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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Blog Archive

Doggone!

November 30, -0001 :: written in: All Blog Posts
On Monday I published a post about Ginger, the pet who tugged hardest on our heart strings. If you missed it, check it out (here). There was more to the story. I wasn’t present when the events of this tale unfolded, but Mrs. Chatterbox filled me in on the details.   It was 1997. Our beloved pet Ginger, who’d lived with us for nearly ten years, had been put to sleep when her organs shut down two years earlier. Mrs. C. was shopping at Macy’s. After entering the lingerie department and browsing through a few racks, she spotted an uncomfortable looking man, fidgeting while holding what was presumably his wife’s purse. Mrs. C. isn’t in the habit of looking at strange men (unless they’re first-string fir ... read more

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Bugs and Bistros

August 03, 2011 :: written in: Five Most Popular Posts
My wife and I recently dined at her favorite bistro in a fashionable part of town not far from where we live. After being seated, I placed my napkin on my lap. When it dropped to the floor, I bent down to retrieve it and noticed a dead cockroach under our table. I’m not particularly squeamish—little over the years has prompted me to lose my appetite—but the sight of that cockroach conjured up another incident in another restaurant years ago.      In 1976, Sue and I had only been married two years when we decided to backpack our way through Europe. We’d just landed in Athens. With a copy of Frommer’s Europe on Ten Dollars a Day in hand, we sought a place to sample the local cuisine. We gambled on ... read more

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Gentlemen's Club

August 11, 2011 :: written in: Five of My Favorite Posts
When our son CJ turned twenty-one his mother and I wanted to do something special for him. We didn’t want him to drink and drive, so we flew him and a buddy who’d already turned twenty-one to Las Vegas where they could celebrate without the need for wheels. After checking into their hotel, our son’s buddy went to the concierge desk and said, “Today is my best friend’s twenty-first birthday. Can you suggest an interesting way for us to celebrate?” The concierge said, “Dress in the best clothes you have and be in front of the hotel at ten p.m. I’ll send a limo to pick you up.” So that’s what they did. At ten p.m. they climbed into a limo that drove them out into the desert. Twenty m ... read more

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Near Death By Chocolate

September 23, 2011 :: written in: Five of My Favorite Posts
Ships this size don’t sink, I told myself. Sure maybe in movies, but I wasn’t Leonardo De Caprio and this wasn’t the Titanic. More than two thousand souls were on board and we couldn’t possibly be facing the unimaginable. Still, the storm was strengthening and waves were getting pretty darn high, breaking over most of the decks. The ship was plunging into deep troughs and moaning when she rose up to catch the wind, and from the window of our cabin I could see crew members preparing lifeboats. We had been ordered to stay off the decks and balconies, and told to have our lifejackets ready. Our ship was Holland America’s Amsterdam, a full day out of Glacier Bay when the storm caught us in open water on The Bay of ... read more

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Stand All Ye Faithful

September 30, 2011 :: written in: Five of My Favorite Posts
Not long ago I realized a bitter truth; I’d been turning a blind eye to our environmental problems. I did very little recycling and took my gas guzzling car to places I could have, and should have, walked. My studio was downtown and I decided to take the bus to work. Leaving my car in the garage made me feel like part of the solution instead of part of the problem. That first day, the bus was only partially full when I climbed aboard. I had one of the double seats to myself, but eventually someone plunked down beside me, a chatty morning person with solutions to all of the world’s problems. The next day a woman on the seat beside me applied make-up and doused herself with perfume. And more disturbing, several passengers infor ... read more

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Failure To Yield

November 30, 2011 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yesterday I drove into a traffic circle where three streets converged. I slowed down for the yield sign before entering and had just completed the curve to another street when a traffic cop appeared from nowhere, lights blazing. Being pulled over was a new experience for me and I was curious to learn what I’d done to deserve it.      “What seems to be the problem, Officer?” I asked, sounding like a tweeker on Cops.      After requesting my driver’s license and proof of insurance he said, “You failed to yield before entering the traffic circle.”      “But I slowed down,” I explained.      “You didn&r ... read more

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The Bomb Shelter Game

February 20, 2012 :: written in: Five Most Popular Posts
  Back in 1967 when I was a junior in high school, Mr. Farrington, our social studies teacher, came up with an interesting idea that made us all stop thinking about our raging hormones to focus on something nearly as important—survival. The Soviet Union hadn’t crumbled yet and nuclear annihilation remained a distinct possibility, so engaging in a life and death struggle for survival, even if it was only a game, was far more interesting than the usual drivel we were exposed to in class. The game revolved around an imaginary bomb shelter. Pretend bombs were on their way from Russia and we got to decide which of our classmates got to live or die.   This was long before reality TV where pampered people get voted off a ... read more

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The Bird And The Bees

March 09, 2012 :: written in: Five of My Favorite Posts
Excerpt from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope:   When I was thirteen my best friend Ricky Delgado asked me, “What do you think of Sally Perkins?”   “Sally Perkins? I dunno. Why do you ask?” Sally lived three houses down. When she was five or six, she pulled her pants down over by the lamp post. I hadn’t thought about her much since then.   “Do you think she’s cute?”   “I guess so.”   “Don’t you think she has nice boobs?”   I hadn’t noticed that Sally Perkins had boobs, nice or otherwise. “I guess so.”   “My old man tried to give me ‘the talk’ last night,” Ricky said. &l ... read more

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My Misguided Attempt at Erotica

March 23, 2012 :: written in: Five Most Popular Posts
A new friend recently posted a titillating piece of erotica that sent me dashing for my second shower of the day. I wish I could write racy prose, not that I haven’t tried. Years ago I learned that many bodice-ripper romances, similar to those that filled Mrs. C’s bookshelves, were written by men. I set my sights on becoming a romance novelist. My manuscript was called For Love Returned, and my heroine, Allison, was described as someone capable of giving a marble statue an erection. She lived in eighteenth century England and was engaged to a handsome sea captain named Justin. Their happiness was cut short when Allison was convicted and sent to prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Logic, it seemed, wasn’t a necessar ... read more

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Whales and the " F " Word

April 06, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It was an all-too-common situation; cocky college kid comes home eager to impress his blue collar parents with his newly acquired knowledge. The topic? Not politics or religion or social values. The topic was…whales. Dad was wise enough to rise from his chair and scurry from the kitchen before Mom and I drew our weapons. In my defense, I had no idea this topic would prompt a yelling match, or that I’d resort to yelling out the “F” word in our house for the first time.      It started out as a harmless comment. “We’ve been studying whales in my zoology class. They’re certainly incredible creatures.” This was back in the early Seventies when whales were being hunted to ... read more

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Masterstrokes

April 11, 2012 :: written in: Five Most Popular Posts
In 1983 I had a stroke of genius, or so I thought.   I was unhappy with my career in retail and ready for a change. One evening after a grueling day of peddling hardware I picked up one of Mrs. Chatterbox’s decorating magazines and noticed that a few of the rooms on display had reproductions of famous paintings, not prints but high caliber oil copies. I had a degree in Fine Arts and I decided to try and make a go of it as a painter. Creating copies for rich clients might be a lucrative way to start. If somebody wanted Gainsborough’s Blue Boy hanging above their fireplace and couldn’t convince the Huntington Library in San Marino to part with it, they could call me and I’d come up with the next best thing&mdash ... read more

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Single-Ply Miracle

April 23, 2012 :: written in: Five of My Favorite Posts
Last Friday I got up at 6:00 AM to go swimming at our public pool. I usually celebrate this rare act of exercise by bringing home pastries from the Albertsons I pass along the way. Mrs. Chatterbox has Fridays off and sleeps in. She works for the local police department and is always telling me where crimes occur, such as the local swim center. She’s made me promise to leave my credit card at home before heading to the pool.   Two weeks ago as I prepared to go swimming, I noticed both of our bathrooms were out of toilet paper. Anticipating how grumpy she would be on waking up without any, I decided to pick up a package on my way home, along with the pastries. Usually we buy toilet paper in bulk from Costco, massive mattress-si ... read more

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The Dreaded Physical

May 14, 2012 :: written in: Five Most Popular Posts
Health maintenance wasn’t an expression heard much around my house while I was growing up. If you fell and your arm or leg was bent the wrong way, it was okay to go to the doctor. Otherwise, buck up and don’t be a crybaby. Today we’re encouraged to see our doctors often, at my age (fifty-nine) once a year. I’m not fond of the humiliation that goes with a routine physical and don’t get them as regularly as I should. I would probably avoid them completely but doctors get you all hopped up on prescription drugs and then cut you off if you don’t pay them a visit every few months.   Confession: I like my doctor, which helps considering the up close and personal things he does to me, but an appointment w ... read more

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The Snake Charmer

July 13, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  The studio was packed with friends and admirers who’d come to celebrate an unappreciated old man, someone who’d long since given up on success and acclaim. Well-wishers raising their glasses to toast Henri Rousseau all shared a secret; the guest of honor was a shameful liar.      Rousseau was a generation older than these new kids on the block, artists like Pablo Picasso. Picasso had lent his studio and arranged the banquet for Rousseau. The Spaniard was one of the few who knew the artist’s real name. Most of those patting the old man on the back referred to him simply as Le Douanier (the customs officer). Even this was a lie, spread by Rousseau himself. He never held the position of customs ... read more

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Flash Fiction

August 16, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today I’m submitting Flash Fiction for the guys at Dude Write, a great site worth checking out if you haven’t already. I’ve never attempted Flash Fiction before and the dudes have set some rules. First, no more than five hundred words, a stretch for anyone with “chatterbox” in their name—I’ve managed to keep my word count to 498. Second, the first sentence must be: Never one to turn down a dare…. I’ve based this story on a piece I wrote a while back so, for some of you, parts of this might seem familiar. Stupid Men and the Sea   Never one to turn down a dare, I climbed into the dinky boat. Two hours after departing the Santa Monica marina, I wondered if I was going to die, j ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #13

September 02, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Some of my new followers might not be familiar with a Chubby Chatterbox feature called Peculiar Pictures. I was a professional illustrator for many years and much of my work was done on spec or for my own amusement. I have a file cabinet of “peculiar pictures” that have yet to sell. Many of these images just popped out of my head, like this one showing me in an uncharacteristically surreal mood. Like you, I can only guess what it means.   I often receive comments from followers saying they don’t know much about art and they don’t want to say something foolish. Trust me; you can’t say anything foolish. There isn’t a correct answer, but you just might provide me with a way to market this image. Do yo ... read more

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History And Other Lies

September 03, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Last week while on vacation I managed to catch a bit of the Republican Convention. Whenever I tuned in, a speaker was describing the virtues of the greatest man in the history of our country. They weren’t talking about their nominee; they were invoking the memory of Ronald Reagan. As I listened I wondered, Who are you talking about? The Reagan being deified didn’t resemble the president I voted for back in the ‘80s. Reagan’s record was being completely distorted to make the late president more palatable to today’s über conservative Republicans. Gone were the Great Communicator’s brilliance at compromise and his pragmatic tax increases. I scarcely knew the man they were extolling. Where did the Republ ... read more

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Crazy Horse Update

September 05, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
For years I’ve been following the progress of the Crazy Horse Memorial, the world's largest sculpture, now in progress, located just 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore. I want to share a few pictures for those of you who are unfamiliar with this project or haven’t followed its progress recently. Monuments like Mount Rushmore contain images carved into a mountain, but this is the first time the dream of carving an entire mountain will become reality. The Crazy Horse Memorial, carved with dynamite, will be the largest work of art ever created by the hands of man. Not even the pharaohs of Egypt dreamt on this scale.   Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculptor responsible for the Memorial, assisted in the creation of Mount Rushmore. ... read more

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Burgie The Carpet King

September 07, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Regular readers of this blog are familiar with my thwarted childhood quest for a dog. As a kid I was never permitted to have pets unless they were small enough to flush down the toilet once I’d loved them to death, but I was chummy with most of the neighborhood canines.   One dog that left his mark on my childhood was Burgie the Carpet King. Burgie was a bug-eyed bulldog with a head shaped like a jack-o-lantern. He belonged to the Holloways across the street. Burgie once had a close encounter with that other self-proclaimed monarch of the neighborhood, my mother—no lover of pets. The Holloways were headed to Texas to visit relatives and I was paid a dollar a day to check on Burgie in their backyard, sweep out his dog hous ... read more

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Flying Without A Net

September 09, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Last night I did something in bed I haven’t done in years. I was contentedly lying there, dreaming I was King of Bloggers and had finally figured out the difference between further and farther, and a while and awhile, when it happened. Mrs. Chatterbox was on the far side of our king-size bed and in no position to monitor what was going on. That’s when it happened. I felt ashamed when it was over. I mean, I’m not a kid anymore and this sort of thing doesn’t happen to grown men, even men with bladders shrunken to the size of peanuts and requiring frequent trips to the bathroom.   Okay, I’ve let you entertain prurient thoughts long enough. I didn’t abuse myself or have a nocturnal accident last night. ... read more

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Giant Killer

September 10, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Several of you asked if I ever found the albino tadpole mentioned in "Burgie the Carpet King." As Paul Harvey would have said,"Here's the rest of the story." In the early 60s, I whiled away summer days under the sycamore tree in the front yard of our modest Kilarney Park home. Never far away was my best friend Ricky Delgado. One morning Ricky said, “Let’s go check out Cabrillo Creek.”   “Naw.” I was enjoying a library book about a pet turtle that solved crimes.   Ricky stretched like a bored cat. “Maybe we’ll find something interesting. My cousin lives in Sacramento and once saw an alligator sunning itself on a floating refrigerator in the Sacramento River. Maybe today we’ll f ... read more

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9/11 Generation

September 11, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I wrote this post last year on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I think it's still appropriate. A few months after September 11th when the horrors of that day had receded into ache and outrage, my son came up to me and said, “You know, Grandma and Grandpa had December 7th, and you and Mom had November 22nd, but until September 11th I hadn’t experienced a defining moment in time.” It’s been ten years since 9/11 and I’m still thinking about his comment. He seemed to be saying that 9/11 was a generational event. “It’s an anchor in time,” my son said when questioned further. “I’ll always know where I was and what I was doing when the towers came down and those planes flew into the Pe ... read more

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Conclusion: Giant Killer

September 12, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Ricky let out a shrill whistle and waved urgently to stop me from staring at the Scottish lady on the billboard. A mistake. He drew unwanted attention before running away.   Chris Ferris and two of his henchmen, Donny Greco and Phil Jaggly, approached like jackals about to pounce on Bambi. Chris Ferris, a head and a half taller than me, had long ago assumed the task of making my life miserable. Jaggly, who had so many freckles it looked like a fountain pen had exploded in his face, spent many an afternoon in detention. Greco, like Ricky, was becoming well-known by the police. I was too fat and slow to get away, and they took their time surfing the gravel slope to the bottom of the creek.   Ferris, with his trademark toothpick ... read more

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Peeping Toms

September 14, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Writing coaches caution anyone from starting a story with: It was a dark and stormy night, but I’ve always wanted to begin a tale with these words and now you know what I think of writing coaches. Anyway, Mrs. Chatterbox and I had only been married a few years and were living in a duplex in Oxnard, California, so close to the beach that our driveway was covered in sand.        One stormy evening, Mrs. Chatterbox phoned to say she was leaving work late and was in no mood to fix dinner. “I’ll pick up something on the way home,” she said.         I  felt guilty that she was the one caught in the storm. “It’s raining pretty hard. Be careful, ... read more

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Don't Quit Your Day Job

September 16, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Let’s start on a high note: Did you know that in addition to being an engineer, inventor, philosopher and painter, Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) was also a comedian? In his day he was considered quite the cut-up on the comedy circuits of the Renaissance. Here’s a genuine five hundred year old Leonardo joke taken from one of his notebooks:        A wealthy patron asked a famous artist, “How is it that you create such beautiful paintings but the children you create are so ugly?” The artist replied, “It’s because I create my painting in the bright light of day but I create my children at night, in the dark.”        I know what advice you’d giv ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #14

September 17, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This illustration was marketed on my Royalty-Free CD Business Fundamentals, sold on the Internet by Getty Images. Unlike some of the illustrations I’ve posted, this “peculiar picture” has sold very well outside of the United States, the last time to a company in South Korea. Since I don’t read or speak languages other than English, I have no idea what foreign companies are marketing with the help of my illustrations. Do you have any idea?

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What Do You Believe In?

September 19, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I recently had a disturbing conversation with my eighty-seven year old mother, which isn’t unusual because so many of my conversations with Mom these days are unsettling. While it’s common for the elderly to focus on the past, claiming everything was better in the “old days,” my mother has chosen to see the world through a dark lens. For her, everything is horrible. The world is tearing apart at the seams. America is on its last legs. Our freedoms are being whittled away and all politicians should be taken out and shot.        In truth, my mother has always been as supportive of the Federal government as a bootlegger hiding a still during Prohibition. When I point this out to her she claims ... read more

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Multitasking

September 21, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve struggled with this idea of multitasking for a long time, wondering why my wife can keep so many plates spinning in the air while I have difficulty remembering to bring my plate to the sink after she’s prepared a delicious meal. Multitasking probably developed shortly after humans stepped out of caves. Men stomped off to acquire meat at the walk up window at Bison King while women frittered away hours fending off predatory animals, stoked fires, gathered fruits, grains and nuts, tended babies, and developed language and culture. But my wife is hardly concerned with my anthropological examination of multitasking—she just wants me to get off my ass and do more around the house.   Mrs. Chatterbox has great diffi ... read more

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Sex And The Senile Girl

September 23, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Conversations with my mother can be disturbing (Check out my recent post What Do You Believe In?) but she also makes me laugh. I call every morning to check on her. This morning’s conversation went like this: “Good morning, Mom. What are you doing?”      “Same as always. Surviving.”      Surviving is her favorite response when asked what she’s doing. “You sound a bit listless. You okay?”      “Just tired. Couldn’t sleep last night.”      “Anything bothering you?”      “I’m eighty-seven years old. EVERYTHING bothers me.”&nbs ... read more

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An Edsel and The Crown Jewels

September 24, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Our annual kick-off event for the summer of ’63 had just begun; neighborhood kids had gathered around the Zenith in our living room to watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The local TV station always ran the comedy the Saturday after school let out. We watched the movie in a different house each summer. This year it was my turn.   Dad was attending big brother’s baseball game and I couldn’t wait for my mother to make herself scarce. She’d already hung around too long. I was worried when the movie started that she’d give us all a lecture on Mary Shelley and other female writers. I was relieved when she finally retreated to the room she referred to as her boudoir—to my knowledge the only boud ... read more

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Conclusion: An Edsel and The Crown Jewels

September 26, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
After his brush with death, Bud Holloway herded his family into Moby Dick—the enormous white Edsel that had nearly crushed him—and headed to Texas for a visit with his mama. Hollowhead later described what happened.   As Bud drove through Albuquerque, he toyed with the radio and managed to tune into a radio station somewhere in Midland, Texas, which coincidentally was close to where they were headed.   The disk jockey came on and announced a contest. “Our l’il ole’ radio station is gonna give away a check for one hundred dollars to the first ‘58 car to pull into our parking lot.” The deejay set a one hour time limit for someone to claim the prize. Hollowhead said his dad didn’t ... read more

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A Masterpiece of Loathing

September 28, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The Family of Carlos IV hangs in a place of honor in Madrid’s Prado Museum. At first glance Goya’s painting doesn’t seem exceptional, just a bunch of self-satisfied people dressed in finery while having their group portrait painted. But if we look harder we can see what prompted Ernest Hemingway to call this painting a masterpiece of loathing.   Francisco Goya (1746-1828) held the position of First Painter to the King of Spain, and was his personal friend. In fact, the two liked to wrestle when prying eyes weren’t around. But Goya’s integrity as an artist compelled him to depict the king warts and all. Goya was an ill-mannered skirt chaser, a relentless social climber, and stone deaf. The artist also &n ... read more

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Prepare To Die

September 30, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
“I’m sorry, but I have to kill you.”   “Why? Am I bothering you?”   “No, but that isn’t the point.”   “What is the point? I have a right to know. After all, it’s my life we’re talking about.”   “Well, it’s hardly a life. After all, you’re only a spider.”   “Only a spider? How dare you! I belong to a species so perfect in design that nature hasn’t changed me in hundreds of millions of years. Do you know what humans looked like millions of years ago? Here’s a clue: check the treetops.”   “So you admit that humans are more evolved than spiders?”   “You miss th ... read more

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The Avengers

October 01, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts

Mrs. Chatterbox and I just finished watching The Avengers and I have two questions:

 

#1 Why is it that if I eat one taco too many the button on my waistband shoots from my pants with enough velocity to put out an eye, yet the Hulk can expand ten times his normal size without his pants ripping to shreds?

 

#2 Where can I buy these pants?



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You Be The Judge

October 03, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A Virginia woman bought a box of junk for seven dollars at a local flea market. When she got home she found a small painting in the box, a nicely framed landscape. The painting didn’t interest her but she felt the frame had value. A gold tag fixed to the frame identified the artist. She didn’t recognize the name: Renoir.   The woman’s mother stopped her from ripping the painting from the frame and convinced her to have it appraised. Experts at an auction house identified the canvas as a modest but authentic Pierre-Auguste Renoir and suggested an opening bid in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand dollars. Then the FBI got involved.   Renoir is extremely famous and his paintings can fetch millions of dollars ... read more

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Never Look Back

October 05, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A friend of mine named Jim recently had an interesting experience while vacationing at the Oregon Coast. Debris from the Japanese tsunami continues to make its way across the ocean and all sorts of items float ashore. Jim tells me he’s seen plastic bottles with Japanese labels, tires and sports equipment. But early one morning on an isolated beach he recently spotted something else on the sand, something struggling.   Jim approached and saw a large dolphin, its tail tangled in a heavy nylon fishing net. Jim pulled out his pocket knife and cut away the net, but when finished the tide was out, leaving the dolphin stranded on the beach. No one else was around to help but an undeterred Jim grabbed the dolphin by the tail and dragge ... read more

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Pure Love

October 07, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In the United States September 9th was Grandparents Day. The event passed without fanfare; I wasn’t aware of it until today. Mrs. Chatterbox and I aren’t grandparents yet but we haven’t given up hope. In the meantime, I’d like to share an interesting painting with you.   A few years ago Mrs. C. and I were in Paris.While walking through the endless galleries of the Louvre, Mrs. C. felt the call of nature and headed off to find the ladies’ room. I waited for her in a nearby gallery where I noticed this painting by Ghirlandaio (Gear-land-eye-o). Like so many of the paintings in the Louvre, I’d seen this one reproduced in art books. Quite frankly, I never thought much of it, but I was stuck waiting for ... read more

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Forgiving Michael Jackson

October 08, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In 1984 Michael Jackson was flying high with Thriller, voted the most influential pop music video ever. I was managing a jewelry store in Oregon at the time and Jackie, one of my employees, approached to ask for a few days off.   “Why?” I asked.   Jackie was one of my best salespeople when she wasn’t attending classes at the local college. She seldom asked for time off. “I want to buy tickets for the Michael Jackson Concert at the Tacoma Dome up near Seattle. The concert is in a few months and tickets go on sale in two days. I plan to camp on the sidewalk in front of Ticketmaster to have a crack at choice seats.”   Here was the solution to a problem I’d been struggling with; what to g ... read more

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New And Improved

October 15, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Do you hate this slogan as much as I do: New & Improved? These words are little more than corporate graffiti, a reason to place a hand over your wallet. If it wasn’t already good as can be, why were you selling an inferior product? And how long have you known it wasn’t up to snuff? Also, new & improved is usually the manufacturer’s way of coercing you into paying more for less, chicanery that includes keeping the box or bottle the same size so you won’t notice you’re being robbed. On this curiously inappropriate note I take great pleasure in announcing the new & improved Chubby Chatterbox.      Some readers have asked why I’m tinkering with my blog; many of you love Chu ... read more

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Manly Me!

October 17, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This morning Mrs. Chatterbox said to me,” So how’s that shampoo I bought for you?”   I’d asked her to pick up some more when she went to the store because the bottle in my gym bag was empty. I looked up from my iPad and said, “It’s fine.”      “She looked at me curiously. “Did you notice anything different?”      “Can’t say I did. But it was nice. Real sudsy.”      “Was it different from the shampoo you’ve been using?”      I set down my iPad. “What am I missing here.”      “The shampoo I bought was specifically ... read more

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Killed By The Cure

October 19, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Last night while watching TV a commercial appeared that went something like this. (Note: imagine this being voiced over by a minor celebrity from the Seventies whose career stalled after several DUIs.)      “Is your life so empty that you don’t care your kids are now covered in tattoos heralding a Zombie Apocalypse, or that your spouse has a house account at the Embassy Suites and a credit card receipt for a strip pole in his hotel room?  Or that you’ve broken the tail-wagging mechanism on the formerly exuberant golden retriever that now whimpers and drags his butt across the carpet when you walk into the room?”      The TV screen showed a dreary montage of average ... read more

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Expiration dates

October 22, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
“Haven’t I told you to stop doing that?” my wife growled while scowling at me from a barstool on the far side of the kitchen counter.      “Yes, you’ve told me to stop doing it.”      “How long would you say I’ve been asking you not to do it?”      I gave it some thought. “About forty years.”      Her lips tightened into a line. “You really are a slow learner.”      Mrs. Chatterbox and I are usually sympatico—Tweedledee and Tweedledum joined together at the hip—but on this we’re worlds apart, hostiles on opposite sides of the Neutral Zo ... read more

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Cheaters Never Prosper?

October 24, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
We say it to kids all the time, but it isn’t true: cheaters very often do prosper. Case point, Venice in 1564. Back then, rich dudes would donate money to build social clubs dedicated to popular saints, which in Venice meant a saint whose body had been stolen and brought to Venice. (Check out my post Conspiracy, Theft and Sin for the outrageous manner in which St. Mark’s body was smuggled into Venice.) These clubs were places where rich folks could pretend to be pious while patting themselves on the back for arranging to have been born into rich families.       The Scuolo Grande di San Rocco (The Confraternity of Saint Roch) was one of these clubs. In 1564 artwork was needed to cover the interior of ... read more

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Death In The Family

October 26, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Everyone I might have offended with this post is dead, except my mother who doesn’t have a computer, and there’s something I’d like to get off my chest. I’ve always been suspicious of the manner in which my uncle died.      This happened when I was two years old so I’ve had to piece together a picture of the event from various relatives, mostly my mother who was not actually there when the tragedy took place.      My mother’s boisterous Portuguese family had gathered at Anderson Reservoir, a recently opened man-made lake along Coyote Creek in California’s Santa Clara County.  As the story goes, five or six family members, including my Uncle Laddie, ... read more

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Ghost of Kilarney Park

October 28, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In keeping with the season I’m reposting a true Halloween story from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope. I hope you enjoy it:   Haunted houses belong in the realm of goose bumps, foggy nights and old neighborhoods, not pristine suburbs with freshly asphalted streets, unblemished sidewalks and immature trees. But a ghost lingered across the street, in a house where a man died.      I was only two when our neighborhood suffered its first fatality. Kilarney Park (later to be swallowed up by the Silicon Valley) had just opened for occupancy and neighbors had yet to come together with barbeques and meet-and-greets. It didn’t help that none of the parents on our street seemed to know the dead man&rsqu ... read more

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Conclusion: Ghost of Kilarney Park

October 29, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Check out Part One here.   Haunted houses and Halloween go together like dots on dice, but the haunted house on our street never did anything to attract trick-or-treaters. So why was there a light burning on Verna’s porch?      My feet began pulling me to the light. My head swirled with thoughts of murder: rat poison, asphyxiation, throat slashing, but I was more interested in candy than my safety.      I inched up the front steps to her porch and peered into Verna’s kitchen window. She was seated at her kitchen table, her head resting in her hands. Her back was to me and I couldn’t see her face, but I could hear her crying, a raspy soul rending sound, not the depraved ran ... read more

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Out of Hell

October 31, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Fiction to celebrate Halloween:   A shiver runs through me when I think back to the time when Tammy, my wife of five years, came to the conclusion that the gray tabby who’d lived contentedly with us since we bought her on our honeymoon, was lonely. Tammy convinced me that Sausalito, “Saucy” needed another feline to keep her company. On Halloween of ’79 we decided to purchase a kitten.      We soon discovered it wasn’t the right season for kittens. We were about to give up our search when we spotted a Siamese kitten for sale in the classifieds. We called the number and were invited over.      The breeder’s residence was a normal looking house, at least I r ... read more

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Hemingway's Coat

November 02, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I've been playing with fiction. Here's something new:   “I thought you wanted to be a writer,” the old woman said to fourteen year old Becky.       “I do, Granny. My brain is full of ideas, but I have trouble putting them down on paper. All of the kids at school have computers. I wish I had one.”      The old woman looked at the orphaned granddaughter she’d spent nine years struggling to raise. Every cigarette the old woman had ever smoked was present in her voice when she said, “Sorry, kiddo. Money’s tight. We barely manage to keep up with the rent on this old trailer.”      Becky’s cheeks turned crimson. &ldq ... read more

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Peculiar Picture # 16

November 05, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Here’s a picture I painted a few years ago. The inspiration came from a photograph taken in a stairwell in Florence, Italy. The initial illustration seemed incomplete and I was at a loss trying to figure out what the composition needed. I set it aside. Several years later, I dug out the unfinished illustration and figured out what was missing.      Painted with acrylic on untempered masonite, I used glazes to build up the translucent darkness from a mixture of viridian green and alizarin crimson; no black was used. I approved of the dark mood, inspired by the backgrounds in many of Rembrandt’s paintings, but the painting lacked an emotional counter punch. So I added the balloon.      ... read more

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Justifying The "B" Word

November 07, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yes, I admit it; in a moment of weakness I looked my son’s godmother in the face and called her the “B” word. Horrible I know, but don’t condemn me until you know the facts.      Our son’s godparents (I’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. G.) are psychologists and a delightful couple. They live in Sacramento and are our oldest and closest friends—the reason we selected them to be our son’s godparents. They’d agreed to raise little CJ should a tragedy make him an orphan. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were visiting them a few weeks before our first trip to Hawaii. Mrs. C. and I hadn’t traveled anywhere since our son was born and we were bubbling over with anticipation of ... read more

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Birthday #60

November 09, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox is slightly older than me; she turned 60 three weeks ago. Since then I’ve pretended I was a younger man consorting with a cougar. But yesterday was my birthday. Now I’m S-I-X-T-Y, and taking solace in a post I wrote back in my younger days, when I was a mere 59:      There are benefits to not being good with numbers and I’m reaping one right now. I thought this was the year I hit the big 60 but I now realize it’s only my fifty-ninth birthday, which I thought I’d celebrated last year. Because I have difficulty accessing that part of my brain where mathematics lurks like a creepy spider I get another year before leaving behind my fifties. Twelve months that I thought I&rsq ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #17

November 11, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts

To my knowledge, this illustration from my royalty free CD Business Fundamentals has never been used. Years ago I sat in my studio imagining what sort of illustrations art directors could use. Altogether, I created sixty images for my CD and I still receive royalty checks. Most of these illustrations have made their way into books and magazines around the world, but this one has yet to be published. Can you think of a purpose for this picture?



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Someone Had To Be First

November 12, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 ... read more

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A Golden Skeleton in our Closet

November 14, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most families have their own stories and legends, and mine is no exception. In Hayes family lore, Great Great Grandpa Phil is credited with finding the second largest gold nugget ever discovered in the state of California.       As I understand it, my ancestors were once wheelers and dealers in Central California. They lived on an impressive ranch near Hollister and rode around in monogrammed carriages. The source of their affluence was the Hayes Gold Mine, until it began petering out in the 1880s. A chance for restored wealth came in 1886; Phil Hayes found a single gold nugget weighing in at nearly forty pounds. He was clearing out a dried-up arroyo near Sierra City when he saw something gleaming in the roots of a t ... read more

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Brown Bear

November 16, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I graduated from college, my art degree made me about as hirable as a shepherd. I was a newlywed living in San Francisco and my bride’s cooking had caused me to pack on the pounds I’d fought off in college. To make matters worse, because of the additional weight I didn’t have any clothes that fit to wear to job interviews. I was reduced to wearing a black leather jacket I tried to dress up with a tie. I looked like an inflated Fonz.       I checked out investment companies, insurance agencies and marketing firms.  Nobody was hiring, at least not someone like me. I contacted a job placement service that agreed to try to place me, on condition that I get rid of the leather jacket and in ... read more

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I Think We're Being Robbed !

November 18, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Conclusion: Brown Bear:   After graduating from bank teller school, all novice tellers at Hibernia Bank started out at the home office on the corner of Jones and McAllister, a grand old structure built right after the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. I was assigned to Mrs. Werfel, a thin grey-haired woman who happened to be one of the senior tellers. I studied her and followed her around like a puppy until one morning when I was told to go to the vault and sign for a money drawer of my own. When I returned I counted the money under her vigilant eyes, terrified I was about to give away the bank.       I was unbelievably nervous over a job that only paid three-hundred and seventy-five dollars a month, and my ... read more

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What's the ClA Really Hiding?

November 19, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The CIA and General Petraeus are in the news so much lately that I decided to rerun a post I wrote last year. The timing seemed appropriate. I hope you enjoy it.   A few years back an acquaintance told me that she had retired after working twenty years for the CIA. I was shocked; she hardly fit my mental profile for a covert operative, but what shocked me even more was what she said next: “I still get an agency discount, so if you want to buy anything at the CIA Gift Shop, let me know.”       The CIA had a gift shop?      She had to be pulling my leg. Wouldn’t a gift shop be out of character for a clandestine organization celebrated and defiled in movies and spy novels? It wa ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #18

November 21, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Telling a joke is always risky because everyone has such a different sense of humor, but the so-called comedian only risks a few words while standing on stage. When you tell a joke with paint the result is often a prolonged waste of time, depending on how long it takes to paint a joke, in this case around three days.      This image is based on the popular theme of the decline of civilization. Artists throughout history have depicted broken columns and statues of the once mighty protruding from desert sands to remind us that everything comes to an end, even powerful civilizations. Not many jokes remain funny for three days and the inspiration that inspired this Peculiar Picture had long since ceased to be funny by th ... read more

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Best Turkey Ever!

November 22, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This morning I woke alone in bed. Mrs. Chatterbox got up before dawn and began working on the feast that is the hallmark of this special day. I don’t deserve having a spouse willing to get up before roosters crow just to please me with a sumptuous banquet, but I’ll accept this gift as graciously as I can.      As I lay here enjoying the aroma of onions and fried pork sausage that will add flavor to Mrs. Chatterbox’s dressing, I can’t help but think back on the best Thanksgiving turkey I ever had. It was shortly after Mrs. Chatterbox and I were married, and even she admits it was spectacular.      That year my parents decided to have Thanksgiving at their house. Mom went o ... read more

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Freshly Brewed Hype

November 23, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Some things in life just don’t live up to their hype. Every time I go to the grocery store, which my wife assures me is much too infrequently, I pause on one of the aisles and inhale deeply. I’m instantly born up on a magic carpet ride of intoxication that lifts me to exotic places and distant memories. I’m on the coffee aisle. And as usual I feel gypped.      I remember spending the night with my grandparents when I was a kid and waking up to the wonderful smell wafting beneath my bedroom door. My grandparents would have been up for hours, the little radio on their kitchen counter squawking funny-sounding words I couldn’t understand, words that nevertheless made me feel safe and loved—the lan ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #19

November 25, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts

Here’s another illustration that seemed like a good idea at the time, but I don’t think it’s ever been published. I’ve always been a lover of bold colors and that love is evident here, even if nothing else is. Does this picture mean anything to you?

