Jon Flee – R.I.P.

by Angeliska on December 24, 2010

Hey Flee-flee, long time no see. I’m not sure how else to do this, but in my usual way,
which always seems to help me a bit – and sometimes others too. Maybe if you’re out
there somewhere, a buzzing column of light still flitting around this plane for awhile more,
you’ll find your way into this ether and be able to read this. I can’t believe you’re gone, and
you probably can’t either. I’m guessing one minute you were making some dinner, or fiddling
around with a project, or reading, and the next – some guy was up in your house with a gun.
I know your bravado, and I’m sure you tried to defend your home, and maybe deal with this
person who was, no doubt, in some way involved in all the recent robbings, violence and
attacks. I wish it was him and not you, kid. He put a bullet in your head and left you lying in
a pool of blood for your roommates to come home and find. He’s still out there, and will
probably do it again, if given the chance – and there will be loads of chances, because
all our friends are basically sitting ducks. Unarmed, in shoddily protected old houses that
aren’t hard (apparently) to get in to. Meanwhile, the police are no help at all. I heard that
last night, they arrested one of your friends who was freaking out with grief. What the fuck
is that? They also tried to say that your death was a suicide, which I, and everybody else
who knew you know is utter bullshit. Not to mention your neighbors who told the cops that
they clearly heard multiple gunshots. Not to mention the fact that you didn’t own a gun, and
that you had so much to be living for. I know you did. I wish you had the chance to live it.

I wanted to say that I’m sad that we hadn’t gotten to sit and talk in such a long time.
Every time I ran into you over the past few years, it was a quick hug in the middle of
a parade – you looking stunned, and me rushing back so as not to lose my companions
in the flood of revelers. Just the other day, a bunch of your pals and I sat in my warm
kitchen, admiring these photobooth self-portraits you made, and telling stories about
you. I asked them to give you a big, sloppy kiss for me, and I dearly hope they did.
You might not know this, but I’ve treasured this little strip of photos for years, and
loved seeing your face every day on my refrigerator. Now you’re on my altar, candles lit.
I wanted to tell you thank you, again – for being so good to me when I first moved
back to Austin right after Katrina. I remember that night outside the Carousel Lounge,
at the benefit we’d put together. You came up to me, so determined to help me with
whatever I needed. You offered to bike over with dishes and silverware the next day.
You showed up and put in the elbow grease when few of my old friends made any
effort to help. You came over almost every day to lend a hand with painting, moving
furniture, and later, cleaning mold off of the treasures I was able to salvage from my
house in New Orleans. You were there with me when Myrtle called to tell me that she’d
been in my house, and that the roof had blown off. You held me when I fell apart, steered
me to the movies to see Mirrormask, in hopes of distracting me from my despair. You put
me to bed and sat silently near me, solid and full of empathy. You went to New Orleans
later, and brought back a bag of mix tapes I’d bemoaned leaving behind. You shimmied
up my rickety, blasted balcony and busted into the ruins of my old apartment to retrieve them
for me. You were the only person I know who would do stuff like that, selfless, dedicated and
sometimes foolhardy acts of love. Thank you for being so beautiful, so kind, and so good.

Wolf-eyed brother. Stray puppy with the hungry face. You tried to look tough, but anyone
who knew you will remember how your pale face would crack in two with that crooked
little boy grin of yours. Your busted up teeth later proudly replaced with silver, now soon
to be ash. That terrible-ass tattoo you got on your skinny white chest – a gnarly pirate
sneering beneath the words “If you ain’t a pirate, then you ain’t shit”. That’s the kind of
tattoo guaranteed to make a mother weep, though I know now she’d give anything to
see it again, to see your face. I feel so heartbroken for your family to get this news on
Christmas Eve. Anytime would be bad, but this? It’s just not right. How can this be?

It hasn’t really sunken in at all that you’re gone. That I won’t run into you at the St. Roch Tavern,
or here in Austin. The pieces don’t fit. You worked so hard to do right by people, and this is what
you got from humanity in return. It’s really hard for me not to be bitter right now. I don’t understand
what is happening in New Orleans, but it kills me that so many people I love are bearing the brunt
of this cycle of violence. I’m so scared for our city, for all of our friends. Please watch over them.
I know how much you loved it there – how at home you always felt in New Orleans.
It’s your final home now, and although I hope you can pass smoothly onward into
being part of everything, a part of me hopes that I’ll see a shade of you sitting on
a leafy back-stoop like this again. I love you, Jonny Flee – thank you for loving me.
Imagining you being dead isn’t really the hard part, you know. I just always
thought that if it happened, it would be some gory train-hopping incident,
or a bike accident, or, I don’t know – pirates or something. Not murdered.
Not shot in your house right before Christmas. I’m sorry you went this way.
I was hoping to see what kind of old man you’d make. Now you’re a lost boy,
forever – waving a wooden sword and swinging from vines in Neverneverland.

