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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Radio Gibberish

January 2, 2015

I hope everyone had a fun and safe New Year Holiday. Yesterday, I partied too hard to write anything new, but here’s a post from 2012 I hope will bring you to a happy place.




I love it when bloggers post music videos. I don’t make enough time in my life for music and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to add more music to my life. I inherited my dad’s radio when he passed a few years ago but I’ve yet to turn it on. Dad was a big country music enthusiast and I remember sitting on his lap and listening to Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. But it was another radio I remember most, a radio at my grandparents’ house. It played gibberish. 


I’m calling it gibberish because I can’t think of a better word for speech I couldn’t understand. But gibberish sounds too negative and judgmental, not at all what I have in mind. What I heard as a child was an actual language, mellifluous and soothing even though I couldn’t understand a word. The language was Portuguese.


When my older brother and I were small we’d often spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house while Mom and Dad went out on Saturday nights. In an old part of town my grandparents had a small house. In the extra bedroom right off the kitchen there was a big iron bed where David and I would sleep.


On Sunday mornings I’d wake to the sound of a kitchen radio. My grandparents were Portuguese, he from the Azores and she from Lisbon, and they could understand what was being said. But I couldn’t. I’d lay there while my brother slept, imagining what the words meant and wondering about the exotic places my grandparents came from. Whenever I’d ask about the sounds coming from the radio they never said the language was Portuguese, it was always described as talk from the “old country.” Odd, I thought at the age of eight; I knew precious little about the world but I assumed all countries were old.


The radio had been turned on to wake David and me, the volume gently increased until we bounced out of the big bed and started dressing for church, which meant old Mission Santa Clara on the University of Santa Clara campus not far away. We’d reach the adobe mission at six in the morning. Before mass started Grandma would wave at other family members in distant pews. Sometimes I’d fall asleep during Mass and Grandpa would carry me back to the car when it was over. I’d wake up back on the big iron bed, the radio blaring as Grandma and Grandpa bustled about preparing breakfast.


Time with my grandparents figures prominently in my childhood memories, but it is the radio I think about when I close my eyes and drift away on waves of nostalgia. Even though I couldn’t understand a word, the strange language evoked feelings of warmth and love, feelings I continue to experience as an adult whenever I hear Portuguese being spoken.


My grandparents are gone now and my mother has lost what Portuguese she once knew, but I can easily recall the language flowing from that little radio, the dialect of my childhood, the language of my happy place….


Where is your Happy Place?



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I get the same thing today when my son turns on the radio. I don't think it is from the old country, he calls it hip hop. Great post.
By: Cranky on January 2, 2015
Such a beautiful memory of grandparents! One of my happy memories is visiting grandparents who had a heat grate in the floor -- i loved to lie down next to the warmth of that spot in the hall.
By: mimi on January 2, 2015
My "happy place" as a kid was getting up before anyone else ...going and getting the newspaper and reading the funnies first! I never understood why my Dad thought no one should touch the paper before him....I always folded it so neatly....I liked my quiet time in the house all to myself....guess I was a funny kid.
By: Kathe W. on January 2, 2015
really sweet. one of my 'radio' memories is of my parents always tuning in to paul harvey. the volume would go up on the kitchen radio above dishes being washed or things being cooked. i loved that.
By: TexWisGirl on January 2, 2015
Jealous as I had very little time with my grandparents. They both lived far away and neither of my parents made much effort to connect even with letters.
By: Tabor on January 2, 2015
My grandmother's radio played one thing, soap operas. If I were quiet, she would let me listen in her room with her to Stella Dallas, One Man's Family and Back Stage Wife. I was the only grand child she allowed in her room during these programs. I didn't understand them but thrilled in the honor. Thanks for the nostalgia trip.
By: Akansas Patti on January 2, 2015
I don't think I have a favorite place now. As a child I had favorite places...anyplace where i could be alone.
By: red on January 2, 2015
I heard a lot of "Swap and Shop" on my grandma's radio. Like, some guy would have four tires he would sell, or trade for a chainsaw or a pig. Now, I think the show is called "Tradio." It's still on.
By: Val on January 2, 2015
When I was a kid, my parents and grandparents would only turn on the radio for news, and on Sunday for a radio church service. Just listening to the radio for the fun of it, for music, was almost considered a sin. When I became a teenager, I started listening to AFN, which played a lot of country music. I remember listening to Hank Williams and Patsy Cline... :-)
By: Pixel Peeper on January 2, 2015
In the arms of the Wooters man. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 2, 2015
A great story Stephen, it is amazing how the very thought of a particular happy feeling brings it back as if you were there, safe and happy!
By: John on January 3, 2015
What a great post. I can understand so well how memories of your grandparents are a big part of your childhood. My grandma was so special to me that I can still close my eyes and see every detail of her house and her things. They were old antiques back then but so special to me. Wonderful post and Happy New Year to you! Thank you for always leaving a wonderful comment on my blog.
By: Bouncin Barb on January 3, 2015
We were never a family of big radio/music lovers. I remember my parents sometimes listened to Al Hurt and Pete Fountain and such, but not regularly. But I DID listen to many a college football radio broadcast! Ahh....the days! :)
By: Scott Park on January 3, 2015
My "happy place" was my family's lake lot and cabin, where I learned to love nature and fishing and blueberry-picking and stargazing. We had to give it up 30 years ago but I can still visualize all of it. And part of the memory is the radio in the background with the Twins game. Good times.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on January 4, 2015
My happy places are found in the great outdoors. As a child, time at the cottage... swimming, the row boat, catching tadpoles and frogs. As an adult, time spent diving and observing marine life.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 4, 2015
I don't know if it counts as a happy place, but I can remember how excited I would become when I could tune into WLS out of Chicago during the evenings in the late 60s to early 70s. It was a top-40 radio station back then, and Chicago might as well as have been on the other side of the world to me. Come to think of it, my geographical perspective should have not been so skewed. For I had already actually been much farther away from the southwestern part of Missouri than Chicago with my dad on the pipeline. Nonetheless, I was thrilled every time I would hear such classics as Sugarloaf's Green-Eyed Lady blasting away.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on January 4, 2015
Having served my years working in radio, I made a concerted effort to have fun and hopefully deliver some surprises! Great post!!
By: Michael Manning on January 5, 2015

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