, you didn’t want me to go back that far?


I last worked as a Philadelphia Public Defender for 20 years, becoming disabled in 2008 following an ongoing battle with Vietnam War injuries.
I served as a First Lieutenant in a combat zone in command of a platoon of grunts at the ripe old age of 21. (Can we understand why some decades later I would become disabled?)

I loved trying criminal cases before a jury. There’s nothing like seeing witnesses squirm while cross-examining them when you already know the answer and you prepared beforehand to ask those zingers at the right moment before 12 jurors weighing every word spoken for or against your client. Best, yet, however, was the closing argument, when you could “perform” as the righteous defender of the underdog against the system that, sometimes appeared more concerned with getting a conviction to appease a frightened public, than in seeking justice.

A  jury trial win was better than sex!

Allright, all right, this is not an X-rated Blog.

I worked a year as a union organizer, thank you Norma Rae. It was one of the best times I ever had, even though the election to form a Union at the Reading Times/Eagle Newspaper, Reading, PA, met with defeat. I found a certain “calling” then, and that was to help my fellow man, in this case, my fellow newspaper worker.

As a reporter, I got to interview President Gerald Ford and was among only six attorneys permitted to tour and “pool-report on”  Three Mile Island, PA, following President Jimmy Carter’s visit that helped calm our nation’s concern with a nuclear power crisis. Required as a visitor to wear a pair of those “booties” while walking near the generator, may sure have made the president look funny, but there were no laughter from those  in Harrisburg, the state’s capital, or among the tens of thousands living within a 50- miles radius, more considering which way the wind could blow in late March.
I wrote for a 30.000-circulation newspaper, The Mercury of Pottstown, PA, small in size but  BIG with its reputation. It boasts two Pulitzer prizes, along with the greatest coverage ever of the Boyertown, PA, American Legion Baseball Championship games.

I meditate.

Often and regularly.

I’m open to new ideas — Feng Shui, Dream Interpretation, Reflexology, and I had my aura read twice, once before and once after a “healing.” I don’t know where my present Journey will take me. Who Knows? Maybe to come visit you, or at least engage in a discussion over the ‘Net that will lead to a new chapter in both of our lives. {Update: Perhaps India?}

(* Some have interpreted Contoveros to roughly mean: “Singer of Truth.”  Government workers in Ellis Island shortened the name to “Contos,” and in trying to read and help “Americanize” my father’s first name they changed it from what they were able to pronounce as “A chill es,” to “Charles,” thereby providing my pop upon entering the New World with the a.k.a. of “Charlie.” He was known as “Charlie West” when serving time in Sing-Sing, a New York City-area prison, charged with helping to run a speakeasy . . . But . . . that . . . is . . .  another . . . story.” )

65 comments on “About Contoveros

  1. […] Ruby Cantu says: 10/11/2009 at 10:26 […]

  2. Thank you for your service to our country, sir. Your writing inspires me, and I really appreciate your posts. Peace be with you always. ~dp

  3. uju says:

    This was quite the read. And my first thought was, “that’s too much interest for one person!” but it’s great and I can’t wait to read everything else you have to share 🙂

  4. Cassandra says:

    Rich, rich, rich, rich life! Thank you!

    • contoveros says:

      I wish we could meet in person. We could probably share quite a bit.

      I am sure that you have experiences that I would love to hear about. Maybe someday we’ll share them in person.

      Michael J

  5. Was just reviewing and re-posting one of my works from the past, and came across your comment. I wanted to send you a note this Memorial Day to thank you for your service to our Nation. That era was not an easy time, and I know after reading Tim O’Brien’s book – The Things They Carried – and having known many veterans of The War, that is was a horror, that any war is such, and the things that get carried home are something even those closest to those who served will never know. Blessings to you and prayers for peace for all of your days … – Peter (grandfathersky)

    • contoveros says:

      Thank you. This is very special to me, because of what your people and your your lineage has done for those of us who might not have realized it, but took on the title of “warrior.”