Jonathan Hall – “Flee” – May 2, 1983 – December 24th, 2010

To everyone else reading this, and feeling sadness and fear for the violence in New Orleans,
please – whatever you do, don’t write the city off. It terrifies me to think of any more loved ones
being made victims, but at the same time, I don’t want them to abandon their home. After Helen
was murdered
, I had to stay away for a while. The fear and despair overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t
be there to celebrate
Mardi Gras because of all the dark dreams I kept having. I regretted not being
there, and promised myself I would never miss another one. I’m keeping that promise, and I hope that
things will change soon, somehow. If you live there, please be careful, be canny, be safe. Make sure
that your house is secure. If you plan on getting a gun to protect yourself, please learn how to use it responsibly.
I can’t help but agree with friends who are wondering if the police turning a blind eye to the rash
of robberies, rapes and murders in the 8th Ward recently aren’t somehow in cahoots with the thugs
who are doing this shit. Sounds crazy, but when you look at this video from last month, and then look
at all the violent shit that’s gone down, it’s hard not to draw lines. These attacks have all been on our
friends – punk rock kids with nothing, no money, really, to take. So why are they being targeted? To get
them out? Or maybe it’s just random. Maybe the ten dollars from a bike-delivery kid on a shitty night
is worth it to them. Worth murdering for? It doesn’t make much sense. At the very least, the cops and
the city aren’t bothered that people are being predated on, especially since those people are “transients”
and “rowdy punk kids” who they don’t want here anyway. Much stranger things have happened in New
Orleans, where the city government and police force are so mind-bogglingly corrupt it’s hard to believe
it’s not Juarez. Watch this video and tell me there’s not something wrong with this picture:

 

“Cops call them a nuisance. Residents say they’re dangerous.
Now, some are wondering why transients, or gutter punks as they’re
often called, congregate in the St. Roch neighborhood.”

I call bullshit.

35 comments

P.s. I still have your copy of Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration by David Wojnarowicz, and I’ll read it again soon and think of you. I know it was one of your favorites. I never watched that movie you were always telling me about: In My Skin, but I will now. Wish we could still share movies and books and everything else. May you journey be swift and easy, sweet prince.

by Angeliska on December 24, 2010 at 5:32 pm. #

My heart goes out to you and everybody who’s lamenting such a tragic loss. I was there last night to see the cops arrest our friends. It is very strange what is happening. I’ve seen him around a lot and now I regret having never met him. Best wishes to you, you’ve written a beautiful post here, thank you for doing so.

With love,
Bobby

by Bobby Damore on December 24, 2010 at 5:34 pm. #

Angel, I am having a difficult time trying to understand what I am reading here…. gutter punks? The news reporter said these words as though he were referring to some sort of insect plague. These are human beings for F*ck sake! Although I have never been to New Orleans, from what Chance told me, these travellers, musicians, artists etc are the people who helped to make NOLA such a special place. What is happening there atm almost beggars belief. I am dumbfounded by the senseless violence and the level of apathy on behalf of the police who seem more intent on vanquishing the ‘gutter punks’ as opposed to doing their damn jobs. This wreaks of something dark and sinister and I feel sick to my stomach that your friends are dying so senselessly. I live in a part of Australia where crime is non existent and we do not lock our doors…Hell I don’t even own a key to my house! To say I am shocked would be an understatement, because I find this sincerely upsetting. What is happening to the world when young people are being discriminated against and possibly even murdered just because they are different? Have we have learnt nothing from the ignorant mistakes of past? If you genuinely believe that the police are involved in this madness, or even if the madness is being ignored then I urge you to use your brilliant command of the written word to send letters to the media, govt, anybody who may be able to help. And if there is anything I can do please do not hesitate to ask. I am thinking of you Angel and your wider community, during this time of loss. May you continue to stay united, buoyant and strong. Misha xxx

by Misha on December 24, 2010 at 6:18 pm. #

I’m so sorry, Angel. You have lost too many friends. This is such a terribly sad thing to happen at any time, but especially awful to happen right before Christmas.
You are right – that video is a blunt, clumsy attempt to vilify an entire sketchily-defined group, identify them as criminals and thus make them acceptable targets (for legislation, for violence, for scapegoating).
The business about “tax-paying residents want them gone” is a typical media us-vs-them approach. How ironic that what we saw in the video was people who looked mostly like 60s flower children, dancing and relaxing. There are much worse things than not paying taxes, and one of them just happened to your friend.
I hope the killer is caught soon. I hope for justice for your friend and some gentle spirit to visit your dreams and ease your grief.

by OdetteO on December 24, 2010 at 9:05 pm. #

Ah, love. Tonight I’m sick-sad over all this, over the loss of someone I never met, who feels familiar from having eyed his fotostrips on your fridge all these years.

