Homelessness Street Stories

Richard LoCicero – Part XII: An Appreciation

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Although I have made much of my living writing about murder, mayhem and tragedy, I’m still having trouble putting down anything that is terribly coherent on the subject of Richard LoCicero’s death.

Fortunately, however, blogger (and WitnessLA commenter) Reg has written well over at Beautiful Horizons about why our friend Richard—the blogger, commenter, former college teacher, former Vietnam war military intelligence officer—was someone who mattered.

Here are a few clips:

His trademark was incisive commentary rooted in a deep reading of history and literature. He was opinionated but, more than opinion, he was informed and analytical. Richard’s knowledge of history was prolific.


…Richard was a son of Southern California in it’s Post-WWII heyday. He served in Vietnam as an Intelligence officer and had a broad knowledge of the history of U.S. intelligence agencies. He seemed to have read every important book on the CIA ever published. And he’d taught for a time at university, although he’d long parted company with academia. I gleaned a few other smaller things reading his comments over the years – he had a passion for railroads and a taste for single malt scotch.

Richard died on December 15 in a skilled nursing facility in Santa Ana, California. Those of us who had gotten to know him in the often strangely intimate online world have been—-as many of you have expressed here—-completely devastated by the news.

It was early this past summer when we learned that the man whose wit and intelligence that we’d come to appreciate in various corners of the web, was homeless, living on the street, and suffering from a daunting laundry list of physical problems including congestive heart failure and all the complications of diabetes. We also learned that he did all his posting and commenting and reading in whatever public libraries he could manage to get to given the limitations of his ailing body.

After Richard confessed to his predicament, I asked if he would chronicle some of this experiences in journal form to be posted here. His email logistics in doing so were often quite challenging and working them out led to us talking from time to time on the phone.

Usually Richard would call me collect around the first of every month right after he got his new SSI check, meaning he had the money to stay for a few days at a Motel 6. This in turn meant, for a little while at least, he had access to a telephone. When we chatted, we sometimes talked about Richard’s physical condition, which was deteriorating, and the fact that he probably should get some kind of therapeutic help for the depression that came and went with increasing frequency. Other times he would give me his latest take on that day’s political news, and regale me with quirky and darkly funny tales from the world of homelessness.

Mostly, however, we talked about literature. Richard was one of the best read people I know—which is saying something. His love of good writing was deepened by his love for and knowledge of history, politics, the law, and a whole array of other topics. I inevitably came away from one of these nighttime chats (they somehow usually occurred around 10 p.m,) feeling I had gotten far more than I had given.

For instance, when in early fall of this year, I found myself on a George Orwell reading kick, Richard was the ideal conversational companion. He had read pretty much all of Orwell’s work, both the fiction and the nonfiction, and was able to discuss each book and/or essay with vivid and insightful enthusiasm. Even better, for my selfish purposes, he knew the work intimately enough to be able to give me unerring advice as to what I might want to read next.

To paraphrase the rock-and-roll poet, everybody dies, baby that’s a fact. But the thing that haunts in Richard’s case is that is the suspicion that our friend RLC died mostly because he was homeless. Or to put it another way, Richard’s condition deteriorated because he was too sick to withstand the rigors that homelessness imposes, particularly in Orange County, where the number of those in need of shelter so greatly exceeds the number of beds.

“I just need a room,” he kept saying to me. “If I have a room, I think I can handle the rest.”

But Richard never got a room until he was so sick that the only place possible was a bed in a skilled nursing facility—where the care may or may not have been adequate.

Richard LoCicero was a Vietnam Vet and a man with a big lovely mind, a wicked sense of humor, a stupendous amount of courage, and a generous heart.

The fact that we live a society that could find no room for him—literally not one room—is simply incomprehensible.

Yet, this post is meant to be about appreciation rather than grief or fury so, to that end, I think again I will defer to a clip from reg’s post at Beautiful Horizons:

…..rather than dwell on the obvious, I feel more compelled to look at what Richard accomplished even in the face of the most hopeless imaginable fate. His love of history, politics and prose; of sharp debate and wry observation; of reading, of writing and telling us how he saw it, drew Richard to travel miles many days, with a weak heart and a bum leg – literally not enough oxygen in his blood and fighting off infection – to spend an allotted hour in front of a library computer checking in with his “internet friends” and interlocutors, writing his commentary and then, no doubt, spending a few more hours in this haven from the cruelties of the street nestled in a book. I can’t imagine the intellectual will and physical courage that took and I didn’t fully appreciate just how profound Richard’s efforts were until they were done and Richard was gone.


  • Tears running freely down my cheeks…

    How deeply Richard would have felt this tribute. You chose the perfect piece to accompany this post, Celeste.

    And, stand by him you did, and others of us tried. It is simply devastating that our collective efforts were insufficient.

