Tag Archives: Quintana Roo

Confessions of a Lifelong-Heroine Addict….(oh well, since I was 6 or 8 I guess, probably not so much before that…)…from Dorothy Gale to Katniss Everdeen

The California Secretary of State having quite literally locked the doors to my running for Senate this year (at least in Tulare and Fresno Counties)—and the California Courts not seeming to offer a sufficient or accessible remedy—I now have time to indulge other (if related) obsessions my life, such as my sufferings from a lifetime of heroine addiction….  

Like almost every other aspect of my life, I blame my mother Alice and grandmother Helen almost equally….

It was my mother and father who, when I was very small, used to take me down by the Thames in Westminster near the Houses of Parliament and show me the statue of Boadicea (aka “Budica”), the last independent Iceni Queen of East Anglia who rebelled and died trying to evict the Roman Conquerors, in whose memory it was said and sung that “Britons never shall be slaves.”  We also took one trip out to Norwich to visit one of the woods where the Iceni supposedly worshipped their own goddess of Victory….called “Budika” in the Ancient British language of the Druids….(my parents were both heavily into historical and comparative linguistics).  Budika/Boadicea in A.D. 60-61 apparently burned Roman Londinium to the ground along with several other cities before being defeated and poisoning herself by the long Roman Road called “Watling Street” which we also visited…. She was a heroine and supposedly a great archer….  

Of course my parents also tried, as heart as their own agitated and addled lives would permit them, to make me aware of a very different heroine, regarding whom they required me to memorize “the Magnificat” from a very early age….”My soul doth magnify the Lord….Abraham and his seed forever…” And yes, the Virgin Mary was indeed a rebellious heroine… and she has remained a heroine to hundreds of millions of people up to the present time….  Later on, I learned to sing the Magnificat and other pieces of Anglo-Catholic “Maryolatry” as a choirboy in the junior Choir at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, under the tutelage of the late, Great Russell J. Brydon (who died just a few months after this post was originally written, in September 2012 at the age of 88:

http://www.dallasnews.com/obituary-headlines/20120906-russell-j.-brydon-jr.-longtime-dallas-church-and-temple-organist-dies-at-88.ece

But it was my grandmother Helen who was something of a heroine in my young eyes herself, and it was Helen who introduced me to the very first literary  (as distinct from Historical or Biblical) heroines of whose stories I ever learned in detail: namely Dorothy Gale, Scarlett O’Hara, and the Roman Goddess Diana and her Sacred Temple by Lake Nemi  near Ariccia (Diana was also an archer…)

The path of fictional heroines from Dorothy Gale’s grey home in Kansas to Katniss* Everdeen’s equally grey home in District 12 of Panem took 108 years….from the first publication of the Wizard of Oz in 1900 through the appearance of archer Katniss Everdeen  Hunger Games in 2008**….is really the history of the idealistic dreams and ultimate failure of the 20th century (idealist dreams in Baum’s time giving way to a more cynical realism by 1939, passing through the somewhat confused “liberation” of the 1960s, sinking into the dark, pessimistic world of Buffy and Angel and finally coming to rest in the despair of District 12 in Panem in 2008—the year Barack Hussein Obama took over from George W. Bush…two different faces for the heartless, soulless, President Snow….)

But the difference in spirit between those two places traces indeed the tragic story of the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization (and of the American Dream) in the 20th Century. Major stopping points along the way (for me at least) include 1939 with the Dorothy Gale’s transformation in the person of Judy Garland and Scarlett O’Hara’s complete redefinition of the concept of “progress” in the late 19th century, Jane Fonda’s comic Cat Ballou and Barbarella in the 1960s, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in movie and television from 1992-2003.  

At each of these intervals, the world is more cynical and darker, and the heroines more complex.  Many critics have observed that the “head injury/dream sequence” aspects of the 1939 Movie Wizard of Oz and the metathesis of real individuals to “dreamtime” residents of the Land of Oz (which was COMPLETELY absent from L. Frank Baum’s book) resulted directly from Freudian psychoanalysis and the early popularity of psychology.  The general effect is to radically weaken the power of Oz as metaphor or lesson—but the movie was a wonderful hit—a lightly comic Wagnerian gesammtkunstwerk of acting, visual art, and music, so nobody really cared.  

A lot of the verbal banter and humor in the movie likewise showed a certain “worldly” sophistication with which I think Frank Baum would only have been somewhat congenial. E.G. the Cowardly Lion’s song “there’s just no use denyin’, I’m just a DANDYlion…” and the Wizard’s closing comment to the Scarecrow:

Back where I come from we have universities, 
seats of great learning 
-- where men go to become great thinkers. 
And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- 
and with no more brains than you have .... 
But! They have one thing you haven't got! 
A diploma!

As a former denizen of the great academic halls of Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 and Chicago, Illinois 60637 (from various halls of which august institutions I did, for all the good that it’s done me or the world, get diplomas), and a regular visitor to many other such places, I can tell you that the Wizard here is absolutely right: 

And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- 
and with no more  brains than you have.... 

But such cynicism simply was not part of the original vision of Oz, and although Baum occasionally did occasionally turn such comments to ridicule life back in North America in later books, he did not at all in his first installment in which he remade European folk mythology and archetypes and reshaped them in a very idealized panorama of a world where death was rare if non-existent and even the most evil of men and creatures did not kill for sport or pleasure.

For all of L. Frank Baum’s futuristic visions, I do not think he could have foreseen the transition from the naïve and hardworking life of Kansas to the nightmarish dreamworld of Suzanne Collins’ grim opera—neither a soap opera nor a very lyric, although even in the written version (which I finally got around to reading), music plays an immensely important part in the methathesis of metaphor and character, from Katniss’ Father to Peeta, from Prim to Rue… as between the unnatural National Anthem of the Conquering Capitol and the free world of nature and the poor of the “outlying districts.”