And after all this tragedy, I just want to make sense of it all, sort out how we’re supposed to move forward with levity and hope, when those who inspire us with their wild beauty and willful lust for life seemingly are being punished, or snuffed out entirely.
A difficult task, to ring in the new year this year, ushering out the old. I love you.

by Francesca you Betcha on December 24, 2010 at 11:38 pm. #

I am sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. It’s saddening to hear about these kinds of things. As always, thank you for reminding me to look at my fellow humans as fellows and not things. My sincerest condolences to him, his friends and family.

by Gabriel on December 25, 2010 at 12:53 am. #

I’m so sorry. ((hugs))

by katinka on December 25, 2010 at 6:35 am. #

Jon was so many things to me, brother, friend, accomplice. So many things that I still can’t find words for. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. I love that he touched so many lives in such a wonderful way and I have to think that somehow that gift will go on long after the grief. I will never be able to tell you all how much your words and stories and posts mean to me and I will treasure every one. Thank you and please try to have a Merry Christmas. Love to you all, Jon’s sister, Heather

by Heather/Flee on December 25, 2010 at 7:19 am. #

i’m so sorry.

by Ariel on December 25, 2010 at 11:50 am. #

My sweet baby boy, I cried when he got that tattoo…”what have you done to your beautiful self?!”. He was here in N.Y. quite a bit and we would try to meet up and things would fall through…my heart is aching something horrible. So sweet, so bright and shiny, so unforgettable.
I’ll be with you soon sweet lady, I’m gonna hug you and not wanna let go.

by Whiskey Deer Wolf on December 25, 2010 at 1:51 pm. #

What you said about us being targeted here is right on. I think it’s because they know the cops don’t really care about us, and that there likely won’t be a thorough investigation. It’s sad really to think about how much harm has been caused fo so little. I do blame that news story in some part, but also the system here in New Orleans. Someone needs to remind this city, that while justice should be blind, the cops should not.

by Ken VonT on December 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm. #

My condolences are humbly offered at the loss of this young man. I knew him as a cyclist and he occasionally frequented our business. I cannot defend the NOPD and it seems, they can’t defend themselves these days. Why it takes a death to bring notice to the daily tragedies wrought in our home is beyond my comprehension. There are many who take advantage of New Orleans’ famous tolerance. She has a long history of acceptance and respect for the beliefs and practices of others. This is our home, the home of those who chose it. We will defend our home against murderers and those who neglect their duty to serve and protect. I feel great sorrow for every lost life and the hand of murderous thugs. Let us find some way to bring forth a positive communion from this tragedy. It is without understanding, that Jon was killed. He will be missed.

by Tim Eskew on December 25, 2010 at 7:17 pm. #

thinking & talking about this at the Xmas Eve dinner table at Cherrymount Farm with Pierre’s papa and some recent ex-NOLA folks…in my thoughts constantly lately :(

by alita on December 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm. #

aw sweet jesus! NOLA’s got big problems and ‘gutter punks’ ain’t the worst… irresponsibility, violence, intolerance- and that’s just the NOPD! good human beings should live freely and unafraid, whether squatting in a 9th ward abandoned shotgun house or paying investor class garden district mortgage… I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you can live simple, free, and find your joy.

by brian b on December 25, 2010 at 9:31 pm. #

Thanks for writing this hon. Our hearts bleed together.

by Christian on December 25, 2010 at 10:49 pm. #

MY SINCERE RESPECTS TO ALL HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS UPMOST!! MET HIM BEFORE AND AFFECTED ME AS WELL I MUST SAY!!!XOXXOXOXOX TO ALL!!

by CHAD on December 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm. #

I remember telling flee he reminded me of a lost boy when i was a preteen. i had alot of good times with him in austin and the rest of the country.i wonder his tag is still on the train bridge in austin,”flee says goodbye” if i remember correctly.sweet boy, my heart aches with grief. thank you for writing this, i am at a loss for words.

by Sarah stubbs on December 27, 2010 at 6:45 am. #

I never knew him, but I’ve been thinking of Flee often lately. What a kind, loving soul he was. Thinking about New Orleans, too, and people’s heightened sense of fear. I feel so protective.

by April Violet on December 27, 2010 at 10:17 pm. #

any nola creatures needing a safe place to air out and be quiet in the woods contact me.
longarmfarm@gmail.com

by micaela on December 29, 2010 at 7:42 pm. #

Hi there. I am an artist from Australia and have never read your blog before. I just wanted to give you my deepest sympathies- the story of your friend’s death and the way you express it has made me cry for you, him, your friends and humanity. It is horrible, just horrible the way these vibrant, interesting and happy people are being targeted just because they’re different. You’re in my thoughts. Thank you for writing this.

