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Remembrance: Jonathan Zanin




Jonathan Zanin — Jon Zanin on first introduction, Jonny Z after that — wanted to cover his body with tattoos, but not just any old anchor or star would do. Many of his friends were artists, and he'd get their designs inked into his skin.

The project was cut tragically short May 7, when Jonny Z died while biking home from a benefit he hosted for Food Not Bombs at the New York Deli in Carytown. The fact that the circumstances surrounding his death remain unresolved has compounded his friends' grief. But Jonny Z loved this city and the location of his death combines quintessential Richmond elements: a bike, a bridge, the river, train tracks.

Many of his close friends — and he had lots — encourage people to view the loss as an opportunity to celebrate his life. Last weekend Richmond ex-pats from around the country returned to town, spray-painted a startlingly accurate mural of Jonny on the side of Chop Suey books and joined other friends, several of whom had moved to Richmond on the strength of Jonny's recommendation. They took a bus rented by one of his employers to make sure anyone who wanted to could attend the funeral services in Northern Virginia.

If Jonny had a busload of fans, as one friend points out, it was because he was everybody else's biggest fan. When bands on tour came through Richmond, Jonny made sure they had a place to crash. He was known for quietly pulling cash out of the ATM and tucking bills into the band's gear if they hadn't earned quite enough through ticket sales or donations. Jonny was a musician himself, and his drum kit was blanketed in stickers, mostly of other local bands.

It's become something of a parlor game to list all the bands he was in, and Jonny Z loved a shout-out, so here's our contribution, in no particular order:

The Skawannabees, The Funkabooties, El-Aharairah, Youth Decay, Churl, Are You Fucking Serious?, Tina Marie, Best Friend Suicide Pact, Tigershark, Safety Hawk, Castle Danger, Useless, Tenric Protocol and XmarksthespotX.

Jonny Z also taught himself to silk-screen and paint, and packed it all between multiple jobs and an overflowing to-do list. A business major at Virginia Commonwealth University, he had a strong business sense and had been scouting out locations for a music venue these past few months. He bought a house on the South Side long before most of his friends were financially stable and invited all the neighbors to a party complete with a Spider-Man moon bounce.

Jonny was not quite the host or the emcee so much as someone who laid the groundwork, got the party going and then dipped in to join in the fun. He was perhaps best known for organizing the Bizarre Market. It started as a once-every-three-months festival for local artists to sell their work, but he found a permanent home for it this year in Nonesuch, an art and apparel boutique on Grace Street. The store celebrated its two-year anniversary on the Saturday before his fundraiser at New York Deli, and according to friends, he danced and smiled and popped champagne all night.

The next night, Jonny bounced from table to table at his Food Not Bombs fundraiser. He made sure the DJs had beer, bought drinks for friends and made calls trying to coax the ones he didn't see to come. He stuffed the donation jar and took pictures in the photo booth. Then, at the end of the night, he paid the tab, said goodbye to his friends and took off. S

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