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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Legend of Zelda's

In the far off land of Oakland, PA, a young hero, named Mongo, set out on a quest to rescue a princess. His journey would pit him against evil PLCB officers, and drunken frat boys. Would he rescue his princess in time?

At the institution of higher learning known as The University of Pittsburgh, there was a bar name Zelda’s Greenhouse. For any student, who spent time living in the Litchfield Towers, before 1996, Zelda’s was pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel when it came to night life. In the wee hours of the morning, you could hear the distinct sound of trash cans full of empty bottles being emptied into the dumpster in the alley between the bar and the Towers. Living on the third floor, this became a very audible nightly ritual.

The bar itself was misleading. From the street it looked like any other bar, but once you got inside you found out otherwise. While the front looked to be rather small and compact, through a couple of doors in the back you found the “garden” aspect. The back was a huge walled room with plastic covering the roof in a big arch. During the warmer months, the plastic came off and you had great view up the side of the Towers. Another bar in the back allowed more drinks to be served to more drunken students.

It was one of the only bars on campus that an underage student could get into without the use of a fake ID. Common practice was having the guy on the bar stool outside honor student IDs as an acceptable proof of age. Seriously. Two dollars and a student ID could get you into a bar. In fact, to actually find someone over the age of 21 there was rare.

Some nights they would turn away minors because the evil PLCB or someone with ethics was lurking nearby. Other times, the entire bar was flooded with coeds blasted out of their minds on quarter priced drafts of the most wretched and watered down beer ever. Then, after getting liquored up they would all end up on the dance floor bump and grinding to the basest of dance music the mid 1990s had to offer. Many a young girl or guy wound up doing something they would regret later because of cheap beer. This young hero, however, did something stupid because of a girl.

It was a cool September night, Thursday to be exact, which was the official start to the weekend in college. I had gone to Zelda’s with some friends of mine and we proceeded to have a good time. Well, there was a young girl that caught my eye and suffice it to say, I was purely after her for her looks. We struck up a conversation and I felt that things were moving along smoothly. By the end of the night she was completely wasted and I was confident I was going to at least see her again. That was until the drunken frat boy showed up.

After awhile I noticed that there was another guy in the mix between myself and the girl in question. He was a complete scrub or as kids in my hometown would have called him, “scurfy.” Oddly enough, that is a real world with a different definition. Think of a piece of scaly skin or dandruff still hanging on to the body…that’s a scurf, dandruff. Here, a scurf was a drunken scumbag punk that was beginning to take advantage of an even more drunk girl. The only one noticing this taking place was me.

I noticed it because as I was standing there talking to this girl, the guy sitting behind her, intruding on our conversation, was now reaching his hand around her waist, below her shirt and groping her. It looked like that scene with John Hurt in Alien. There was this huge bulge underneath her shirt moving up her chest. I shot him a look and he shot one back, fully aware that I was watching him do this. So, he said, “Don’t look at me, man.”

Now part of me wanted to be mad that he was completely taking advantage of this girl. Part of me wanted to be mad that he was stealing my thunder. All of me wanted to dump his ass off of that bar stool and sit it on his neck. However, being a minor in a bar, I felt that violence would only attract unwanted attention. I made the decision to cut my losses. I told her I was going to go and as I went to leave something stopped me. I looked down and saw this girl holding onto my sleeve. While being drunk out of her mind, she had enough of her faculties about her to say, “Please, don’t leave.”

That was all I needed. I decided I had to do something and unfortunately, dealing with drunk people is hard. The simplest of tasks either become the biggest of chores or will cause resistance. Simply asking the girl to leave with me would have raised concerns with drunk boy and probably have gotten me punched. I needed reinforcements and a plan. I’ve learned in my life how to avoid violent conflicts by employing tactics to take the option out of the equation. This girl’s roommate was dancing with her boyfriend on the dance floor. I told her to hold tight and not go anywhere. I made my way to the couple and informed them what was happening. I asked her roommate to help get her to try and go home and I asked her boyfriend to just get in the way, effectively separating them. Now, he was a wrestler by the last name of Cox and he was a pretty intimidating guy. For some reason he was willing to listen to a guy he had just met.

The three of us made our way back to the bar where drunk boy was still trying to steal a cookie out of the jar. The plan went into action. Her roommate slipped an arm around her and yanked her away while Cox distracted drunken stool sitter. Unfortunately, they were not willing to leave the bar, so I agreed to take her home.

I walked her back to her dorm. Being in a different building than myself, I couldn’t just follow her up to her room. She would have to sign me in at the desk. My conscience became the most effective c-blocker ever and whatever desires I may have had brought on by being slightly inebriated and also a guy with a pulse went out the window. She showed enough presence to be able to get herself into the dorm and into the elevator so, I left it at that.

