‘His life was tempered by his grasp of history, his sense of justice, and his refusal to conform.’
In writing this remembrance, I had vital assistance from Robert Blurton, David P. Hamilton, Nick Medvecky, bashful members of the Rag community, and others who know who they are; many thanks for sharing your stories and photographs, and helping me recall the tales I’d heard more clearly. Where possible, I’ve relied on Richard Lee’s own writings. Misstatements and omissions are, however, entirely my own, and not all are accidental. – mgw
The e-mail from Richard Lee’s account on December 4, 2014, said what was needed:
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 11/29/14, made a run for the sun and had at least one day of sunny skies and 80 degree 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 received good compassionate care but… 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, to his birthplace in Maine, ate lobster, and visited with “my people.”
He was a man who 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, and was 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.
In a tribute posted that day, friends recalled Richard’s support for their film on Colombian hip-hop. From the Facebook page of Systema Solar:
“Ayer falleció nuestro amigo Richard Lee, AKA Richard LeClair, AKA Dick Mother Fucker en Estados Unidos. Agradecidos con Richard por haber financiado la producción del documental sobre hiphop colombiano #FrekuensiaKolombiana en 2005 http://intermundos.org/es/14/, donde nos juntamos y nacío este Systema Solar. Richard fue un hombre libre y revolucionario, sin patria y sin ley, un buen y fiel amigo, excelente orador quien sabia contar las historias que no salen en los libros . Durante los 60s y 70s hacia parte de una banda anarquista de NYC llamada Up Against the Wall Mother Fuckers que hizo cosas pertinentes como invadir un ala del pentágono. Aprovechamos este momento para compartir con ustedes algunos links sobre los Up Against the Wall Mother Fuckers para que recordemos sus trabajos importantes y a nuestro amigo Richard quien tomo parte.” 
Richard Lee was the common elastic that seemed to connect everyone as they
drifted hither and yon.
And from the December 5 American Tribune by Dick’s long-time friend Nick Medvecky, an attempt at summing up Dick’s 60s, 70s, and 80s impact:
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 he was up to…)
Clearly, Richard Lee – AKA ad infinitum – was the common elastic that seemed to connect everyone as they drifted hither and yon.
A criminal anarchist
Woah – what’s that? “AKA ad infinitum?” Among Richard’s skills was that of printer and documents man. In addition to legitimate jobs, for example, printing Hallmark greetings, he printed for “the Movement,” in many manifestations. At a time when identity documents could be reproduced without prohibitively expensive technological investments, his handiwork helped dozens (maybe hundreds) of draft evaders and other persons of interest flee to Europe during the Vietnam War.
As another close friend, Rob Blurton, recalls,
He got into the ID business… at a gathering where Abbie Hoffman was speaking. Dick got Abbie to tell everyone in the crowd to take their drivers licenses out… and hold them in the air, then pass them forward, where they were all collected in a big bag, which of course Dick made off with! That document reservoir became the foundation of the ID Factory. Later, through a compañera in Boston, he acquired a quantity of blank Social Security card stock that in those days could be filled in with a typewriter… [T]he Abbie ID incident was probably in 1969, when Abbie did a speaking tour that included Texas.
Dick printed flyers, leaflets, and booklets of all sorts, including, in the early 1970s, the Weather Underground Organization (WUO) manifesto Prairie Fire. He taught many activists to print. As someone frequently on the run, he used many aliases, producing and gathering whatever documents and “pocket litter” were needed to support a fresh name. Much of his Movement work was carried out under pseudonyms and can neither be confirmed nor denied, at least not here and now. Dick didn’t care. He wasn’t in it for the glory. He was in it to smash the State.
Making revolution, you see, is against the
laws of every State.
Making revolution, you see, is against the laws of every State. To some extent, on some level, every law elevates the State over the human and puts a check on freedom. Every revolutionary has or will at some time break at least some laws, or is, by definition, not a revolutionary.
Steve Russell, one of Dick’s former Rag colleagues in Austin and a frequent Rag Blog contributor, wrote in Indian Country Today,
The deepest political discussion I remember with Dick took place in the Rag office, and I was one of his antagonists. One of several. Dick was defending the slogan “Smash the State!” and some actions that grew out of it.
I was and am from rural Oklahoma, showing up in Austin by way of the civil rights movement and the U.S. military… so dedicated to militant nonviolence I was ready to be known as a coward in the service of my new determination not to fight.
The cops had come into [the] Vulcan Gas Company, turned on the lights, and started rousting people, looking for where that sweet smoke was coming from. The Austin Police did stuff like that in those days.
Well, Dick started a fight with them, and managed to incite himself a small-scale riot. I had not been present, but I was trying to spin the facts such that the cops started it, which they had in the cosmic sense. No roust; no fight.
Dick was having none of it. “You bet your ass I started it!”
“If you’re going to smash the State, you gotta start somewhere! You gotta teach people to stand up to that shit!”
So it was that the slogan became the subject of what started as half a dozen of us calling Dick a dumb ass and quickly segued into a memorable Dick Motherfucker soliloquy. “What are you all doing here, anyway?”
We ticked off the usual burrs under our saddles: racism, sexism, imperialism, and the goddam Vietnam War. Acid and pot and sex with the lights on. Then as now, freedom wore many faces, but Dick insisted the solution wore only one: “Smash the State!”
He discoursed on each social evil we wanted to correct and ended each verbal paragraph with a rhetorical question: “What’s the answer? Smash the State!”
Now that he’s gone it’s not surprising that no one knows his whole story, and those who knew the most are not about to tell. People might be hurt if all the facts were known. Careers could be compromised. Losses might occur. And yet, his is a story that should be told, because people can learn from his experiences and conclusions and be empowered by knowing that a man can live so completely and fully, as Systema Solar put it, “without fatherland and outside the law.”
Again from Nick Medvecky,
One of the common threads throughout the cultural and political revolution of the ’60s was… that every group that I was aware of had at least one op[erative] who handled security and… other matters. One of the features of the cultural side of the movement was marijuana.
Security and marijuana were each among Richard’s specialties. Now, “security” may mean many things. It may be, as in Austin in the fall of 1979, organizing the peace-keeping crew at a three-day festival of music and alternative energy. In town temporarily, involved at the time in anti-nuclear activity, he did the SunFest gig to make a little road money.
But not all security work is so carefree. There was a darker side of Richard’s activities, a side he only alluded to in our later conversations, but entirely consistent with his anarchist beliefs. In an unnamed town, maybe a house gets cleaned out before the cops arrive, when the people living there are busted during a “revolutionary action,” as bank holdups and bombings of imperialist enterprises were sometimes called.
