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….

Sign up and read my novel for free.

All Blog Posts

Perfectly Clear

August 11, 2014

One day my fifth grade teacher walked up to my desk and asked me why I squinted when I looked at the blackboard. Until then I had no idea I was a squinter. It must have been a rhetorical question because she must have known why I squinted. She sent me to the nurse’s office and I was given a note to take home to my parents. The note suggested I might need corrective lenses and my eyes should be checked as soon as possible.


A few weeks after visiting an optometrist I showed up at school with new glasses. I didn’t mind the jokes about being a four-eye because I was fascinated by the newfound clarity of all that I beheld. It was as if a fog had lifted and the world was suddenly clear, richer in details and colors. Sure, a couple of bullies would rub spit-soaked thumbs on my glasses but I loved my new lenses. But after a while the novelty wore off. The grass in front of our house once more became a lawn instead of a billion individual blades of grass. Life returned to normal. From then on every few years I’d return to the optometrist, discover my eyes had changed and end up with a new prescription. The surreal clarity would be entertaining for a few weeks, but eventually I’d grow accustomed to the new prescription and before long life returned to normal.


Flash forward forty-five years. Mrs. Chatterbox and I had just purchased a new townhouse, which included wall niches for flat screen, high definition TVs. We knew several couples who already had these televisions but we were late to the high def. party. Our best friends had recently purchased one and they invited us over to view Shrek. Staring at the amazing detail, I felt like I was in college again and had just dropped acid. I was mesmerized by what I saw.


Two high def. televisions were needed for our new house. We shopped around and I was astonished at the expense. We finally settled on televisions that were $2,100 each—among the cheapest we could find that were the right dimensions to fill our niches. It seemed like an absurd amount of money just to see each and every wrinkle on Judge Judy, or individual pores on the faces of my evening newscasters, but this was the modern era and advancement never comes cheap.


Recently our son CJ’s birthday rolled around and he was in need of a television. His mother and I decided to buy him a 42” high definition TV. Six years earlier we’d paid $2,100 and now the same TV was on sale at Costco for $399, and unlike ours the $399 version was a Smart TV capable of accessing Netflix and YouTube.


I’ve heard through the grapevine that laser screens and 3-D TVs are on their way, along with TVs that project holographic images. When will enough be enough? The technology keeps changing, bringing us ever more wonders that we all too soon take for granted. When I gaze at my television I no longer see the high definition that once mesmerized me, made me feel like I’d only been seeing shadows reflected on the inside wall of my cave without experiencing the real world.


Like many people, I get more apprehensive of change as I grow older. Ever changing technology saves us from diseases and makes life easier for many people, but you can keep your high definition TVs. As for me, I just want to re-experience those glasses I first wore in the fifth grade, when I viewed the world as if for the first time, like it was the dawn of creation.




Has modern technology let you down?


