November 30, 2023

A Love-ish Letter to the Zig

I don’t see Joyce, Hemingway, or Faulkner writing anything worthwhile in the dim lighting of the Zig.

Nor do I see hardened cops after a long day on the streets getting hammered off whiskey shots on the back patio. And, for that matter, I don’t see Ted Mosby rummaging for love by the popcorn machine and accidentally spilling over the hot sauce.

Frankly, when I try to encapsulate the Zig in the shallow imagination of my mind, I’m only able to see the people that I see every week: the mix of fresh-faced students and older, stereotypical barflies; the mix of water and oil. And not only would I not have it any other way, it can’t happen any other way. The Zig, and its patrons, suffer from the same symptom cast upon us attending this university—an incomparable, and unescapable, proximity.

In case anyone was unaware, the Zig is Capital’s only bar for students to truly go to. Sure, there are rumors of one residing somewhere behind Mr. Hero, and yeah, there’s liquor you can get at Peking Dynasty, but if you find yourself stranded in Bexley, which you will, and you are over 21, then there is only one place you can flee to. And that it is our sole refuge means that the drinking culture on campus, which is undeniable at this point, is one of seclusion. We have been stranded on two islands divided by the Livingston Sea.

Yet, this culture developed through our isolation has formed into an unflinching identity that has no intention of changing. There’s a Facebook group that has appropriated the moniker “Zig Rats” into a proud symbol of a community that will not be stifled by distance. It has now become ritual to regurgitate in the bathroom on your birthday. Or your friend’s birthday. Or a Tuesday.

Patrons are not only conscious of the fact that there is little difference between the top-shelf and the bottom-shelf, or that there is something oddly dangerous about $5 pitchers, but they revel in these quirks, as if they were of an uncle or sister. When at the Zig on a thriving Friday or Saturday night, there’s something comfortably claustrophobic about the place, just as at times Capital has the same effect. More than a stone’s throw away from the depths of OSU campus, we have been trapped into a life that can only be our own, and the walls are closing in quick. And, yet, we relish in this, and no one else will truly understand why.

Watch people not from our school go to the Zig. Observe how, unless they have a guiding hand, they behave like the New Yorkers coming to the Midwest for the first time. There’s no way they could comprehend the unconditional love we pour into the mysteriously migrated MDR cups. There’s no way they could register that the pool table is always crowded by the same five people. Really, there’s no rational reason why we instill our faith into the Zig as if it were Mecca, why troves of us will cross that nefarious street in rain, sleet, or snow. But it happens. It happens every week like Catholic mass.

In a way, there’s something beautiful about the irony. We have adopted the remoteness we agreed upon by attending this school, and through this have obliterated any sense of being alone. Maybe that’s what they mean when they say make connections while in college. Maybe this is how they get the alumni to write out their checks, to unearth nostalgia. Maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome. After all, we don’t have much of a choice except for the drunk bus that rolls down College Avenue.

Now, I know that the Zig is not for everyone—half the students can’t even get in the door—and I know this romanticism can only carry us so far, but those who consider themselves part of the Zig family know that we all go down with the ship. And in the wreckage they’ll salvage unbroken bonds, empty beer bottles, and a jukebox still playing another Journey song.


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