Dick’s methodical, well-honed observational skills also gave him the savvy to gather information for potential actions like those carried out by, say, the Weather faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) or, later, the United Freedom Front (aka the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit; aka, after apprehension of its leaders, the “Ohio 7”), “undoubtedly the most successful of the leftist terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s.” He would have been a patient watcher for the routine, the habitual, the weak link, the blind spot. (Some things he might have mentioned I didn’t choose to retain; that’s one of my abilities; I can forget stuff you would not believe!)
Such skills would later be useful for a man running an after-hours poker game in shattered Detroit, or a bar in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, in 1994, when the Zapatista rebellion broke out. Rapid repression by the federales showed him it was time to move on. It wasn’t his fight.
As for marijuana, Dick became a master cannabis grower.
As for marijuana, Dick became a master cannabis grower. A grow manual he wrote and printed in the 1980s seems to have been lost, but his technique continued to mature, demonstrated by what the Wayne County, Michigan, sheriff called “the best grow operation I’ve ever seen” in a 2011 bust. Charges against Dick were dropped after a parallel Florida case went to the U.S. Supreme Court (FL v. Jardines, 11-564). The police may not, after all, bring a drug dog to the door of a private home just because they think they can smell weed from the street.
The 2011 bust didn’t slow him down, and in 2013 he implemented a new, secret “finish.” His resulting product was found by Michigan’s Iron Labs to have the second highest tetrahydrocannabinoid (THC) content of 7,000 samples tested to that time. In addition, the smoke was smoother than before. But Richard saw ganja‘s increasing legality, whether for medical use only, as in Michigan, or for adult use as in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, as the writing on the wall for outlaw growers. He would be glad to see the drug war end, but was already thinking about a new angle for himself.
We knew him when
Up Against the Wall/Mother Fucker (UAW/MF) was founded on the Lower East Side of New York City in early 1967 as “a street gang with analysis.” They were not like the college kids who made up most of SDS and the larger antiwar movement. They embraced the image of dangerous outlaws, ready to do battle in the concrete jungles of Amerikkka against the forces of oppression. The name came from a poem, “Black People,” by Amiri Baraka, aka LeRoi Jones: “The magic words are: Up against the wall, mother fucker, this is a stick up!”
The phrase was first used as a revolutionary slogan at the SDS-led seizure of the Mathematics Building during the Columbia University student strike in April 1968, actively supported by the NYC UAW/MF. The Motherfuckers, who used the word as a collective family name, brought a diversity to SDS that helped balance its more doctrinaire tendencies, embracing cultural elements more in keeping with the times than those the “straight” Marxist-Leninist or social democrat groups modeled.
Abbie Hoffman called them ‘the
Abbie Hoffman called them “the middle-class nightmare… an anti-media media phenomenon simply because their name could not be printed.” (In recent years, Dick was a fan of all-girl Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot, who not only carried out anti-State actions but whose supporters forced even the most conservative media to say “pussy.”)
Robert Blurton, who shared many adventures with Richard and has his own great stories as well, points out,
Concerning the occupation of Columbia University, the Motherfuckers’ participation was integral to a successful outcome. It is not well remembered now, but in the first hours of the [Math] building occupation, right wing students (jocks, frat boys, ROTC types) tried to suppress the action with physical violence. They were stopped in their tracks by the Motherfuckers. A Life magazine article from that week shows this scrum outside the building, and the MFs are easily visible, their hair and beards… much longer in the spring of ’68 than their student allies’. It was in recognition of this service that the MFs became an SDS chapter, as I understood it. For the duration of the strike, MFs kept a supply line open into the building and provided material support, e.g., food, contributing critically to the length of the action and influencing greatly the MF perspective on their future role in demonstrations. Providing logistical support… became a strategy focus of the MFs, along with security and marijuana.
High points in MF history include forcing their way into the Pentagon, the seat of U.S. war-making, during mass protests in 1967 and, in 1968, in support of striking garbage workers, dumping garbage into the fountain at New York’s Lincoln Center on the opening night of a gala “bourgeois cultural event.” In city after city they opened free kitchens and/or free stores that pioneered recycling and reduction of food and other waste. They were also skilled panhandlers and scavengers.
Lyrics for the 1969 song “We Can Be Together” by the Jefferson Airplane are virtually word-for-word from a broadside by Motherfucker John Sundstrom that said in part, “We are all outlaws in the eyes of America. In order to survive we steal, cheat, lie, forge, fuck, hide, and deal… Everything you say we are, we are… Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!”
The lifestyle practiced by the MFs was harsh by most New Leftish standards. When a “family” rented a pad, the first thing they did, according to Dick, was to remove all of the inside doors to bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, all of ’em. Privacy was suspect and all things were shared or shareable. New members stripped themselves of their clothes and other belongings and piled them on the floor where other members helped themselves to whatever they fancied; what was left, or someone else threw on the pile, was the newbie’s lot, at least for a while. (But only for a while; no one else wore Dick’s Mexican vest or his amigo Peter Kwant’s fatigues.)
Two Austin guys met some NYC MFs at a national SDS gathering (Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 25-30, 1967), caught their contagious ethic, and went to New York to study up on it. In national SDS circles, Austin was already known as a nest of anti-ideological hippie anarchists, but the “Old Guard” hadn’t seen anything yet! After a while, one of the locals returned as a full-fledged Motherfucker (the other, John Lane of blessed memory, remained a Youth International Party [YIP] man) and soon we had a substantial Austin MF contingent.
Family members from everywhere began making Austin a regular stop on their peregrinations. As frequent Rag Blog contributor David Hamilton recalls,
One of them was Dick. Big, bawdy, abrasive, and unexpectedly articulate, he towered over most folks and would get right in your face. He was inherently pissed off, it seemed with good reason, intimidating mere sophomore revolutionaries with his intensity and willingness to get it on with the police.
Dick’s spontaneous militancy was famously displayed at the November, 1969 Chuck Wagon police riot. The Chuck Wagon cafeteria in the University of Texas Student Union had essentially been occupied on a permanent basis by “dirty nothings,” in the words of then-Regents Chairman Frank Erwin, including young campus-area business owners and employees, traveling musicians, poets, preachers, temporary or long-term drop-outs, students’ significant others, etc). The daily circus included runaways who frequented the Drag and, in the fall of ’69, a juvenile girl, “Sunshine.”
In an effort to stop what they saw as dangerous cultural vandalism, local authorities (regents, backed by old guard business leaders, newspaper editors, etc.) banned non-students from campus, then sent a contingent of about six cops to apprehend this little red-headed 15-year-old. They apparently hoped to erect a worthy pretext for a full scale invasion; of course they succeeded.
