Monday, April 14, 2014

Road Trippin'

Martin (John Mahoney): Remember the old days, Niles? When they were kids, all they had in the back seat was a mayonnaise jar!

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): Yes, it took quite a bit of skill to use it successfully at 70 miles per hour! Never really been fond of mayonnaise since.

Niles (David Hyde Pierce): Or speed bumps.

"Travels With Martin," the episode of Frasier that first aired 20 years ago tonight, may be my favorite episode of the long–running series' first season.

And that really is saying a lot — because I like all the episodes in that first season. OK, I like just about all of the episodes in all 11 seasons, but "Travels With Martin" was special. Maybe that was because it reminded me of my childhood so much.

My family always went on road trips in the summer. My father was a college professor, and my mother was a stay–at–home mom until the economy forced her to return to the workplace.

(Actually, there may have been more to it than that. Mom was a teacher for several years before she started having children, but she stayed in the home to look after my brother and me; then, as my brother and I got into our teen years, she may have had a yearning to resume her teaching career.

(She went back to school, got her master's in education and taught until the day she died. Literally.

(But I digress.)

My father didn't teach during the summer (the small college where he worked didn't have summer classes in those days), so we always took advantage of the fact that everyone in the family was free in the summer and went on family trips, usually (but not always) to places where friends lived.

My parents had friends scattered all over the eastern United States, so I got to see a lot of interesting sights in that half of the country when I was young. I grew up in the heat of the South, but I spent many Fourth of July holidays in much cooler areas — Vermont, upstate New York, even Maine on one occasion. Looking back, I can probably count on one hand how many times I spent the Fourth of July in my hometown.

Consequently, when I saw that episode of Frasier 20 years ago tonight, it brought back many memories.

Frasier decided he wanted to bond with his father so he suggested that they go somewhere on his vacation. The destination, he said, was up to Martin, who said he wanted to see America first and he wanted to see it in a Winnebago. Niles turned down the offer to join them — until he found out that Daphne (Jane Leeves), their health care worker from Great Britain, would be going with them.

Of course, my family never traveled with a guest from another country who didn't have a green card yet and then took that guest across the border — which was precisely the problem the Cranes encountered.

Mind you, we did travel with guests from other countries from time to time. My parents were missionaries in Africa early in their marriage, and there were friends with whom they worked in Africa who returned to the United States around the same time as my parents. We visited them.

And my parents had friends from the countries where they lived and worked who came to visit them in the United States from time to time. I don't think we ever took them across the border into Canada or Mexico, so the subject of whether they had their green cards never came up.

But it became an issue for the Cranes, who had gone on a road trip to Mount Rushmore with Daphne in tow. Martin, armed with the knowledge that they had a week off, had calculated that they could get to Mount Rushmore, look at the monument and then return to Seattle in seven days.

But after they embarked on their trip, they decided to just go where the wind took them. And, while Daphne was napping in the back of the Winnebago they had rented, the wind blew them across the border into Canada.

Daphne didn't have her green card, and she had been forbidden from leaving the country until she received it.

So the Cranes tried to smuggle her back across the border, but they were stopped and questioned by a border guard.

They got around that one and headed for home.