L. Frank Baum’s Oz books in so many was shaped and defined the culture of early-to-mid 20th Century of a predominantly White Christian America, especially after the release of Judy Garland’s movie….***  The spirit of Dorothy Gale’s Kansas was stiflingly dull and harsh—the American dream had already, at that point, apparently kind of run aground and needed new life— The spirit of Dorothy Gale’s Oz was half atavistic throwback to the Middle Ages, half filled with futuristic wonders (such as Glinda the Good’s Magic Picture, which permitted her what we would now call “live video access” to whatever was going on in Oz or elsewhere earth she was interested.

Dorothy Gale was a simple, pre-teenage girl (Judy Garland was at least ten years older than the original character was portrayed as being in the First Oz Book, but Dorothy Gale remained essentially a-sexual throughout the series, never had a boyfriend or a beau…. perhaps recapitulating some archaic notion of “the Virgin Goddess”,  e.g. Diana Nemorensis or the Virgin Mary or the “Virgin Queen”, Mary again or Queen Elizabeth I) whose strength derived from common sense, great courage, love, and determination.  Dorothy Gale was a generalist who never specialized in anything or focused on any particular trade, profession, or way of earning a living (all throughout the long series of Oz books, in fact).  She was just flexible, imaginative, and practical—kind of a “Renaissance girl” in a very low tech way.

Being a non-specialized generalist seems to be the primary role of all feminine heroes.  Of the earliest three I knew (Dorothy Gale, Scarlett O’Hara, and Diana Nemorensis), if Dorothy Gale had the purest and most asexual identity, Scarlett O’Hara surely had the most impure and sexual.  

It was perhaps for that reason that I was never really taken with her until I was a teenager, even though with my grandparents I religiously had watched Gone with the Wind at every possible opportunity and my grandmother compared the mythic South with the real South over and over again.   Scarlett O’Hara was beautiful, flirtations, and OWNED men in a way that is both fairly realistic and quite cynical.  But the book and movie Gone with the Wind were brilliantly timed between the First and Second World Wars to show that the American War Between the States of 1861-1865 was the first really and truly modern war of total destruction.  

Throughout history, up until Abraham Lincoln loosed Sherman on Georgia and Grant on Virginia, the goal of Conquest Warfare had been to preserve as much of a conquered land’s wealth as possible—so that it could be stolen and appropriated for the victors.  There might have been a lot of talk in Ancient Rome about how “Carthage must be destroyed” and about Salting the Earth once it was vanquished, but Carthage was not only not burnt to the ground and left to rot by the Roman Conquest, it became one of the Great Cities of the Roman Empire, as 20-30 years of Harvard Archaeological excavations in Tunisia have so clearly shown.  Gone with the Wind showed something else when Sherman’s “wind blew through Georgia.”  The purpose was indeed, as the opening lines of both the movie and the book suggested, to wipe out an entire civilization, a way of life—to replace what Marxists call one “mode of production” with another.   NONE of Baum’s villains in Oz were as bad as that, although the movie version of the Wicked Witch of the West was pretty murderous in her general attitude….

One major innovation of Jane Fonda’s heroines Cat Ballou and especially Barbarella in the 1960s was the advent of “free love”, which never appeared even once in any of Baum’s pre-1920 writings, which was only very obliquely alluded to in Gone with the Wind, but which by the 1960s was all anyone really cared about.  

Like Dorothy Gale and Scarlett O’Hara before her, Cat Ballou and Barbarella were unspecialized generalists who could adapt to almost any situation.  They were strong, intelligent, sexy, deadly in a good cause, and then Jane Fonda went to Hanoi….  In retrospect she may have been right to do it because the Vietnam War was totally wrong, a seriously failed experiment in 1984-type “perpetual war”….but Jane Fonda’s actions did not seem positive at the time.  

In this defiance of the outward semblance of world order sense, Jane Fonda’s characters of both Cat Ballou and Barbarella somehow came to life as defiant outlaws….crossing boundaries that no one else would cross, and doing so with both impunity and (what seemed most shocking at the time) complete immunity from real official sanction.  Like the righteous killer Catherine Ballou who avenged her father’s death in the Wild West—Jane Fonda first enacted herself as a mythic reality and then, by going to Hanoi, remade herself as a historic metaphor—walking through the image of a treacherous act, unscathed, in essence to show that Vietnam was all a staged event….. a dramatic diversion to keep the masses simultaneously afraid, amused and absorbed….  

Fast forward 24 years from Jane Fonda as Barbarella and you arrive the first incarnation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a completely modern LA County San Fernando Valley girl with no hints of modesty or virginity about her…. followed by the much more intriguing evolution of Buffy Summers in the TV Series from virginal high school freshman to intensely sexual college freshman, in a world which is increasingly dark and where reality is increasingly concealed….. Buffy’s Sunnydale was a mythic place, a lot like Los Angeles, while her first boyfriend and lover Angel eventually goes to the real Los Angeles and sets up shop as first as a private detective and then director of a large law firm—two professions which, in Los Angeles at least, possibly in the movies generally, have almost acquired the status of modern Jungian archetypes….  

The increasingly dark and brooding, sad and depressed Buffy Summers never lost her general adaptability—she could never specialize in any profession or line of work any more than Dorothy Gale or Scarlett O’Hara or Catherine Ballou… but the realization that the dark forces of the world were effectively unbeatable and had pre-existed anything good in the world—these were major transformations of the American Dream from the Early 20th Century.  And it was during the 7 televised seasons of Buffy that the 20th Century, which came in with a little girl magically transported by a tornado from dull grey Kansas to a bright and beautiful alternative universe which knew no death, went out during Buffy’s Freshman year at UCLA with a young adult barely out of her teens who was alone in the world, with her small circle of more specialized friends, fighting vampires and the forces of darkness.