Denizens of the Chuck couldn’t take the intrusion laying down, and Dick stepped reflexively into the breach, launching a Coke bottle that hit the roof of a departing cop car. The fuse was thereby lit by what proved to be a vanguard act. Struggle ensued, students rose up and occupied the Chuck, tear-gas wielding storm troopers expelled us for a fleeting moment, claimed a Pyrrhic victory, and gave us dozens more radical converts and comrades. Busted students were freed by their fellows, cop cars were damaged and tires slashed, and outrage made us brave.
They ran into the ‘Y’ with the popos
hot on their heels.
Dick and Pete, indicted by a Travis County Grand Jury (with 19 others) for their alleged roles in the incident, hit it on the lam; it was a long time before the charges were cooled. Dick confided later that he and Pete, hearing that indictments had come down, phoned someone to pick them up behind the old University “Y” building. They ran into the “Y” with the popos hot on their heels and hid by lying on the floor between rows of old-school seats in the auditorium; when the coast was clear they went out a back window into a waiting van.
Pete, a Vietnam vet at Ft. Hood awaiting discharge, and Richard met in Austin. The two became as close as brothers. But Pete had that faraway look too many brothers brought back from the Big Muddy. After many adventures with and without Dick, the war finally caught up with him. Pete took his own life in 1985. Dick missed him for the rest of his.
Besides invigorating Austin’s radical party scene at the birth of the whole “cozmik cowboy” era, MFs in Austin worked on The Rag and at the draft counseling center and were frequent visitors to the Oleo Strut, Killeen’s anti-war coffeehouse, helping produce the GI underground newspaper Fatigue Press. They also reportedly provided thousands of hits of LSD to Ft. Hood soldiers!
As much as any other group its size — no more than 20 or so people in Austin at any given time — the Motherfuckers helped make this city “weird.” Dick LeClair, probably more than any of the other non-indigenous MFs, was the embodiment and epitome of a Motherfucker in Austin.
Richard Edward LeClair was born into a somewhat volatile family, living in Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Lewiston, and other towns in Maine and rural areas in between, mostly with his paternal grandmother, Lillian Haines LeClair, and her second husband, Donald F. Mason. When he was a child, the family worked the annual apple harvest and, wherever they lived, had as big a garden as possible.
Grandma Lillian,”Nana” knew,”50 ways to cook potatoes,” and was the family’s backbone. But Dick said his step-grandfather was “the only person back then who actually cared about me.” Mason, called “Pop,” was a WWI vet and a woodworker until injury disabled him; Nana, in later years, was an inspector in a shoe factory. Dick knew early on that he didn’t want to work in a “shoe shop,” although it was about the best year-round work Maine had for the Québécois (French-Canadians), its version of a trans-border minority. Despite the challenges, most of his siblings and half-siblings wound up one way or another in the fish business.
French was spoken where he grew up and he was maybe half Québécois on both sides. Born when WWII was just getting going, Dick could recall Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death:
The most emotional event in my life up to that point. We were Depression people and I probably wouldn’t be here had he not saved my family from starvation. We all went down to the square by the bridge over the Little Androscoggin River (in Auburn) for the memorial service and I saw the largest crowd ever, everyone was crying and we were depressed for days. I wonder how many people were crying when Nixxxon died.
On V-J Day, on a rare visit to his father and his father’s second wife in Boston, “all the church bells began ringing, fire trucks drove slowly through the streets wailing their sirens, and everyone took to the streets in a wild melee of a party.” He was five years old.
Dick rarely referred to the alcohol abuse that shaped his childhood.
Dick’s parents were Melissa Brown and Edward Thomas Francis “Eddie” Leclerc. Eddie, with his own father, changed the family name to LeClair “to accommodate the Yankees” (non-Québécois) who usually mispronounced the original as “Lee Clerk.” While Dick rarely referred to the alcohol abuse that shaped his childhood, he later believed alcoholism, or any addiction, to be mere “excuses for failure.” Although he knew, as a man, that children often do not understand what’s up with the grown-ups in their lives, that much of his own childhood would always be a mystery to him, and that judgment is futile, he did not view Eddie as a role model.
His mother came from more prosperous, more Yankee people, but Dick never knew any of them well. He liked to think that he’d lived with his parents briefly in his “pre-memory days,” before he was “dropped off for a while” with Nana, but except for short visits when he was still under three, he never actually met Melissa until he was in high school. She was banned from visiting for 15 years after inexplicably (and, he insisted, without effect) having “Dickie” baptized at a Catholic Church; free-thinker Nana was incensed. Melissa was 6’1″, slender, long-legged, and dark-haired; he undoubtedly resembled her. When he would see her later on, she lived in hotels and dined always in restaurants. She knew many chefs and taught him nice manners that he could deploy at will. But they “never had a real mother-son relationship.”
The family’s frequent moves and Pop and Nana’s occasional separations meant that he went to several small elementary schools in short order, and although he didn’t go out of his way to be uncooperative, he would have been too smart not to be bored by repetition, and rapidly getting too big to be easily cowed. When he was seven, his grandparents, who couldn’t afford to feed Dick, his younger brother Jim (“dropped off” at the age of one month), his 12-years-older aunt, and (occasionally) dad Eddie, literally “farmed him out” to a family whose grown children had left the area. Learning to milk their cows was “fun,” he said, until he realized he was expected to do it twice a day! The Christian Scientist couple’s devout lifestyle was completely alien to our lad; he soon employed passive-aggressive tactics to get sent “home.” But victory was short-lived.
At age nine, he was given up to the State of Maine by the grandparents. To accomplish this, he was legally ruled “incorrigible,” his first time in a court of law; there was no advocate and no one to explain anything to him. He ran away from the state’s “Opportunity Farm” — he called it “little boys’ jail” and his descriptions of the “opportunities” it afforded are quite Dickensian — within the first hour; was captured; ran away at the next opportunity and was captured; bided his time until the next opportunity, getting farther and learning a little more each time over a period of months until he found his way to Boston.
There, unlike the small towns where all adults felt free to quiz unaccompanied children, grown-ups on the busy streets “didn’t seem to care.” He met kids near where he’d previously visited his father; they pocketed food for him and showed him a safe place to hide, sleep, and wash. After 22 days it ended with his first real incarceration; he spent two weeks in precinct holding cells until a ranking police officer noticed his presence, completely illegal even under the laws of the day. By the time Nana and Pop got him back that time, he’d learned to panhandle, lie and dissemble, fight, steal, do without, play dumb, find food, stand every imaginable deprivation and indignity, be watchful, and survive. He was 12.
He went on to high school and worked in an uncle’s pizza parlor and bowling alley; the pins were still manually set. For all of the trauma, he had a remarkably cheerful view of his childhood. He remembered his aunts teaching him to read, for example, before first grade, but not learning to ice skate or play cribbage; he thought everyone could do those things. Children see their experience as the norm until something shows them it’s not. Dick’s life wouldn’t be defined by his hardships, but by his hardheadedness. And he loved Maine, and knew himself its son.
