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 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.
“Potential Spam” is the innocuous term that Verizon classifies as one of several phone calls I get each day on my cell phone.
I immediately delete them but have had an accident or two when I’d click the wrong button and end up dialing that number. I quickly stop any further progress at that number and click on delete. I got a feeling, however, that some “son-of-a-b” got a recording of my mistake and will log it into their account, but I really don’t know.
“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.
My reality took a major hit when I learned of a book that reveals the famous battle at the Alamo in Texas was not what Walt Disney had broadcasted on TV, but was a nefarious cover up of an expansion of slavery in the Lone Star State.
Santa Anna’s Mexican troops were trying to stamp out slavery in its territory and the 180 persons fighting at the old Spanish mission in San Antonio were trying to not only retain slavery, but make it grow for the production of cotton.
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 →
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 →
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 →
“You can’t replace Trouble, no matter what you say,” I said to Wendy. “He was my favorite cat, the only one that could not only catch those dirty squirrels, but also behead them and leave their carcasses behind, sans their squirrely little heads. There’ll never be another one like him.”
‘No, I’m not trying to replace Trouble,” my wife answered me. “It’s just that our son Nicholas could use another pet, and the one we found at the Kitty Cottage is so adorable, I thought that any pet lover would welcome her into their home. Give her a chance. I know you’ll warm up to her and treat her as a member of the family in no time.”
Sundance the cat looks out for me and for you
Sundance is now this cat-lovers’ most lovable feline ever!
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 →
“Don’t do it Michael,” my ex-wife told me when I began planning for a debate between the candidates running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania in 1978. I didn’t listen to her and I spent too much time and money in an effort that failed miserably and kept my dreams of entering politics a nightmare that I never again wanted to materialize. 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 →
I typed this over and over again, hoping that I’d learn the fine skill of typing as I sat in a class with all girls. Young women, I should say. I was the only male in the Delaware County Community College course of study and I never once felt out of place or unusual.
I wanted to be a journalist, you see. So, I figured I had to learn the fine art of typing in order to file my stories. Continue reading →
I love Coca Cola. It has been my favorite drink since I don’t remember when. I guess it all started with the small little green bottles that you had to use an honest-to-goodness bottle opener to crack open. Continue reading →
My second wife stopped breathing shortly after they placed her in the emergency vehicle en route to a hospital some eight years ago. The day was six-months to date of her first bout with an emergency wagon when she fell in our Conshohocken, PA, home suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
She remained in a coma for more than five days then. This time, however, they were more certain that she would not recover from her latest, unplanned date with Miss Fate. A nurse or a social worker at the Hospital suggested I contact a priest to say the last rites for Wendy. Continue reading →
My son, Nicholas, just didn’t seem to understand how much pain I suffered in Sutcliffe Parkwhen I took him to see fireworks on clear and starry night sky on the Fourth of July some years ago.
At first, I enjoyed the rockets zooming into the air. They were a colorful red, white and blue explosions that took your breath away with gasps of wonder and awe.
Soon however, they took on a menacing demeanor, however, as each blast began to remind me of the Vietnam War and the rounds of mortar fire that fell on me and my platoon some 30 years earlier. Continue reading →
I’ve opened my mind to a new way of seeing and I am free as long as I can keep my peripheral vision on anything but the object of my focus.
What I do is distract myself from looking at the car in front of me when I’m cruising on the highway. I set my gaze off in the distance where I take in the beautiful blue skies interrupted now and again by a while cloud. Continue reading →
As soon as I turned 18 and got a draft card, I rushed to my printing shop at Dobbins Technical Institute (aka Dobbins High School) and commenced to committing a federal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
I didn’t now it was against the law, a federal law at that, but I guess I should have known you can’t change the date of birth on your Selective Service card to show you’re 21 years old rather than 18. Hey, it was the best way of getting served in every Philadelphia bar in 1966. Continue reading →
I see my life through the eyes of a kid who grew up in Brewerytown, swashbuckling my way through fights on the streets and later the jungles of Vietnam before finding my true calling as a spiritual clarion who wants all North Philadelphia children to return to their God-given Nature of Love. Continue reading →
Julie traveled all the way from Chicago and came to the Lotus Flower Island with a question about her life’s purpose. By the time she left the privately owned spiritual retreat, there was no doubt whatsoever that she found the answer she was looking for.
