Chris Chesher
May 29, 2003

Hi. I think most of you know already that I'm Chris, Tony's brother.
First of all a plug -- for a new website: www.thetonester.com . It’s running now, and will have more on it next week. Please log on and tell some stories about what you remember about the Tones. We may not be able to hang out with Tony any more, but we can live with the legend of Tony. And when our new baby Jessica is born in August, Cathy and I will induct her into the cult of Tony.

Like me, you’re probably wondering — what the fuck are we doing here? And I wish I could tell you, because I can't make much sense of it myself. I'll leave any larger meaning to you. All I can do is tell you a bit about what Tony did on Friday night. There was nothing much unusual about the night, except for the last bit. Tony shared a lift home from work at DBOOSH with Rachel after finishing at 5pm. He spoke on the phone to Alicia Newman. He left a message on Sally's answering machine - 'Mooo'. He gave me a call, too, but I was still at Melbourne airport & I didn't return his call until the morning. The next we know is that Tony tried to take some money out of the ATM at the Courthouse Hotel at 2am, according to Detective Tim Toohey. A security video spotted him at a convenience store at 3am, picking up some tuna & milk. A little after three he stopped to take a leak at the top of a set of stairs that cuts through from Elizabeth Bay Rd to his flat at Roslyn Gardens.

At this point he must have lost his balance & fallen over backwards. I imagine he thought it was pretty funny - weh-hey! - as he fell. Then came the unusual bit. The doctors said that in falling he fractured his skull in 3 places, and fell into a level 3 coma. A neighbour who heard the thud as he hit the stairs, and heard loud snoring sounds, called the police immediately. Tony was severely unconscious when the paramedics arrived. We knew nothing about this until lunchtime Saturday. I'd just ordered salami turkish at the Vesbar Cafe in Crown St in Surry Hills when Sally called to tell me Tony was in intensive care at St Vincents. Even this scene was not that unusual. At Glenmore Rd Public School in the early 70s I remember being alarmed when some kid told me 'your brother's cut his head open', and I followed a trail of blood up the hill to the headmaster Mr Monnocks' office. Tony had run underneath a bridge in a fancy new adventure playground, and came up too soon.

He needed 16 stitches, which was pretty cool. He only needed 3 stitches after a pillow fight we had with Seamus & Toby Collins got a bit out of hand, and he fell head first into a chest of drawers. Another time we had to do some serious detective work in our neighbour's tree house after he fell from the third level to the ground. On the way down he managed to leave the top of one of his front teeth on the first level, where someone later found it. Another time I greeted around 30 police from all over Sydney who came down our side alleyway, including SWAT teams. They were responding to the call of some vigilant neighbour who saw Tony taking target practice with his bb-gun in the backyard. Dad went back to the station with Tony. I could go on with more stories!

So as I rushed to the hospital, at about 2 kmh down Crown St, there was something familiar about worrying about what Tony had done to himself. But as Sally & I took the lift together to intensive care I think we both suspected that this was not just another of the same. Since Saturday, when our worry turned into grief, I've gradually come to see that Tony's habit of falling down was part of what made him who he was. His genius - with music, sound, writing - came from this amazing capacity to let himself fall, sometimes out of control. He often fell into the openness of genuine creativity, into the sublime. You'll hear it in his songs and in his words. His absurd sense of humour tapped into an extraordinary sensitivity and sense of time. But sometimes he did hurt himself. Sometimes his falling was really out of control.

This year especially, though, Tony was trying so hard to get a better grip. He was getting passionate about politics. He was opening up and talking self-reflectively about himself in ways that we have never seen before. I recently talked with him about the two judo classes we took together in 1976. We wanted to learn how to fight, but they just wanted to teach us how to fall down. Screaming. Slam your hand onto the mat. We talked about how it is so important to learn how to fall. It was sometimes worrying for those of us who looked out for his falls, and followed the trails to find him afterwards. So now that worry has gone. And the world has changed forever. And without that worry I suddenly see those amazing things about Tony that I sometimes (stupidly) took for granted. Grief is not despair. It's love — love unopposed by its object, uninhibited by the worry, and grows enormous, and painful. Grief is also falling. It can't go on forever (it turns sentimental or morbid), but it can be done with grace and even joy. So let's remember Tony today not (only) in sadness, but in celebration of his silliness, his sensitivity, his charm, his musicality, his deep friendships and his other extraordinary talents.


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