And five years after Buffy ended, Katniss Everdeen picked up the bow from her archetypal ancestors the Goddesses Inanna and Diana and Queen Boadicea, and began to hunt for meagre food in the desperately hunger fringes of District 12 (in what was once called Appalachia in what was once called North America).  

The gruesomeness of the Hunger Games apparently shocks some people—I would have thought that Americans had long since forgotten how to be shocked about or by anything.  Children murdering children for sport isn’t the most pleasant of ideas, to be sure. But in that 17-19 year olds have gone off to fight in every war America has ever seen….along with a few 16 year olds here and there, and since the History Channel periodically shows authentic news clips of 15-16 year old resistance “werewolves” in 1945 Post-World War II Germany being shot by firing squads of American Troops, and countless tens of thousands of teenagers have been silently snuffed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, it is hard to believe that the idea of children fighting and dying is really such a big deal to our ever hypocritically squeamish population.

The Hunger Games resonate with so much in our history and culture—with the original Victor Hugo version of Les Miserables (hopelessly buried and lost in the Broadway Musical of the same name), and in Suzanne Collins’ own account with the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.  

But above all the Hunger Games resonates with the year 2012 in which America has taken so many steps towards being a brutal, repressive dictatorship like Panem, already—with idiot fake and fraudulent “Conservatives” like Lindsey Graham and Newt Gingrich competing with idiot truly fraudulent “Liberals” like Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama competing with one another to see who can shred the Constitution fastest.  

Interesting to me, given that I based my own doctoral dissertation at Harvard in large part on revisiting Frazer’s the Golden Bough and with it Diana’s Temple by Lake Nemi near Ariccia, are the parallels between the Hunger Games and the myths and rituals of Divine Kingship.  There is nothing in the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, however, about games or about Tributes being well-fed and allowed every luxury leading up to their deaths.  But precisely this treatment is common in the rites of Divine Kingship, where sacrificial victims, like the individual selected for sacrifice during the rites of Toxcatl among the Aztec, are equated with the God Tezcatlipoca (“Smoking Mirror”) during the last year of their lives, given wonderful food and drink, and then sacrificed.  Similar paradigms of sacrifice are found throughout the world—

And the sacrifice of children, likewise, is extremely common: to the rain gods in Mesoamerica, relic traces of this existed even among the modern Yucatec Maya who tie small children to the legs of the altar during the cha-chaac or rain ceremony—although the children have to do nothing more that happily chirp like rainy season frogs (but woe to the boy who croaks like a dry season Toad—he will be beaten, not sacrificed, but beaten).  The Hebrew Bible itself is filled with child sacrifice (all through the Books of Kings and Chronicles, in particular, are Kings who make their children “walk through the fire”—perhaps most famously the daughter of Jeptha…), and by way of archaeological parallel—the excavations at Carthage have revealed hundreds and thousands of child sacrifices…. Among the Natchez of Mississippi, families sacrificed their children in order to rise in social status from commoners (“Stinkards”) to “Honored” Nobility according to the French records by Dupratz and recounted by John R. Swanton….

And in this sense it is perplexing: sacrifice almost always lead either to elevation in status or to outright deification: why the elite of Panem would not have recognized the risk embodied in Golden Bough-Divine Kingship type of analysis: the sacrificial victim—like the Rex Nemorensis at Ariccia who becomes King by killing the old one in combat, will always become the next king.  

At the end of the first book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, Katniss Everdeen is poised to become (with Peeta), Queen and King of Panem.  This was not only foreseeable, it was in comparative mythological terms inevitable—and yet Suzanne Collins’ trilogy does not allow this drama to evolve that way.  In part, this may be because technology and traditions of oppression have obliterated the natural succession of Divine Kingship….

But Sir James G. Frazer’s point in writing the Golden Bough was to show that Divine Kingship involving the deification of sacrificial victims and their elevation as Kings is a nearly world-wide phenomenon.  I sit here puzzling at the significance of all the trappings of Divine Kingship and the Golden Bough in the Hunger Games.  

Frank Baum had either borrowed or unconsciously recreated so many motifs from ancient mythology—the Four World Quarters with colors Winkie-yellow Quadlin-red Munchkin-blue and Gillikin-purple with Green for the Center of the Emerald City are like nothing so much as the mythological and symbolic organization of (1) Ancient Mesopotamia, “Land of the Four Quarters” centered on Uruk, (2) Celtic Ireland, Ulster, Munster, Connaught, Leinster, and centered on Midhe (Meath) at Tara, and (3) pre-Hispanic Yucatan which, at several Classic sites, is divided into quarters dominated (as recorded on Stelae A & H at Copan) by Tikal, Calakmul, Palenque, and Copan and which even now is divided into four quarters (Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Petén, with Belize claimed by Guatemala and Geographically appearing to be a southern extension of Quintana Roo).

But in Frank Baum’s Oz, kingship is never strong and is always frowned upon, as are all attempts at centralization or standardization of culture, customs, or laws among the four/five regions of Oz.  For that reason, I would assume, there are no hints or traces of divine kingship in Oz—it is a Federal egalitarian Democracy of sorts (even though no one ever votes).  

But by the time of Buffy, as the 20th century closes, the need for a leader has brought forward the Slayer—“one girl in all the world” who fights the Demons.  Now Joss Whedon optimistically ended his series with a devolution of power and prowess from Buffy through the magic of Willow to Millions of “potential” slayers—-but it didn’t quite ring true, in a Television series where even the most outrageous vampiric and magic witchcraft was somehow made to feel “emotionally authentic.”

