One of my all-time favorite authors – a veteran who was a POW and a staunch anti-war advocate – would have celebrated his 100th birthday this month.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who turned me on to science fiction mixed with auto-biographical recalls, was born on Veterans Day in 1921, just three years after Armistice Day, which was the original veterans’ day. It commemorated the end of the European war “Over There” and was called “the war to end all wars.”
Voting has been made easier for many of us in Pennsylvania and the state provides links for checking on your voting status as well as any request seeking a mail-in ballot. I took part in a Zoom connection entitled “MontCoVotes” and learned how to maneuver through the government channels and wanted to share them here.
The world is celebrating the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi today! Francesco di Bernadone, whose real name was actually Giovanni (John), was born some 800 years ago. He came from a wealthy family. But turned his back on his mercantile father and gave up all worldly goods to help the poor as well as the animals.
Before I ever went to a community college, I had to make up several deficits in my learning. I had to take remedial math as well as remedial English. I passed both and was then permitted to take regular classes which include journalism studies and just as important, the school’s extra-curricular activity of working on the college newspaper.
I began as a reporter for The Communitarian. The paper used my by-line on every story I wrote, and by my second year at DCCC, I was named editor. Well, I believe my military training must have kicked in because I started to publish an edition on a weekly basis. You were lucky to have it published once a month until I took over.
For the life of me, I cannot remember the first time I ever danced.
You know, get out on the floor of somebody’s home, a schoolroom, or even a dance floor and move around to music or some make-believe dance sound. My mind simply can’t dig up that moment that should be among my most precious memories.
I got a new pair of hearing aids, and a new world of sounds has opened to me!
I wore ‘em outdoors during a walk on my 10,000-steps-a-day journey, and the first thing I noticed was the sound of birds chirping merrily in the trees I walked under. They had to have been communicating with each other because as soon as one stopped chirping, another one seemed to follow up in response.
The following is Gabriel’s Message as channeled by my good friend Cyndi Smith:
Your soul does not completely fit inside your body. Some of your soul remains in Heaven in what you call your higher self. Much of it is here inside of you but the part that overflows your body is called your aura.
The authentic human voice is a thing many writers strive to capture. Few can claim to have succeeded. Contos, however, very much has earned that badge of honor. The text is home to an authentic and powerful narration that still, in its honest humanity, grounds itself in the humble approach to one man’s life and what that life means.
I don’t often cry over books. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just something that very rarely happens.
For the first time in our nation’s history, an attorney who once practiced law as a public defender will serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate and will take her seat this summer when Justice Stephen Breyer steps down. She will be the first former criminal defense lawyer since Justice Thurgood Marshall who served on the bench more than 30 years ago.
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated . . .”
This quote from Mark Twain touched my very soul yesterday when I got a message from one of my old colleagues who said that he had read something “disturbing.” The exact quote via Messenger was: “Michael, are you okay? I saw something disturbing for your name.”
My reply: “Disturbing? I haven’t done anything to warrant that since I made an illegal turn into the senior citizen center in Upper Merion Township last week and a cop stopped me.”
I have been honored this Veterans Day through a recorded interview about my book on the Vietnam War for a program called “Good Morning Conshy” where I share the broadcast with two companion pet managers for what is known as PACT. Many of the animals had assisted veterans who could no longer care for their pets and needed help for animals they viewed as their children.
We all had contacts with Conshohocken, a small borough just outside of Philadelphia, and learned that the interview would be recorded and made available on U-Tube. Watching it, I noticed how white-faced I look after recovering from a stomach illness. I am glad I wore my “boonie hat” that I had saved from the Vietnam War. It shows one silver bar that was subdued to prevent the enemy from spotting an officer. I wore it only once before and that was at Omega Institute at a five-day meditation retreat for veterans with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)
One of my favorite jobs was serving as an intern for the Defender Association of Philadelphia. I went to the jails, the courtrooms, and the training rooms to learn how to properly defend persons charged with various crimes. The prison was tough. You never knew if the defendant was telling the truth or not. You simply interviewed him for the basic information and wrote up his story for a trial lawyer to review before speaking to the suspect and going to trial. You never saw the person again and you had no idea how he may have faired.
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Vietnam War Recall”
Like many other young men of the time, author Michael Contos found himself in the military, headed to a turbulent region of the world to protect democracy. After completing Officer Candidate School, Michael was deployed to Vietnam to lead a platoon of infantrymen on missions while evading the formidable Viet Cong forces. Here, he describes the worst day of his life that led to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating condition that would threaten to consume his life and linger for decades; a day so jarring that he would not talk about, even with his family.