He joined the Navy at 17, serving two hitches.
He joined the Navy at 17, serving two hitches. He first smoked pot during a port call to (where else?) Jamaica in 1961, well ahead of the curve as far as white America went. Not only did he smoke it, he bought some ganja and brought it back for his shipmates. He picked up several tatts in the Navy, including a calavera-like sailor’s head on his chest proclaiming, “Born To Be Wild!” and a hula girl on his right forearm who danced when he clenched and unclenched his fist.
He was briefly married to his high school sweetheart but swore off such relationships afterwards; I never knew if that was her name, along with his, blacked out in the linked tattooed hearts on one sinewy arm, or some other names altogether.
Dick’s ship was on full alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, an event he recalled later by saying, “I remember exactly where I was when John F. Kennedy almost got me killed.” At sea, he was a radar and sonar operator who also learned some radio skills; ashore, he was assigned, largely because of his 6’7″ height, as an honor guard to accompany Navy men to the grave.
Although the Vietnam War was picking up steam, the funerals where he served would have been for veterans of other wars; not a lot of Navy guys were dying in ‘Nam. But no one in uniform was unaware of the mounting toll in Southeast Asia. Most guys who enlisted in 1958 weren’t looking for a war, you see. The Navy’s recruitment slogan back then was, “Join the Navy; see the world!” Dick’s enthusiasm for the sailor’s life went downhill fast after the missile mess. He was, as Rob Blurton puts it, “quite a malcontent” when he was discharged in 1964. And the world was still out there to be seen.
He took his discharge in Italy and spent several months as a tour guide, living above a brothel in, I think he said Naples, maybe Marseilles. He got a Vespa. After a while, restless, he took a short-term job on a boat for Pakistan; just him, the Captain, and another sailor; all different nationalities. He didn’t ask about the cargo. When they got to Pakistan, the Captain anchored in a bay with no sign of human habitation. He rowed ashore, saying he would be back soon. He wasn’t.
In a few days, Pakistani police showed up and said he would not be returning. Both sailors were deported by Pakistan, but instead of sending Richard to his cozy Italian set-up, because he was a U.S. citizen he was sent to New York. In the USA after this absence, he went to a Pete Seeger concert and got his first taste of a new, rebellious youth culture that had sprung up almost overnight. The rest, hidden though much of it remains, is History.
Richard spoke of his mother with great respect and warmth and admired his grandmother’s grit and tough survivor’s ethic. From age 16, newly married and pregnant with her first child, Dick’s father, until she was 25 she lived “in a series of logging camps where she found work, unpaid though it was, as a cook and cabin cleaner for 15 to 20 loggers who went to work seven days a week at sunrise. Lilly became an early riser, 3:30 in the morning to haul water, chop firewood, make a loggers’ breakfast, pack lunches, and get the crew off to work, after which she cleaned the place and began work on the evening meal to be served just after sundown.”
Richard not only liked women but willingly accorded them whatever equality they claimed.
Richard not only liked women but willingly accorded them whatever equality they claimed, and this specifically included lesbian women, who he worked with on many occasions. He taught many women activists to print. Enthusiastically feminist, he consciously encouraged and promoted women and empowered them, freely offering his knowledge whether in printing, bicycle repair, or cannabis horticulture.
Later, as a boat captain, he didn’t always want the responsibility of captaining; he hired a woman captain then. He funded novice female filmmaker Vanessa Gocksch’s ground-breaking documentary on Colombian hip-hop. He preferentially hired women for almost any job he was too lazy or busy to do and paid them well, helping them without insulting their dignity.
Women were among his most trusted friends all his life. He also had “girlfriends” in every port (many quite respectable port employees). He loved giving compliments (“two above the neck and one above the waist”), flowers, and attention; he enjoyed falling in and out of love and never lost his flair for flirtation. During our association, he never told me what I “ought to do”; not once; a gift more dear than emeralds.
He seldom talked about other female “traveling companions” with me. But when he did, in the course of telling his stories, they were almost always heroines. He knew that “ladies love an outlaw”; they saved his bacon many times. A man on the move, the reality of day-to-day relationships wasn’t nearly as fine in his eyes as the fantasy of the chase (and truthfully, O Best Beloveds, he had a point). He said that the “love of his life” had been a woman called Rain, but she was only called that, and when they were together he, too, had another name.
When Pete Kwant died, he left a young wife and girl-child. Dick, who’d opted out of fatherhood while still quite young, stepped up, made sure they were OK, made sure the daughter could go to college. His characteristic generosity brought unexpected rewards. Pete’s child became a surrogate daughter and he felt all of the pride in her, as a person and for her excellent achievements, that any Dad could have. He was a better man for the experience, having finally met someone whose good opinion he wanted to keep always. The birth of her first child, “Little Pete,” brought him a special joy.
On Dick’s birthday, International Women’s Day, he liked to send e-mails about the status of women around the world to his female friends. In 2013, incurably romantic and by then suspecting himself to be seriously ill, he wrote something more personal:
If you ask where I would like to sleep tonite, it’s in a place near each of you. Down the ‘On’ ramp about a hundred yards, then back to the right where I can’t be seen from the highway, to throw out my sleeping bag in the soft earth and sleep to the music of tires on asphalt and the hum of the many engines on the road. To dream of the adventures up ahead, and those adventures now long past.
Dick’s fascination with what he called “the former Motor City” may have begun with a visit to Pete Kwant’s home state. Michigan as a whole was a hotbed of some of the most radical activists of the ’60s and ’70s. Detroit’s rich working-class history, visible scars of inequality and rebellion, and gorgeously decaying futuristic design all appealed to him, along with its utter lawlessness. More even than Juárez, in Detroit, “the cops don’t need you, and man, they expect the same!”
As time went by he developed deep roots in Detroit, becoming a sought-after consultant for start-up cannabis growers and part of the “old guard” of Detroit’s Movement networks.
In Detroit he found an intellectual basis for his inborn radicalism.
Part of his love for the city was surely because it was there that he found an intellectual basis for his inborn radicalism: he was an anarcho-primitivist.
Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization[, a]ccording to [which] the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation. Anarcho-primitivists advocate a return to non-“civilized” ways of life through deindustrialization, abolition of the division of labor or specialization, and abandonment of large-scale… technologies. There are other non-anarchist forms of primitivism, and not all primitivists point to the same phenomenon as the source of modern, civilized problems.