In the Hunger Games, Dictatorship is the reality and the two victors of the Hunger Games, Katniss & Peeta, are set to become the Divine Kings and possibly the real sovereigns of their land.  Perhaps the need for leadership, the need for someone to save the population, is not yet great enough, but in terms of the political and emotional significance of our story-telling, I think that the journey from Dorothy Gale’s Grey Kansas to Katniss Everdeen’s Grey District 12 tells us the story of the loss of hope and impending doom and despair which was the 20th Century.

*  Katniss is named after a plant called Sagittaria, and my grandmother was born under the sign of Sagittarius—it could be that Katniss reminds me a great deal of my grandmother Helen—similar complexions and faces…. Actress Jennifer Lawrence certainly fits very precisely the image in Suzanne Collins’ book…. and the younger pictures I’ve seen of my grandmother with long hair as a teenager in the time before the U.S. entered WWI….growing up in a place very much like the defeated districts of Panem in the Southern USA.

** In some New Age texts, 108 years is said to be a Venus Cycle, the more ordinary astrological cycle is one of 104 years.  108 is used, but oddly enough, is four years longer than longest calendrical cycle and planetary identity of the Ancient Goddess of Love, namely Inanna/ Ishtar/Aphrodite/Venus.  The calendrical cycles of Venus and the sun are said to “bind” (i.e coincide) every 2920 days, but the ultimate binding of 5 Heliacal Cycles of Venus with 8 Calendar years …. (365 x 8 = 5 x 584 = 2920 x 13 = 37,960 = 2 x 52 years (my current age) = 104 calendar years/105 “tuns” or 360 day periods—the root of the Maya and Aztec Calendars).  Like her Roman Counterpart Diana, Aphrodite and Inanna were both archers—it seems to be the feminine weapon of choice, possibly for purely sexual Freudian reasons, possibly for some mixture of Freudian sexual and Jungian archetypal causation.

*** In the 1970s, Broadway Musical and 1978 movie “the Wiz” the just recently departed Diana Ross and the late Michael Jackson did their best to reframe and appropriate the Baum story for African-America in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement (or Fraudulent Civil Rights Fiasco) of the 1950s-60s…. I have never been comfortable Easing on Down the Road with them in that direction…. although my grandfather was a great supporter of alternative all black productions (now almost extinct) because they upheld and even developed, really and truly, the old segregationist’s doctrine of Separate but Equal (we actually attended the Wiz at the Majestic Theater on Broadway as well as an all black revival of Guys & Dolls in my one major summer with him (ever in my life) in 1976.

Death Came, as it must to all men, to Georges Kourembanas, my brother-in-law, age 51

I will say it again:

I have been an unworthy hypocrite to judge you; you and I were so much alike; you were always my brother; I shall miss you.

CEL III: Georges Kourembanas was a big man

He was a great body builder!

Georges in competition sometime in the mid-1980s

who loved his women, loved his dogs, loved his liquor and cigars, and was loved by all in turn.  He was strong and seemingly indestructible, but he just died at age 51.  How I resented him!  How I envied him!  How I hated him for his life of leisure and luxury living the last ten years of his life on Greek Islands in the Aegean and Cancun!  How I envied the fact that certain people loved and cared for him who could not love and would never care a fig for me!   How I wished that I were as physically strong as he was!   How I wished I had his life, and so, could any two males of the human species be less alike than me and my brother-in-law Georges, who died one week ago on Friday, January 22, 2010, at about 8-8:30 PM in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, at his home with his mistress Lena who called him “Daddy”, even though knowing that he was beloved by his wife Lisa?

Last Saturday January 30, 2010, Georges Kourembanas was laid to rest beside his father, Panagiotis Kourembanas, a Greek Orthodox Priest, who also died young (at 54, in 1984) in Detroit, Michigan, though both father and son were born in Athens, Greece.  His family all surrounded and mourned him during this past week, although he had literally been an exile, shunned or ignored by all but his Anglo-American wife Lisa, who collapsed at the graveside, his mother, who after 37 years in the United States speaks less English than most foreign secondary school pupils immediately after flunking their first year exams in English, and his sisters, one of whom is my wife from whom I have been estranged for 8 continuous years now and my son, whom she and the system hid from me until he broke through the barricades and found me.

Not having any memory of the heartaches associated with Georges during 1990-1999, my 17 year old son Charlie was very sad about his uncle Georges, who died at age 51, just about two weeks after his birthday in fact, which was January 9—he was born in 1959, one year, three months and one day older than I am now.  He was healthy, at least considering everything, he was a body-builder (contestant representing Greece in the Mr. Universe pageant in 1983), who later became addicted to steroids and then to crack cocaine, which caused his family (including me) no end of trouble and grief.  But he was a good natured and happy guy. “I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”, said Shakespeares’ Mark Anthony, “the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones, so let it be with Caesar.”  In Georges’ case, it seems almost exactly the opposite (his family cried and forgave him all his sins), except that I plan here to write the good, the bad, the ugly, and try to put it all in the context of the world that I think made him who and what he was, and how he and I, as unlike as any two people could be, in so many ways have travelled along similar and parallel paths…rather lonely, difficult paths in fact….

