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

Prologue

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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If Looks Could Kill

September 9, 2013
In the mid 70s the retail company I worked for transferred me from San Francisco to Oxnard, California, fifty miles north of LA. Oxnard had a rough and tumble reputation, and as a newlywed I was concerned about bringing Mrs. C. there. When I expressed concern my boss put an arm on my shoulder and tried to calm me with, “You like Mexican food, don’t you?”

     

“Sure.”
     

“Well, downtown Oxnard has the best Mexican restaurant in the world. It’s called Cielito Lindo, and the food is to die for.”
     

Jobs were hard to come by and it had taken a long time to land this one, so I brushed aside my concerns. Mrs. C. and I rented a truck and filled it with our belongings. We scooped up the cat and hit the highway for Oxnard. Three hundred and fifty miles later we reached the outskirts of the city. Our stomachs were rumbling and I was eager to sample the food at Cielito Lindo, but first things first; we were driving on fumes so I pulled into a gas station. 
   

 On the other side of the pump I overheard an interesting conversation. The fellow behind the wheel said to the attendant, “I want to take my wife to a restaurant called Cielito Lindo. Have you heard of it?”
     

The attendant leaned toward the driver’s window and said, “Man, it’s a dangerous place. Knifings all the time. Cops were there just last night. I wouldn’t take my woman anywhere near there if I were you.”
     

The driver responded, “Yeah, but is the food as good as they say?”
     

If looks could kill, that man’s wife would have been guilty of murder.
     

I sized up the expression on my own wife’s face. After filling up and leaving the gas station I quickly drove to the nearest McDonalds.

    

Two years later we were again on the move, packed and heading to Oregon. On our way out of town we finally chanced a stop at Cielito Lindo. The food was so good I still dream about it.  

 


    

Where was the best Mexican food you've ever eaten?

 



Comments

28 Comments
About the only time I ate Mexican food in a restaurant was when I went to New Mexico. It was pretty good but nowadays it would disagree with my tummy.
By: PT Dilloway on September 9, 2013
I live in San Antonio, is there any other type of food? My PB&J is in a flour tortilla.
By: David Walston on September 9, 2013
Best Mexican food I've eaten? My grandma's, my mom's, my mother-in-law's...I think I have salsa instead of blood running in my veins. Glad you all got to try it before you left~
By: Shelly on September 9, 2013
I don't have any memorable memories I'd associate with eating Mexican food. I've been to Cozumel several times for the scuba diving. I love the Latin vibe and its people... if that counts for anything.
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 9, 2013
oh my- the best food was most likely in Guanajuato at Casa Zuniga B and B Great read as usual Stephen!
By: Kathe W. on September 9, 2013
I live in Ohio, so I'm sure our "Mexican" food is more "MexAmerica" - but we have a local restaurant run by a Hispanic family & their food is pretty good. But the more interesting thing to do is to watch the wait staff zoom around - lightning fast service in that restaurant!
By: The Bug on September 9, 2013
Oh, now this is a post I can relate to! I lived in Tucson for six years and El Guero Canelo was mouth watering!! It's a little taco truck on the side of the road that has grown into a permanent taco truck with covered tables and now even has another location. I would fly there today just for lunch if I could. But never for dinner. It's locale in South Tucson means you don't go there after dark.
By: Nancy Felt on September 9, 2013
These days, there are knifings every place. Some guy got shot at the 7-Eleven I get my morning coffee at. It's just the way things are. If I was told Cielito had the best Mexican food, I'd have been there the very first day.
By: Michael Offutt on September 9, 2013
Taco Bell...does that count? And really not very good. I am a Chinese Food guy all the way.
By: Cranky on September 9, 2013
Los Toritos on the El Camino Real in South Palo Alto. I'm pretty sure it's long gone because that was sometime around when you were moving to Oxnard.
By: Uncle Skip on September 9, 2013
at least you had it. :)
By: TexWisGirl on September 9, 2013
We had a beach house in Port Hueneme (just north of Oxnard) but we've never been to Cielito Lindo--our loss!!
By: fishducky on September 9, 2013
I don't think I can choose a best Mexican food place. I get Mexican here occasionally, but I can't even remember the name of the restaurant. I just know where it is. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 9, 2013
Was it that dangerous, or did the locals just want to scare away the tourists from making it too crowded? The best -- well, Sweetie would say Superior Grill. Not being an Epicure myself, i'm pleased if i can just eat.
By: mimi on September 9, 2013
In the '90s, La Fonda, south of Rosarito Beach in Baja California.
By: Mitchell Is Moving on September 9, 2013
Right now my favorite in Dallas is Anamia's (combination of the names of the owner's wife and daughter). It's not cheap, but worth every penny.
By: Scott Cody Park on September 9, 2013
On your way out of town? Did you want to kick yourself? Of course, I've done that, too - discovered a gem in a place where we were getting ready to move away from.
By: Pixel Peeper on September 9, 2013
I'm embarrassed to admit that i don't eat Mexican food.
By: Red on September 9, 2013
So sorry, but I consider "best Mexican food" an oxymoron. I am no fan of the spicy, unless it's a drop of Frank's Original Hot Wing Sauce in a good ol' American style taco salad. From Hardee's. I'm not big on Italian or French food either. But Chinese can tempt me.
By: Val on September 9, 2013
The best Mexican food I ever had was in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. We had the "Infidel Beef Chimichanga." Hold the beheading. It was at 2 am, so that may account for why we thought it was delicious.
By: Al Penwasser on September 9, 2013
There were wonderful Mexican restaurants in NYC, and I could cook up some mean burritos, tacos, nachos, and guacamole. *salivating* Unfortunately, the Mexican restaurants in Egypt suck. :(
By: Lexa Cain on September 9, 2013
It's a toss up between the Galley Cafe in Manhattan Beach California and the old Acapulco Joe's in Indianapolis. (Joe's when he was alive-sometimes napping in his car on the sidewalk next to the restaurant in an ungentrified neighborhood.)
By: Tom Cochrun on September 10, 2013
Well it's a good thing that Mrs. C wasn't injured or neither of you were knifed or that would of been the most memorable Mexican food in an entirely different way. I used to go to a little Mexican restaurant in Grand Island, Ne. that I don't even remember the name of . The lady that owned the place was fron central Mexico and had come to the area so her husband could work in the meat packing plant. She was the best cook of ANY ethnic background that I have ever met. If she was ever on a reality show cooking contest she would win hands down.
By: Cheryl P. on September 10, 2013
Six years ago I left San Diego which was full of great Mexican places to eat, and moved to Nebraska where there are not. But in the next town a family have a Mexican restaurant that has proven to be awesome so I eat there a couple times a month. And glad to have it here in the midwest.
By: CiCi on September 10, 2013
I had some Mexican food on the night before a flight. It was a tough flight.
By: AC on September 11, 2013
I love Mexican food, yet, as an Englishman, I associate Mexico with violence. Maybe I've watched too many old films, as I have never been there.
By: Bryan Jones on September 11, 2013
There is a couple of Mexican retsauramts not to far from where we live. Not being a "Mexican" expert though to me the food was very good!
By: John on September 12, 2013
The best Mexican food I've eaten was at a restaurant in either Leominster or Gardner, Massachusetts. I can't remember the name and it doesn't seem to exist anymore anyway. But it was memorable. :)
By: Hilary on September 12, 2013

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