 



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Uncle Sam and Kotex

November 26, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Ricky Delgado was my best friend, even though he’d spent time at Hotel Juvy and was a seasoned thief. When a new shopping center sprang up near our house my parents forbade me to go anywhere near it with Ricky. But Dad worked nights and big brother David was at Little League practice. That left me to run an errand for my mother, a task no boy should be asked to do, unless there’s a licensed psychiatrist in the family. I was allowed to go to the shopping center with rip-off Ricky because my mother needed something called…Kotex.        My mother spoke with an authority last seen during the age of absolute monarchies. “A blue box! There’s a little rose on the side. And be sure yo ... read more

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Conclusion: Uncle Sam and Kotex

November 28, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The lady behind the counter pushed the unbagged box of Kotex in my direction, oblivious to the fact that she held my quivering soul in her hands.         My voice was squeaky as a mouse. “Excuse me..?”       “Yes, something else you need?” she asked sweetly.       “Could you put this in a bag, pleeeeze?”       I should have selected a smaller box. Kotex came packaged in different sizes, but unfortunately I’d selected a box large enough to supply an army of Amazons.       “Sorry, Hon’, no can do.”       “But ... read more

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Kindred Spirits: A True Story

November 30, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In 2002 when we bought our house it was nearly a hundred years old. We’d only lived in it a week or two, not long enough to learn about the neighborhood or meet our neighbors. We’d arrived in the Fall and the golden leaves on the old maple trees lining the street were falling with urgency. Our house was close to a trendy area filled with antique stores and restaurants.      One evening we were bundled up for the brisk walk home after dining at a popular bistro when we rounded a corner and approached our house. I was so busy taking in the autumn colors and crisp fall air that I failed to notice Mrs. Chatterbox’s hand dropping from mine. She’d stopped on the sidewalk, frozen like a statue. Color ... read more

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Seeing Red

December 02, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone many of my fellow bloggers are posting pictures of the arts and crafts they’re making as holiday gifts for friends and family. I can’t help but reflect on how inventive and imaginative people are out there in the Blogosphere. Such talent and creativity! It makes me think back to the time I decided to become an artist.       I grew up seeing red.            When I was a kid my parents bought a painting of a bull fight. During my formative years it hung in our living room. The picture was hardly unique; over the years I’ve seen hundreds of similar pictures, most worse than this one, but I grew up staring at that matador s ... read more

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Blue Car Tuesday

December 03, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don't have an April Fool's prank but  this is the best practical joke I know about.      The new guy had potential, even if he was an arrogant jerk. My father-in-law, who’d worked at the Fireman’s Fund Headquarters in Marin County for years, had a devilish sense of humor and decided to prank him.      My wife’s parents lived in San Francisco, and her dad, like many of his coworkers, commuted across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County across the Bay. The new fellow, who’d just moved to the area, wanted to join my father-in-law’s car pool.        “There isn’t room,” he was told, “but you can follow behind us in your car.&rdq ... read more

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The World Awaits Us

December 05, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I try to plan one major vacation a year. Paying for these trips isn’t easy but we feel it a good investment in body and soul. Last year we were unable to travel to Egypt as planned because of all the political turmoil; we settled on Turkey, and now a year later the timing still doesn’t feel right to attempt Egypt.        Mrs. C. and I have a few health issues that have convinced us that now is the time to stretch our wings and travel outside our comfort zone. Turkey was colorful, historic and friendly—but not exactly the exotic destination we’d hoped for. Over the past few months we’ve toyed with a destination, arguably one of the most exotic places on the p ... read more

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Gray Lady Down

December 06, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Many of you who are regular readers of this blog are familiar with my mother, who I write about frequently. Unfortunately, Mom has been in the hospital with a bowel obstruction the past few days and Mrs. Chatterbox and I have been busy keeping her company and tending to her affairs. I don’t think Mom is in any real danger, but today her doctor decided to operate. The procedure will take place Friday morning. With surgery there are always risks, especially when dealing with a patient who’s eighty-seven years old.       Since I’ve been away from my computer this week, and could be for a while, I haven’t had time to respond to many of your posts or write new ones. For the next few days I’ll ... read more

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A Killer Case of the Hickeys

December 09, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Update: Grandma Chatterbox had her surgery yesterday and all appears to be well. The doctors had to remove a foot of damaged bowel and my mother claims they dropped her on the floor after surgery while transferring her to the gurney for the trip to the recovery room. The doctors say this never happened and that drugs can play games with your imagination. Mom believes there’s a conspiracy afoot and she’s demanding an investigation—sounds like the old Mom, full of piss and vinegar. I’m sure she’ll pull through just fine; her nurses and doctors are another story.    Note: If you haven’t yet joined the new Chubby Chatterbox because you aren’t pleased or familiar with Google+ or Networked Blo ... read more

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The Deal Breaker on Becoming Jewish

December 10, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Now that it’s Hanukkah I’m reposting a story from my memoir The Kid In the Kaleidoscope, a true tale about my decision to become Jewish when I was ten, and how I questioned my decision when I found out about the deal breaker….   Jonathan Khorman lived three houses down from me. One day while perched in the sycamore tree in his front yard he turned to me and made a startling declaration. “I’m one of the chosen people,” he said.   “Chosen for what?” I asked.   He shifted his weight on the branch he was sitting on. “Chosen to be special.”   “Who chose you?”   “God did.”   “Really?”   “Says so i ... read more

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Bloomin Onion

December 12, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This is how The Outback Restaurant describes its Bloomin Onion appetizer: a true Outback original. “Our special onion is hand-carved by a dedicated bloomologist, cooked until golden and ready to dip into our spicy signature bloom sauce.”      Sounds good, doesn’t it?      Not long ago Mrs. C. and I ducked into our local Outback for an early dinner. We often sit in the bar area where it’s permitted to order from the regular menu. We’d just ordered our drinks when the server arrived with a Bloomin Onion.      “We didn’t order this,” I informed him.       The server smiled and said, “One of our kitchen ... read more

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The Running of the Grunion

December 14, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Update: Grandma Chatterbox is still in the hospital after her surgery and will probably be released in a day or two. I’ve been busy trying to arrange home care for her and haven’t been able to write or respond to many of your posts. If you haven’t heard from me please know that I look forward to catching up with my reading as soon as I can. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite posts from last year....   Christmas is a time of great expectations, and most of us set the bar far too high. At this time of year I always think of grunion.      For those of you in the dark about grunion, they are a small slender fish that ride the waves onto Southern California beaches in April and May ... read more

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Confession

December 16, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I confess that I’m not my cheery self this morning. I’m feeling a bit low lately. The Connecticut shootings are weighing heavily on my mind. What’s worse is that I’m having difficulty separating all of these shootings. They’re beginning to blur. We even had one here in Oregon a few days ago at the Clackamas Town Center not far from where I live.      I’m saddened to think that Christmas shoppers in Oregon and twenty-six Connecticut children and their teachers are sacrificial lambs—the price we’re willing to pay for a flawed notion of freedom. I believe in the right to bear arms but that doesn’t mean anyone should be able to buy an assault weapon with endless round ... read more

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The Greatest Artist I've Ever Known

December 17, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Grandma Chatterbox is finally home from the hospital and she’s progressing better than she wants to admit. Her surgery has left her weak and she needs assistance to maintain her apartment and independence. It’s fallen on me to find someone to help her. There are many good organizations to draw on and much of my time is currently being spent searching for a suitable individual who can put up with Mom’s idiosyncrasies. This hasn’t prevented my head from filling with fresh stories, but lately I haven’t had time to read many of your posts much less write new ones of my own. Hopefully my situation will soon return to normal. Until then, here’s another of my favorites….      The G ... read more

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It Would Serve Me Right

December 19, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A painting hangs in our dining room that might look familiar to many of you; it shows Claude Monet’s famous Japanese Bridge at Giverny. Monet painted a dozen versions of this bridge—all at different times of the day in an exploration of color and light—but he didn’t paint this one. I did, forty years ago. I say this not as a boast for having done a decent job of mimicking Monet’s style, but as a confession for a serious lack of judgment.      While attending UCLA in the early 70s, I landed a job as a shop assistant at Le Garage, a small gallery in Santa Monica owned by Chicago art conglomerate World Art Inc. I was hired because I was an art major and one of my tasks was to unroll canvase ... read more

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A Hard Mother To Please

December 21, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Many of us were raised by hard to please parents; many of us are dealing with them still. Some consolation can be had in knowing that famous and powerful people also had similar problems, even someone as renowned as Napoleon Bonaparte. By most accounts Napoleon’s mother was hard to impress and not easy to get along with.      Letizia Ramolino, came from an undistinguished Corsican family before marrying Carlo Bonaparte, a man of some means hampered by an addiction to gambling. When her husband died of stomach cancer in 1785 leaving the family penniless, Letizia had no reason to believe she or her brood of children would ever achieve success. Yet few families have reached so lofty a pinnacle of power as the Bona ... read more

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Lurking on Our Christmas Tree

December 23, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First posted last year:   I'd just poured myself a cup of hot chocolate and was settling down to enjoy our beautiful Christmas decorations (mostly the work of Mrs. Chatterbox) when my attention turned to the beautiful tree ornaments we’ve collected over the years. Mrs. Chatterbox and I try and purchase one each time we go on vacation and these remind us of the wonderful places we’ve visited. In addition to travel reminders, we have handmade ornaments that were given to us as wedding presents thirty-seven years ago. I even have a rubber ball (from a ball and jacks game) painted silver with toothpicks in it. I made this in the first grade. I think it was supposed to be a snowflake but it looks more like Sputnik. Whi ... read more

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Her Last Christmas

December 24, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Christmas is that time of year when the pull of my ethnic background is the strongest. Dad’s folks weren’t anything in particular but Mom’s parents were Portuguese and her side of the family always won the weird relative contest.      On Christmas day we always converged at our traditional gathering place, the massive family room at my aunt’s house. An entire wall was covered with a Cheers-sized bar, and a ten foot tall aluminum Christmas tree stood in a corner. A rotating color wheel painted the tree with rainbow colors.      The room would be choked with aunts and uncles, along with first and second and third cousins, most of whom I never saw at any other time of the year ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #20

December 26, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Another Christmas has come and gone and I’m sitting here staring at the tree and already thinking about the complicated process of taking it down, boxing up the delicate ornaments, folding up the tree skirt and all the other things that make our tree pretty. Mrs. Chatterbox once had a crazy aunt who one year took a piece of plywood, nailed roller skates to it and used it as a Christmas tree platform. The decorated tree was kept in the garage under a tarp and on December 1st she’d kick it in from the garage and roll it into position in the living room. A week after Christmas she’d roll it back to the garage and throw the tarp back over it. Mrs. Chatterbox’s crazy aunt is starting to seem like a genius.   Pecu ... read more

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Brontosaurus Ribs

December 28, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I recently saw an online statistic claiming that more than seventy percent of American families enjoyed prime rib for Christmas dinner. At Chatterbox Manor we did not have prime rib for Christmas dinner; instead we opted for Honey Baked Ham.      Years ago shortly after we were married Mrs. Chatterbox decided to roast our first prime rib for Christmas. A few days before the holiday we drove to the grocery store and studied the meat behind the counter while waiting for the butcher to call our number.      “How much prime rib should we buy?” she asked me.      It should come as no surprise that I’m a meat-o-holic, although I no longer consume anywhere near as ... read more

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Be Careful

December 30, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The NRA wants to arm everyone, so be careful out there!

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Switching Nationalities

December 31, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My mother isn’t very happy with me since I refused to buy her a tube of hair removal cream so she could impress the young surgeon who operated on her a few weeks before Christmas. I visited her every day in the hospital and it didn’t bother her that she was starting to resemble Joseph Stalin, but enter good looking Dr. Fernando, who’s half my age, and Mom suddenly wants to look like Angelina Jolie.      Mom is depressed now that she’s out of the hospital, listless and lacking her usual piss and vinegar. I think she misses all the attention. Yesterday I decided to light a fire under her butt. She doesn’t read or do crossword puzzles to keep her brain active, so every now and then I engage ... read more

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A New Year's Confession

January 02, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I can’t bear the weight of a certain secret anymore, a secret that’s been a monkey on my back for years. I can imagine you reading this and screaming at your monitors, “What a beast! I knew this fat guy wasn’t right in his head. Get him some help before he hurts himself!”      What better time to rid myself of this burden than the beginning of a new year. New Years are all about starting over, shedding the past the way a snake sheds its skin. But the prospect of revealing the darkness at the center of my soul fills me with dread. I’ve worked hard to cultivate a climate of culture and amusement here at Chubby Chatterbox and if I go off the reservation with this admission I’m bou ... read more

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Twilight Zone Marathon

January 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Every year on New Year’s Eve when the Sci-Fi Channel runs a 48 hour Twilight Zone Marathon I tell myself that I’m not going to watch. This year I watched less than previously but a few of my favorites stopped me in my tracks, rendering me powerless to change the channel. I’m not sure why since I know the dialogue of most of the 156 episodes by heart.     When the program premiered in October of 1959 I was not yet seven, too young to recall if my parents tuned in to the loquacious man in a dark suit with a cigarette smoldering between his fingers. When the program went off the air in ’64, CBS ran episodes after school and during the summer. I was quickly hooked by sharp stories that were challenging, ... read more

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Radio Gibberish

January 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 ... read more

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Master of the Zombie Apocalypse

January 07, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Disclaimer: if you have an intense fear of your mortality you might want to pass on this post.        The public’s fascination with zombies never ceases to amaze me. TV shows like Zombie Hunters, Dead Set and Zombie Apocalypse receive huge ratings. And I know half a dozen bloggers who critique episodes of The Walking Dead with the seriousness of English majors analyzing Milton’s Paradise Lost.      I do not share this attraction for the “living dead.” Would someone please explain to me why zombies are always hungrier than stoned college kids? What’s the point of being dead if you need to spend all your time searching for live humans to snack on? Do zombies put ... read more

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The *Science of Sneezing

January 09, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
There’s a nasty bug going around our neck of the woods. There’s probably one going around where you live as well. Yesterday I took Grandma Chatterbox to see her doctor for a post surgery checkup. (Yes, I did provide her with hair removal cream for her visit with handsome Dr. Fernando.)      I noticed that many people were sneezing in the doctor’s waiting room. The vampire sneeze is very popular these days, where you cover your mouth with your arm and sneeze into an invisible cape, which some say is preferable to covering your mouth with your hand and spreading crud like victims in Stephen King’s The Stand. Some people try to stifle a sneeze and make a sound similar to what happens when you remov ... read more

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Rubbed Raw in Verona

January 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Verona is a beautiful Italian city famous for someone who never lived there, as described by someone unlikely to have even visited Verona. Any guesses who I’m talking about? This should help:                          “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and (?) is the sun.”      Don’t have it yet?                                           &nb ... read more

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The Other Side of the Mountain

January 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts

I don’t normally devote posts exclusively to pictures because my Blog is mostly about writing, but this image made me laugh so hard I couldn’t resist. No doubt you’ve seen pictures of Mount Rushmore but the view from the “other side of the mountain” is seldom photographed. And with good reason….

 


Happy Sunday everyone.




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When Druids Go Wild!

January 14, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One of the things I like most about travel is the unexpected effect famous monuments and sights have on me. I go to the Louvre to check out the Mona Lisa and discover that the painting is small and green, quite a disappointment. But other attractions exceed my expectations; the coffee shop on the Louvre's second floor has the best croissants I’ve ever tasted.      When Mrs. Chatterbox and I decided to visit Stonehenge we were told by friends and fellow travelers to lower our expectations. “It’s just a circle of stones,” they said, “and it’s smaller than you think.”       So I did lower my expectations. Standing in front of Stonehenge, I leaned against a protectiv ... read more

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This Isn't My Underwear!

January 16, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I recently posted a high school picture of myself and several followers commented that I didn’t look chubby at all. The picture was taken shortly after I’d managed to drop the weight.      I remember my parents taking me to have my thyroid checked when I was twelve because my baby fat wasn’t burning off. A slow learner, I’d finally come to the realization that life wasn’t fair; no one in my family was overweight. My older brother could eat a chocolate cake and burn it off by farting, whereas I could eat a carrot and my body would respond, “Let’s store this for the winter!” I remember seeing a chart in the doctor’s office that claimed I weighed as much as a f ... read more

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Channeling Julia Child

January 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One day during my freshman year of high school an idea wormed into my head: it occurred to me that cooking could be nearly as satisfying as eating, so I got up early and made breakfast for everyone. My mother usually restricted herself to coffee and toast in the morning, with Dad and David settling for cold cereal. That morning I made scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes for everyone including David, even though my older brother treated me with the same disdain as my nemesis Chris Ferris. They all chowed down. I cleaned the kitchen and barely managed to get to school on time. That was when it dawned on me that I hadn’t had any breakfast at all.      Before long, I’d turned our kitchen into a breakfast caf&eac ... read more

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Helpful Husbandry

January 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In an effort to demonstrate what a good husband I am I’ve decided to help Mrs. Chatterbox with an odious task. I screwed up the other morning and Mrs. Chatterbox is intent on telling everyone she can about it. So to spare her the trouble of hunting you down individually to inform you of my f**k up I’ve decided to let the cat out of the bag myself.      Mrs. Chatterbox and I have been together nearly four decades and in that time we’ve run out of gift-giving ideas. I’ve given Mrs. C. gifts both expensive and classy, as well as gifts that were questionable. (Note: Orange velour capes and matching hats such as the set I gave her in the seventies are making a comeback.) My wife has showered me with ... read more

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A Magnificent Day!

January 21, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today Barack Obama will once again be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. I’ve tried to steer clear of politics on this blog because the subject has become too volatile for a site attempting to entertain with art, humor and nostalgia. But this historic moment, like the inauguration four years ago, deserves a passing comment.         No doubt I’ve done a poor job concealing the fact that I’m a liberal, even though I don’t believe the Federal Government is the solution to every problem. As a liberal I reject the notion that the Federal Government cannot do anything right. I’ve long been at odds with those who wrap themselves in the flag while shouting, “ ... read more

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Travels and Travails

January 23, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
As I mentioned a few weeks back, Mrs. Chatterbox and I have decided to visit India at the beginning of March. Our travel agent forwarded an e-mail with the address of the Indian Consulate in Washington D.C. Evidently, we need visas for entering India. Last year when visiting Turkey visas were available at the Istanbul airport for thirty dollars. The Indian government charges nearly five times that amount and isn’t as accommodating, requiring these to be purchased in advance.      The form was lengthy and we struggled to fill it out. Questions were repeated in a variety of ways and we soon realized these questions were designed to reveal any affiliation with Pakistan. The two countries don’t get along. They& ... read more

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Tea & Tanks

January 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This picture only resembles the silver tea service currently turning black with tarnish in our closet. I thought about polishing it for a photograph but I’m much too lazy. The tea service was commissioned in Berlin in 1961 by my father-in-law, Ed Petty. Ed was a lieutenant at the time, two thirds through a distinguished Army career that began at sixteen when he lied about his age and was sent to the frozen Aleutian Islands. He retired from the military as a lieutenant colonel.      In 1961 the Pettys were stationed in Berlin. The German capital still showed damage from relentless WWII bombing while managing to be a festive place, at least for American soldiers who considered it fortunate to be posted there. There ... read more

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Tea & Tanks: Part II

January 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Military personnel were on high alert in the months following the erection of the Berlin Wall. Russian forces were thought to be preparing an assault on the western sectors and the Petty family was put on alert; they needed to be ready to be airlifted out of Berlin at any moment. In a governmental SNAFU the family dog was accidentally shipped to Poland and kept alive with scraps from a kindhearted cargo handler.      Ed had little free time as he carried out his duties but he never forgot his debt to the silversmith. Try as he would, he wasn’t able to communicate with the old man or send money beyond the Wall with any hope of it reaching the right party. In 1962 Captain Petty’s Berlin tour of duty came to a ... read more

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Peculiar Picture # 21 - Jan 28th

January 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve long enjoyed work from the golden age of American Illustration, early twentieth century paintings from masters such as Howard Pyle, NC Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. Color photography was just coming into its own, adding a new dimension to classics like Tales of the Round Table, Robinson Crusoe, Aladdin and Treasure Island. I recall warm summer afternoons while sitting under the sycamore in our front yard, my nose pressed close to color drenched images of fairy tale characters, pirates and heroes.      In the 90s I succumbed to the temptation of trying my hand at fantasy illustration, but the need for a consistent paycheck caused me to switch to conceptual illustration for which there was a larger market. My Dr ... read more

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Pee: Standing or Sitting

January 30, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Several years ago Mrs. Chatterbox told me about a coworker (Glenda) who insisted her husband and four boys pee sitting down; standing in front of the toilet was forbidden. I commented that this wasn’t natural and those boys would probably grow up to have psychological problems. I might have referred to the husband as a wuss for putting up with such an aberration. After all, males were designed to urinate standing up. It’s hard to imagine early settlers crossing the continent in Conestoga wagons, fighting off hostiles, looking for water and a place to graze their oxen while looking for a nice place to sit and do a tinkle.      It might come as no surprise that Mrs. Chatterbox thought Glenda’s sitting-w ... read more

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Another Conversation with Mother

February 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
As most of you know, I spend a lot of time dealing with my eighty-seven year old mother. Mom lives in a retirement facility called The Lodge. I call twice a day to see how she’s doing. Mom’s brain is as sharp as ever when it comes to managing her finances but our conversations often stray into strange territory. Last night’s conversation went something like this:      “How are you doing today, Mom?”      Deep sigh. “Same as usual—surviving.”      “Did you talk to anyone today?” She isn’t into socializing with the other retirees and not even a fire drill can dislodge her from her apartment.    &n ... read more

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Fair Play

February 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Some of you might have noticed that I haven’t been commenting on blogs lately. Let me assure you this isn’t because of a lack of interest on my part. I’ve been flat on my back for a few days. Earlier in the week I was emptying the dishwasher when suddenly it felt like someone was stabbing me in the back with a steak knife. I assumed I’d pulled a muscle and was determined to ride it out with hot massages and stretching exercises. I tried to carry on as usual over the next few days, tried to read and write blogs, but the pain wouldn’t subside. I finally called my doctor (Lie Alert: Mrs. Chatterbox called) and described my symptoms. I was told to rush to the emergency room.      Mrs. Chatterb ... read more

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A Sad Anniversary

February 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Thanks to all of you who have sent me kind wishes for a speedy recovery. I’ve been lying on my back for the past few days, missing my computer and the interaction I receive from all of you. Lately, I’ve had plenty of time to think; mostly I’ve been thinking about my Dad. Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of Dad’s passing. It happened unexpectedly, and when I think about that day five years ago I realize I still haven’t gotten over the shock.      When the lights went out at the Super Bowl Game this past Sunday my thoughts went back to another Super Bowl. In 2008 Mrs. Chatterbox and I were having a small Super Bowl party, just Mom and Dad. None of us were big football fans but the Super B ... read more

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The Return of Ted

February 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One of my favorite blogs is Comedy Plus, where Sandee seldom fails to start my mornings with a laugh. If you haven’t checked out her blog I highly recommend it. Among other things, Sandee has been blogging about her friend Seymour, who happens to be a rock. During my recent recuperation I’ve been spending a lot of time with my very own inanimate friend—Ted. I hope you enjoy this repeat from last year. Ted has been bugging me to repost it.      Enough of you have been following long enough for me to lower my guard to share another intimacy. I want to introduce a member of the Chatterbox clan who, up until now, hasn’t been mentioned, the only family member who doesn’t live up to the family ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #22

February 10, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My posts often include a feature called Peculiar Pictures—highlighting an illustration I’ve created that was too peculiar to find a buyer. This time I’m including a photograph I came across while surfing the web. I hope this doesn’t depict a rest stop on our upcoming trip to Northern India.      Brett Minor over at Transformed Non-Conformist has a wonderful blog that I encourage everyone to check out. Brett has a feature where he posts a humorous picture and encourages readers to supply their funniest captions. I’ve been holding on to this photograph for a while and thought it would be fun to see what captions you might come up with. I’m worried what some of you will say (You know wh ... read more

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Where Is He?

February 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In the sixteenth century, rich Flemish merchants and noblemen enjoyed purchasing paintings of pleasant peasants tending fields they could never own. Smiling at mediocre paintings highlighting the crudeness of peasant life must have made these rich folk feel superior, and in most of these genre paintings the peasants look foolish and in need of the parental guidance the aristocracy provided.      This began to change in the mid 1500s when a genius was born who would paint these average folk with the skill and compassion necessary to make them pulse with humanity, so much so that even today our collective image of these hearty hard-working people is solely derived from his paintings. The artist’s name was Peter Bru ... read more

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Revisiting The Peasant Wedding

February 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The week is only half over and it’s been one of riches for me. First, the great guys at Dude Write have honored me with their Diamond Member’s Only Award for my post Pee: Standing or Sitting. If you haven’t had an opportunity to check out this great site I highly recommend it. Second, Val at Unbagging the Cats has bestowed on me The Sunshine Award. Thanks Val. I’ll respond to the questions in an upcoming post.   Revisiting The Peasant Wedding      I’m amazed at the thoughtful responses to my inquiry about the groom in Bruegel’s The Peasant Wedding. Many of you did an excellent job of sleuthing and if you haven’t taken the opportunity to check the comments I think you&r ... read more

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Questionnaire

February 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’ve been tagged by two of my favorite bloggers, Joe of Cranky Old Man and Bruce at Oddball Observations and asked to participate in this 25 question “getting to know you” exercise. I’m not big on answering questions about myself but I’ll give it a try: Where were you born? Alameda, California in 1952   Were you named after someone? No. Mom was being artsy when she named me Stephen. Actually, her first choice was Frank but there were already half a dozen “Franks” in the family. I did end up with Frank as my middle name.   If you have any children, how many do you have? One son, thirty-two years old. How many pets do you have? None at the moment, except for Ted the Wonder ... read more

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Diagon Alley

February 17, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
"Harry wished he had eight more eyes... There were shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange silver instruments Harry had never seen before, windows stacked with barrels of bat spleens and eels' eyes, tottering piles of spell books, quills, and rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon...." —Description of Harry Potter’s first visit in Diagon Alley        Just about everyone has read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies. One of my favorite places in the magical realm of wizardry is Diagon Alley, hidden in London, England, behind a pub called the Leaky Cauldron. Diagon Alley is a cobbled street and shopping area that looks like a Dickensian acid trip. I just read an a ... read more

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A Colossal Purr

February 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Many of you write posts about your pets. I enjoy seeing pictures and reading stories about all of these various creatures. Mrs. Chatterbox and I are currently between pets but it’s only a matter of time until a furry companion is added to the Chatterbox household, probably a dog. But cats seem to spur more interest than dogs on the blogosphere. Evidently, readers can’t get enough of cute and mischievous felines.      I’m reminded of an interesting evening  Mrs. C. and I once shared with cats—in the Roman Coliseum. It was 1976, we’d only been married two years, and we were backpacking through Europe. We’d taken the train from Naples up to Rome and grabbed a cheap pensione where w ... read more

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High Tech

February 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I know I speak for millions when I admit to struggling with today’s ever-changing technology; I wouldn’t have been able to create this blog without my son’s help. Years ago I attempted to write a spy novel and most of the gadgets I invented for my spooks are now in the hands of high schoolers. But I can recall a time before smart phones, iPads and laptops, when I was ten and thought the coolest gadget to own was a walkie talkie.      An ad in a ratty magazine I pinched from our barber shop offered a genuine wireless walkie talkie for only $1.39, a reasonable price for a device sure to make me the coolest kid in the neighborhood. I had 90 cents hidden in a cigar box under my bed. Not enough, so I hit u ... read more

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Mrs. Chatterbox's Rainbow

February 22, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I married shortly after graduating from college, she with an English degree from Santa Clara University and me with an art degree from UCLA. We settled in a 1930s duplex in West LA. I continued to hang out with my artsy college friends and tried to break into the Los Angeles art scene. Mrs. C. and I frequented numerous parties and artistic events, referred to back then as happenings. Heated discussions about modern art and politics were commonplace.      Mrs. C. was not comfortable with the freaky nonconformists frequenting these events but she was an amazingly good sport, even when a stoned poetess pointed at her and loudly barked, “Who brought Tricia Nixon to the party?”   & ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #23

February 24, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts

Perhaps no picture I’ve painted deserves to be in my Peculiar Picture File more than this weird version of The Pied Piper. I can’t remember why I painted this image although I recall being happy when I signed my name to it. Art directors were less than thrilled when they saw it in my portfolio. Strange. Odd. Unmarketable; these were some of the nicer words hurled at my poor picture.

    

This piece has never sold because no one could imagine a use for it. Can you?

 

 



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Penny For Your Thoughts

February 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Canada recently announced its intention to eliminate the penny, and President Obama has expressed an interest in doing so here. It seems like a good time to rerun this post from last year.    Yesterday one winked up at me from the gutter. I considered bending down and picking it up. After all, I’m as superstitious as the next guy, and as the saying goes: Find a penny pick it up, and it will bring to you good luck.        Although I’m tired of gathering them from under my couch cushions, I admit to having a soft spot for the penny, which has been part of our culture since the beginning. Our language is ripe with references to them: Penny wise and pound foolish; A penny saved is a penny earned. An ... read more

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Chasing Freedom

February 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 Mrs. Chatterbox was responsible for driving to the pound and selecting our longest lasting dog, a peculiar looking mutt our son named Ginger. Actually, CJ wanted to name the pooch Rambo but we convinced him Ginger was a more suitable name for a girl dog. Ginger had been at the pound a long time and her stay was coming to an end. Her ticket to the Rainbow Bridge was going to be stamped that evening. She never forgot that Mrs. Chatterbox saved her, and for many years she and Mrs. C. were inseparable. As far as Ginger was concerned, the sun rose and set with my wife. Mrs. C. was inconsolable when Ginger died, but after a period of grieving I accompanied her to the pound to rescue another dog in need of a home.      ... read more

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Do Not Touch !

March 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I was in middle school my art class took a field trip to a museum in Oakland, California. Our teacher, Mr. Mestemacher, told us we’d be seeing some interesting work by world-renown British sculptor Henry Moore. I went to the school library and studied up on this Moore guy. His work was bold and only vaguely realistic, and I was intrigued by one of his quotes where he stressed the tactile qualities of his sculptures and invited viewers to fondle and caress them to receive the fullest experience possible.      I boarded a school bus for the hour-long trip to Oakland along with other future artists from Jefferson Junior High. When the bus halted in front of the museum, Mr. Mestemacher told us we were free to wa ... read more

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Blowing Smoke

March 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 This past week fishducky, one of my favorite bloggers, posted an interesting picture I’d like to share. I highly recommend a visit to fishducky, finally!, where you’ll always find something to smile about. This picture from her site inspired my post. For those of you who don’t recognize the item, its purpose will be revealed at the end of my post.   ********************************************************************* I was a healthy child and not prone to accidents, a good thing because my parents relied on home remedies for various ailments, remedies passed down from generation to generation. Doctors were called only in extreme emergencies. My mother recalls an instance when her older brother fell out of a ... read more

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Countdown

March 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I are in countdown mode for our upcoming trip to India; we leave on Saturday. Mrs. C is a former Army brat raised on moving every few years so she knows how to pack. The suitcases are open in our guest bedroom and already starting to bulge with clothes and items we might need in India. Bugs find me particularly tasty so I’ve dosed my travel gear in DEET to prevent myself from becoming a mosquito buffet; I’d really like to avoid describing for you the discomforts of hepatitis or malaria. We’ve been cautioned not to drink tap water and to be sure seals on bottled water haven’t been broken. The doctor at the travel clinic has cautioned us against eating salads and fruit unless the fruit is washed in ... read more

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Thanks, Charlie

March 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
On Monday our son CJ lost Charlie, his best friend. Eight years ago CJ decided he wanted a pet. He figured a dog would require more attention than he could give so he settled on a cat. Mrs. C and I accompanied him to the animal shelter where we prowled through cages searching for the perfect pet.      Charlie came close to not being selected; had he not been it would have been my fault. I was mesmerized by another cat. Her name was Jolly Polly. She oozed personality and I campaigned for CJ to adopt her. Her purring was so loud she sounded like a Yamaha motorcycle. I swear she winked at me as she licked my fingers through the cage. And she was a big cat, as big as a medium sized dog. Unfortunately, she oozed more than p ... read more

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Namaste (Nah- mes- tay)

March 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I doubt this will come as a surprise to anyone but Lady Chatterbox and I are big Amazing Race fans. We hold our breath at the beginning of each season when Phil Keoghan launches the race by saying, “The world is waiting for you. Good luck. Travel safe.”   We don’t have a dozen teams competing with us for a million dollars, which is a good thing because Mrs. C. dawdles and I have no sense of direction, but we are off on another great adventure, and we truly believe the world is out there waiting for us.   See you in a few weeks with a fresh batch of adventures to share.                         & ... read more

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Holy Cow ! - We're Home

March 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
     "In religion, India is the only millionaire...... the One land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined."                                                    —Mark Twain—   Mrs. Chatterbox and I have returned from India after the adventure of a lifetime. Thanks to all of you who helped launch our trip with your good wishes. Our health and spi ... read more

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Lucky

March 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
“You ride my camel?”      That was the idea, the reason Mrs. Chatterbox and I had come to the Thar Desert. The tour brochure promised an exhilarating ride on sand dunes to watch the sunset, followed by a dinner with local tribesmen. Mrs. Chatterbox had no intention of riding a camel across the desert and had chosen to follow behind in a camel-drawn cart.      “My camel, he is a good camel,” said the young man. “Nice and strong for you.”      I studied his face to see if he was taking a jab at my weight, but all I saw was friendliness mixed with a dash of hucksterism. I can’t remember his name but he was brown as mahogany, dressed in a ... read more

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Standing on Ceremony

March 31, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I hope you enjoy this Chubby Chatterbox Easter Rerun from last year:    Standing on Ceremony      I was so excited I felt like I was about to turn inside out.      Mrs. Chatterbox and I were going to see the Pope, not that the Pope was the main attraction that Easter Morning in 1976, not for me anyway: I was there to see Saint Peter’s Basilica—in particular Michelangelo’s breathtaking dome. As a kid I’d read The Agony and the Ecstasy four times, paying extra attention to the chapters devoted to the construction of the dome, and now I was about to see this marvel with my very own eyes.      Visiting the Basilica on Easter Sunday was a ques ... read more

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India Adventure Give-a-way

April 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I redesigned Chubby Chatterbox last year I included buttons for followers to add to their blogs. So far I’ve only spotted two Chubby Chatterbox buttons: one at PT Dilloway, and the other at Cheryl’s The Art of Being Conflicted. (Sorry if you’ve posted my button and I haven’t noticed.) In a shameless bid to encourage readers to add my button, I’ve decided to sponsor an April give-a-way. If you’re interested, let me know in the comment section and I’ll add your name to a hat. At the end of April I’ll pick a name. If that person’s blog features my button they’ll receive a cool souvenir from my trip to India. Just click on the Chubby Chatterbox dashboard above the banner where it ... read more

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An April 1st Cluster F**K

April 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I should have thought twice about trying to launch anything new on April Fool’s Day. My attempt to obtain free advertising has opened a can of worms and caused problems for my readers, which I never intended.      Seeing blogs with promotional buttons convinced me I needed to do a better job promoting Chubby Chatterbox. It was not my intention to badger those of you who don’t like buttons and don’t want to clutter your site with them. On my old blog I posted buttons and awards on my sidebar but the new Chubby Chatterbox will only let me feature them on an awards page, which is where they are.      Complicating matters, I’ve learned that the HTML codes on my buttons ... read more

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Stranger in the Dark

April 05, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 Our plane was halfway through its flight from Amsterdam to New Delhi, India. The cabin was dark, and still but for the vibration of the massive engines propelling us through the night. I had a window seat and Mrs. C., like most of the passengers, had nodded off. We’d been flying over Turkmenistan, according to the monitor on the back of the seat in front of me, and now we were over Afghanistan. I was thinking about how this troubled nation had figured so prominently in the news these past eleven years when I thought I saw something beyond my window passing in front of a cluster of stars, shadowing us from a distance.      We were about four hundred miles from Islamabad when I heard, “What are you look ... read more

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Turban Time

April 07, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Ever wonder how a turban is made? This presentation was given to us at the Amber Fort in Jaipur, once the capital of Rajasthan.             I’m not sure I pull off this look very well. What do you think? ... read more

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The Shape of Things

April 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yesterday I posted a photograph of myself wearing a turban. I received many interesting comments—most suggesting that this was not a look I should consider adopting. The focus on my head reminded me of this piece I wrote a few years ago:       When I was a kid my dad would drive me to the barbershop. On our way home Dad would take a moment to tell me what a great haircut I’d gotten, adding, “It’s because you have such a nicely shaped head.”      Dad was an extremely upbeat guy, always finding something positive to say, which couldn’t have been easy when it came to his chubby, non-athletic younger son. Still, it always made me feel good when he said it, and there ... read more

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The Power of Observation

April 10, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Albrecht Dürer was arguably Germany’s greatest painter, and one of the most celebrated graphic artists of all time, but in 1503 he took a break from his flourishing studio for a horse ride in the country. He wanted to take in some fresh air. As he rode down the road he did something extraordinary. He reined his horse to a stop, climbed down from the saddle and ripped a clump of weeds from the side of the road, placing the clump in his saddlebag and returning with it to his studio.      Big deal, you might say. But it was a big deal, because of what he did next. He set the clump of dirt on a table in his studio and proceeded to meticulously paint it, with as much detail as another artist might have used to de ... read more

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We're Gonna Die!

