Right Thinking From The Left Coast
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein

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Update about Lee, including memorial info

I’ve been putting this post off for what i think are obvious reasons, but all that has done is make me feel worse, so...Like Lee always quipped at me, “band-aid, one motion, right off.” Yeah, we spoke to each other in TV and movie quotes half the time, what of it? ;)

This is a long post, with information about a memorial service at the end, so it’s going behind the cut. Hit the “read the rest” link to see it all.

First off, I will fill everyone in on everything I know from Rae and Ryan, Lee’s mom and brother.  Rae approved me posting all of this, so best to just let their words speak for them. These are the emails I received from Rae and Ryan while they were in China, in order:

Ryan and I arrived in Beijing late Thursday afternoon.  We were able to meet with Richard and Joshua who are two of Lee’s close friends here.  They were all together on Monday night (which was a holiday here) and had a barbecue get together.  Lee went home around midnight - he had been drinking but wasn’t “shit-faced” but was in a good frame of mind.  He got in, checked his email, plugged in his cell phone on his nightstand, set his alarm, took off his glasses and got into bed.  The next morning (Tuesday) his maid came to work and saw him sleeping and closed his bedroom while she cleaned the apartment.  She went and did some shopping and came back and checked on him again but he was still sleeping so she tried to wake him and then realized that he wasn’t breathing.  She did have a contact number and name at Technicolor so she called them and from there I’m not sure what happened, but I’m sure that’s when the police and the embassy were called, and at 10 pm Tuesday night Randy from the embassy called Ryan at home which was 9 am Tuesday.  Our thoughts are that he took his pills and then forgot he had taken them and took them again along with the booze he had in him.  I’m hoping that we will find out something when we speak to the police sometime today.

We have been in contact with one of the guys at Technicolor this morning (Saturday) and we are waiting to hear from him about getting into Lee’s apartment.  I don’t know if it has been sealed by the police or not.  Richard and Joshua are coming to his apartment with us to help us.  I am so grateful for that.  This is going to be a really bad day for me.  More later. Rae

Just a quick update.  We went to the apartment yesterday (not a great feeling).  We had a guy from Technicolor, two of Lee’s friends and 5 ‘apartment’people’ to unseal the door and take pictures of the seal being broken.  We gathered all kinds of miscellaneous papers which we brought back to the hotel to sort through and also brought his laptop back here as well.  Thank God I remembered Jay’s old password which Lee used on both of his computers so we were able to get into both of Lee’s computers.  We are going back this morning to meet with the landlord so we can find out what was Lee’s and what came with the apartment.  Also a girl from the moving company is coming by the look at the shipment size and leave us some boxes.  They are coming in to pack on Wednesday.  We have asked all Lee’s friends to come by the apartment today and if they want anything to take it.  Ryan and I are both emotionally and physically exhausted.  We both have jet lag really bad and wake up round 3.00-4.00 am every night and can’t go back to sleep because our minds are racing.  Besides trying to get his apartment ready, tomorrow (Monday) we are going to get with the Embassy guy and then with the police and then start Lee’s process.  Wish us luck.  Luv Rae

Yesterday we were able to get 90% of Lee’s apartment sorted out and packed up. The moving company is scheduled to come in on Wednesday morning to pack and move the big items out ready for shipment. We met with the Landlord, Leng, and Lee’s Aei (maid). Needless to say that was very upsetting. Leng has been very helpfull and extremely forthcomming with issues concerning Lee’s contracts and moneys owed from his work at Technicolour. We will have that meeting with them on Tuesday.

Today (monday) we are sceduled to meet with Randy at the US Embassy to start the process of getting Lee out of China. This will no doubt be the hardest part of the trip for both me and Mom. We just thank God that Lee knew so many people that are willing to help with anything we ask.

Not much news to report for right now. I’m sure that Mom will have a lot more after todays meetings and events unfold.

