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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Someone Had to be First

October 2, 2015




This reworked post from 11/12/12 is one of my favorites.


We know so many important names in history, the first human to set foot on the moon, the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic or the first intrepid souls to reach the poles or scale Mount Everest, but who was the first person to have their picture taken?


Having our picture snapped is an occurrence we all take for granted. You don’t need to be a famous fashion model to be photographed relentlessly. We’re photographed at the DMV, entering banks and convenience stores, enjoying ourselves at sporting events, pausing at stop lights and often just walking down the street, which many see as a violation of privacy. Conservative estimates place the number of photographs taken by year 2000 at an amazing 85 billion—an incredible 2,500 photos per second—and experts believe we are rapidly closing in on 3.5 trillion photographs. But, as in all things, when it comes to having your picture taken someone had to be first.


In 1838 Louis Daguerre, the father of modern photography, tired of taking still-life pictures of fruit and plaster casts in the corner of his Parisian studio. He aimed his bulky contraption out the window to shoot a photograph of bustling Boulevard du Temple below. He held his camera as steady as he could for ten minutes, the amount of time required for an exposure. His arms must have ached when he finally set down his cumbersome camera. The picture Daguerre later developed showed the boulevard just as he’d seen it. Well, not exactly; the buildings and trees were perfectly recorded, but where were the well-dressed couples promenading down the street? Where were the bustling carriages and prancing horses? What happened to the street peddlers showing their wares to young dandies out for a leisurely stroll? 





Daguerre’s picture took so long to develop that all moving things disappeared from the scene, as if they hadn’t been there at all. Or so it seems. If you look closely at the bottom left hand corner of the image, a man stands on the otherwise empty street. Who is he? Had he been an astronaut or explorer we would surely know his name. He is standing still because he is having his shoes shined—the man doing the polishing is moving too quickly to be recorded and has blurred into oblivion. Upwards of fifty billion pictures of people have been taken since the perfection of photography, and this man, oblivious to the significance of the moment, was the first. Yet we know nothing about him. Perhaps he was someone just like you.


How many times have you paused on a sunny day for a simple pleasure? An ice cream cone, a chat with a friend, a lingering moment on a park bench to watch the world pass by. Haven’t we all done these things and disregarded them as common occurrences unworthy of reflection? Once upon a time a fellow paused to have his shoes shined. 





Treasure each moment of your life because at any moment something extraordinary can happen.





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oh my- lovely post- I have a BFA in photography and can never be found far from my camera....one of my favorite photographer is Henri Cartier-Bresson who once said The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.
By: Kathe W. on October 2, 2015
Excellent post, makes me pause and wonder. Why did it take ten minutes to polish one shoe? I don't wonder very deeply.
By: cranky on October 2, 2015
It would have been awful to stand there without moving for 10 minutes.
By: PT Dilloway on October 2, 2015
If only he'd known. Then again, we don't know when a moment will be that moment.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on October 2, 2015
pretty cool.
By: TexWisGirl on October 2, 2015
Interesting and illuminating as always! :)
By: John on October 2, 2015
Yes, I am familiar with this photo and truly regret we do not have many more of this time in history. But do not worry, our ancestors will have so much to go through that they will erase most of the photos.
By: Tabor on October 2, 2015
I was actually familiar with this photograph!!
By: fishducky on October 2, 2015
Well done.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on October 2, 2015
What an eerie photo, void of life except that one man and the shoe shine boy. The rest vanished. Interesting post.
By: Arkansas Patti on October 2, 2015
Well said, Stephen, and a great post too. A good reminder about life. Thanks.
By: Mr. Shife on October 2, 2015
That's amazing! I knew about that basic history, but had never heard this detail before. And look how tight his pant legs are! He must've been a real dandified gentleman. :)
By: Lexa Cain on October 2, 2015
Very interesting. Thank you for telling us. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 2, 2015
I remember this post from before - still fascinated by the whole story!
By: Pixel Peeper on October 2, 2015
So who was the second person to be phoytographed? That may be a better photo and we can tell who it is.You do have an interesting question and yes you can be in a place that puts you in the spotlight.
By: red on October 2, 2015
Imagine if he was the slovenly sort who didn't care to go about in filthy footware.
By: Val on October 2, 2015
Such a fascinating post. Little did those two men in the photo know they were making history at that very moment!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on October 2, 2015
Did Daguerre ever realize why the people weren't showing in the final picture? Very cool story.
By: jenny_o on October 2, 2015
It is amazing isn't it? I kind of see the blurred image of the one shining the shoes. I am certain we have our faces on tourists photos that are now all over the world and yet, we have no idea where and the people who took them have no idea who we are...we just happened to pass by at that moment. One thing I find sad is of all the pictures and selfies(sick of these) being taken..how many are actually printed?
By: Birgit on October 2, 2015
This picture has fascinated me since the first time i ever saw it. Every moment can be special.
By: mimi on October 2, 2015
Yes I've seen this photo a great deal over the years. Fascinating. But as other people have said 10 minutes seems a very long time to have one shoe cleaned!
By: LL Cool Joe on October 3, 2015
With all these disappearing moments in time, you dear sir are leaving a legacy of paintings. I wonder what will replace digital photography in the future.
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 3, 2015
Well said!
By: The Bug on October 3, 2015
I've seen that picture many times but I never noticed the person standing there. That is thought provoking. He made history and didn't realize it.
By: Rick Watson on October 4, 2015
Fabulous story. So glad you reposted it.
By: Bouncin Barb on October 6, 2015
Interesting post--I never thought about who was the first to be photographed.
By: Sage on October 9, 2015

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