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.[SNIP]
…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.