Where were you on May 14, 1998, the day the final episode of Seinfeld aired? I was in New York, hanging out with Al Yaganeh and several hundred other Seinfeld fanatics. Here’s my column that ran a few days later…
Before I tell you all about the Soup Nazi and my crab bisque and chicken chili, I have an important message for anyone contemplating a bus trip from Doylestown to Manhattan: There’s no bathroom in the 8:45 a.m. TransBridge bus.
And the ride takes 2 hours and 35 minutes!
I felt like Jerry and George in the parking garage episode. Uromysitisis!
We finally arrived at the Port Authority, where there’s a bathroom. Then it was a short walk over to Al Yagenah’s Soup Kitchen International on 55thand Eighth, where I took my place in the long – and getting longer – line that would eventually stretch all the way around the block.
It was the day the final episode of Seinfeld was set to run and all of New York was in a Jerry, George, Kramer, Elaine and Soup Nazi frenzy. “He’s real, he’s really real,” shouted an annoying guy ahead of me in line. I felt like Jerry in any of the episodes with Bania.
The annoying guy was right.
The Soup Nazi and his soup are real, and he was inside his little shop preparing crab bisque, chicken chili, lentil, mulligatawny, veal goulash, chicken broccoli, gazpacho and borscht. I felt like Jerry and George in the Soup Nazi episode, which, BTW, was where most of us learned what an armoire is. Right?
Melissa and Anne, two New Yorkers and regulars here at the famous soup shop, were in front of me in line … and gave me a quick education.
“I’m worried,” Melissa said of all the media types, which included scores of reporters (including me) and a crew from the Home Shopping Network. “He could get mad at everything and not even open. He’s done that before.”
“He has to open,” I said confidently. “He’s selling his canned soup on the Home Shopping Network tonight and isn’t about to toss aside thousands of dollars.”
“He’s totally sold out,” Anne said.
“That’s OK, as long as the soup is still good,” Melissa said.
A second later, a guy in an old Volvo stalled right in front of us. As he tried again and again to start his car, Melissa, Anne and I laughed and made fun of him. I felt like Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine in the final episode (after I watched it later that day). We did not get arrested.
After waiting for more than an hour, I was finally at the front of the line.
I was nervous, afraid to offend the infamous Soup Nazi and have him shout “No soup for you” at me. And so, in a firm voice that belied my nervousness, I said, “small crab bisque, small chicken chili, p-p-please,” handed the Soup Nazi a $20 and got back $5 (that’s right, $15 for two small soups) and quickly moved all the way over to the left and waited for my soup.
He never even looked at me. But he gave me bread. And fruit. Sorry George.
Clutching my bounty, I headed to nearby Central Park, where I found a seat on a bench and opened my crab bisque. Holy crap, Jerry was right. This stuff really does make your knees go weak. It was chock full of succulent crab meat and the broth was seasoned to perfection.
The chicken chili was equally magnificent.
The people in the park stared as I kept mumbling, over and over, “Oh my God, this soup is so good.”
Next stop was the Museum of Television & Radio, which was continuously showing the pilot episode all day. And, as all you Seinfeldexperts know, back then it was called The Seinfeld Chronicles.
It cost $6 to get into the museum, which meant I paid $6 to watch a Seinfeldrerun. Oh well. As I walked into the theater, to watch the pilot, a guy in a postal uniform walked out. I swear, this is true.
“Newman!” I shouted.
I hadn’t seen the pilot in years, and it was quite interesting. George had a lot more hair, Kramer had a lot less hair, and he had a dog. Jerry was pretty much the same. Elaine wasn’t in it.
Then it was time for the long bus ride home.
And, guess what?
Yep, no bathroom. And I was full of soup.