Editor’s Note: “The Poops” is a chapter in the book of short stories Oh, Title! by author Daniel Donatelli,
no relation, who is my brother.
The weekend before I left for college was the first time I ever smoked weed. Because of how seriously I took baseball in my youth, and because of the then-depths of my profound Catholic-moral guilt, I just never had any interest in puffing the magic dragon.
But then high school ended, and I had one last summer of baseball—one last summer of trying to get a scholarship, to continue my athletic successes in college. But I didn’t get shit.
Baseball used to be my life. Everyone knew exactly where they could find me nine months out of the year: practicing, running, hitting with friends . . . whatever. It was the heartbeat of my adolescence.
Now picture this: I played for the best summer-league team in Cleveland. The best of the best northeast Ohio had to offer. We were cocky, talented, locally successful, and better than you or anyone else (at least from Ohio). Every season ended with a State Tournament in Youngstown OH—the most depressing place in America this side of anywhere else I’ve ever been—and the tournament after my senior year was particularly special, not only because we’d made it further than any other team I’d ever played for, but also because I knew it was the final season of my baseball career. And after a childhood of playing tournament baseball, it was particularly special for me to be pitching in the state-championship semifinal game.
The thing about tournament ball is that usually both teams’ aces face off in the semifinals because there’s no point in saving your best starter for a championship game you might not even make it to. And in fact I wrote about a similar situation in my novel Jibba And Jibba, but I needed to enhance the drama of the situation, so I had young Jibba, who was his team’s ace, pitch in the finals.
My defense is that JAJ is a sloppily written work of fiction, and this particular story is not (fictional, that is).
In front of dozens of scouts, my friends, my family, and a smattering of players from teams left behind who’d come to the game to give me a hard time (I’d been responsible for the defeat of a number of top teams in that, the greatest tournament I ever played in), I took the mound, and the game began.
Two hours later, the game ended. We won 3–0. I pitched a complete-game shutout, had a home run, two doubles (one of which short-hopped the left fielder like he was playing shortstop) and after my last swing of the game, as I came to a standing stop at second base, my longtime coach shouted over to me, “What are you gonna do next, drive the bus back to Cleveland?”
(Like I said I’ve written most of this story in JAJ, but it’s worth repeating for what follows, as a juxtaposition—to show where I started compared to where I find myself at the end of this story.)
That was the game I finally hit one of the main goals of my life: I threw a ball ninety miles per hour.
I know that doesn’t seem like much when you consider the speeds tossed around in the professional leagues, but 90 mph for a 5’8” white dude is pretty fucking sweet.
After the game ended, all four of the semifinal teams, their friends, families, and the scouts were treated to a fireworks display given by the organizers of the tournament. The whole show was underscored by a crackling-speakers song that seemed to be directed directly at me—“My Way,” as performed by Frank Sinatra.
I’ve always taken a certain pride in being my own person and in doing things my own way. Everything from my awkward sartorial choices to my unusual, grunting pitching delivery was a personal signature, was done my way—with an oxymoron-busting volitional intransigence that goes back as far as I can remember, the individualist to a fault.
It’s not often you’re actually aware of the fact that you’re experiencing one of the truly memorable and important moments of your life—usually you’re too busy living within the moment to think about it. A lot of the time you’re ignorant of the moment’s importance until six months later (or five years , or . . . ) when it hits you just how special and important and profound that moment in time was. How much it mattered. How much it represented to the person you were at that period, during that part of your life.
After the game, I was sitting on a picnic table with teammates I’d been playing baseball with since I was six years old, and as I looked up and down the line of faces gazing up at those radiant, colorful explosions, which cast shadow-splashes of light across their dirt-streaked aspects and within their lacrimal, reflective eyes, I realized, in that rarest of moments, that I had achieved everything I’d ever wanted to achieve with baseball. There was nothing baseball had left to offer me, because a few weeks earlier I had been named to Ohio’s all-state baseball team (2nd team), which meant I had achieved my other main goal, of getting my picture put up on my high school’s athletic wall of fame, which had been my dream for the previous decade. I had reached the pinnacle of my youth, and I knew it was time to move on and become a goddam adult.
Which was especially true when you consider that this was at the height of the steroid era (A.D. 2000), and there was no way a professional team was ever going to draft some short, right-handed, balding white dude who couldn’t even get a better offer than a half-scholarship to a miserable D-III school.
The following afternoon we lost the state-championship game to a team of Mexican immigrants—all of whom were the size of NFL tight ends, who were flown in by some rich asshole—and the following week our team bowed out of the Midwest Regional Championship Series in Cincinnati.
I cried long and hard after that final loss in the regionals.