      Your ancestors understood what that meant and taught not only the young men who embraced the life, but the families who suffered along with the braves through every skirmish, battle, and/or morning call to arms. A psychologist at a VA hospital encouraged all of us Vietnam veterans to study the ways of the Native American, and I have grown through Pow Wows, sweat lodges, and soon, should the Great Spirit be willing, i’ll take part in something called the Long Dance.”

      I can’t wait for the healing to start!

      Thank you again my brother.

      Michael j

  6. saradode says:

    Hi, Michael,
    I got an email yesterday or the day before (how the days slip by, especially in the summer!), notifying me that you’d signed up to follow my blog (“Open Your Eyes…”). I haven’t posted there in quite a while (although I consider it from time to time, if that counts!), but it made me happy. I just wanted to tell you that I spent half of last night dreaming that you and I were kind of just hanging around together in what seemed to be a fun cafe/bar kind of a place, and that I was trying to explain to you that we’d known each other in a previous life (which is actually not something I’d thought about before, so I’m not sure why it came up…).
    Anyway, it was a fun, goofy dream (I also dreamed that an elephant got into my bed just to snuggle up with me, kind of like a dog, so it was just that kind of a night, I guess!), and I thought I’d share it. I miss the days a few years back when we were all furiously blogging and reading each others’ blogs!
    I hope you’re doing well…


    • contoveros says:

      Fun, goofy dreams are often the best ones to have. I have been writing some as part of a new adventure I have begun. I’ve taken part in a sweat lodge ritual and wrote of my dreams. I found it takes several days for the stuff stirred up inside to come to the surface before I can look at what my subconscious wants to serve my conscious. It’s best to view some things in dreams

      In addition, I’ve been counseled to write about my experience in getting attuned for level one Reiki. I don’t plan to publish the musings. They are private, and could not be understood except by the person dreaming or interpreting the dream.

      Some of the dreams got a little hot and heavy and not suitable for family viewing unless you’re in the mood to make a family . . . I wonder what that says about the deepest and darkess corners of my psyche? I don’t know, but maybe now would be a good time to re-read Dr. Carl Jung, the eminent psychologist on dreams.

      Great to hear from you Nancy, and look forward to seeing you in yet another dream or two in this life or any other lifetime.

      michael j

      • saradode says:

        Once again proving yourself to be the most open-minded spiritual adventurer around! 🙂 I’m going to send you a link to something at your email address. If you haven’t already seen it somewhere, I think you might find it yet another way to enrich your practice(s)…

  7. livvy1234 says:

    I would like to contact Contoveros about Vietnam. Where do I send mail?

    Realmanure on wordpress

  8. Deb Glick says:

    Thank you for your kindness and smile on Saturday April 7, 2012. I enjoyed praying with you. Very interesting blog-thank you for your service to your country. So much to say-wow, you have accomplished so much, your family must be proud! I look forward to corresponding with you-hope to hear from you-I’ll probably be at TBC in a few weeks, maybe 4/22. Namaste, Deb

    • contoveros says:

      The pleasure was mutual, Debbie, and I am so glad to hear from you. I will be at a five-day retreat from April 18 to the 22nd (2012), and may miss you at the center. But, we have a connection through the Dharma and I’m sure we will hook up again.

      I’ll tell you, I was exhausted after the Retreat, but when I lay down, I felt wave after wave of overwhelming love from all who attended. It corresponded with an intoxicating love I had for everyone there. (Losang Samten must have put something in those chants for me to feel so much compassion.) I got compassion for myself and then compassion for all others.

      You’ve given me an idea about death. We can live as if the one we are with is about to die. Think of how much more we could do to help alleviate the person’s suffering, and how much better we’d become at deep listening.

      You and a woman who writes for Peaceful Presence Living have turned me onto death!


      See you in the City of Brotherly Love some day soon.

      michael j

  9. Great “About” page — makes me want to follow up on some more of your older posts. 🙂

    I, for one, am fascinated by the story of your parents meeting at the New York World’s Fair. Can I go out on a limb and ask if it would have been the 1939-1940 fair? I researched it for a paper in college and fell in love with it — the buildings, the exhibits, and the people behind it. So cool.

