Reel city: Getting lost inside Kramer’s ‘Nexus of the Universe’

Relax, Kramer. Everything is going to be OK. It’s simply an intersection.

It was an admittedly very funny and clever line in an episode of “Seinfeld” that aired on April 30, 1998, during the show’s final season.

Kramer is downtown, far from his comfort zone of the Upper West Side. He ducks into a pay phone (the stand-in variety, which were largely gone from city streets in 1998) and desperately calls Jerry. Kramer’s girlfriend has kicked him out, he’s got his suitcase, he’s lost — and he needs help to get back to the land of Zabar’s.  

He tells Jerry he’s at "1st and 1st — How can a street intersect itself? I must be at the nexus of the universe!"

If Twitter had been around on the night of April 30, 1998, the phrase “Nexus of the Universe,” the intersection of 1st Street and 1st Avenue, would have been trending. The line immediately captured the imagination of New Yorkers and tourists alike. Stand at the corner of 1st and 1st long enough and you’ll see someone snapping a photo of the intersecting street signs.  

Last week, those people included me, but I was on official business for The Retrologist, I’ll have you know. Anyway, the mysticism of this intersection has captured the imagination of business owners, too.

At the southeast corner of First and First, you can have a drink at the Nexus Lounge, an ode to Kramer’s famous phone call. The lounge sits within the even more aptly named bar One and One.

And just up the street on the east side of the block, you can get your nails done at the One plus One Nail and Spa, below. 

But wait, there’s more! “Seinfeld” fans can even stop at a deli that bills itself as First & First Finest Deli, a couple of storefronts up from the nail salon.

In the “Seinfeld” scene, which you can play below,  Jerry asks the lost Kramer what he sees around him. Kramer mentions he can see a Ray’s Original Pizzeria. And indeed, at 195 East Houston St., visible from the intersection, is a Ray’s Original Pizza.

We see Kramer in that old-fashioned Superman-style phone booth. Today, there is actually a pay phone kiosk just off the intersection, sitting right outside One and One Bar and Lounge, from which you can indeed see a Ray’s Original Pizza.

If we imagine this is more or less the spot where Kramer made his desperate call to Jerry, then look to the right in the photo below. Obscured by the construction equipment is the Ray’s Original Pizza Kramer mentions to Jerry.

And here is the pizza joint itself, whose presence gave Kramer some measure of comfort as he waits for Jerry to come and save him. 

There’s clearly lots to do at “The Nexus of the Universe. ” And these days, you can even check in on Foursquare! From grabbing a drink to getting your nails done, even getting a picture of yourself in what we can loosely call “Kramer’s phone booth,” you can pay tribute to a single line in a 1990s sitcom that spawned a mini-industry at the “Nexus of the Universe.”

Text and photo: Rolando Pujol

More Reel City: Visit the "Diff’rent Strokes building, and Archie Bunker’ s house in Queens. 

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