Thundering shudders. In front of everyone. A massively pathetic display.
But I knew it was the last game I’d ever play.
“My Way” had been my swan song.
Because I was so good at baseball all my life, I was friends with the “popular” kids. Well, at least until my late junior/early senior year, when I realized that I never had any fun when I was hanging out with them besides on the baseball field, and none of them appeared to want to be my friend outside the field anyway. Getting drunk and into fights had never been my thing, and it was seemingly the only thing they ever did.
Eventually I befriended a kid from one of my classes with whom I’d always shared a similar sense of humor—named Wes. He wasn’t “popular,” but he was funny, weird, and way more like I was than my other “friends.”
So throughout my senior year I hung out with Wes and his good friend Jordan. It quickly dawned on me that I’d almost never actually had any real friends before. After all, here were two relatively dateless pussies like myself—excellent!
We became good friends quickly.
Two weekends after my final tearful game was also the weekend before my new/real friends and I were scheduled to leave for college. During the last night we were ever to hang out together as piece-of-shit high-schoolers, we drove down to Lake Erie, and Wes pulled out a joint. My friends—Wes, Jordan, and our friend TJ—had smoked up before, but my lungs practically still had a blushing, voice-cracking hymen.
But now that baseball was over, and seeing as how I was headed to college sans sports and would probably experiment with drugs there anyway now that literature would be my heartbeat and nearly all of my new heroes were dead drug addicts, I figured I’d take a rip with these fine friends of mine and see what happened.
What happened was we all got fucking baked like astronauts in an explosion of blissful alien wondercolor.
Way, way, way baked.
Wes then incompetently drove to a nightclub in downtown Cleveland (the entire time I was in the backseat PARANOID out of my mind, wholly convinced that EVERYTHING was the COPS), and when we finally and terrifyingly arrived, we spent the next hour standing in the middle of a dance floor, totally unable to cope with the situation we were open-mouthed gazing at.
Namely that we were way fucking baked.
All around us coked-out girls were grinding against each other as they danced on the tables. Tough-guy dudes looking for a fuck or a fight were milling between us, and the bass from the speakers was making my eyes and vision vibrate awesomely.
In a way, being stoned resulted in my doing the same thing I’d be doing anyway (staring at writhing, beautiful women), but every perception was amplified and highlighted by a million percent.
And from thence was born the stoner you have typing these words today.
So I first started smoking a week before I left for college, and when I got to college it turned out my roommate was a bona-fide stoner. Great kid. Former baseball player, turned hip-hopper, turned stoner, turned Daniel Donatelli’s freshman-year roommate. His name? Josh. His nickname? Jibba! (For the record, my Jibba[s] are nothing like the real Jibba, though—I just loved the linguistic fun and the necessary mask of my great roommate’s great nickname.)
Unfortunately, because I was so new to the game, I was still morally working my way into the new pot-smoking paradigm, so for my first year in college, I didn’t smoke nearly as much as I do today. My roommate and our friends would smoke nearly every day, whereas I would smoke only sometimes. Maybe twice a week.
I don’t know what I was thinking.
But anyway, that’s important to remember—I was a very late bloomer, and at the beginning even when I bloomed it wasn’t very frequently.
So two academic quarters later and it was time for Spring Break. Now, it just so happened that Ohio State’s spring break (where Jordan went to college) and mine fell on the same week that year, so what other choice had we than to spend the week partying . . . .
In Salt Lake City.
In a dorm.
But a dorm in Salt Lake City was where our good friend Wes could be found, so a dorm in SLC was where we were bound. My first ever trip farther west than Indianapolis.
So the plane slams (seriously, a jarring slam) onto the tarmac, and we get into SLC and for the first night just chill out after whatever the hell that landing was. The second day, a day which will live in infamy, our friend Wes goes out and picks up a bag of some weed he refers to as “The Poops.”
“You know,” he says, when we ask for clarification, “like, ‘The Poops’ is The Shit!”
And indeed it is. Whenever Wes merely opens the bag to examine its contents, the room STINKS like a blunt had just been smoked in there. I’d never come across such an absolute potency before (and still haven’t)—particularly coming from Ohio, where there were no different names for different hybrids like the cannabis culture the West takes for granted. In Ohio A.D. 2001 there are only two types of weed: thirty-dollar weed and fifty-dollar weed.
With thirty-dollar weed, you basically get the roots of the plant, some stems, a few leaves, trace clumps of soil, and maybe a toy G.I. Joe arm or something. And the fifty-dollar weed in Ohio would be given away to the homeless out West.
So bear that all in mind. There are three important factors to consider when trying to understand what happens next:
1. My then-neophyte stoner status. My body was still relatively pure after a particularly active and ascetic youth filled with constant athletics and Catholic privations;
2. The vast difference between Ohio “weed” (plants of some variety that somehow got the job done) and Rockies ‘n’ West Weed (Ghostface Freight Train, Snozberry Three-Alarm Whoopsidoodle, Cannibusiness Pleasure Farm Hallucinogen Bubbleclouds, or whatever the hell the names are for the wonderful weed out there);
3. SLC is in the Rocky Mountains, nearly a mile up, and therefore the air there is much thinner, so any intoxicants will tend to intoxicate-the-hell-out-of.
So the evening of day two in SLC comes around, and we (Jordan, me, and our U. of Utah–matriculating friend Wes) decide to walk over to Wes’s friend’s dorm to take something called President Hits.
*President Hits Tutorial*
(I’d never heard them called that before, and I’ve never heard them called that since, but that’s what Wes called them that night, and that’s what they’ll be to me forever now.)
1. Obtain a midsized bottle of Gatorade or some similarly packaged beverage;
2. Consume or empty the contents;
3. With a lighter, burn a hole through the very bottom of the bottle, small enough to be able to be blocked with one finger;
4. Again with a lighter, burn a hole through the cap of the bottle, large enough to be able to fit a makeshift aluminum-foil bowl into the top;
5. Fashion the aluminum-foil bowl;
6. Pack the bowl and set it into to hole in the cap of the bottle;
7. Fill the bottle with water (making sure to cork the bottom hole with your finger);
8. Fit the enbowled-and-weed-packed cap back on;
9. Light the bowl using a lighter, and with your finger, uncork the bottom of the bottle (this allows gravity to drain the water out and in the process create a natural pull on the bowl up top, which fills the bottle with more and more smoke as more and more water falls out and weed is burned);
10. Once the water’s completely run out, quickly unscrew the cap, fit your mouth over the bottle, and . . . .
And that’s a President Hit.
It’s a lot like a gravity bong, only a little more MacGyvery.
So anyway we get to Wes’s friend’s place—Wes’s friend is a dude nicknamed “Yoda”—and there are a couple other kids there as well. Together it was me, Jordan, Wes, Yoda, some other kid, and a dude named Colt.
Before too much fore-twenty-play has gone on, Wes suggests we adjourn to the bathroom and smoke (precautions still being necessary as we are in a freshman dorm in godforsaken Utah).
When it is my time to take a President Hit, I inhale and cough for five minutes like everyone else. I watch a thick, milky, almost liquid smoke roiling inside the Gatorade bottle; I briefly look down into the swirling madness below the cap just before I fit my mouth over the portable gravity bong, and I watch an eruption of smoke explode from my mouth shortly after my lungs, and indeed my entire being, reach critical mass-weed-inhalation.
I cough for no less than five full minutes—thick saliva flooding my mouth not unlike in pornos when a girl’s taking The Dick a bit farther than normal into her mouth/throat/stomach. My eyes are immediately three-quarters shut. I don’t know if I’ll make it. I keep fucking coughing and spitting.
I seriously can’t stop.
While I am in my personal misery, spitting thick saliva and coughing myself silly, Jordan, Wes, Yoda, that other dude, and Colt all take their President Hits.
We stumble out of the bathroom and into whatever flat surfaces we feel would be comfortable enough to sit around on. At first I’m a little disappointed. I just smoked a bigger hit than any I’d ever taken, at a much higher altitude than I’d ever smoked in before, but I wasn’t really any higher than I would be after smoking a bunch of thirty-dollar weed at my sea-level school.
But I can’t smoke anymore. My lungs are . . . well, pardon the pun, but my lungs are smoked.
Fortunately/unfortunately, soon things start to get superstoney, and after five minutes of grooving on my exponentially expanding, interstellar buzz, Colt suggests (adamantly) that they go back to the bathroom to smoke a bowl.
Every moment I sit there I notice I am getting more and more baked.
“No, thanks,” I say to them, hoping they can hear me from five-thousand light years away.
So Jordan, Wes, and the gang head back into the bathroom to smoke another bowl (which to this day stills seems surreal, if not suicidal, to me, and Jordan later told me that that “Colt” dude was in rare form, taking huge hit after huge hit—his thirst for baked goodness apparently incapable of being quenched).
So eventually they come back out, and by then I’m trashed. Fucked. The protective layers of my being having been stripped away, I sit there like an exposed nerve—twittering and twitching in reaction to even the lightest stirrings of the air, jerking my head violently towards any sounds I perceive, real or not.
At some point—I have no idea how or when—Wes and Jordan decide to head back to Wes’s dorm. (Perhaps they see how I’m entering another dimension.)
So we stumble back to Wes’s dorm, which is probably about two-hundred yards away, and just as we’re about fifty yards from the front door of the building, this VERY AUTHORITATIVE VOICE calls out, “HEY!”
And all of a sudden, Wes is running.
And then all of a sudden so are Jordan and I.
We book into Wes’s dorm, shoot up the stairs, sprint down the hall, and crash into his dark room. We all agree that we’re just way too baked to do anything else, and seeing as how we had plans to go snowboarding the next morning, we decide to call it a night (though I can hardly remember any of that line of thinking or discussion).
So we’re just about settled into our bed/couch/floor/etc., really swirling into our profound pre-sleep buzz, when . . .
WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP!
WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP!
(It’s not stopping.)
WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP!
(The light under the door leading to the outside hallway is flashing.)
WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP!
“That’s the fire alarm,” Wes says. “Fuck.”
I think to myself, Can that VERY AUTHORITATIVE VOICE have wanted to talk to us so bad that he decided to (devilishly coincidentally) smoke us out? Am I really about to go to federal prison for smoking weed?
No matter the situation, we have to get out of there.
So we stumble downstairs, keeping our eyes locked on the ground, avoiding eye contact with everyone (our eyes are exactly red—almost alarmingly red).
Once we’re outside, someone calls out, “Holy shit, dude! Look at that!”
I look up from the rock I’m voidishly staring at and try to see what he’s talking about. As I look at Wes’s dorm I begin to notice that the windows exposed to the face we are looking at show a Dark Cloud slowly blotting out all the light. It is headed from the side opposite of Wes’s room towards his room.
It looks like the place is filling up with smoke from a fire.
All our belongings, our plane tickets, identification, money . . . everything is in Wes’s room—in a building that looks like it is burning down.
And I am STILL getting progressively higher. It starts to feel like a fucking nightmare.
Now my understanding of the way the U. of U. campus is set up is like so: all of the dorms surround one main central student-relations building. This building houses the dining hall, a lobby, a small grocery store, and a bunch of other stuff I’m sure. We are told to head to this building while the fire department comes.
So keeping our eyes to the ground we shuffle into the center building and head for a group of two couches off to the right, somewhat away from the masses.
Now imagine this: the building we’re in is predominantly made of marble and currently houses about one-hundred-fifty irritated, concerned, very talkative college students. Now imagine what the sum of all of their conversations sounds like bouncing off of four marble walls and a bunch of other odd, hard acoustical architecture.
It sounds a little something like this:
Now imagine that horrid chorus of tongues lapping at the ears of a young man spiraling certainly into insanity. A TRILLION voices at once, none of them any more distinguishable than the others. Wes and Jordan are pretty much asleep on the couches. I’m lying there on the floor, unable to put any coherent thoughts together. Baked absolutely out of my shelter. Impossible to think, or for the world to have any semblance of order. It’s like I’ve returned to when I was a baby: the world is nothing but a washing machine of colors and sounds, all whooshing and swooshing around, and I am in the center, unable to tell a painting on the wall from my own mother. The voices bouncing from wall to wall to wall to my eardrums making no sense whatsoever. Nobody is talking to me, yet I can hear absolutely everything everyone is saying.
Certain that we have been “smoked out” of the dorm by an AUTHORITY, I search for ways to hold onto the tattered cordage of my rapidly unraveling sanity, in case it’s needed when I’m being raped to death by gleeful, shrieking Mormons in a Utah gulag.
So what do I do?
The only thing that makes any sense to me.
I start repeating a sort of sanity-mantra in my head.
Your name is Daniel Donatelli, your social security number is . . . . Your name is Daniel Donatelli, your social security number is . . . .
Over and over again I repeat this to myself. It is the only way for me to hang on. (Wes later tells me that I was actually saying this OUT LOUD.)
I am totally fucked. Fucked and fucked and fucked. I try to hang on.
Your name is Daniel Donatelli . . . .
What feels like THREE HOURS of that later, we receive word that it is safe to go back to the dorm—that it had been some pranksters playing with the fire extinguishers that caused the “smoke” to fill the halls.
So we head back to Wes’s dorm and lay down for the night. Wes and Jordan go back to sleep, but not I.
I lay there praying to God in my head.
Dear Lord, please, if you have any mercy at all, please, I beg of you, let me be sane again when I wake up.
Dear Lord, please, if you have any mercy at all, please, I beg of you, let me be sane again when I wake up.
Over and over again until I fall asleep.
When I wake up, the sun is shining and things are gloriously comprehensible. And then a little while later, at The Canyons, on the chairlift, Wes, Jordan, and I get baked on The Poops again.