    Can’t believe you reported on the reactors! During Three Mile Island, I was a kid in Harrisburg, running around with a towel over my mouth…like that was going to save any of us. We ended up decamping to my grandmother’s in Juniata County, another weak stab at surviving a “meltdown”. 🙂

    • contoveros says:

      You really know your stuff about the New York Worlds’ Fair. It was in 1939 that my parents met. My father was a chef at the British pavilion and my mom a young girl straight from a New Jersey farm who eventually married and served the world as a waitress the rest her life.

      You/re good.

      Now, about that towel that you wore over your mouth to prevent radiation from Three Miles Island. Was it Governor Thornburgh who suggested it to you? How about Lieutenant Governor Scranton?

      I was scared hearing about the possible meltdown of a nuclear power plant in Pottstown, some 90 miles away, and there you were right in the thick of things.

      Blogging can make our world a lot smaller and more comfortable. Nice to meet you, neighbor. Hope to see you again real soon.

      michael j

      • That is SO cool about your mom and dad — thanks for sharing some more details with me!

        I definitely remember Governor Thornburgh! — I could’t have come up with his name, though, until you said it. 🙂 It was a crisis MADE for my mom. She was such a worrier on a daily basis that she really hit her stride in actual emergencies. We were in school when they came over the loudspeaker with a direct feed from the emergency folks, and all the parents started racing to school to pick us all up. As a kid, I just knew it was the worst trip to Grandma’s EVER, with all of the adults gathered around the TV 24/7.

        Funny, I got lost off of the turnpike a while ago and ended up near the gates to TMI. Felt like a real cult icon kind of place after all of these years!

  10. Contover says:

    Now here comes Dean Contover from Massachusetts. My dad wrote the “Nisyros History” that is in the Greek section of the Library of Congress. I too am a Viet nam veteran. The Kontoveros are a large family all over the Dodekanesos Islands. I thing we should plan for a reunion. The family is larger than we think.

    • contoveros says:

      Great! Hope to join you at the reunion and also check out the history written by your father. I can’t wait to tell my clousin, Calliope, whose father — my uncle — kept the Contoveros name. With or without the “K”!

      michael j

  11. Hello! I have been reading your blog as of late and I think very highly of it and you. That is why I am nominating you for The Kreativ Blogger award. If you care to participate here is the link. http://strawberryindigo.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/adventures-in-kreativ-blogging-the-awards/

    • contoveros says:

      Thank you, Strawberry Lady. I am honored and will check out the site once my vision improves. (Still waiting for a gas bubble inserted in one eye to dissipate from detacvhed retina surgery.)

  12. Raven says:

    Contoveros … I am sorry I did not respond here today after reading your blog. It was joyful reading and I know that we have much in common. Hopefully not the cold that I took on last night and has sucked the energy out of me, which is why I did not comment.

    Are you familiar with Edward Tick PhD, works with Vietnam Veterans and has written among other things: War and the Soul? It is an excellent read. He utilizes “Soul Retrieval” a shamanic healing technique in tandem with his psychology and taking Vietnam Veterans back to Vietnam. Although I have wished to do this sort of healing work with veterans, I know ultimately that it really needs to be done with counseling therapy. I am not a therapist. And I am done with school. I think.

    I loved listening to your feelings and stories about being in the court room. I got a real kick out of them. My husband is an attorney and surely sounds much like you when you express how you feel about women. He is by no means macho, no, that is my job. He is kind and gentle and a truly fine human being. Having him in my corner has always added such strength to my spiritual adventures, perhaps in part he has allowed me to have “no fear.” No, not allowed, but his support has pushed me into a no-fear place. He is so cool … and me, I don’t like women. Can you tell that I was reading your piece on women? I chuckled after reading it. I could have been your opposite speaking of my passion for men. And so much of that passion is a result of the magnificent and kind man that I am married to.

    I have met several women online in these blogs for whom I have respect and affection. Actually it is Soul Dipper who has sent me to your blog. And I do relate to her.