by Diana Bee on December 30, 2010 at 9:01 pm. #

Thank you for posting your beautiful tribute to Jon… He was like a brother to me and we will all deeply miss him. We love you Jon Flee!!! R.I.P Brother and friend :(

by Cassy~bean on January 2, 2011 at 12:49 am. #

Thank you for this beautiful tribute. I first met Flee during my own travels in Portland, he was a close friend to my partner at the time. I later knew him in Texas. He was an electric charge that drew people to him, I loved his sleepy eyes, his crooked smile and how he could be a lovable scamp no matter what he did. I loved how he drew you in for a story and was so full of love and bluster. Last time I saw him, we met for drinks after he was stuck in my city trying to catch out to New Orleans. I gave him a ride to a good spot where he’d be able to hitch. We hugged and my last words to him were safe travels, friend. I always assumed I’d see him again. Safe travels, sweet friend.

by saoirse on January 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm. #

I want to thank you all for your words about Flee. We are two squares from Michigan who became neighbors and then friends. He showed us around town, introduced us to his friends, invited us to parties, took us to the rockpile. We went to breakfast together and sat on the bench drinking coffee and debating. He was our connection to the free spirits that are nola. We miss him greatly. RIP Flee there will never be another.

by tonya on January 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm. #

Angel,
I just lost my fiance (Earl) to suicide, so i know how you feel. I knew Flee, good kid, doesn’t make much sense does it? How someone so nice could end up losing his life to an act of violence.
Last year my friend Cisco died from being stabbed multiple time in n’orleans. you’ll never see me go back there, if it aint the cops its something else…..
take care
holly haggard

by Holly Haggard on January 9, 2011 at 5:55 pm. #

He’s NOT a lost boy… I’m sure he’ll make it through the Bardo just fine…..he’s moving forward now

by Dutchgraves on January 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm. #

I hope the right person reads this..I’m in norfolk va. I work for a railroad just a coupla days ago I found a railcar With this Jon Flee’srememberances stuff in it it was awesome pics. booze-flowers beads and a big headless i guess hawk i hope someone reads this and emails me back oh and in a big box i think its awesome someone took the time to do all this but why in a railcar?? RUDY

by rudy on January 21, 2011 at 9:11 am. #

Don’t know if this is gonna work, but I found this photo of me n flee n others having a time at the texas roller derby, thought I’d share it, he was a photogenic guy.

by Jahn on February 4, 2011 at 12:09 am. #

Huh, how about this:
[IMG]http://i147.photobucket.com/albums/r310/bicyclesuicide/february32011vermont007.jpg[/IMG]

by Jahn on February 4, 2011 at 12:11 am. #

Well, I’m sorry that didn’t work, I miss Jon a lot, I have been thinking about him a lot, and I’m sorry I couldn’t post that photo, if you want to look at it, here is the direct link:
http://i147.photobucket.com/albums/r310/bicyclesuicide/february32011vermont007.jpg

by Jahn on February 4, 2011 at 12:14 am. #

rudy–i can answer some of those questions for you. can i get your email?

by sara on February 17, 2011 at 11:07 am. #

Well this is an old post but it’s new new’s to me. I dated Mr. Flee Hopper back when I was 15 years old. 15-17, that was 11 years ago now. He was one of the greatest boyfriends I ever had and definitely the first guy I ever loved. We talked over the years on and off, every time it was like nothing changed. I tried to find him on the internet tonight because it had been awhile and I found this post and now I am feeling real heavy. People like Jon, who fought so hard to support themselves and were dealt such a shitty fucking hand at life deserve better then this. Nothing in life is fair. It’s total bullshit.

by Cheyanne on December 5, 2011 at 1:37 am. #

never read this until just now. bums me out about Flee. He stayed at my house the first time he came to NOLA way back in the day before the hurricane. and it always made me smile to see him after he came back to live here. he was a good dude, for sure. i was out of town when he died, it never seemed real until just now.

that’s real fucked up about the police’s reaction. fuck them. some day we all gotta get together and figure out something different, because this system really ain’t working for us.

RIP.

by Dylan on January 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm. #

does anyone know what happened to his facebook page? I was missing him today and wanted to look through his photos, and now i am in distress as he’s gone from my friends list and the search bar is giving me no results! :(

by karen on April 25, 2012 at 2:23 am. #

as a neighbor, I was horrified by what happened. we actually talked about the home invasions, and the police did nothing to let the public know. fuckers. all of them.

by mardiclaw on December 23, 2013 at 2:58 pm. #

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