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

Prologue

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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Truckzilla

October 9, 2013

I thought Mrs. C. had lost her mind when she came home from work, excited at having won two tickets in an office pool for an event so outside my field of interest as to be laughable. “You won tickets to what?” I asked.

    

She beamed. “Tickets to a truck and tractor pull.”

    

“What the hell is that?” I asked, hoping the name was a misnomer and this event had nothing to do with trucks or tractors.

    

“As I understand it, trucks and tractors engage in tugs of war, there’s a demolition derby and other events. You can take CJ. He loves cars and trucks. It will be a great bonding experience for the two of you. And Truckzilla will be there. You two will have a great time.”

    

Truckzilla? This didn’t sound like my cup of tea.

    

Our ten year old son was already mesmerized by all things automotive and would undoubtedly have a terrific time, but this was completely outside my comfort zone. “Why don’t you take him?” I pleaded. Mrs. Chatterbox loves cars much more than I do.

    

She glared at me and made a tsk…tsk sound that registered as: Congratulations on being the worst dad ever!

    

I didn’t have a leg to stand on. I’d tried taking CJ to museums, art galleries and other places I was interested in, like antique stores, and he’d rolled his eyes, bored out of his little mind. There was to be no escape; I was going to a truck and tractor pull.

     

You’ll find this hard to believe but, back then, I was somewhat of a snob. I wanted to protect my reputation as a scholar, professor and artist, a renaissance man of culture and sophistication. On the day of the “pull” I reassured myself that no one I knew would attend an event where trucks and tractors pushed each other through mud, or where sports vehicles with ludicrously big tires bounced through the air to crush other cars.

    

The event was held on a Sunday afternoon at the Rose Garden, home of the Portland Trailblazers. This was my first time inside the Rose Garden (no surprise there) and I was amazed by how huge is seemed, so much bigger than it looked on TV. The court was completely covered with dirt, the arena filled to capacity with people who didn’t look like the museum-going crowd with whom I usually socialized.

    

CJ and I found our seats, which happened to be as close to the action as possible without being run down by monster trucks prowling the arena while painted to look like angry velociraptors. Vendors were hawking cold beer, nachos and…ear plugs. I’d never been to an event that sold ear plugs and might have passed on them had not everyone around us purchased a pair.

    

As it turned out, those ear plugs were worth their weight in gold. Once diesel trucks began belching smoke, grinding gears and smacking into each other it would have been painful to not have ear protection. CJ was over the moon with excitement, especially when fire breathing Truckzilla arrived, red lasers darting from his eyes and giant jaws crunching and devouring smaller vehicles.

    

Confession, I did have a good time with my son, but my presence at an event so foreign to me did not go unnoticed. In spite of my assumption that none of the people I knew would attend and catch me at such an event, I was seen by quite a few people I knew. Many of my art clients were there, along with the dean of the college where I taught. And I was recognized by many of my students, most having rejected the idea of buying ear plugs. The next morning during class half a dozen of them commented that I was the last person they expected to see at a truck and tractor pull. I was pleased that they seemed so impressed. I don’t recall what I said to them, but I remember having to shout so they could hear me.

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever been to a truck and tractor pull, or anything outside your comfort zone?



    

 