    Ah, I am tiring, but I am so very glad to have connected with you and Michael, thank you for your service, thank you for what you went through. I have so much admiration and care for each man who ever went to Vietnam (well, during the war). This past Saturday we went to America’s first Welcome Home Parade for Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans. I took a ton of photos some of which I have placed upon my new blog which I created for Haiku and Photography. It is a Word Press.com blog called NOH-WHERE and is here:


    • contoveros says:


      So good to hear from a kindred soul. I have been slow in responding because of a torn retina which has limited my vision, but I see well enough to be uplifted by your words.

      You are the third person to mention Edward Tick to me, and he has been added to my “bucket list” of authors I must read before . . . well, let’s just say before Dec 22, 2012.

      I’ll “see” you a lot sooner!

      michael j

  13. Paul Contoveros says:

    I’m sure all of the Contoveros’ are related. There is another Contoveros family in my community here in the Cleveland area that is from Nisyros but they spell their name kontoveros and sometimes kontos. My father had a first cousin in Lowell, MA who went by the name of Lazaros Contover. I met his son, Dean, my second cousin. My dad said there were so many Contoveros’ from Nisyros that some of his first cousins changed their last name to Lazaros, as did my dad’s first cousin in Astoria.

  14. Hello! Contoveros 🙂 You visited my blog awhile back and left a wonderful comment that I would like to use for my new book series (primarythoughts.net). If you are interested, please send me your email address so I can send you the specifics. Thank you ~ Mel, primary thoughts @ gmail . com

  15. Cally (calliope)--daughter of Spiro your fathers brother says:

    I love your writing, i am on facebook (calliope contoveros) r u? would like to stay connected with you my first cousin…


    • contoveros says:

      I’m going to look you up and stay in touch. I loved your father, my uncle Spiros, and admired the great spirit he always brought to life. I hope to see you soon!

      Michael J Contos
      to a real Contoveros

    • Paul Contoveros says:

      My name is Paul A Contoveros and my grandfather was born in Nisyros, although my father was born in Rhodes. I have just gotten into mindfulness and have found it very helpful. Although i did not serve in the military my son is an officer in the US Air Force. I’m on facebook if you want to link up.

      • contoveros says:

        Mindfulness has greatly helped me and I recommend it highly.

        We have to be related somehow, Paul. How many people with the name of Contoveros could there be from the Island of Nisyros? There are only four villages; less than a thousand people when I visited in 2008. My father’s name was shortened to Contos when he came through Ellis Island. Cally (Calliope), kept the family name when her father, my uncle, came to New York. Who knows what an Ancestry.Com could come up with if there was a Greek version covering the Dodecanese Islands.

        • Carol Spiros says:

          Hello – another Kontoveros relative here – grandfather Ahileas Kontoveros came from Nisyros. Took the last name Spiros. We’re in the Cleveland area, and as Paul C has mentioned, some have changed their name to Kontos.

          My grandmother’s mother (from England) married a Saris from the same island, and they moved to Cleveland and ran a Greek boarding house; hence how my grandmother and grandfather met.

          It’s a small world!

          • contoveros says:

            Hello my cousin of some degree or another! Never knew there were so many of us in the “New World.” All of us could probably trace our beginnings to that tiny island that was celebrated and memorialized on the front of the Parthenon in Athens. Poseidon is shown vanquishing one of the Titan’s on a freize above the temple’s entrace. Mythology tells us the god of water submerged the Titan in the Aegean Sea with a piece of land from the Island of Kos. That land mass has come to be called “Nisyros” down through the ages.

            What a history we share! Contoveros or Kontoveros; Contos or Kontos. Throw in a Spiros or Achilles (Ahileas, maybe) and you’ll see the richness of our heritage. Nice to meet over the Internet.

            michael j contos (aka Contoveros)

  16. this is the first time i’ve really looked at your blog. i would like to know, if you do meditation what you would suggest for a woman like me who is ADHD with bi-polar. Everyone tells me i need to do this but don’t know where to begin.


    • contoveros says:


      “Don’t just stand there and do something – sit!”

