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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New Vansterdam

January 7, 2015


A few days after Christmas, I decided to make an overdue visit to a friend in Vancouver, Washington. For those of you unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver is across the Columbia River, and only a few miles from Portland, Oregon. When I arrived, my friend, who I’ll call Sam, had a few errands to run so I accompanied him. Sam, who’d been my assistant when I managed a jewelry store years earlier, was still in retail. We picked up a pair of resoled shoes and a few groceries before reaching our final destination, a store at a strip mall: New Vansterdam.


“New Vansterdam?” I said.


“Yeah. A combination of New Amsterdam and Vancouver. You’ve been to Amsterdam and know what it’s famous for, right?”


Amsterdam was famous for several things, but I had a feeling he wasn’t referring to the fabulous Rembrandts in the Rijksmuseum. “Why are we here?”


“I’m out of pot. Time to buy more.”


I was stunned! I’d known Sam and his lovely wife for years; our son had played with his kids before they moved to Vancouver. He made a mean martini; I had no idea he smoked pot.


“You’re kidding, right?” I could see from the expression on his face he wasn’t.


“Marijuana for recreational use is legal in Washington, as it soon will be in Oregon.”


I remembered that Oregon had passed its marijuana initiative in November, but shops weren’t scheduled to open until summer. Oregon currently had medicinal marijuana clinics requiring a doctor’s prescription, but I’d never been inside one.


“What about HIM,” I said, indicating the cop in the squad car several yards away. “Does he know it’s legal?”


“Of course. He isn’t here to arrest patrons. He’s here to protect us from those who don’t think dope should have been legalized.”


“How did you find this place?”


“I discovered it online. They have a great website, and fabulous customer reviews.”


My head was spinning. Back in the day—I’m referring to when I was younger and pretending to be cool—this wasn’t how dope was procured. The last time I openly bought marijuana, Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Pot smoking was so common I remember attending a Rolling Stones concert at the LA Forum and forty thousand people lit up at once. A nice gentleman in a tweed coat, looking much like Sherlock Holmes, sat beside me at the concert. When he passed me his marijuana packed meerschaum pipe, who was I to refuse?


I felt apprehensive heading toward the front door of New Vansterdam, too many years of walking the straight and narrow path, too many years of setting the best example possible for our son, living with a spouse working for a police department where pot was widely, and in my opinion erroneously, considered a gateway drug.


It occurred to me that part of the allure of smoking pot during college had to do with it being illegal. As a chubby student lacking tattoos, piercings, and a police record, and hampered with an acceptable GPA, I had nothing to elevate me to “bad boy” status, except weed, which I took to like nuns take to beads. 


Approaching the door to New Vansterdam felt wrong. Oh, so wrong. Dare I say it? In spite of the unfortunate and off-putting new legality of it, I was tapping into a sensation I hadn’t experienced in years:




*Note: On Friday, I’ll take you inside a Washington marijuana store, and contrast buying marijuana today with what it was like in the 1970s. Be sure to have munchies on hand.