Upon returning home, his experiences in combat haunt him, so he seeks the help of spiritual leaders to help relieve the symptoms of PTSD. The story is told in the first person through flashbacks, introspect, and excerpts from the author’s blog. Through the narration, readers get a glimpse into the personal turmoil that many of our veterans face after combat.
The best part of this book is the intimate and emotional description of PTSD; a young leader, not afforded time to grieve or debrief from his experiences, lives with the nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety that seem to permeate every facet of his life. These intense feelings are captured clearly by the author. I also love the way the daily humdrum of military life is portrayed, and the descriptions sure bring back memories for this veteran. The cadences, the euphoric feeling when you realize your parachute is perfect, and the anticipation of the return to the United States (DEROS) is very real indeed! A little humor, typical of military camaraderie, is also peppered into the pages of the story; I had to chuckle when I read about some familiar but important advice: never crap alone in the field!
Although the messages are powerful, the book does seem a bit repetitive at times. Other than this, there is nothing negative to say about the story, its purpose and voice are truly a gift to an audience who does not truly understand the realities of war and its crippling effects on our young servicemen, not only the ones who gave their lives but also those who returned bearing unseen scars. I happily give Vietnam Recall: The Best and Worst Days of My Life4 out of 4 stars for these reasons. The book appears professionally edited and is divided into chapters of appropriate length.
I particularly recommend this book to readers who love historical accounts of war and those who seek insight from a primary source about mental illness. Those with family members in the military will appreciate the insightful glimpse into the psyche of those who have chosen to defend our way of life. There is some moderate profanity, along with explicit descriptions of trauma and wartime peril; those sensitive to these topics may not want to read the book. For all others, the book is a penetrating account of one man’s journey towards healing and peace. All who read this story will undoubtedly be moved by the author’s gipping words as he relives the most difficult moments of his life. He speaks for the countless others, who remain silent.
I knelt at the gravesite while bowing my head and closing my eyes to pray yesterday morning. I was visiting Calvary Cemetery of West Conshohocken, the burial site for Father William E Atkinson, an Augustinian priest who passed away in 2006 and is now being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church to be named a saint.
It took me more than 50 years, but I finally published my Vietnam War story and the toll it took on me after leading a combat infantry platoon as a 21-year-old first lieutenant in the US army.
I self-published with the help of editors who wrote the back cover description. They used a mug shot I had taken some ten years ago while attending a PTSD meditation clinic at Omega Institute for veterans and their families. The clinic introduced me to different forms of meditation that allowed me to eventually deal with the trauma and view the war experience in a more benign and compassionate light.
Synchronicity is a term I have come to cherish since being introduced to it by my favorite psychologist, Carl Jung. It refers to deeply meaningful coincidences that mysteriously occur in one’s life. Jung proved by the law of probability that they were not mere coincidences but insights into our rich and worthwhile lives.
Walter Mondale, the Minnesota resident and former candidate for president of the United States, was a staunch advocate for providing legal services to poor people charged with crimes and I firmly believe that his legacy will live on.
Any veteran that took part in the January 6th insurrection at the US capitol should be stripped of his or her VA benefits and labeled a “traitor.”
There is a disturbing number of current and former military persons identified among those who broke into the capitol to overturn the election. About 20 percent of the nearly 300 arrested, according to NPR. They should no longer receive treatment at VA hospitals, get the GI Bill for attending school or obtain a mortgage loan.
I look forward every day to reading the news of an indictment against the former president and/or an update on all of the civil lawsuits against him.
You know they’re coming. All the highly experienced lawyers need do is to simply confirm their concrete and rock-solid facts before going to court and contacting the news media for reporters to share the information on the law with the entire world.
The Fourth of July is upon us and I wanted to share some independent facts that many Americans may not have learned in history books or in their classrooms.*
The Declaration of Independence was first printed in a German-speaking newspaper and not an English one. The Colony of Pennsylvania had a large German population and when people of what became the Keystone State voted on which language to use, German lost by only one vote. Continue reading →
While I am still able to recall in some details highlights of my early life before true adulthood I decided to write them down for future generations and others who may want to commiserate with my adventures and misadventures. Continue reading →
I meditated this morning and realized there were few if any sounds coming from the street outside my home. Traffic usually provides noise from cars and trucks as motorists make their way along the suburban road in Conshohocken, PA, some 14 miles outside of Philadelphia. Continue reading →
An American hero has fallen to the Coronavirus and the world may never see the likes of him ever again.