You see, Georges and I both became, in very distinctive ways, victims of American injustice and oppression and the corruption of the American government in the “land of the free.”  We were both deprived of our rights.  We were both made to seem less that ordinary worthy citizens, and we suffered from these unconstitutional offenses against us, as did our country which inflicted these offenses…

First I should quote what my son Charlie, born August 23, 1992 under windows taped with St. Andrews Crosses at St. Mary’s Hospital “Birth Place” in Palm Beach, Florida, during the early landfall of Hurricane Andrews, wrote about his Uncle—(The Following Paragraphs are Charlie’s epitaph for his uncle):

CEL IV: To me, to my mother, to his own mother, and to his wife and friends, Georges Kourembanas was a Great Man, he lived a life that in some ways was extraordinary, eccentric, perhaps unenviable, but many, including some who never met him, would agree that there was something Great about his heart and soul as well as his body—his physical strength.  His mother was my maternal grandmother, Neonina (aka “Nina”) Kourembanas.

One of the dearest of all God’s Saints to me is Saint George.   I grew up reading my Father’s English stories of St. George and the Dragon under the white and red flag of England, but St. George was also the Patron Saint of my mother’s native Greece with its universally recognized blue and white flag, but also of Aragon, thus triangulating Europe (and my parents’ lives—my mother from Greece, my father of Anglo-American heritage, but they met in Mexico, speaking Spanish).   One of the few things my parents ever agreed on was to celebrate St. George’s Day on April 23, and we used to go to Saint George’s Church on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, where there were dragonslayer windows made and set by George Comfort Tiffany (damaged but not destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, 2005).

My Uncle Georges, had a traditional Orthodox Greek icon of Saint George in his room above his bed.  One of my earliest memories with Georges was in the 90s when I went to a Karate Tournament.  I won by tapping my opponents head, Georges remembered that very well and reminded it to me many times; I imagine he was proud as he himself was a boxer who won “golden gloves” in several tournaments (he told me this when I was in Cancun during the summer of 2007).

If I were to describe my uncle Georges in one word it would be that which he told me ran in our blood, Spartan.

Beside mere physical ability strength Georges was one of the kindest men I have ever met, he would often tell me that he loved me with all his heart, and “Charlie I have a big heart.”

Together while spending the summer with Georges in Cancun during July and August of 2007 he decided to train me in body building for he was one of best bodybuilders in the world. During the 80s he was awarded Mr. Michigan three times consequently he went to Greece and became Mr. Greece then in the Mr Universe competition which he won 8th place at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Georges Kourembanas was born in the Kingdom of Greece, son of an Orthodox Priest who married a model, so an unlikely start for a champion body builder. His Mother and Father immigrated to the United States in 1970 foreseeing the downfall of the Dictatorship of Papadoupoulous, and meeting up with George’s maternal Uncle John Samohin and George’s maternal Grandmother in Detroit, bringing both of Georges’ young sister, my mother Elena, with them (my aunt Alex was born in Detroit in 1973).

In the summer of 1974, after Georges had already started working out at the original PowerHouse Gym on Woodward St. in Detroit,  Georges went to Greece to visit with his parents and little sister Elena; there he witnessed the commotion in the streets of Athens during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

By 1980 Georges won “golden gloves” in boxing, having already won 1977 Teen Mr. Highlands 4th Place, and several other teen bodybuilding awards.  After graduating from High School George went to Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1981 Georges won Mr. Michigan, then in 1982 he was awarded Mr. Michigan Most Muscular, and then in 1983 he won 1st place Tall Mr. Michigan.

Since Georges was born in Greece, and could was not eligible to compete for the American title Mr. USA, so he went back to Greece to become Mr. Greece and to represent Greece in the 1984 Mr. Universe tournament in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace, where he took eighth place.

In 1984 Georges and his family suffered the loss of his Father, Panagiotis (aka “Peter”) Kourembanas; who was a Greek Orthodox Priest and fell of a heart attack while delivering the Good Friday Sermon in Toronto, Canada (Detroit and Toronto form part of the same Orthodox Diocese, or at least they did back then).

Georges by this time had already come to be known as ‘The Greek’ in many parts of Detroit. He met his future wife Lisa Ann Cook in 1983/4.  She was a beauty queen and a body builder herself—they were quite a striking couple.

Like so many athletes, I’m afraid that my uncle succumbed to the temptation of “enhancement” drugs, i.e., steroids, and unfortunately for him this led to other kinds of “substance abuse” with consequences I think my father will write more about below.  Drugs are apparently sold on credit—but since repossession of collateral to users is rarely an option, collection techniques tend to be significantly more than dunning letters followed by notices of default and acceleration.

In connection with one deal gone bad, Georges was shot on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1990, in the head through the ear, a bullet that he would carry with him to his death, and while still conscious he protected himself, left the area in his 1987 Camaro, and instead of going to the hospital right away he drove, with blood squirting out of head, to Lisa under the impression that he was going to die. When Lisa saw him she convinced him to go to the hospital where he spent about a week not knowing wheather he would survive or not. By the Grace/Protection of God Georges said he survived.

Georges was shot again in Austin on Christmas morning 1990—he carried some of the bullets he got on those two occasions to his grave, but God had other plans for him than to die a victim of crime.  Instead, Georges died a victim of injustice, American injustice, and that’s where my father is going to take over and write the rest of this.  I can say very little more, except that my whole family have cried every night since he died, and I have lost one of my best friends, one of the few people who remained loyal both to my Father and Mother (along with his wife Lisa) during their long divorce and fighting.

CEL III: I confess that there was a time when I felt my brother in law was a terrible burden, an imposition, a weight sinking my life which I could not bear.  I blamed my wife and mother-in-law for what I called their “Co-Dependence” on Georges during his steroid abuse and crack-cocaine addiction years.  Today as we all remember him, I will try to forget the bitterness that I once felt—the unjust accusations I once made that he was the breaking factor in my marriage to Elena—because it was obviously our fault and no one else’s—oh well, perhaps some fault can be laid at the doors of “the system”, some of its judicial officers and agents, and particularly one false and treacherous Hungarian archaeologist ex-friend of mine, perhaps they were to blame also, but not Georges—Georges was true blue—flawed but stained if by anything then only with his own blood, and his own human frailty—yes, frailty, for all that he was strong enough to tear phonebooks apart.

