Dead Men Don't Drink Ginger Tea
Category: Newspaper / Magazine Columns
There are a thousand stories in the naked city and this is just one of them.
Paradise's latest casualty is down at the coroner's office; just another John Doe with a tag that cries out, in large black scrawled letters, DOA.
There is no real life CSI on the island, except in the dimming after- light of AXN.
Instead, from somewhere out of the darkness, come the haunting words of a long-forgotten song. "Doctor, doctor, give me the news. I've got a bad case of loving you." In comes the coroner, grasping a bottle of Red Bull and cursing under his breath. His eyes meet mine and it's game time.
What killed this latest tourism casualty in Phuket? Was life just too much to bear or is something more sinister afoot? Lately visitors have been dropping like flies at hotels up and down the island.
First there was the German woman who swallowed one of those toothpick umbrellas from her welcome drink.
Then there were the two Italian cliff divers who were simultaneously downed by a pair of mangoes from an errant fruit basket that hurtled off a resort rooftop.
And there have been more. Many more.
Toxic shock syndrome suffered by a young Indian IT type.
He was struck down reading the complimentary newspaper that had been stuffed under his hotel room door.
A poisonous turn-down chocolate snuffed out a middle-aged Bangkokian hi-so, who now lays in state as a no-so.
Is that a hospitality welcome mat out on the doorstep or the launch pad for the grim reaper? Yet perhaps the strangest case was that of five Chinese tourists who were literally talked to death by an overanxious guest relations officer at a five-star property that shall remain nameless.
Calls from Beijing asked questions that just seemed to fall on empty ears.
I think back over my life. Yes, I've stayed in many establishments over the past five decades.
From little Latin flophouses to posh suites that often attract the rich and famous.
Like a club sandwich, most of the action happened somewhere in the middle. Between night and day, cheap and extortionate, the Ghost of Gatsby beckons.
I've run the gauntlet more times than I can remember.
Dodging leis, garlands and those flowers with sticky pins. Avoiding welcome drinks like a reformed alcoholic, literally running away to the comfort of a neighborhood bar.
I don't want to sit down and sip ginger tea in the lobby of a hotel, just take me to my room now. Yes, like Garbo, I just want to be alone.
As for the veritable Garden of Eden of wax fruit, plastic covered baskets and the array of selections from hotels who want to get out of the box with new ideas? All I can say is get back in the box and stay there. And don't come out until I leave.
A grunt from the coroner brings me back to reality. He's filling out the form with the dull end of an overused pencil. A motive has been established and the case is to be booted upstairs to the real cops.
Murder it was. The DOA tried to skip out on the mini-bar bill and had been made an example of. His trip to paradise turned out to be a one-way ticket to lipstick, bad luck and an empty hotel room. This tourist's final lullaby makes an uncanny facsimile of the hotel derivatives market.
They shoot horses, don't they? Mounting deer heads and big game. This DOA is just another hood ornament for the trophy hunters from those marbled mausoleums of faux friendliness.
I leave the noir of the morgue and head back to the living. Outside, it's just another overcast day in monsoon season, the rain belting out a bitter case of the blues in quarter time.
Me? I'm thinking that next time I hanker for a tropical getaway, perhaps I'll just stay at home, nursing a whiskey, and free from stalking hotel staff out to give me a "memorable" experience.
After all, the big sleep will come soon enough for all of us.