Tony

Tony

 

My life was full of contradictions. I was raised Catholic but my parents were swingers. The used to have these parties that were full of sailors, sex workers and drag queens. There was a brothel across the road run by a woman called Mrs Downs. She was like an auntie to me and her girls were my friends. I was an awkward kid and didn’t make friends easily but they loved my company and kept me entertained with stories of their travels and Europe.

I guess that what was expected of me was the typical — that I would grow up, find a girl get married and have kids. Considering my parents were so attracted to the unconventional it never seemed to have occurred to them that the “norm” might not work for me.

From a really early age I felt like I needed to understand why things were the way they were. Who wrote the rules and why did we all need to stick to them when it was clear to me that we weren’t all the same. I couldn’t just let it go. I had a habit of asking why exactly the things they said were wrong were wrong. It just wasn’t good enough for people to say things were wrong because God said they were, or because they were the adults and I was the child I should just accept their words as gospel. Like hell. I guess a lot of kids are happy to believe what they’re told but there was something in me that really needed a sensible answer.

I knew I was gay from an early age and despite my parents having gay friends, I noticed they would giggle behind their backs. Sexuality was something people felt uncomfortable talking about, that was obvious. The other thing that became obvious to me at a young age was that taboo was fascinating.

I came out when I was 15. My stepfather was in the closet. Apart from the fact that in 1980 coming out had huge political ramifications and I’d decided to be true to myself I couldn’t go down the same road my stepfather had. It all seemed so stupid to be angry and upset or judgmental about other people’s sexuality and it seemed to me that it took more courage and guts to live an honest life.

I had no idea how to be “normal” in the expected way. I was much more comfortable being honest.

That same year I met a guy at a beat in Bondi. He was pissed and I’m sure he regretted it later, but he asked me if I wanted to go live with him and I said yes ! From there I moved into the squats of Woolloomooloo and never looked back. I met amazing, interesting people — communists, socialists, sex workers and activists. For a small town Catholic boy this was fantastic.

I got a job in a boys’ house. Even though this path terrified the hell out of me, I loved it for the taboo … and the money.

So I guess it was my questioning of every thing “establishment” that led me into a wild ride. It’s not like I made a decision to be a big rebel, but it seemed that the things I was attracted to were the dangerous things. Drugs came so naturally to me. I wasn’t a fussy user, anything would do. They were the things that made my heart beat faster and more than once I ended up with habits on both uppers and downers. I really did think I’d have a fast life and die young. Not really an aspiration just a reasonable assumption. I was such a little romantic.

Ha. One “romantic” story of mine is the time I hitched a ride with Ivan Milat when I was 17 off to Melbourne alone for the first time. It wasn’t until a couple of years later when he got busted and I saw an earlier photo of him that I clicked and realised who he was. I tend to remember people I’ve hitched with and the conversations I’ve had and I remember the conversation I had with him clearly. He asked a lot of questions about where I was coming from. Did I have family and were we close? Why I was going to Melbourne? Who I was meeting there? Eventually the topic turned to drugs. I told him I’d never tried magic mushrooms and said that I really wanted to. He said he knew a valley near by where they grew and asked if I’d like to stop off and pick some. The weird thing is that ordinarily I never said no to drugs. Ever! This time though I was really tired and in a hurry to get to Melbourne so I said no, maybe next time.

The really fucked up thing is that he wasn’t my first or last encounter with murderers. In my teens I experienced a lot of death and trauma. It’s probably pretty normal for people living in that street kind of bubble. I don’t think I was even 16 when my two best friends killed a guy I worked with. We worked at the wall and these two were like an older brother and sister to me. I looked up to them you know? I saw them this night. They pulled up next to me on Darlinghurst road. They both seemed really strung out and not themselves. It turns out that they’d killed this guy for fifty bucks and a gram of speed. The thing that didn’t seem real to me was that afterwards I found out the guy, an acquaintance and workmate of mine, was dead and stuffed in the boot of the car they were driving. I heard he did about 20 years but I saw her at a club a couple of years later.

I started living with some pretty heavy depression. I went into rehab and spent my 21st birthday in there. I learned a lot of great things like yoga and ti-chi, simple breathing techniques that I still use today. The thing about those things is that is doesn’t matter if you’re using or not, once you have those skills they are yours for life. Maybe that’s how I managed to get through my ice decade without losing it to total psychosis.