Most of the substances which constitute modern illegal drugs have been known to man since the dawn of time….at least since the beginning of civilization. Some modern drugs, like “LSD” the favorite of so many young people in the 1960s-70s, and “Crack”–the synthetic form of Cocaine which became popular in the 1980s, and to which Georges eventually became addicted, are artificial, but clearly the need for mind-numbing intoxicants and poisons is one of the “discontents” of civilization to which Sigmund Freud so often referred.

In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, a substance called “Soma” was rationed out to all people liberally—without any of the side effects of alcohol or other drugs.  The importance of drugs to the 19th century British Empire is epitomized by the “Opium Wars” which forced drugs on an isolationist China.  The importance of drugs to the 20th century American Empire is punctuated by the events of 1919, during which year the United States acquired the patent for Heroin and Bayer Aspirin from Germany as part of the Treaty of Versailles, at the same time that the United States passed the 18th Amendment imposing the Prohibition so definitive of the 1920s, and the origins of both organized crime and the earliest formation of a Federal Police State in the United States of America.  There are those who say that William Randolph Hearst was responsible for making George Washington’s favorite crop—Cannabis Sativa illegal in the 1930s to protect his own interest in synthetic fiber ropes, but the true beneficiaries of the suppression of marijuana were each and every police department and above all the FBI, DEA, and ATF organs of the Federal government, which grew and maximized their power with every new “commercial” regulation of drugs in violation of the constitutional liberties of the people.

Psychoactive or narcotic drugs have been used throughout history, and alcohol is still used without prescription to this day.  So I have asked myself, since I was a small child, how is it that opium aristocratically inspired so many poets and other historical figures from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius to Cardinal Richlieu, as well as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Edgar Allen Poe only to become an abomination forbidden by law in modern times….all over the Americas and Europe….

The reason to me is obvious: government cannot thrive except by forbidding and monopolizing that which people crave.  The earliest example of this in the history of the United States is the play of righteous emotions similar to those I confessed, at the start of this post, to feel about my brother-in-law Georges: envy and resentment of what others have.  The War Between the States in the years 1861-1865 was about many things, but one of them was the envy and resentment of the Northern Whites who prided themselves on hard work and self-sacrifice against the more indulgent, hedonistic, and languid slave-owners of the Southern white world.

The 13th Amendment forbade slavery or involuntary servitude, “except as a punishment for crime”—and from the day of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox until the present day, the prison population of the United States of America has grown until it is the largest in the world (relative to the population of the country as a whole) and the absolute number of incarcerated, paroled and otherwise judicially restrained black people now exceeds the number of African-American slaves in 1860 (and the number of white prisoners, parolees, and probationers exceeds the entire population of the American Colonies in 1776).

Three years before the secession of South Carolina on December 20 1860 through the secession of Texas on February 1, 1861, the United States Supreme Court, per Chief Justice Taney, handed down a significant decision in a case called Scott v. Sanford (1857) which decided, among many other things, that one state could not declare to be illegal a form of property which was legal in others, as a matter of comity, due process of law, and many other reasons.  The “due process” reasoning of Chief Justice Taney’s opinion in “the Dred Scott” case is still worth reading, although the memory of the 19th century’s most deadly and devastating war, three constitutional amendments, and many generations of civil rights litigation have otherwised tarnished the memory of the only U.S. Supreme Court case which can ever be said to have had an effect more disastrous than the Judgment of Paris….

So the thirteenth amendment abolished slavery or involuntary servitude EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, and all of a sudden, the U.S. Criminal Codes started to expand exponentially—because civilized society will apparently not exist without slaves.  Having abolished one species of private property by war and constitutional amendment, the United States Government in the 20th Century started to regulate all manner of commerce and private property, which caused much unhappy spinning in the graves of the Founding Fathers.  Worst of all, the 1920s saw the triumph of the First Prohibition, in which the constitution was amended to forbid the sale of alcohol.  Having proved to be the worst experiment in the moralistic legislative history of the human race, Prohibition of Alcoholic Liquors was repealed in December  of 1933, but it was almost immediately replaced by utterly unconstitutional restraints on drugs such as cannabis sativa, cocaine, opium, and all their derivatives.  The “commerce clause” justification for the federal regulation of drugs is a farce, one of the cruelest hoaxes ever played on a free people, but to explain why no American Patriot would ever suggest that George Washington should have ploughed under his profitable “rope” crop would just be to go too far astray from this story, which is still about my brother-in-law, Georges Kourembanas.

The bottom line, to my mind, is that Government wanted to expand its power, and Government DID expand its power, by controlling what people have always naturally desired and craved: narcotic and psychoactive drugs.  The “War on Drugs”, since the phrase was coined by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in an attempt to fill the prisons of his state and build more, but especially since this “War” was adopted by Richard Nixon whose advisors told him not merely to make “detente” with Communist China, but also to start emulating its policies of mass incarceration, has operated as one of the largest slavery-cum-corporate welfare programs in the history of the world.  Vast numbers of unemployed youths, skillful middle-aged businessmen, and entrepreneurs of every kind have, since about 1966, been swept into prison through coerced plea agreements engineered by a cabal of licensed attorneys and the judges who love and control them together with the corporate franchises which fund all of them, and between 1-2% of the American population is now locked into slavery from which escape is much less likely, and emancipation much more stringently regulated, than Antebellum slavery ever was in the South.