Many traditional anarchists reject the critique of civilization, many even denying that anarcho-primitivism has anything to do with anarchism, while some, such as Wolfi Landstreicher, endorse the critique but do not consider themselves anarcho-primitivists. Anarcho-primitivists… often… focus on the praxis of achieving a feral state of being through “rewilding”…
In the United States anarcho-primitivism has been notably advocated by writers John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen and Kevin Tucker, and often associated with non-primitivist writers Daniel Quinn and John Gowdy. The anarcho-primitivist movement has connections to radical environmentalism, gaining some attention due to the ideas of Theodore Kaczynski (“the Unabomber”) following his Luddite bombing campaign. Recently anarcho-primitivism has been enthusiastically explored by Green Anarchy, Species Traitor, and occasionally Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, and even CrimethInc…
The current anarcho-primitivist movement originated in the [Detroit, MI] journal Fifth Estate [published by Richard’s friend Peter Werbe] and was developed… in the 1970s and 1980s by writers such as Fredy Perlman, David Watson, Bob Brubaker and John Zerzan. [T]heoretical differences between Watson… and Zerzan… caused a split in the late 1980s.
In sharing this definition with me and other friends, Dick added,
We used to go to Fredy Perlman’s house before he died and Watson, Brubaker, Peter and Marilyn Werbe, Fredy’s wife Lorrain, and half a dozen others would spend the night partaking of wine and weed, taking the conversation from the Motor City to the edges of the universe and back by morning.
(Before those conversations he’d thought himself a “post-scarcity anarchist”; there’s no way I’m gonna step into that discussion! Communist, remember?)
But I once had conversations like that with people who intellectually challenged me, and helped me define and legitimize my own beliefs down to a razor’s edge, in various hipster pads around the University of Texas; people who let me know for real that I wasn’t the only one who felt strangled by conventional expectations. And some people I knew then are still my friends; the magic never totally wears off. Detroit was Dick’s base of operations for over 25 years, and although I don’t remember him ever mentioning it, if a person is interested in “rewilding,” it’s a good place to be.
It was in Detroit that he began requesting his FBI records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOAI), working with a group of similarly engaged folks and becoming, as usual, something of an expert on the process. His correspondence alone with the Feebies filled a file box. Again from Rob Blurton’s correspondence,
His FOIA efforts were also on the cutting edge. He was one of the first to ask for his file after the 1976 amendment to the original 1966 law made it much more user-friendly. In the process, he and his lawyers became quite good at deciphering file notations, learning how to appeal and get more files by asking the right questions, and even correctly guessing redacted names by counting letter spaces.
On one of his documents, someone had scribbled in the margin, “This is what I was talking about”; Dick insisted it was J. Edgar [Hoover] himself. Edgar was a notorious margin scribbler, but this may be legend as much as fact. Somebody at the FBI wrote it, anyway… Sadly, Reagan’s legal henchmen gutted much of the FOIA in 1986; at least Dick hit ‘em up for his file at the right historical moment. (Of course, he had quite the knack for being in the right historical moment.)
Whether from his Maine roots, Navy experience, living near the Great Lakes, or simple wanderlust, Dick became a licensed boat Captain. He took to it like a man born to the part, funding his voyages with “outlaw gold.” Again, Rob B. tells the story well:
He had two boats during the Captain Lee part of his life. The first was a wooden yacht called “Blind Pig,” which is what we call illegal drinking places in Detroit. (His poker game had been conducted in a blind pig.) On it, he went from Detroit out to sea via the Erie Canal and Lake Champlain. He then went down the east coast (slowly, using the Coastal Waterway, visiting everywhere he could) to the Florida Keys. Then he crossed to Cuba and cruised from Havana to Cabo de San Antonio.
Cuba had just opened the island up to unchaperoned cruisers a few months previously, and he boasted of receiving cruiser permit #006, again riding the edge of the historical wave, stopping in various small towns around the island. Of course, as a lover of the stinking weed, he made it a point to meet tobacco farmers in Pinar del Rios and smoked stogies freshly rolled on the thigh, country-style, from the growers’ “personal stashes.” He then jumped over to Mexico and spent several months cruising its northeastern (Gulf) waters. He finally sold Blind Pig to a gringo ex-pat in Progreso and vowed to buy a steel boat next time.
“Further” was that boat, bought in 1998 on Vancouver Island from a former German U-boat sailor who built it himself over several years, using his sons as forced labor, but who died before he could take her to sea. Dick took Further first up to Alaska via the Inside Passage, then down the Pacific coast of the USA, Mexico, and Central America before transiting the Panama Canal into the Caribbean. He lived aboard in Panama and Columbia for at least a year, ferrying divers across the Darien Gap and to various dive sites and partying heartily. He cruised to Venezuela to check out the whole Hugo Chavez thing, stopping in small coastal towns as he’d done in Cuba.
Although the vacation islands of the Antilles had been his El Dorado destination since leaving Vancouver Island, time ran out on Dick’s capacity for physically demanding ocean voyages in sweltering climes. Further’s last voyage took her to the Dutch ABC islands, then to Trinidad & Tobago in 2005, where she rests still, unless the boatyard owners have broken her up for scrap.
Dick had a special interest in the “Pearl of the Caribbean.” Like practically all Americans of his and my generations, he’d been riveted by the young bearded rebels who threw out the corrupt dictator Batista at the end of 1959. Then there was his Navy experience, when he visited Batista’s whorehouse version of la isla, and the missile crisis that was a wake-up call for him. As a member of UAW/MF, he went on the 3rd Venceremos Brigade (1971) to cut sugar cane for the Revolution, but said later that he’d been more interested in Cuban tobacco than sugar even then.
Although he could find fault with the Castro regime as easily as with any other State, he had a soft spot for fidelismo.
Traveling around Cuba on his boat with various friends and his love of reading together made him an expert on Cuba’s revolutionary history. Although he could find fault with the Castro regime as easily as with any other State, he had a soft spot for fidelismo and generally scorned residents of Havana, as compared to those of Santiago de Cuba, as spoiled bourgeoisie.
On his last visit to la isla in August 2008, we had a funny “adventure” when his usually excellent memory led him to think a particular revolutionary museum was in Havana. No one at our hotel knew it; nor our taxista; nor anyone at Havana’s main tourist info facility. Finally the taxi driver suggested we pick up his friend, like himself one who had fought with Fidel, to see if he knew this museum.
We of course agreed and spent a fine hour or so riding around the beautiful city with the two old fellows, who showed us where “everything had happened” when the guerrilla forces swept in. And finally, with Dick’s continued descriptions of what the museum he wanted us to visit contained, the light dawned and one of them exclaimed that this museum certainly does exist — but in Santiago.
Well, otra vez; we’d learned more from these aging but still-ardent Castro supporters than any museum. We spent the evening comparing techniques of the many Havana bartenders who claim to mix los mojitos mas autentictos. (Dick had taken a course in mojito mixology at a hotel on a previous visit, yet another area of curiosity-fueled expertise!)
