I woke up early this morning to the news that Richard Lee died yesterday, December 4th, 2014. Dick was born March 8th, 1940, he was 74. Still . . . too soon. The message I rec’d was like a ghost on his own e-link:
Richard Lee, AKA Richard LeClair, AKA “Dick Mother Fucker,” died today in Boca Raton, Florida. He broke out of the VA Hospice in Detroit on November 29th, made a run for the sun and had at least one day of sunny skies and 80° weather.
He was in one of his favorite hotels and eating food from one of his favorite delis. He began having chest pains and was taken to the local hospital where … he slipped away suddenly.
After he declined treatment for his cancer a little over a year ago he took, “a victory lap,” across the south, west, northwest and northern United States, putting over 15,000 miles on his car. Over the summer he went east, back to his birthplace in Maine, ate lobster and visited with “my people.”
He mastered the art of being free. He did not let possessions own him. He belonged everywhere and was anchored to nowhere. He was a loyal and generous friend, a great story teller, grounded in humor, but was nobody’s fool.
He was a traveler, an adventurer and a seeker of pleasure. His life was tempered by his grasp of history, his sense of justice and his refusal to conform. He wanted to let his friends know he had gone.
Dick found his own path and he journeyed it to the end… I met Dick sometime around ’69. He was a friend of Pete Kwant (and became a close confidant to Susie and Tessa). Back in ’67, I co-founded the Veterans Against the War (VAW) in Detroit. Pete was an antiwar Army vet and Dick had been in the Navy. Dick and I go back to some mutual military time.
I was in the 101st Airborne, US Army at Ft. Campbell, KY, during the Administration of Ike and JFK. Dick was in the Navy for 8-yrs during Ike, JFK and LBJ. We both went thru the period of the Cuban Revolution in ’59 and subsequent US/corporate reactions (lasting now for more than 50-yrs).
While I worked at journalism, criminal investigations and an assortment of political activism w/a large dollop of “underground fund-raising,” Dick quietly moved thru the national cultural scene touching base here, there and everywhere.
(In other words, I have no freakin’ idea what all he was up to. As exampled in the comments below: “Fast Eddie” Silver apparently had further adventures w/Dick, “From the Ozark Mountains to Bangkok, Angkor Wat, Laos, the beaches of Cambodia, Myanmar, and small islands of the Mu Ko Chang Archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand….” I never had a clue.)
Clearly, Richard Lee–AKA ad infinitum–was the common elastic that seemed to connect everyone as they drifted hither and yon. At some point I also woke up to the fact that we were both in the same business . . . sort of.
One of the common threads throughout the cultural and political revolution of the ’60s was the fact that every group that I was aware of had at least one op who handled security and other matters. Some of the features of the cultural side of the movement included marijuana, cocaine, LSD, etc. We were at the genesis of that.
Students, vets and others were soon educated to handling such business themselves…either that or resorting to an uncontrolled, external, lumpen criminal culture. In my own case, as a pilot and a vet organizer, it logically progressed for some of us to deal in cocaine (and it put a few of us to quite interesting work).
When I was in the time-honored smuggler-trade (itself active since the 1500s) in the Carib and Colombia in ’73+, kilos of coke were going for under $5,000. In Detroit, a 2.2 lb. brick of coke flipped for $50,000 ($275,000 in today’s money). More than a few pilots, ship, sub officers and SEALs were in and out of the trade. I knew and worked with many of them.
(My own coke involvement ended in ‘83 when the DEA/CIA became heavily involved in creating the crack market in the US in order to support the Reagan/CIA Contra War in Central America. That changed the entire socio-political picture for our culture.)
Dick always focused on the reefer trade. But in addition to the gross business, he became a connoisseur of the different types of cannabis sativa and indica. Where Jack Herer became the world authority on the history of hemp/marijuana (see: The Emperor Wears No Clothes, both the book and the video), Dick Lee became an authority on the indoor hydro-cultivation of marijuana. By 1989, Dick was well into grow-ops and I was mainly back working in criminal defense investigations.
(However, somewhere along the line, the US Attorney’s office and SEMCO (anti-drug task-force) picked up on my former craft and were apparently not satisfied w/my having walked away from the biz some 6-yrs earlier.
(As this is the subject of other American Tribune blog articles I’ll just make that link here. Meanwhile, the gov’t gave me an offer they figured I couldn’t refuse. They probably figured that everyone would sell their mother to beat a rap. Only 3% of those in prison have gone to trial. Suffice to mention that I refused to “cooperate” or accept a plea bargain. I went to trial and got 25-yrs. I did a total of 22.”
Meanwhile, Dick had his grow-op over on the Westside of Detroit. The basements of two houses were joined together and he had this amazing scientific, elaborate grow lab. He even had a cloning propagation lab-room w/exotic seed samples from around the world. Cloning? WTF? This totally blew me away.
