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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The Dreaded Letter

July 27, 2015

I’m at an age where I knew this was coming and it was something I’d have to face. It’s already happened to Mrs. Chatterbox, several times, and now it’s my turn. And I’m dreading it. The letter came in yesterday’s mail. After more than twenty years, my primary care physician is retiring.


As a self-employed individual, purchasing my own healthcare would have been ridiculously expensive, so my coverage has been provided, at nominal expense, through Mrs. C’s employer. I was assigned a doctor and soon realized he and I weren’t a good fit. He wasn’t chatty, had no sense of humor, and was lacking the quality I most demand in a doctor or anyone doing unmentionable things to me—warm hands.


I selected another doctor, this time based on pictures in the lobby. As an artist and illustrator, I always judge books by their covers, and Dr. Lazar Burton, that’s his real name, appeared nonjudgmental, pleasant, had a nice smile and looked like he had warm hands. Dr. Burton has kept me healthy over the years. Because of his winning personality and our shared interest in art, I’ve been a loyal patient, driving into downtown Portland and paying to park instead of finding a new doctor closer to home. I remember turning fifty, when he informed me it was time to schedule my first colonoscopy. He explained the procedure and I knew right away this was not something I was likely to do.


He could tell from my expression I wasn’t convinced that having a camera shoved up my backside was a good idea. He said, “Steve, I’m the same age as you and two years ago during my colonoscopy they found cancer. I wouldn’t be alive today if I hadn’t had the procedure.”


“That sounds like a well-rehearsed story,” I said at the time, “ like the one where your parents send the family dog to the pound and tell you it went to live on a farm somewhere.”


He laughed; he has a great laugh. “I thought you’d say something like that.” He pulled out a peculiar photograph and handed it to me.


“What’s this?”


“It’s a photograph of my colon. The circled area is cancer.”


I was impressed; even if this photograph was fake, it showed a lot of forethought. My parents never showed me a photo of that farm Rex was sent to. I scheduled my colonoscopy and was pleased to find I was polyp free, had no diverticulosis and was clean as a whistle. No signs of cancer.

My weight has been an issue, and Dr. Lazar hasn’t cut me any slack, although he’s made it possible for me to step on a scale without making me want to add to my weight by eating a bullet sandwich. When I last saw him, shortly after returning from Europe, he said, “You weight the same as the last time you were here. Why is that?”

“F*%K YOU,” I said. “I just came back from Germany, Austria and Switzerland! Do you have any idea how much incredible food I turned down? I’m proud I didn’t GAIN weight on my vacation.”

He smiled as he snapped a latex glove on his hand and told me to bend over for my prostate exam, what my late father-in-law called getting the “finger wave.”


Now Dr. Lazar is retiring. He wants to volunteer his services to communities with low income families who can’t afford healthcare. I wish him well, even though I don’t look forward to finding a new straight-talking doctor with a sense of humor—and warm hands.



Have you had a doctor or favorite healthcare provider retire on you?




