When I think about it, Seinfeld and I have a fairly long history together. With our birthdays only a few days apart, we’re basically the same age. I was a fan of his before his famous television series hit the airwaves and I’ve always enjoyed his standup where he explores the little things in life. In a lot of my writing, I kind of do the same thing — or at least I tell myself that — and when I think of his television show about “nothing,” I can make a case that maybe Seinfeld saved my life.
In the summer of 1993, I was separated from my wife. The company I was working for at the time was moving away from the Cincinnati area and relocating to Springfield, Ohio. I moved right along with them, thinking that a change of scenery would be good for me.
Knowing only a few people there, I was lonely and depressed. I missed my soon-to-be ex-wife and my kids. I didn’t know what to do with myself, but after a few weeks, I found something to do.
As luck would have it, or maybe it wasn’t luck at all, right across the street from the office was a bar called “Chuck’s Rockin’ Ranch.” On most days after work, I would walk over and drink. Beer was my drink of choice back in those days and I would have a few — a few being at least six or seven. After that, thinking I was just fine to drive, I stupidly drove home and drank some more until I passed out and went to sleep. I was drinking way too much
But I never went to Chuck’s or drank on Thursdays. That was Seinfeld night. I didn’t want my head to be all fuzzy watching that show. It was always the highlight of my lonesome week.
I have a video recorder and I started taping all those Seinfeld shows. It reached the point I had a bunch of them on tape and I would watch them over and over again.
Now I know the characters on this show were considered selfish, self-centered people, but I didn’t care. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer became my friends — probably the only friends I had living in Springfield. Sometimes I wanted to believe that the characters were real.
Sometimes I imagined that I could visit them in Jerry’s apartment in New York City.
As the weeks and months went by in Springfield, I found myself going to Chuck’s Rockin’ Ranch less and less. I was getting tired of drinking beer. I would rather stay in my apartment and watch my Seinfeld videos.
While living in Springfield, I found myself back in Cincinnati often to visit my kids, but one night, I found myself in Music Hall. Jerry Seinfeld was doing his stand-up act there and a buddy and I went to see him.
After his standup routine, Jerry took questions from the audience. This was right after “The Puffy Shirt” episode, and there were a lot of questions about that show. My friend wanted to ask Jerry a question, but he couldn’t get the words out. Having had more than a few cocktails before the show, he couldn’t make his mouth work.
I was being all judgmental with my friend. How could he get all drunk and enjoy himself at the show? I think condemning his behavior, in this case, was good. I had turned the corner on my own out of control drinking. I had Seinfeld to thank for that.
In the spring of 1994, I moved back to Cincinnati. Since that time, my life has had its share of ups and downs, but that television series got me through a lot of stuff. When it ended on May 14, 1998, I stopped watching regular television. Nothing else compared to Seinfeld and at least I still had the reruns.
I’ve still got those reruns, but they’re not on videotape. I’ve got every episode of Seinfeld ever made on my computer. Whenever I want to return to the 1990s, I can, and whenever I want to feel current and more 21st-century, I can watch “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
I’ll always consider Jerry Seinfeld a good part of my life. I wonder how he would feel if he knew that his sitcom helped save my life. I wish I could visit that imaginary apartment he had in New York City and ask him.
Contact Larry Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org. Larry Gross’s third book and first novel, “The Hurricane Café,” is available now through Amazon.com.