She’ll return to this rustic hideaway hidden away off the mainland of South Korea and, remain there, devoting herself to serving others from around the world who are searching for similar answers. Julie’s newfound happiness will be in helping others suffering from too much technology and not enough love. Continue reading →
My all-time favorite Philadelphia Judge was James Lineberger, a no-nonsense jurist who’d scare the hell out of many a defendant I’d bring to the bar of the court, and one time caused one of my clients to pass out when he sentenced him for a heinous crime a jury found him guilty of committing.
Judge Lineberger could also be as warm and fuzzy as a teddy bear who would leave the bench at the top of the courtroom and float down to the metal bar when spotting a Korean woman. He could serenade in her native tongue while gazing out from his big lovable and loving eyes. Continue reading →
That’s one of the prayers I would recite as an altar boy at St. Ludwig’s Roman Catholic Church and I’ll never forget it ‘til the day I die. Don’t ask me what it means. I never figured it out, but I loved to say it! Continue reading →
Korea awaits me next week as I travel more than a thousand miles to find myself and discover reasons why I am still here on planet earth.
Yes, I’m joining a group from Philadelphia, New York and Chicago that will fly to Seoul, South Korea, to take part in the centennial celebration of the WON Buddhism founding by its master on April 28th, 1916. Continue reading →
Collegeville may or may not have been named after a religious school called “Ursinus” in the central part of Montgomery County. . . Or some long ago seminary school. I really don’t know, but I rode through it when traveling to one of the last outdoor movie theatres, the one located in Limerick, Pa, a drive-in movie just outside of Pottstown. Continue reading →
I went within and felt nothing this morning. I knew this day would come, but I thought I would put it off until the day I’d die. Yes, I thought I’d have enough juice within to tell my story until I took that last breath.
But Life fooled me. It hit me upside the head, showing me you can’t take anything for granted. All things are subject to change. All phenomena is transitory, all is impermanent. The only permanence that exists is the Love I believe that energizes us and the world we all live in. Continue reading →
Describe three sources of inspiration in your life that keep you aiming to be a better you.
— Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra’s Free 21-day Meditation
My calling in life is to help others come closer to the Light. I firmly belief that we all came from the Light, and that we all want to return to it. I want to share my experiences with the Divine so that others can see how Love’s energy can raise from life’s difficulties a simple schmuck like me.
If I had a magic wand I would wave it and remove all of the hate in our land. It would take away the hurt all felt throughout the ages of man from the beginning of time when Cain killed his brother and when a stupid Esau sold his birthrate to his brother Jacob for a lousy bowl of soup. Continue reading →
One doesn’t have to go on a diet to lose the excess weight of a lifetime of living. All you need do is to lighten your mind, get rid of burdens carried from childhood when the trauma of difficulties and missteps caused you to stumble and lose faith in your God-given direction.
“Lighten up,” is what someone told me once, and that is exactly what I have tried to do after experiencing Holotropic BreathWork and listening to the new “Weight Loss” meditation offered by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra today. My struggle has ended and from now on, I will be harmony with me, myself and I. Continue reading →
My host in Freiburg, Germany, escorted me and her husband on a shamanic journey as we laid on the carpeted floor in their guest room and she guided us to the “lower world.” She drummed for a good 15 minutes, never letting up the beat as she walked around us covered by blankets with eyes closed and our hearts open. Continue reading →
The shaman applied pressure with his fingers and thumbs to the side, back and front of my skull. He told me to let him know if he caused me any pain.
I felt some discomfort, but it wasn’t intolerable and so I said nothing and let him continue the process as I sat in a chair in front of more than a hundred people attending the symposium on “What is Healing? – Archaic Traditions Meet Ways of Experiencing Modern Consciousness Exploration and Psychotherapy.” He was the principal speaker, having taught the participants to dance and sing in two large circles in the room where we had met. Continue reading →
We’ve all experienced love in one form or another. Most remember the romantic love that may have flourished when we were young and felt the longing to receive the touch of love from another person.