Ninety-eight-year-old George Shenkle, a card-carrying member of the “Greatest Generation” took part in the invasion of Normandy more than 75 years ago, freeing our universe from the evil of the Nazis. He served as a paratrooper with three combat jumps – including both D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge — and got a purple heart in return for the wounds he received after hitting the ground and running into enemy fire and explosions. Continue reading →
Today is Vietnam Veterans Day and the Year of 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of my deployment in the war zone. I was a 21-year-old second lieutenant placed in charge of a platoon of some 25 men, many of them still in their teenage years and drafted like I had been. Continue reading →
I exercise daily and try to get enough steps each day to add up to two miles. That’s around 6,250 steps if anyone is counting.
Well, my I-phone is counting ‘em. The steps, that is. And the miles. Continue reading →
I once worked in Pennsylvania State Government, meeting and writing a speech for the governor and broadcasting a news story about a new group of buses being introduced to the Keystone State. Continue reading →
It’s been 10 years since I wrote my first post for this Contoveros Blog and looking back I feel a little like Ken Burns, the producer of PBS specials on such things as war, music and other all-American things. Continue reading →
I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant 50 years ago and looking back I see it as one of the greatest achievements of my life. Also, one of the luckiest ones and I’m so glad to still be around to tell about it.
Yes, by an Act of Congress I was made “An Officer & a Gentleman.” I don’t know where that title came from — Great Britain I guess — but I tried to live up to it’s “ideal” while in the army and when discharged and choosing different career paths in my life. Continue reading →
God works in mysterious ways.
Put another way, the Universe will conspire to bring about what you really want and need in life, even though you may not know it when the Divine Intervention takes place.
Or even like it. The intervention that is. And on first blush, it may even seem bad but you realize on reflection it had to have happened for you to progress in life. Continue reading →
“Groundhog Day” is the movie starring Bill Murray who visits Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he is destined to live each day over and over for what seems like eternity. It’s message is one of Karma and reincarnation, particularly when one realizes that the director and co-screen-writer was a practicing Buddhist named Harold Remis. Continue reading →
I would not have gone to college had it not been for the GI Bill which is marking its 75th anniversary on June 22, 2019.
My father, who was born on a small Greek Island, never went beyond sixth grade. My mother, daughter of Hungarian refugees, was the first in her family to graduate from a high school in New Jersey.
And I had barely made it through Dobbin’s Tech, a trade school, having transferred from a Catholic high school after I got caught playing hooky and ordered to go to summer school for religion. No one – including myself — saw college in my lifetime. Continue reading →
Patty Ward, a Specialist 4 with a helicopter gunship, was shot down 50 years ago while flying to the aid of US Army soldiers during the Vietnam War. He was one of four men who died when their helicopter was hit and crashed.
Patty was awarded the Silver Star for bravery in connection with helping to rescue other grunts wounded in another battle. His family in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia received the medal posthumously. Continue reading →
While editorials from dozens of newspapers throughout the country are expected to be offered about the attacks on the First Amendment on August 16, I figured I’d get my two-cents worth in as a former news reporter. Continue reading →
Are there moments in our life when we can see God’s fingerprints or the Will of the Universe directing us along our path? I’m talking about seeing such a Divine event as it is occurring or upon hindsight years later.
Joy filled my soul as I read that the 12 boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand were thinking of entering a monastery in honor of the former Navy Seal that gave his life in an effort to save them. Continue reading →
“Here lies Ben Franklin — a printer” is the message gracefully displayed at the gravesite of my favorite Founding Father in the City of Philadelphia. He was ambassador to both England and France as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence and contributor to the US Constitution. He was also an inventor, a philosopher and creator of the first library, the first zoo and the first fire company in the New World. Continue reading →
Padre Pio has a close connection with Philadelphia because of a woman called in a prayer to bring her sick child to see him in 1968 and the blessing he granted that led to her miracle cure just a few weeks before he died. Continue reading →
Writing has opened me to a world above and beyond my five senses and I feel like an HG Wells whenever I revisit the past and recall what life was like when I was fortunate enough to stop the world for a few brief moments and write about something. Continue reading →
Songs have a way of taking me back to a time of my life that provided milestones for the path leading me to where I am today.