The road goes ever onward
Always, the highway was Richard’s true home. He lived out of a suitcase, ready to go. No matter how comfortable or satisfactory life might be, the grass was always greener, the women prettier, and the sights more amazing on down the road. He never had trouble finding a job or a hustle, was never shy of physical labor or worried about the weather.
One Christmas in Boston’s public squares he sold light-up yo-yos (they’d “fallen off a truck”) to folks seeking last-minute stocking stuffers; surprisingly, he said, one of his most successful short-lived ventures. Selling the local underground paper was an easy way to make a buck in many towns, not just Austin, a standard gig for the MFs. One year he worked on a migrant crew as it moved through the Midwest harvesting grain. Another winter, at an outlaw place called Footbridge, he sewed a 19-foot Sioux-style teepee; Footbridge is also where he first grew serious cannabis.
To the end, he loved watching the life of the street or plaza, seeing people come and go, who are the regulars, where is the taxi stand, who has a little thing going on, when the policeman comes around, when the ladies of the evening appear, and tracing different routes in and out of the area.
For someone who defined himself as an anarchist atheist outlaw, he was remarkably successful in remaining free.
For someone who defined himself as an anarchist atheist outlaw, Richard Lee was remarkably successful in remaining free, serving just one short prison stretch that he didn’t dwell on. He was arrested many times but generally managed to spring himself one way or another.
Once he was jailed for several months in, I think, New Jersey. The jail library had little to offer, so he clipped a coupon for the History Book Club, ordered six or so “free” books, and sent it off. Soon books were arriving for him every couple of weeks. Upon release, he was walking out the door when a deputy called him back and said, “You have to take these books.”
Dick offered to donate the books to the jail library but they wouldn’t accept them. Finally he set off, walking down the street toting a box of books. It was hot and he had no money. The box became heavier and heavier. After a while he sat down on some steps to take a breather. When he was ready to go on, he stood up, looked at the box, and thought, “Shit! What am I doing?” He walked away from his “possessions” and never looked back.
The MFs were and, I suppose, are a tribe of the Rainbow Family. Dick loved the ever-changing fellowship and tribal consciousness the Family exemplifies. Here is part of a reminiscence he wrote in 2013:
The Rainbow Gathering is pretty much free form. There is only one scheduled event. On the morning of the 4th of July there is the family circle somewhere away from the campsite. The several kitchens bake bread all day on the 3rd. All kinds of bread helped by volunteer willing hands. Before sunrise on the 4th everyone gets up and goes to the circle spot, this year about a half hour walk up the mountain to a big clearing. There when the sun comes up we all join hands and share the many loaves of bread. Then everyone comes down and we start leaving for wherever the road may take us.
I spent the night wrestling with a sister from upstate NY to see who would come out on top, we called it a tie when people started going to the circle in the dark of the pre-dawn and she left. I went back to our site to find that Pete had already left for the hill. I decided not to go, I had something else to do.
I dug in my pack for the piece of Richie’s shirt that held the few small bones and took them across… to… Strawberry Lake. Using my knife I dug out a piece of the turf and put the bones inside; that part of Richie would stay at an eternal gathering of his people.
The sun had broken over the tip of Arapaho Mountain and I could hear the circle singing, “Oh Lord, won´t you buy me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all have…” as they descended the hill. I looked left toward Navajo Mountain which still had some snow pack. High up in a deep arroyo I saw the outline of a buffalo drawn by the sun in the white snow. The head with horns, the hump, even the tail awhip off the back. The back legs were stretched out as if in mid-leap, the front legs curled under, he looked like he would fly off the mountain in that instant.”
Richard’s remains, like his MF brother Richie’s, will be divided and scattered eventually in the places he loved, where his far-flung family eternally gathers in celebration.
Wizard’s partial disclosure
I knew Dick and some other Motherfuckers casually in the late ’60s, interesting characters in the living guerrilla theater of Austin’s Left political scene. I was a Communist Party member, but not a good one; I was an Austin activist first. I think Dick and I had one conversation between us, and Alan Pogue caught it on camera. I spent more time with Pete and local MFs I’d known in their beardless days.
Richard and I met again briefly in ’79 around the aforementioned alternative energy festival; he and his long-time partner/girlfriend visited when my son was born a few weeks later, bringing me a T-shirt from the occupation of the Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear power plant that they’d gone to post-festival, a sweet, unexpected gesture I attributed to her.
I didn’t see Dick again until after a Rag reunion in 2005 that he didn’t attend but heard of, messaging the newly-formed Ragstaffers listserve that we had a lot of nerve having a reunion without him. I took a deep breath and messaged him privately, asking, “Where are you, booger, and what are you doing?” His reply was amazing, intriguing, and most welcome; my next e-mail asked, “Are you single?”
I knew his ‘Hey-hey-hey!’ greeting like I’d heard it every day of my life.
He called me on the phone and I knew his “Hey-hey-hey!” greeting like I’d heard it every day of my life. We met up on the Texas-Arkansas line and spent three days talking. He was just back from what would turn out to have been his final voyage on Further, but nobody knew that then, and he said I could go along on his next adventure.
To the Ragamuffin who passed the news of that reunion on to him, I remain grateful. Although we never took the boat out, we got together many times over the next nine years and traveled to, among other places, Colombia (where Dick lived more than once) to learn more about U.S. involvement in military build-ups there, and Peru and Bolivia, where we researched coca cultivation.
He was still an anarchist; I was still a Marxist; together we formed a “red & black alliance” and found our differences a lot of fun. Richard loved the kind of theoretical argument that, for menfolk especially, was so important in the early days of the Movement. I was never very good at that stuff and had little chance against his near-eidetic memory, but was willing to argue anyway (something I think he’d been missing) and will still claim to have a better command of logic. Regardless of theory, Richard’s politics were straight from the gut.
I had the time of my life and can talk about it freely because we didn’t do anything very illegal, just a little rule-breaking here and there. He was solicitous of my safety — but I did get to visit his grow room, the most beautiful cannabis I’ve seen to date. Once I went with him to deliver a huge load of pot to one of Detroit’s medicinal cannabis dispensaries, where by the exchange of cash money the weed “magically” became legal; heady stuff for this little ol’ gal from Texas! Michigan’s medical marijuana laws have been among the most unsettled of the 23 states-plus-DC that allow some medical use.
On another trip, we visited Boston, where he’d had many adventures, from his “incorrigible” youth to the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) occupation of the Commons; years later he still knew the twisty old town by heart. While there we popped into a suburban court with his attorney so he could plea out of a couple of “old weapons charges” and be slapped on the wrist; he couldn’t collect Social Security until the warrants were resolved.