I love the new technology, but I experience many of the same feelings you have expressed. Gee without those glasses you may have been the next Monet.
By: Cranky on August 11, 2014
I'm wondering if tvs will be replaced by smart phones and ipads or notebooks. I sure don't need 3D for my Andy Griffith reruns..but a new pair of glasses would be nice. My eyesight has gotten awful lately.
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on August 11, 2014
As a jack of many trades (careers), one being a Network Engineer it was never ending at keeping up with trends, standards, security. In this context... YES. As for media technology, marketing of TV is misleading the masses. High resolution exists, but there are several degrees if you will of quality and delivery of the signal into the idiot box. The TV and Smart TV operate at its most basic level SPEED... the TV's ability to process and the deliver to the screen.... is a basic core element to your viewing pleasure. A SMART TV needs adequate internet speed to deliver the likes of NETFLIX etc. anyhow... I think you get the idea. I have yet to meet the salesperson who can or will explain it properly to the consumer... and this annoys me!
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 11, 2014
I remember when 45 rpm records were cool. Then LPs were cool (you didn't have to turn it over to hear ALL of 'American Pie'!). Then, cassettes-WOW! And then? 8 Tracks. Even though they had a tendency to jump all over the place so you needed to jam a matchbook in them, they were great. Compact Discs? HOLY SMOKES, THEY'RE AWESOME! Wait...iPods...? Well, uh, nuts, but still pretty cool to take thousands of songs with me to cut the grass. Still, like you, I'll never forget how great it was to get my first pair of glasses in the fifth grade. I did wear contact lenses from my twenty's until I needed to go back to wearing glasses in my 40's. That was okay, though, they were bifocals. And made everything look big. I spent a lot of time standing in front of the urinals. Which pissed people off (pun intended).
By: Al Penwasser on August 11, 2014
Eventually they'll just beam the images straight into your brain.
By: PT Dilloway on August 11, 2014
I love that I live in this era of invention. I still experience wonder when viewing my HD television. I can't wait until the slightly curved ones come down in price. Maybe I'll snatch one up.
By: Michael Offutt on August 11, 2014
Mmmm . . . I don't think modern technology has let me down. It's the way some people use it that's the problem. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 11, 2014
*sigh* simple life. simple joys. *sigh*
By: TexWisGirl on August 11, 2014
what I find amazing is how "google" has become a verb. The problem with technology is we are becoming more recumbent and less active....which cannot be good in the long run...unless you have a wii hooked up! Cheers and thanks Stephen for all the nice comments you leave on my blog!
By: Kathe W. on August 11, 2014
I love high def TVs but I am happy with a small screen. I feel somehow "intruded on" with such a big clear image in my home. I'll look at these wonderful TVs at other peoples' houses.
By: Jenny on August 11, 2014
I love new technology, but I hate the built-in obsolescence. Oh well. Remember how expensive color TVs were when THEY were first released?
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 11, 2014
Familiarity does tend to breed contempt (or at least indifference). And I know exactly what you mean when you describe the new world that suddenly becomes accessible when you put those new specs on!
By: Bryan Jones on August 11, 2014
Hey, I am just getting use to color TVs:)) In a way I am glad you posted this letting us know that HD effect is a fleeting thing. Now I have no problem watching the news with perfect complexioned anchors. Some things we just don't need to know. Thanks for saving me money.
By: Akansas Patti on August 11, 2014
I'm always being kind of drug, pushed, and nudged along by my son & DIL into trying new things. I don't know why I am as reluctant as I am because eventually I like them...like broadcast TV with a computer, a smart phone, and a tablet. Goodness! But I would be lost without the internet now. If you would have told me that even ten years ago I would have scoffed. Silly me. I should quite digging in my heels for every change. ;)
By: Rita McGregor on August 11, 2014
There's nothing like that first time. Well, at least, in some areas of life. I don't have a TV and abstain from watching at home- purposely, gladly. Modern technological advances have become so common-place, the wow factor seems to have disappeared.
By: Robyn Engel on August 11, 2014
Every time my computer freezes, technology lets me down, and that's daily. As for TV, we don't have one, and i hope we never do again. There are more important things to do in life.
By: mimi on August 11, 2014
When my youngest son got his first glasses at the age of ten, he gasped in awe as we drove down the highway past the old lead mine at the state historic site. "That building is made of BRICKS!" Kind of like your "blades of grass" epiphany.
By: Val on August 11, 2014
I'm usually a fan of new technology. Love the internet and all the benefits associated with it. When I first came to the U.S., a phone call to Germany cost more than $1 per minute. Now I use Skype and it's free. Once I held the Skype camera out into my living room, moving it around as far as the wire would let it go. It gave my flabbergastered mother an idea of what my living room looked like. And then she said, "I see you have a whole bunch of ironing waiting for you on that iron board in your living room." See, even she likes modern technology!
By: Pixel Peeper on August 11, 2014
Modern technology hasn't let me down but it's left me far behind. It's all about money and competition. We don't need the super dupper stuff.
By: red on August 11, 2014
It is a challenge now to watch something that is not high def or digital. Our cable carrier just deep sixed an old analog tv I had in a corner in my study Rarely watched it. Now it is impossible. Guess I'll go look for Chatterbox price on a small smart tv.
By: Tom Cochrun on August 11, 2014
One of my sons had the same situation with his vision at school, so glad teachers spot these situations. I love the tech.................
By: John on August 12, 2014
I can't help but laugh at myself when I think back to a conversation that my cousin and I had about 25 years ago. "Why in the hell would we need a computer in the house.. to keep track of recipes?" Yup, we've eaten those words many times over. I'm also very nearsighted and remember the day (at age 5) that I got my first pair of glasses. I was stunned to learn that there was actually a pattern on our living room rug. My mother cried at what I had been missing out on. I still don't see as well as most people .. even with updated prescriptions.
By: Hilary on August 12, 2014
You might have become an Impressionist painter, Stephen. But look at the rock stars who wear glasses today. Suddenly, it's cool!
By: Michael Manning on August 13, 2014
we have old tvs in our house, not even flat screens. i was stunned when i went to my dad's and saw the details you describe on his hi-def tv. the funny thing is both my parents seem more enthralled by having whatever the latest thing is. maybe i'm cheap or lacking advancement but i kind of shrug and think....whatever.
By: lime on August 13, 2014
When our old analog Samsung TV simply quit working one day, we swallowed hard and bought a 31" high-definition Emerson at Wal-Mart for around $650.00. My wife now cusses every time we see some reference to 32" smart-tvs for less than $300.00. Sigh.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on August 14, 2014

Leave a Comment


Return to All Blog Posts Main Page

RSS 2.0   Atom