We all have them, those cherished ones that we hold dear. Some of which may cause a tear to flow, a shit-eaten’ grin to form. I recently thought of five of ‘em and simply wanted to share them with “old folks at home” who might also remember them. Continue reading →
Father Koenig put the gloves on me when I was ten years old and directed me toward the kid who was my same size but some two years older. That kid – Billy McLaughlin – kicked my butt. But I never cried or gave up as I swung wildly at him in efforts to land my own punches. Continue reading →
She stared at me as I walked from the courtroom and I felt her hate bore into me. Her whole posture seemed to drip with contempt and what I could only feel at that moment was a curse from her whole being. Continue reading →
It struck me as I slowly made my way from the floor of the plane and stood in the center of the walkway. There were at least 30 other soldiers on the C-140, a military aircraft that was flying over the field where those of us in jump school would soon be taking our first jump. Continue reading →
I didn’t want to go to Vietnam. Who did back in 1968? I was never a gung-ho type of a guy even though I’d go a little berserk when a buddy of mine got attacked by some bully at home or in school. Continue reading →
My mother hit me upside the head when she caught me drinking beer in the Big Moose bar up the street from where we lived.
I was 16 years old at the time and sipping a Ballantine beer with a friend from Dobbins Technical High School. Someone must have ratted me out as my good friend Joe Walsh and I — both young white guys — drank in the African American bar in a section of Philadelphia called Brewerytown. Continue reading →
I took a leave of absence from my work as a newspaper reporter to serve as a union organizer for The Newspaper Guild years ago. I had helped to negotiate several contracts at the Pottstown Mercury, and only took the job when I was overlooked for being made a copy-editor at the paper. Continue reading →
John Facenda was Philadelphia’s favorite newscaster when I was growing up. He was suave and debonair, kind of like a Cary Grant with a voice that captured your immediate attention whether it be about shenanigans going on in city government or sports actions through NFL replays. Continue reading →
I wanted the driver who cut me off to crash and burn.
For a brief moment, I thought of praying that he would immediately die for cutting in front of me as I was doing 60-miles-an-hour on the expressway behind a car just five lengths in front of me. I beeped my horn and flashed my high beams at the driver. I relished in the hatred I felt burning inside of me. I loathed him from the bottom of my heart and wanted a bloody accident to befall ‘em. Continue reading →
I heard the word “Satsang” yesterday and it reminded me of a journey I started a half a lifetime ago when I had hit rock bottom and sought answers to the meaning of life.
Satsang is a Sanskrit word that means “gathering together for the truth” or, more simply, “being with the truth.” According to sources from India, Truth is what is real, what truly exists. Continue reading →
Thích Nhất Hạnh looked at me from the most sorrowful eyes I have ever seen and I understood what it was like for a person to feel all the suffering the world is experiencing.
I had attended a five-day silent retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery in upstate New York with some thousand others who meditated morning, noon and night. Someone would ring a bell as you walked through the monastery grounds and just like clock-work, everyone would stop what they were doing and rest in the present moment. Continue reading →
Can you believe it? I did it by visualizing myself getting into a shirt I haven’t worn since I put extra weight on. It’s part of a course I took entitled “Tap Into Your Genius” and is based on the teachings of a Dr. Joe Dispenza. Continue reading →
To me, it’s a big deal for it is something I haven’t done in quite a while. You see, I got prostrate problems. I got diagnosed with it while at the VA hospital and I take medication every night, but no matter what I do, I still have to get up in the idle of the ight and take a pee. Continue reading →
My criminal law professor just died and I cried like a baby this past week. I couldn’t help but look at the photograph taken of him presenting me with a trial advocacy award upon graduation in 1988. The framed picture rests on the mantel of an old wood—burning stove in my dining room. It is one of my prized possessions. Continue reading →
Someone from 100 different countries has viewed this site and my flag counter can attest to number of nations represented here.
I started to write a Blog some seven years ago and hooked up with a link that not only counted the number of persons viewing Contoveros, but determined which country that person was from. I placed the flag counter at the top of my Blog so that anyone — including myself — could readily see it on linking into Contoveros.It’s at my home site. (See Flag Counter for the latest count up to this minute. Trinidad is the latest country added to my list!)Continue reading →
I had tried sitting mediation alone and with others, but was successful only once, and I really don’t know what I was doing. I was following a guru – a 15-year-old teacher from India — before I had turned 30 and I mingled with aspirants in an ashram in Philadelphia. I never touched Nirvana or reached the level that others seemed to rise to. Continue reading →
Writing opens me to a world within that I usually don’t visit unless I’m asleep or go into a meditative state. I let go of most thoughts except the one that crops up as I focus on a subject or rather it reveals itself to me. Continue reading →
There is a message I receive every time I travel to the IKEA store and visit the “As Is” department. I get a feeling that the Universe is telling me to open myself to the message the Swedish furniture store wants to share with the rest of the world.