Love also appeared in our lives as infants as our loving mother held us, cradling our small bodies with her hand behind the back of our necks. She held the spot where the brain and skull come into contact with the spinal cord, the neck area.
Jaya Herbst, a lecturer certified by the European Association for Transpersonal psychotherapy – Eurotas, said there can be healing in the touch of one person upon another. But first there must be an intent, a “will” to love to help with the touch, be it to smooth the crying of a child or to hug a grown up who needs the physical contact to know all will be just right in that moment.Continue reading →
Don’t take my word for it. Scientific research has discovered that the active conditions of anxiety and agitation causes unhappiness. Becoming quiet and stilling the mind lowers blood pressure and relieves the stress that’s produced in our busy lives. Continue reading →
I feel like the character in a comic strip who has had a cloud over his head with nothing but calamities and obstacles blocking his every move. No matter what he did, he’d be thrown off stride, be it from a torrential rainfall or an avalanche along a sunshine-filled pathway. Continue reading →
I got the best sleep I’ve had in years last night and I owe it all to treatments I have received for not only what ails me, but what has been blocking my lower brain from connecting with my upper brain.
For the past five days, nothing greeted me when I got out of bed.
There was no ache, no pain, no reminder of how bad my back has become after so many years of walking, running and standing on this earth. Not to mention, jumping out of an airplane five times, landing badly my first parachute jump and hiding it from the military instructor who would have kicked me out of jump school had he suspected I injured myself. Continue reading →
I grew up in a two-story row house in North Philadelphia in a mixed neighborhood where we played in front of the fire-plug and got ice from old ice-trucks that made their way up the tiny one-way street. Continue reading →
Blue has been my favorite color since I don’t know when. I guess my parents influenced my choice when I was young. I mean, I was a boy. And I was born in in the land of the red, white and blue. Continue reading →
I’m enjoying life and and feel a peace and calm I didn’t know I’d ever experience again. It’s like falling in love for the very first time. I look forward to each new day filled with hope and a smile for whatever life presents to me. Continue reading →
When will I develop enough faith to believe things happen for my well-being? And when can I truly trust my instincts and live more peacefully in tune with what the Cosmos is manifesting just for me ?Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, I envisioned what the coming year would be like in a “Vision Board.” I got together with a small group and pasted magazine pictures and bold 48-point type letters to a cardboard placard showing what we would like to see enfold in 2016.
I placed the Vietnam War book at the top, adding lots of spiritual and meditative symbols along side of it. On the bottom line I pasted “Love to Travel” and displayed two large pictures of my son and I on a cruise to Alaska some two years ago.
Little did I know then that writing about the war would take a backseat while my traveling plans would enlarge and grow immensely! Continue reading →
The word, “Contoveros” in Latin means “Singer of Truth.” I didn’t know that as a child when I learned that it was my father’s real last name. Someone at Ellis Island shortened it to “Contos.” One of my wives once told me that the new word means “Short.” Continue reading →
Reiki, the universal life energy, opened me to one of the most vivid dreams of my lifetime last night. And as my Reiki teacher once told me, “Write down your dreams . . . There could be a message in store for you.” Continue reading →
I experienced something scientists have labeled “Post-Traumatic Growth” twice in my life and some forty years apart. Both led to major changes in my life and a new look at life like I never had imagined it to be. Continue reading →
I love my cousin Betty Ann. She’s a few years older than me but I warmed up to her just as my adolescent hormones started to bubble up as I visited her at her farmhouse in New Jersey years ago. Continue reading →
I know very little about New Age holistic energy and healing. Yet, I believe that some force beyond my understanding has arisen in my life and I’ve become the beneficiary of something mystical. Continue reading →
When was the last time you read a book where you had to stop to digest what you just took in because you wanted to savor what you felt?