Computers mean that tracking of “escaped slaves” is much more certain and recapture much more likely than it ever was in the days of the “underground railroad”—and of course, all middle class whites, Northern and Southern, Eastern and Western, rejoice in the burgeoning population of the prisons until they or their relatives end up in the trap—at which time it’s just “too bad, so sad” that the privileged middle class population never learned that “none can be free until all are free.”

White America loves the “war on drugs” and the explosion of prison population which has accompanied it.  African and Hispanic Americans can be disproportionately incarcerated for the most trivial crimes, and the most uppity and enterprising white people are likewise incarcerated or threatened with incarceration whenever they get to “uppity” and/or “big for their britches”—unless of course, they are part of the truly immunized elite inner circle.  Entrepreneurial spirit and individual initiative rot in prisons—but corporate values flourished and corporate subservience is instilled in prison, in case you missed the lessons or ignored them in U.S. Elementary-High School (or for that matter in British schools whether portrayed by Dickens or in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”).  Every indication is that President Barack Hussein Obama fully intends to crush every relic of American freedom that exists, and enforce a rigid conformity to his plans by ever expanding the powers of government through Homeland Security and more and more prisons, private and/or public. Guantanamo will eventually be closed, of course, and replaced by prisons inside the U.S. where indefinite detention without trial will be permitted and the Writ of Habeas Corpus lost forever.

But this is the unjust world reality which trapped and destroyed Georges Kourembanas during the years 1990-2000 and, more than any other single factor, caused his death in exile, however luxurious, in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico on January 22, 2010.

You see, Georges, as noted above, was not born in the United States.  He was accepted and respected as an American in Michigan for years, as so many immigrants have been.  But Georges never gave up his Greek passport—he was content with a “Green Card” (as was his sister, my wife, throughout our marriage—although since our separation she has apparently gotten a Blue American Passport and given up her Democratia Hellinika-E.C. Diabaterio which I always thought was so neat….).  Well, at the very least, she’s voting now…..I’m not quite sure about all that….but I digress…

Georges Kourembanas was (unsurprisingly) arrested several times during his years “under the influence.”  In this he differed little from another fellow named George who just happened to be governor of Texas in 1999.  Aside from the natural class-based consequences of having an Orthodox Priest rather than a U.N. Ambassador and CIA Director for a Father, Georges Kourembanas’ life was little less accomplished than George W. Bush’s.  But as George W. Bush was riding on the modern American prison-based slave-ocracy and its attendant envies and corruptions, Georges Kourembanas was arrested and the government of his adopted land sought his deportation.   There is no “exile” for American citizens who misbehave, but there is deportation for legal residents who do the same or less.  Literally HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS bordering on MILLIONS of Hispanics are imprisoned throughout the United States for nothing much more than job hunting and maybe then getting drunk (and stopped) on a Saturday night.

I have often said that if Mexico were to imprison rowdy Americans in Cancun, Acapulco, and Mazatlan at the same rate that Mexicans are rounded up in the United States, that the United States would invade Mexico and bring about the North American Union immediately, without further delay or debate.  I also think to myself that there is no real contradiction between building a big prison-like unescapable/uncrossable fence along the Mexican border and proposed a North American Union, because the corporate powers of the United States would like nothing better than to convert Mexico into one gigantic prison-labor camp from which workers could be employed or removed as market conditions should necessitate.  If the politicians of Mexico had any pride….things would be different, but they are mostly former employees of American Corporations such as Coca-Cola, so it hardly matters.

“Moral Turpitude” is what makes people like Georges Kourembanas deportable.  “Moral Turpitude” is a concept as amorphous as “original sin” which Immigration Courts use to send “undesirables” back from whence they came.  Was Georges Kourembanas less desirable than George W. Bush?  In my opinion, and probably in the opinion of hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans around the world at least from Iraq-to Afghanistan, there is really no comparison or competition at all.  Georges Kourembanas as a man who loves his women, loves, his dogs, and loved his liquor, and never hurt anyone.  “No one died when Clinton lied” was one of my favorite Bush-era bumper-stickers.

Georges family—my in-laws—took good care of him at the same time that they shunned me as my marriage to his sister resolved itself into a dew.  Care packages and love and visits flowed from Austin to Athens during the early 2000s after Georges took “voluntary departure” instead of deportation—he could have contested deportation but he would have stayed in jail for God knows how long while he did, and he was never convicted of anything which the Greek authorities thought worthy of note.  After a year or so in Athens Georges eventually settled in a Lemon grove amid olive and fig trees on a little island in the Aegean.  He lived there with Lena his mistress while his wife Lisa and his mother and sister and even my son visited him de temps en temps.

I am sure he was lonely and bored living there in a fruit orchard, but his family took care of him, so he never had to work, and I did envy him his existence no end.  I lived along during the years 2002-2007, but I talked to Georges’ American wife Lisa—sometimes almost daily, sometimes only once a week, recently (especially since I left Texas in 2007) not quite so often.  But Georges and Lisa talked to me and helped me keep up with news about my son when the truly criminal state domestic relations courts of Williamson County, Texas, took my son away from me.  So I got to know Georges better and talked to him more often by telephone during those years than I ever had when he lived in the United States.  And yes, Georges was a very kind, good, and big-hearted man, and he always assured me that my son loved me and missed me—and he was obviously telling me the truth.

