All posts by Ashley

HONZA 1974-2006

Honza was born Jan Chmelík in January 1974 in Ostrova, Czechoslovakia. He had a brother named Jacob (YA-koob) and a mom and dad. His family was close yet the relationship with his father was very strained. It was a case of being too much alike, perhaps. They were both very stubborn and convinced that their way of seeing and experiencing the world was the WAY.

From early on, Honza was obsessed with all things American. He wanted coke, levis and R rated movies. A case of “the grass is always greener?” Perhaps. Honza was one of a final generation of children born and raised in communist Czechoslovakia. He had an aunt and cousins who had escaped into Austria in 1968. So he was always acutely aware of what he didn’t have: video games, fancy clothes and bicycles. So when the borders opened in 1989 (remember the Velvet Revolution?), Honza went west as soon as he dropped out of the Charles University.

After exploring around western Europe for a while, Honza made the big trip over the big water. He was chasing a cute boy that he fell in love with and in 1993 he found himself in Washington D.C. That’s where I come in. Or at least I should explain, that is where I met Honza. And for the record, he was calling himself Jan (YAHN) then. At this stage in his life, Honza had yet to become the king of community living that many of you experienced him as. He was barely 20 years old, very romantic about life in Amerika, and he still had red cheeks for chrissakes! Needless to say, he was wet behind the ears.

When I met him, I was working in a gay coffee shop in DC. I was one of the resident fag hags. I was showing off my new belly tattoo (Honza told me. I have no recollection of meeting him the first time) and forcing everyone present to check it out, Honza included. We got to chatting and he lets it out that the love interest thing didn’t work out and he needed a place to live. Well I had just moved into an amazing group house in upper northwest DC full of activists and hippies and we were looking for one more roommate. So he moves in and that was the beginning of a ten year best friendship slash committed non monogamous marriage.

We used to joke that the house on Parkwood Place was our spiritual birthplace. It was during this time that Honza learned to reject all the symbols of amerikan capitalism and greed. Through it, Honza and I connected with the rainbow family, hempsters, activists fighting nuclear everything and folks fighting for indigenous peoples’ rights. Our spirit Mother, as we called her, was a feisty woman named redmoonsong that taught us the ins and outs of living in community. It was there that we learned about group process, house meetings, dumpster diving, sharing resources, walking lightly on the earth, vegetarian cooking. Consider it Alternate Lifestyle 101.

Honza went to his first rainbow gathering in 1994, a month after marrying me. We hitchhiked from DC to Wyoming in about four days and spent one dollar the entire way. Honza was a very thrifty Capricorn. I was his bourgeois amerikan wife. We always had a very east vs. west dynamic. Communism vs. capitalism. M&M’s vs. Lentilky. Through the Gathering Honza was further turned on to the Indigenous Peoples’ scene and he became more and more involved in working with the Diné people in Arizona, especially on Big Mountain. He also spent several springs in the desert in Nevada organizing and helping with big actions against the Nevada Nuclear Test Site.

Honza preferred working gatherings to big hippy events. Honza liked to work. He had big square hands that were meant for building things — and sewing and crocheting too. We used to accuse Honza of being an old lady trapped in a cute boy´s body. One of my favorite things ever would be riding in a subway in New York with him, he in his knee high Fluevogs and spiked up anarchy gear. He pulls out his knitting projects and starts chatting with the Polish grandmas about two vs. four needles. Honza was always bonding with the old ladies. I remember having a lot of fear about Honza meeting my grandmother. She’s very Christian and I thought she might reject him based on her Christian principles. Instead, they bonded instantly and traded dumpster diving secrets.

In 2000, Honza made his first trip to Short Mountain Sanctuary. I believe it’s safe to say that the Sanctuary was one of the most important influences of Honza’s life. Queer pagan anarchists —need I say more? Honza was completely at home there. I´ll never forget our first visit. Honza was new blood and it was all about that cute blue eyed boy with the sexy fucking accent. I´ll never forget the morning Honza was cooking up palachinky (Czech crepes) when he announced that he was going to feed all people who had worked that day first. He could turn from community sweetheart into communist dictator in nothing flat.

I’m not sure who was the one who turned Honza on to Queeruption but he was totally dedicated. The queer anarchy scene is where Honza felt the most comfortable, I believe. He believed in many hands make light work. And he was all about gender fuckery. His last community family was the anarchy queers of the Mission in San Fran. He told me many times that it was in that scene that he felt true family.

I am only able to paint a partial picture of the brilliant beauty that was Honza. He had so many loves and so many communities. I feel sort of like a cad trying to explain this beautiful soul to you when I know that there are so many others that could fill in so much more. Honza succumbed to toxoplasmosis, a crazy fungus on his brain. A totally weakened immune system made it impossible for him to fight it off. Honza had been HIV positive since the fall of 1999. He remained basically asymptomatic until the spring of 2002, when he was hospitalized for the first time in Brno, Czech Rep. That was a great summer. Lots of napping and good food.

The last two years of his life were dedicated to resisting fascist amerika, which Honza saw reflected in cops everywhere. He transformed from a quite mild mannered knitter into a crazed police instigating speed freak (without the speed). The San Francisco cops lovingly called him THE ELEVATOR because no matter what was going down, if Honza came around, the energy of the situation elevated.

Honza´s final days were amazing. His friends and family came from near and far. It was wonderful to put names with faces and to understand how far Honza spread himself out — how much of himself there was to give. I think about him everyday. The last time I went grocery shopping, I burst out into tears when I passed the Nutella. He loved that shit. Rest in Peace Honza. See you next time.