And then while resonating with it, you get a warm glow about yourself; you feel lighter, more connected with the world and so happy that another person can put into words what you know is so true? Continue reading →
Why is it that I find myself sticking my foot into my mouth everytime something good comes my way? Why do I screw things up so badly? What curse have I created in some past life for me to resolve through some kind of karmic debt that I must repay in this lifetime? Continue reading →
Reflections opened a new world of understanding today. Years after a traumatic event, I can look back and see things in a totally different and healing fashion.
I couldn’t do it when the shit was happening. It hurt too much.
Even five or ten years after the trauma, I’d get sweaty palms and a sped up heartbeat when thinking about the worst day of my life. I couldn’t dwell for too long without having to relive the God-awful experience. Continue reading →
I fall to my knees everyday and give thanks for at least three things that I am totally grateful for. I usually include my son and at least one of our cats, but also acknowledge the advent of a new day as well as a nice new warm bed and the person who invented the heater to keep all of us warm. The cats included! Continue reading →
No matter where I go, Philadelphia will always go with me. I’ve taken the old neighborhood to combat in Vietnam as well as to the wailing wall in Jerusalem. I let it shine in the courthouses of Philadelphia and the one and only house of pleasure I visited in Panama.
Yeah, I’m from Brewerytown, an old German-based section of Philadelphia that families of beer-makers settled in a small enclave of the City of Brotherly Love. Brewerytown is near the Philadelphia Zoo on Girard Avenue and not too far from the Eastern State Penitentiary where Al Capone once lived in a section called Fairmount. Continue reading →
“Unclean” is what my second wife said about an aspect of my spiritual journey that I shared with her. I must have scared the hell out of her because she looked shocked and confused. I didn’t mean to hurt her or make her upset.
But the words she used went straight to my head before I dealt with it in my heart. Continue reading →
I grew when meeting four people Monday who helped me expand my consciousness in ways I had never knew existed before. Someone introduced me to the Fifth Dimension, while another invited me to a New Age exhibition in Bucks County where light-workers of all shapes and sizes would introduce newbies like me to new and exciting pathways to Nirvana. Continue reading →
Death doesn’t seem to scare me as much as it used to. I mean, I see it as a transition, and not an ending. In some ways, it will be a welcome “new adventure” if you think about it in spiritual terms.
No, I’m not talking about heaven and hell like the Catholic nuns and priests preached to me as a kid at St. Ludwig’s Roman Catholic Church where I served as an altar boy and wanted to be a priest until I discovered girls. I’m talking about a transition to a “way station,” a place where your spirit — or soul — ascends to meet with higher spirits or what some might call Ascended Masters. Continue reading →
Musical refrains from Rock & Roll songs helped get me through the Vietnam War. I didn’t know all the lyrics of the songs, only those short parts where I’d stop what I was doing and raise my voice in unison with the lead singer. Continue reading →
Kids I grew up with in the tough section of North Philadelphia said that I had “a lot of heart.” I cherish that statement more than any I later heard as a teenager, a young adult or even someone in his middle ages looking back on what made him the most proud in his short lifetime. You’d have a “lot of heart” if you didn’t care for the consequences when sticking up for a black kid when a white “friend” called him the “N” word and then classified you as a “N-gger lover” for coming to his defense.
Reiki melts away stress. That’s how it works on me. I feel parts of my body easing up, relaxing and “collapsing in” on themselves, if that is possible or, rather, imaginable. I liken the feeling to the green-colored Wicked Witch of the West who, when splashed accidentally with a bucket of water by the Tin Man trying to douse a fire engulfing the Straw Man, the personification of evil in the Merry Old Land of Oz declares, “I’m melting. I’m melting.” Water melts away the bad, and Dorothy is proclaimed all that is good. Continue reading →
Much of what I know about war was what I learned while playing as a kid. You know, using a stick or a broken branch from a tree, I’d pretend it was a rifle to shoot the bad guys who were out to get me and the rest of the good guys in my old neighborhood. Continue reading →
Closing my eyes, I open all my senses to group meditation!
The smell of lavender and a hint of myrrh greet me as I walk into the meditation room. I had not expected my sense of smell to be the first one to experience such a warm and inviting welcome. I should not have been surprised. The olfactory system is the first sensory organ I usually use, and I’m not too proud to state I am usually lead by the nose. Continue reading →