Maybe 'Seinfeld' Saved My Life

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.” But I never went to Chuck’s or drank on Thursdays. That was Seinfeld night. I didn’t want my head to be all fu

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Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” is back on the Internet this summer with new episodes and I’m glad. The title implies exactly what the series is all about, the shows are relatively short and they’re funny. It’s a treat watching them.

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. I was having a miserable life.

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 

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. Larry Gross’s third book and first novel, “The Hurricane Café,” is available now through Amazon.com.

 

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