April 12, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It’s hard not to think you’re going to die when you hit the road in India. Aside from the fact that, from an American perspective, they drive on the wrong side of the road, no logic is apparent on Indian streets and highways. I asked our guide Devender about this and he admitted Indians drive erratically. “Driving isn’t tested in India because there are far too many people,” he explained. “An instructor would have to test four to five hundred people a day and that just isn’t possible, so we all learn on our own.”      This becomes interesting when the roads are choked with cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, tuk tuks (motorized rickshaws that swarm like locusts) camel-pulle ... read more

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A Sunday Portfolio

April 14, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 Here are a few pictures from our recent trip to India. First, an elephant is giving rides at the Amber Fort in Jaipur.     The second picture shows a guard at one of the many palaces we visited. This would look like an old painting were it not for the watch on his wrist.       #3 The Jain Temple in Ranakpur. The Jain religion, stressing the sacredness of all living creatures, is over 2500 years old. The temple is composed of 1444 marble pillars with no two alike. One pillar was intentionally placed crooked because only gods are permitted perfection.     #4 This beautiful lady was photographed in one of the palaces at the desert town of Jaisalmer.       #5 A dancer in Bika ... read more

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A Generosity of Spirit

April 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few days ago I felt compelled to do something I seldom do—check our newspaper’s obituary page. It felt like an icy fist was squeezing my heart when I saw the name Elsa Warnick. She’d died a few days before Mrs. C. and I left for India. Her memorial took place several days before our return.      Elsa and I had been great friends and colleagues at the local art college where we both taught, but I’d lost sight of her over the past few years. I always expected to see her again; it wasn’t unusual for months to pass without contact. When we got together to share old times it was as if no time had elapsed. Elsa died after a two year battle with cancer. I feel terrible I wasn’t there to o ... read more

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The Snake Charmer of Jaipur

April 17, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
     I rarely write fiction but this short story resulted from my recent trip to India:   The Snake Charmer of Jaipur     “Follow me,” the boy said, his voice more commanding than his slight appearance would suggest.      Stickley took in the youth’s unkempt appearance; rags that hardly qualified as clothes, a turban too soiled to identify by color, dusty sandals that barely covered his filthy feet. He shot the kid a stern look and gestured for him to get lost.      A wall of roasting air hit him but he wasn’t perspiring any more, a reminder he wasn’t taking in enough water. He licked his parched lips but his tongue was too sw ... read more

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The Snake Charmer of Jaipur - Part II

April 19, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
For Part One of my short story click here. The Snake Charmer of Jaipur Part II   “I’ve been waiting for you, Mister Stickley,” said the boy. “I knew you’d come.”      “How did you know?”      Without answering, the youngster started down a passageway. Stickley had a reputation among his peers for being cool under pressure, a criminal who performed dangerous tasks as if his emotions were numbed by shots of Novocaine, but calmness eluded him, his heart trip-hammering in his chest. No bit pulled him forward, but he couldn’t break the spell the kid had on him as they continued on their way.      The passageway narro ... read more

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The Vision of Emperor Akbar

April 21, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The Boston Marathon tragedy made last week a difficult one. Like many Americans, I watched the news reports and wondered how anyone could commit such a heinous crime. I hoped that when all of the facts came out it would be learned that religious extremism was not the cause, and even though the investigation of this crime is ongoing I’m resigned to the fact that religious extremism will be an integral part of this horror.      Situations like the Boston tragedy are bleak reminders of the evil we humans inflict on each other. Yet history has provided examples of tolerance to inspire us to set aside our petty ways. I’m encouraged by a building I recently saw in India, the Diwan-i-Khas, a structure as beautiful ... read more

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India Portfolio

April 22, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
*Note: All of these pictures were taken in the Indian state of Rajasthan.   Picture #1 (Left) In the abandoned Moghul capital of Fatehpur Sikri, those convicted of capital crimes were forced to lay their head on this stone. An elephant performed the execution by stepping on the head.     #2 A floating palace in Udaipur. You might remember this building from the James Bond movie Octopussy.     #3 Jaisalmer’s wealth came from this desert city’s position on the Silk Road. Most of the inhabitants have never seen rain.     #4 This is a view from the rooftop of the Maharajah of Bikaner’s palace, now a hotel. Most of the rooms were filled with the heads of hunted animals. They sta ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #24

April 24, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Some of my newer followers might not be aware of the fact that I’m a retired commercial illustrator. Like many illustrators, most of my work resulted from commissions, but I also created pieces to satisfy an artistic itch. On days when my creative tubing was kinked, the result could be a peculiar picture. Many of these odd pieces have sold over the years, others have not. This feature is called Peculiar Pictures, and I invite you to come up with a caption or purpose for these pictures. There isn’t a correct response so those of you who are worried you don’t know much about art can let out a deep sigh of relief—there is no right answer.      This illustration seemed like a great idea at the time. ... read more

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The State of Mittelwestcoastia

April 26, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most people who have spent time in California have witnessed the drastic differences between Northern California and the rest of the state. I’m  referring to political differences, not topographical or geographical ones. I’m reminded of this because of something I recently saw in an antique store, a map of the United States in 1941. It showed forty-nine states, interesting because in 1941 there were only forty-eight states—Hawaii and Alaska had yet to join the Union.      I looked closely at the map and found the mysterious 49th state, carved out of Southern Oregon and Northern California; it’s capital was Yreka. My jaw dropped. The map was professionally printed and didn’t appear to ... read more

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Jack's Gift

April 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This Sunday rerun was first posted in 2011 and for nearly a year it was my most popular post.  I hope you enjoy it.      I swim at the public pool on weekday mornings at seven a.m.  On the way home on Fridays I swing by the bakery section at Albertsons because—well, you know why. (A clue is in the title of my blog.) Anyway, this morning I was marching toward the delicious donuts and pastries when I encountered five year old Jack and his grandpa.          “It’s Jack’s fifth birthday today,” Grandpa said, grinning at me. “He’s picking out donuts for his party this afternoon.”       I returned the smile and waited patiently wh ... read more

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The Fill Up

April 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In 1942 he was a lanky sixteen year old and glad to have a job pumping gas, checking oil and washing windshields at the Texaco in Modesto, California. Most of the men had dashed off to war or he wouldn’t have landed this job. He had numerous brothers and sisters. Now he was able to contribute money to the jar on the kitchen shelf—all that kept food on the table and a roof over their heads.      He’d just finished filling the tank of an old farm truck when a shiny black Buick pulled into the station. The kid had seen the expensive car a few times and recognized the man behind the wheel. An icy claw squeezed his heart and his breathing became labored—he’d never been this close to the driver. ... read more

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One of Life's Absurdities

May 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
On Saturday my back was acting up so I took two pain pills and felt good enough to accompany Mrs. Chatterbox to the grocery store. I don’t generally accompany Mrs. C. on food expeditions because Mrs. C. is a foodie who loves squeezing produce, reading labels and looking for yummy new trends. This usually proves to be time consuming. On the rare occasions when I shop I require a list and I’m in and out as quickly as possible. I was enjoying a delightful buzz on Saturday as I pushed the cart down the aisles.      We were halfway down the frozen food aisle when my wife dropped a package of tilapia into the cart, leaned toward me and whispered, “Be careful. There’s an Oreo behind you.”   ... read more

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It's Back!

May 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Imagine your worst fear: spiders, sharks, speaking in public. I’m sorry to say that something wicked this way comes; it’s headed your way and it exceeds your worst nightmares.      I have a method to alert me to the fact that it’s time to toddle off to Perfect Look for a haircut. On weekday mornings when I pull on my clothes to drive to our community pool, my hair is so unruly that it’s necessary to smash a baseball hat onto my head. When my hair grows too long the hat pops into the air, announcing that time has come for a cut. My hat popped earlier this week.      It should not come as a surprise that I’m chatty with everyone, including the person cutting my hair. Be ... read more

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Beat Me With A Drumstick

May 05, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First Posted 10/26/11       Hollywood irks me quite often. Why is it that whenever someone gets into a car they never look in the back seat where a killer is patiently waiting for them. I saw this happen once in a movie and the car was a freakin’ convertible. In spy movies, whenever the main character is suspended from the ceiling by a wire, the bad guys never look up when they enter the room, leaving the likes of Tom Cruise to dangle above them without drawing attention. I can’t remember a time when I entered a room without glancing up at the ceiling.       In action adventure movies when our hero defuses a bomb he’s always forced to make that all-important decision: should I cut the ... read more

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Keep It Away !

May 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I mentioned in a previous post that Mrs. Chatterbox is a foodie, always looking for the latest food trend. I usually benefit from this. Mrs. C. has worked hard over the years to serve me meals that are interesting and flavorful, but after forty years it’s become a challenge to come up with interesting dishes. I’ve concluded that her determination to please me in the kitchen after all these years is a testament to her love for me.      If you do the grocery shopping in your family you’ve probably noticed a food phenomenon sweeping the country. Grocers are devoting more space to it every week. In fact I’ve just learned that US consumption of this product has increased a thousand fold over the past ... read more

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Eternal Love

May 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Although the Taj Mahal was the catalyst for our trip to India, I admit to viewing it with trepidation. I’d unwisely made a judgment; without laying my eyes on it I’d concluded that this was the most beautiful edifice ever created by the hand of man. I’d based this opinion on photographs. But I’d been disappointed before and worried I’d set my expectations too high. Could reality match my imagination? I was about to find out.      Mrs. Chatterbox and I left the New Delhi train station at 6:00 a.m. for the two hour ride to Agra. We arrived to a crush of vendors, religious pilgrims, tourists and beggars. I saw a young man wheeling about in a hand-peddled contraption with a grotesque giant foo ... read more

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Suprematist Composition

May 10, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Last year I was surprised by the response to my post on Magritte’s painting The Treachery of Images—a depiction of a smoking pipe that included the words: This is not a pipe. Comments were sharply divided as to whether or not this was valid art or merely a clever artist’s trick. Of course it isn’t a pipe because, as Magritte pointed out, you can’t smoke it. Magritte was telling us that a painting is separate and removed from whatever it depicts. Anyone missing Magritte’s point will find what follows even harder to swallow.       Years ago when I was an art student at UCLA a professor devised an interesting challenge: paint something that does not exist in the nat ... read more

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Spanish Coffee & Mother's Day

May 12, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This year Mrs. C. and I are taking my mother to Red Lobster for Mother’s Day. I’m sure the experience will provide fodder for my blog, but until then this is what happened last year.   When it comes to eating food she hasn't prepared, Mom is as cautious as Howard Hughes. She doesn’t like breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner unless it’s a slice of meat between two pieces of bread. She hates sauces or condiments, preferring cold meat served the “natural way.” When she says this I imagine meat brought down by a pack of hyenas on the Serengeti, clad in fur, twitching and covered in flies.      Last year Mrs. Chatterbox and I came up with a great idea for Mother’s Day. The only thi ... read more

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Graffiti Grandma

May 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’d like to introduce you to my good friend Jo Barney. Jo is launching her latest novel this week. We’ve been writing companions for years, and she deserves much of the credit for improving the quality of my writing. I think you’ll find her latest work extremely compelling, and I hope you’ll take advantage of her free book give-a-way.   *******************************   Hello, All!  And thank you, Steve, for this chance to join your blog for a day. Over the twenty years since I decided to be a writer, I’ve written four or so novels. Right from the first, each of them has come from some aspect of my own life, but each is mostly fiction.    The first is set in an elementary school c ... read more

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King of Dorks

May 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 Many of you have asked for more stories about my friend, Ricky Delgado. This tale is a true account of my one and only childhood confrontation with the law in 1966. Of course Ricky had a lot to do with it.  ************************************   “Is it true?” Ricky asked. “Please say it isn’t because if it is, I’m gonna to have to kill you!”      It’s true,” I admitted. No point denying it.      “If you wanted to be weird, I could’ve brought you some of my sisters’ bras and panties and you could’ve worn them to gym class. But what you’re doing is bad…really bad.”    &nbs ... read more

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King of Dorks Part II - May 17th

May 17, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This tale is a true account of my one and only childhood confrontation with the law in 1966. If you missed Part I, check it out (here.)   ********************************   The voice with the bullhorn continued. “This is the police! Come down immediately!”      With no other options, we filed down the ladder and were met by the heat. They trooped us outside into the light and took a good look at us. We squinted like cons released from the hole in prison movies. I wondered if Juuuuvy had a hole.      “Well, well, well...”said one of the cops. “Donny Greco. What a surprise to see you here. With your buddy Chris Ferris.” He passed over Ricky, who was ... read more

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Finding Richard Paul

May 19, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 10/3/11      While cleaning out the garage yesterday, I discovered him in a box on a dusty shelf, his leg caught in our old George Foreman grill. His unblinking eyes fixed on me when I reached for him, as if to say, “Where’s everybody been?”       Richard Paul, showing signs of the fierce love our son CJ lavished on him long ago, was once an integral member of our family. Richard Paul is a Cabbage Patch Doll.       I was thinking about him a few weeks back when a distant relative of his showed up on one of those pawn shop programs on TV. It turns out that Richard Paul is actually worth a few bucks. He’d be worth more if he still had his bi ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #25

May 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I posted my last Peculiar Picture I was flabbergasted by the witty comments I received in response to my illustration Chicken Boy. I’m amazed at your clever captions and powerful observations. Many of you point out things I’m unaware of and never intended. Here’s another peculiar picture that has yet to find a home. I don’t generally create spooky images but this one has a decidedly Hitchcock quality about it. Do you have a good caption for this one? Can you explain what’s going on? Again, there is no right or wrong answer so water your imagination and let’s see what grows.   ... read more

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Pecan Perfection

May 22, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I woke up this morning with a hankering for pecan pie. Many of you probably have a special recipe for pecan pie and I’m sure all have merit, but I’m just not interested. You see, I’ve tasted nirvana and it isn’t to be found in fresh ingredients or recipes baked with big doses of love. Nope, not what I’m salivating over.      Years ago Mrs. Chatterbox asked me what I thought of pecan pie and, in a moment of weakness, I told her I liked pecan pie. This was a mistake because my wife will do anything to please me, such as baking and serving me a perfect pecan pie, but her efforts were doomed even before she started gathering together the perfect ingredients. To be sure, Mrs. Chatterbox is a wo ... read more

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How Dumb Can You Be? - May 24th

May 24, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Another true story I’m not proud of. I’ve resisted telling this one because…well, you’ll see:    In the early eighties Oregon was in the middle of a recession. I’d been out of work for months and was finally hired by an art gallery in downtown Portland. Wind & Wings Gallery sold wildlife art. My primary job was to make calls to businesses and make appointments to show portfolios of art suitable for corporate collections. With a recession in full swing, most businesses were too concerned meeting payrolls to consider art purchases.      I made countless cold calls, begging managers and CEOs for appointments, without success, and eventually broadened my search to areas outsi ... read more

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Tribes

May 26, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It seems like every other day a bomb goes off in the Middle East, killing dozens of innocent people. I can easily understand rage against the United States; our foreign policy has historically supported dictators who oppress their people while paying lip service to America in exchange for foreign aid. As Americans we have little cause to hold our heads high in this regard, but this doesn’t explain why people in the Middle East are so angry with each other. The answer can be condensed into a single word more far reaching than nationalism—tribes.      It didn’t help matters that at the end of WWI Great Britain redrew the lines of the Middle East to serve the interests of the crumbling British Empire. Co ... read more

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That Damn War !

May 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 5/27/12 I remember Dad pounding his fists on the kitchen table so hard that his coffee mug tipped over. I watched as he did nothing to clean up the coffee spreading over the table and dripping to the floor. “Damn!”       I’d never known Dad to swear.      He pounded his fists on the table a few more times. “That damn war!” My blood froze to hear the rage in his voice.      It was a Saturday morning in October, 1966, the one and only time I ever saw my Dad lose his temper. His flash of rage was short-lived, quickly turning to sorrow. He swiped his eyes with the back of his hands and dropped his head, mumbling under his breath over an ... read more

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Pole Dancing

May 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Now that I have your attention, I hope you won’t be disappointed. In America, pole dancing usually involves strip clubs where lovely ladies gyrate around metal poles while drunk men reward them with crumpled greenbacks. (Am I revealing too much?) In other parts of the world, pole dancing is an altogether different activity.      At the entrance to Chichen Itza in Mexico Mrs. Chatterbox and I observed this famous Mayan pole dance called Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), or Palo Volador (Pole Flying). This ritual, performed by Mayans in both Mexico and Guatemala, was thought to stop droughts in ancient times, but is now a recognized historical and cultural dance that is kept alive by communities to hono ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #26

May 31, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
An art director once asked me to paint an illustration of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I wanted to create something different from the traditional images associated with this subject and produced this illustration of a tailor making a fleece suit for his client. I thought the comedic approach a fun change of pace (I’m particularly fond of the lamb chop pattern on his tie) but my client didn’t find this image as entertaining as I’d hoped and rejected it. I still laugh when I look at it so it wasn’t a total loss.     Note:      I’m currently compiling a collection of posts for a book with the working title The Best of Chubby Chatterbox. Writers, like artists, are not alway ... read more

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Computer Woes

June 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts

I guess it was bound to happen eventually but my computer got sick yesterday and is in the shop until Wednesday. Only six years old and I'm told it might be obsolete. Anyway, son CJ is letting me borrow his computer to say that I'm out of commission for a few days so please don't take it personally if I don't leave comments for a while. I'll be back as soon as possible. Take care.

 



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Back In Business

June 07, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I had no idea how dependent I’d become on my computer until it stopped working last Friday. No, I wasn’t looking at porn when it happened; Mrs. Chatterbox and I were checking a site showing the controversial new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II when the screen suddenly went blank. Incidentally, it’s not the worst painting of the Queen I’ve seen and I disagree with critics who say she looks like Winston Churchill in drag.      CJ, our son and technical guru, struggled to identify the problem, without success, and a technician at the Apple Repair Center made an appointment for me. I hadn’t realized how heavy my 24 inch IMAC was until I lugged it across a massive mall parking lot to the Apple S ... read more

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The Birds! The Birds!

June 09, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 Mrs. Chatterbox and I have lived in a lot of places over the years and every time we’ve selected an apartment or purchased a house Mrs. C. always says something like, “That corner by the living room window will be just perfect for our Christmas tree.” I watch House Hunters a lot and prospective buyers often utter similar statements. A few weeks ago we visited our son’s new apartment and it wasn’t long before my wife pointed out a proper place for a Christmas tree.      Frankly, I couldn’t care less where the tree goes. I have another concern when I judge the suitability of a potential home. I need to know where I’ll be hiding when the birds attack.    &nbs ... read more

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Harvey's Flock

June 10, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Here’s a different post about birds, a true story about someone I knew a long time ago… Harvey was the biggest kid on the block, a massive, towering fixture of the neighborhood living in the corner house at the end of our street. He had a flattened nose, a short neck and a small mouth with a tongue that tended to protrude. His childlike personality was at odds with his Buick-shaped frame. Harvey towered over most adults and wore size #17 shoes—extra wide. His parents specially ordered them from San Francisco. Harvey didn’t read or write and to my knowledge never went to school. Today we refer to people like Harvey as having Down Syndrome; back in the 60s folks not inclined to politeness called them ‘tards&r ... read more

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Harvey's Flock: Conclusion

June 12, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Part I of Harvey’s Flock can be found here.      Harvey owned birds, dozens and dozens of them. He and his dad built an aviary in the corner of their backyard. Inside were parakeets, yellow canaries, flocks of finches and even a pair of lovebirds. Together they created  a symphony of bird song.  Harvey would enter the aviary and stand with his arms outstretched like an oak tree, giggling softly to himself when the birds landed on his arms and shoulders. He claimed to have names for all of them and, at first, I didn’t believe him. But day after day he called individual birds by the same name until I was convinced he wasn’t pulling my leg. Years later in Italy I would see a faded fresco of St. ... read more

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Think About It

June 14, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Need to make a quick buck? This has always worked for me; I bet someone they can’t properly assume the position of Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker, one of the most famous statues ever created. Think this is a no-brainer? Give it a try, and then check the photograph below.   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *       Did you get it right? Nine out of ten people place their left elbow on their left knee, or their right elbow on their right knee. If you placed your elbow on the opposite knee, congratulations!      Pretty darn uncomfortable, especially if you’re chubby. ... read more

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Happy Father's Day

June 16, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I was a kid the only pets I could have were those that could be flushed down the toilet when they died. I had to wait until I left home to own a cat or a dog. But my childhood was not without pets: I had guppies, frogs and tropical fish. When I was nine my favorite fish was a black fantailed molly named—Molly. Unfortunately, Molly was suicidal and liked to jump out of her bowl.      Many times I’d find her flopping on the rag carpet covering my bedroom floor. I always managed to find her in time and return her to her bowl before she shriveled up and looked like a black toenail. I figured I’d solved the problem when I covered the bowl’s opening with a piece of chicken wire I found in the gar ... read more

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The Mare of Flanders

June 17, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded,  Survived.   This six word poem describes the fate of the six wives of Henry VIII. Wife #3, Jane Seymour, had the good sense to die shortly after giving birth to a long awaited son and heir to the Tudor throne.      Henry was content chasing petticoats and sleeping with mistresses, but his councelors pointed out that it was unseemly for the King of England to remain a bachelor and convinced him to take a fourth wife. Since there was no social network at the time, no Facebook pages with profiles, timelines and glossy photos, Henry was compelled to rely on his favorite portrait painter, Hans Holbein the Younger.      The King sent Holbei ... read more

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The Psychology Test

June 19, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
There are scores of psychology tests but to my knowledge this is the shortest, the only test that’s actually fun to take, and in my case the only accurate one. Take a moment to answer these five questions honestly and you might discover something you didn’t know about yourself. Feel free to write down your answers, and don’t over think your responses; your first thoughts are the most revealing. The answers are revealed at the end.   Question #1  Imagine that you’ve just awakened from a deep sleep to find yourself walking on a path in a forest. What time of day is it? Question #2 While walking on the path in a forest you look down and find a cup partially buried in leaves. Describe the cup and what do ... read more

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Revenge of the Claw foot Tub

June 21, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I realized too late that you don’t buy old houses—old houses buy you. And “charm” is spelled: $$$$$. When we purchased our hundred year old house in Northwest Portland, it came with an enormous claw foot tub. Mrs. Chatterbox said it was charming and worth the cost of restoring. I wasn’t convinced, but the tub must have weighed as much as a Sherman tank and having someone come to our house and restore it seemed preferable to lugging it down the stairs.      So we paid to have the porcelain redone and the claws refinished. I must admit it did look charming when finished, even though we could have installed a new Jacuzzi tub for less money.      Mrs. C. insisted that I ta ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #27

June 23, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I painted this piece back in the days when I was creating conceptual illustrations on spec. This is a common practice for illustrators who often find themselves idle between assignments. Since I had no idea what these illustrations might be used for I often gave art directors various cropping options to increase the marketability of my work. This piece shows extra space at the top where a masthead might go should this picture be used on the cover of a magazine, as many of my illustrations were. To my knowledge this picture has never been printed.          Can you think of an appropriate article for this painting?  ... read more

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Gandhi's Footsteps

June 24, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Separating men from myths can be a difficult task. On our recent trip to India I had an opportunity to visit the house in New Delhi where Mohandas Gandhi was living when he was assassinated. Gandhi has always intrigued me; I’ve long been fascinated by the humble little man dressed in homespun who challenged the greatest empire on earth to became the father of his country and a beacon for non-violence and passive resistance around the world.      Gandhi spent much of his life in prison and over the course of his life he fettered himself with very few possessions. A display case in this house, which Gandhi didn’t own, preserves his few belongings, most noticeably his walking stick, wire rim spectacles and han ... read more

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Nobody Holds a Grudge Like a Mother

June 26, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 For the past few weeks I’ve been dedicating myself to the completion of “The Best of Chubby Chatterbox,” a collection of my most successful posts. This week has been spent editing, but I hope you enjoy this post from 10/19/11.      My eighty-eight year old mother doesn’t read my writing, which is a good thing because I doubt she’d appreciate how I characterize her, but lately we’ve run out of things to talk about so I’ve taken to reading short stories to her over the phone. I recently shared a childhood adventure: actually it was a chapter from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope. I thought she’d find it amusing. Boy was I wrong.       The story, R ... read more

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Portrait of a Thief

June 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 This story, first posted on 11/21/11, is reconstructed from a true occurrence that happened several years ago. I was not the artist involved:   A young artist struggling to make a name for himself was ecstatic when an industrialist, the wealthiest man in town, commissioned a portrait of himself. The price agreed on for the painting (two thousand dollars) was more than the young artist had ever received. He was determined to make this the best portrait he’d ever painted.       Several weeks passed and the young artist appeared every day at the wealthy man’s mansion and labored diligently, refusing to affix his signature to the canvas until certain it was his best work to date. When finished ... read more

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In a Mall Far Far Away

June 30, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Do you remember when malls had weekend art shows? I loved entering a mall and smelling the oil paint and turpentine, seeing the portable galleries, artists working on paintings and chatting with passersby. As a kid I was painfully aware that all of these artists, even those creating simple landscapes, were producing work far more proficient than mine but I always figured I’d improve. It was only a matter of time until I was selling art in mall art shows.      As it turned out, I did participate in such an event, but only once. The year was 1980 and I’d carted several dozen landscapes to our local mall. I hung them on portable walls I’d hammered together. The mall was packed that weekend but I had yet ... read more

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Why Is Moses Horny?

July 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted on 1/16/12. Of my 450 posts this one has received the third highest number of readers. I’m not sure why.   According to the Bible, God punished King Nimrod who was audacious enough to think he could build a tower high enough to reach Heaven. In retribution, God decreed that humans would babble in infinite languages and be incomprehensible to each other, thus securing a future for Rosetta Stone® as the world’s #1 language-learning software. Even though I’m only marginally fluent in English, I’ve always found languages fascinating, especially when I encounter linguistic SNAFUs that make me laugh. Case in point: Michelangelo’s Moses.   During the Renaissance, scholars translating He ... read more

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Geriatric Park

July 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I haven’t shared any recent conversations with my mother, but yesterday’s phone call really made me laugh.      It’s been hot here in Portland so I began with, “Are you keeping cool? Are you running your air conditioner?”      “I’m doing okay, but that air conditioner is loud so I’m not running it.”      “It won’t do much good unless you keep it on,” I said.      “I’m not paying attention to the heat. As a matter of fact I’m reading again.”      For most of her life Mom was a voracious reader, but over the past few years she’s stopp ... read more

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What Do We Really Know?

July 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
   First posted 7/4/12       When dinosaurs looked up and saw a fiery meteorite shrieking into the atmosphere they had no idea their world was coming to an end. And I’m sure Romans couldn’t believe that a thousand years of culture were ending when barbarians were sighted near the gates of Rome. We are often incapable of recognizing or comprehending the important moments of our lives as they happen.      What do we really know? I’m asking this question on the Fourth of July but I’m thinking beyond the birth of our Nation. What do we know about anything? I follow the news and consider myself a political junkie even as I realize that everything I see and hear h ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #28

July 05, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
There are many categories of illustration; advertising art featuring products, portraiture for the rendering of personalities, sports illustrations depicting scenes of athletes and so on. My specialty was conceptual illustration. A magazine editor might have a technical or long-winded article that most folks might quickly pass over and my job was to create an image channeling the reader’s focus on the article and stop them from turning the pages. Often I’d need to come up with as many as five ideas before an art director would sign off on one. I honestly can’t remember what the impulse was for this piece. I don’t think it ever made its way into print.      This is Peculiar Picture #28, and some ... read more

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In Gauguin's Footsteps

July 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 French painter Paul Gauguin was seeking paradise when he left France in 1891. Although he lived in French Polynesia for years and painted his most famous pictures there, he wasn’t thrilled with the impact of western civilization he witnessed on his arrival. He was looking for an Eden, where innocent natives walked about naked and unashamed. Alas, French missionaries had already discovered the place, and women were compelled to cover their nakedness with dresses. Since Polynesian women had no concept of shame, they didn’t understand why they were supposed to cover their breasts. Many of these women thwarted modesty laws by cutting holes in these dresses to expose their breasts, making it easier to nurse babies.    ... read more

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My First Nude

July 10, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
While channel surfing not long ago I landed on an episode of Family Feud. Just as I was about to change the channel, host Steve Harvey asked this question: Where were you when you first saw a naked member of the opposite sex? As I scratched my head thinking about it, the image of a jelly donut popped into my head.          I was a high school junior in 1969 when an opportunity arose for me to fly to UCLA, where my older brother David was enrolled as a political science major. He resided on campus in one of UCLA’s many dorms. His roommate was gone a few days, giving me an opportunity to visit and check out college life. I’d packed a few art supplies, intending to drop in on a drawing clas ... read more

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Straight Hair and Popularity

July 12, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Ricky Delgado and I were lying beneath the shady sycamore tree in my front yard. My best friend was thirteen, a year older than me, and we were enjoying our last days of freedom before school began. The air was pungent with the scent of dying summer, or it could have been the tobacco Ricky was chewing.      Ricky claimed “chaw” was cool but I knew the truth. Ricky’s dad, a drunk, had recently returned from The Farm (county jail) with this great idea to stop Ricky’s bedwetting, which at the age of thirteen showed no signs of abating. Ricky’s mom even consulted a doctor and tests revealed Ricky was born without a certain muscle in his penis making it hard to prevent leaks. He needed to contr ... read more

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Straight Hair and Popularity: Conclusion

July 14, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Check out Part I (here.)     Moments before I’d thought I was fine the way I was, but now I felt like I was dying of thirst and David was handing me a glass of water.       “How can you make me popular?”      “Your hair.”      “My hair. I’m unpopular because of my hair?”      “Haven’t you noticed that all the cool people have straight hair?”      “No. Like who?”      “How ‘bout I give you four—The Beatles.”      Well, he had me there. Even I knew the Beatles were cool. “ ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #29

July 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
If reincarnation is real then it’s possible I was a mockingbird in a previous life. Mockingbirds love shiny things and have been known to steal and hide gleaming objects.  I’m not a thief but I have a similar fascination;  the more sparkly the object the better. When I started out as an artist I was mesmerized by the surfaces of things, especially various types of metal, from the mirror shine of chrome to the dusty glow of pewter or the opaque scratchiness of rust. I also have a penchant for intricate details, although I enjoy placing them in uncluttered backgrounds so the details can perform like soloists.      This illustration was included in my royalty-free CD Business Fundamentals, but I don& ... read more

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Humble Pie

July 17, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Several weeks ago I was leaving a Thai restaurant with Mrs. C. and happened to pass by the window of a new art supply store that had recently opened in our neighborhood. Taped to the front window was a sign—PART TIME HELP WANTED. I’m still trying to figure out why I did it, but I left Mrs. C. standing there on the curb while I walked inside and requested an application.      Mrs. C. has been complaining lately that I’m constantly underfoot; she never has any alone time. Later, as I filled out the application—something I haven’t done in many years—I considered what it would be like to have a boss after being self-employed for so many years.      In the ‘80s ... read more

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Calendar War

July 19, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 First posted 10/17/11   I’ve been married to Mrs. Chatterbox for thirty-nine years, and in that time we’ve come to learn much about each other. In addition to partnering as parents to raise and launch our son, we’ve shared hopes and dreams and dozens of silly as well as important secrets. I often think I know Mrs. C. better than I know myself. So you can imagine my surprise when I recently discovered something about her that really blew my mind. I thought I knew my wife, so my head spun when I discovered we didn’t agree on something so fundamentally obvious. She might just as well have said the Earth was flat or evolution a myth. I’m wondering if our marriage can be saved.       I c ... read more

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This One Sold

July 21, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A regular commenter recently inquired why I had so many illustrations that never sold. I doubt I have more unsold pieces than other professional illustrators but it did make me think that perhaps I should occasionally post illustrations that did sell.        This piece was created in 1994 for Bloomberg Business News for a feature on Rhino Records. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Rhino Records was a hot outlet for vintage records unavailable from other music sources. I was asked to create a “hippy-dippy” rhinoceros to accompany the article. It was fun painting John Lennon’s granny glasses, peace buttons and zebra go-go boots, but the biggest challenge was painting the ground and receding enviro ... read more

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The Mouth of Truth

July 24, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 2/10/12   Among Rome’s many churches is Santa Maria in Cosmedin, where Saint Valentine’s bones are said to be kept. However, the most famous attraction in this church is not the saint; it is the legendary Boca della Veritas—The Mouth of Truth.      We aren’t exactly sure what the Boca della Veritas is, maybe part of a fountain or a massive manhole cover from Ancient Rome. We do know that since the Middle Ages this object has served a curious purpose—as a lie detector. Here’s how it works: place your hand in the oracle’s mouth and he’ll bite it off if you’re telling a lie. If you have a penchant for romantic movies you might remember this from the ... read more

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An Elixir for Retirement

July 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts

Since it’s Thursday you probably aren’t expecting to hear from me today, but I wanted to share some good news with you. I was recently contacted by a website called Retirement and Good Living. After discovering Chubby Chatterbox they invited me to write a guest post. You can check it out at http://retirementandgoodliving.com/an-elixir-for-retirement/



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Fired From My First Job

July 26, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
At the end of my senior year at Wilcox High I landed my first real job. Like many kids in the Santa Clara Valley, I’d spent several summers picking pears and apricots, often eating nearly as much as I picked. But this was a real job. I was going to spend my summer as the janitor’s assistant at one of the local department stores—S.H.Kress & Co.       Best friend Ricky Delgado wasn’t impressed when I told him. “Shit, I never heard of anyone being a janitor’s assistant. What kind of ass-wipe job is that? You mean you’re not even going to be a regular janitor?”      I noticed he never burned the pavement looking for a job, yet he always seemed t ... read more

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Fired From My First Job: Conclusion

July 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Check out the first part of this post  here.        When we reached the ladies’ room I whacked loudly on the door and didn’t receive a response. I yelled out, “Janitors coming in!”      “Janitor,” Mr. Martinez corrected. “There’s only one janitor, and I’m it!”      “Sorry.”      We entered the ladies’ room and I propped open the door with the broom Mr. Martinez insisted I bring along. “Your job is to empty the trash cans, clean the mirrors and mop the floors. And do whatever else needs doin’. Think you can handle it?”      I no ... read more

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This One Sold #2

July 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
               Illustrators rise or fall depending on how many regular customers they have. One or two high-paying clients a year doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table. I was fortunate to have a dozen regulars over the years, art directors who channeled work to me consistently. Paul Nickell, the art director and editor of The Oregon State Bar Bulletinwas a client who became a friend. I produced dozens of covers for him over the years, and this is one of my favorites. Paul was always looking for interesting angles to capture a reader’s attention, especially when an article was rather dry in content. He was a joy to work for.      I’ve always been ... read more

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Second Blogiversary

July 31, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Two years ago my son CJ helped me launch Chubby Chatterbox. My first post was about my quirky mother (who remains a favorite topic based on e-mails I receive). I’d hesitated to create a blog because I suspected it would require commitment—not one of my favorite things—but so many people had supported my art and writing over the years that I felt obligated to bring my “story telling” to the next level. CJ convinced me that a blog was that next level.      So on July 31, 2011, with sweaty palms and blood pounding in my ears, I pressed a button and launched my first post into the blogosphere. I sat back and waited…and waited…and waited. Two days later I received my first visitor ... read more

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Six Minutes That Could Happen Anywhere

August 02, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
You might have heard about this on the news, but for me it’s personal; it happened in the building where my wife and son work.   The Police Records Department is located several yards inside the front door to our city hall. A thin young man, approximately eighteen years old, paced in the entryway before approaching the window and mumbling something.      Kathy (not her real name) was working the desk. “Could you repeat what you just said?”      The young man wiped sweat off his brow with the back of his hand and said, “I need help. I’m overdosing on mushrooms.”      Kathy called for police backup. It didn’t take long for thre ... read more

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A Fallen Star

August 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
She was once a star attraction with people paying good money to wait in line just to gaze at her tender expression. A place of honor was afforded her, a spacious wall with excellent lighting to show her off to best effect. You might not think her worthy of such attention; she isn’t young or beautiful or sexy, but she came with one of the best pedigrees on earth for a painting—she was created by Rembrandt van Rijn. Or was she?      Stars never come cheap, and in 1908 one of America’s greatest art collectors, Benjamin Altman, paid just under $150,000 for Old Woman Cutting Her Nails, an unthinkable amount of money in its day. Altman relied on more than his own expertise when purchasing this painting. His ... read more

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An Attack of the Grumpies

August 05, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It isn’t often that I wake up grumpy, but I did so on Sunday morning. It didn’t help when the microwave went out—it will probably cost a few hundred bucks to fix. It didn’t help when I called my mother and listened to her complain about everything she could think of. If you think the world and everything in it is going to hell in a hand basket just e-mail me and I’ll gladly share my mother’s phone number. Tell her you hate Obama and she’ll invite you to her place and reward you with a sumptuous meal that will include kale.      It didn’t help when my wife prepared a marvelous breakfast for me. This was when I realized I had a serious problem and needed a serious cure. I n ... read more

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This One Sold #3

August 07, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This illustration has sold several times and has always been one of my favorites. An art director asked me to paint a picture that illustrated the futility of chasing after money. I immediately thought of one of literature’s most famous lunatics—crazy old Don Quixote—tilting at windmills in the belief that they were evil giants. Quixote believed it was his responsibility to rid the world of them. In my picture I decided to incorporate money into the scene by adding currency to the windmills.      My original intention was to meticulously depict the money with extremely fine paintbrushes, but the piece needed to be completed quickly and I wasn’t afforded enough time to achieve the affect I wanted ... read more

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Food in Motion

August 09, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Last year I wrote about my pet peeve over kids only holding drumsticks in chicken advertisements. I still haven’t seen a child holding a thigh or breast. I now have another peeve—food in motion.       Physicists claim that everything is in a constant state of motion and advertisers have taken this to heart. Remember the days when commercials showed food on plates? Hungry Man Dinners didn’t need to be rendered motionless with a baseball bat. Times have changed.      Recently I’ve seen TV commercials featuring coconut shrimp from restaurants such as The Outback and Red Lobster. These shrimp bounced about like they were partying on a trampoline. Another commercial for Car ... read more

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America's Great Pastime

August 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Summer is the time for sports and many bloggers have great tales to tell about their athletic prowess. I’m not one of them. My greatest athletic achievement is summed up in my post “The Zone.” But there was a time when I was coerced into participating in another baseball game, this time as an adult. Those of you who know me are right to assume it didn’t go well.      Mrs. C. and I were attending one of CJ’s Junior League baseball games, minding our own business and enjoying the fresh air when I was tapped on the shoulder by a coach who’d wandered over from a distant ball field. He asked me, “Your boy playing in this game?”      “I nodded and po ... read more

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America's Great Pastime: Conclusion

August 12, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Check out Part I (here.)   My difficulties as an umpire fell into two categories: first was a lack of familiarity with the rules of the game, conveyed to players and spectators by the erratic methods I used to communicate my decisions; second, my co-umpire (Mrs. C.) found it all but impossible to remain impartial and not show favoritism to the hardworking smallest kid in the game.       I learned the hard way that it’s prudent to step back when base runners charge the plate, especially if you’ve just lost a contact lens and can no longer see very well. In my case, when spectators griped that I must be half blind, they were right. And I quickly learned that catchers often jump out of the way if t ... read more

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Thanks, Rowdy

August 14, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This post may not be for squeamish.     The children I grew up with were not always kind, especially when their attention fell on short chubby kids like me who talked too much. Making matters worse, I had a peculiarity that prompted additional ridicule, a birthmark on my upper lip. When I was a kid, one of the popular Smith twins across the street commented that my birthmark reminded her of the one on Marilyn Monroe’s cheek. Her comment was overheard and before long everyone was calling me Marilyn, even my best friend Ricky Delgado.      Being short and chubby weren’t things easily changed, but after months of being tormented with the “Marilyn” moniker I decided to do whatever w ... read more

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This One Sold #4

August 16, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Parody, an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect, is a useful tool when seeking ideas for conceptual art. When I taught illustration I often gave an assignment to find a famous work of art and mock it in some way. I’ve painted many parodies over the years and not long ago I posted one—Anne of Claws based on Holbein’s Anne of Cleves.      In 1994 I was contacted by the art director of Portland State University’s alumni magazine. He needed cover art for an article titled “Curriculum Revolution.” I immediately began thinking about famous revolutionary works of art, and Delacroix’s iconic Liberty Leading the Pe ... read more

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Best Vacation Ever!

