A dice with death in New Orleans


ROGER TAVENER finds that stiff drinks can be followed by stiff colleagues

Sunday. 5.47 am. New Orleans. The 90s.

LOTS of commotion outside my hotel room. Fuck it. I’ve got a huge hangover. And a plane to catch.

A rap on my door. It’s the hotel manager.

I’m not entirely listening. Feeling a bit vulnerable in my boxers.

And concentrating more on the stiff being wheeled past my room connected to drips and bleeping machines.

Three paramedics are working on the lifeless body. Pumping the corpse’s chest.

Not my problem...I thought.

It’s your colleague. We think he's had a heart attack, says the worried five-star hotel boss.

They don’t want dead bodies littering the Royal Sonesta in Bourbon Street. N' Orlins French Quarter's finest.

I’m being jerked into reality. Christ!

It's an old chum and Express group staff snapper — brown bread.

That’s going to be an easy one to tell the desk. 

Oh, by the way, can you let the picture desk know XXXX died overnight. Bye.

Fuck me. I’m off to Guyana via Trinidad in two hours. Typically inconsiderate of a monkey.

I jump in the ambulance. I’m the nearest he’s got to next-of-kin right now.

We arrive at a swish, spotless medical centre in downtown New Orleans. The hotel is giving us five- star treatment.

But has my ‘dead’ friend got adequate insurance? Dunno.

After flat-lining in the corridor and being brought back to life with CPR on the way to the facility, things are looking better.

We went to our rooms about 4 am ... but the sneaky snapper stole out again to play with the party girls and indulge in a normally fatal inhalation of laughing gas — nitrous oxide. 

Stabilised, he gives me his home number. He was heading back today but is now hospitalised for days for tests and treatment. Can I ring his wife?

Of course. But I need the real story … so what the fuck happened? 

We'd been doing N’Orlins pretty hard and drinking Hurricanes for hours. Lethal cocktails made of all types of rum disguised with fruit juice. 

We were leaving town the next day and we'd done the bizzo. Loads of great showbiz exclusives.

We went to our rooms about 4 am ... but the sneaky snapper stole out again to play with the party girls and indulge in a normally fatal inhalation of laughing gas — nitrous oxide. 

New on the block, it was the latest craze but came with a massive health risk.

Now armed with the truth, I must call the wife.

Hello, sorry to bother you, my name's Roger Tavener and I've been working with XXXX in New Orleans. 

I broke it softly.

Better sit down Mrs XXXX. Your husband  is on a life-support machine because he’s had a fucking heart attack after inhaling tankfuls of laughing gas with half-a-dozen hookers and drinking military-grade cocktails all night.

Nah. Not really. Although that was the deal. 

I said he'd probably picked up an infection on the flight out and was being checked over. But he wouldn’t be back for a few days.

Turned out he'd blown out one lung and half the other with the gas. Very close to death and unable to breath.

People can knock the US medical system, but they never once asked to see insurance documents. And XXXX got first-class treatment all the way.

I’d missed my direct flight too and had to re-book it.

Meanwhile XXXX lived the high life in the hotel which allowed him to stay gratis until he had enough lungs to fly.

I think he stayed for another month ...

I had to re-route via Puerto Rico on a plane full of college girls who invited me to their homecoming party.

No great hardship as it turned out. 

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre