I tried to survive opening day in Denver on a head full of weed

I tried to survive opening day in Denver on a head full of weed

CultureApril 19, 2018 By Sean Lawlor

As my Uber approached the terrible traffic surrounding Coors Field for the Rockies Home Opener, an event for which Denver parties off its face, I asked Adolph, my driver, why so many people moved to Colorado.

“Weed,” Adolph replied.  

“Really?” I said, munching a 25mg cookie for my assignment to get high and report on Opening Day debauchery.

“People say it’s something different,” he continued. “But that’s what it is.”

“Is it a good thing?” I asked.

Adolph didn’t reply.

He dropped me before the traffic whirlpool could consume us and through a slushy haze of gray, I was sucked alongside the intoxicated masses into Coors Field’s gravitational pull. Down the road as I walked, a mile later, hands and face numb, I turned around and beheld the behemoth structure from an opposing street corner in both fear and awe.

It was so much more to people than baseball on this day. One weary old man with Irish chops held high a Biblical sign up over the crowd, puffing his chest, screaming about eternal damnation. People seemed freaked out by him.

Weaving through vendors selling peanuts and Gatorade, I felt traces of anxiety arising. I was alone. A woman wearing purple lipstick walked into a brick wall, bounced off, and continued onward. A parked truck bore a bold sign reading, “Expect the Unexpected.”

The crossing guard ushered us onward.

My destination was Blake Street Tavern, down the road from the stadium, where a sports photographer friend had directed me “for a good time.” 

The line into the bar was as obnoxious as the crowds outside the stadium; I considered fleeing for LoDo (another party area close to the stadium), but a suited gent with hair gelled in a Devil’s Tower shape said it’d be worse. Nearby, a passenger screamed, “Woo! Let’s go Rock-IES!” No one responded. He rolled his window back up and they kept driving.

Twenty minutes later, I made it past the armed cop guarding the door and entered. The atmosphere was thick as hot breath and tasted of fried foods. It was impossible to avoid touching the hundreds, perhaps thousands of individuals jammed inside.

The flow led me around the main bar, lined four deep, and I felt the protruding belly of an individual twice my size jamming my back. The flow halted, and it took all my strength to resist this belly’s power. Suddenly I was yanked around, and I found myself facing a goatee'd, bull-eyed Mexican man staring forth in rage, yelling, “Lean forward slap that bald-headed fuck so we can move!”

I laughed, until realizing he wasn’t joking.

Grunting, he knocked me aside, shoved a bald white guy in front of us, and powered through the crowd. I followed the small blonde woman riding his wake.

He led us outside to the patio. Only two minutes inside, and already I felt post-suffocation relief.

“Fucking people need to move!” he yelled from the Porta Potty line. He bumped into a gate, yelled, “Fuck!” and would’ve ripped it clean off had the drunk woman ahead of him not started slipping down concrete stairs, prompting him to grab her with his massive arm and stabilize her on wobbly heels.

The edible was coming on strong. I’d never taken 25mg. Anxious re: my isolation, I braved my way back inside.

For 15 minutes I tried unsuccessfully to get a beer; knocking and swaying with the drunken crowd. Another dude at the bar said he’d been there since 9:00 a.m. and was now wasted. I told him I was stoned. His vibe shifted. I became worried, so I dipped.

It’s hard to tell if people understand marijuana provides unique insight on days like this, or if they’re going to judge you for indulging — especially when you’re already high.

I considered leaving. But every bar would be the same. Too cold outside to wander. I stumbled into a new region of tables and televisions, where a kid sat alone with a cheeseburger and beer. I asked him if I could join. He didn’t respond. I did it anyway.

Almost an hour into it, the TVs reminded me a baseball game was happening. It still hadn’t started due to shitty weather. This imparted panic. I felt trapped in a timeless vortex spiraling into solipsistic abyss. Facing a wall, I closed my eyes and focused my breath. An inner voice screamed this ridiculous behavior would alarm the populace and have that armed cop’s knee on my back in no time. I cast off such thoughts as absurd. Regaining composure, I thanked the kid and moved on.

A narrow hallway dumped me into another room with its own bar and tables and massive screen showing military men holding rifles and flags on Coors Field. Either they were shivering or the screen was wobbling. I settled at a table pressed against a wall bearing a big Patriots logo, where I’d lean lowkey, unnoticed, just watching the game.

Scanning the premises, I discovered the monstrous Mexican man at a big table beside me. With him sat a black man the size of an NFL lineman and a white woman with an angel tattooed mid-breast. Empty stools surrounded him. Clamping a hand on his meaty volleyball shoulder, I asked, “Mind if I take one?”

He sized me up with a scowl and said, “My boys got those two. You take that one.”

He pointed to a stool covered in trash.

I nodded and told him I understood.

The room’s chatter sounded like incessant communication of an alien entity. I considered this scene from an alien’s perspective: hundreds of thousands of humans packed into specific structures surrounding uniformed men wielding clubs and throwing balls having thousands of simultaneous conversations exchanging chaotic information more influenced each moment by a depressant that by all medical and existential estimations becomes unanimously bad when consumed in copious quantities. What were these people doing?

Apparently not watching the game, because though it had finally started, everyone kept slamming drinks and yelling without watching the screens.

Two white guys in black straight-bills joined the big guy’s table. One wore a black hoodie with an American flag dripping blood on the back. They were screaming at each other. I felt certain at least one had killed a man; if not, they’d definitely messed people up real bad. One poked the other’s shoulder. Their noses were nearly touching.