    I’m too incoherent to continue, so I’ll steal something written a few days ago.

    Richard’s death evokes a deep level of sadness I wouldn’t have expected from a voice I only knew on the web. A level of sadness I’ve not experienced with the passing of other favorite thinkers and writers. I’ve not felt the regret of never having met an author that I feel for never having met Richard. I imagine part of that is due to the interactive nature of blogs and blog comments. People really are part of a community, and as such, Richard is now a part of me, and that part is frozen in time and place.

    Douglas Hofstadter wrote a curiously titled book; I Am A Strange Loop. Part of that book is a meditation on the death of his wife Carol. Hofstader is a professor of Cognitive Science, and IIRC suggests that people genuinely incorporate others into themselves in ways deeper than mere influencers of how we think and approach the world. The extent to which I incorporated Richard into my own consciousness, my own loop, would explain the sense of loss that I feel for someone I’ve never met.

    It takes a special kind of thinker and writer to make that kind of connection with others across the ether.

  • The last direct exchange I remember having with RLC concerned books about the CIA. The man knew his stuff, and now I know why.

    I find myself as saddened by this news as I do inspired by the words and actions of Rosedog, Reg, Randy and all. Thanks, guys.

  • I’ve been reading about Richard and homelessness.

    I’m sharing the following information in the hope that it will help a person to get along better with people who take them in.

    I have a homeless person living in my home now. He is someone my adult daughter grew up with. He has stayed with a number of friends and always gets asked to leave after a few weeks.

    My daughter begged me to take him in as I’m his “last hope”. I am in a precarious financial position myself as a currently unemployed single mother. He asked me to be honest with him, meaning if something he did bothered me, please let him know. Apparently the other people he stayed with didn’t communicate like that-they would just kick him out.

    So I communicate with him and ya know what I get? Attitude. He acts like a petulant child when I try to communicate with him. He got a job but only works 20 something hours a week and spends the rest of his time sleeping, browsing useless internet sites and smoking hooka with his friends. Recently, he went and got his hair done at a salon (something I haven’t been able to afford to do for a year). It’s been two months and I’m angry at him all the time.

    I’m telling you folks this in an effort to be helpful and maybe to blow off some steam.

    Perhaps I will be dependent on someone someday for a place to stay and if that happens I will worship the ground they walk on rather than give them attitude and I certainly won’t purchase frivolous items like designer eyeglasses(another luxury bought while staying with me) and unnecessary hair coloring (by the way it’s a LARGE bleach blond streak down the center or his dark brown hair and in my opinion looks ridiculous).

    I truly believe that sometimes people are homeless due to their own character defects and if someone gives you a second chance perhaps you could humble yourself enough to LEARN and not cop an attitude.

  • First, I would like to thank you, Celeste for giving Richard the tribute in death, and so well written, that all of us as his very closest friends shared with him while alive. However, I believe it is ANON who captures the essence of Richard in his years from what? about 2000 til his death. He had his own peculiar personal habits. It is not that he was not offered a room. It was that he slowly but surely gave up or maybe gave into the frustration that comes when the mind would see a better life, but our body doesn’t make that easy. Blessings to you Celeste for your wonderful need to not let him pass without comment.

  • Back in the day, Richard was chosen Best Speaker of the Year at Cerritos College. Cerritos won fist place in the California state final tournament that year, 1966. We met as teammates on that speech squad and became lifelong friends.

    In an anti-war era, he followed his father’s path into the Army. He signed up for four years with the Army Security Agency to be a traffic analyst, reading intercepted Vietcong Morse Code messages. He worked in Pleiku–no picnic!

    He stayed at my house during R&R after finishing Army boot camp at Fort Ord. All who knew him admired his mind, but they all knew Richard was no athlete. He flunked boot camp and could have quit the military at the height of the Vietnam War, but chose to repeat that process, and graduated from boot camp with pride on his second try. His boot camp shout was “Can Do, Will Do, WETSU,” which stood for We Endeavor To Succeed Universally. He cracked me up with that yell–so out of character.

    The happiest I ever saw him was the day I drove him to report to the secretive Two Rock Army base in Sonoma County, California. My wife grew up near there in Santa Rosa, and has never heard of it. It was an antenna farm that didn’t exactly advertise its location.

    We dropped acid that morning and drove from Oakland through Marin County, to the top of Mount Tamalpais. We were singing aloud to rock&roll. We picked up a hitchhiker that asked to be let out of the car. The view of San Francisco and the Bay were spectacular. But when we got to Two Rock, Richard was too high to go in, so we hung out at a restaurant a few hours waiting to come down. Then I delivered him off to the war.

  • I too, am named Richard Locicero. I too, am a VietNam vet. I wish I had known this Richard. If I could have helped him I would have.

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