August 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First Posted 11/25/11        “Stop shouting at our customers!” the bank manager said.       “Sorry.” I hadn’t realized I’d been yelling. It was 1977 and I’d only been out of teller school a few months. This was my first week working in a real bank.       The manager came up to my window several minutes later and said, “Our customers are complaining about your yelling. You need to get your ears checked.”       I took the next day off and went to the doctor. He told me I had an inner ear infection. The infection would work its way through both ears and eventually I’d be totally deaf—for a week. I wouldn&rsquo ... read more

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Burglars

August 19, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Last night our niece returned to her Seattle home with her four month old baby in her arms. She confronted a burglar in her living room. The burglar fled and no one was harmed, but this incident reminded me of my one and only confrontation with a burglar.      It was 2005 and Mrs. C. and I had just purchased a big old house in downtown Portland. We’d moved in less than forty-eight hours earlier. The house had a security system and we’d called the alarm company to have the system activated. It was Halloween and Mrs. C. and I had walked around the corner to one of the area’s many restaurants. We returned home by eight o’clock. In spite of the fact that it was Halloween we turned in early and were ... read more

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Ditched

August 21, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was startled to hear knocking on our front door early that September morning in 1965. It was Sunday. I was enjoying a bowl of Sugar Frosted Flakes and turning the TV dial looking for cartoons instead of religious programming.      I opened the door and saw Ricky Delgado standing on our porch, an expression on his face I hadn’t seen since we’d snuck away to a local carnival so he could ride The Hammer. Ricky looked nervous.      “Did your folks come home last night?” he asked, his voice thick with concern.      “Of course. Why wouldn’t they?”      The Delgados’ wedding anniversary fell close to my parents& ... read more

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Ditched: Conclusion

August 23, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Part I can be found (here).   I resisted the urge to grab my bike and pedal away as quickly as possible. I’d never seen a dead person, much less the body of someone I cared deeply about, someone like Helen Delgado. I’d practically grown up sitting at her kitchen table, watching her roll tortillas and tamales, mooning over her while she listened patiently to my babbling. I was afraid to walk around the crumpled Mercury, terrified by what I might see, but Ricky was my best friend and I couldn’t abandon him to deal with this on his own. I inched over and stood beside him.      He was staring through the smashed windshield. His parents were trapped in the wreckage, their motionless bodies intertwin ... read more

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Dining With the Smoke Detector

August 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First Posted 11/08/11.   I should have listened to the little voice in my head telling me to keep my mouth shut. Before I knew it I was in deep water.   “Why don’t you take the evening off?” I said to my wife. “I’ll cook dinner tonight.”      “I don’t feel like spaghetti or tacos,” she said, ruling out my specialties.      “Very funny. I can cook other stuff.”      She leaned forward on her stool at the kitchen counter where she was balancing our checkbook. “Like what?” She looked amused.     “You like pot roast, don’t you?”      ... read more

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Dining With the Smoke Detector: Conclusion

August 26, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Part I can be found (here.)       The front door was open to let out the smoke, making it unnecessary for the firemen to sink their axes into it.      A George Clooney look-a-like said, “We were just driving by on a grocery run and saw all the smoke. Is everything okay?”      Before I could answer, Mrs. C., wrapped in a wet towel, appeared at the top of the stairs. “What’s going on? Why is the smoke detector going…” Her voice trailed off at the sight of firemen standing in our foyer. She may have giggled. I’m sure she did. She would later deny it.       “Sorry, guys,” I said, “but it& ... read more

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The Pink House

August 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was in a really rotten mood that day back in 1983. I was unemployed, tired of job hunting and feeling depressed. To improve my spirits I decided to do something I practically never did—Plein Air painting. I packed my art supplies and hit the road. I was a studio painter, but I’d long fantasized about the Impressionists and what it would be like to plant an easel in a landscape, empty my head of all preconceived thoughts and let my eyes and hands take over.      It was a sunny day and warming up as I left town and drove into the country, past a few leaning barns and the pumpkin patch where in a few months we’d be bringing our three year old to select a pumpkin. I’d driven about an hour when I s ... read more

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Decimation

August 30, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It seems to me that our beautiful language is under attack. Texters are reducing our language to a few symbols that can never carry the full potency of profound or sublime meaning, and just a few weeks ago I received a wedding invitation that contained two grammatical errors and eight typos. I’m not the perfect warrior to defend our language from those who would reduce it to a fortune cookie scribble, but I do place myself in the ranks of those who cherish words, even as I acknowledge that language is a continuously growing and evolving entity. Eight years of high school and college Latin, the font of English and most Romance languages, should count for something.      My temper reached a boiling point last night ... read more

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This One Sold #5

September 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I would never classify this as one of my best illustrations but I’m posting it in response to comments I’ve received. Several of you have asked which of my illustrations has sold the most. That distinction is held by this picture; it’s sold over fifty times. I’m able to constantly resell it because I’ve retained the original painting along with the copyright. Clients only purchase one-time usage and are well aware of the fact that this image has been used before.      Originally, I painted a businessman holding clippers and cutting his way towards the dollar sign, but a panel of art directors at Parrish Financial didn’t want to exclude women and asked me to come up with a more gender ... read more

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Losing My Hair: The House of Estrada

September 02, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First Posted 12/07/11   There comes a time when many men confront their worst fear: not that they’re mortal and not likely to achieve the life goals they’ve set, but the realization that their hair is making a pilgrimage to the shower drain. I was shocked when I noticed my comb was harboring more strands than usual, and horrified when I pulled a goopy wad from the shower drain.      My hair began falling out in 1974, the year I married Mrs. Chatterbox. I didn’t want to draw attention to my problem. If my future involved a nasty comb over and hats to cover my balding head from the sun, I figured it best to hide this bitter reality from my bride as long as possible. I chose to confide in Randi, a ... read more

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Beam Me Up!

September 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
For me, summer is a time for reflection, the season most loaded with memories of people and events gone by, seemingly endless carefree days of tree climbing and reading books from the bookmobile parked a few blocks from our house. I remember the hot stickiness of an era before air conditioning, water balloon fights to cool off, gorging on cold water from garden hoses, brushing away buzzing flies as hot dogs and hamburgers sizzled over briquettes with watermelon somewhere on ice. It seems only yesterday that I’d lie on the grass as the night sky deepened from violet to indigo, staring at stars that looked infinite yet close enough to swirl with my finger.         I had no idea what an “economy ... read more

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Not What It Seems

September 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I lived from paycheck to paycheck for several years after relocating to Portland, Oregon. Good fortune came our way one summer when Mrs. C. won the raffle at her company’s annual picnic—an all expense paid vacation to the Sunriver Resort in Central Oregon. We flew on a private plane to a small landing strip outside of Bend. When we landed it was evening; the setting sun was tipping the distant mountains purple and a large owl skirted a nearby meadow, hunting for dinner. We piled our luggage into a waiting rental car and headed for the resort.       We drove up a curving road that bisected a fenced pasture. There we spotted something that disturbed us for most of our stay. Several buzzards wer ... read more

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The End of an Era

September 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve never gone out on a limb to make an assertion such as this, but J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) was one of the greatest painters to ever hold a brush, and his masterpiece, The Fighting Temeraire, is beyond doubt one of the greatest canvases ever created. With this painting the artist managed to encapsulate the emotions of an entire nation as British military dominance faded into little more than a colorful sunset. Someone recently asked me if it was necessary to understand a painting’s background to appreciate it; in this instance it certainly helps.       The Fighting Temeraire was a ship in Nelson’s fleet. At Cape Trafalgar off the coast of Spain in 1805 Nelson lost his life annihilating Napole ... read more

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If Looks Could Kill

September 09, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In the mid 70s the retail company I worked for transferred me from San Francisco to Oxnard, California, fifty miles north of LA. Oxnard had a rough and tumble reputation, and as a newlywed I was concerned about bringing Mrs. C. there. When I expressed concern my boss put an arm on my shoulder and tried to calm me with, “You like Mexican food, don’t you?”       “Sure.”       “Well, downtown Oxnard has the best Mexican restaurant in the world. It’s called Cielito Lindo, and the food is to die for.”       Jobs were hard to come by and it had taken a long time to land this one, so I brushed aside my concerns. Mrs. C. and I rented a truck and filled ... read more

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A Home for the Swifts

September 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs C. and I weren’t the only ones looking for a new home in Portland Oregon in the early 1980s. Winging up from Central America for a feast of flying insects, a cigar-shaped Vaux Swift was desperately seeking a new late summer home. The hollow tree serving as a roost for generations had been toppled by a recent storm. With thousands of hungry swifts soon to arrive, this scout must have been desperate to find an alternative roosting site.      In early September of 1980 a student from Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland was treated to an awesome spectacle. The darkening sky was thick with Vaux Swifts, darting about and gorging on a bug banquet of beetles, wasps, termites and flying ants. The boy was m ... read more

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Cosmic Cuties

September 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A news story this week received very little attention. The Voyager-1 spacecraft, launched in 1977 to study the outer planets, has officially exited our solar system. It is now so far away that it takes 17 hours for a radio signal from Voyager to reach receivers here on Earth. To mark this occasion I’m repeating my post from January 2012.   ************ Do you remember Voyager, the probe sent into space in 1977? Thirty-five years have expired since its launch and Voyager will soon be leaving our solar system and will travel through interstellar space, 10.8 billion miles from Earth. The probe carries hundreds of thousands of bits of information stored on a gold disc to promote Earth and human achievement should alien life enco ... read more

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This One Sold #6

September 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Not long ago I posted a picture called Money Maze, my most published illustration. This cover art earned the highest price for one of my illustrations—$5,000. At the time it seemed like a fortune. I was contacted by noted economist Nick Murray who’d seen a piece I created combining Don Quixote and a money windmill. Mr. Murray, convinced the economy was about to collapse, had recently completed a new book outlining how people could protect themselves. Crazy man; what was he thinking?      A copy of the manuscript was mailed to me and I noticed many expressive adjectives describing a looming banking and housing meltdown, a catastrophe of Biblical proportions that would shake our economy and make people lose t ... read more

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God, Can We Talk?

September 16, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
“Hey God, it’s me, Adam. Can we talk?”      “No, Adam. We can’t.”       “Why not?”      “You know why. You don’t know how to talk. I gave you the gift of telepathy so you could understand My thoughts until you invent language. You don’t seem to be getting very far. I hear that Eve is already working on sentences.”      “Is that what she’s doing? Those grunts and growls are language?”      “Yep. She’s light years ahead of you. It won’t be long before you have lots of children and all the girls will be better at language than yo ... read more

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Hear Him Roar!

September 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When our son was small he loved going to the zoo. Back then, the Portland Zoo was well known for its elephant breeding program but not much else. Every year we would walk past enclosures with sleepy bears, molting predatory birds and disinterested zebras. But one time was different.      I had just passed through the ticket gate with Mrs. C. and little CJ when people ahead of us started running, drawn by one of the most incredible sounds I’ve ever heard, similar to the sound of a freight train rushing down the tracks. We joined the stampede and quickly arrived at the lion compound. The zoo had only one lion and he really wasn’t much of an attraction; old, lazy from years of inactivity and forced feedings, h ... read more

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Two Announcements

September 19, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Two special shout outs this morning. First, thanks to Hilary at The Smitten Image for singling out my story A Home for the Swifts. It’s always an honor to see my name in her Posts of the Week feature. Check out Hilary’s blog to enjoy amazing photography and the other great posts honored this week.      Second, I’ve once again been invited to submit a story to Retirement and Good Living. I’m told my last contribution, An Elixir for Retirement, was one of their most viewed articles. I hope you’ll check out Buffaloed and leave a comment at Retirement and Good Living so these nice folks will invite me back. Just follow the link: http://retirementandgoodliving.co ... read more

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A Curious Heist

September 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  A true story I avoid talking about for obvious reasons.   This will sound incriminating, just as it did back when I was sixteen, but honest to God I had nothing to do with it. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to leave such incriminating evidence. Of course there were those who will always believe I was involved, but I wasn’t.      I was a junior in high school at the time, a member of our school’s Rally Council and one of the stars of our art department. Mrs. Russell, our art teacher, had her classes working up a sweat to create work for a student exhibit at one of the largest shopping centers in the area. A dozen high schools competed, and judges selected the work of t ... read more

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Beautiful Island

September 22, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Northern Italy is blessed with an abundance of beautiful lakes, Lake Como being the most famous, but in my opinion others are equally beautiful, such as Lake Maggiore.      Recently, while cleaning our garage, Mrs. C. opened an old scrapbook and out fell a yellowed newspaper clipping of Isola Bella (Beautiful Island), a seventeenth century island palace in the middle of Lake Maggiore. Mrs. C. has always fancied herself a globe trekker and for years cut out pictures of places she’d like to visit when we could afford to travel.  She couldn’t remember cutting out the article and preserving it, not even when we happened to visit Isola Bella a few years before I started my blog.      M ... read more

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Guppies

September 23, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
How does a woman become immortal in the eyes of a sensitive eight year old boy, so much so that fifty years later he still carries her around in a special corner of his heart? In my case it involved, in addition to a woman, a guppy.      It was the last day of school at Briarwood Elementary and my second grade class was already bewitched by the siren call of summer and champing at the bit to race home, banish leather shoes and long pants to the back of the closet and embrace three months of unstructured freedom. Before releasing us, our teacher Mrs. Best asked if anyone wanted to take Mr. Guppy home for the summer. Mr. Guppy, named with a consummate lack of imagination, lived a solitary life in a fishbowl in the back o ... read more

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Wrong Place: Wrong Time

September 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    On Monday Mrs. Chatterbox’s car was in the shop so I drove her to work. She’s employed by the police department in our town and across the street from where she works is an outdoor mall. Later that day I arrived too early to pick her up for the drive home so I ambled across the street to kill time. As it happened, while wandering through the shops I received a call from nature and followed signs to a public restroom in a far-off corner of the mall’s courtyard.      I do my best to avoid public restrooms but this was an unscheduled emergency. So there I was sitting in a men’s room stall, minding my own business and doing what most men do in a similar situation; I was reading the g ... read more

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Dead Caesar

September 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Whenever I think of an instance where someone was able to think quickly on their feet I recall a situation I experienced years ago while sitting on a bench in front of the British Museum in London.      The British Museum is a massive collection of artifacts and antiquities. It is famous for housing the Elgin Marbles, rescued (some say stolen) from the Parthenon and brought to England by Lord Elgin in 1805. The courtyard in front of the museum, mostly concrete with a few patches of grass, is generally crowded with tourists and families arriving early enough to claim a small square of grassy real estate for a picnic. Usually included among the throngs of people are a score of red-faced cockneys parading about as Roman s ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #29

September 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
     This unpublished illustration might qualify as my most peculiar picture ever. I was reminded of it when Mrs. Chatterbox came home the other day and said, “I have terrible news.”      “What is it?” I asked, waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me.      “Sergeant B. (Mrs. C. works for our local police department) had lunch today at our favorite sushi bar (name withheld). He says he was halfway through his meal when a giant cockroach dropped from the ceiling and scurried across the counter.”      “That’s terrible,” I exclaimed. “What did Sergeant B. do?”    &n ... read more

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This Spaghetti is...Incredible!

September 30, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  The other day Mrs. Chatterbox made spaghetti. I like spaghetti well enough but this spaghetti was different. It was—incredible, so good that after a few mouthfuls I could barely concentrate on what I was eating. I finally set down my fork and said, “What’s different about this spaghetti?”      “Funny you should ask,” Mrs. C. said. “Do you remember when we went to Italy and I bought that special cooking oil in Sorrento?”      I admitted I didn’t remember.     “Well, I found it in the back of the pantry and thought I’d use it in the spaghetti. Frankly, I don’t notice much of a difference.”  & ... read more

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Yellow Submarine

October 02, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Maybe it was because he never owned anything new and seldom received gifts, but Ricky Delgado had a keen sense alerting him to new acquisitions on Briarwood Drive. It was 1966 and Dad, David and I had just returned from White Front, the new pre-Walmart, everything-under-one-roof store that had recently opened a half mile from our house. I’d saved my lawn mowing money to purchase The Beatles’ new album Revolver (a whopping $3.99) and hadn’t even had time to play it or remove it from its jacket when Ricky knocked on our door.      “Where’d you go?” he asked, his antennae tweaked. “Get something new?”      Like me, Ricky earned money doing chore ... read more

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Yellow Submarine: Conclusion

October 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Click (here) if you missed Part I.      We trekked back to White Front. The security guard at the door stopped us. A toothpick lodged in the corner of his mouth bounced up and down when he pointed at the plastic bag in my hand. “What you got there?” he asked.      “I have a return,” I said. “The Revolver album I bought skips.”      The security guard fixed me with a hard glare. “Ask for Gil Rutz in Customer Service. He’ll take care of you.”      We didn’t need to ask for Gil Rutz; he was the only guy behind the customer service counter at the back of the store and the badge pinned to his ... read more

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Four Bits

October 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m just going to come out and admit that I’m oddly shaped. My legs are short but my torso is long, so long, in fact, that whenever I’m seated at a group gathering I’m always the tallest person present, that is until I stand. Because my legs are short I experience a problem when sitting that most people don’t have: change is constantly spilling out of my pockets. The last time I gathered up the change beneath cushions in our house the amount totaled $128.00.      Several months ago I was in a particularly nostalgic mood, remembering when movie theaters had velvet curtains that opened and closed, and cars had curb feelers, metal whiskers to alert elderly drivers (probably younger than I a ... read more

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This One Sold #7

October 07, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        I was looking for an illustration to post and I found this one buried in my picture file.  Created in 1995 for the editorial page of Portland’s main newspaper, The Oregonian, it accompanied an article dealing with the shutdown of the Federal government due to the feud between Republicans and another Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Based on the saying—what’s old becomes new again—I should contact The Oregonian and ask them if they want to run it again.       ... read more

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Truckzilla

October 09, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 w ... read more

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Karma

October 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Not all countries are blessed with an abundance of conveniently located restaurants. On a recent trip to India our tour bus drove many miles through desolate territories before stopping at roadside eateries deemed acceptable by our guide. At one such stop on our way to ride camels in the Great Thar desert Mrs. Chatterbox had an interesting conversation with the only member of our group whom she didn’t like, highly unusual for a woman who generally enjoys everyone.      The restaurant was dusty and swarming with flies when we entered. The menu was all in Hindi but I managed to order chicken cutlets while Mrs. C. stuck with her tried and true favorite—French fries. By this point in our trip she’d had ... read more

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Not Yet Perfect

October 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Some of you have e-mailed to ask how my books are coming along. Slowly but surely I’m progressing. I’m nearly through a collection of The Best of Chubby Chatterbox and I’m also working on a collection called The Ricky Delgado Chronicles. My progress is uneven but I’m determined to complete these books and make then as perfect as possible. When I consider their lack of perfection I’m reminded of other projects where perfection was not achieved.   The Bent Pyramid of Sneferu shows that Egyptian architects struggled to achieve the purity of design that is the hallmark of later pyramids.       The Bi-bi Ka Maqbara was intended to surpass the Taj Mahal but falls sh ... read more

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The Ceiling of the Seventh Heaven

October 14, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Today is Columbus Day and I’ve no doubt many of my fellow bloggers will be airing opinions as to whether or not Columbus was a hero or a villain. I think it fair to say that never was the world changed so much by a person who didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing, but instead of dwelling on this I want to relate an experience from a trip Mrs. Chatterbox and I made to Granada, Spain.      Mrs. C. and I had traveled to Granada to visit the legendary Alhambra, a place once described by a poet as a pearl set in emeralds, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together peacefully for nearly eight hundred years, a site of remarkable technical innovations and scholarly achievement ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #30

October 16, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                    Although my writing has yet to reflect it, fantasy has invaded my artwork over the years. Many of my conceptual illustrations play on familiar tales like The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs and Jack the Giant Killer, and I’ve created several paintings that visualize an imaginary world much different from that depicted in my published illustrations. This painting was created a few years before Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy premiered but it does have a Middle Earth quality to it. I’ve yet to come up with a title for this picture. I’m open to suggestions.         ... read more

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The Power of Music

October 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Regular readers know that my grandfather played a significant role in my life, but until now I haven’t mentioned that Grandpa and his two older brothers were orphaned when Grandpa was five years old. They’d been living on Terceira, a poverty-stricken island in the Azores and no relatives had the resources to take in three hungry mouths.      One brother was sent to live with distant relatives in Lisbon, another was shipped off to São Paulo, Brazil, and my grandfather came to America and settled in California’s Santa Clara Valley. The three boys had been very close and once they learned how to write they communicated with each other regularly. One of the things written about most was their deter ... read more

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Good News and Bad News

October 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My dad was a professional mechanic who always kept our cars running like well-oiled clocks. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit Dad’s mechanical ability, which skipped a generation to take root in CJ, our son. CJ is a remarkable mechanic who treats cars the way accomplished musicians treat their instruments. He can diagnose what’s wrong with an engine by listening to cars whizzing past on the highway. He does a great job of keeping our vehicles in proper running order, but he leads a busy life and isn’t always around.   For routine servicing we’d been bringing Mrs. Chatterbox’s BMW to the dealership where we purchased it nine years ago. Mrs. C. says the car belongs to both of us but it really belongs ... read more

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The Other Woman

October 21, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 12/5/11     Rick said it best in Casablanca: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine.” Like Ilsa, my femme fatale had no idea I was here when she flew into town.      I read about her arrival in the newspaper. Titian’s La Bella had arrived in town for an exhibit at the Portland Art Museum; her smiling face filled an entire page. I hadn’t seen her in years, but she’d fluttered through my thoughts too many times to count. She’d aged well over the years, not that it mattered; I’d always had a thing for older women. Still, no expense had been spared keeping her preternaturally in her prime, no easy task since she was over ... read more

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President Raisin

October 23, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few days ago I had a discussion with my eighty-eight year old mother about the current state of American politics. Mom, in case you’ve forgotten, is about as fond of the Federal Government as a bootlegger during Prohibition. I don’t need it pointed out that this was a stupid thing to do. I stay away from politics in my posts because my blog is designed to entertain and uplift, not cause strife, but Mom doesn’t go anywhere or do anything in spite of my offers to drive her anywhere she’d care to go. I run out of safe topics to talk about and frequently stray into dangerous territory.      So there we were discussing politics, with Mom blaming the Democrats in general and Obama in particular for ... read more

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Man Up!

October 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Years ago when I worked in a jewelry store the manager required all of his sales associates to pierce ears. I hated the idea of holding a needle-loaded gun to someone’s ear and firing so I managed to be busy when customers came into the store asking for this service.        But one time I couldn’t get out of it. A leather-clad biker chick, with spiked hair and smelling of exhaust and Pabst Blue Ribbon, came into the store wanting an ear pierced, even though she already sported a dozen earrings on each one. “I want a gold stud up here at the top,” she said, pointing to the place.      “Up in the cartilage? Won’t that hurt?” I asked, hoping she'd ... read more

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Ouch!

October 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t usually do follow-up posts but Al Penwasser (check out his hilarious blog here) left this comment on my last post Man Up! Al reminded me of one other instance where someone asked me for a piercing. Al commented, “Coulda been worse. She coulda wanted you to pierce something other than her ear.” The following happened a few years after the first piercing incident when I’d become manager of the jewelry store.       Jerry was one of my best customers. He and his lovely wife Mary Anne had purchased a small fortune in bling from me over the years. I was polite with all of my customers but over the years I developed a real fondness for Jerry and Mary Anne. It helped that Mary Anne was a ... read more

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The Ghost of Kilarney Park

October 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This story, a true tale from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope, has become a Halloween tradition here at Chubby Chatterbox. I hope you enjoy it:   *********       Haunted houses belong in the realm of goose bumps, foggy nights and old neighborhoods, not pristine suburbs with freshly asphalted streets, unblemished sidewalks and immature trees. But a ghost lingered across the street, in a house where a man died.      I was only two when our neighborhood suffered its first fatality. Kilarney Park (later to be swallowed up by the Silicon Valley) had just opened for occupancy and neighbors had yet to come together with barbeques and meet-and-greets. It didn’t help that none of the parents o ... read more

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Conclusion: The Ghost of Kilarney park

October 30, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Haunted houses and Halloween go together like dots on dice, but the haunted house on our street never did anything to attract trick-or-treaters. So why was there a light burning on Verna’s porch?      My feet began pulling me to the light. My head swirled with thoughts of murder: rat poison, asphyxiation, throat slashing, but I was more interested in candy than my safety.      I inched up the front steps to her porch and peered into Verna’s kitchen window. She was seated at her kitchen table, her head resting in her hands. Her back was to me and I couldn’t see her face, but I could hear her crying, a raspy soul rending sound, not the depraved rant of the undead or the wailing tir ... read more

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Out of Hell

October 31, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t normally post on Thursdays and I don’t usually post fiction, but here’s a fun story to celebrate the holiday.     *************   A shiver runs through me when I think back to the time when Tammy, my wife of five years, came to the conclusion that the gray tabby who’d lived contentedly with us since we bought her on our honeymoon, was lonely. Tammy convinced me that Sausalito, “Saucy” needed another feline to keep her company. On Halloween of ’79 we decided to purchase a kitten.      We soon discovered it wasn’t the right season for kittens. We were about to give up our search when we spotted a Siamese kitten for sale in the classifieds. We call ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #31

November 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Many of my new followers might not be aware of the fact that for many years I was a professional illustrator. While my work sold on five continents, I have a file cabinet of pictures that never sold. I use these images for a feature I call Peculiar Pictures. Many people don’t like discussing art for fear of being made to look foolish but that isn’t possible here. You can’t be expected to know what these pictures mean if the artist who created them doesn’t know.      Some artists have difficulty painting faces or hands or animals, but I was never happy with my backgrounds. If you held one of my early pictures up to the light, the dominant image had far less paint on it than the background, whic ... read more

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What Would You Do?

November 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I work out of the house and don’t have as much contact with people as I’d like, so I enjoy it when Mrs. Chatterbox comes home from working at our local police department with stories about co-workers. The other day she came home with an interesting tidbit that made me think.     One of the police officers (I’ll call him Bob) went shopping at Costco with his wife. When they returned, the wife handed Bob a $50.00 package of filet mignons to put in the garage freezer. Once in the garage, Bob got distracted and set the package on his workbench. Two days later Bob discovered the package and was unsure what to do about it. Should he take a chance the meat hadn’t spoiled, put it in t ... read more

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Bottoms Up!

November 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
For our birthdays this year, CJ treated me and Mrs. Chatterbox to a walking tour of one of Portland’s finest culinary districts where we dined on six courses from six different restaurants. Our tour guide informed us that Portland had recently displaced Cologne, Germany, as the city with the most breweries—seventy-three. Unfortunately, I dislike beer. CJ is fond of telling me that living in Portland and not drinking beer is like living in Paris and never going to a museum. Nevertheless, the taste of hops makes me queasy.      I’ve tried on numerous occasions to drink beer, especially when frequenting British pubs and Bavarian beer halls, but ales and beers just aren’t for me. I’ve had to ... read more

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What the F**K?

November 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I have good cause to place my wife on a pedestal; she’s a great wife and mother, a marvelous listener and a kinder person you’ll never meet. In the two and a half years since I started this blog I’ve extolled Mrs. Chatterbox’s virtues, but I think it’s time to throw a bucket of reality on the woman I’ve shared my life with for forty years. Believe me, she ain’t perfect. She has a serious flaw, a disability of considerable proportions. My lovely wife can’t curse to save her soul.      Over the years I’ve had to work extremely hard at my own swearing. I’m cursed with a mouth that, like a cat, curves upward at the corners. People often think I’m being smug ... read more

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Near Death in Chartres

November 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In 1999 Mrs. Chatterbox and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and nearly died.      We’d traveled to Paris to celebrate, but unfortunately everything was on strike: museums were closed, monuments shut down, cabs and garbage collectors had ceased being operational. Since the French government had a tight grip on the media, there wasn’t a word about this in the papers. Thousands of tourists were lined up in front of the shuttered Louvre and Musée d’ Orsay. Other than eating at overpriced cafes and bistros, there was little to do in Paris.      After a few days of walking around we decided to catch a train to Chartres to view the cathedral’s famous stai ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #32

November 10, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was given an assignment to create sixty illustrations for a CD to be called Business Fundamentals, it seemed like a good idea to include a conceptual illustration depicting a bean counter. I worked a long time to create the endless supply of beans in the background and I was sure someone would use this piece for a newspaper or magazine article. Unfortunately, this was not to be. My “Bean Counter” has yet to be published. 

 

 



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Veterans Day

November 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today we salute all who have worn a uniform and served our country. Having never served, I’m not included in this distinguished group of heroes. I’ve heard phrases like “Band of Brothers” and “Comrades in Arms” and wondered how different my life might have been had I heeded the call. When this season of thanksgiving rolls by, I listen to stories of heroism and sacrifice. Like many who stood on the sidelines, I shed tears when seeing pictures of unbelievable sacrifice, men and women with broken bodies trying to rebuild their lives. It isn’t difficult to support patriots with mangled bodies. Their wounds are often easy to see and deserving of respect, but too many soldiers carry less obvious scars o ... read more

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Stand All Ye Faithful

November 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First posted 9/30/11     Not long ago I realized a bitter truth; I’d been turning a blind eye to our environmental problems. I did very little recycling and took my gas guzzling car to places I could have, and should have, walked. My studio was downtown and I decided to take the bus to work. Leaving my car in the garage made me feel like part of the solution instead of part of the problem.       That first day, the bus was only partially full when I climbed aboard. I had one of the double seats to myself, but eventually someone plunked down beside me, a chatty morning person with solutions to all of the world’s problems. The next day a woman on the seat beside me applied make-up and doused h ... read more

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Cake Fight

November 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m often asked if my childhood stories are factual and I always maintain they are. But I’ve withheld this tale until now because part of it is made up, a small but significant part. For those of you who can’t figure out where I let my imagination wander, I’ll reveal the fictional element at the conclusion.   In 1963 The Fights aired on Saturday nights. Any male worth his salt watched them. It didn’t matter that there was only one fight, the match up was always referred to as “The Fights.” At eleven, I wasn’t particularly interested in an event that highlighted how ill-prepared I was to defend myself on a playground. I only sat through it because Jackie Gleason came on afterward. One ti ... read more

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Cake Fight: Conclusion

November 17, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Miss Part One of the story? You can find it (here).   At first I thought I could repair the cake. I tried feverishly to return the top layer to its original spot, but it crumbled in my hands. Before long, the bottom layer also slid to the floor. There was nothing left to do but clean up the mess. Since I’ve always turned to food during times of stress, I ate as much of the damaged cake as I threw away.      I felt doomed as I stood in the kitchen with sticky fingers and a circle of chocolate around my mouth. Not knowing what to do, I searched the kitchen like a drowning man looking for a life preserver. That was when I remembered Grandma’s Easter bread. I pulled the loaf out of the bread drawer and f ... read more

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Fall

November 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      This impressionistic oil painting could have been titled Fall, but it’s actually a portrait of my son CJ when he was six or seven years old. As I recall, he wasn’t all that interested in football, and he was even less interested in standing still while I painted him. It’s hard to believe that over twenty-five years have passed since I created this portrait. I remember being irritated when people told me to enjoy our son’s youth because kids grow up so fast; of course this proved to be true. At least I have a dozen paintings of CJ that preserve his childhood.   Although I’ve painted many pictures over the years, this is the only one to be entered in a juried art contest. I’ ... read more

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Thanks, Dad

November 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A rather large spider has erected its web above our front door and Mrs. Chatterbox has demanded I eliminate it. She refuses to exit our home through the front door until I practice spidercide. Some might comment that Mrs. C. should dispatch it herself if she wants it done so badly, but over the years we’ve devised an equitable plan dividing household chores (Mrs. C. would rightfully scoff at my usage of the word equitable.) Bug killing falls to me. I’m not fond of spiders but, unlike Mrs. Chatterbox, I’m not terrified of them. I would prefer to capture the critter in a cup and set it out in the yard where it can rebuild its web. Unfortunately, this “biggie” is not in an easy to reach spot and can’t be t ... read more

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Killing Camelot

November 22, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It’s hard to believe fifty years have passed since President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. I had just turned eleven and like everyone who lived through those traumatic days I know exactly where I was when I heard the news—sixth grade social studies. Our Principal, Mr. Landis, broke the news over the PA system. I remember his voice trembling as he sent us home.      I remember walking home, passing through our neighborhood and seeing adults on porches and driveways—sobbing. I had difficulty wrapping my head around the notion that the nice man with the smiling wife and small kids I’d grown accustomed to seeing on the evening news was gone. I’d never suffered the loss of anyone I cared abou ... read more

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A Flushable Pet

November 24, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve decided to get a jump on my New Year’s resolution to be more proactive about submitting stories and seeing one published next year. To that end, I’m reworking and submitting this tale to a publication looking for stories about pets. I first posted “A Flushable Pet” in 2011 and some of you might have missed it.    For several years she was my constant childhood companion. Her body was white but her head was black with eyes that shone like melting chocolate chips. She was a rat, a Japanese black-hooded rat, and for reasons I can no longer remember I named her Yama. She rode on my shoulder, listened patiently to my blathering and kept all my secrets. She didn’t mind I was overweight and was ... read more

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A Flushable Pet: Conclusion

November 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  If you missed Part I check it out (here).        Standing as tall as I could, I told my mother that if Yama had to go, then so would I. There might have been a twitch of amusement on her face; she often referred to me as Mr. Softie yet here I was standing up to her. Yama was permitted to stay provided she never left my room, her cage was kept immaculate, her water bottle filled and I did chores to pay for her food.      I played with Yama every day, letting her out of her cage to explore the wonderful sights and smells of my room. But it was inevitable that worlds would collide. One day Yama squeezed through my partially closed bedroom door. She and my mother confronted each other ... read more

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Macho Butterball

November 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
At this time of year we’re bombarded with all types of advice for cooking turkeys. We’re cautioned that, even though generations of cooks have stuffed dressing into their turkeys, this is no longer a safe practice. Too great a possibility of bacteria, we’re now told. Much is said on the Food Network about brining turkeys or marinating them to increase flavor. Deep frying them in peanut oil is becoming vogue. But something unique is happening this year when it comes to turkey preparation that you might have missed.   For years the Butterball Company has provided a “Turkey Hotline” for those unsure about roasting a turkey. If you have questions and don’t want to call mom and admit you don’t kno ... read more

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                  This was one of my first illustrations. I can no longer remember who the client was but I recall he wanted a black and white picture that resembled the work of Norman Rockwell. Unlike much of my work, this is painted on canvas.         I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.  ********************************* ... read more

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Happy Hanukkah!