Comments

26 Comments
My first two marriages were way outside my comfort zone!! You were a good Dad.
By: Cranky on October 9, 2013
hahahah we have been to demo derbies, but never a tractor pull...ear plugs are necessary I am sure! Out of my comfort zone...hmmm...I'm thinking...probably when I was a freshman in college and attended some Sorority "rush" tea parties...now THAT was out of my comfort zone. Sorority sisters eyeballing all us naive freshmen. Needless to say- I didn't join a sorority...too snooty... and yes you were a great dad to go along ....!! Kudos to Mrs C for winning those tickets!
By: Kathe W. on October 9, 2013
Maybe you could have started a whole new business of monster truck artwork.
By: PT Dilloway on October 9, 2013
I have indeed been to a tractor pull. I used to regale people with my take on that event! We were living just outside of Houston at the time. Somebody invited us to go to the Astrodome to a 'tractor'pull'. I'd never heard of such a thing, but went along. The roof of the Astrodome was closed, so it was 'thrilling' to see the black smoke belching from the vehicles fill the place so before long you could not see what was happening very well. In the midst of my extreme boredom with the proceedings, I was perplexed by the excitement of the audience cheering their favourite truck(er) as it tried to pull this ever increasing drag further than any other. And the smell -- I expect there are some people who actually like the smell of diesel permeating the air, their clothes and nostrils. I wish I'd known about the earplugs!
By: The Broad on October 9, 2013
My philosophy on life is to try EVERYTHING at least once--as long as it doesn't hurt someone else!! (That's why I flew in the Vomit Comet & would even have been on Challenger if I could.)
By: fishducky on October 9, 2013
i've been to tractor pulls in wisconsin - nothing in an arena - just down-home pulls in fair grounds or down main street. :)
By: TexWisGirl on October 9, 2013
Strippers at 16 was my jaw-dropping (cultural) experience. Being half-French this was my liberal arts indoctrination... it was most appropriate training for my meeting with Miss. Sweden.
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 9, 2013
I hate loud stuff so I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy a truck pull. But I might go anyway just to people watch :) I think travelling to Zambia by myself was the most "outside my comfort zone" experience. Or maybe it's when I worked in human resources & had to give benefit presentations to new hires...
By: The Bug on October 9, 2013
I have been to a couple of tractor pulls when I was a kid, but that was before Truckzilla, when it was just about farmers pulling with their tractors. Those things are big here in Texas-
By: Shelly on October 9, 2013
My #2 Son has been to more than one, and to live wrestling (he took his little sister to some of these). He loves it. It wouldn't bother me to go, but since friends offered to take them, i let it go at that.
By: mimi on October 9, 2013
Probably going to an opera. It was in a foreign language, so I had no idea what was going on. The whole concept baffled (and still baffles) me. Once was enough. But, at the other extreme, I'm uncomfortable going to events where I'm likely to be the only one there with a full set of teeth, too. S
By: Scott Cody Park on October 9, 2013
No I've never been to one, or heard about it before. But I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'm sure your son was delighted you took him.
By: LL COOL JOE on October 9, 2013
Yes, indeed. An indoor mud bog featuring a "big foot" monster truck. Like you, I was surprised by who I saw there. I was there on assignment, but must confess, I enjoyed it-at least for about 30 minutes.
By: Tom Cochrun on October 9, 2013
I draw the line at rodeos, which is all I care to see in a dirt filled arena. Yee Haw!
By: laurel on October 9, 2013
Never heard of it, but it sounds like the Monster Truck Rally. I think I'd either hate or love it - depending on my mood at the time, or on my company. I've done many things outside of my comfort zone and recently took a client on a Christian Women's Retreat. Not my thing. I like men and Judaism, but it was worthwhile. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on October 9, 2013
Went to a tractor pull in Western Massachusetts in the early 1970s. Was kinda fun, but haven't been back (to a tractor pull, that is; been back to Mass. many times). But anyway, if people saw you there, they were there too, so how could they object?!?
By: tom sightings on October 9, 2013
What a good Dad you were to go. The worse thing I remember was volunteering to chaperone my son's 5th grade class to Boston. Natural childbirth was less painful! Good story.
By: bouncin barb on October 9, 2013
I give you kudos for going to such an event! We're a bit snobbish, too...when we need to go to Walmart, we pick Saturday night, "because all the rednecks that are usually there go to the mud bog monster truck rally then."
By: Pixel Peeper on October 9, 2013
Of course I've been to one. And I wasn't the least bit embarrassed, even though I have a full set of teeth. I see it as doing a service for my fellow man, so he can go to Walmart without fear of running into people like me. As far as something out of my comfort zone...I was persuaded by a gang of friends in college to go view a film at an X-rated movie theater. Thus adding one more colorful thread to the rich tapestry of my life.
By: Val on October 9, 2013
Well, it just goes to show that sometimes we have an idea of what we think we won't like but we really don't know if for fact unless we've tried it. Well done for going and I'm sure you'll be more open the next time Mrs C wins a prize, ha ha ha. It looks really exciting from the photos, and now you're in the 'cool' books of all the other people you knew and bumped into. I loved the comment from Cranky, stating 'my first two marriages were way outside my comfort zone', ha ha h ha.
By: Rum Punch Drunk on October 10, 2013
Can NASCAR and bags of pork rinds be far behind? You go with your bad self! I once took my daughter to the "Powerpuff Girls" movie. At no time did she see that I was sound asleep. I get credit for being a good Dad and am comforted that she (may) be reluctant to pull the plug 20 or 30 years hence. Plus, I had a good nap.
By: Al Penwasser on October 10, 2013
Since I have started dating Red, she has taken me to classical concerts, countless museums, and fancy restaurants. When it came my turn to plan a weekend, I took her to a clown parade. Luckily, we really love each other.
By: Brett Minor on October 10, 2013
No, Stephen, I haven't. But it certainly sounded different, and I understood what you were saying about how odd it felt.
By: Michael Manning on October 11, 2013
I hate to admit but when I attend a Catholic mass with relatives I feel very much out of my comfort zone. I tend to be able to blend in psychologically almost everywhere else...that is legal to be...that is.
By: Tabor on October 13, 2013
Well done. It would be outside my comfort zone too. What a difference it made to your "street cred!"
By: John on October 13, 2013
The Cranky beat me to it.
By: Uncle Skip on October 13, 2013

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