Anyways, I went off to do my time. Dick eventually purchased a motor yacht and sailed out the Lakes, Erie Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway. Traveling down the Inland Waterway he entered the Carib and alternated his yrs of adventure w/jumps back home to set-up new grow-ops and replenish the filthy-lucre we all gotta pay obeisance to in this existence. (In addition to the bulk of it supporting worthy political causes.)
(Back in ’76 I wrote an historical paper for Detroit’s CBDA [Central Business District Assoc.] on the 275th Anniversary of Antoine Cadillac’s “founding” of the City. Dick’s journeys in the Carib kind of brought that to mind. Not generally propagated is the fact that Louie Laumet [Cadillac’s original name] was a deserter from the French marine, a privateer in the Carib [married the young niece, Marie Thérèse, of New France’s chief privateer, Denis Guyon], and a bon vivant of the free life. Control of the beaver-trade in the NorthWest [Ville d’Troit] was almost an after-thought.)
Dick traveled thru Cuba, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and elsewhere. He’d drop me lines and postcards in prison wherever he went. Girls would hitch rides from one point to another and I could live w/him vicariously thru my lucid dreams.
I was able to finish my education in prison largely thru Dick’s generous donations. I finished my BS in Psych/Biology thru Wayne State, Detroit, and was even able to get a fully-accredited masters and a doctorate thru Cal Southern U in Forensic Psychology (PsyD). Took me 16-yrs, but then I had plenty of time, eh? (Had I chosen, I could have done a clinical internship at WSU and the VA when I got out. I figured at almost 70, I done my time at the controls.)
Dick was also quite involved in journalism. Using the name of Marion Delgado he wrote articles on the political realities of Central and South America for The Rag Blog. (I also know he was of some quiet but critical help to other political prisoners in various situations.)
One of his adventures (I have a pretty thick file) included purchasing a hotel/bar in San Cristobal de Las Cruces in southern Mexico. He wrote me that he’d hired a band and fiesta spread for a New Year’s Eve party to augur in ’94.
Sometime before midnight a young Zapatista guerilla walked in and read her manifesto. He said she looked maybe 17, packed an AK with two body-guards, and soon left. Turned out it was the beginning of the Zapatista Revolution against the Mexican Army, police and corporate incursions of their southern native lands. The town was soon awash w/revolutionists and Dick went on w/his party.
After a couple of weeks, the Mexican military was putting a lot of pressure on the surrounding area w/road-blocks, arresting and disappearing activists and “foreign hippies.” Dick decided to make a discreet run for the southern border.
No sooner had he got across into Guatemala than there was a coup there. He decided to keep rolling. He went down to Peru and caught a coca-paste boat from Leticia to Manaus on the Amazon River. I joined him on that trip, too… Well, dream-wise…
After I served 20-yrs in a dozen different prisons and camps, Congress came up w/a program to allow non-violent, first-offenders over 65 already having served at least 75% of their time to get a 2-yr early-out (under home arrest; given the draconian conditions, I should’a told them to go fuck themselves. But it did bring me back to Detroit). I was fortunate, I had Congressman Charlie Rangel and Dick Lee. Charlie sponsored me, so the BOP let me out . . . sort of. Dick offered me his former grow-op on Fort Street, Detroit, as a secure living site.
Dick had a couple of strange quirks . . . at least strange to me. (Disclosure: I’m a Marxist, not an anarchist.) I was initially surprised when I first met Dick in-person again. His heavy smoker-rasp, bad teeth, and nico-habit belied his longevity. One day I noticed that he had left a lot of apparent blood in the toilet.
When I asked, “What the f*ck . . .?” He explained that he’d been pissing blood for about a year. I urged him to go to the VA, which is where I got all my own meds. For a time he refused, citing the drivel that “Doctors don’t know anything more than anyone else?!?” He was all-too-serious. It killed him. When he did follow-thru (me and Bruce had to literally hold his hand throughout the entire visits and procedures. Of course, he refused to follow-thru on his meds, etc. (Of course, by then it was too late anyways.)
(When Bruce and Susie and I got him to go back to the VA–we had to bird-dog the process every step of the way–he finally agreed to an operation on his bladder; he had a tumor the size of a softball. The problem by then was that cancer had metastasized beyond his bladder and he had an inoperable (w/out certain health preconditions) aortic aneurism, which may well have finally done him in. He refused further procedures. He walked. He decided to live what quality life he had left on his own terms.)
I wish I had real words of closure (is there such a thing?)… I can only repeat those of the message above:
He mastered the art of being free. He did not let possessions own him. He belonged everywhere and was anchored to nowhere. He was a loyal and generous friend, a great story teller, grounded in humor but was nobody’s fool.
Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), December 2014…