Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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A Dining Disaster

July 7, 2017


Last week Mrs. Chatterbox and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary. We’re past the gift giving stage but I wanted to celebrate by taking Mrs. C. out for a nice dinner. I had no idea the evening would conclude with the manager of the restaurant threatening to call the cops if I didn’t leave.


The restaurant was La Provence, a place we’d previously been served good breakfasts. I selected it because of our recent trip to the South of France. It was a beautiful evening and I’d reserved an outside table near their pond. The restaurant wasn’t crowded, and it was only six o’clock; we tend to dine early.


Things started out well, although it took a long time for our waiter to appear, even though other waiters seemed to be promptly servicing nearby tables. When our waiter finally appeared we ordered drinks and waited…and waited…and waited. The drinks finally arrived, but when I ordered the mussel appetizer I was informed they were all out, even though the restaurant had just opened for dinner service. I ordered another appetizer and received the last one; the table beside ours was told I’d gotten the last one.


After another incredibly long wait our waiter returned to ask if we wanted to see the dessert menu. I said no, but we were ready to order our dinner entrees. Mrs. C. decided on the sole, which was no longer available. I asked to speak with the manager. When she arrived I explained, “Today is our wedding anniversary. I could have selected any restaurant but we’ve come here before for breakfast and enjoyed the experience, but I don’t understand why at the beginning of your dinner service you’re out of so many items on your menu. I’ve read enough Anthony Bourdain to know restaurants typically receive sea food deliveries on Tuesday (never order seafood on a Monday) but Thursdays are the middle of a restaurant’s week.


After I complained, she mumbled, “What do you want me to do about it?”


“You could comp us something for our inconvenience,” I said, prompting Mrs. C to raise her eyebrows.


The manager promptly stomped off. We should have left at that point but I was curious as to how bad this train wreck could get. I finally caught the eye of another waiter (ours seemed to be ignoring us) and said we were ready to reselect our dinner entrees, which ended up being extremely mediocre, and not what we wanted.


When the waiter reluctantly came to clear our plates he spilled food in Mrs. C’s lap, brushing off the mishap with, “I guess this meal couldn’t get any worse for you.”


He was wrong.


I didn’t leave a tip, which was hard for me to do, and I wrote on the bill why I hadn’t. The waiter wasn’t responsible for the restaurant being out of food but the service was also terrible. On the way out I spotted the manager and informed her that we’d had a dreadful dining experience. She told me to keep my voice down or I’d have to leave. I wasn’t raising my voice but other patrons could, no doubt, tell I was angry. She informed me that if I didn’t leave she’d call the police, which would have been interesting because I know all the police in our town since Mrs. C. and CJ work for our local police department.


So ended our anniversary dinner. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but at least I got an interesting post out of it. The best I can say about this dining experience is that I didn’t end up in jail.


What was your worst dining disaster? Tell me about it while I work on my YELP review.





