Peggy Sue, juiced, social capital in Maine, must-see dance event

Did I just hear that?

Two short bits of language abuse: One stormy spring day some years back in eastern Colorado, my wife and I were driving in the direction of some ominous black clouds when we heard a newsman on High Plains radio announce, “In Kiowa County, they’re reporting pea-sized-shaped hail…”

On Huffington Post television yesterday, a reporter was speaking of a new debris field thought to be connected with the lost Malaysian jet: “Some 300 objects are spread over an area 150 square miles wide.”

Can’t help these people.


Peggy Sue’s Perfect Paradiddles

Some thoughts on orange juice and social capital in Maine, below, with more recipes coming in the future (I promise, but not this week). But first…

As a kid I was an aspiring drummer – and actually got to play in a band in college for awhile – but I was afflicted with a fairly spastic left hand that prevented me from doing anything close to a decent drum roll. I spent hours trying to master paradiddles (16th or 32nd notes played with right and left hands like this – RLRR LRLL) but couldn’t quite pull it off, the way Jerry Allison did on drums for Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” – from start to finish throughout the entire song. And he was just 18 years old then.

The studio as it was in 1957.

Norman Petty’s studio, Clovis, New Mexico, as it was in 1957 – and still is.

In Holly’s earliest version of it, the song was called “Cindy Lou” and was more like a slow, plaintive ballad, but in Norman Petty’s recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico, in July of 1957, Petty, Allison, and Holly agreed to amp up the tempo with nontstop paradiddles, and call it “Peggy Sue” (after Allison’s girlfriend, with whom he’d just broken up). In recording it, Petty hand-adjusted the volume on Allison’s flowing paradiddles, fading up and down on them through the song for extra dramatic effect. The result is what most critics consider Buddy Holly’s masterpiece and it’s a performance by Jerry Allison that looks really easy but, to me, is nothing short of heroic. (Allison, now 75, still performs, composes, and produces).

Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, NM (photo Ned White)

Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, NM (photo Ned White)

Norman Petty died in 1984, but his studio survives exactly as it was in 1957 as something of a museum, and being a Buddy Holly fan I decided I just had to see it. And so, on a road trip some years back, my wife and I set Clovis in our sites. Lacking any iPhone or such things at the time, we had to stop and ask directions several times, and eventually found it, but darned if it wasn’t closed that day. Okay, these things happen, so we just moved on, driving east.

Into Texas beef country, which comes in a later post…


OJ and “Flavor Packs”

On a few occasions the last year or so, I’ve made my own home-squeezed orange juice, using extra sweet and juicy Valencia oranges. Delicious as the juice was, I couldn’t help but notice that it somehow lacked the zing and super-rich flavor of Tropicana Pure Premium, and I wondered why. So I did my homework.

Good pour, and yet...

As Homer Simpson might say: Mmm… ethyl butyrate… mmm. (photo Ned White)

Because oranges are harvested for only a few months in the late winter and spring and don’t keep very long, they’re all squeezed when they arrive at the plant, with the juice going into enormous storage tanks where it might be kept for as long as a year. The tanks are cooled to near freezing, but the juice can still turn sour, so Tropicana (and others) deoxygenate it, thereby removing the juice’s volatile compounds and also most of the flavor. Says Alissa Hamilton, author of Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice, “If you would taste the juice coming out of these tanks, it wouldn’t taste like orange juice. It would taste like sugar water.”

When this “juice” is ready for packaging, it’s combined with “flavor packs,” which are loaded with highly concentrated orangey-tasting stuff. According to author Hamilton, Tropicana and others commission flavor and fragrance companies to formulate these flavor packs, which, though using only oranges as the source for their ingredients, reduce everything into hydrocarbons like ethyl butyrate (which has a strong orangey odor) and others with less pronounceable names. In the U.S., people like the ethyl butyrate taste, so Tropicana designs its flavor packs accordingly. It has very different flavor packs for people In Mexico and Brazil, accommodating their palates with chemicals like decanal, and various terpenes derived from pine trees. But in the U.S., because everything originates with oranges, no extra labeling is required. So there it is. (You can read more here).