November 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        I hope everyone enjoyed a relaxing a Happy Thanksgiving yesterday. I did so much celebrating that I didn’t have an opportunity to write anything new. But I did come across a set of holiday illustrations I painted for a greeting card company and I’ll be sharing the other one next month.      This picture is in honor of my Jewish friends who are celebrating Hanukkah, even though I mistakenly made the yarmulkes too big.     HAPPY HANUKKAH!   ... read more

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Returning Freedom

December 02, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 As most of you know, I was pet deprived as a child, only allowed small pets that could be flushed down the toilet when they died. As a married couple, Mrs. Chatterbox and I have owned several dogs over the years and I’ve noticed an interesting dynamic—the dogs Mrs. C. picks live with us for many years while the dogs I pick don’t seem to work out. The reason for this is obvious; as an artist I tend to rescue beautiful dogs while Mrs. C. looks for animals with wonderful personalities. She couldn’t care less what the dog looks like. But ten years ago when we were between dogs I foolishly inserted myself into the process by selecting an Australian shepherd named Freedom from our local animal shelter. He was the mos ... read more

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Asking a Favor

December 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t normally post on Tuesdays but I’m here to ask a favor. I’m trying to solidify my relationship with a site called Retirement and Good Living, a wonderful resource I hope you’ll check out. They just posted a piece of mine you might remember called, “What to Give an Eighty Year Old Man.” Few contributors receive comments and I’m trying to stack the deck in my favor. I’d appreciate it if you’d follow the link and leave a comment. Thanks for the help. Here's the link:   http://retirementandgoodliving.com/what-to-give-an-eighty-year-old-man/   Chubby Chatterbox ... read more

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Dave

December 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Thomas Gainsborough was one of England’s greatest painters. In addition to painting the famous Blue Boy, he painted countless portraits of English notables and aristocrats. When asked how he dealt with flattering his subjects he once revealed the secret of his success.      “When painting a portrait of a duchess or famous actress,” he explained, “I position my canvas so the model can’t see what I’m doing. I barely look at my subject while I paint the most beautiful woman imaginable, a porcelain-skinned goddess, an angel. When I’m nearly done I position a mirror so the model can now see the picture and follow my progress. I slowly alter the features to resemble the model until ... read more

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Holier Than Thou

December 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My mother went to work in the Almadén bottling plant in Los Gatos, California, when I was eleven. This occurred at a time when my grandmother’s life was slowing down and she had little to do. I don’t know all the details, but Mom and Grandma made an arrangement for Grandma to do our laundry. I doubt Mom paid for this service; Grandma probably did it out of love and was happy to have something to keep her busy.      Whatever the arrangement, it worked well for a few years. Grandma lived nearby and Mom or Dad would pick up our laundry once a week after work. This might have been Grandma’s real payoff because she loved company and always had coffee and freshly baked treats ready for whoever pick ... read more

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Garbage Disaster

December 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Friday we woke to snow here in Portland. The view from our window revealed a wondrous world of white. The garbage can Mrs. C. had dragged down our long driveway to the curb the night before was shrouded beneath a layer of snow. I decided to forgo my early morning swim at our local public pool. Around eight a.m. I was enjoying a hot cup of coffee and admiring our partially decorated artificial tree when I heard the grinding gears of the garbage truck growing louder as it headed our way.      A thought occurred to me. “Did you put out the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving?” I asked Mrs. Chatterbox.      Friday is garbage pick-up at our house and cans need to be out by six a.m. I usually ... read more

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A Favorite Christmas Ornament

December 09, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This is the time of year when boxes of Christmas tree trim are plucked from the garage, dusted off and brought inside. If you’re like me and have been married a long time, those boxes are sure to contain an interesting ornament or two, particularly if you have children or grandchildren. My favorite Christmas decoration was made by our son CJ when he was seven or eight. It wasn’t intended as a Christmas ornament.      An art teacher gave CJ’s class an assignment to create a vessel with a lid. What CJ brought home made me scratch my head. Instead of crafting something practical like a covered dish or box, my son molded clay into a….couch. When he brought it home from school and explained the as ... read more

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The Panic

December 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Modern art would be unthinkable without Spain’s Francisco Goya, who delved into his subconscious and exposed his deepest fears for all the world to see. He revealed an aspect about the foibles of existence that few before him dared explore.      I’ve said before that I prefer art that asks more questions than it answers. It’s unlikely this painting was intended for a client. It isn’t dated (most likely painted around 1809-12) and the title The Panic was ascribed long after the artist’s death. Goya left no notes or letters enlightening us as to the meaning of this painting. Some even doubt it’s his work. All we have is what we see—a giant rises from a ravine and stretches afte ... read more

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Goosie and Bonkers

December 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 12/16/11         When CJ was five, I took him with me to pick up our dry cleaning. He asked if we could check out the pet store next door. He enjoyed being licked by puppies and kittens when he poked his little fingers into their cages, but the goldfish captured his attention most. There was a big tank with ten goldfish for a buck. CJ begged for two fish. Since they were cheap, and flushable, I said yes. By the time we left the store, I’d spent nearly thirty dollars for a bowl and gravel, fish food and the coolest little castle CJ had ever seen. CJ held the plastic bag containing the two fish and tried his best to keep the water from jiggling as we drove home.      He named t ... read more

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The Grand Tour

December 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    As many of you know, Mrs. Chatterbox works for the local police department. One of her tasks is to give tours of city hall, where our police department is housed. On Friday she hosted a Cub Scout tour of forty-eight second graders. These tours are extremely popular with youngsters. Mrs. C. escorts them through the records department, dispatch and several other departments but, charming though she is, Mrs. C. is not the attraction; the kids are here to talk to real live cops, and cops, when available, go out of their way to make the tour interesting for the kids. It was a lively crowd on Friday with hundreds of questions leveled at Sergeant Dawson, who happened to be on duty at the time.      “Can ... read more

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Old Friends

December 16, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was hunting for an interesting illustration to post for Peculiar Pictures when these two paintings fell out of an old portfolio. They aren’t much, but they do bring back memories. These little pictures were painted in oil on scraps of canvas. They are small enough for me to place in my scanner without resorting to photography. Both are dated on the reverse—1966—back when I was fourteen years old. For better or worse, they are my oldest surviving paintings.      I remember receiving a box of oil paints for Christmas in 1965. I didn’t know how to use them properly. Oil paint dries slowly and my first efforts were little more than muddy colors and mushy drawing. I wanted to learn how to paint p ... read more

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A Live Christmas Tree

December 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This post was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Joeh at Cranky Old Man. If you haven’t done so already, treat yourself by paying Joe a visit.    *******************   Like many folks I’ve tangoed with the notion of buying a live tree for Christmas. Why kill a tree just to have it in your living room for a few weeks? In 1985 I decided it was time for a live tree, one I could plant in the backyard after the Holidays as a fond reminder of our boy’s fifth Christmas. The living tree I selected did serve as a reminder of that festive day, but not in the way I planned.      First of all, a living seven foot tree comes with a massive and heavy root ball. Getting this monster in and ... read more

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A Well-Written Police Report

December 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t normally post newspaper clippings but this one made me laugh out loud and I couldn’t resist sharing it. I’ve typed it out in case the text in the picture is too hard to read.   ***********      Orville Smith, a store manager for Best Buy in Augusta, GA., told police he observed a male customer, later identified as Tyrone Jackson of Augusta, on surveillance cameras putting a laptop computer under his jacket. When confronted the man became irate, knocked down an employee, drew a knife and ran for the door.      Outside on the sidewalk were four Marines collecting toys for the Toys for Tots program. Smith said the Marines stopped the man but he stabbed one of the Mari ... read more

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A Santa Face-Off

December 22, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Santa Claus is an integral part of our Holiday festivities but he has certainly changed over the years. The historical Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop living in what is today Turkey. He loved children and often put coins in shoes left on stoops, and an interesting miracle is associated with him. Back in 300 AD in Nicholas’ day, a famine struck the region. A butcher lured three children into his store, slaughtered them and placed their remains in a barrel so he could cure the meat and sell it as ham. Nicholas happened by, somehow became aware of the murders, and prayed until the barrel’s lid popped off and the boys emerged, intact and alive. This is the authentic Saint Nicholas. In this early illustration, “Santa” s ... read more

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Waiting For Santa

December 23, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  This illustration was the companion piece to the Hanukkah picture I painted and posted the day after Thanksgiving. Both were commissioned for a greeting card company, but I can’t remember which one.      I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Holiday Season. Your wonderful comments, along with your support and encouragement, have meant so much to me this year. Take care and think of me if anyone hands you a platter of fudge.       Merry Christmas!   Steve (aka Chubby Chatterbox) ... read more

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
             Maxfield Parrish American Illustrator (1870-1966)         Seasons Greetings. I hope everyone has a wondrous and very Merry Christmas.                             ... read more

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Brontosaurus Ribs

December 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First Posted 12/28/11      I recently saw an online statistic claiming that more than seventy percent of American families enjoyed prime rib for Christmas dinner. At Chatterbox Manor we did not have prime rib for Christmas dinner; instead we opted for Honey Baked Ham.      Years ago shortly after we were married Mrs. Chatterbox decided to roast our first prime rib for Christmas. A few days before the holiday we drove to the grocery store and studied the meat behind the counter while waiting for the butcher to call our number.      “How much prime rib should we buy?” she asked me.      It should come as no surprise that I’m a mea ... read more

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Did I Have A Stroke?

December 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Sure, it’s funny now, but when it happened I was in a panic and wondering how I was going to deal with such a dramatic change in my life, a change that would undoubtedly effect everything I cared about. I also had to think about my wife and how this dreadful turn of events might affect our marriage.      It happened a week before Christmas, the night before the Holiday Banquet Mrs. C. organizes for the police department and its volunteers. This is a sizable event and Mrs. C. puts months of work into making as festive an occasion as possible. Unfortunately, snow was forecast for the next day. Portlanders are not accustomed to driving on snow or ice and things grind to a halt after only a light dusting. Mrs. C. w ... read more

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A Magic Fish

December 30, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This short piece of fiction was inspired by a recent trip to the mall.   The mall was choked with shoppers returning Christmas presents and looking for end of year deals. My sister had gifted me an unsuitable sweater and I’d come to return it. With the refund tucked into my wallet I worked my way to the mall exit. The aisles were jammed with sullen children, screaming babies and tired parents. Maneuvering around them required patience which at that moment I sorely lacked. I dodged into a pet store to calm my nerves and build up energy to slash my way through the jungle of shoppers to reach my car.      A rude young boy pushed past me with a crinkled dollar clutched in his hand. He pressed his nose to a tan ... read more

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Happy New Year!

January 01, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts

 

Thanks to everyone for all the support last year. I wish everyone a prosperous and joyful 2014. May only good things come your way. Happy New Year.

 

 



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Unfettered Capitalism

January 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Rest assured this isn’t a political post. It’s about my first lesson in capitalism when I was thirteen years old.      I was still in middle school, and noticing that all the cool kids in high school were wearing rings made by the Jostens class ring company. The cheapest were made of yellow base metal and cost $26.50. They got progressively more expensive depending on the gold content, and whether or not the faceted green centerpiece was stone or glass. My older brother David, a freshman, saved his money and bought one of these rings as soon as he was able.      Like I said, I wasn’t yet in high school but I wanted one of these “cool” rings in the worst way possible ... read more

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Packing the Suitcases Again

January 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
              I’ve held back on announcing our next vacation because political uncertainty has made me skittish about one of our destinations, but there’s never a perfect time to travel so Mrs. C. and I are packing our courage along with our wash & wear and hitting the airport on February 6th. Our first stop is…       Hong Kong!   There are no direct flights from Portland, Oregon, to our primary location and our choices for making our connection were Tokyo or Hong Kong. We expect to be suffering from jetlag when we arrive so we extended our stay a few days to take in the sights and scratch China off our bucket list, even though many people don’t ... read more

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Popping the Question

January 06, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
As a society we’re now more accepting of diverse lifestyles than we were when this account of my proposal to Mrs. C. took place. But things were different back in 1973. Much different.    It happened on a cold day around this time of year, nearly forty years ago. How could time pass so quickly?      Sue (the future Mrs. Chatterbox) and I were dining at William A. Sterlington’s, one of Sausalito’s expensive restaurants. I had no idea who William A. Sterlington was but an old oil portrait of a winking man in a wig hung on a wall and I assumed he was the restaurant’s namesake. I’d reserved a table by the window with a spectacular view of the San Francisco skyline. Our meal was su ... read more

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Apollo and Daphne

January 08, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Rome is blessed with artistic treasures beyond compare, especially when it comes to sculpture. A few years ago I happened to be in Rome’s magnificent Borghese Gallery. This wasn’t my first trip to the Borghese but this time I’d brought along friends to share this incredible collection of masterpieces.       The choicest rooms in the museum house sculptures by Bernini (1598-1680), the Steven Spielberg of the seventeenth century. Bernini, more than anyone else, created the dazzling special effects characterizing Rome today. When I pointed out my favorite sculpture in the museum, my friends stared at it for a few minutes before one of them said, “We’ve seen hundreds of statues in Rome. ... read more

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Buddhism Made Simple

January 10, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Since Mrs. C. and I will soon be traveling to several Buddhist countries, I’ve been doing research to become familiar with the tenets of this religion. I came across this story which attempts to explain Buddhism with a simple parable.   **************************   A young Buddhist monk walks through a forest, so deep in meditation that he doesn’t notice he’s being stalked by a large man-eating tiger. When he becomes aware of the beast he hurries away and a chase begins. In his haste, the monk doesn’t pay attention to where he’s going and runs off a cliff. As he falls his robes catch on the exposed root of a tree protruding from the cliff. Instead of plunging to his death the monk hangs suspended ... read more

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Renoir Update

January 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Last year I posted a story about a painting by French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) purchased at a flea market in Virginia by fifty-one year old Martha Fuqua for seven dollars. The painting turned out to have been stolen in the 1950s. You can read the original post (here). You Be the Judge presented the facts in the case (as they were known at the time) and asked you to decide who rightfully owned the painting, the woman claiming to have purchased the Renoir for $7 or the museum that was reimbursed for the insured painting decades ago.      Since last year, cold water has been flung in the faces of those believing that a masterpiece could be acquired for a few bucks at a flea market. F ... read more

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This One Sold #8

January 13, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Regular readers of this blog are familiar with a feature called Peculiar Pictures, highlighting work I painted but never sold during my career as an illustrator. I’ve recently begun posting works that did sell. This one was purchased from an online site selling royalty free conceptual illustrations. Although I never interacted personally with the editors of this publication, I appreciate that they thought enough of my illustration to select it for the cover of their magazine.      I’ve long thought Alzheimer’s one of the most hideous of diseases. It seems a bitter fate to spend a lifetime accruing memories only to have them stolen from you in your golden years.   ... read more

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A Lurking Monster

January 15, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It was a modest house, referred to by locals as an Old Portland, built nearly a hundred years before we purchased it in 2003. Mrs. Chatterbox and I weren’t looking for a fixer upper but this house spoke to us. Had we listened more closely we might have also heard rumblings of something sinister. Beneath this shabby chic house hungry for restorative dollars lurked a monster that nearly drained our savings and threatened our upcoming retirement.        Skip ahead five years and Mrs. C. and I were ready to sell. The thrill of living downtown in close proximity to restaurants, galleries and boutiques had vanished beneath inconveniences such as crime, traffic congestion and parking difficulties. It w ... read more

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Gate Crashing

January 17, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Back when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were having difficulty affording gas for our car, I won an all expense paid vacation for two to New York City. While in the Big Apple I saw and experienced a great many things, but what I remember most is crashing a private show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.       Mrs. Chatterbox and I were strolling across Central Park one evening and we ended up in front of the Met. Limousines were pulling up to the steps and disgorging gents in tuxedos and ladies in sparkling gowns and jewels. A giant banner ran down the façade of the museum announcing a new show: Goya and the Age of Enlightenment. Goya’s canvases had been borrowed from museums across the world and tonight was the ... read more

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More Talent Than Luck

January 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Carel Fabritius (1622-1654) is not nearly as well-known as his famous instructor Rembrandt, which is a shame because Fabritius was arguably Rembrandt’s most talented pupil and someone we’d be better acquainted with if tragedy hadn’t claimed the painter at the age of thirty-two. But I’m getting ahead of the story.      Fabritius was alone among Rembrandt’s students in liberating himself from the master to develop his own artistic style. Rembrandt kept the backgrounds of his portraits plain and dark with the subject defined by spotlighting. In contrast, Fabritius' portraits feature delicately lit subjects against light-colored, textured backgrounds. I’m often amazed at ... read more

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Smarter Than the Average Bear

January 20, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was driving down the road on my way back from visiting my website builder when I spotted a rummage sale in an abandoned lot on the far side of town. I had nothing better to do so I stopped to see if anyone was selling a Renoir or Van Dyck for a few bucks. Unfortunately, no treasure was being offered for sale, unless you counted an old George Foreman grill that wouldn’t close properly. But I was mistaken. I saw an undiscovered treasure; partially blocked by a water damaged Cootie game was my cherished childhood toy, a plastic Yogi Bear bank. Yogi had been a favorite childhood companion even though kids in the neighborhood called me Boo Boo, after Yogi’s stalwart little companion.      It’s hard to ex ... read more

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The Angel of the City

January 22, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice is the most important museum in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century. Its most famous (or notorious) exhibit is the 1948 bronze The Angel of the City by Marino Marini (1901-1980). Erected at the front of the museum facing the Grand Canal, this sculpture sports an erection of its own.      Marini was one of Italy’s most talented sculptors, settling permanently in Milan after World War II. His work is stripped of all decorative elements, possibly as a nod to the Existential philosophy gripping Europe at the end of the war. The horse and rider theme was one of Marini’s favorites.      The Angel of the ... read more

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Expiration Dates

January 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
From 10/22/11      “Haven’t I told you to stop doing that?” my wife growled while scowling at me from a barstool on the far side of the kitchen counter.      “Yes, you’ve told me to stop doing it.”      “How long would you say I’ve been asking you not to do it?”      I gave it some thought. “About forty years.”      Her lips tightened into a line. “You really are a slow learner.”      Mrs. Chatterbox and I are usually sympatico—Tweedledee and Tweedledum joined together at the hip—but on this we’re worlds apart, hosti ... read more

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The Dowry

January 27, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I should have listened better when my future wife told me her grandmother was evil. I mean, how evil could she be? How could anyone as sweet and caring as my future Mrs. Chatterbox be related to anyone evil? I was young and not knowledgeable in the ways of the world. And I should have listened better.      I came from a huge Portuguese family and when I brought the future Mrs. C. home to meet everyone she must have felt like that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where a lamb was being roasted on the front lawn while everyone partied, except all of the males were named Frank instead of Nick.      All memories of my grandparents are wonderful. Mrs. C’s are not. Her grandmother never sent bi ... read more

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Jewelry Shopping in India

January 29, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
While on tours, some travelers resent being brought to factories or warehouses to see how goods are made. Tour guides have usually made deals and receive kickbacks if anyone buys anything. I’ve never found these merchants to be overly pushy and, as an artist, I appreciate craftsmen and tend to enjoy demonstrations showing how goods are made. Last year on our trip to India we were visiting the desert city of Bikaner when our guide Devander informed us we’d be making a stop at a local factory specializing in the production of silver jewelry. Bikaner, we learned, had been producing silver jewelry for a thousand years, although most of the silver now came from neighboring Pakistan.      Our bus pulled in fron ... read more

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Boiling Over

January 31, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    “Before you head off to Thailand I need help with something,” my mother said to me on the phone yesterday.      I looked at the phone in my hand, wishing it would take flight and wing away so I wouldn’t have to continue this conversation. “Please tell me you aren’t having another problem with your coffee pot.”       “Well, I am. It isn’t working properly. They just don’t make things like they used to. The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”      My mother swears that coffee must be percolated, but electric percolators have become hard to find. Hamilton Beach makes one that can be ordered online, ... read more

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Happy Super Bowl

February 02, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Mrs. C. and I aren't huge sports fans but we do watch the Super Bowl. I hope your team does well, whoever you're rooting for. As for predictions; I predict I'll eat too much, enjoy a few commercials and be confused by the game. Until then, some fellow bloggers forwarded these pictures. You might have seen these before but they made me chuckle.                 Have a great day.       ... read more

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Proud Papa

February 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Many bloggers take every opportunity to brag about their kids, but up until now I haven’t been one of them. Yet on Thursday our son CJ completed the first round of tests to become a master automotive technician, certified by the ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.) He successfully passed tests covering the following:   Engine Repair Engine Performance Heating and Air Conditioning Manual Transmission Drive Axle and 4WD Systems      In addition to his BS from the University of Oregon in Environmental Studies, CJ has just completed a two year program earning him an AA in Automotive Technology. His mother and I couldn’t be more proud of him, especially since his grades were go ... read more

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We're Off!

February 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
     It seems like we just returned from India and now we’re off on another adventure. Shutting down Chubby Chatterbox before a vacation is traumatic for me and I always wait until the last moment to do so. I admire bloggers who can write and publish posts while on vacation, but I’m not one of them. My initial reactions to sights and experiences are jumbled and often change with time. I like giving them an opportunity to percolate in my mind before writing them down. It’s only recently that I’ve been taking pictures. On our last trip I met a fellow who’d taken sixteen hundred photographs over the course of two weeks. I bet he won’t remember where he was in most of those pictures, al ... read more

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The Elusive Buddha

February 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
16, 17, 18…      Two weeks ago I was climbing 268 steps up a mountain to the Po Lin Monastery to see Hong Kong’s largest outdoor bronze Buddha, officially called the Tian Buddha, but unofficially known as Big Buddha. A cold rain pelted me, and the fog was so thick I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face, not that I was willing to pry them from my pockets where they huddled for warmth. I was reminded of the weather in Portland when we left; our pilot announced he was closing the plane’s door so we could take off early to avoid the approaching storm, and I later learned eight inches of snow and two inches of ice began blanketing Portland fifteen minutes after our departure.     ... read more

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Waterworld

February 28, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 We’d come to Hong Kong because there were no direct flights from the United States to Thailand and our choices for connecting flights were Tokyo or Hong Kong. We didn’t want to arrive at our destination with jet lag so we stayed a few days in Hong Kong. As it turned out we made the right decision because Hong Kong was drizzly and foggy, but Tokyo was shut down with a blizzard.      On our last day in Hong Kong we purchased tickets for a sight-seeing bus and drove around the city, pausing at Aberdeen Harbour, a small fishing community now circled by high-rise apartments. Here, ignoring the towering urban development surrounding them, families live on boats much as they have for centuries.    ... read more

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The Kingdom

March 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
His name is Bhumibol Adulyadej and his face greeted us minutes after our plane landed in Bangkok. I had no idea he’d be following us throughout our stay in Thailand but on the car ride to our hotel after clearing customs I saw him on virtually every street corner. It would be hard to imagine Queen Elizabeth’s face greeting me on every street corner in the UK.      I recognized him from the money I exchanged at the Hong Kong airport; Adulyadej is the King of Thailand, and the longest reigning monarch in the world. Approaching his sixty-eighth year on the throne, he’s ruled Thailand longer than Ramses II ruled Ancient Egypt. And it’s quite clear his people love him. In fact, the current government ... read more

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A Tale of Two Buddhas

March 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Did you know that according to the Guinness Book of Records, Bangkok’s official name is the world’s longest? Its actual name is:   "Krungthep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahadikok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit"   Which translates to:   “The city of angels, great city, residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.” ****************** In s ... read more

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Ayutthaya

March 07, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I never research our trips beforehand because I like to be surprised by what I see, and I had no idea Thailand (Siam) had a capital before Bangkok which, as it turns out, is not even three hundred years old, relatively new as far as world capitals go.      Near the Grand Palace in Bangkok stands Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn. I’ve seen it depicted in dozens of Thai restaurants but I had no idea as to its significance. It turns out that King Taksin and his court passed this spot, a village known as Bang Makok, in boats after fleeing the destruction of their ancient capital at Ayutthaya by the Burmese in the seventeenth century. A small temple already marked the site. The King saw rays of light emanating from the ol ... read more

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An Eden for Elephants

March 10, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One of the reasons for selecting Thailand as a vacation destination was my desire to interact with elephants. I’d hoped to experience them in India last year but saw very few. Later, I was told that Thailand was the place to experience pachyderms. I even joked that I was looking forward to experiencing an animal I wasn’t too fat to ride.      I noticed the importance of elephants in Thai culture even before leaving Bangkok and flying to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand for our pachyderm experience. Statues and pictures of elephants were everywhere, as prevalent as images of bald eagles in the States. My surprise at the absence of elephants was reinforced by the ubiquitous images of them surrounding me. I&rsq ... read more

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Where's the Peanut Sauce?

March 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                I enjoy Thai food and looked forward to wonderful meals on our recent trip, but Mrs. C. took her enthusiasm for cooking to a higher level by signing us up for a day at the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School. Had I studied the brochure I’d have known what I was getting into, but of course I didn’t.      We were picked up at our hotel and driven to an open market for a lecture on local cooking ingredients. Live fish and frogs were in tanks and I tried not to make eye contact with them. Mysterious animal parts hung from chains dangling from the ceiling, casting shadows over rows of severed pig heads. I’ve never eaten pig face. I understan ... read more

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D & D

March 14, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        I’m taking a break from my travel posts to share a disturbing occurrence with you. This might compromise the opinion many of you have of me but it’s said honesty is the best policy and…and…I just can’t believe I did it. I’ve heard of people doing this intentionally; back in my salad days lots of teens and college students bragged about doing it, but I figured it was just bluster. I never imagined I’d be guilty of such a thing.      I was seated in an Indian restaurant with my good friend Jo Barney, who you might remember from her guest post at Chubby Chatterbox. She was sharing pictures from her trip to India and I was sharing stories from my ... read more

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Thai Contraband

March 17, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  On my first post after returning from vacation I tried to entice you with these words: Had the massive outdoor statue of Buddha spoken he might have warned me that another Buddha would figure more prominently on this trip, forcing a confrontation between me, Mrs. Chatterbox and security in another country, prompting a situation that would send us to a guarded room for a bevy of questions designed to see if we were antiques smugglers, but I’m getting ahead of my story. The time has come (as Paul Harvey often said) for the rest of the story.      On our last night in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand we rode a tuk-tuk to the touristy downtown Night Market. Over the years we’ve cut back on souvenir buy ... read more

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Angkor Wat

March 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
After forty years of marriage Mrs. Chatterbox continues to surprise me. While planning our trip to Thailand she informed me she wanted to make an excursion to Cambodia. I had no idea she wanted to cross Angkor Wat off her bucket list.      We flew from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Siem Reap in the Kingdom of Cambodia. I didn’t know what to expect, and it dawned on me that we might not be well received since the US bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, but travel is the best way to correct misconceptions. In spite of its troubled past (Pol Pot murdered three million people in the late 70’s trying to turn the country into a communist farm) we discovered a land filled with warmth and fascinating scenery. &n ... read more

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Kong

March 24, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I have toured with busloads of people, but we were surprised when we discovered our trip to Thailand and Cambodia would be different. At three of our destinations (Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Siem Reap)  we would have our own private guides. At first we were hesitant but it worked out wonderfully; our guides were knowledgeable and personalized our excursions. Kong, our Cambodian guide, was exceptional and surprisingly pro America, although we did learn something unsettling about his past.      Kong picked us up at Siem Reap Airport and we were immediately impressed with his English and cheerful demeanor. He shared a wealth of knowledge as we toured Angkor Wat. Along the way he nearly made Mrs. C. f ... read more

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Phuket Island

March 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Mrs. Chatterbox and I planned our trip to conclude back in Thailand on Phuket Island.  We looked forward to unwinding and relaxing on sunny beaches before the grueling trek home. Of course we couldn’t have imagined the entire world would soon be focused on this part of the world due to missing Malaysian flight MH 370.      Aside from lying on a few pristine beaches, I wanted see the famous islands surrounding Phuket. We booked an excursion on a Chinese junk and sailed from The Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea. The sky was blanketed with haze when we disembarked but the hot sun quickly burned it away. Somewhere among the thousands of islands was one that had captured my imagination by figuring prom ... read more

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Writer's Blog Hop

March 28, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Val the Victorian at Unbagging the Cats is one of my favorite bloggers. She is an excellent writer with a penchant for Jerry Seinfeld and the ability to endlessly amuse me with stories about her high-energy family. Val claims nobody wants to read about hillbillies going about their wacky lives in backroads U.S.A., but she couldn’t be more wrong. She recently participated in a blog hop where she singled me out (along with a few others) and said some very nice things about me. Even if she hadn’t I would encourage you to check out her blog. This blog hop requires me to answer these four questions:   #1 What am I working on?      I’m currently working on a collection of stories gle ... read more

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Juan de Pareja

March 31, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      There was a time when I owned scores of books filled with art reproductions and biographies of the artists who created them. I didn’t care for many of these artists but I wanted to learn as much as I could about their creative philosophies. Eventually, I returned to those artists who time and again made my spirit soar by touching my heart instead of my brain. I’ve written many posts about art but now I’ll reveal my absolute favorite painting—Velasquez’ Portrait of Juan de Pareja. Although my personal favorite, it’s my belief that this is only the second greatest portrait ever painted. Why am I discussing the second greatest instead of the first? Let me explain.     ... read more

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All Too True

April 02, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  What happened when one of the world’s greatest painters set out to portray a man who was powerful, vain, nepotistic and suspicious, someone who also happened to be the Pope? In 1650 after leaving his native Spain and traveling to Italy, Velazquez impressed Rome with a brilliant portrait of his assistant Juan de Pareja. He then positioned his easel in front of Innocent X. Velazquez’ encounter with the pontiff was a duel of personalities; the artist was classy, restrained and intellectual; the Pope was coarse, cautious and cantankerous—a pirate in clerical robes.   Velazquez was accustomed to painting the pale complexions of his countrymen, but here he was confronted by a ruddy Italian in red clothing. The t ... read more

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The Accumulator

April 04, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The townhouse Mrs. Chatterbox and I currently live in has more square footage than any of our previous homes. I remember walking through it before we made our purchase; cabinets and storage space were plentiful and I figured it would be great having so many drawers that we could afford to leave a few empty. Six years later all of the drawers and cupboards are choked with stuff. How did this happen? Sometimes I feel like I’m a magnet and everything in the world is made of metal.      I’ve often dreamed of living in confined quarters, like a tree house, sailboat or studio apartment, a place where accumulating art books, travel souvenirs and Hummels (Mrs. C. has a fine collection) wouldn’t be possible. I ... read more

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Enough With The Depression Already!

April 07, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Once again the nice folks at Retirement and Good Living have invited me to contribute to their site. I’m honored they think enough of my writing to have me back, and I credit my success there with the flood of responses these posts generate. Thank you in advance for supporting me through your comments. I hope you’ll once again follow this link and leave a comment there. If the response is big enough perhaps they’ll continue to invite me back. Check it out here:     http://retirementandgoodliving.com/enough-with-the-depression-already/      I’ve written about a topic that has irritated me for years, and yes it involves my eighty-nine year old mother in ... read more

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Color Test

April 09, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few days ago Mrs. Chatterbox was engaged in one of her favorite activities, filling out a psychology quiz posted on Facebook. She completed the test and asked what color I thought she was. I had no idea but said, “I hope it isn’t pink because with your pink complexion you look a bit washed out when you wear pink.”      She rolled her eyes at me. “It isn’t a test to learn what color you should wear; it’s about what color you are.”      What a colossal waste of time, but I’ve been married long enough to know the pitfalls of honesty when it comes to discussing my spouse’s interests. “I see,” I said, not really seeing at all but try ... read more

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CJ's First $50

April 11, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      My mother came to Oregon for a visit when our son CJ was ten. As many of you know, my mother is a firecracker who doesn’t suffer fools easily. It was tax season and Mrs. C. was working overtime at an accounting firm. One evening after CJ had finished his homework, he walked through the dining room and saw his grandmother playing a game of solitaire. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation.      “Grandma, can I play cards with you?”      “Solitaire is a game played by only one person.”      “Do you know another game, one we could play together? Do you know how to play Crazy Eights, or War, or Go Fish, o ... read more

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Tulip Time

April 14, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve been enjoying the many Spring photos posted by my fellow bloggers, especially those featuring wonderful skyscapes and blooming flowers. I’ve resisted bemoaning the fact that Spring seems to be avoiding Portland. On Saturday Mrs. C. and I decided to get in the car and find Spring. We found it.      Twenty miles south of Portland is the town of Woodburn, home of The Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm and Tulip Fest 2014. It might seem strange to have tulip fields in Oregon when they’re mainly associated with Holland, but tulips aren’t native to Holland either. The colorful flower originated in Turkey.      Tulip Fest was started in the 1980s by the Iverson clan and it’s stil ... read more

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The Monument

April 16, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted April 2012   Flowers are starting to bloom here in the Northwest and folks are ignoring the drizzle to prepare their yards for warmer weather. At this time of year I always think of Mr. Melcher, a celebrity in the Bay Area neighborhood where I grew up in the early Sixties.   Mr. Melcher was famous for having the best-looking yard in the neighborhood. His nickname was Mr. Mulcher because of the great care he took to insure that his yard was well-fed, well-organized, and a glimmering palette of color. Aside from feeding his lawn and adding mulch, he fertilized and aerated every year and mowed his grass twice a week. The reward for all his hard work was an award-winning landscape like those on the cover of Better Hom ... read more

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Mary's House

April 18, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 Although I don’t write about religion, I think this post from our trip to Turkey in 2012 reflects the spirit of the season.   **********************   Is this really the house where the Mother of God spent her last years? Like so many things, it all boils down to a matter of faith. Although I work hard to contain my cynicism, faith isn’t my strong suit. But I am painfully sentimental and the story of Jesus is a remarkably good one, as well it should be after thousands of years of embellishment.      You might be surprised to learn that the House of Mary is said to be in Turkey; I know I was. This all began in Germany with the 19th century bedridden nun Anne Catherine Emmerich. She had ex ... read more

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The Perfect Job

April 21, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few days ago Mrs. Chatterbox informed me that our mattress needed flipping.      “Why?” I asked.      “We’re wearing trenches into our mattress and need to turn it over.”      For one reason or another, we didn’t get around to flipping our mattress that day but when we climbed into bed that evening I noticed we both appeared to be sinking into the mattress, as if we were toys in Styrofoam packaging. Granted we weren’t light people, but I had no idea we were slowly moving in the direction of hell. I later joked that we needed to hire someone to sleep on the mound separating us, to flatten the pitcher’s mound rising in the mid ... read more

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Hookers

April 23, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve mentioned several times that Mrs. C. is the volunteer coordinator for our local police department. One of her tasks is to arrange for citizens to tour the police department. These tours are extremely popular, especially with seniors, Scouts and special needs groups. Mrs. C. and her volunteers do a stupendous job making these tours interesting, utilizing canine officers and even letting people examine the jail cells, unless they happen to be occupied. But every now and then my wife receives a comment that makes her shake her head. She recently took a call from an angry mom. The conversation went much like this:      Ring…ring…      “Mrs. Chatterbox. How may I help y ... read more

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The Most Beautiful Sound

April 25, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 3/11/2012   A fellow blogger recently listed a few of her favorite things and one of the items, a classic TV sitcom, brought a smile to my face and made me remember one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard.   It was ’76 and Mrs. C. and I were on a bus riding from Patras to Athens, a journey that didn’t look long on a map but seemed endless on a bus with clucking chickens and grunting pigs. Mrs. C. and I were exhausted when we arrived in downtown Athens a few minutes before ten PM. We had yet to find a place to stay so I told Mrs. C. to keep her eyes on the other passengers so we could follow them to a hotel or pension after I collected our backpacks from the bus driver.   When I re ... read more

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The Purple Octopus

April 28, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In the 1990s I decided my fledgling illustration business had progressed to the point where I needed a permanent, full-time work space. Mrs. Chatterbox was growing disenchanted with art supplies cluttering her dining room. I’d managed to acquire enough regular customers to feel comfortable with the expense of a studio space, and downtown Portland was rich with old buildings capable of providing cheap work square footage. Besides, most of the publications, advertising agencies and professional organizations purchasing my work were located downtown and it seemed logical I should locate there.      Finding a suitable space proved harder than I’d imagined, but I finally happened across a suite with big window ... read more

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Brushes in Hand

April 30, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few weeks ago I experienced a weird sensation, something I hadn’t felt in years. I was leaving comments for a few of my favorite bloggers when suddenly I felt the urge to …grab a few paint brushes and move paint around. A decade ago I baffled friends and family when I set aside my paints and brushes. Now it’s hard to remember why I stopped painting. I guess I burned out after years of illustration assignments, years of working to please clients. In addition to painting, writing had always been an interest so I changed course and began painting with words. Now that I’ve completed five hundred posts and three unpublished novels, the time seems right to pick up a palette and start moving paint again.   &nb ... read more

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Night Shift

May 02, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Not long ago our son CJ was scheduled for a graveyard shift at our local police department where he’s a records specialist. This got me thinking about the only time I worked graveyard, back in the early 70s during a break from college. My mother worked at the Almaden bottling plant in Los Gatos, California, and she pulled a few strings to get me a job, just as she had for my older brother a few years earlier.      I showed up for work my first evening and was assigned to a wiry little Italian man around sixty. He didn’t speak much English. He guided me to a conveyor belt that rose to the top of the two story warehouse and disappeared into an opening near the ceiling on the far side of the building around ... read more

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The Glories of the City Dump

May 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 3/12/12   It's time for spring cleaning, and this always reminds me of a favorite childhood trip.   **************************************************      When I was a kid there was a place that affected me like metal drawn to a magnet, our town’s very own Disneyland—the City Dump.      Like many boys, I looked forward to our annual trip to this place of riches and enchantment. The visit was preceded by Mom telling Dad it was time to clean out the garage because it was getting difficult to squeeze the car inside. It was a mystery to me how she knew this since she didn’t drive, but before long Dad would be cleaning out the garage and borrowing grandpa&r ... read more

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Taking the Plunge

May 07, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Unlike today, when I was in high school physical education was mandatory. I attended Wilcox High in Santa Clara, California. Santa Clara was also home to the famous Santa Clara Swim Center, where Don Schollander trained for the Olympics, winning a combined five gold medals in Tokyo ’64, and Mexico City ‘68. It’s no exaggeration to say our small city took swimming very seriously.      All high schools in the region had swimming pools, and Wilcox also had one for diving. Before being allowed to graduate, all male students (sexist I know) were required to pass two water tests. First, we were required to tread water in the lap pool for one hour without touching the sides; touch it and you had to start o ... read more

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Washing and Waxing Mother

May 09, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
These days it takes a shoehorn to get my mother out of her apartment. At eighty-nine, she’s becoming a recluse. Mrs. Chatterbox and I constantly invite her to spend time with us. Mrs. C. tries to coax her by offering to prepare her favorite dishes, and I offer to pick her up at her front door, drive her to our place, hold her arm firmly while escorting her up the six steps to our front door and set her favorite mixed drink in her hand before feeding and returning her home.      Whenever I make these offers, Mom’s reaction is the same. “I’ll take a rain check.” Really? Mom has enough rain checks to see her through a deluge. Not even the promise of seeing her grandson can dislodge her from ... read more

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Foxy Lady

May 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve written several posts describing my childhood passion for pets and how my mother’s philosophy was such that I was denied any animal too big to flush in the toilet when it inevitably died. But there was another family member whose lust for animals overshadowed mine. My cousin Eleanor was several years older than me and her parents denied her nothing. When we visited her house I half expected to see a giraffe peering over her backyard fence. Eleanor didn’t make friends easily and experienced educational problems at school. Today a child like Eleanor would be diagnosed as suffering from ADHS or mild forms of autism, but back then kids like her were dismissed as high strung or just difficult.      ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #33

May 14, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Many of my new followers might not be aware of the fact that for many years I was a professional illustrator. While my work sold on five continents, I have a file cabinet of pictures that never sold. I use these images for a feature I call Peculiar Pictures. Many people don’t like discussing art for fear of being made to look foolish but that isn’t possible here. You can’t be expected to know what these pictures mean if the artist who created them doesn’t know.      After a long hiatus from painting I’m back at my easel. I was recently cleaning our garage and trying to carve a workspace from the clutter when I stumbled across this acrylic painting. It was intended to be thought provoking, ... read more

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My Second Favorite Organ

May 16, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It happened just before our son CJ was born. I was brushing my teeth. After rinsing my mouth I looked in the mirror and lifted my tongue. I don’t know why I chose this moment to do so, and I was confronted by an unusual growth on the underside of my tongue that looked like the eyeball of a sea bass. I was horrified.      Later, Mrs. Chatterbox noticed that I was being uncharacteristically quiet and asked if anything was wrong.      “I have a growth on the underside of my tongue,” I answered.      “Let me see it.”       “I’d rather not. I’m kinda sensitive about it.”      She frow ... read more

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Conclusion: My Second Favorite Organ

May 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Check out Part I (here)   The oral surgeon scheduled the removal of the growth resembling a sea bass’s eyeball on the underside of my tongue. During surgery, several muscles were cut that made speech difficult for the next few months. Fortunately, a biopsy revealed that the growth was a harmless calcium deposit, and not cancerous.      Since speech was difficult, I took a medical leave of absence from work and focused on rebuilding my ability to communicate clearly. It was a slow and arduous process. As babies, we mimic our parents’ speech and learn through repetition how to position tongues in our mouths to create certain sounds, but this became difficult when I no longer had control over this vital ... read more

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Vanished

May 21, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  We recently passed the sixth anniversary of my dad’s passing, although it seems like only yesterday when I received a call from Mom telling me Dad was gone. His death was totally unexpected and much that happened during that time is a blur. One incident does stand out clearly. It had to do with a painting.      I made arrangements to return Dad’s ashes to California so he could rest near his mother and where Mom’s family members are buried. Years ago I painted a portrait of Dad, and Mom asked me to frame it and bring it with us so it could be set on an easel during the service. I didn’t think it a good idea. Dad hadn’t really liked the painting. It wasn’t that he felt I&rsquo ... read more

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Wandering Buddha

May 23, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First posted 7/27/12      Not long ago Mrs. C. and I decided to visit The Portland Japanese Garden. Portland’s climate is similar to Japan’s and our garden is considered one of the best in the country. We visit every few years and try to time our trips when the cherry trees are blossoming. Helpful guides are on hand to explain the history of Japanese landscape design and the evolution of a garden which was once the site of our zoo’s elephant house. We’ve always preferred wandering around on our own, but this last time a tour was departing as we entered. We joined it.      I snapped dozens of pictures; as usual I never fail to be rejuvenated by the garden and inspire ... read more

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In Memory Of...