      These words above lead into a story with an indepth look at meditation and mental impairments.


      It might give you a suggestion where to start your “practice” with meditation. I use it for Post Traumatic Stress and stay upbeat whenever I feel depression trying to kick in.

      Keep in touch. Let me know how you make out . . .

      michael j

  17. michael j

    I want to add my thank yous too! As a newcomer to the blogging neighborhood you were the first “stranger” to put out the welcome mat for me. It meant a lot to know that I wasn’t just talking to myself that evening.

    You have a very interesting and varied history. It’s nice to make your acquaintance!


    • contoveros says:

      Your smile shows through in your writing, Maggie. And, it inspires me to write better, hoping to iginite some spark of recognition — that we are all brothers and sisters, trying to help one another suffer less. Meditating helps me focus and zero onto a given idea, no matter how mundane it first appears. I find that life is more interesting when I can focus on the simple things and learn from them.

      Nice to meet you, too.

      michael j

      • michael j
        Yes I’ve also learned not to “write off” any idea that passes through my head (especially when meditating!). As with alot of things, subtle=powerful.

        The simple pleasures are the best! Even my cooking has gotten far less complicated, and thus tastes better.

        You inspire me as well with your excellent communication skills and welcoming spirit.
        maggie b

        • contoveros says:

          maggie b,

          I’m trying to get my head around your “cooking skills.” Can’t help but feel hungry while reading that line. Ever think of using some cooking terminology to express an idea? I would, but I don’t know that many.

          Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you run a Blog with pictures of your favorite foods. Although, right now, I feel I could eat a horse since I have had nothing except coffee after arising at 6 am and the time now is past noon.

          You’ve inspired me to comment, and to seek lunch at the same time.

          Bon Apetit!

          michael j

  18. Christina says:

    Hi Michael,
    Looking over various comments I see you’re familiar with Omega. I’m going for the first time in June for the “one light healing touch” weekend with Nancy Plumer. Any tips, suggestions, things I should know or take advantage of while there? It will be my first time going.
    I think I remember reading somewhere that you are going this month and if so enjoy!

    • contoveros says:

      Omega Institute has some great food. All vegitarian. I’d take some fruit and bread things back to the room with me for snacks.

      There’s a store to buy books of many of the speakers and then get them to autograph the book.

      Check out the “Sanctuary.” It was my favorite spot, even though our group never made it there. The ponds are wonderful and the paths leading up reminded me of something from another world. Nice place to be alone and go within.

      Take lots of pictures. Include yourself in a few. Walk the labyrinth, check out the lake, wait in the cafeteria to use one of the three computers.

      Avoid using the pay phones to call collect!

      Where appropriate clothing for the co-ed saunayour “birthday suit” will be just fine.

      Enjoy and make friends of a like-mind and get e-mails to chat months later.

      michael jback on April 21, 2010

  19. Katharine says:

    Good to meet you, Michael J.
    And I AM located (relatively)near Omega.
    Thank you for visiting my blog. You have a great one here!

  20. kalyani says:

    What an interesting life-story! Am glad to meet a Greek descendant – what a history it has. Achilles Contoveros becoming Charlie West is so sad -but that I guess is the New World.

  21. Will says:

    Great blog. Thanks for your kind comments on my blog. I may have to pick your brain about meditation and Buddhism in the future.

  22. amberausten says:

    Wow, wow and wow. Let me gather myself after reading your “about.” I am thrilled to have gotten your comment, when it first came across I said to myslef ” finally.” I ramble on, obviously in the heat of high emotional moments, when I write about a lot of experiences that stem from this ptsd diagnosis. This moment right now though is one big reason I do that, to make connections with others who understand what I may possibly be talking about. So far, many do not have a clue.Thank you for connecting,I look forward to many future dialogs…. – Amber

    • contoveros says:

      Amber,The only way to beat PTSD is to stay one step ahead of it. By learning as much about it as humanly possible. It takes its toll, but we can learn coping mechanisms from a great many different sources. Glad that we can share.

      michael j

  23. Sara Fryd says:

    We have so much to talk about Michael. Been to Greece, love the law, love criminal trials and books. Just finished The Poet for a second time. And I’ll be back to read some more. Thanks so much for stopping by. Sara

    • contoveros says:

      Brown Eyes,

      Uh, what’s the Poet?

