The Observation Deck Origin Story

Picture taken opening day.

   Business at Zaggo’s Pizza Parlor was just not the same as it had been during its first fifteen years of business. The restaurant had struggled since Alfonso Zaggo passed on, leaving the business to his sons, Mario and Anthony. Ingredients were rotting faster than they could make pizzas. The shuffleboard tables in the back room were covered with dust, not of the saw variety. Roaches and rats had bodily christened every nook and cranny of the family establishment. The most frequent visitors passed through, only to use the pay phone.

   The establishment smelled of good times long gone.

   Would 1981 be the year the Zaggo family restaurant would shutter? Mario and Anthony believed so.

Mario and Anthony Zaggo with cousins

   The Zaggo brothers were nearly working every single shift, so read the yellow-stained work schedule next to the old 1966 Industrial Hobbart mixer. There was only one other name on that schedule: 13-year-old Adam Alvarez.

  Though he worked well over the legal limit for his age, Adam happily took on whatever task came his way. On top of handling the register and prepping, making and delivering pizzas, he also found himself to be the pizza joint’s exterminator, handy man, canvasser, and of course janitor. Didn’t matter to him. He loved working at Zaggo’s. Adam had that kind of appreciation that comes with an early adolescents job, that first job, before one could become jaded with remedial tasks.

   The only reason Adam willingly left Zaggo’s was to spend time nearby at The Time Zone Arcade where he spent a large chunk, if not all, of his adolescent income — his hard work rewarded with flashes of animated lights and points gained and lost to his internal competitive ego. Adam truly had The Pac-Man Fever, The Millipede Meningitis, The Donkey Kong D.T.s… You get the gist.

  On the day most schools close for summer break, mid-June 1981, a game that Adam had packed quarters into rocked in frustration, causing a faulty power cord and sparking fate. The warm summer night was filled with a toxic smoke as The Time Zone Arcade burnt to the ground. The hole left in the street didn’t compare to the hole left in the hearts of the arcade’s die-hard, quarter-shoving patrons.

   Devastated, yet determined, Adam saw an opportunity and approached the Zaggo brothers with the idea of stocking the pizza parlor’s back room with arcade video games. The Zaggos didn’t have much against it besides the initial investment — the restaurant’s shuffle boards had obviously been a bust.

   Adam set up a meeting between the Zaggo brothers and Todd who owned the late Time Zone Arcade. Todd agreed to pay a rental fee, stock the space with arcade cabinets, and collect the quarters as his income. The Zaggos would equip the new arcade room with a direct service window to the kitchen for slices, hot dogs, fries, garlic bread and fountain drinks. They all agreed on a galactic space aesthetic, a kind of small Jetsons wonderland. The name of the new arcade would be the Observation Deck.

Todd of Twilight Zone fame

The new Observation Deck

   Thus began another golden age for the Zaggo brothers. Anthony and Mario’s business took off. Teens came in by the handful tossing quarters into the arcade cabinets, scooping up slices of pizza, stuffing hot dogs, dating over cardboard boats of fries. It was 1982, the world was ready for arcades, and the youth craved this technological outlet.

  Now the Observation Deck had some issues, for you see, the structure of the back room was an add-on. Where it stood used to be a backyard deck, extending beyond the Zaggo Pizza property line. For you see, in the early 1900s, when a butcher shop inhabited the property, Sam of Sam’s Meats had bricked up walls along the perimeter of the deck, building a small smokehouse off the back of his shop.

The sign to Sam’s Meats hung for years

   As one would assume, the years had left some leaks, some electrical problems, and cracks in the mortar of the old smoke house. Adam took care of the structure himself, patching the makeshift roof, rewiring the poorly installed conduit, replacing loose rotting floorboards, patching broken mortar from exterior bricks. It was something a young teen could be proud of, have passion for.

   Years passed and Adam remained working at Zaggo’s. He spent his teen years helping run the establishment, even holding off on college. Mario Zaggo promoted Adam to assistant manager since his brother, Anthony, had been off struggling with a bad marriage and a worse habit.

   Business was usual at Zaggo’s for Adam’s young adult life, but that all changed during his 24th year.

  On the night of December 4, 1994, Anthony Zaggo — filled with vodka, rage and jealousy for his competent brother Mario — drove to the pizzeria with a loaded .22 rifle that their father had left to him.

   Rain bounced off of the windshield of Anthony’s 1991 Le Baron Convertible Highline, which was covered in scratches and dents, a testament to his drunken driving skills. Shout by Tears For Fears played on the radio as Anthony’s mind began to boil, his adrenalin building with every drum beat. He mumbled obscenities towards his unsuspecting brother as he drove.

   Earlier that day Anthony had received a letter from Mario proposing that he buy Anthony’s share of Zaggo’s Pizza off of him. He explained in his letter that he wanted to cut ties with Anthony, saying he was unfit to run the family business and thought it was a bad idea for Anthony to be benefitting from the business since he no longer put any work into it. Mario’s letter went on to say how he felt used by Anthony and if their father were still alive he’d be ashamed of him.

   Anthony turned the corner now just a block and a half away from the pizzeria. 12:13 A.M. He looked at his rifle with all intentions of putting an end to his brother’s self righteous attitude. Best-case scenario, he’d scare some sense into Mario. Worse case scenario, he’d end his brother’s life and make it look like a break in.

   Typically Sunday night Mario would be in the back office doing the books for the past week. It would be easy to put an anonymous bullet in his back. With Mario gone, Anthony would be the sole owner of Zaggo’s Pizza. The sole owner. It sounded so good to Anthony’s delusional, slurring mind.