May 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was not familiar with the Battle of Monte Cassino when I spotted the buildings high on the mountaintop as our bus rolled into the parking lot of a well-tended cemetery. Yet fellow travelers on our bus were pulling out handkerchiefs and wiping their eyes even before the bus braked to a stop. For some, this was the focus of their trip, the reason they’d come, to see the place where their fathers and brothers closed their eyes forever during a series of battles that stretched over a hundred and twenty-three days taking thousands of Axis and Allied lives.      The weather was dreadful in February of 1944 when the ground we stood on was soaked with blood, but this was a beautiful day; flowers perfumed the air as we ... read more

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Tina's Garden

May 28, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Mrs. Chatterbox and I were invited to a Memorial Day barbeque at the home of our good friends and travel companions Bruce and Tina. In addition to the warmth and hospitality, I always enjoy spending time with them because Tina is an avid gardener and her backyard is brighter than the palettes of most artists. I’ve never been able to grow anything and Mrs. Chatterbox will only go near dirt if convinced the world has suddenly been rid of bugs, but Tina and her husband Bruce spend hours in their garden and their diligence pays off in beautiful flowers. Several years ago when we visited Monet’s garden at Giverny we purchased a package of seeds for them. Those seeds are now blooming plants. Lately, Tina has been delivering bo ... read more

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Four Corners and a Void

May 30, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
       Expatriate American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is best known for his flattering portraits of aristocrats, heiresses and well-heeled businessmen. He is famous for virtuoso brushwork and his ability to capture a moment or gesture. But his name doesn’t spring to mind when one thinks of portraits that dig beneath the surface to reveal the complexities of human nature. For the painting The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, Sargent chose not to group the four sisters—Florence, Jane, Mary Louis and Julia— together for a happy family portrait, creating instead an unconventional tableau.            Although critics praised this group portrait when f ... read more

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The Century Plant

June 02, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                    Most illustrators believe they have a picture book lurking inside them and I was no exception, especially since I also enjoyed writing. Twenty years ago during my illustration career I decided to pen a children’s book based on a story my paternal grandmother told me about a century plant growing in front of her grandfather’s house when she was a girl. For those who don’t know, a century plant is a large cactus said to bloom once every hundred years. In fact, it doesn’t take a century for them to bloom but it does take an exceptionally long time.              My story revolved around a little H ... read more

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Not the Man I Once Was

June 04, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I’m the tallest man I know, but only when I sit down. I’m 5’8” when standing—the height of the average American thanks to Hispanics and Asians—but seated around a dining room table I tower over everyone. I know what you’re thinking: You must have an ass as big as a Rose Parade float, but I don’t. Well, maybe the size of those carts that scoop up the horse poop. The problem is my legs. They’re too short, not Toulouse Lautrec short, but Boys Department short.        Someone seated behind me in a theater once whispered to their companion, “Why do I always end up seated behind someone tall?”       Before sitting down I ... read more

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The Biggest Peeve of All

June 06, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    It’s a mouse-size pet peeve, but sometimes it roars within me like a lion. Frequent readers of this blog know I’m often at odds with my eighty-nine year old mother. Mom is not mellowing with age and is feistier than ever. She spends most of her time watching Court TV and putting down the government. When I call, my role is that of a human crossword puzzle, keeping her sharp, even though I become blunt in the process. Ninety-nine percent of the time I call her, but she infrequently dials me. This is where my pet peeve comes in. The conversation sounds painfully like this:       Ring….ring….ring….            I pick up the phone. “Hello?&rdquo ... read more

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Paintings of the Week

June 09, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Now that I’ve returned to painting I’ve decided to create a new feature called Painting(s) of the Week, where I intend to share with you the pictures I’ve been working on. This probably won’t be a weekly feature because there will be times when I won’t have painted anything along with others when I only managed a scratcher—a painting so bad I ended up scratching it off the surface. I might even post a few of these just for fun.       Mrs. Chatterbox informed me that there are already too many self-portraits hanging in our home and suggested I paint something or someone else. But who to paint? I’ve never been particularly interested in landscapes or still lifes, and peopl ... read more

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Go By Train

June 11, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Shortly before my dad unexpectedly passed away in 2008 he drove across town to our house to spend the afternoon with me. Mom and Dad had only lived in Portland a few years, having recently relocated from the Bay Area because a health scare had convinced them it was time to move near us in case they needed assistance.      Dad was a gregarious guy but we sometimes had difficulty finding subjects to talk about. I suggested we go for a walk. “Have you seen Portland’s old Union Station?” I asked.      “Yes, but it was a long time ago. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.”      It was a pleasant day, bright but not too warm, perfect for a stroll. ... read more

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The Last Judgment

June 13, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, painted behind the main altar of the Sistine Chapel between 1534 and 1541, is one of the most heralded masterpieces in Western Art. Since its completion, artists and critics have been astonished by Michelangelo’s total mastery of composition and human anatomy, but that doesn’t mean we have to take every stroke of it seriously, even though it does depict the second coming of Christ, the judging of souls and the damned being banished to hell. Parts of this gigantic work (539.3 inches x 472.4 inches) are curious while others are actually laughable.          Michelangelo didn’t want to paint this fresco any more than he’d wa ... read more

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Tiffany

June 16, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Years ago I read in the newspaper that a special collection of items from the permanent collection of The Smithsonian was touring the country and would arrive in Portland in a few weeks. The article went on to say that among the included items would be the stovepipe hat Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theater that fateful night, along with a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. A Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington would be in the exhibit, along with a pair of Teddy Roosevelt’s spectacles. But another item mentioned in the article excited me more than all the others, the sort of item that always made me sit up in my Barcalounger when one appeared on Antiques Roadshow—a Louis Comfort Tiffa ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #34

June 18, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This illustration was painted shortly after moving to Oregon. I was still working in oil at the time. This piece was done on textured paper, with the forms wiped out while the paint was wet. Other colors were added later. My illustration was intended for a fluff piece The Oregonian was running on the forestry industry.       When it came to creating illustrations I always tried to hold my personal opinions in check, but I was not a fan of Oregon’s forestry industry, which at the time was characterized by clear-cut deforestation—massive land stripping that removed every tree in sight. Sure, saplings were planted between the stumps but this only made tree farms, not forests. Oregon’s forest industry has ... read more

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Running Down the Governor of California

June 20, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
No, it wasn’t Arnold the Governator, and no, I wasn’t a reporter in hot pursuit of an interview. It was Jerry Brown, and I ran him down with my car.      I’d forgotten my unfortunate encounter with the former Governor of California and three-time presidential candidate (now the current Governor of California) until I dialed in to a local deejay who was asking listeners to phone in their most memorable encounter with a celebrity. The prize for the winning story was a day of pampering at a fancy spa, which I knew Mrs. Chatterbox would enjoy. As I thought about the deejay’s request, I recalled the Jerry Brown incident. It happened back in ’76 when Jerry was running for president. I still th ... read more

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Cutting the Cord

June 23, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I recently came to the realization that someone in my family is having difficulty cutting the cord. I’m referring to my 89 year old mother and her telephone. A recent phone conversation with Mom went like this:      “Mom, have you been outside today?”      “No. Why?”      “Go open your front door. You’re in for a treat.”      “What are you talking about?”      Tina, our friend the magnificent gardener—I’ve posted about her before—heard that my mother loves cherries. Tina picked cherries from the tree in her backyard and drove them to Mom’s retireme ... read more

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Try This At Home

June 25, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 4/14/12      The Grande Odalisque, an odalisque being a harem girl, was painted in 1814 by a Frenchman by the name of Ingres (pronounced angry-without the y).  The French were queer at the time for anything having to do with distant cultures. They coined the term Orientalism, even though Grande Odalisque doesn’t resemble anyone who ever stepped out of the Orient. Still, isn’t she pretty? This was French Nineteenth Century pornography at its finest. A wife couldn’t get too upset if her husband ogled her; after all, she was art!      This lovely lady caused quite a stir when exhibited at the 1814 Salon in Paris. She instantly assumed her place in the grand traditi ... read more

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CJ's Birthday

June 27, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today is our son CJ’s thirty-fourth birthday. I don’t feel old enough to have a son that age, but the wrinkled face in the mirror assures me it’s true. Mrs. C. and I were twenty-eight and had already been married six years when we had our one and only child. Since we’ve known each other since high school it isn’t inconceivable that we could have a son in his forties. I shiver at the thought.      Two reflections tango in my mind today as I think about my son. Surprisingly, the first involves one of the worst days of my life. CJ was two years old and I was out of work during a terrible recession that struck the Northwest in the early eighties. Mrs. C. had a job and was carrying the lion&r ... read more

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Celebrations

June 30, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
June is a time of celebration at Casa Chatterbox. Thursday would have been my dad’s 88th birthday, Friday was our son’s birthday, and yesterday Mrs. Chatterbox and I celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary.      This picture shows us shortly after our honeymoon when we’d moved into an old duplex in West Los Angeles. I’d inherited the apartment from my college chum Ray, who over the next few months popped in at inconvenient times to use the shower.      It’s easy to look at old pictures of yourself or loved ones and wonder what became of the strangely familiar faces staring back at you, seemingly from across the years. My perky young bride looks like a New Christ ... read more

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John Doe

July 02, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This painting harbors a secret. It looks conventional enough, a wealthy older man in a posh setting, an expensive Japanese screen in the background and an antique leather chair beneath him. He is easy in his own skin as he faces the sunset of his life, a scarf around his throat and a jaunty handkerchief in the pocket of his coat. He isn’t one to suffer fools easily but he appears friendly and probably has a good sense of humor. Or does he?       One of the benefits of being an artist is that it allows me to play God. The world might not obey my commands but when I paint anything is possible. I can defy gravity and place waterfalls where they couldn’t possibly exist, and I can set more than one sun in ... read more

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Eulogy for Pizza Oasis

July 04, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Happy Fourth of July everyone. On this day I’m always reminded of King George III’s diary entry for July 4, 1776. He wrote, “Nothing unusual happened today.”   ******************   A few days ago I drove through our old neighborhood and noticed Pizza Oasis had shut its doors and gone out of business. A lump rose in my throat as I thought about the neighborhood pizzeria where many times I’d taken refuge after buying the big old house up the hill. Purchasing that house had seemed like a good idea at the time but I’d quickly learned you don’t buy old houses, they buy you.      I remember moving to downtown Portland as if it were yesterday. We’d been looking for ... read more

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Ken Orrett's Magic Carpet Ride

July 07, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When Ken Orrett entered our college classroom that first time I thought he looked like Santa Claus with a Bahamian tan. Jovial and bursting with knowledge, he was here to teach art history, a subject I knew very little about. He explained that, while he loved teaching art history, he was primarily an artist and had been painting for nearly forty years.      A hand shot into the air with a student asking, “So what do you paint? Will you be bringing in any of your own artwork?”      Orrett said, “On the last day of class I’ll bring in some of my work. But for now let’s begin the continuum of art with prehistoric times.”       Over the ... read more

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I'm Not Proud of It

July 09, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First Posted 2/8/12      On most days I turn on my computer to find that I’ve been invited to join a contest or have supposedly won one I never entered. Let me be clear: I never win contests and seldom enter them. I’m a great finder of things, particularly in the homes of people on vacation.      My streak of bad luck at winning contests started with, surprisingly, a win. It happened in the fourth grade when my entire grade school was herded into the all-purpose room for the annual end-of-the-year assembly. In our midst was Captain Satellite, a San Francisco celebrity who showed cartoons and Three Stooges movies on local TV after school. For an hour he ran cartoons on a defect ... read more

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Holier Than Thou

July 11, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  “You might feel a slight pressure,” she said, but I only felt a gentle tingle when she pushed the needle into the fleshy portion of my right hand, between my thumb and index finger.      “That isn’t anywhere near the pain,” I said.      Angela explained, “Pain radiates. Your body is unbalanced. My goal is to balance you.” She began applying needles to my ankles and feet.      I’d been experiencing pain in my left thigh for some time. A few years back I was walking through a cathedral in Milan when struck with an unbearable pain in my left thigh, just above the knee. I fell against a massive pillar, feeling like I’d ... read more

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Cue the Cello Music

July 14, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was terrified long before the theater lights dimmed. It was July of 1975 and Mrs. Chatterbox and I, living in West Los Angeles, had come to see the movie Jaws. The theater was packed with enthusiastic movie-goers, here for 124 minutes of terror and gore.      I’d long had a fear of sharks, a phobia inherited from my grandfather, a Portuguese fisherman who’d described in detail encounters with great whites. And it didn’t help that several weeks before the premiere of Jaws a twenty foot great white had been caught off the Channel Islands and brought to the Santa Monica Pier where people flocked to see it. When cut open, two fully grown seals, each weighing close to two hundred pounds, were found in it ... read more

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Raju

July 16, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Life had not treated Raju kindly. He’d been sold as a baby fifty years ago and since then his life had been a living hell. He’d been taunted, beaten, starved, forced to perform tricks and had been reduced to eating scraps thrown at him by tourists. You might have read about Raju recently. He’s become famous for doing something remarkable, something extremely common in humans but never before witnessed in an elephant.      Raju was discovered in a small Indian village wearing tight spiked shackles and chained to a tree twenty-four hours a day, an act of intolerable cruelty. Tourists snapped pictures of him and tossed scraps of food in his direction. How long had he been there? No one seemed to know. ... read more

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Clever?

July 18, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 1/9/12      Do you remember when it was considered a compliment to be called clever? I remember hearing comments like, “That Johnny is one clever boy.” I wanted to be like Johnny. I thought my parents wanted me to be clever, a term I equated with smart. But somewhere along the way clever became undesirable. My ears are still ringing from the last time my wife said, “You think you’re sooo clever!”      Clever was once used to describe someone who was brilliant, sharp and possessing quick intelligence, but lately it’s come to imply shallowness and superficiality. It is a mystery how “clever” managed to attain positive status in the first p ... read more

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Sultan for a Day

July 21, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I wrote this post several years ago, shortly after Mrs. Chatterbox and I returned from Turkey. I’ve spent the last four weeks working on a painting based on this post. I’ll reveal my finished canvas on Wednesday.   ****************************************   I saw him when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were sitting on a bench between sixteen hundred year old Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque in the old section of Istanbul. This spot has been a hub of human activity for nearly two thousand years and this day was no exception. Countless people strolled past our bench, including a little sultan dressed in a princely costume: a beaded and sequined white satin suit, sash and plumed pillbox hat. He had a scepter in his hand and ... read more

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Picture of the Week #2

July 23, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Actually, it’s more like the picture of the month since it took that long to complete this painting. Hopefully, you’ve read my previous post (click here) so this picture, which I call The Little Sultan, will make sense.      In Turkey, boys between the ages of five and ten are dressed up as sultans and fêted for an entire day. Later that evening they’re circumcised. I received several comments calling this custom barbarous, which was not my intention. The boys are well-loved and surrounded by loving families. These costumes, along with a full day of feasting and celebrating, cost a small fortune and are a reflection of how much these boys are cherished.   & ... read more

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Land of the Unknown

July 25, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I’ve stopped watching the news at dinnertime because it’s too disturbing. Mrs. Chatterbox and I have been watching—please don’t judge us too harshly— Family Feud. A recent question asked was : Aside from their cars, what do men value most? The #1 answer was…their tools.      My dad was a professional mechanic and had lots of tools. I had uncles who outlined their tools on garage pegboards which always seemed rather anal to me. But there’s no denying that men are into tools. Unfortunately, I’m not. Sure I’ve had art tools like X-Acto knives, pliers to stretch canvases, and paint brushes, but I’m talking about high testosterone tools lik ... read more

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The Hoax

July 28, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      This piece, originally published 1/25/12, is the only one of my five hundred posts to receive a negative comment. Someone told me I was just a lazy bum and I should get off my ass and learn math. This was intended to be tongue in cheek but some people thought I was serious. Well, maybe I was...a little.   ******************************* This might be the most self-serving post I’ve written. First a confession: I’m really stupid when it comes to math. Back in grade school I was already having trouble when the government forced “New Math” on us so we could compete with the Russians who’d just launched Sputnik, as if Russian children had anything to do with hurling a satellite int ... read more

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I Didn't Relish This One

July 30, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    I was excited when my agent informed me she’d landed us a plum assignment with Steinfeld’s Products. Steinfeld’s had been manufacturing pickles, sauerkrauts and relishes for over a century, and I was eager to work with them.      I arrived at Steinfeld’s advertising agency in downtown Portland and was seated in a conference room, which quickly filled with men in suits. We were joined by a casually dressed fellow who was introduced as the art director. The butterflies in my stomach abated when he said, “We’ve been looking at samples of your work and we believe you’re just the artist for a project we have in mind.”      I grinned and ... read more

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Not So Great Expectations

August 01, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today in Portland it’s in the nineties, but summers aren’t always warm, or even dry. When our son CJ was small we wanted to abandon dreary Portland for a few days. We decided to head east to Sun River in central Oregon. I made a few calls to secure lodging and discovered we weren’t the only ones trying to flee the bad weather. Sun River was completely booked…except for one condo. I asked the leasing agent why this one unit wasn’t rented and was told it was due to the railroad tracks butting up against the property.      Like everyone else, I didn’t want to rent a unit that backed up to railroad tracks. I could only imagine how annoying a train would be, blowing its whistle and rat ... read more

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Superstition

August 04, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A mirror is handy to have in my studio because it allows me to see my work in reverse. I find this useful because after long concentration my eyes often go dead to what I’m painting and a mirror reveals the flaws. Yesterday while painting I reached for the small mirror on the taboret beside my easel. It slipped through my fingers and hit the concrete of our garage floor, shattering into many pieces. Looking down at the glinting shards, my first thought was, “Uh-oh, seven years of bad luck.”      I thought this in spite of the fact that I consider myself too intelligent to fall for superstition, which I consider the realm of the uneducated and under evolved. I’ve been known to pick up pennies, bu ... read more

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Shame!

August 06, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The last time I felt this much shame I was thirteen and busily abusing myself after finding a discarded copy of Playboy in a trashcan on my walk to school. That was a long time ago and I’d assumed I was beyond debasing myself, but I was wrong. I blame Mrs. Chatterbox for what happened; she’s the one who brought it to my attention. Of course I knew about it, but I’d resisted temptation. I’m generally a strong-willed person who seldom succumbs to peer pressure, but on this occasion I proved too weak to resist.      “You know you want to,” Mrs. Chatterbox said, like a siren luring me to the rocks.      “No I don’t! I’ve resisted this long and I& ... read more

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Madame X

August 08, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
“Shameful!”      “A disgrace!”      “The artist should be whipped!”      The painter John Singer Sargent had no idea his portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau, known for her artful appearance, would become the talk of Paris at the Salon of 1884. Sargent hoped to enhance his reputation by painting her portrait, but instead of praise critics dished out nothing but ridicule. Scorn for his portrait was so intense that Sargent left Paris and reestablished his studio in London. Looking at this painting, it’s hard to experience the whiff of naughtiness that enraged people, why they thought it obscene, especially in Paris, a city that had seen i ... read more

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Perfectly Clear

August 11, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 a ... read more

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The Bomb Shelter Game

August 13, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    This was among the first posts on my original site. I’ve listed it under favorites on my new blog but it hasn’t received any comments. I thought it might be fun to rerun it in case you missed it.   ********************   Back in 1967 when I was a junior in high school, Mr. Farrington, our social studies teacher, came up with an interesting idea that made us all stop thinking about our raging hormones to focus on something nearly as important—survival. The Soviet Union hadn’t crumbled yet and nuclear annihilation remained a distinct possibility, so engaging in a life and death struggle for survival, even if it was only a game, was far more interesting than the usual drivel we were expos ... read more

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The Waltzing Bandit

August 15, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
“The Waltzing Bandit? That’s a stupid name for a crook.”      “Maybe so, but he buried stolen gold around here,” I said.      We were spending the day at Alum Rock Park in the Diablo Range foothills on the east side of San Jose. I’d brought along my best friend Ricky Delgado. Ricky’s dad was a drunk and currently incarcerated on the Farm, a.k.a. the county jail.      “Did he really steal the gold or did he dance for it?”      “Very funny!” But Ricky had a point. It was a stupid name. My mother, the history buff, had been the one to tell me about this Waltzing Bandit.    & ... read more

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The Cement Boat

August 18, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
An excerpt from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope:   ************************************************             When I was a kid my dad often took me and my older brother David to the Cement Boat. Originally designed as a cargo transport in 1918, the Cement Boat missed action in World War I. She was made with a material not recognized for its floating capacity—cement—and how she managed to float is still beyond me. During the Great Depression she was run aground at Seacliff Beach near Santa Cruz and a pier constructed so people could fish from her.      We would get up long before the crack of dawn to drive through the Santa Cruz Mountain ... read more

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Picture of the Week #4

August 20, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                      Artists often set aside paintings in progress for a variety of reasons. Perhaps other commissions got in the way, the subject of a portrait might have died, or the artist didn’t have the technical skill to finish it. I was heavily under the influence of Rembrandt when I began this painting of fantasy characters in 1985. I recently found it in my garage and decided the time had come for me to finish it.            Several neighbors walking past my garage while I was working on this picture said it reminded them of something from Game of Thrones, which I knew nothing about back in ‘85. I’ve always ... read more

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

August 22, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
            Have you ever wondered about the biggest bell in the world? Most people would say it’s in Moscow, weighing in at 445,166 pounds. The Tsar Bell was commissioned by the niece of Peter the Great. It broke during casting and has never been rung. But it’s possible the Tsar Bell will soon lose it’s ranking as the world’s largest. The new contender for the title might be resting under twenty-five feet of mud at the bottom of a river.      Tsar Bell, Moscow      The Dhammazedi Bell has long fascinated those captivated by lost treasure. It was cast around 1484 by order of King Dhammazedi in what is now Myanmar. The bell was a gift to the ... read more

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Process of Elimination

August 25, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Everything associated with babies is usually considered cute and adorable, including the elimination of body waste. Call it what you will: potty, or doody, boom boom or poopy, but at some point in life the cozy euphemisms no longer apply. When is that all-important moment when snuggly slang metastasizes into a clinical word like stool?      As most of you know, Mrs. Chatterbox works for the local police department and several of her co-workers are having babies. Conversations are circulating about potty training rituals and cloth diapers versus disposable. Mrs. C. relates these discussions because I work at home and socialize so little I’ll listen to just about anything.      Mrs. C. had jus ... read more

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The Appendix Couch

August 27, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
During the summer break before my sophomore year of high school I woke one night with a terrible pain in my side. I should have figured it was my appendix since the Hayes appendix isn’t worth a damn and all male members of my family have had theirs out, my brother when he was only two, but for some reason my appendix wasn’t suspected of being the problem.      When I couldn’t stop moaning my dad took me to the hospital. I sat in the waiting room for a long time and was eventually sent home and told to give myself an enema, which I later learned was not a good thing to do if you happen to have an inflamed appendix.      After more bouts of agony my dad rushed me back to the emerge ... read more

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Justifying The "B" Word

August 29, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 11/07/12   Yes, I admit it; in a moment of weakness I looked my son’s godmother in the face and called her the “B” word. Horrible I know, but don’t condemn me until you know the facts.      Our son’s godparents (I’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. G.) are psychologists and a delightful couple. They live in Sacramento and are our oldest and dearest friends—the reason we selected them to be our son’s godparents. They’d agreed to raise little CJ should tragedy make him an orphan. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were visiting them a few weeks before our first trip to Hawaii. Mrs. C. and I hadn’t traveled anywhere since our son was born and we were bubblin ... read more

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Mother and the King

September 01, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My mother wasn’t content keeping house and drinking coffee with the other housewives. In 1962 when I was ten years old she shocked the neighborhood by setting her sights on finding a job. Back then gas was cheap and Sunday drives were a popular pastime. Mom, Dad and I piled into our Packard and drove into the foothills near Los Gatos. We ended up at the bottling plant for Almadén Vineyards and noticed a sign offering free tours of the facility.      We were escorted through vineyards, warehouses and bottling plant. I can still recall the massive three story oak barrels brought to California a century earlier by clipper ship. We were fascinated to learn that Almadén was the oldest vineyard in Califor ... read more

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The Ultimate Rice Cooker

September 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  My only sibling, an older brother who happens to be a partner for a major Wall Street bank, has always been status conscious. He married the high school prom queen, owns homes in prestigious neighborhoods, drives highly touted luxury cars and only reserves tables at trendy restaurants. When time came for him to acquire a dog he researched the subject and paid top dollar for a golden lab from a well-known breeder. My nieces and nephew named the dog Wilsy.      When my parents moved into a retirement community my brother and his family paid them a visit, bringing along Wilsy. They didn’t know dogs weren’t allowed on the premises, not even dogs like Wilsy with remarkable pedigrees.     ... read more

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Who Killed the Pig?

September 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve devoted more than a few posts to the fact that I was denied dogs and cats growing up. It didn’t help that every time we visited Grandma she’d ramble on about the old days when they’d butcher pigs. I was a soft-hearted kid who cried at the end of Charlotte’s Web just thinking about poor Wilbur being left alone, but the thought of pigs like Wilbur being butchered turned my stomach, but not enough to turn down ham or pork chops.       My grandmother was a sweet and gentle woman who my mother claimed was vastly different from the stern woman who’d raised her. Grandma came to this country from the Azores at the age of five, but she always lived in Portuguese communities, this ba ... read more

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Bogie

September 08, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m not a golfer and might never have had the opportunity to set foot inside a venerable old golf club were it not for my in-laws, avid golfers who joined The Portland Golf Club shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1985.      One Saturday afternoon my father-in-law invited me to lunch at the Portland Golf Club. My father-in-law was a gregarious guy who’d made friends with Mr. Denley, the club’s general manager. While enjoying our lunch in the men’s grill, Denley approached with something in hand.      He said, “Mr. Petty, look at what I found upstairs stored away in a box.” He handed an old scorecard to my father-in-law. It was signed by Humphrey Bog ... read more

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I'm Being Published!

September 10, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    I know many of you have been published, but I’ve been writing nonstop for a decade without seeing a single word in print outside the Blogosphere. I recently learned that a California publisher has accepted my work for an upcoming collection of true stories titled Working for a Living. The collection is being published by Not Your Mother’s Books and is tentatively scheduled to come out in November.      The publisher liked my story enough to request a photograph to accompany it. My piece is called Out With the Mop Water, an account of me being fired from my first job as a janitor’s assistant at Kress Department Store. Creating a photograph to accompany my piece turned out to be more d ... read more

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The Mrs. Urbanick Experience

September 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      As I was driving home from swimming the other morning, the road in front of me was choked with school buses collecting kids and transporting them to school. Those buses reminded me that in the sixth grade someone briefly lit up my juvenile universe, outshining Helen Delgado, my best friend’s mother, who I’d had a crush on since I was five years old. Briefly eclipsing Helen was Mrs. Urbanick, my sixth grade teacher. Back then, I had no idea how quickly, or tragically, my new infatuation would end.   ************************************************   Every sixth-grade boy at our school had a thing for Mrs. Urbanick. Sophisticated, blond, regal; she was the Grace Kelly of our elementary schoo ... read more

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The Night Watch

September 15, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I enjoy sharing my love of art history and recently asked for suggestions for topics readers might want discussed. This post was prompted by someone suggesting Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Essays on art can be rather dry but consider yourself warned; you’re about to see a man having his brains blown out.      Few paintings are as famous as Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, or as misunderstood. For beginners, it’s set in a dim alley but doesn’t depict a night scene, and it isn’t a watch. A famous Charles Laughton movie would have us believe that people laughed at the painting when it was unveiled, bringing ruin upon the artist—again, not true. Still, I rank this as one of the grea ... read more

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Bugs and Bistros

September 17, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      First posted 8/03/11   Mrs. Chatterbox and I recently dined at her favorite bistro in a fashionable part of town not far from where we live. After being seated, I placed my napkin on my lap. When it dropped to the floor, I bent down to retrieve it and noticed a dead cockroach under our table. I’m not particularly squeamish—little over the years has prompted me to lose my appetite—but the sight of that cockroach conjured up an incident in another restaurant years ago.      In 1976, Mrs. C. and I had only been married two years when we decided to backpack through Europe. We’d just landed in Athens. With a copy of Frommer’s Europe on Ten Dollars a Day in hand, we soug ... read more

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Picture of the Week #5

September 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Years ago I attended a three day seminar by noted illustrator/painter Marshall Arisman. Arisman had made a big splash in the world of illustration with work featured on the cover of Time Magazine, as well as other major publications at the time. Arisman’s work was unique in that his figures were grotesque yet impossible to categorize by race. If a magazine featured a cover story on child molestation, the editors were determined to avoid offending particular ethnic groups. If the molester was portrayed as white, white folks would be offended. If the molester was portrayed as black or Asian or Hispanic, those people would be likewise upset. Arisman’s work offended everyone equally. It’s been s ... read more

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Moosh-vega

September 22, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Do you have special words in your family that aren’t found in the dictionary, words only those who share DNA with you can understand? A few weeks ago our son CJ was visiting. Mrs. C. fried up some chicken. After eating his fill, our son pushed away his plate and announced he’d had enough. I wasn’t finished eating and without thinking exclaimed, “Moosh-vega!”      “Are you having a stroke, Dad?” CJ asked. “What was that you said—moosh-vega?”      “It’s a Portuguese word your grandmother taught me as a child. Your grandmother’s family spoke it at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other holiday celebrated with food. It was ... read more

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Late Night Intruder

September 24, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I enjoy watching HGTV, especially programs where designers compete to remodel older properties. Lately I’ve noticed that wallpaper, which had all but disappeared as a home fashion statement, is making a comeback.      I shiver while recalling previous homes with hideous wallpaper that had to be removed, or wallpaper that had been painted over. A prized moment happened years ago when I managed to get an entire strip of wallpaper off in one piece. Removal usually took forever, with the detached pieces the size of postage stamps. I was glad when wallpaper went out of style.      Shortly after CJ was born in 1980, Mrs. Chatterbox decided she wanted to brighten his nursery wit ... read more

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Really, I'm Not a Terrorist!

September 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Three days ago I received an e-mail from one of my favorite bloggers, Catalyst/Taylor at Oddball Observations. His e-mail was short and succinct: Say it isn’t so!!! This link was attached.   http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/09/stephen-hayes-on-dhs-terrorist-watchlist-195996.html   When I clicked on it, I was connected to a news story about a journalist who’d discovered he was on Homeland Security’s Terrorist Watchlist. The journalist’s name was Stephen F. Hayes.      Frankly, I’ve been terrorized by this fellow for years. He’s a regular Fox News contributor (shudder), and a senior writer for The Weekly Standard, not a publication I hold in high regard. Worst of ... read more

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You Never Know

September 29, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Recently while shopping at our local grocery store, I was reminded of someone I hadn’t thought of in years, someone who’d inadvertently changed my outlook on life. It happened shortly after I got married and moved to Oxnard, California.      My art degree hadn’t opened any career doors for me, but after a long and exhausting search I landed a job as a display manager for Mervyn’s Dept. Store. I was trained to trim windows and change mannequins, and sent to a newly opened store in Oxnard, California. Oxnard was a small coastal town about an hour north of Los Angeles. Back then, it was an agricultural community famous for growing lettuce and soybeans. Mrs. Chatterbox and I weren’t particul ... read more

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Yes, I Have a Drinking Problem

October 01, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I will readily admit that I have a compulsive personality, but the time has come for me to admit I’m struggling with an addiction. There was a time when I’d come home from work and down several martinis before dinner. Mrs. Chatterbox told me she thought I was developing a problem, but that ended when we agreed she should stop mixing martinis and handing me one when I arrived home from work. These days I rarely drink liquor, maybe a margarita when we dine out at a Mexican restaurant. No, my addiction isn’t alcohol related.      Likewise, I’m not addicted to any particular food. There was a time when I was a meat-o-holic and could down animal flesh like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but those days went the ... read more

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Small World

October 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
About fifteen years ago, Mrs. Chatterbox and I flew to Tahiti where we boarded a ship for a cruise through French Polynesia. We weren’t particularly thrilled with Tahiti and its dirty congested capital, Papeete. And the famous black beaches were beautiful, but the sand heated up to nearly two hundred degrees, making it impossible to walk barefoot into the surf. But many of the surrounding islands were unpopulated and beautiful, giving us the “Gauguin” experience we were looking for.      Our most eastern destination was Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, the farthest destination from home we’d achieved at that time. A typhoon had preceded us to the island and the locals weren’t expecting us as ... read more

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Doing the Right Thing

October 06, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I mentioned it to Mrs. Chatterbox she looked alarmed, like I’d lost my mind. When I stopped speaking she said, “You did the right thing.”      When I mentioned it to our son CJ, he cocked his head like I was stupid for even considering such a thing. Finally, relief flooded his face and he said. “You did the right thing.”      But I still feel badly about it.      I was coming home from my morning swim at the public pool, half a mile from where we live. Now that summer was over and schools were back in session, the roads were choked with morning school buses. One of them had stopped to pick up kids on a corner several blocks from our townho ... read more

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Taft's Tub

October 08, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Recently, while watching Ken Burns’ documentary on the Roosevelts, I saw pictures of the president following Teddy into the White House. I was reminded of this post, written in the early months of Chubby Chatterbox.   *************************************         Some stories are stuck in the public’s consciousness and can’t be dislodged by logic or evidence to the contrary, such as the story of how Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, died. It has been rumored for centuries that she perished in an equestrian accident, a polite way of saying that this regal nymphomaniac died while trying to copulate with a stallion suspended above her bed from a crane. According to legend, the ... read more

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Confession Time...Again

October 10, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I watch too much TV.      With my propensity to chatter, it’s no surprise that I strike up conversations with anyone, including the cute 35ish lifeguard at the pool where I swim. I asked her if she was a fan of Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones or any of the über-hyped programs about to return to the Fall lineup.      She said, “Oh, I don’t watch TV, don’t even own one.”      I’m always suspicious when people tell me they don’t watch any television. Then this lifeguard admitted, “But I did just finish the Ken Burns series The Roosevelts. I caught a live stream of it on my computer.”    & ... read more

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The Leopard Changes Its Spots

October 13, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
         Phys. Ed. was my least favorite class at Wilcox High School. I’d managed to lose most of my excess weight, but I had yet to develop muscle tone. Mr. Jenkins, the P.E. teacher/football coach, was making my life miserable. He wanted my All-Star brother David for the football team, but David didn’t have time and constantly turned him down. Coach Jenkins took it out on me. Several times each month he’d march us out to the athletic field where the chin-up bar stood like a lynching tree. He’d make us do chin-ups. I didn’t have the strength for even one. I’d hang from the bar while Jenkins barked insults at me, his crew cut bristling above his angry red face. I wanted Jenk ... read more

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The Leopard Changes Its Spots: Conclusion

October 15, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This tale is from “The Kid in the Kaleidoscope.” If you missed Part One catch it (here)    *********************************************   By the spring of my junior year, it was time to do something about the abuse heaped on me by Coach Jenkins. The time for revenge had arrived, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Ricky Delgado had spent nearly as much time at Juvy as he had at Wilcox but he was curtailing his criminal behavior so he could try out for the swim team. He was available and eager to assist me.       Over the summer, my art teacher Miss Veasie and Coach Jenkins, both single, had connected. Throughout my junior year, Jenkins was hanging around the art classes wh ... read more

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Viral Couch

October 17, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a psychiatrist, here’s your chance. Grab a notepad and prepare to diagnose. I lie before you on an imaginary couch, in need of a psychiatric evaluation. I’m being haunted by a recurring dream.      We dream every night, but until recently I seldom remembered mine, aside from occasional “water” dreams when I drink too many liquids late at night. Now, one dream returns constantly and is easy to recognize, in spite of slight variations.      For eight years I worked as a salesman in a mall jewelry store, and it would be false modesty to claim I wasn’t good at my job, so good that I was promoted to manager in ... read more

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Subject Matter

October 20, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I couldn’t see the owner of the voice saying “Hi” to me in our pool locker room because a curtain of clothes hangers blocked my view. I parted the hangers but still couldn’t identify the person. I said, “Who is it? Without my glasses everything looks like a Monet painting.”                  The person said, “Who is Monet, and what does he paint?”             I mumbled something about Claude Monet being an Impressionist who took canvas and paints outdoors to capture gardens, the Parisian countryside, rivers, haystacks and poppy fields, but I wasn’t satisf ... read more

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Bifurcate

October 22, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’ve recently received word that two more of my stories have been accepted by Publishing Syndicate, this time for inclusion in their upcoming book On Sex, 69 hilarious stories about everything SEX. This publisher is also interested in completed manuscripts so I’ve been bifurcating my time between writing and painting. It’s been hard putting down my brushes after setting them aside for so long, but this publisher has shown interest in my work, prompting me to strike while the iron is hot by getting my memoir, The Kid in the Kaleidoscope, in the mail.   **********************   Bifurcate is one of my favorite words, even though it sounds like something you might do after eating bad sushi. When I was a c ... read more

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Would You Eat This Stuff?