Ryan and Rae

Well today (Monday) will have to be without a doubt the worst day Ryan and I have ever spent, or will ever spend for the rest of our lives. The American Embassy here has been completely worthless and useless.  We called Randy our contact guy so see where we had to start regarding Lee.  He said that WE had to get in contact with Inspector Wong, and then WE had to go to the morgue and then WE had to contact the funeral home regarding his cremation.  This is great if you can speak Chinese.  We ended up being helped by Lee’s boss Leng who is Singaporean Chinese.  We don’t know what on earth we would have done without him and he stayed all day.  Our first stop was the morgue.  If you can imagine a pre World War I structure, broken windows, holes in walls, no paint etc. that was it, only worse.  We had to go and identify Lee who had been there a week and I will only say not kept like we do in the US.  I was a basket case and told them I wanted Lee out of there today to be taken to the crematorium.  They had done blood work on Lee a week ago but it would be at least 2 more days for the results and then about another 2 days for the death certificate.  This is where Leng came in and did all the negotiations for us.  We told the attending doctor at the morgue we didn’t care about cause of death we just wanted him out of there and cremated TODAY.  We had to hand write all that and sign it and he said he could get the paperwork done in 2 hours.  I was so distressed I had to come back to the hotel and lay down but Ryan and Leng stayed.  They had lunch and 2 hours later were back at morgue.  Of course the morgue wouldn’t start ANYTHING until they had in cash 10,000 rmb which is about US$1600.00 so rather than Ryan and Leng running around in taxis to the bank and back Leng just got one or his employees to get a cash advance through the company and bring it over to them.  Ryan then had to identify that that was Lee getting put in the hearse.  ((Little footnote that Lee would have found hysterical.  Lee is so big he wouldn’t fit in a regular hearse but as luck would have it there was a big black American Cadillac hearse (the only one of it’s kind in Beijing).  This hearse was sent over as a gift from the USA to transport Chairman Mao when he died!!)) He was taken to the funeral home where they waited for him to be cremated which of course was done ONLY after their cash payment of 5,000 rmb which is about US$850.00.  Ryan bought the biggest urn they had (a 9” urn)and he was still too big to fit in. So they had to tamp (beat his ass) into it with a rubber mallet! (Lee would be loving this).  .
Anyway Ryan finally got back to the hotel at 7.30 pm.  Lee is in a lovely urn like a wooden Chinese temple.  It looks like something that he would have bought to decorate his house and it is just perfect.
Tomorrow we are going to Technicolor to sort out contract and payments etc. and also to try to find out what we have to do to close out his bank account.  Ryan took a couple of pics.

As patriotic as we all know Lee was. I’m sure he would appreciate the “FREEDOM EAGLE” being on the side of his hearse.





Chairman Mao’s hearse. And it was a Caddy with a freedom eagle on it.  How utterly and completely appropriate.  As Rae said to me, “If you’d have asked Lee how he’d like to go out if he died in China, he’d probably have told you ‘in Chairman Mao’s Cadillac hearse.’” I totally agree.

Last email from China below:

Well besides the day we got Lee this has been the day from hell here in glorious Beijing.  The day started off okay.  We went to Lee’s apartment and met the packers and finally got his shipment packed and gone.  The landlord was very nice and took us out to lunch and then Ryan and I went to try and close out Lee’s bank account!!!  We had previously been to the American Embassy and got a letter typed in English and Chinese on the same page on USA letterhead and then both sections stamped with the US Consulate stamp.  We got Maggie from Technicolor to come with us to the bank to interpret.  We had the Consulate letter, Lee’s death certificates both Chinese and American, his birth certificate, his American passport, my American passport and also a power of attorney letter Lee had made out for me before he went to China.  They took one look at all these and told us they couldn’t accept any of this because firstly we had to have a ‘heritage’ (next of kin) letter filled out by the Notary Office of Beijing.  Unfortunately they only do this for Chinese people!  Then they said that to prove my next of kin to Lee we had to take the proof (all the paperwork that I mentioned) and take it back to America and go the the Chinese embassy and have them put their chop (seal) on it and then we could fly back to Beijing and go to the bank and then they would close out the account!!!  (Our temperatures by this time were reaching boiling point).  We told them that all the information they needed was proved to the American embassy and translated into Chinese for them but they would not accept this document at all as they do not consider this a legal document!  Long story short we sat in the bank’s office for over 4 and a half hours while person after person called their superior to find out what to do.  It has ended tonight with them announcing that the head of Beijing bank is calling a meeting with several people in his office first thing in the morning to see what legal documents they will accept to close out Lee’s account.  We are going to get in contact with the American embassy and see if there is anything they can do.  We have now got it down to the thing that they must have is all the same information we have given them but it has to be on the Notary Office in Beijing letterhead and their chop on it.  No problem but they will not accept any of my documents as legal without a chop from the Chinese consulate which is of course in the US!!!  What bullshit.  Unfortunately we didn’t have Lee’s pin number or we would have just pulled the money out through the atm.  We asked them to ‘pretend’ that we had lost Lee’s atm card and to issue a new one where we could get a new pin.  Oh no, ‘we couldn’t do that!’.  Anyway now we have to wait until tomorrow morning (Thursday) to see what transpires.  We were trying to get out of here on Friday morning but that remains to be seen.  I am soooooo ready to get the hell out of here and get away from their red tape and ‘can’t do’ attitudes.  More later.  Rae

