It is amazing that to think that Richard was a farm boy once upon a time. He is so streetwise, so New York, that you would think farm life was furthest from his cultural experience.
The grant to intern at the Waldorf Astoria was really an excuse for Richard to move to the city. He did not grow up metropolitan.
Richard was raised in the fertile regions of Connecticut. His father owned a farm, growing everything from potatoes to fruit, and even flowers to sell on Mother’s Day. They had a small stand out in front of the house, and his father would gather the produce for sale at the market in Hartford.
Every summer, his father would hire teens from the city to come out and work the farm for extra money. In his senior year of high school, Richard remembers one of the hires pulling up in a brand new ’57 Chevy.
“This guy was breaking into houses, burglarizing, bringing back reefer for us to smoke. He eventually was promoted to shooting heroin. I wanted to be like that. He was too cool.”
He eventually convinced one of the hires to sell him some heroin, a “cotton shot,” slang for a small dose of heroin. He was told that he would throw up. He didn’t. This was encouraging.
After two weeks of dosing, Richard missed a day.
“I started feeling really shitty, like I had the flu. My buddy said, ‘You got a habit, not the flu.’ I said, ‘Get the fuck out of here.’”
He started hanging out in pool halls, knocking off scrap yards with friends for copper and aluminum, selling it, spending more money on dope. One night the cops even caught up with him, surrounding the yard. Richard and his accomplices raced out of the yard and up a steep road, with the police at their heels. The truck stopped. All three of them had to push the dead truck over the hill, and evade the pursuing police. They made it.
“That was an $8000 hit. Easy,” he says.