Sheep’s wool, crushed bugs, anchovies…

For vegetarians: just so you know, juices that are labeled with Vitamin D added usually get that vitamin from lanolin, which comes from sheep’s wool. Also, some non-refrigerated juices contain “carmine” as a red dye, and this comes from crushed cochineals, a cactus-eating insect from Mexico and South America. Finally, juices with Omega-3 added usually contain highly processed fish oils, largely from anchovies.

Just as a final little kick in the shin, in 2010 Tropicana reduced the size of its juice cartons from 64 to 59 ounces without changing the price (effectively raising it 7.8%), probably figuring most people wouldn’t notice.

But go figure, I still drink it.


Building social capital in Maine – we do it pretty well here

This is a rather roundabout way of coming home to Maine and its excellent natural foods, the small farms and shops that sell home-grown meats and vegetables and freshly caught seafood, and the prevailing sensibility here (as I see it) that places extra value on connecting with local purveyors of foods – and other things like handmade goods and crafts. This all expands outward to include Maine artists and writers and performers and musicians and entrepreneurs of all stripes in a state where talent is vast and deep and often lurking just under the surface waiting for your discovery.

Connecting face to face, networking, buying local, chatting it up with neighbors,  eschewing your iPhone for a real conversation… the sociological term for this is social capital. I want to go deeper into this in another post, but for now it’s helpful to know that Maine, statistically, is strong on social capital. Whenever you add to another person’s day with a kind remark or bit of humor, you’re building social capital. Likewise if you’re volunteering, being active in civic or political matters, buying lobster off a boat at better than boat price, building local business networks, or just trading stories at a local watering hole. Nationally, Maine has a high ranking this way. Here’s some info about the Maine Community Foundation, which is all about enhancing social capital in Maine.


Kea & Company – “Legacy Rising,” April 4 & 5, Strom Auditorium

Kea Tesseyman, of Kinetic Energy Alive (photo courtesy of Susan Michal)

Kea Tesseyman, of Kinetic Energy Alive (photo courtesy of Susan Michal)

It comes down to one of the most powerful examples of strong social capital at work I’ve seen since arriving here two years ago: Camden dancer-choreographer-producer Kea Tesseyman, her company Kinetic Energy Alive, and her upcoming show next Friday and Saturday nights at Strom Auditorium, Camden Hills Regional High School. Entitled “Power Performance – Legacy Rising,” it’s as close to a crowd-sourced, co-created dance performance as you can get, with dozens of adults and kids selecting their own themes and narratives centering around challenges they’ve faced – notably bullying and addiction, but also including Lyme disease, depression, self confidence or lack of same, and more. Kea encourages, wheedles, provokes, and guides – often with fiery intensity, but in the end the dancers own the dance.

kea_pp_poster_2014_11x17_forreview-03In my public television days, I wrote a few in-house stories on modern dance experiments for television, so I’ve seen the work of some very fine artists. I think Kea, with her inventiveness and high-voltage energy, is easily among the best I’ve seen. Still, “Legacy Rising” is democratized creativity belonging to the entire company, with dance pieces ranging from modern to interpretive to hip-hop, showcased with first-class production values in music, lighting, and stagecraft.


Check Kea’s website to see how deeply Kea’s sensibility goes beneath the dance itself: it’s about community, self-affirmation, spiritual growth, connection, joy. How simple is that? (Actually, not so simple, and quite challenging to put into words!)

So come on out next weekend, and be prepared to be inspired and deeply moved by what these kids and adults have accomplished. April 4 & 5, 7 pm, Strom Auditorium. Tickets $17 at the door, $15 in advance. Call 975-4450.

And don’t forget the Kleenex.

Exuberance unchained... Kea and company

Exuberance unchained… Kea and company

There you have it.




Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.