I got to meet people who worked with and for him, from Detroit to Bogotá. You can tell a lot about a person from the esteem in which s/he is held by former associates, and the warmth of the welcome when s/he shows up in town. Everyone was glad to see Dick, wherever we went.
Before, during, and after our adventures, he and the things we did and saw inspired me to write dozens of poems and songs. I’ve had other muses, but none who’ve launched a comparable body of cheery, positive, and even humorous work; my long-time fans know it’s true.
People from the Pacific Northwest to Washington, DC; Columbia University to Colombia, South America; New Hampshire to New Mexico; Boston to San Diego; Thailand to Bolivia, will remember Richard Lee, under whatever name they knew him, and tell stories of shared adventures — everything worth doing was an adventure to him! — for years to come. He’s made guest appearances in at least two books and seems destined to appear in others. He was even an extra in two John Wayne movies.
His life is most remarkable for his consistent devotion to smashing the State.
In all the things he did that will be remembered — helping tear down the fence at Woodstock (and clean up the site after!), organizing ahead of the 1972 Republican National Convention planned for San Diego (but abruptly held in Miami as a direct result of people’s planning in the California city), mixing coca paste in the Amazon jungle for “the cartel,” growing organic carrots in Idaho for food co-ops of the Northwest — and regardless of what the name on his ID said at any given time, his life is most remarkable for his consistent devotion to smashing the State.
Yet he also came to terms on some level with using the State when it could be used, e.g., as a research assistant to US Rep. Joe Rhodes, Jr. (D-PA), a member of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest, aka the Scranton Commission. As Rob Blurton recalls, “Dick’s assignment was to help find out what had happened at the University of New Mexico on May 5, 1970, when National Guard troops bayoneted 11 people there. Until his death, he could speak of the incident in great depth.”
A number of MFs, including founder Ben Morea, had emigrated to New Mexico following the 1967 Tierra Amarilla uprising led by Reies Tijerina. Richard used to recall fondly the days of scamming the food stamp office, one of the main means of subsistence in New Mexico for traveling hippies and indigenous po’ folks alike.
Of course he had his foibles; he was nothing if not deeply human. He wouldn’t eat seafood if he was more than 100 miles from the sea, even if it was claimed to have been flown in that day. A fast-metabolism foodie, he could put away multi-course dinners with ease and had an impressive knowledge of wines. He wouldn’t eat a fried egg if it had a speck of brown (“Burnt!”), yet spent six weeks eating river-water-and-fish soup as a passenger on a trade boat up the Amazon, from its mouth to its origin in Ecuador, where he ate “rat on a stick” (cuy, a hamster-like Andean delicacy), “all except the head.” He lost 30 pounds off his skinny frame on that trip but raved about the Amazon ever after, its endless profusion of life, its raw Darwinism.
He refused to believe that climate change is caused by humans or that tobacco is a deadly poison, declaring that science is too prostituted to capitalism to be trusted, even when it speaks against capital’s interests. Despite a life of defying authority, he became adept as a captain (and thus himself a form of “the State”) at meeting the often onerous requirements of port authorities, and was neatly barbered and shaved when he had to deal with them.
Later, to my everlasting frustration, the man who “didn’t trust doctors” — save for injuries and infectious diseases like dengue, he hadn’t seen one since his Navy discharge and may never have seen one before he enlisted — refused to consider any treatments or facilities other than those of the Veterans Administration, even as VA clinics all over the country were being charged with mismanagement and cover-ups. He had a fatalism that “my people,” the slightly younger post-WWII Baby Boomers, have mostly managed to dodge. We want to live forever and look good doing it; he never thought he’d see 70, much less 74 springs!
It may have been as early as 2008 that cancer began to gnaw at him.
Looking back, it may have been as early as 2008 that cancer began to gnaw at him. His energy was more easily depleted; the heat of Panama bothered him more. He got irritated by predictable travel delays. He had some hearing loss, and his non-standard Spanish and raspy voice (due to a benign node on his voice box) made it hard for non-English speakers to understand him. In the little ‘villes he favored, we were sometimes the only North Americans. I had to speak up, make sure the waiter understood his order and that we got on the right bus, but it grated on him to need such help and he took to omitting mention of a “companion” in the travel reports he regularly e-mailed to friends.
A couple of times, I had to tell me to get over myself when he was irascible or cranky. A nap, coffee, snack, and on some occasions a medication that helped him for a while always took the edge off. We both knew, long before his illness was known, that our time together would not be long. But when a microbe laid me low for five days in Peru, his impatience vanished and the main thing was that I be thoroughly well before we ventured onward.
In tiny Coroico, Bolivia, for his birthday in 2013, I quietly organized a party, with a spectacular cake made by the wife of the restaurateur at our hostel and a few congenial tourists and locals we’d met in our month-long stay. It was a gift that didn’t take up room in his suitcase.
On the same trip we traveled Bolivia’s famed “most dangerous road in the world,” with tremblors, falling rocks, cave-ins, rain, fog, lunatic traffic (vehicular, pedestrian, animal), sheer cliffs, an abyss, waterfall/rapids plunging across the road, dust-choked construction even at night, and, according to locals, the wandering souls of those who have lost their lives upon it.
On one leg of the journey, we were crammed with two other people into the narrow backseat of the only taxi leaving for hours. I told Dick, wincing with every jolt of the nonexistent shocks, to squeeze my hand when it hurt; his grip nearly cut off circulation to my fingers over the next two hours. On another leg, another day, riding shotgun as he preferred, a Volkswagen-sized boulder dropped into the roadway 15 feet in front of the car. He was the first to yell “¡Va, va!” (“Go, go!”) at the stunned immobile driver; a moment later he swung ’round to face the backseat riders and asked with a huge grin, “¡Vale el precio, ¿no?” (“It’s worth the price, right?”)
‘We call a pig a pig’
Finally, let him speak for himself (and, he would make clear, only for himself!), unapologetic, fearless, steadfast in his convictions. The following rant was in response to Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer’s calling a comment he posted “mean-spirited”:
Hateful and mean-spirited rhetoric has been my and my family’s [UAW/MFs] stock in trade for many years… We call a pig a pig, and to their face when the opportunity arises. We call Killer-cops, just that, Killer-cops. We call baby killers, well… baby killers; we name the enemy for what they are. We say “our boys” who wantonly kill civilians “over there” are murderers and call for their lynching with a yellow ribbon. I not only have a hateful and mean-spirited rhetorical style, I am hateful and mean-spirited in action. I love a riot. I love the opportunity to put the clubbers and pigs that put their jack boots on the necks of the people to the club and to my boots and bricks.