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Finding a new doctor is never fun. Fortunately the one I have now has a twisted sense of humor. He should've been proud of you for not gaining weight.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on July 27, 2015
I moved and left behind a good doctor or two. I fired my last doctor. He was good but had not bedside manner. I found a good female doctor last year and she fired me as she is moving to an area where she can make more money! I meet her replacement this fall...so we shall see.
By: Tabor on July 27, 2015
I'm not looking forward to my first colonoscopy. Sigh. Why can't I just stay young forever?
By: Michael Offutt on July 27, 2015
GREAT cartoon!!
By: fishducky on July 27, 2015
Yes, I have had a few retire or move, too. While in CA, I used my Mom's Doctor after my mom died. I figured the doctor had an opening now! I only went once when I couldn't shake a cough and then she moved to So. CA. I never did see replacement but claimed him as my doctor. They all wanted me to get colonoscopy, but I have consistently said I'll think about it and never went. A hassle to arrange someone to take me.
By: Linda on July 27, 2015
I have never had a regular doctor so for this last heath episode, I had to hunt to find one who took new patients. Goodness are they getting picky these days. Loved the cartoon.
By: Akansas Patti on July 27, 2015
YES! and I hated it! However he retired at the same time we were moving 350miles- so was he quitting on me or the reverse!? Fortunately we found two good docs who share a practice here - so ALL IS WELL! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on July 27, 2015
Finding a new doctor, dentist, insurance carrier, pharmacy and getting a new driver's license was all part of our move to California. The only advice I can offer you is to look for a doctor with small hands. That is a particular asset when it comes time for the finger wave.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 27, 2015
Yep. I've had multiple doctors and dentists retire or die on me. Just when I get them broken in good, it's time to start all over again with someone new. It hasn't even helped to sign on with doctors who are younger than I am. Come to think of it, I don't guess I have much choice on that one... they're ALL younger than I am these days.
By: Susan Swiderski on July 27, 2015
Finding the right doctor is a big deal. My current doctor is a wannabee doctor. Has no people skills. I could go on but I won't. I hope you find Doctor Right.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 27, 2015
You have my sympathy. I've never had a doctor retire on me. Instead, I move, and they don't go with me. I adored my doctor in Illinois. I don't know why he doesn't join me in Florida. I found a good doctor here. She promptly moved to an office at the beach--a long drive, especially if I don't feel well. I saw the doctor who took her place. He doesn't want me to call him by his first name, and his first words were "I want to talk to you about what you put in your mouth." Does he know I provide Willy Dunne Wooters with the occasional blowjob? Oh, he thinks I eat too much. He wants me to eat nothing but vegetables. But Dr. #*&!, how come you didn't notice I've lost forty pounds? Can't you say anything nice to me? I think I'll drive to the beach. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 27, 2015
Several doctors back, our family doctor (a woman) decided to become a boutique doctor. You have to pay some huge sum up front and then you can reach her anytime you want. We opted to find a new doctor and found another woman we liked. After a couple of years she announced she was becoming a hospitalist and closing her practice. So we got another one. Nice oriental man this time. After a year or two he too decided to become a hospitalist. Then we moved to Phoenix and found a new one there. Then we moved back and found a very young guy we didn't like. Now we have another new one. This guy seems very nice, we both like him. We just hope he'll enjoy his practice and out-live us.
By: Catalyst on July 27, 2015
I've left a few doctors behind because of moves. I feel indifferent about my gynecologist, but I really like my family doctor - we chat about books we read and stuff like that. Good luck finding a great new doctor!
By: Pixel Peeper on July 27, 2015
Well, i had to find a new doctor after i quit having babies and decided it was too far to go to the next town to see my Ob/Gyn. Sweetie's ear doctor retired, but he found a much better one close to home.
By: messymimi on July 27, 2015
My favorite dentist retired. I was passed on to a good dentist. I just found a new physician and he's awesome and pretty young. I have the feeling he's a climber and may move on.
By: red on July 27, 2015
My long-time primary car physician didn't retire. He died. He was the same age as me. That was very upsetting. For an account of the first visit with my new doctor check out my post Vitamin D May Help Stop Cancer.
By: Tom Sightings on July 27, 2015
That's tough. It's so hard to find a doctor you have such a good connection with. It probably makes you want to bend over for him just one last time. I've had fairly good luck with docs not leaving me, but I couldn't find one around here. I settled, instead, for a part-time nurse. She's great, but I have to be strategy when I visit her, and there will most likely come a day when I have to start anew. On another note, thanks so much for your cheer for my book - on my and Alex's blogs. I really appreciate it. =)
By: Robyn Engel on July 27, 2015
Whew! I thought you were talking about the AARP letter there for a minute.
By: Val on July 27, 2015
Through some miracle, I've had great doctors...except one I had as a child and I'll never forget him. In a way, he did me a favor because he taught me never to put up with a bad doctor. I actually kept going to him when I moved out on my own till I finally dumped him. Then, I couldn't believe it was so easy to do...why suffer? By the way...never skip the colonoscopy.
By: Cherdo on July 27, 2015
A truly caring doctor is a big plus.
By: John on July 28, 2015
I realize that there has to be some good doctors out there when grading on a bell curve.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 28, 2015
My colonoscopy was a breeze - in fact, afterward I was suspicious about whether they'd actually DONE anything. Ha! LOVE that cartoon!
By: The Bug on July 28, 2015
Not yet. My financial consultant recently retired and I'm not sure about his replacement, so I kinda get it.
By: cranky on July 28, 2015
I have had 3 of them-the worst is drinking that vile crap made by Stalin and having to be chained to the toilet for a day. The actual day, I am out like a light and got a clean bill of health-clean in so many ways
By: Birgit on July 29, 2015
I feel your pain. We got "the letter" from our Doctor in the New Year and he retired in April. This man delivered both our babies. He was so committed to his practice. My husband and I likened him to the Wayne Gretsky of Doctors (I think people who are not Canadian will know who Wayne Gretsky is) Anyhow he found a replacement for his practice. I've been to see him twice. He seems nice enough. Time will tell. You don't realize how fortunate you are to have a Dr. you feel comfortable with and keeps current in his knowledge until they retire. Best of luck finding a new Doc.
By: Beckie on July 30, 2015
Unfortunately I had one of the best old fashioned doctors pass away from cancer. He was such an awesome human being that I walked through the cemetery to find his grave and thanked him for everything. Never had another doctor as good as him.
By: Bouncin Barb on July 31, 2015
Several of my favorite doctors retired over the years. I've never really found a good replacement.
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on July 31, 2015

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