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What a disastrous evening. It really irks me when restaurants cannot supply the dishes on their menu (clearly, terrible planning/management). The restaurant in question failed on all counts - your review should be an interesting read!
By: Bryan Jones on July 7, 2017
That deserves a letter to the editor, a letter to corporate headquarters, and a bad review online. What manager would say that? We've had some bad experiences but that one tops them all.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on July 7, 2017
I think the closest I've had to that were a couple of times when I waited and waited and waited for someone to show up and take my order. In those instances they definitely didn't get much of a tip.
By: PT Dilloway on July 7, 2017
Nothing that bad. Several times I've had to wait so long to give my order that we just walked out and went somewhere else. It is actually quite satisfying walking out and saying nothing as you are being told "I'm so sorry, we will be with you in just a few minutes."
By: cranky on July 7, 2017
Wow! That is horrible and I would make a formal complaint. I wonder if they will get a visit from Gordon Ramsey. I can't remember a horrible dining excursion at this moment but my brother has. My brother is talking about his excursions on his Facebook page "life of Baron". He is going to every bar/restaurant and ordering wings and a beer and then he rates it. The one would not give him wings without the pizza plus there were other mishaps with this place. He should have taken Jack Nicholson's route from 5 Easy Pieces.
By: Birgit on July 7, 2017
which la Provence did you go to? LO or in PDX or ? We had gone to the one in LO years ago- before we moved-and got only so so service after they fired the only good manager they had. We then voted with our feet to not go back ever. the type of service you got was abysmal and there are no excuses for it. They should have apologized profusely and not charged you a penny. Humpf.
By: Kathe W. on July 7, 2017
Wow, what horrible service. I hope you do write a scathing Yelp review. I'm surprised they are still open. Guess I have been lucky so far.
By: Arkansas Patti on July 7, 2017
I don't have one to share (because I tend erase them from memory and never go back). How awful for you. I'd say that manager should be sacked, but it sounds like that would should only be the beginning.
By: Mitchell is Moving on July 7, 2017
What a lousy experience! The only time I had bad service was at one of our favorite restaurants--there was a new waitress serving us and she was awful---slow, mixed up our orders, and gave my vegan daughter egg rolls that she SWORE were vegan---yet when my daughter bit into it, it was loaded with shrimp. We complained to the manager, the waitress denied any wrong doing, and when asked to be partially compensated, they refused. Haven't been back since.
By: Marcia @ Menooausal Mother on July 7, 2017
What a disaster! We had one recently on mother's day. I won't bore you with the details, but just to say we won't be going back there again!
By: LL Cool Joe on July 7, 2017
Happy Anniversary in spite of the terrible service you both received, your YELP review should raise some eyebrows, the manager was out of line for sure, I don't blame you for being upset with them.
By: Jimmy on July 7, 2017
On one of our early trips to Hawaii, probably around 1968, we went to dinner at Michelâs at the Colony Surf Hotel. Our friends had told us it was wonderful. It was quite upscale--& expensive. It was one of the very few places in Hawaii where men were required to wear a tie. We got there a few minutes before our reservation time & waited--& waited. When we were finally seated, we waited to get a menu. Then we waited to place our orders. When the food came, the orders were wrong. There were chiefs all around, but no Indians. We couldnât get anyoneâs attention. The maître dâ was making a brief stop at every table. When he got to ours, he smiled & asked, âHow is everything?â I replied honestly, âTerrible!â He smiled again, said, âThank youâ & went on to the next table.
By: fishducky on July 7, 2017
That was a disaster. One never knows when is the best time to leave. I guess we're optimists and hope things will get better.
By: red Kline on July 7, 2017
Stephen, sorry for your terrible experience but thanks for sharing it. The manager's comments were inexcusable. I hope someone in the Portland area will send a link to your post or a copy of it to La Provence. With service, food and attitude as bad as they apparently are, they should not be entitled to use that name. Shame on them.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 7, 2017
First of all...HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Second, that restaurant manager clearly doesn't understand the power of the internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think you should give her a crash course!
By: scott park on July 7, 2017
We've had terrible food and times where there was trouble with the kitchen and slow service was not the fault of waitstaff, but nothing like this. A place like that would be out of business pronto around here, we have too many great places from which to choose. Now i know, if i ever get to come visit your area, where not to eat.
By: messymimi on July 7, 2017
Reminds me of the time I was on a business trip at a restaurant in Charleston, SC. There were 8 of us at a table. We waited and waited and never got anyone to pay the slightest attention to us. We finally got on the phone, and ordered a pizza delivered to our table at the restaurant. We shared the pizza as an appetizer, and finally by then our meal arrived -- about 1 1/2 hours after we got there.
By: Tom Sightings on July 8, 2017
I hope you left an honest and forthright review on Yelp. People deserve to know these kinds of things. I hope it didn't ruin your anniversary. We've been married long enough it would probably just be a great story to tell over and over to our friends. :) Belated Happy Anniversary!
By: Kelly on July 8, 2017
When the Chi-Chi Mexican restaurants were still in business, we went to one one day with our son and his family. The waitress bopped up to the table and asked us what we wanted. We proceeded to give her our order and she never wrote down one thing. There were six of us at the table and she was going to remember all our orders? Well, our meals came one at a time and none of them were correct and then after we finally got it worked out, our daughter-in-law didn't receive her meal until the rest of us were almost done. I took one of those papers they had on the table where you write how well your meal had gone and began to write. The waitress came up behind me and angrily said, "Are you writing bad things about me?" I replied, "Yes, I am," and she stalked off in a huff. Suddenly there was a tussle elsewhere in the restaurant and a man actually threw a chair across the room. We got up and out of there fast. Needless to say, we didn't leave a tip. I did get two free meals from it after I wrote the manager about our experience. Chi-Chi's is no more and it doesn't surprise me.
By: Kate on July 8, 2017
Urghh! Nasty experience. I can't claim to have many horror stories to tell, but one sticks in my mind from many years back. My wife & I often went to a reputable restaurant and always had excellent food. One evening we made a reservation for a special occasion, expecting a leisurely meal, and got rushed through. We ordered, were sat down and our starters appeared. I wasn't even finished and the waiter was already hovering to whip away my plate and serve the main course, and we felt under such pressure to leave we didn't even order a dessert - we'd have had to eat it out in the bar because they wanted our table. We were in & out in under 1/2 hour. Needless to say, we never went there again.
By: Botanist on July 8, 2017
This sounds pretty bad all right. The worst experience I ever had wasn't all that bad - just a long wait for food - but then I don't go out much, usually with my mom and she knows all the good places to go around here! Belated anniversary wishes - may you have many more happy years together. And if, as you said in the intro to this post, this wasn't your worst experience, what WAS the worst one?!
By: jenny_o on July 8, 2017
Name and shame them, I say. Get it published in your local paper. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on July 9, 2017
I've had plenty of expensive mediocre meals and wait staff that made you do just that but I guess the worst experience we had was doing a job for a man who owned restaurants and instead of paying us completely he talked us into accepting some vouchers for free meals as partial payment. we didn't care for any of his chain restaurants so went to his singular seafood restaurant which we did like and when we presented the vouchers for our meal, the manager didn't want to accept them. he did in the end but only grudgingly after we suggested he call the owner to settle it.
By: Ellen Abbott on July 9, 2017
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience on your anniversary. The worst I've ever experienced was that it took forever for a wait person to take our order. We just got up and left. So where are you going for your "real" anniversary dinner?
By: Pixel Peeper on July 9, 2017
Not exactly what you would expect and the timing 'sucked'. Nasty reviews are in order. Wonder if you could contact the owner of said establishment.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 12, 2017

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