My greatest concern when I placed the political signs on my lawn was whether they would offend someone in my neighborhood. I live in a working class section of Pennsylvania, some 15 miles outside of Philadelphia. It was dependent on steel and manufacturing for many years but eventually saw a decline as jobs left the little borough of Conshohocken for elsewhere. Continue reading →
My Uncle Mike was a grizzly white haired Greek who spoke little to no English when my father invited him to stay in our house in North Philadelphia. I don’t know if he really was a blood relative, but he was one of the meanest mother-humpers I had ever come into contact with as a child. Continue reading →
I wanted to shoot the political sign I saw outside of Philadelphia the other day but ended up feeling sorry for all of us who react violently against the person we demonize on the other side of the aisle. Continue reading →
If I had my druthers, I think I would have made cats and dogs more like people and make people more like the other animals.
Yes, as God, I would have changed the book of Genesis and created the dog first and then taking a rib from the first one, I would have created his loving mate and good friend, the cat. Continue reading →
I had my recurring dream again last night. For several years, I have gone to work at the daily newspaper dreaming the deadline for submitting copy was just minutes away and I had typed nothing about my story for the day. Continue reading →
You’ll never find me here. I learned years ago that I could hide away from you whenever I feel you’re looking too closely at me or expecting me to act a certain way that I really don’t want to act, to speak, or to even think. Continue reading →
“Twelve Angry Men” influenced my decision to practice law more than any movie I can remember while growing up in a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia and being the first in my family to go to college. The movie has done more for understanding the workings of our criminal justice system than any books or school classes could possibly provide. Continue reading →
I was unashamed of the tears that fell while watching the father of a young soldier describe the sacrifice his son made for America the other night. Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant, spoke with pride at the Democratic Convention and I couldn’t help but see my father in him and the love all parents felt for children called by our nation to defend it. Continue reading →
Playing is something I do quite well, if I do say so myself. I enjoyed it ever since I was a kid and don’t see how I could truly enjoy my life if I didn’t incorporate some sort of play in my daily living. Continue reading →
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just thought you needed to know, that’s all.”
Peaches said nothing as we sat on the floor of her vestibule. I saw her eyes water up a little and I wanted to cry myself.
“I still love her” I continued without looking at the young girl I had shared such an intimate moment with at the young age of 19.
“I guess I never stopped loving her, if you want to know the truth.”
“You were her best friend in high school and you knew her as much as anybody did” I said, asserting a belief that neither one of us could deny. “I would break up with her, but we’d always got back together every time. You knew that when we first dated.”
“I should have been honest with you. But I liked you, I still like you. And wouldn’t hurt you for anything. But I don’t love you. I love Peggy, and I guess I always will.” Continue reading →
It was Saturday morning, May the 19th of 2012. I awoke that early morning feeling well rested. Since the beginning of the new year I had started working Monday thru Thursday, having Fridays off. In the past, when working a full week my Saturdays were spent sleeping in and catching up on the many hours of sleep lost during the week. Continue reading →
I’ve never been so proud of being an American as I was the past week when some forty members of the Senate held an unprecedented filibuster and it was followed up by Congressional Democrats who took the House Chamber hostage for a“sit-in” protest against our nation’s inability to halt the sale of high-powered weapons now being used for mass destruction. Continue reading →
Why is anger my “go to” emotion? Why does it crop up whenever I’m confronted with something I don’t understand or something I feel threatened by?
“Crop up” is not the right phrase to use. My anger “erupts.” It goes from zero to sixty within the span of a mini-second. It always seemed to be that way, even as a kid. Now at last I think I know why. Continue reading →
If you could go back in time to attend a Meet-Up in Jerusalem with the famous rabbi from Nazareth to share some bread, wine and good conversation, would you sign up and go?
How about traveling back some 2,600 years to give a listen to the Four Noble Truths in northern India by a fellow who some claim had reached enlightenment? Would you agree to meet weekly to discuss life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Continue reading →