His wife Lisa?  Well, I have often written that Georges and Lisa were like Tristan and Isolde—always separated, always longing for each other.  Lisa was the ideal loyal and patient wife, in every way tolerant of Georges and his needs (including his need for a permanent female companion on the other side of the Atlantic).  In spite of the situational peculiarities, I think that they really did love each other on an epic, Wagnerian level which few can understand.  Lisa supported Georges, assisted occasionally by my wife Elena and her mother Nina, not so much by any of the other Greek relatives on this side of the Atlantic, except possibly for Tia Maria whom I only met a few times at her home in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City.  Lisa, like Georges, had a huge heart, great compassion and almost boundless love, at the same time that she became physically weak due to breast-implant poisoning caused by Dow Pharmaceauticals.  She was as much a victim of the American Corporate love-hate affair with drugs, in that sense, as Georges himself.  But Lisa was my true and steadfast friend and through her love for Georges I came to care for my brother-in-law more than I ever dreamed I could have.  My wife Elena always resents the fact that Lisa (alone among my in-laws) supported me in my quest for custody of my son, and she sometimes quotes hatefully and sarcastically how I called Lisa my “Rock of Gibraltar”, but I stand by my evaluation.  I know of no one truer and more loyal and steadfast than Lisa Ann Cook, and Georges was the luckiest man alive to have the love and generous acceptance and tolerance and support of such a wonderful woman, who never judged others but always tried to understand why those who inflicted harm on her might have done so.   In this, she was the truest of true Christians.

So Georges was strong, likable if not downright lovable, and yet he was caught up in currents of history which rendered his life difficult, a struggle, almost impossible.  He was “a man without a country”—never quite American enough to give up his Greek passport while he was living here throughout the nearly thirty years from 1970-1999.  Georges Kourembanas was a three-time “Mr. Michigan” (different awards) who represented Greece in the “Mr. Universe” competition in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He was determined to be a morally turpitudinous undesirable by the same government which created first the demand for drugs and then the war against drugs as a means of maximizing governmental power and control over the population at large.

Was America made any safer or more morally upstanding by deporting my brother-in-law?  No, definitely not—America became poorer and probably more dangerous—indeed, almost certainly more dangerous, because every person removed against his will is another person whose destroyed life is a feather-in-the cap of brutal authoritarianism in America.

Several members of my family-in-law feel so very sad and guilty that they did not do more for Georges during his lifetime.  My main suggestion that may have improved his life was that he relocated from Greece to Cancun, and was closer to his family during the last several years of his life as a consequence.  I made this suggestion because almost as completely as the United States as George’s adopted homeland, Mexico era durante muchos anos mi segunda Patria, aun mas que Inglaterra—Mexico was the land of more of my young adulthood life, dreams and ambitions than any other, and I figured that George could benefit from the amazing Caribbean winds and waters of Northern Quintana Roo.   I had intended to spend at least half of time with Georges in Cancun (en mi Mexico lindo y querido), but for several reasons that never happened.  I am happy to say that my son Charlie, whose first trips outside the U.S. were to Yucatan and Quintana Roo Mexico as a baby, toddler, and elementary schoolboy, was able to spend one summer with George in 2007—even though the purpose at that time was to make sure that Charlie spent as little time in contact with me as humanly possible….

One of the reasons, of course, that I was lacking in funds to spend half of my time in Mexico during the first decade of the Third Millenium Anno Domini was the troubles I had during these same years with the same American government which oppressed my brother—yes, in that he was not just my brother in law, but my brother.   I too had to struggle with charges of ridiculously trivial criminality (I never did drugs—at least I have never done them as a mature adult—that wasn’t my problem—I had plenty of others—when I was indicted (coincidentally in December 1999, shortly after Georges took his involuntary departure) my pre-trial release officer finally stopped giving me the degrading urine tests because they were just pointless).

I too had to struggle with questions of moral turpitude and the significance of such charges for my professional life.  I had had such a fine education and opportunities unparalleled in most people’s lives.  I was very lucky.  But in 1997 I had stood up to the system and sued my local police department for not one but 7-9 instances of police brutality, corruption, and civil rights violations.  And at that point, all-of-a-sudden, my previously essentially dull and blameless life became “morally turpitudinous” and I became in the eyes of many critics an “incompetent attorney.”

So if Georges Kourembanas can hear me—if he had a coin for the Ferryman Charon and has thus crossed the River Styx—or if he is standing somewhere in the upper levels of limbo or purgatory, I hope he will hear my apology for my hypocrisy in criticizing him, in thinking myself superior to him, in believing that my education was in any way superior to his physical strength and good heart (even though his physical heart finally gave out on him, much too soon).  I apologize to him that I could introduce him to the Quintana Roo and Yucatan and Mexico and Belize that I know and love, because I think it would have made his last few years so much better than just hanging around the beach and hotel zone of Cancun.  He and I were both victims of some of the very same authoritarian and repressive forces in the United States in Texas which reached their political apogee in the years after 1993-6.  He and I were both victims of the streamlining and mass production of criminal prosecutions in the United States which all have, as Ayn Rand predicted so many years ago, the sole purpose of rendering us all “criminals” just waiting to be arrested here “in the land of the free” or any of the formerly freedom-loving countries of Europe or the Americas.

Georges and I are also victims of some of the same personal and familial situations.  Now in his epitaph I will not speculate here on what any members of his family could have done for him that they did not, because all I know for sure is that they loved him more than me, so very much more, in spite of all his flaws, and since he was blood, I suppose I can forgive them that.   But in the midst of all that I think he was ten times blessed to have Lisa as his wife and lifetime companion and supporter.   The bottom line is that our two lives, so different, as that of my late brother-in-law and my own, were actually parallel in terms of the circumstances of our “exile” from society.  I still envy him for all the love he enjoyed, and up to a point, I even envy him his early death in Mexico.  Sometimes I wish that I had died, when I had the chance, ten years ago in Egypt.  But I apparently had a purpose to live, and for that reason I do continue to live, and breath, and fight, and remember the pointless injuries done to Georges, my brother-in-law, my brother-in-suffering, and my brother-in-the sometimes loneliness of exile.