October 24, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with Ancient Rome. Had I been that kid in the movie Airport I’d have answered yes when Peter Graves asked, “Do you like gladiator movies?” Sure, the Romans had their problems, mostly a societal thirst for blood and a system of governance that makes our politics look like kindergarten squabbles, but Rome still managed to effectively rule a land area that today is poorly governed by no fewer than forty governments. And they did so with one law and one currency. But I want to discuss something more important than Rome’s lasting cultural legacy. I want to discuss fish sauce called garum.                &nbs ... read more

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Danish Traffic Jams...and Jellies

October 27, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Denmark is amazingly clean, beautiful, and extremely well organized, unless you’re on a bus in Copenhagen on a Sunday. Mrs. C. and I were headed to see the world famous statue of the Little Mermaid, donated by Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg Breweries and placed at the harbor’s edge in 1913, now arguably the most visited site in Denmark.             We sat in a crowded outdoor amphitheater and stared at her for a few minutes before heading back to our bus. The location was jammed with dozens of tour buses and our driver had difficulty steering us away from the congested tourist area. No police were on hand to control traffic. Our driver decided to try a small alley between ware ... read more

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Hung in Fussen

October 29, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
While traveling through Germany in the seventies, Mrs. C. and I took a train from Bitburg to Füssen in southern Bavaria to visit Ludwig II’s iconic Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Night had fallen by the time we stepped away from the train station to look for a hotel, my backpack heavy with souvenirs and a tattered copy of Frommer’s Europe on Ten Dollars a Day clenched in my hand.             In the center of town stood a four story hotel that screamed Bavaria. Woodcarvings of animals decorated the exterior creating the sensation of a giant cuckoo clock, and light poured through open shutters framing flowerboxes heavy wit ... read more

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How to Ruin a Ruin

October 31, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Gas was cheap when I was a child, and like many Americans my parents would pack up the kids for Sunday road trips. Sometimes we’d drive our Packard up the Old Bayshore Highway to San Francisco. For a kid caught in the colorless existence of the suburbs, The City (as residents of San Francisco refer to their home) was a marvelous place filled with culture, history and excitement. Most of my trips to The City involved Dad taking us to Giants baseball games at Candlestick Park, but there were other attractions, like the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park where I saw my first Rembrandt, Lombard Street with its Byzantine curves, cable cars climbing to the sky, and Ghirardelli Square where my addiction to chocolate began.   &nbs ... read more

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The Panama Canal

November 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  “Yes, but only if we can cross from one ocean into another,” I answered when Mrs. Chatterbox asked if I was interested in seeing the Panama Canal. Most cruises only take you to Lake Gatun at the halfway point, where you reverse direction and return to your port of origin. For me, crossing the entire Isthmus of Panama was the whole point of any Panama Canal adventure.             Mrs. C. found a cruise that departed from Miami, made a full passage through the Canal and ended in San Francisco. In spite of the Canal shortening the distance thousands of miles by removing the need to sail around South America, this would be the longest cruise we’d undertaken, near ... read more

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An Old Radio

November 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Aside from the city dump, my grandfather’s basement was the next best thing to kid nirvana. It had a musty under-the-house smell, with a hint of yeasty fermentation from the oak barrels where Grandpa stored brandies made from fruit trees he tended behind his garage. There were old fishing poles and wicker baskets to hold fish, strange musical instruments with broken strings, moldy books in a language I couldn’t read, and brownish photographs of  people in stiff clothes and even stiffer poses. Grandpa even had a giant whiskey bottle that stood nearly as tall as me—filled with pennies. But the item that intrigued me most was an old radio.             Made from sev ... read more

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Manly Me!

November 07, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        I’ve once again drained the shampoo bottle in my gym bag, prompting this repeat from 2012.   ********************************    This morning Mrs. Chatterbox said to me, “So how’s that shampoo I bought you?”             I’d asked her to pick up some more when she went to the store because the bottle in my gym bag was empty. I looked up from my iPad and said, “It’s fine.”                  She looked at me curiously. “Did you notice anything different?”         &n ... read more

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Danger!

November 10, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
We’d run hard to catch the train, only to realize it wasn’t attached to anything; the correct train was on the far side of the station. We reached it and threw our backpacks aboard the train as it started moving. Exhausted, we fell asleep in one of the empty compartments shortly after pulling out of the station.             We woke in darkness to discover our train was no longer moving. It was 1976, and Mrs. Chatterbox and I were catching a ship from Brindisi, Italy, to Patras, Greece. I couldn’t shake the feeling we’d been sitting there a long time. I left Mrs. C. in our compartment and went to explore. The compartments I passed, like the rest of the train, ap ... read more

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Tons of...Fun?

November 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Like most kids growing up, money burned a hole in my pocket. If I found a nickel or dime I’d spend it as quickly as possible, usually on candy bars. Unlike most kids on the street where I grew up, my brother and I weren’t given an allowance; our parents (my mother) didn’t believe children should be paid to do household chores.             Some summers my brother David and I would cut apricots at an orchard owned by one of Mom’s cousins, but for the most part we had to make do with Christmas or birthday money. When old enough, athletic David had a paper route; with an arm honed on many a little league pitcher’s mound, he could throw papers with rem ... read more

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Not So Smooth Sailing

November 14, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Travel can add stress to any relationship, especially new ones. Mrs. Chatterbox and I have always gotten along with remarkably little friction, but one incident when we were newlyweds comes to mind, a time when things didn’t go well. Like most marriage squabbles, I can’t recall the cause for the dust up.             Shortly after our dangerous train experience in Bara (Here if you missed it) we reached Brindisi and spent the day in the old harbor waiting for a ship to take us to Patras, Greece. We’d selected the cheapest transport, but when it chugged into port I was surprised to see how old the ship was. She was named the Posedonia, a tramper plying the deep blue wa ... read more

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Whirling Dervishes

November 17, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m submitting this story to a travel magazine contest. The entry needs to be less than 800 words, express a feeling of gratitude, and reflect a destination that makes you feel strong and hopeful. Wish me luck.   ************************   A curtain was pulled back and figures emerged from darkness in a shaft of light—a half dozen cloaked musicians with medieval instruments. They arranged themselves on rugs, the light faded out, and the sounds of reeds, drums and unfamiliar string instruments filled the dark confined space. It was surprising how these primitive devices could create such a palpitating mood of expectation.             My mouth was dry as the v ... read more

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The Raft of the Medusa

November 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
What do you do if you’re athletic and good-looking, talented enough to catch the public’s attention, and you’re engaged in a scandal serious enough to get you horsewhipped and thrown in a French jail? If you’re Theodore Géricault (pronounced Gericho) and you’ve impregnated the young hottie your uncle recently married, you lock yourself away in a studio for two years, shave your head to avoid the temptation of showing your face, and paint one of the masterpieces of western civilization.             Theodore Géricault (1791-1824) is regarded as one of the forerunners of Romanticism, an artistic movement that swept Europe by rejecting classical ... read more

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Bordello Chair

November 21, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This is the history of a chair, nothing as important as a throne or relic, but it has been in the Chatterbox household for forty years—our so-called bordello chair.             Mrs. Chatterbox and I had only been married a few years when a really stupid idea crossed our minds, the type of idea that’s fodder for TV sitcoms—we decided to move into my parents’ unused lanai. (An enclosed patio with a kitchenette and bathroom.) We figured that saving rent for a year would give us enough money for a down payment on a house.             My parents agreed to let us move in, but Mrs. Chatterbox had yet to experien ... read more

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The Harrison Stamp Company

November 24, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  As if I haven’t already given you cause to believe I was a nerdy kid ( I was an artist, chess player, member of the Latin Club, poet, devotee of ancient civilizations and skilled puppet maker) I also collected stamps.             I got hooked when Grandpa gave me a dog-eared album with a few stamps from exotic places like India and China, including some German stamps from the ‘30s showing a stern man with a Charlie Chaplin mustache. My desire to travel was piqued by these stamps and I swore I’d one day trek to exotic places. I used birthday money to buy a new album and began collecting. The nice Guatemalan lady across the street gave me letters with stamps in ... read more

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The Best Turkey Ever!

November 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This story is the closest thing I have to a Chatterbox Classic. I don’t post on Thursdays so here it is today. I haven’t posted it in a while. If you’re reading it for the first time, I hope you enjoy it. If you remember it from the past, congratulations; your long term memory is still intact.     ****************************   This morning I woke alone in bed. Mrs. Chatterbox got up before dawn and began working on the feast that is the hallmark of this special day. I don’t deserve having a spouse willing to get up before roosters crow just to please me with a sumptuous banquet, but I’ll accept this gift as graciously as I can.            & ... read more

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My New Friend

November 28, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was new to blogging when I began Chubby Chatterbox in 2011. Back then, I’d never even read a blog. I was looking for a way to find an audience for my storytelling, and starting a blog was my son CJ’s idea.  He helped me design my site, and guided me through how it operated so I could maintain it properly. I had no idea blogs came with a statistics page, but once I became aware of mine I waited on pins and needles for that first visit, one not originating from friends or family. A few hours after going live, I received my first international visit. According to my statistics page, the visit came from…Romania.             I couldn’t imagine why anyone in ... read more

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Sailing

December 01, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      It’s been cold and dreary here in Portland, and I’ve been thinking about a wonderfully sunny excursion Mrs. Chatterbox and I took several years ago. After cruising through the Panama Canal, we stopped in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California Penninsula. At the end of the pier was a tired old vessel. I’ve always been interested in vintage ships and once wrote a novel about the mysterious Mary Celeste. I was fascinated by the ship tied to the pier, and delighted to learn it provided rides, with an excursion about to depart.               The 1885 schooner was called the Sutherland. She needed a paint job and her rig ... read more

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Why, God?

December 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m receiving pictures from fellow bloggers showing snow-covered front lawns and backyards, reminding me of the first time I saw snow. Mrs. Chatterbox was an Army brat and grew up in Germany where snow is plentiful, but for me snow was an elusive mirage constantly out of reach. The Santa Clara Valley, home until I was twenty, was famous for its moderate fruit-growing weather, and the snow I coveted would have destroyed crops of luscious apricots and pears, but when my family piled into our car for a trip to the coast we’d pass a road stop in the Santa Cruz mountains called Santa’s Village, a tawdry collection of quaint buildings covered in plywood candy canes and plaster snow. I’d ask if we could stop and walk around ... read more

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I Almost Felt Guilty

December 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts

The nice folks at Retirement and Good Living have asked for another story, and I’ve shared an account of a special car I purchased to celebrate my retirement. I might have gone too far with a practical joke I pulled on my salesman—you be the judge. Please follow the link and leave a comment so they’ll invite me back. Thanks.

 

  


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A Fraud at Westminster Abbey?

December 08, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                    Most of Britain’s great writers are memorialized in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, and quite a few are buried there, including Chaucer, Blake, Browning, Dickens, Tennyson and Kipling. Interred here is James Macpherson. Never heard of him? He pulled off the most successful literary scam in modern history.               James Macpherson (1736-1796) was a Scottish divinity student who claimed to have discovered ancient Gaelic poems while traveling through the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles. He showed his translations to a few scholars who encouraged him to publish them. After fi ... read more

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Complaining About the Weather

December 10, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. —Mark Twain— *************************************** Most regions of our country are currently experiencing severe weather and quite a few bloggers are commenting on it. It seems that weather reports on the evening news are getting longer and longer, as if we’re all still farmers and need to know when to go out and plant the back forty. Well, I don’t know any farmers and I don’t need to know if it’s going to drizzle in Gilliam, Sherman, Wheeler or other counties where people are few and a good time is had by dressing farm animals in people clothes.   As far as I’m concerned, rain is rain, and I don’t ... read more

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Contest Update

December 11, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
On November 17th I mentioned that I was entering a travel writing contest with my entry Whirling Dervishes. My piece made it through the first round and is being considered for a prize. The originator of the contest is We Said Go Travel and my story was posted a few days ago. Unfortunately, it hasn’t received any comments and I’m hoping a few of you can provide some. I know this is asking a lot at this busy time of year, and most of you have already read my story, but any help you can give would be appreciated. Here’s the link. Thanks so much.   http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/contests/whirling-dervishes-turkey/. ... read more

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Playing With Food

December 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 3/21/12             I was driving home from the grocery store yesterday and the deejay on the radio was spinning moldy oldies and asking trivia questions. One of the questions was: “What was the first toy or game advertised directly to children on television?” I’m terrible at trivia and usually rely on Mrs. C. to fill me in on the Zeitgeist, but I couldn’t help shouting out answers. The Hula Hoop! Play-Doh! Cootie! “Wrong,” said the deejay when listeners phoned in these answers. I’ll pause here before giving the correct response so you can yell an answer at your computer screen..................   Okay; the correct answer is—Mr. Potat ... read more

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Free Delivery

December 15, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m only being honest when I say most people like me. I’m light-hearted and don’t take things too seriously, and I’m great at faking sincerity. It’s true that the corners of my mouth curve upward in an impish grin that people sometimes take for a smirk, but all in all I get along well with people. I’ve also spent years in retail and know what it means to give good service, and I treat salespeople as I wanted to be treated when I was wearing the nametag. But one fellow didn’t care much for me in spite of my attempts to thaw his icy disapproval.             Backing up just a bit, we’d just moved into an old house in downtown Portland. We&r ... read more

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Finding the Porziuncola

December 17, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Like many Catholics, I grew up enthralled by the story of Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. Francis and I both shared a profound love for God’s creatures, and one of my childhood treasures was a book showing a fresco of Saint Francis preaching to birds. One of the details in St. Francis lore capturing my attention was the Porziuncola, a small chapel that had fallen into disrepair in Francis’ day.             The name Porziuncola means “small portion of land.” It’s well-known that Francis came from a wealthy family only to turn his back on riches and luxury to focus on the poor. He was living in rags near this ... read more

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The Deal Breaker on Being Jewish

December 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This year I finally completed my memoir “The Kid in the Kaleidoscope,” and it includes this reposted story from 2012. I painted the illustration for a card company in 1995.   ***************************   Jonathan Khorman lived three houses down from me. One day while perched in the sycamore tree in his front yard he turned to me and made a startling declaration. “I’m one of the chosen people,” he said.   “Chosen for what?” I asked.   He shifted his weight on the branch he was sitting on. “Chosen to be special.”   “Who chose you?”   “God did.”   “Really?”   “Says so in the Bible. Jews are Go ... read more

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Mrs. Claus in Old Town

December 22, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Since closing my illustration studio in Portland over a decade ago, I’ve had little reason to travel downtown, a place I’d avoid completely were it not for a certain food that calls to me like heroin summoning a junkie. Portland is famous for its many food trucks, and when my studio was operational I became addicted to lamb biryani, a curry and rice dish served up by a truck beneath a tawdry sign reading Taste of India.             Several days ago I was bored and struggling to generate enthusiasm for the Holidays. Lately, I’ve been feeling low, and housebound, and decided to take the train downtown to improve my mood—soak up Christmas lights, do a little shopp ... read more

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An After Christmas Miracle

December 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Some of you might not be ready for Christmas to be over, so here is a fictional piece I wrote that was inspired by an after Christmas trip to the mall.   ********************************   The mall was choked with shoppers returning Christmas presents and looking for end of year deals. My sister had gifted me an unsuitable sweater and I’d come to return it. With the refund tucked into my wallet I worked my way to the mall exit. The aisles were jammed with sullen children, screaming babies and tired parents. Maneuvering around them required patience which at that moment I sorely lacked. I dodged into a pet store to calm my nerves and build up energy to slash my way through the jungle of shoppers to reach m ... read more

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A Lesson for CJ

December 29, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
How nice it would be if my creative inventiveness accommodated the season—if only Christmas stories would flow from me right before the holidays, the same with Easter or Halloween. But my brain doesn’t work that way. This morning I was scratching my head for something to write about, and instead of an idea about dreary winter popping into my head, a vintage summer memory filled my thoughts. So, for those of you in need of a break from hoary Old Man Winter, here’s a warm weather story.             Mrs. Chatterbox’s parents moved to Portland when CJ was five years old. They wanted to be near enough to play a role in their grandson’s life, and we all got alo ... read more

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No Fashion Guru

December 31, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few years ago I made a dreadful mistake, something absurd for one as cultured and capable as yours truly. Even before revealing what I did, I can imagine you ladies— and some of you guys—tsk..tsk…tsking me for my stupidity. I can almost hear you turning to loved ones and speaking of me as if I’d been picked up on the street in my underwear, not knowing who I was. “He seemed so smart,” you might say, “…and he knew all that crap about art.” With hope that some benefit will come from a full disclosure, here is a questionable and insincere acknowledgement of my failure as a fashion expert and cultural know-it-all.             Not l ... read more

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Radio Gibberish

January 02, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 ... read more

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Online Security

January 05, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It seems like every day I receive a warning reminding me to protect myself from hackers and scammers by changing my passwords as regularly as I change my underwear. I probably shouldn’t announce this, but I only have one password and I use it for everything, and have done so for a long time. I accept this risk because my memory isn’t what it should be, and I know I’d forget new passwords before the end of the day.             Recently, I was having a conversation about passwords and online protection with son CJ. He told me a few interesting stories about passwords when he worked for the Registrar’s Office at the University of Oregon. Each student at the U of O ... read more

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New Vansterdam

January 07, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  A few days after Christmas, I decided to make an overdue visit to a friend in Vancouver, Washington. For those of you unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver is across the Columbia River, and only a few miles from Portland, Oregon. When I arrived, my friend, who I’ll call Sam, had a few errands to run so I accompanied him. Sam, who’d been my assistant when I managed a jewelry store years earlier, was still in retail. We picked up a pair of resoled shoes and a few groceries before reaching our final destination, a store at a strip mall: New Vansterdam.             “New Vansterdam?” I said.          & ... read more

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Three Wishes

January 12, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was an unusually deep thinker as a child, a kid who contemplated philosophy and religion, a chubby little Stephen Hawking contemplating the nature of the universe. But mostly I was consumed by something that trumped these notable concerns. I was worried about genies.             “Genies?” you might say.             Yes, genies.             I was convinced that at any moment I could become the owner of a discarded brass lamp in need of polishing. Not being a typical kid, I resolved at all times to be ready with my three wishes. I’d read enough about thes ... read more

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Mrs. Chatterbox's Rainbow

January 14, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted Feb, 2012   Mrs. Chatterbox and I married shortly after graduating from college, she with an English degree from Santa Clara University and me with an art degree from UCLA. We settled in a 1930s duplex in West LA. I continued to hang out with my artsy college friends and tried to break into the Los Angeles art scene. Mrs. C. and I frequented numerous parties and artistic events, referred to back then as happenings. Heated discussions about modern art and politics were commonplace.   Mrs. C. was not comfortable with the freaky nonconformists frequenting these events but she was an amazingly good sport, even when a stoned poetess pointed at her and loudly barked, “Who brought Tricia Nixon to the party?” ... read more

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Chocolate Diamonds

January 16, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I realize that a recent post admitting my fashion limitations (check it out here) might compromise what I’m about to say, but I’m here to offer a different fashion tip concerning something I know about—diamonds. There was a time when I made a lot of money selling diamonds, and while I purposely never became a certified gemologist from fear it would compromise my ability to sell them, I nevertheless studied these stones and feel competent to discuss them.             I always laugh at the notion of diamonds being rare. Countries like Russia have mountains of them, as does Canada, Israel, Australia, Brazil and even the United States. Most of the diamonds in these count ... read more

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Logos on Treadmills

January 19, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I was a chubby kid, I wished everyone was overweight so I wouldn’t stand out so much. An old Chinese saying cautions: Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. Recently, it seems I’ve gotten my way. America is fattening up with obesity becoming an epidemic, and in spite of my youthful wish I’m not happy about my fellow citizens experiencing high blood pressure, clogged arteries, gout and diabetes.             However, the inability to trim down isn’t universal in our culture. In fact, one aspect of society has never looked better. I’m referring to advertising logos, which have lately been slimming down considerably. You might not ha ... read more

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Bragging on the Bolshoi

January 21, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The Fantasy             Cultured and sophisticated people are a different breed from Joe Six Pack and the other plebeians on the street. The world is their playground and they cast a larger shadow than average people. They donate money to museums and universities and have their names engraved on libraries, hospital wings and research centers. They donate to Masterpiece Theatre (cultured folk do not spell it theater) their children attend exclusive schools and their dogs are the offspring of champions awarded ribbons by stout dog experts with names like Mrs. Fitzboozer Smythe or Mr. Roger-Bailey Van Bumsby.             While most ... read more

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The Facile Fasces

January 23, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        While watching President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address, I spotted something on TV that reminded me of my interest in symbols and customs. For me, it isn’t enough that something exists; I want to know why. Have you ever noticed the large wall decorations flanking the podium in the US House of Representatives? They’re called fasces; the word derives from the Latin word fascis, meaning bundle.         Notice the fasces beneath the eagle on the staff             When it comes to countries, the United States is little more than a baby. Some countries are a thousand years old while the USA has yet to reac ... read more

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A Sucky Situation

January 26, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This is either another skirmish in the war between men and women, or another example of what a bad person I am. You decide.             Books have been written about the differences between men and women, such as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. A recent occurrence in the Chatterbox household illustrates this difference perfectly. Without getting into details, a member of my household recently had an occasion to need a toilet plunger. Decorum and good manners forbid me from identifying the person responsible for this plumbing calamity—BUT IT WASN’T ME!             Anyway, when it was brought to my attention t ... read more

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Chubby Gets Cheated

January 28, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I learned at a tender age that life isn’t fair, some things don’t live up to their hype while others seemed designed to fool you. I can’t recall how or when I became addicted to chocolate. Like George Costanza, I’d long worshipped the “dark” master. There was something about the stuff that attracted me; chocolate was a magnet and I had a load of pig iron in my pockets. My parents did their best to shield me from temptation, but parents can only do so much. I was too deep into addiction to listen. At a tender age, I was a cocoa-crazed miner always panning for chocolate nuggets.When I was six or seven and had gone days without a chocolate fix, I suffered acute withdrawal. My Easter supply was gone, along ... read more

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The Blue Boy

January 30, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  This painting, parodied and reduced to paint-by-number, has been reproduced and hung in millions of homes over the decades. Type the words Blue Boy into Google and nothing more is necessary to bring forth this image. Like the Mona Lisa, you might think little more can be said about something so deeply etched into the public consciousness. Actually, The Blue Boy represents the solution to an interesting dilemma experienced by the British elite, the type of folks featured so prominently in Downton Abbey.The Blue Boy was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1770. At the time, England wasn’t known for producing outstanding artists. Foreigner Hans Holbein was employed to immortalize Henry VIII and his court, and Charles I was depicted ... read more

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Heat in the Bedroom

February 02, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          Mrs. Chatterbox and I have been married a long time, and like most couples in lengthy relationships we’ve given each other many gifts. I’ve given Mrs. Chatterbox some curious items, like the time I gave her a hooded orange suede cape (saw one recently on a televised fashion show) but she’s always been masterful at selecting items for me I didn’t know I wanted until I tore off the wrapping paper. One Christmas several years back she surprised me with a new Ducane barbeque grill, a vast improvement over the dented Weber I’d been using for years. I like to BBQ, but having briquettes and starter fluid on hand is often a hassle; propane is much more convenient.   &n ... read more

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Doppelganger

February 04, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
              doppelgänger |ˈdäpəlˌga ng ər| noun: an apparition or double of a living person. ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from German, literally ‘double-goer.’            When I was thirteen I went with my dad to fetch a pizza from a place up the highway. It was hot in the pizzeria because of the huge oven so I went outside to cool off. Next door was the Honky Tonk, the bar where Ricky Delgado’s dad went after work for a snootful. Ricky was my best friend, and I knew George had beaten him more than once after staggering home from the Honky Tonk. Dust from the nearby El Camino Real coated the window. I rubbed a spot clean ... read more

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My One and Only Time On Stage

February 06, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First posted 3/7/12   So there I was, in a theater packed with a thousand people, all eyes riveted on me as I stepped out onto the stage. I felt weak as a blade of grass and could feel my heart beating in the middle of my forehead. My palms were wet and my shoes were filling with ass sweat. If I were wax I’d have melted away.   The stage was situated in a new multi-million dollar center being dedicated to the music director of one of the most prestigious colleges in the state. This gentleman, in addition to being responsible for his college’s musical excellence, also founded a nationally renowned jazz festival. He was being honored this evening, but he wasn’t in attendance; he’d passed away from ... read more

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An Unholy War

February 09, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Last year I finished my memoir, The Kid in the Kaleidoscope. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it, but this is one of the few stories I haven’t shared. I hope you enjoy it.   *************************************   Many families in Killarney Park were Catholic, including mine, so it might seem strange that in 1960 my mom decided to do battle with the Holy Catholic Church. My mother was a child when her father fell off a steeple he’d climbed on a dare. I sometimes wonder if her lack of piety resulted from her holding the Church responsible. Nevertheless, in 1960 my mother declared war on a local padre named Father Hinklemeyer.            & ... read more

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An Unholy War: Part Two

February 11, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  If you missed Part One, check it out (here).   *************************************** A Skirmish             I’d become a regular churchgoer without being pushed into it like many kids my age.             Most of the Catholic kids in Killarney Park lost interest in God after their First Communion. The exceptions were those of us who decided to become altar boys. I didn’t really want to be an altar boy, and best friend Ricky Delgado struggled in vain to talk me out of it, but Father Hinklemeyer had given a powerful fire-and-brimstone sermon that convinced me service to the Church was necessary for God to forgiv ... read more

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An Unholy War: The Conclusion

February 13, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  You can check out Part I (here), and Part II (here).   *********************************************   The Final Battle                    It might’ve been easier to feel sympathy for Father Hinklemeyer if he’d been a nice man, which he wasn’t. He was only friendly when he was trying to solicit money for his various projects. Otherwise, he was a humorless, self-righteous person, without any patience for kids. Not even altar boys were safe from his temper. More than one of us got a tongue lashing for not looking pious enough during the elevation of the Host, or if our postures weren’t ramrod straight as we exit ... read more

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Was That Love in the Air?

February 16, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Was that love in the air on Saturday, or something else? Even though Mrs. Chatterbox and I agreed not to exchange Valentine’s Day gifts, she presented me with one anyway. Perhaps she grew tired of me coming home from hardware stores empty handed. Now there’s a new addition to Casa Chatterbox. He doesn’t look like a Johnny; more like a Brad.   If you don’t get the humor in my wife’s puckish gesture, all will be made clear (here).           Follow my blog with Bloglovin   ... read more

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A Stimulating Read

February 17, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Some of you might have noticed the saucy picture added to Chubby Chatterbox’s sidebar announcing a new anthology produced by Publishing Syndicate: On SEX: 69 Hilarious Stories About Everything SEX. I was honored when two of my stories were accepted for publication, and surprised when one, Peeping Toms, was selected to help launch the book on the publisher’s blog Laugh Until You Pee.             I hope you’ll check out this side-splitting blog, featuring humorous excerpts on a variety of subjects from the publisher’s series Not Your Mother’s Book…. The series was created by Ken and Daylynn McKowen, who for years were coauthors and consultant ... read more

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Edith Emerges

February 18, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Jo Barney is a wonderful writer and one of my dearest friends. Several years ago, I hosted her to help launch “Graffiti Grandma,” which went on to earn a stellar Kirkus review. Jo is back to discuss her new novel,“Edith.”   *************************************   Hello, again. As Steve knows, I’ve been chained to my desk for the past few months, writing my fourth or fifth or sixth novel, depending on how I count.   Since July (it is November as I write this), I have been getting acquainted with the woman who has made an appearance on my computer. She’s a bit like me, only bitchier, at least at the beginning of the book. Not her fault. She’s been married to a bully of a h ... read more

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Bull's Eye

February 20, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
After graduating from the University of Oregon, our son CJ was eager to land a job. He couldn’t find anything in Eugene, but managed to secure a position as a financial consultant for a bank in Lebanon, Oregon. Lebanon has about 15,000 residents, and is approximately fifty miles north of Eugene—Oregon’s second largest city.             CJ described Lebanon as a rural community that had yet to catch up to the twenty-first century. Mrs. Chatterbox and I drove to Lebanon to meet our son for lunch and check out the place he described as Oregon’s version of Mayberry. CJ has inherited my propensity to embellish, but in this case he hadn’t exaggerated. I’m ... read more

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About Face

February 23, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I don’t discuss regional politics and this post is no exception, but something has come to my attention that makes me shake my head. I feel safe mentioning this because my own state is currently experiencing a gubernatorial scandal prompting our governor to resign in the face of a Federal investigation. If the issue I’m about to discuss occurred in any of the other forty-nine states I’d be just as perplexed. Having said this, I politely ask, “What the heck is going on in Louisiana?”             Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when Louisiana elected a non-white governor, but I was. The residents of the Bayou State seem ... read more

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Portrait of an A*#hole

February 25, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First posted 5/11/12             I saw someone familiar in the obituaries today. It took me a while to place the face but it finally came to me. Years ago she came regularly to the mall jewelry store I managed. She never bought anything, but she was a pleasant widow and I always offered to clean her jewelry. Being a chatty fellow, I let it slip that, in addition to managing the store, I was an artist and my work could be seen around town.             One Saturday afternoon in 1989 she came into the store and said, “I was downtown yesterday at the Oregon Biennial. I saw your work.”     &nb ... read more

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A Lot of Bull

February 27, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      It’s hard to look at The Bull, painted in 1647 by twenty-one year old Dutch artist Paulus Potter (1625-1654) and understand how this painting was ever held in higher esteem than Rembrandt’s Night Watch. In fact, when this painting was exhibited in Paris during the Napoleonic Era, critics commented that there were only four canvases in the Louvre’s entire collection to equal Potter’s The Bull. This is incredible when you consider the staggering wealth of artworks in the Louvre. An obvious question: Why was this massive moo-piece held in such high regard?             There isn’t much to say about Paulus Potter, who died of tuberculos ... read more

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The Center of the Universe

March 02, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Thanks to everyone for your condolences. I didn’t know Bette Fletcher, my sister-in-law’s mother, that well but I know she had a long happy life. She was a devoted grandmother and loved being in the company of children. She’ll be missed by family and friends.             This past weekend, Mrs. Chatterbox and I drove to Medina, Washington, arriving at St. Thomas Episcopal Church an hour before Bette’s memorial service. With time to kill, we wandered around the church grounds and noticed a mandala-shaped design in the brick pavement separating the church from the rectory. I recognized it as a modern variant of something very old. More people arrived, and ... read more

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A Developing Language Problem

March 04, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Launching myself into the workforce after high school wasn’t easy. I’ve written several accounts of job disasters. Here’s another.             After graduating from high school, the future Mrs. Chatterbox landed a summer job at A-1 Color Lab in nearby San Jose. A color lab is a place where professional photographers bring film from weddings and other special events to be processed, and pictures printed. Large photographs come off drying drums and are often marred by tiny white specks caused by bubbles in the emulsion. Mrs. C’s job was to sit at a drafting table. With sable brushes she mixed watercolor paint and dabbed color onto the photographs, renderi ... read more

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A Comforting Face

March 06, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    When I began my illustration business, I had to scramble for work. I’d always enjoyed creating pen & ink drawings and seemed to have a knack for arranging lines in pleasing patterns to suggest a rich tonality. Pen & ink drawings are often used for logos and mastheads because they reproduce easily and cheaply.             I was excited to receive a call from a nursing organization in need of a pen & ink drawing. I met with a committee of nurses responsible for the commission (all women) and showed them a portfolio of line drawings, which they complimented enthusiastically. They explained that they were looking for an image of a “typical” nu ... read more

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Hemingway's Coat

March 09, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    This piece of fiction was first posted on 11/2/12.     *********************************     “I thought you wanted to be a writer,” the old woman said to fourteen year old Becky.              “I do, Granny. My brain is full of ideas, but I have trouble putting them down on paper. All of the kids at school have computers. I wish I had one.”                   The old woman looked at the orphaned granddaughter she’d spent nine years struggling to raise. Every cigarette the old woman had ever smoked was present in her voice when sh ... read more

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Pen & Ink

March 11, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’m still in the process of looking for the ink illustration I mentioned in my recent post, A Comforting Face. (If you missed it, check it out here.) While prowling through my files, I came across a few more pen & ink caricatures. This time I thought it might be fun to have you guess who these folks are. It’s an odd assortment of people, but I bet you get them all. The answers are at the end, so don’t scroll down until you’ve guessed.          Number #1                Number #2             Number #3             Number #4         ... read more

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Scene at an Airport

March 13, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  As most of you know, Mrs. Chatterbox and I love to travel, and we’ve seen many interesting things. I try not to prejudge what I’ll see because it’s usually those unexpected or unanticipated experiences that have the deepest impact. The incident I’m going to describe didn’t happen overseas; it happened at New York’s Kennedy Airport, a simple scene but one that still lingers with me.             In the West, there’s much talk about how Arab women dress. To many of us, it seems cruel and atavistic for women to drape themselves from head to toe and walk about in a cocoon of obscurity. As I understand it, “wearing the veil” was ... read more

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One-Step or Two-Step?