I come from fighters; if we can’t meet violence with violence and win, we are doomed to lose to the perpetrators of government violence. Our family’s motto isn’t “Armed Love” for nothing… Who won the WTO [World Trade Organization] battle in Seattle in 1999; we did, the anarchists… [the] Black Bloc, hateful, mean-spirited anarchists who were not and are not afraid to meet the capitalist, corporate, government storm troopers in the streets and beat them. “The streets belong to the people.” You will never talk the man out of his privilege and power, nor will you vote them out of it… Cataclysmic change comes from chaotic phenomenon, hateful and mean-spirited words and action help to create that much needed chaos…
You cannot retaliate against “the State” without involving the individuals that represent and are the State. From the foot soldiers of the State, that Marxian “special body of armed men,” to the officials that direct those foot soldiers, to the legislators who provide the authority to them, all are individuals. The State is not a mythical imaginary illusion, it is people, and in the present case it is evil and corrupt individuals that use the power of the State, not to serve the people but to intimidate and repress the people to the point of rendering them helpless, by force if necessary. They ripped us off for billions, and there should be retaliation against the perpetrators of that rip-off…
[W]e must get outside the structure, i.e. the authoritarianism of the State; to do that we must destroy the power of the State, this leads us to revolution in the Bakunin sense, wherein the power of the State is destroyed by violent means… “A revolution is not a dinner party.”
Food for thought:
Tips and opinions from Dick Motherfucker
- On outlaws: “Outlaws do not have an important role in society, they are not in society at all, but they are important to society. While poets and psychoanalysts record and explain your dreams, outlaws are the ones who act them out. Always support your local outlaw, remember he is the one with the can opener in the supermarket of life.”
- On stopping war: “1. Organize yourselves. Build your anti-war affinity group. Start slow, find the next two and form the basic pact, then plan on adding six to eight more. Practice moving together, learn point and slack, take control of your streets, eat together, sleep together (yeah, anti-war can be fun), love one another, this is your strength. Love one another.
“2. Arm yourselves. Not with anything sharp or that makes a loud noise (at first); you don’t need any cut fingers or toes blown off. Arm yourself first with information; know your song well before you start singing. Carry: super glue for locks that shouldn’t be opened, red and black magic markers (slicks) to leave the enemy a warning, bolt cutters (learn the pattern of chain link fences), disguises so you fit in anywhere…
“3. Take action. That’s right, DO SOMETHING. Everyday, two actions a day, one a personal action and one with your AG. DO SOMETHING. Seal a lock, spray paint a pig sign, encourage anarchy wherever you are, cut a fence, be an outlaw for peace. DO SOMETHING to disable the death megamachine.”
- On postering: “The best adhesive for attaching posters to glass is condensed milk. It forms a bond that is practically eternal.”
- On economics: “Gold is not a measure of value, it is value. A hundred years ago, an ounce of gold would buy a horse, a gun, or a suit of clothes. Today, the same ounce of gold will still buy a horse, a gun, or a suit of clothes.”
- On sailors’ stories: “When two Captains get together with a bottle of rum, they throw the lid away and trade stories until it’s all gone. And all the stories begin, ‘Now, this is no shit…'”
A translation: “Our friend Richard Lee, neé Richard LeClair, AKA Dick Mother Fucker, died yesterday in the United States. We are grateful to Richard for having financed the production of a documentary about Colombian hiphop, Frecuensia Kolmbiana, in 2005, during which we came together and our band, Systema Solar, was born. Richard was a free revolutionary man, without fatherland and outside the law, a good and faithful friend, an excellent speaker who could tell histories not found in books. During the 60s and 70s he was part of an anarchist group from New York, the Up Against the Wall Mother Fuckers, that conducted bold actions like invading a wing of the Pentagon. We choose at this time to share with you some links about the UAW/MFs recording their important work, in which our friend Richard played a part.”
Let us be clear that these “show” bombings or expropriations of entities directly involved in supporting the Vietnam war and other atrocities, and mostly without casulaties, bore no relation to today’s religious terrorism, whose perps kill random victims and themselves over questions by their nature unanswerable; the 60s and 70s rads were choir boys and girls in comparison.
Brent L. Smith as quoted by Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Freedom_Front
On Guadalupe at W. 22nd St., where the Scientology Building now stands.
The saddest thing about this experience was that none of the other boys tried to escape, but seemed to accept their fate without any idea that they could rebel, or that things might be different elsewhere. To be such an outlier at such a young age is a lonely experience even Dickens did not address. How different might it have been if these boys had the window on the world that even early television broadcasts would soon begin to offer?
See links in previous Systema Solar Facebook quote.
Bob Dylan said that.
Richard at times referred to Kaczinski as his “spiritual brother.”
Much later, I wrote a poem about the photo; it’s in my 2nd collection of verse, Didn’t You Hear Me the First Time?, available online and from fine booksellers everywhere you ask for it.
Oddly, on a 1969 trip to NM with some of the local MFs, including Pete K., I met Morea. He and his family were traveling on horseback, via federal lands to Canada. One guy was wrapped up, freshly dead of snakebite, on a travois. I’m pretty sure this was the same Richie whose bones Dick later helped scatter.
Read more of Mariann Wizard’s writing on The Rag Blog.
[Mariann G. Wizard, a Sixties radical activist and contributor to The Rag, Austin’s underground newspaper from the 60s and 70s, is a poet, a professional science writer specializing in natural health therapies, and a Rag Blog contributing editor. ]
Lovely tribute to an interesting and valuable life liver. This is one MFer I whose path I did not cross. Thanks to you, Mariann, I can say we weren’t complete strangers.
From an anarchist of one generation to a rad sounding anarchist from another, RIP comrade!
Great stories, wonderful memories. I really can see Dick looking at that box of books, even for a moment dragging those things around it must have been hell. Already read books?, He came to his senses in no time.
What a memorable article lovingly written I wish I had met this man. I wish we had more people like him these daze. Perhaps we do? I hope so for our sake.
Vaya con Dios, companero!
I had several private communications from Richard Lee’s friends around the world after this article appeared, and was reminded of other wonderful stories, and more of Dick’s unique views on life. One of these I just can’t resist sharing belongs in the final section, “Tips and Opinions from Dick Motherfucker.”
On G-d: “The best evidence for Intelligent Design is that whether standing, sitting, or lying down, human beings can reach their own genitals with both hands.”
Hasta la victoria, no olvide a rompear el estado!
Mariann, I knew Dick from Jan 1971 in Boston until 1975, when he was in Oregon. We all lived together on and off, while he was involved with my friend, Pam. I am curious why his tribute did not mention HIS children. I was told by Dick himself that he had twin girls, and I know for a fact the he had a son, named Lamont, born in Boston in late 1970 or early 1971. Any comment?