The back office

   It was Todd’s birthday. The operator of the Observation Deck was celebrating with his fiancé, Rachel; Mario; Adam; and Adam’s girlfriend, Lisa. Having a few drinks, a late dinner, and indulging in a homemade cake in the shape of Pac-Man, they were all truly enjoying the off hours of Zaggo’s.

   The radio was now playing Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, but Anthony’s frustration raged applying pressure to the gas pedal. He was tired of being the runner-up, tired of being the deadbeat brother, tired of his brother’s shit, tired of all his problems, tired of being lost without his wife, tired of the aches of age. Tired, so tired.

   Anthony looked at the gun, only dreaming of opening a new opportunity… the dream wrapped his eyelids over his eyes like a blanket. Soaring at forty miles per hour, the trashy, classy pile of candy apple tin heaved through the front façade of Zaggo’s. A blur of crimson broke through the aged framing, tossing tables in a blink, and conveniently smashing into the booth where the friends were celebrating Todd’s last birthday.

   Three days later, young Adam Alvarez, woke up in the hospital. Broken ribs, broken arm, broken leg, punctured lung, concussion. Adam would later hear the story — how Anthony, wrapped up on a bender from a good amount of booze spiced with pills, had claimed to receive a hysterical phone call from his brother saying there was a break-in; how Anthony had headed down to Zaggo’s with rifle in hand to help his brother, but unfortunately passed out just feet away from the pizza parlor, crashing through Zaggo’s, killing everyone huddled around the birthday cake except for Adam, who had a long road to recovery ahead of him.

   Adam would never believe Anthony’s story. No one called about any break-in. Adam filled in the details of the truth.

   Anthony Zaggo was convicted of vehicular manslaughter on four counts and received eight to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine. With no one legally able to take care of the damages or the business, Zaggo’s Pizza Parlor was shuttered.

   Five months and four funerals later, Adam returned to Zaggo’s, to the horrific scene, which was just a loud dark blur in his memory. The winter’s storms had taken their toll on the vulnerable building. Graffiti covered the plywood scar where Anthony’s car had blasted into Zaggo’s, wiping Adam’s found family off the face of the Earth.

   Adam walked around the pizza parlor where he had spent a good half of his life. Noticing that the side door was open, he stepped inside. The Le Baron had done an amazing amount of damage, his livelihood smashed into a chaotic wreck. The entrance to The Observation Deck was blocked completely by debris and a broken support column. The smell was of opened old house, rotten restaurant.

   Adam attempted to squeeze his way through the damage to the Observation Deck, but it just wasn’t possible. Reassessing, he decided he could go around the back. On his way out of Zaggo’s, Adam noticed blueprints hanging on the wall accompanied with notices proclaiming the structure was unsound and to be demolished. A rush of emotions gusted as you can imagine. Adam examined the blueprints by a slash of streetlight. He noticed one small detail: the plans did not include the existence of The Observation Deck.

   Adam painfully struggled to hop the fence, his body still not fully functional after being hit by the Le Baron. Down the small alleyway he found his way to the back door leading into the Observation Deck. The age-old stencil “DELIVERIES” on the door that Adam always noted, though it was put there long before his time. Locked. Realizing he had no idea where his keys were, he picked up a nearby piece of rebar and pried the door open. The Observation Deck looked just as the day he’d last laid eyes on it. Todd’s games sitting there, powered down, a little dusty. Never would he have thought it would end like this. Closing the door behind him, he walked away from Zaggo’s and got into his car.

   For the days to come Adam couldn’t stop thinking of Zaggo’s and the Observation Deck. What could he do? What would happen to Todd’s games? He could try to buy the place, and renovate it? Perhaps reopen Zaggo’s? It just was near impossible for a 24-year-old with no money, no college education, nothing to speak of under his belt besides a pretty high score on Pac Man to acquire a loan to buy a business and a building.

   But the obsession grew.

   Before Adam knew it he was researching the Zaggo’s building at the main library — old insurance footprints, water and real-estate records. What Adam had noticed before on the blueprints was reassured with his research. The room that the Observation Deck was housed in was not part of Zaggo’s — it wasn’t even on the property line. It was technically part of an alleyway that ran by the back. Technically the arcade didn’t exist.

   A switch flipped in Adam. It could be possible to separate the Observation Deck from Zaggo’s. He remembered how they had to remove brick for the service window to the kitchen. He had known from fixing leaks and mortar patches that the Observation Deck was brick. Adam could separate the two, wall up the Observation Deck from the Zaggo’s side. But then what? This was not asked in his mind.

   In the dead of night Adam returned to the alleyway behind Zaggo’s. The sparse streetlights cast incandescent orbs in the night’s mist, lowlighting his way. He heaved two sixty-pound bags of mortar over the fence. Then with bucket in hand he walked down the street to an old empty lot, a lot he’d passed thousands of times since his beginnings at Zaggo’s which held a pile of bricks. He could haul seven bricks in at a time. He estimated 255 bricks to wall in the arcade; that would mean thirty-seven trips.

   Adam made those thirty-seven back and forth. He mixed that mortar with the same rebar he used to pry open his new fate. He laid those bricks, even staining the mortar to match the standing bricks in the wall. The day that the demo team came to rip it down Zaggo’s they did not touch the small strange brick structure; they did not pay notice to the strange electrical line piggybacked off the neighboring house.

   Where Zaggo’s sat, now sits an empty lot today. Back behind the cyclone fence and tall dead grass, past a wonderment of strange eclectic trash, next to the backside of an old victorian building sits a small brick structure. You can find the entrance from the alley side; it reads “DELIVERIES” in an ancient stencil text. Stories pass from adolescent to adolescent — rumors, frayed stories from hauntings to a strange weird shut-in who molests children.

   To those who know, to those who have managed to peek through the windows, inside sits a time capsule, a dream kept shipshape by Adam who still runs the Observation Deck and keeps the dream alive…