Friday, May 10, 2013

Train -- "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)" (2001)

Plain ol' Jane 
Told a story about a man 
Who is too afraid to fly 
So he never did land

It's time to report on the third leg of my recent 12-day pleasure-business-pleasure trip.

I've told you about my family vacation in San Francisco (pleasure) and my annual trip to a trade show in San Diego (business).  Now it's time to tell you about my dropping in on two old friends at their brand-new home in Granbury, Texas.

Here's the gate to the courtyard of their house:

And here's their very appealing patio, where we spent many pleasant hours eating guacamole and grilling steaks and drinking Shiner Bock and red wine.  (I'll have more to say about one of the bottles of red wine we drank in the next 2 or 3 lines.)

Granbury, which is about an hour southwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, was named after Confederate Brigadier General Hiram Granbury, who died at the Battle of Franklin (Tennessee) on November 30, 1864.  He was only 33.

Here's the statute of General Granbury that stands on the grounds of the county courthouse:

It's somewhat ironic that Granbury is the county seat of Hood County, which is named after Granbury's commander at the Battle of Franklin, Lt. General John Bell Hood.  Hood was a few months younger than Granbury -- when he took command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee in the summer of 1864, he became the youngest general on either side to command an army.

Hood had a well-deserved reputation for aggressiveness -- some would say that aggressiveness spilled over into recklessness.  (Poet Stephen Vincent Benét characterized his personality as "all lion, none of the fox.")  

Gen. Hood
While Hood had been an effective brigade and division commander, he was a disaster when placed in overall command of the Army of Tennessee.  He continued to press the Union Army even after his very costly defeat at Franklin, and suffered an even more decisive defeat at Nashville.  What was left of the Army of Tennessee more or less dissolved during the subsequent retreat, and you could make a case that Hood was as responsible as any single commander for the ultimate collapse of the Confederate Army.  

My friend Mark owns a single-engine, fixed-gear, low-wing Columbia 400, which he keeps in a hangar (along with a pickup trick) adjacent to his Granbury home:

That hangar is close enough to a community airstrip that whenever Mark wants to fly somewhere, all he has to do is simply taxi across his backyard on to the runway and take off.  

One of the highlights of my visit was a short flight that he and I took in his plane, and that's why I chose to begin this post with the flying-related song lyrics I've quoted above.

I'm proud to say that I was not "too afraid to fly" and that we definitely "did land" -- safe and sound.

Mark is a very competent pilot, and never cuts corners when preparing for a flight -- I watched as he worked his way through a lengthy checklist of items during the preflight process.

A few minutes later, I was checking out Granbury from 3500 feet:

Unfortunately, there were a couple of small glitches during the flight.  

First, the autopilot malfunctioned.  (It didn't completely stop working -- it just wasn't maintaining our altitude as precisely as it should have been.)  Ordinarily, that wouldn't have been a problem -- we were only going on a short flight and it was a clear day, so Mark could have simply turned off the autopilot and flown the plane by hand.

Unfortunately, after we ascertained that the autopilot was on the fritz, Mark's narcolepsy suddenly kicked in.  So I had to take over and land the plane.  

Here's a photo I took as I approached Runway 17.  I know it's kind of far away, but I was pretty busy during the remainder of our approach:

No biggie . . . it turns out that landing a plane isn't really any harder than parallel parking a car.  

Here I am after my successful landing:

By the way, did you know that there's a company that manufactures parachutes that are attached to the airplane and can be deployed by firing a small solid-fuel rocket in case of engine failure or other emergency.  The whole plane then floats down to the ground (or into a lake, depending on where the pilot is when he or she fires the rocket).

Here's a video of this rescue parachute in action:

It's a good thing I didn't lose my cool when Mark nodded off because his plane is not equipped with one of these parachutes.  (By the way, Mark's a little paranoid that word about that narcolepsy thing is going to get back to the FAA and/or his wife . . . so keep that story under your hat, OK?)

But enough about my heroic coolness under pressure -- let's talk about our featured song.

Do you remember Saturday Night Live's snooty arts critic, Leonard Pinth-Garnell?  Mr. Pinth-Garnell hosted segments titled "Bad Cinema," "Bad Opera," "Bad Ballet," and so on.

Here's a sample of Mr. Pinth-Garnell's television work:

2 or 3 lines contacted Mr. Pinth-Garnell and asked him if he would help us do a bit called "Bad Pop Music Lyrics" that featured the lyrics to our featured song, Train's 2001 hit, "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)."  He graciously agreed.

2 or 3 lines: "Drops of Jupiter" is usually interpreted as being about a woman's journey to find herself, and the fears of the man who loves her that there will be no place for him in her life once she completes that journey of discovery.  Here's verse one of the song:

Now that she's back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there's time to change
Since the return from her stay on the moon
She listens like spring and she talks like June

Mr. Pinth-Garnell, what do you think of verse one of the song?

Leonard Pinth-Garnell:  Stunningly bad!  Monumentally ill-advised!

2 or 3 lines:  Let's move on to the second verse:

She checks out Mozart while she does Tae Bo
Reminds me that there's room to grow  

What sayest thou about the lyrical pairing of Mozart and Tae Bo, Leonard?

Pinth-Garnell:  Couldn't be worse!

Leonard Pinth-Garnell
2 or 3 lines:  Here's the final verse:

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken?
Your best friend always sticking 
Up for you . . . even when I know you're wrong
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze-dried romance 
Five-hour phone conversation?
The best soy latte that you ever had . . . and me!

What is your opinion of this verse, Mr. P-G?

Pinth-Garnell:  Astonishingly bad!  Exquisitely awful!

2 or 3 lines respects Mr. Pinth-Garnell's opinions, and appreciates his taking the time to be interviewed.  But I do not entirely concur with my learned friend.

I admit to being puzzled by what it means to say that a woman "acts like summer and walks like rain," much less that she "listens like spring and talks like June."  And I agree that the pairing of Mozart and Tae Bo is one that would strike many as a bit odd.

(You remember Tae Bo, don't you?  It was the Zumba of the 1990s.)

You might assume that the line where the singer asks if the woman he is singing to can imagine a world without "the best soy latte that you ever had . . . and me" must have been intended to be ironic.

But there's nothing in this song that even hints at irony.  In fact, "Drops of Jupiter" is possibly the least ironic song since J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers' "Last Kiss" -- although I do suspect that Pearl Jam's later cover of the song was somewhat ironic.  (Do you think Eddie Vedder really meant it when he sang, "Where oh where can my baby be?/The Lord took her away from me/She's gone to heaven, so I've got to be good/So I can see my baby when I leave this world"?  I don't.)

That's not to say that I don't like the song.  Au contraire, I love "Drops of Jupiter."  Its lyrics may look ridiculous when you see them in print, but I don't care -- I love them . . . just like I love the over-the-top, Elton John-style strings and piano.  (I just listened to "Drops of Jupiter" ten times in a row, and I could happily listen to it another ten times in a row except my wife and son are saying very hurtful things to me.)

One final note.  While researching this song, I learned that the songwriter, Pat Monahan -- who is Train's lead singer -- has said that the song was inspired by a bizarre dream he had shortly after the death of his mother from cancer:

Here is the official music video for "Drops of Jupiter":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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