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Not sure if pot is a good thing or bad, i guess like many things if abused it is a bad thing, but how do you make something illegal that grows like a weed because ...it is a weed. If dandelions made you high, my lawns of years past would have made me a fortune.
By: Cranky on January 7, 2015
Our neighbor to the north Colorado has made the move to legalize marijuana. I wish NM would hurry up and do the same. I am a proponent for legalization because I am a person who suffers with pain all the time. And even if I wasn't....like you, back in the day, I really enjoyed the relaxation and chill that pot can give a person. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on January 7, 2015
I've seen or read there are many different strains of weed to provide relief for various illnesses and chronic pain sufferers. It is 'high' time for legalization.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 7, 2015
I think there's something to be said for a harmless way to be cool and naughty. in London I have seen quite a few people really wrecked by what seems like some very strong and unpleasant stuff not harmless at all. Don't know if they sell that sortt in Washington
By: Jenny on January 7, 2015
I'm not sure I would go all the way to legalizing it, but marijuana should be available on a doctor's prescription for those who need it for pain relief.
By: Brian Slater on January 7, 2015
i was too much a good girl. never tried it. hope i don't need it for medicinal purposes some day. :)
By: TexWisGirl on January 7, 2015
I think this year is the year we shall meet Mr. Chatterbox. My best friend, James, is now comfortably situated in his new home in Vancouver, Washington. So I'm due/overdue for a visit to the Portland area. I intend to come right around when the Avengers 2 comes to theaters so that he and I can go to it together. The "icing" on the trip might be a rendezvous in a nice restaurant where you can regale me with tales of old portland.
By: Michael Offutt on January 7, 2015
My only experience with pot was saying "no thank you" when it was passed around. I'd gone with a friend to a spot by the river where college students drank & smoked. I was very excited, but since I didn't drink or smoke I was left wondering what the allure actually was. Ha!
By: The Bug on January 7, 2015
In my 40's I decided to find out what all the hullabaloo was about pot, so I called my niece (who I knew used it) to get some for my upcoming visit. She & her boyfriend attached a joint to the filter end of one of my cigarettes. (I was very delicate.) We all lit up & I got very relaxed & sort of dreamy. We were carrying on a conversation & I could participate almost fully. My only problem was that I could remember everything that was said--except what was said in the last minute or so. If they asked me a question, they would have to wait a minute or so for my brain to register & me to answer. I didn't like that feeling & I never used it again.
By: fishducky on January 7, 2015
it is weird isn't it? No more skulking around...only thing is at the age I am now- I kinda like to hold onto my memory bank! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on January 7, 2015
Too old to care anymore....
By: Tabor on January 7, 2015
It must feel like when prohibition was repealed. Illegal yesterday, legal today. I did try it when younger but always chose alcohol as my drug of choice. Now days however since I no longer drink and with my aching, aging body, I wouldn't mind taking a hit to see if it helps. Looking forward to part 2.
By: Akansas Patti on January 7, 2015
I was a major pothead for many years. Major, major. I smoked it when I woke up in the morning, I smoked it on the way to work. I worked in banks when I was higher than a kite but did very well. I remember having dry spells and freaking out. Now I can't imagine being able to go to the store and buy your weed!! But I wish I could. I'm hearing more and more of the medicinal benefits for nerve pain. Can't wait to hear more.
By: Bouncin Barb on January 7, 2015
As with alcohol, i am glad to let you indulge if it is legal where you live, while this church lady refrains. At that, we can still be friends.
By: mimi on January 7, 2015
I've never tried pot. I was at a party once when a joint was passed around, and I just took it and passed it to the person next to me without trying it. But if I ever were to need it in the future, for pain or other issues, I would want it to be available and safe.
By: Pixel Peeper on January 7, 2015
SWMBO uses non-THC pot. Doesn't get you high but works for pain. If I can find a doctor who'll give me a card, I'm goin' for the real stuff!
By: Catalyst on January 7, 2015
I think this move was the right thing to do for a lot of good reasons. Those reasons have all been listed before.
By: red on January 7, 2015
Yeah. I've been to a concert or two.
By: Val on January 7, 2015
It's a changing scene. I have an 85 year old friend and former tennis buddy who has begun taking marijuana laced pretzel to ease pain since a small stroke. He says it is highly effective.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 7, 2015
It is a different world now......
By: John on January 8, 2015
Back in the day, I enjoyed an occasional pleasant high. Now I'm blissed out on life and grandchildren instead. But I'm glad it will soon be legal for medical use here in Minnesota. Looking forward to your next installment.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on January 8, 2015
I thought Amsterdam was famous for those girls in the windows...? I remember, after a visit to Amsterdam in 1989 (oh, good grief!), our inflight technician was thrown out of the Navy for sampling some of the local culture (and I don't mean the girls). Frankly, I couldn't care less if pot was legal or not. It's other people's business, in my opinion.
By: Al Penwasser on January 8, 2015
At first, I wondered where you were going with this. My most enduring memories of my visits to Amsterdam in the early 1980s were young women sitting in illuminated windows!
By: Bryan Jones on January 8, 2015
If you go a couple of more times, it'll hardly seem more unusual than going to pick up resoled shoes, or such has been my experience. It does take awhile to make the head-switch from illegal to legal, but it occurs faster than you can imagine.
By: Snowbrush on January 9, 2015
Amazing! I'd never have believed it was possible, but I guess the gov't is just too hurting for money to say no anymore. Can prostitution be far behind? Off to read the next installment! :)
By: Lexa Cain on January 9, 2015
Oh, but did Mrs. C benefit from your experience?
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on January 11, 2015
Sanjay Gupta has had a good series on CNN about it...
By: Michael Manning on January 12, 2015
And here I thought this was going to be a story about a Red Light District. I take it an ounce doesn't cost $10 anymore?
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 14, 2015

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