But, who says nice guys have to finish last? The next week I ran into her in the main dorm lobby and she apologized and thanked me for helping her out of that jam. I told her no problem and she said she felt real bad about the whole situation. She offered to make it up to me by buying me a drink at Zelda’s that Thursday. I immediately accepted and offered to meet her there. While, in my mind, the Devil that usually sits on my shoulder was giving the Angel a swirly in the toilet that was my mind at that moment. All was fair at this point.

Thursday came and I made sure to pay extra attention to looking as good as I could, with what I had. I made my way down to Zelda’s and something in my mind made me want to keep walking. There was something that just didn’t feel right. Instinct and self preservation kept walking and libido and primal nature decided to pull out my ID and pay my two dollars. However, instead of getting sloppy drunk, I decided to play it cool. Beer was too easy and since I wanted to be alert I opted for a real fluff drink and had Peach Schnapps and Sprite. Yeah, OK. I get it. Do I pee standing up? I do, but I wasn’t real interested in getting drunk.

That’s when it happened. Fifteen minutes after I walked in, bought my wussy drink and found the girl I was looking for, PLCB came busting in and raided the place. My instinct and self preservation were sharing a $5.00 pizza at The O with a busted up Angel sporting a black eye who decided to leave his post on my shoulder. They sat and laughed as more officers strolled past The O and filed into Zelda’s.

I couldn’t believe it. I was getting busted for underage drinking and all I had was a stupid Peach Schnapps and Sprite. Not to mention, I hadn’t even finished it yet. Now, there were two ways I could have gotten out of this whole mess besides not entering the bar in the first place. The first was by totally bluffing the guy watching the door. About three months prior to this night, I was pulled over for speeding and had been issued a citation. I am notorious for hanging onto paper and usually you can find a month’s worth or more of receipts in my pockets or on my dresser. Had I held onto that citation and had it with me, I could have shown it at the door and been able to walk out of there. That was the only way to get by the officer at the door and he barely even read what I showed him. The other way to have been let go was to claim I played for the football team. I didn’t find out until later that all of the football players were let go with a warning. This was the year Johnny Majors came back to coach and from what I heard a bunch of them told the officers that if “Coach” found out about this they wouldn’t be able to play on Saturday.

Needless to say, I did not try any of these tactics and, in fact, I became ipso facto entertainment while we all waited for the officer to fill out all our citations. Truthfully, since I was already up shit creek without a paddle, I might as well make the best of a bad situation. I even had the officer cracking up. Unfortunately, if I wanted to pull the old "Let's hope the officer doesn't show up" routine it became necessary for him to forget who I was in order to beat the charge. I didn’t do a very good job of it by making myself memorable.

After all was said and done, I ended up with a $100 fine, a 90 day suspension of my license, which began on my 21st birthday, less than six months away. Irony is a bitch, ain’t it? After that night, I never really spoke to the girl again and Zelda’s was shut down once and for all. For awhile it became a video store and a host of other small businesses that ultimately failed. Eventually, the building was torn down and fast food shops took its place.

Not to worry, though, other bars on campus took up the baton to be a haven for the underage. Another bar close to the dorms became the place to be without ID. But it got shut down, too.

Maybe it was a sign of the times. Maybe people just couldn’t keep a low profile. You’re not supposed to go around blabbing that you can get in a bar underage. IT’S A SECRET TO EVERYBODY.

Scanned article from the Post Gazette about the bust. Did you think I was making it up?

I wish. Grumble Grumble.


Brian said...

Many a good time to be had at Zelda's. I probably spent the equivalent of several months in there in late 80's to early 90's. People think I'm joking when I tell them I used to wake up on Fridays and go to HH at Zelda's. Happy hour on Fridays in the early 90's featured free (and very lousy) pizza but people lined up for it. The men's room was legendary for its several inches of standing water on busy nights (and I heard the lady's room was worse!) The beer on draft tasted watered down but after a few, I never really cared but still I stuck with bottles when I had the money. The Flow Band was a staple but I never cared much for them. Darts were mandatory on the slower nights.

Anonymous said...

I was just at Pitt this past weekend and now a Five Guys sits in its place. Sad, I had a lot of great times there in the late 80's, from 10 cent drafts in Dixie cups to taco Tuesday. CJ's is gone too, now it's a Dunkin' Donuts. Yes they were dumps but at that time who cares, I have many great memories that happened there.

MDGirl77 said...

My first Lambrusco was at Zelda's, plus a mix of I have no idea. That was 1977 with some girls from Carlow. Zelda's back then had plants hanging around the bar. To my recollection they were a cross between a huge mum and a hanging kissing ball. I think of Zelda's whenever I see those plants..and I only went there one night! Must be the Lambrusco! It amazes me how one little place can still have a spot in my memory.

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