      Like what you had to say and how you said it.
      You know the singers of the song: “Sara” are from the Philadelphia area? Hall and Oates. The “boxcar” on their famous album jacket still stands in Perkiomen Township, not far from here.

  24. Greeneyes says:

    how nice of you to take the time and stop by my page to read and leave a comment….i wanted to say thank you…i think i will take a look around your page now that i am here….thanks again…

    • contoveros says:

      Never did say “welcome” to you. Hope this is not too late.

      I see a new “you” posting, but with the same old, kind and beautiful heart. The same Green Eyes.

      • Greeneyes says:

        a welcome was not necessary my friend…i found this as i was scurrying along to find a place to leave a new years note! Your words to me are always so very kind and i wanted to thank you for that….i am not a good blogging friend of late, my life has become so maze like until i get settled…and i have not been conversing on the pages, just writing to deal with where i am going in this life (my favorite quote here would be “the best way out is always through” by Robert Frost)….so yes you saw the new “me” kinda sorta… for pieces i would love to publish… insert breath here…..

        so in my wordy way Michael…i wanted to wish you a healthy and beautiful new year filled with discoveries and endless words along the way to wherever it is you wander…and an apology for not being a part of the blogging back and forth right now…i’m not sure where i belong right now…but it will come…thank you for always being so kind generous and thoughtful …..Happy New Year xoxo greeneyes

        • contoveros says:


          No apology needed between two like us. I seem to detect a new “seeking” about you, not only in your art, but in the view your path is taking you.

          Don’t forget. It gets darkest right before the first light.

          Or something like that. Hey, you’re the real poet around here. I just use the inspiration you provide.

          michael j

  25. David Gillaspie says:

    I lived next to Hahnemann hospital during the Frank Rizzo years while serving as an army medic on Oregon Avenue. I went all the way from living in Oregon to working on Oregon Ave. I took classes at Temple U out in North Philadelphia. Sort of funny.

    Stay fired-up, but remember the cool down periods. When I get too wound up I take a ‘yoga’ breath and repeat “breathing in” when I breath in, and “breathing out” when I breath out. I think it helps, but I feel like Mr. Costanza screaming “Serenity Now” sometimes.

    Thanks for the posts,

    David Gillaspie

    • contoveros says:

      Staying Fired Up,

      You’ve gone a long way in your Journey, Dave. From Oregon to Frank Rizzo and Oregon Ave. Serving as an Army medic. Hey, I was born in Hahnemann Hospital. (Jeez, you even know how to spell it. I’m impressed!)

      Go Temple owls.

      And that’s an in-breath, and that’s an out-breath. I think I can get the hang of this some day. Good to hear from you.

      Happy Veterans’ Day. Here’s a salute to you!!

      Michael J

      • David Gillaspie says:

        An interesting thing about Philadelphia in those days was the air conditioners in the Bellevue-Stratford. I avoided that section of the street.

        Thanks for the salutation. Stay well.

        • contoveros says:

          For 20 years, I worked within a few blocks of the Bellevue. But that was long after “Legionnaire’s Disease.”

          Or was it? Maybe that can explain my strange behavior when the moon is full.

  26. inwardsun says:

    I don’t think I have ever read a more widespread, yet staight forward self introduction. You got my attention! 🙂

  27. My dear Michael, reading your blog makes me smile and laugh. I read a lot of your post today. It’s so cool! Thank you so much for taking time reading my blog.

    Peace to you!

  28. tinapeacock says:

    We have much in common. And I don’t have to read all about you to know this.

    I grew up in the Suburbs of Philly. I’m just a wannabe.

    You commented so clearly on my post, that I want to hug you and tell you that everything is ok.

    Because it is.

    Forgiveness is key.

  29. Ruby Cantu says:

    Thank you for stopping by my page, don’t be a stranger.

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