Last day here in Beijing.  It took until 5.45 pm before the bank finally made up it’s mind to honor the notorized letter we had from the American Embassy.  We contacted the Embassy this morning and they faxed over a copy of the agreement document (don’t know it’s official title and it’s late) between the United States and China.  Then the bank still wanted a copy of the Power of Attorney I had from Lee when he first went overseas.  At 4.00 pm they still hadn’t made a decision so we decided to go a notary ourselves and have one drawn up from me giving my authorization for Maggie (the HR girl at Technicolor) to act on my behalf in closing Lee’s bank account if this didn’t go through.  While we were at the notary’s office she said that our notarized US Embassy letter was all that was needed, by Chinese law, to close out the account!  Needless to say Ryan and I were rather hot under the collar by now.  By the time we got back to the bank they had decided to let us close the account which we did, and they even changed the money into US dollars.  We had a lovely farewell dinner with all of Lee’s friends - really nice people and I’m just very thankful he had them in his life before he died.  We are leaving at noon on Friday and should be back in Houston around 5.00 pm the same day.  Will talk later.  Rae

After that emails stopped, as Ryan and Rae were trying to get home, and I certainly didn’t want to pry or bother them in any way. But, in what should not be a surprise to anyone, Lee’s mom is a great and tough lady, and she took in upon herself to call me.  We talked for a very long time, and I so very much understand more of who my friend was. I’d always known he was both a momma’s and a daddy’s boy, meaning that he loved his parents immensely and completely, but I never spoke to them.  Hearing Rae talk, I could hear where Lee got his emotional connectons to the world, where he got his plain-speaking, and some of that famous sense of humor as well.

I guess I should fill all of Lee’s friends in on what we know about his last day or so.  Rae covered some of it in the email.  He went to a barbeque with friends where he had some drinks bot according to them was not shitfaced. He came home.  His futon was folded down in his office, so he may have taken a short nap, but then he clearly got on the computer, as his desktop was there with a full ashtray of fresh butts and an empty glass that Rae assumes was Jack & Coke. :)

He took his meds (including Ambien) and went to bed.  His phone was in the charger, his stuff was organized for the next day...he was just going to bed like any other night.  Apparently he slept with his hands folded under the side of his head.  That is how his Ayi (maid) found him.  He simply never woke up.

Rae elaborated a bit to me about the conditions in the morgue, and I won’t get into it too much, but suffice it to say it’s fucking horrible. Let’s just say that the embassy told the family to wait until Monday to claim him, but they never told Ryan and Rae that the Chinese wouldn’t refrigerate Lee.

When Rae saw that she simply could not let them keep Lee any longer.  They wanted an autopsy, but that would take two to four weeks.  Weeks.  She told them at that point she did not care about the specific cause of death, they could write whatever they wanted, she’d sign whatever they wanted but she was not leaving her boy with them for one more minute.  And she didn’t.

Good for her.