“I left my daughter for this,” one cried. “I’m tired of living in fear of her interrogating me, judging me for being me!”

They were having an aggressive heart-to-heart.

Quite high now, I felt reality becoming a mirror. I’d recently left my girlfriend for similar reasons: I felt too observed, too fearful of being my imperfect self. It made me very anxious, and my current anxiety felt like the rippling aftermath.

Some might say marijuana was causing my anxiety. They would be wrong. Marijuana was acting like a megaphone, revealing how my anxiety had grown. Its gift is confrontation with the obscured self. Then you get to choose whether to fester in those reflections or alter course accordingly.

The two guys punched each other’s shoulder. A drink fell, and a petite waitress cried, “Was that my fault?”

The guys hugged each other, slapping backs and yelling, “We’re dropping drinks now!”

I told her, “I don’t think so.” She thanked me and introduced herself as Pedro.

It was the bottom of the first. The Rockies were losing 0-4. Less than 10 people were watching. Equally as many watched the screen showing Matt Damon smiling like Matt Damon.

I was about to bail when I noticed a woman across the room. She was a waitress, but she wasn’t petite like Pedro. She was strong with thick biceps. I wanted to be with her. Everyone here was trying to get with everyone. Why not join the party?

Because hooking up with a waitress right after a relationship was probably dumb.

Meh, screw that. This was my chance to conquer this anxiety. I wouldn’t leave without asking her out.

Pedro stopped by, and I ordered a Coors for company. The Rockies got a double, and four middle-aged guys hollered. A sweaty guy in full Rockies garb delivered Fireball shots to his table, prompting a group scream.

The strong waitress swept past my vicinity. She paid me no mind.

Cause I was alone? Cause I was stoned? Cause I’m creepy as fuck? I looked to the large Mexican man for strength. Tragically, he’d departed. In my ensuing woe, she suddenly appeared.

Projecting her fake breasts confidently, she smiled at me, and I felt really swell inside.

We flirted, and she told me she’d been crying after another waitress had been “catty” to her. I said she was too strong to let negativity bring her down. She flexed her biceps, and I gripped them, and when she laughed, I said, “I’d love to buy you a drink.” She was on board. Her name was Morgan. I was about to get her number when a woman with an expensive purse yelled, “Ex-cuse me? Are you our waitress?”

Morgan rolled her eyes and said she would come back soon.  

Pedro delivered my Coors, and the Rockies smoked a homerun. The Blake Street Tavern erupted, rumbling the sticky floor. Minutes later, they smoked another. Everything alighted. Opening Day! What a comeback! Infinite possibilities! All was finally perfect.

Sipping Coors, I tried to ignore a vague sadness materializing. I drank more to force it back.

Suddenly a hostess rushed me in panic. Yelling about a waitlist, she asked for my table. I told her Pedro was taking care of me, and she fled in distress. Chaos took over.

Drunk people poured through the hallways, filling the spaces between tables, screaming. Waitresses scurried through the crowd in a frenzy. Kobe Bryant danced on the Ellen show. I drank more Coors. Each sip expanded that sadness and the complimentary desire to exorcise it. All I needed was Morgan’s number. I lost her for several innings and finally spotted her at a table where some asshole who looked like a braindead Squints from The Sandlot was feeling up her back.

I envisioned tackling this nemesis, rescuing Morgan from his filthy hands. Surely the massive Mexican man would have supported this! But Morgan could handle herself. And she didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she was flirting right back.

The Rockies were suddenly losing 3-7. The screen showed about 2,000 people left in the stadium.

My Coors was empty. That sadness grew, and I wanted to take a shot. I’d be happy when Morgan came back.

By the bottom of the 9th, Morgan hadn’t come back.

I closed out with Pedro and found Morgan cleaning a table. “Planning to come back?” I said.

Pulling messy plates, she said, “No, actually, since this girl told me you were all over her.”

I said, “What?”

She said, “Yeah. Not sure what that’s about.”

I insisted this was a false accusation, that in truth I’d been an anxious basket case and her beauty had rescued me. She wouldn’t look at me.

In the oppressive fluorescence, the crowd transformed into a hoard of villains gathered to wreak apeish mayhem on the human race. Morgan returned to Squints, and he groped her shoulders and made subhuman noises. With a final effort, I cried, “Morgan! Do not indulge the lies of those catty women that upset you before!”

Beholding me in loathing, she said, “I have to help this customer. Will you excuse me?”

Squints beheld me with vacant reptile eyes and leaned licking into her ear.

The game ended. The Rockies got creamed 3-8.

Confusion and shame swept like desert dust as I exited into the cold. Who’d lied about me? Had Pedro sold me out? What was the point of all that?

Probably to show that descending the path of drunken debauchery is no way to thread through what deeper issues this break-up and this cannabis revealed.

Blake Street Tavern’s shadowy depths had one destination: Dead-eyed Squints. Grotesque scalawag! Lascivious lizard! My nastiest reflection.

The crowd stumbled in distorted patterns through the gravity of the stadium, home of this stupendous loss. What sourced this frenzy? Weed? Beer? Cultural psychosis? Who knows. All I knew was my edible had worn off, and I was now sprinting down Blake Street, and I didn’t stop until I crossed a bridge over the South Platte River and delivered myself from that phantasmagoric spectacle forevermore.

[cover photo Max and Dee Bernt via Flickr]