After rehab, I met a guy and thought he was the love of my life and we decided to move to Broome together. We got as far as Perth and but ended up staying there. Our relationship didn’t last long but WA was fun. We were novelties. We both had jobs thrown at us at Australia’s oldest gay club. Ha. We were celebrities!! Well, everybody wanted to fuck us. Next best thing.

I ended up in the sex industry again. It was the first time I’d ever worked privately and got to keep all my own money, but I had to work under the containment policy which meant registering with the vice squad and having my photo and fingerprints taken. It’s a long story but I couldn’t register under my own name with a criminal record so I registered under a friends. The vice squad eventually found out and made it their business to fuck my life up.

They tried to kick me out of the state and probably any normal person would have gone, but I was having a really good time. Ha. I ended up doing time in Casurina prison. Here’s a tip for everybody: never piss off the vice squad.

Eventually I came back to Sydney, but things were very different. Most of my friends were dead because it was the middle of the AIDS thing. A lot of people were really sick and being treated badly. They were tough times. I went back to working Darlinghurst Road and trying to fit back in.

For about five years I just kind of drifted. I got into some crazy relationships. After a while I guess I felt kind of done in. I was jaded and over life and I suppose I did my best to just give in and forget about having a future. But then the weirdest thing happened. I fell in love. Real love. He was my next door neighbour and we were sort of aware of each other, but actually falling in love was a shock. It changed everything.

For the first time ever I found my own space. I was able to explore things like spirituality and just get to know myself. I have Asperger’s syndrome. All this means is that stuff that comes naturally to most people like understanding body language was stuff that I had to learn. I had to teach myself how to speak with emotion in my voice and how to mirror other people’s movements or reactions. It just means I perceive things differently. Because I finally had space for myself I was able to look into myself and came to be ok with who I was. It’d always been hard for me to connect or bond with people. I had a handful of friends and we’d use and work and work and use and that was pretty much life.

When I met Barry everything changed. We’ve been through some rough times, but we’ve had a freaking ball together too. We’ve got each other’s backs and trust and there are no other motives. He’s no rescuer, he didn’t want to change me and really he didn’t want anything from me except what we gave to each other. He gave me time and all the space in the world and love. I’d actually thought the whole love thing was a construct, like the idea of a wife and white picket fence. I was wrong. It’s so much more than anything I could imagine, it’s more than just fucking or having kids.. .not for everyone, but it’s a force that in one way or another connects all of us. Love is my god.

There’s an age difference between us. I don’t care, this is my path, I found it and I’m the one who follows it. I don’t really care for the opinions of others when it comes to something as deep and personal as love. Anybody who tells you that you can’t use and love at the same time is speaking for themselves. For me I’ve always had my own belief about life. It changes and grows all the time and it’s so different for everyone. I’ve actually come to a point where I can appreciate my age. I have the benefit of hindsight and perspective, it’s actually pretty cool. There is no point trying to tailor your life to fit in with anybody else’s idea of life. I don’t think our lives are supposed to be the same and it’s the differences that make it all worthwhile.

Another thing I’ve learned is that if your number isn’t up, it simply isn’t up. Hell when I wasn’t overdosing in public toilets or hitching rides with serial killers, there was always something mad going on. I fell under a train once. Like a lot of people I know, I have a knack for surviving things. I’d gotten off at the wrong stop. I was running for the door and so out of it on barbs I mistook the gap between carriages as the door and took a running jump. Haha!! I don’t really remember but I fell between the wheels and the platform I think, or possibly between the wheels. I actually had hair ripped out by the passing train. I made the front page of the paper simply because I surived without a broken bone or serious injury.

I think about my suicidal teenage years and think about how much I’d have missed out on of I hadn’t survived. I have hobbies now. I collect rocks. Every now and then I go bush and fossick for fossils. I find them too. Meteorites and petrified wood, crystals and gems, I’ve found a ruby and a couple of cool black sapphires but my favourite is a piece of petrified wood with crystallised spiders eggs on it. For that set of circumstances to actually happen is unbelievable but I have them. When you look under a microscope you can see that some of them had actually begun to hatch. Tiny little crystallised spiders legs sticking out. Ha. Just amazing.