So while we will never know for 100% certain what the specific and exact cause of death was, those of us who knew Lee—and who Lee had a phone number for—probably got one of his Ambien phone calls. :) Ambien can fuck you up...in some people it can create these fugue states where you do things as though you were sleepwalking, except to everyone else you are wide awake.  You don’t always make sense, but you seems alert.  Later you have no memory of what you did.  When I first started my weight loss, I was on Ambien.  I rarely ever had any effects except for one time when I intentionally took a second Ambien and mis-timed how long it had been since the first, but once I started dieting I would sleep eat.  I’d wake up to find Pringles all over me and a half-a-can eaten, laying open on the floor.  or I would find that i had assembled a sandwich or something.  I’d find the remnants, wrappers and dishes and have no idea how it happened.  Turns out I was craving salty foods and somehow the Ambien fugue freed me to go get them.  I switched off Ambien and added a little more actual salt into my food and it’s never happened again, but it’s a little scary.  Some people would sleep drive, or sleep work, or whatever.

With Lee it could get a little crazy.  He’d forget he hadn’t taken his pill and take a second one. He would have long, detailed conversations with people, and cook full breakfasts and shit. That can bring on the fugue in someone who doesn’t have that reaction normally. It happened often.  Respiratory depression is a listed side effect of Ambien.  It is also a side effect of alcohol.  Combined with the position he slept in and the fact that he was a big guy, and the end result is likely that he simply exhaled and his body couldn’t draw in another breath.

Jesus CHRIST it feel wrong to be so clinical about that, but I don’t know how else to write it.  I’m not one to wail and beat my breast or anything, but somehow I feel like I should. I know that’s just grief though.

The bottom line I (and I think i speak for Rae and Clayton as well, although i feel a little presumptuous saying that) would like everyone to know is this was a man who was planning not just for his future, but for the next day.  A terrible confluence of events led to his passing by accident, and anyone who says otherwise is not someone worthy of one iota of your time or energy. As both Rae and I said together on the phone, “Fuck those motherfuckers. Pardon our french.” :)

And that brings me to what I thought was the most perfect summary of Lee and his mom: She told me that clearly he got his foul mouth from her. But then she laughed and said “But I also got half of mine from him so who knows where it comes from anymore.” That put a big smile on my face. So perfectly Lee, isn’t it?


So, going forward, there will be a memorial service for Lee in Houston, TX on Saturday, May 9th. Rae and Ryan would like to start it at 1 PM and go until...well, until everyone is done, really. What she asked of me is that I find out who can actually attend, and that you email me to get directions and phone numbers and so forth.  If you think you would like to go, please email me at stark23x at gmail dot com, and use the subject line “LEE CROFT MEMORIAL.” I will get you all the info you need so that you can go and tip your hat or a glass of Jack & Coke to one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known.

I assume there will be other, smaller memorials around the world, some of which have already happened.  Please feel free to email me if you want me to post about an upcoming service you’d like to have.  Even if it’s just some friends and co-workers getting together for some drinks at a bar or whatever.  That’s probably the best memorial for Lee anyway, so if you do that, let me know and I’ll post it up here.


Rae gave me access and I figured out how to transfer the domains to me by signing in to Lee’s GoDaddy account, so as long as I have a presence on the interwebs and tubes, this site will stay up.  Lee in China will remain as a testimony to his adventurous nature and his ability to tell great stories...but It will be frozen as is.  Right Thinking will continue to be a community of people hashing out the issues of the day, just as it was when he was alive.  I can think of no better testimony to him than that.

Well, maybe we should all rent everything he worked on from Netflix too. Because he was very proud of what he did for a living.  Rae told me that when he was a child and saw Star Wars for the first time, he told her that it was the coolest thing he ever saw and he wanted to learn how to do that.

He did. He is one of those people that actually achieved a childhood dream. Not only did he learn to do that, but he worked on a Star Wars movie, at ILM. That’s pretty awesome.

So do that as well. Come here and be a part of the great debate, but also watch his work., And The Simpsons.  Dude loved The Simpsons. ;)

Posted by JimK on 04/24/09 at 03:17 PM in Etcetera Lee in China Tooting My Own Horn • Permalink


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