Saturday, February 11, 2017

Don't Let It Bring You Down

"I've always liked the notion of meeting the great figures of history. But then I think, what if it's like high school and all the really cool dead people don't want to hang out with me? Mozart will tell me he's busy, but then later I'll see him out with Shakespeare and Lincoln."

Niles (David Hyde Pierce)

If someone mentions "the blues," that can be interpreted many different ways.

My goddaughter lives in the St. Louis area. She's a big hockey fan, just like her parents, and to her, "the blues" means the St. Louis Blues. It probably means other things to her as well, but that is most likely the first thing that crosses her mind when she hears those words.

I have a friend who is a music lover. She likes all kinds of music, really, but her favorite genre is the blues. If you say those words around her, her first thoughts are likely to be of her favorite blues musicians.

To my parents and those of their generation — and, to an extent, my generation as well — the blues was a slang reference to a psychological state. Someone who had the blues was depressed, despondent, morose, somber, "down" (to use another slang term).

In the episode of Frasier that aired on this night in 1997, "Death and the Dog," Eddie the dog was depressed. Martin (John Mahoney) had taken him to the vet to see if he could pinpoint what the problem was, but the vet was baffled. So it was decided to turn Eddie over to an animal psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist insisted that everyone in the household be present for the first session, during which he went through a questionnaire he had devised. He asked the humans things about what they thought Eddie would do in certain situations if he, too, were human — such as what would he serve at a dinner party, what cologne would he wear, what would his first words be.

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce), being psychologists themselves, found the whole thing absurd and went to no special pains to conceal that fact.

After a one–on–one session with Eddie, the psychiatrist concluded that Eddie was, indeed, depressed. If, as Martin had said, there had been no change in his routine, the psychiatrist said he must be reacting to the depression of someone in the family circle.

But no one would admit to being depressed.

The psychiatrist recommended that they all be particularly aware of their own behavior when they were around Eddie until he could get a better handle on the cause. "Try to speak in pleasant, happy tones," he counseled them.

And they did. But then they began examining themselves to see if perhaps they were Eddie's problem.

The more they examined their lives, though, the more they uncovered flaws. As they did they made themselves more and more depressed.

Then they discovered Eddie's doll wedged beneath a sofa cushion and threw it on the floor. Eddie was immediately animated, playing with his favorite toy. They all looked on with astonishment as Eddie was his old self again.

But they were all depressed. When Frasier observed, "We know for whom the bell tolls," a little bell sounded. It was the oven timer. Daphne (Jane Leeves) had some cookies in the oven.

The thought of hot cookies — with some milk and ice cream in the refrigerator — perked them up considerably.

Frasier had been relating all of this to a caller on a slow day for his radio show, and he wrapped things up with the moral of the story.

"Even the happiest of us can find reasons to be unhappy if only we look for them," he said, "so don't look for them. Take a tip from our dog friends and treat yourself to your favorite toy, whatever that might be."

That's good advice — unfortunately, it is advice I too seldom heed. But today being the 20th anniversary of that episode is a good time to remember it.