March 16, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  As an art professor, my job included exposing students to various art techniques so they could choose the one best suited to what they wished to express. Most of my students had a fervent desire to learn how to paint portraits, capture likenesses and master flesh tones.             In Western art, there are two distinct ways to paint portraits. The first is the Two-Step method based on underpainting. For hundreds of years, this was the preferred approach. Artists from Raphael to Ingres employed it to achieve the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional surface. During the Renaissance, a renewed focus on the human body inspired artists to combine science with painting. ... read more

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It's All Who You Know

March 18, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Sometimes, avoiding a ticket comes down to who you know.             I haven’t received too many traffic violations (I don’t enjoy driving and do so as little as possible) but recently I remembered a time when I was pulled over by a cop—in 1982. Mrs. C. was working as an executive assistant at the time, but I was unemployed and on my way to a job interview. CJ was two years old and at the peak of his cuteness. With his mother’s rosy complexion, curly golden hair, long eyelashes and bright blue eyes, he looked like a living, breathing Hummel. He was belted in the front seat and I was about to drop him off with a sitter.      &nb ... read more

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Buccaneers of Buzz

March 20, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I know many of you have published thousands of posts, but today is Chubby Chatterbox post #600, actually #623 but I’ve subtracted reposts. Although the weather isn’t cooperating everywhere, today is the first day of Astronomical spring and I wanted to post something appropriate.   My illustrations were mostly created for books, newspapers and magazines. This picture, done for my own amusement, is the only one created from a poem—a short piece by Emily Dickinson that playfully compares bees to pirates; it’s so fun and lighthearted that I couldn’t resist picking up my brushes to see what I could do with it. For those of you who are interested, this piece is acrylic on untempered masonite.   ... read more

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The Big "O"

March 23, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I didn’t have many followers when I posted this early in 2012. You might have missed it.   *********************************   Our tour bus was cutting through the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, located on the edge of the Anatolian Plateau where people have been living since Paleolithic times. The mountains were modest compared to the Alps or Rockies, with expansive valleys meeting us at every curve. At one point our guide, Selchuk, ordered the driver of our bus to pull to the side of the road. He said to us, “Do you want to see something really interesting?”   Of course I did. That’s why I’d traveled halfway around the world, to see what I couldn’t see at home. I followed Selchu ... read more

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An Ambiguous Ending

March 25, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Some tales are straightforward and conclude without ambiguity, but this is not one of those stories. It’s a true incident that happened to me in 1983 when I left my position as display manager for Mervyn’s Dept. Store, and took a position as manager of an art gallery in Portland, Oregon.             Soaring Wings Gallery specialized in wildlife art, and was owned by local millionaire and entrepreneur George Klempton. I had little contact with him, and was hired by his single, middle-aged chief assistant, Mary Ann Gasper, who I soon realized had a massive crush on her married boss.             The gallery was ... read more

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Paradise Lost

March 27, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One of the guys I hung out with in college was an architecture student named Alan Aoki, the son of a prominent Northern California florist. His parents often sent flowers to his dorm room, which at first we all thought strange, but eventually we came to appreciate the wonderful scents and colors.             One night while partying in Alan’s room, he pointed at a recently delivered birds of paradise arrangement. We were admiring the brilliant tropical colors when Alan launched into a lecture on this native South American plant. He shared with us a florist secret. Pulling one of the flowers from its container he said, “Most people don’t know this, but beneath the bir ... read more

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Memory Lane

March 30, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Does anyone ever plan on growing old? I know I didn’t. When mature enough to start reflecting on the voyage of my life, I was surprised to find out how little documentation there was that I’d ever existed.             A popular blog meme is “Throwback Thursdays,” where folks post vintage pictures of themselves. I’ve never participated in this because there are precious few pictures of me. Being the second and last child, my parents were not inclined to snap pictures of me, although there are many of my older brother David. Truth be told, as I grew older I wasn’t particularly pleased with my appearance and moved into the shadows whenever a camera mad ... read more

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An April Fool

April 01, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’m no Stephen Hawking, but I pride myself on being reasonably intelligent, so I was surprised at how easily I was duped.             In the nineties, I had an illustration studio in downtown Portland. In case you don’t know, Portland, Oregon, is divided by the Willamette River, which connects to the mighty Columbia before flowing into the Pacific Ocean. I read somewhere that Portland is the sixth largest port in the USA, in spite of being a hundred miles from the ocean. Setting the stage for one of the greatest mental lapses of my life, I was hard at work on an illustration assignment. On my radio was local talk show host Rick Emerson. I hadn’t been paying c ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #35

April 03, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          It’s been a while since I’ve added to my Peculiar Picture feature. For any new followers who might not know, I’m a retired illustrator with a file cabinet filled with pictures that, for one reason or another, were never used. This is common for professional illustrators. Typically, one out of three pictures are actually printed.             This piece is the antithesis of the sunny and bright Buccaneers of Buzz I posted two weeks ago. Instead of sunshine and glowing spring colors, this Pied Piper is filled with the colors of a bruise. I’ve posted other illustrations featuring the Pied Piper theme, but this is the darkest. ... read more

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I (Don't) Love Lucy

April 06, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Of course I love Lucille Ball, one of our most recognizable Hollywood icons. I was raised on I Love Lucy, and can’t recall a time when I wasn’t laughing at Lucy making wine, or working in a candy factory, or getting wasted peddling Vitameatavegamin. What I don’t like is the new statue of her recently unveiled in her hometown, Celoron, NY, bordering Jamestown.             When I was an art professor, I strove to emulate my late friend Elsa Warnick, who always touted the importance of having a “generosity of spirit.” Artists tend to be vulnerable people—I can attest to this—and need all the encouragement they can get. I t ... read more

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Lazy or Cheap?

April 08, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    This post is reminiscent of something my good friend Cranky might offer on his blog, The Cranky Old Man. If you don’t follow Cranky, you don’t know what you’re missing. He’s a wealth of pithy marital observations, and he’s been married enough times to be an expert at giving marital advice (?) even though a large number of his posts end with someone in his household being called a “JERK.”             The other day I tromped downstairs for my morning cup of coffee. Beside our Keurig was the plastic container of coffee creamer, with a mere dribble inside. A newly opened container was beside it.        ... read more

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The Duccio Block

April 10, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Michelangelo’s David (1501-1504) is arguably the most famous statue in the world, but the task of creating this towering 14.2 ft. masterpiece is even more astonishing when you consider the flawed material with which the artist had to work.                        The city of Florence had paid a fortune for this gigantic block, carved from Carrara marble and transported to Florence. Master sculptor Donatello was to carve a statue of David, to be hoisted to a pedestal on the roofline of Florence’s Duomo (cathedral). But Donatello died and the assignment was handed over to his assistant, Agostino de Duccio. Duccio ... read more

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Nasty Weed

April 13, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  “I don’t want it in our house!” Mrs. Chatterbox shouted.             “It’s MY house, too.”             “I thought we’d settled this once and for all.”             “I guess not,” I said, “because here we are still talking about it. Frankly, I don’t see what the problem is. Lots of people use it. It’s no big deal. You see it all the time on TV. Famous celebrities and athletes are into it.”             “Casual usage i ... read more

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Hotter Than Hell

April 15, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Today in Portland there’s a chill in the air, prompting me to think about warmth, extreme warmth. I’m reminded of the hottest temperature I ever experienced. Mrs. Chatterbox and I weren’t in a desert; we were in Cancun, Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula.             I can only handle lying on the beach for so long, and after a few hours I’m clamoring for something to do. We decided to trek to Chichen Itza to see the famous Mayan city built between 600 and 900 AD, in particular its celebrated pyramid.             Chichen Itza is approximately a hundred miles from Cancun, and an uglier landscape is h ... read more

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What Were We Thinking?

April 17, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so I miss out on Throwback Thursdays. Many of you post vintage pictures, and I’m amazed at how good-looking everyone was back in the day. Sure, the fashions and hairstyles are a bit peculiar by modern standards, but that’s to be expected.             I recently came across a picture that pushes the boundaries of the notion that its healthy to laugh at yourself. The year was 1974. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were both twenty-one, but we look like teenagers. We’d returned to my parents’ house after honeymooning in San Francisco, and had just loaded our possessions into a rented van for the trip to Los An ... read more

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Remembering Why We're Great

April 20, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Saturday began National Park Week, prompting this post.   Everyone should know about this unassuming stone gate because it represents something remarkable, something never before seen in the history of mankind. Few people pass through this portal anymore because it is no longer the quickest way to enter Yellowstone National Park, but if you do, take a moment to look closely at the words engraved on it: For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.             Heralding trumpets should go off in your head when you read these words because this was the result of revolutionary thinking. I’ve been to Windsor, Versailles, Capri, and other playgrounds of ... read more

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Kill All the Lawyers!

April 22, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Shakespeare said it best in Henry VI (Part 2): “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” He may have had the right idea. Still, I need to find a lawyer for my ninety year old mom so she can get her affairs in order. The other day she reminded me that she was always interested in the law and tried to push me in that direction when I was a kid. By this she means she made me watch Perry Mason with her every afternoon. My mother talked through every scene, making me wish that, when the murderer jumped up in the courtroom yelling, “I killed him! He deserved it and I’d do it again,” it would be Mom who was cuffed and hauled away.         & ... read more

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God, Is That You?

April 24, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  “I’m not going!” I said.             “Yes you are. I’m not leaving you home so you can squeal on me to Mom and Dad. You’re coming, and if you tell, you’ll catch hell with us.”             Rarely did my older brother David include me on his adventures, and normally I would have jumped at the opportunity to be included, but this would require much physical activity, something I tried hard to avoid. My brother and his friends were planning a bike excursion to Stevens Creek Reservoir at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Cupertino, about ten miles from our Santa Clara home ... read more

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My Favorite Wiener

April 27, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  My best friend Ricky Delgado was our lookout halfway down the street.             “Do you see anything?” I bellowed, using my cupped hand to amplify my voice.             Ricky shook his head.                        In 1962 when I was ten, a shopping center had opened a few blocks away and a local newspaper had announced that today the Wienermobile would arrive for the grand opening. The Wienermobile was a car shaped like a hotdog in a bun, designed to promote Oscar Mayer products. I’d seen th ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #36

April 29, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  When time hangs heavy and assignments are scarce, a professional illustrator creates “spec” art, pieces painted on the speculation that someone might buy them in the future. The trick is to anticipate what art directors or graphic designers might need. This can be a hit and miss process, but I was fortunate to be able to sell many of my spec pieces.             This picture seemed like a good idea at the time, and I’ve seen several similar pictures that managed to find buyers. Mine, however, did not. Of course you never know. Maybe an art director is lurking around my blog and will see it and want it. Stranger things have happened.     &nbs ... read more

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Remembering Truckzilla

May 01, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First Posted 10/9/13     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 ... read more

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The Smell of Cut Grass

May 04, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  On Friday morning I took a moment to enjoy the Spring weather while waiting for the pool to open where I swim laps. The light glistened like an Impressionist painting, and the air was heavy with the scent of grass being mowed at the adjacent high school. Few things trigger memories better than smells, and the pungent scent of cut grass reminded me of all the lawns I’d mowed over the years.             To be clear, I’ve always hated mowing lawns. When I was a kid we had a big lawn and the cheapest lawnmower on the block. Even though my dad was a master mechanic, our lawnmower was always covered in rust and when pushed shrieked like a banshee in heat. We eventually p ... read more

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Prom Night

May 06, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It’s that time of year again when Mrs. Chatterbox and I reflect on a rite of spring, the gathering of high school students in a ritual known as Senior Prom.             The best sightings are in downtown Portland at the marina on the Willamette River. An esplanade bordering the waterfront is crowded with restaurants popular on prom night. For years, Mrs. C. and I have made a habit of parking ourselves on a bench to watch the parade of young people dressed in finery on their special night. Stretch limos come and disgorge self-conscious teens trying their best to look nonchalant and grown up. Mrs. C. and I have fond memories of our prom, which we attended together forty-tw ... read more

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Ninety

May 11, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Saturday was my mother’s ninetieth birthday, and while she struggled to place a positive spin on the event, I was left feeling pensive. Mrs. Chatterbox and our son CJ joined me in attempting to create a festive occasion, but I’m not sure we succeeded. I’d have preferred treating her to a nice dinner in a restaurant, or bringing her to our home so Mrs. Chatterbox could cook some Portuguese favorites, but Mom has become reclusive; it takes a shoehorn to pry her from her retirement facility. She hasn’t been to our home in nearly five years.             Noticeably absent was my older brother David, who I’ve mentioned several times in stories about my ... read more

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Away We Go!

May 15, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Away we go!     It’s been a while since Mrs. Chatterbox and I packed our suitcases and hit the road. On previous trips we’ve explored Turkey, Scandinavia, India, Thailand and Cambodia. On the eighteenth of this month we’re heading for the part of the world once referred to as the Romantic Road—Germany (Bavaria) Austria and Switzerland. Mrs. Chatterbox, an Army brat who grew up in Germany, is looking forward to seeing places she vaguely remembers as a child.             We land in Munich, where I’m looking forward to visiting the Alte Pinakothek Museum, one of the few world-class collections of old masters I’ve yet to see. We ... read more

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We're Home!

June 08, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It’s good to be home, and our overseas vacations usually begin to wrap up with a soul stirring “Welcome Home” by customs officials, at which point I begin to regale you with our adventures in a chronological manner, but this time is different. After our five hour wait for our twelve hour departing flight from the Zurich airport, and waiting three hours at San Francisco to catch a two hour flight to Portland, we couldn’t wait to crawl into bed and succumb to jetlag, but our adventure wasn’t over, not by a long shot.             At 2:30 a.m. Mrs. C. got up to make a bathroom pit stop. My hearing was compromised by a terrible cold that, combined with ... read more

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Old Friends

June 10, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          We flew into Munich a few days before the start of our tour because I wanted to visit the Alte Pinakothek. A few of the first paintings to capture my childhood imagination hang there and I was determined to see them. Unfortunately, the museum was being refurbished and many of the masterpieces were in storage, but I did manage to see a few old friends I’d first seen and admired in art books as a child—including this portrait of Peter Paul Rubens and his wife Isabella Brant, one of the loveliest wedding portraits ever painted.         Our trip to the Pinakothek was temporarily marred when Bruce, one of our traveling companions, left his backpack in the trunk of our ... read more

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The Fairy Tale Castle

June 12, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Most fairy tales have a dark side, and the story of the world’s most famous fairytale castle, the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, is no exception. Neuschwanstein has a dark side that is easy to overlook in the blinding light of stunning aerial photos and postcards of this painfully beautiful building. But the day of our visit was overcast; a moody breeze was blowing down from the Alps, underscoring the unhappy fate of the man responsible for our visit.             That man was Ludwig II, the handsome and moody young king who came to the Bavarian throne at the age of eighteen. Ludwig was not close to his parents and shared a tem ... read more

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City of Music

June 15, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Before rolling into Salzburg, I knew only two things about this ancient city: Mozart was born here, and The Sound of Music filmed here. I was told it was a beautiful city, formerly a bishopric (ruled by a bishop) so churches and religious buildings would be plentiful, and in fact they seemed to be on every corner.             Perhaps it was the sun finally making an appearance that induced me to like Salzburg, named after the salt (Medieval white gold) mined in the area. The city sparkled and shimmered in morning light, and yes, the presence of Mozart, born here in 1756, was omnipresent. The composer’s image greeted us everywhere, like Walt Disney’s at Disneyland. ... read more

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Hitler's Eagle's Nest

June 17, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  What do you give someone who has everything? In 1937, high ranking Nazis were confronted with this dilemma. The Fuhrer was turning fifty soon and it was deemed necessary to give him something special. Martin Bormann (who gained enormous power as Hitler’s private secretary) came up with a curious idea.             Hitler wasn’t fond of Berlin, and the only home he ever bought (Berghof) was near Berchtesgaden in Bavaria near the Austrian border—he was Austrian after all. He had the region cleared out (dissenters included a local painter who was promptly shipped to a concentration camp) and a compound was build for him and top cronies like Hermann Goring. The wi ... read more

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The Protest II

June 19, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I’m pausing from relating adventures from our vacation to fill you in on a project that will be occupying me for the rest of the summer. I’ve mentioned a few times that I was once foolish enough to spend eighteen months painting a colossal 10x15 foot painting I called The Protest. I refused to heed the advice of those who told me this painting would be too big to find a home—and they were right. For the past decade, The Protest (details can be seen on the Fine Art Paintings which can be found on the menu bar of my blog) has been rolled and stored in a corner of my garage.             It bothered me that no one was able to see something I spent ... read more

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Schonbrunn Palace

June 22, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace was Austria’s attempt to recreate Versailles, even though at 1441 rooms it’s smaller. The present Baroque structure was built in the 1740s, and Austrian emperors lived here until the collapse of the Habsburg dynasty at the end of World War I. The rooms are as lavishly decorated as you’d expect, and I was particularly interested in, of all things, a tapestry of a fair where peasants were queued up at a stall where, for a few coins, a monkey would pick fleas from their heads. The origin of the term flea market?     View from the back of the palace       Interiors                &nb ... read more

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The Elusive Knuckle

June 24, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I don’t drink beer, and I’m not particularly fond of German food, but I was determined to try an appealing-looking dish I’d seen in a magazine, although you might be put off by the name—pork knuckle, a name that conjured an image of porcine cloven hooves. I wasn’t deterred; being Portuguese I was raised on pork, so on day one of our trip I began hunting for pork knuckles.             They weren’t hard to find, but nabbing one proved elusive. Many restaurants had rows of them on rotisseries in their front windows. I’d start salivating, but every time I bolted for the restaurant door I was herded off to a place that didn’t serve th ... read more

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Tito's Spoon

June 26, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  When I was a teenager, I bought art books with reproductions of famous paintings I never expected to see, and Vienna is rich with great museums filled with priceless treasures. At the Kunsthistorisches I encountered paintings I’d first seen in art books as a teenager, paintings like Brueghel’s Tower of Babel (Google for a larger reproduction and prepare to be amazed by the details) and Vermeer’s The Allegory of Painting. There are only a handful of Vermeers in existence and this painting, coveted and pirated by Hitler, is breathtaking. Unlike many museums where crowds hinder your ability to engage with art, Mrs. C. and I sat alone for half an hour, basking in the absolute stillness of this sublime masterpiece. &nb ... read more

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Rubbed in Innsbruck

June 29, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Before our arrival, I didn’t know much about Innsbruck, other than two winter Olympics and many other Alpine sporting events had been held here. I learned the city’s name came from the Latin for bridge on the Inn River, and that the city, founded during the Stone Age, became important in the fifteenth century when the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1486-1519), moved his capital here. That’s Maximilian pictured above. We were not going in winter so I didn’t know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to discover a marvelous city, one that would be our second favorite on this trip.         Innsbruck Ski Jump   I don’t ski, but the thought of ... read more

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Snow Day

July 01, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  The heat has finally caught up to us here in Portland, and today the temperature is expected to pass ninety degrees. I know many of you are experiencing higher temperatures than this, but here in the Northwest that’s pretty darn hot, and we might reach a hundred degrees by the Fourth of July. For all of you who are tired of the heat, here’s a snow day to cool you off—pictures from our trip featuring snow.             St. Moritz is one of the most expensive destinations in the world and a hot spot for wintering celebrities and millionaires, but on Sundays during the off season it’s practically a ghost town. The view from our hotel window was nice, but al ... read more

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Bows and Arrows

July 03, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                I just don’t get it.             Mrs. Chatterbox finds guys who shoot arrows sexy. Whenever we watch The Walking Dead, her eyes settle on Daryl and she has a peculiar look on her face.                   “He’s dirty, and greasy, and grunts like a moron,” I tell her.             “Yes, but look at the way he holds that crossbow,” she chimes in. “He’s a protector, always saving women. He’s so cool.”        ... read more

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Crowing!

July 06, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I hope you’ll forgive me, but I’ve waited twelve years for this to happen, and now that it has I can’t resist crowing.             Twelve years ago I switched from painting to writing because my visual vocabulary was exhausted and I decided to paint with words instead of paint. I’d always enjoyed telling stories and decided to become a professional writer. I had no idea as to the magnitude of the task I’d set for myself. I’d started selling paintings as a teenager and figured that, if I applied myself and worked hard, success as a writer would come my way. It didn’t.             ... read more

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The Lion of Lucerne

July 08, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    When I think about military prowess and bad ass fighters I don’t usually think of warriors from a country more known for pretty mountains, yodeling, cheese with holes and chocolate. Yet the Swiss have provided European nobility with elite mercenaries for centuries.             The Ancient Romans, themselves no slouches when it came to fighting, struggled to subdue the Helvetii—Swiss warriors—who challenged Roman authority and gave Julius Caesar and later Roman generals a run for their money. Most people think of the Vatican when the Swiss Guard is referenced. Few trips to the Vatican don’t include photographs snapped of the colorful men with hal ... read more

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Last Stop

July 10, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          Rain followed us to Lucerne, the last stop on our trip. I was upset when it started raining during our cruise on the lake. One of the hotels we sailed past was where Mark Twain was staying when he received word from home that he’d died. His famous comment was: Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.       Then the sun broke through the clouds and a rainbow appeared.         Maybe this guy had something to do with it. Locals say He isn’t praying; he’s measuring a big fish He just caught. The composer Wagner wrote several of his operas in a nearby villa.         Lucerne was one of the most beautiful ci ... read more

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The Dinner Party

July 13, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  The other day Mrs. Chatterbox decided to clean and reorganize our kitchen, something we men seldom think to do. In our forty plus years of marriage, we’d accumulated countless pieces of china, stemware, crockery and serving utensils, most of which we hadn’t used in recent memory.             Mrs. C. commented, “It’s been ages since we threw a dinner party and used any of our nice things.”             This got me thinking about the first dinner party we ever hosted, and the near tragedy that ensued—because of the dreadful mistake I made.          ... read more

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The Dinner Party: Part II

July 15, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’d expected to phone a few friends and invite them over for food and fun, but Mrs. Chatterbox had different ideas. She sent out written invitations. Everyone she invited, accepted. Like I said, these were all my friends, yet most of them had never met Mrs. Chatterbox and were eager to meet the woman who’d stolen my heart. This was the ‘70s and the prevailing sentiment among my group of acquaintances was: a piece of paper (such as a marriage license) wasn’t necessary, and often served as an obstacle to true love.             This dinner party had been Mrs. C’s idea, but after setting the ball in motion she experienced a serious case of butterflies ... read more

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The Dinner Party: Conclusion

July 17, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I stared at the sap seeping through the white paint on our dining room table and taxed myself to think of a creative solution. Maybe I could tell Aarone the sap was hashish and she’d smoke it. Better still, maybe she’d arrive having already imbibed and she wouldn’t even notice the amber goop.             The sap had broken through the white paint in too many places to count. Had these blobs been in a straight line down the center, I could have covered them with a runner, or hidden them under the silver candelabra Mrs. Chatterbox’s godmother had gifted us. An idea began taking root in my head. Candles…. I removed the candles from the candelabra an ... read more

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Signals of a Good Marriage

July 20, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Mrs. Chatterbox and I have gotten along extremely well for the past four decades, but there is one area of friction. Like many husbands, I’m not particularly observant when it comes to doing things around the house. While I readily admit I distract easily, it’s true that the flip side of the coin bearing the words Easily Distracted, is Lazy. I don’t step out of dirty clothes expecting Mrs. C. to pick up after me, or turn a blind eye to making beds or cleaning the shower, and I don’t dump dirty dishes in the sink expecting a maid to materialize to deal with them, but emptying the dishwasher has become an issue at our house.             Oddly enough, I do ... read more

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Early Memories

July 22, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I accept the fact that the human brain is an incredible device with a photographic memory, but I have my doubts when people claim they can recall their own births. I’m thinking about this because last night I had a peculiar dream. Actually, it wasn’t really a dream, it was a recollection of a situation that happened when I was six months old. But since I was asleep at the time I guess it technically qualifies as a dream.             I’m a baby in my crib, and it’s unbelievably hot. I’m sweating profusely and wearing only a diaper. Something other than the heat is bothering me. I’m too good natured to cry. Mom will later say that had I been c ... read more

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Surveying Surveys

July 24, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Although complaining is par for the course with many bloggers, I try to avoid it. It isn’t because I can’t think of things to kvetch about; it’s because of my philosophy of complaining, which goes something like this:   Half of the people you complain to don’t care The other half are glad             But something is bugging me these days and I’ve decided to speak out. It seems that more often than not I’m being requested by service providers to give an assessment of their performances. I worked in retail for many years and I clearly understood that if I provided good value and gave quality service, my customers woul ... read more

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The Dreaded Letter

July 27, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 ... read more

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Prepare to Die!

July 29, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve mentioned several times that Mrs. Chatterbox detests spiders. I discovered this while we were dating. She nearly fell at the sight of a spider on the stairs we were climbing to a friend’s apartment. Seeing her distress, I smashed the spider with my hand. From then on I was her knight in shining armor. This photograph is an accurate representation of how Mrs. C. remembers that date.     I don't have a problem with spiders, as is evidenced by this whimsical post from 9/30/12.           *********************************** Prepare To Die! “I’m sorry, but I have to kill you.”             &ldq ... read more

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The Peaceable Kingdom

July 31, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
There’s so much bad news engulfing us these days that I decided to write about an artist who makes me smile. He wasn’t a great artist; in fact it’s a wonder he painted at all. His name was Edward Hicks. He painted The Peaceable Kingdom.   And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. — Isaiah 11:6   Edward Hicks (1780-1849) was an American folk painter born in Pennsylvania. His father had supported the British during the American Revolution, and later died when Edward was only eighteen months old. As a teenager, Hicks became apprenticed to a coach maker and showed a knack fo ... read more

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In the Dog House

August 03, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Dear readers, I’m in the dog house at Casa Chatterbox, and I know you’ll tell me if this is where I belong. I made the mistake of laughing at my wife, but before you judge me too harshly, hear me out.             On Friday we invited our son CJ to dinner. It’s been pushing a hundred degrees in Portland, and aside from a home cooked meal we figured he’d enjoy an evening in air-conditioning. While we ate ( Mrs. Chatterbox made wedge salads and a delicious beef Stroganoff) the subject of CJ’s new job came up. CJ has moved from Police Records to the Shop, where he fulfils his automotive passion by working on squad cars, motorcycles and countless other city ve ... read more

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Update on Protest II

August 05, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
            I’ve been working on Protest II most days this summer. (The original can be found by going to the Chubby Chatterbox Menu Bar and clicking on Fine Art Paintings.) The last time I posted an update was on June 19th when the canvas was toned and the figures only sketched in. Back then, the painting looked like this:     I’ve made great progress, although at times it feels like I’m working at a snail’s pace. The microphone, columns, stairs and wheels of the shopping cart still need definition, but here’s what the painting looks like today:     I painted the central figure in color directly on the canvas instead of using an underpainting me ... read more

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Dad's Last Flight: Almost

August 07, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately. I find it hard to believe he’s been gone seven years. It’s summer and he loved baseball, but the last time I spoke with him was during a football game. We were enjoying the Super Bowl together. I’m not much of a sports fan, but seven years ago Mrs. Chatterbox and I had a little Super Bowl party. We like to scarf down a few munchies, watch the commercials and wonder what the game is all about. My parents had recently moved to the area and we included them. We had the best time ever. I can’t remember Dad enjoying himself so much. The game was exciting, and after driving home Dad called to tell me what a great time he’d had. I never spoke to him again. Th ... read more

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Taking a Stand

August 10, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Not long ago I finished eating and reached for a fortune cookie at my favorite Chinese restaurant. The message inside informed me that if I wanted to improve my life it was time to be decisive and more vocal with my opinions. Many of you might smirk at the notion that I’m not vocal enough with my opinions; I’ve been referred to as a bleeding heart liberal on more than one occasion, but since I’m always striving to improve my life, and since I can’t afford a qualified therapist, I’ve decided to take my fortune cookie’s advice.             Here at Chubby Chatterbox I try to entertain and inform; I rarely go out on a limb discussing topics like ... read more

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A Special Day

August 12, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It seems that each day on the calendar has a special designation: Roller Coaster Day, Bad Poetry Day, Skyscraper Appreciation Day, National Donut Day, Hug Your Cat Day, Ship in a Bottle Day, Drinking Straw Day, Satisfied Staying Single Day. These are not made up and quite real. Not wanting tomorrow to go unnoticed among all these important holidays, I’d like to bring to your attention the fact that tomorrow has been set aside to honor those of us once considered deviants, poor wretches with an evil stigma—August 13th is the twenty-fourth annual Left Handers Day.             Here and now I’ll admit to being a “lefty.” Western Culture hasn’t t ... read more

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Attack of the Spam

August 14, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It’s bad enough that I constantly receive spam indicating that my manhood isn’t all that it could or should be, or that it isn’t working properly and the fix is only a mouse-click away, but now I’m being hounded to purchase a new product. Every day for the past three weeks I’ve sat down at my computer and faced an ad telling me that for a few bucks a month I can have a brand new, state of the art walk-in bathtub.             First off, I’m a shower guy. We have a big tub in our master bathroom but in the seven years we’ve lived here, I have yet to take a bath. Why do these people think I need a walk-in tub? Who’s talking about me ... read more

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The Pits

August 17, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  If you’re a wife, please accept my apology in advance for this post; if you’re a husband, sit back and prepare to be avenged. I admit the victory I’m about to reveal is insignificant, petty, shows my narrow-mindedness, but when victories are so few its size doesn’t matter.             This has been a great summer for fruit, especially nectarines. As a rule, I haven’t enjoyed nectarines because when we buy them in the store they’re hard enough to kill if thrown at someone. I set them aside and by the time they spring to mind they’ve rotted in a bottom drawer of the fridge. But if you put them in a paper bag, the gas they emit is collect ... read more

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Honk If You Love Whales

August 19, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First posted 12/16/11   I’m really tired of being burned when it comes to bumper stickers and artwork on other people’s cars. Responding to these attention grabbers over the years hasn’t always yielded positive results. I’m fed up with the angry looks I get for flashing a thumbs up for chrome fish proclaiming the driver to be a follower of Jesus. I’m bored with political causes and advertisements for overpriced alma maters, license plate frames celebrating private pilots and llama farmers, and stickers announcing the driver would rather be skiing.                  Years ago during my morning walk to the bus stop, a van w ... read more

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Heating Up With Mother

August 21, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It’s been unusually hot here in Portland, a city better known for rain. My mother complains about the heat every day. Of course she also complains about the rain, along with most everything else. She lives in an air-conditioned retirement facility. Unfortunately, my mother, who at ninety is a sharp cookie when it comes to most things, can’t manage the dynamics of AC. And she never could.             Years ago we were visiting my folks in Grass Valley, California, and the temperature was consistently over 105 degrees. My mother confiscated the only fan in the house, lugged it to her bedroom and refused to turn on the air-conditioning. When she fell asleep after dinn ... read more

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The Cranky Club

August 24, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I recently received a shout-out from one of my favorite bloggers, Cranky at Cranky Old Man. He said some nice things about me, but commented that my recent rant about nectarine pits all but qualified me for status in the Cranky Old Man Club. He asked if I’d reached the point where I was yelling at kids crossing my lawn. I can report it hasn’t come to that—yet. But there was a time when I became crankier than Mr. Wilson pestered by Dennis the Menace.             We’d just bought a big old house in downtown Portland, where off-street parking was at a premium. We wouldn’t have purchased this property except that a previous owner had renovated it, cre ... read more

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Requiem for a Plant

August 28, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It's good being back after resolving my computer woes, I hope.   Today I’m committing planticide. The victim of my crime might want to die, so it might be an assisted suicide, making me a plant killing Dr. Kevorkian. After keeping our only houseplant alive for fifteen years, today I’m sending it to that Chlorophyll Bridge in the Sky.             When my beloved mother-in-law passed away in 2000, my wife’s employer expressed sympathy by sending her a large plant arrangement. All but one of the plants soon died. Mrs. Chatterbox and I have “black thumbs” and have never been able to keep plants alive. Mrs. C. grew up with nothing but artificial ... read more

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The Scam Artist

August 31, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        I consider myself an astute fellow, someone not likely to buy swampland or send money to Nigerian princes, but there was a time when my resolve not to be victimized by my own ego was put to the test.             I’d flown to London without Mrs. Chatterbox in 1985, who’d chosen instead to vacation in Hawaii with her parents and our little boy. The day dawned bright and clear, not that whiteout sky London is famous for. I’d decided to walk to Number One, London, the former address of the Duke of Wellington, now a museum housing several famous paintings by Velazquez and Goya. I’d arrived an hour before the museum opened, and while k ... read more

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Protest Update

September 04, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
              While I’m happy with the progress I’ve made, my second version of The Protest is taking longer than expected. I’d hoped to be done by September, but I still have a month left to go, maybe more.     Started here three months ago             I’ve worked extensively on the motorcycle cop and he’s mostly finished. The angry redheaded teen being hauled away by the two cops has gotten some attention, but the most time has gone to the kid playing the guitar. He caused me problems in the original painting. I’d wanted him to look like our son CJ, but at the time CJ was tired of posing for ... read more

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Piano Guy

September 07, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I enjoy it when bloggers write about music, a subject I know little about. Back in college I owned a few albums, but never developed a robust appreciation of contemporary music. Back in the early seventies when I was attending UCLA, several of the guys in my dorm had aspirations of playing in bands and making it big, while others were content to master the air guitar.             I don’t know where music comes from; I read that melodies are notes hung on the invisible wires of time and repeated in a mathematical order, but math was not my subject. I admire people who create music, although they mystify me, especially one fellow I often encountered back in college.   ... read more

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Fourteen Years

September 11, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Today is the anniversary of 9/11. I wish I had something meaningful to relate on this occasion. I wish the loss of so many lives had led to a better world so all those people wouldn’t have died in vain. I wish we were still as united as we were on that tragic day fourteen years ago, even though the mortar for that unity was grief. I wish for a lot of things. An old expression said it best: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. 9/11 made us all beggars, and at times it seems like no one is riding anymore except haters and warmongers.                         It’s probably foolish to ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #37

September 14, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It’s been a while since I opened my illustration file and posted a Peculiar Picture. An explanation for new followers: I’m a retired illustrator, and during the course of my fifteen year career I created many pictures in my spare time on speculation—uncommissioned busy work for my portfolio. Typically, a third of an illustrator’s output isn’t published for one reason or another, but commissions are desirable because the artist gets paid whether or not the art is used. I’d try to anticipate images art directors might need. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head (I’ve actually done an illustration of that metaphor) and produce a big moneymaker, but other times my work failed to find a buyer and ... read more

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A Princess and Stolen Gold

September 16, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  She was a real princess, an infanta of Spain, and I’d come thousands of miles to pay her homage. She wasn’t exactly pretty; she possessed those unfortunate characteristics that, had she lived a long life, would have twisted her sweetness into the grotesqueness so characteristic of her family. She was a Habsburg, and no one would remember her today were it not for her father’s famous painter. As I gazed upon her, I felt something peculiar happening…deep in my pants. Princess or no princess, I was about to humiliate myself.             I’d grown up in California and had been raised on tales of Spanish chivalry and pirates of the Spanish Main. As an ... read more

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Fish Heads

September 18, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I have a robust appetite and don’t turn down much when it comes to food, but there is one notable exception. Some people believe that the head is the tastiest part of a fish. I don’t care; I won’t be eating fish heads unless I find myself starving on one of those survival programs with a million dollar prize. Two incidents involving fish heads come to mind.             My late mother-in-law often related an incident from a lunch she attended at Berlin’s Spandau Prison in the 1960s, back in the day when Rudolph Hess was the only person imprisoned there. My mother-in-law, along with other wives of American ... read more

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Passivity

September 21, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Parents are role models during a child’s formative years, and mine were no exception. Although my mother has many good qualities, she’s aggressive, alienating people with her intelligence and off-the-grid opinions. She was never popular with neighbors and family members but she always manipulated situations to her benefit. In contrast, Dad was kind and gentle, beloved by animals, good at sports, smart and easy-going. But Dad had one troubling characteristic—passivity. He was uncomfortable around educated people and had a terrible inferiority complex because of his lack of education. He started pumping gas at thirteen to help put food on the table for his brothers and sisters. Being illegitimate, which I was unaware ... read more

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The Fallacy of Fairness

September 23, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
   I was raised on the concept of “fairness,” but lately I’ve wondered if fairness is a notion that should be lumped together with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I suppose this makes me either a cynic, or a realist. The world is not a fair place, never has been and never will be, so why do we raise our children as if fairness is fundamental to existence?             I doubt it’s possible to love children equally, but parents push the concept in order to limit sibling conflicts and avoid household friction. Today we understand the pitfalls of raising girls to think of themselves as little princesses waiting for Prince Charming to sweep them off ... read more

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Close Encounters

September 25, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
   Lately, I’ve been taking after dinner walks to help my digestion and get me off the couch. Several days ago as I prepared to hit the pavement, I stepped out onto our front steps and saw a spider hanging in midair right in front of me. I hate killing things and studied the spider for a moment. It appeared to be defying gravity, floating in front of me, but when I crouched down and turned towards the sun, I could see the glint of the web supporting it. I carefully pinched the web at both ends, careful not to disturb the spider and relocated it in a nearby bush. I felt for not killing a creature that was just trying to make a living finding food in the form of insects I didn’t want in the house anyway.   &n ... read more

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The Cult of Cuteness

September 28, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  On Saturday Mrs. Chatterbox and I took a drive to enjoy the wonderful fall weather. We ended up walking through an antique mall in Troutdale near the scenic Columbia Gorge. I overheard a woman talking to another, pointing at something behind glass and saying, “I have no idea what it is, but it’s really cute.”             I was curious about this mystery object, and when they moved away I checked it out. I likewise had no idea what it was, but I didn’t think it was cute. In all honesty, I don’t tend to like things that are cute. It’s always risky to speak for anyone other than one’s self, but I have a feeling most men don’t like c ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #38

September 30, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I’m sure you’re aware of the story about a young CEO who purchased a pharmaceutical company and hiked the price of a decades-old pill five thousand percent. Martin Shkreli quickly passed the likes of George Zimmerman and Kim Davis as the most hated person in America when he raised the price of Daraprim, which keeps thousands of people alive, from $13.50 per tablet to $750.00.             This tale of consummate greed sprang to mind when I pulled this illustration from my files. Created years ago for The Oregonian, Portland’s premier newspaper, it was to accompany an article on rising drug prices. My artwork had been approved by the art directo ... read more

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Someone Had to be First

October 02, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      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 ... read more

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Best Meal Ever

October 05, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  For forty-one years I’ve been blessed with a spouse who cares enough to constantly be on the lookout for new recipes to keep our dinners varied and interesting. The other day I was having a conversation with Mrs. Chatterbox and the topic “Best Meals Ever” popped up. I figured it was a wife-beater question and the only way to sidestep disaster was to select one of the fabulous meals she’s prepared over the years. But in a later moment of reflection, another meal sprang to mind, one I’ll never forget.             Years ago during a solo exploration of Rome, I grew sick and tired of the crappy food I was eating. Italy is justifiably famous for its cu ... read more

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A Beautiful Woman Has Come

October 07, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  The Internet is buzzing with the possibility of a great discovery. Is the tomb of Nefertiti about to be discovered? Has this co-regent of ancient Egypt, once described as the most beautiful and powerful woman on Earth, whose name translates as A Beautiful Woman Has Come, once more about to make history?             In the fourteenth century B.C., she and her pharaoh husband Akhenaton, rocked their civilization by sweeping away the pantheon of Egyptian gods to make room for the worship of a single god symbolized by the sun, the Aten. For twelve years, her husband went to great lengths to present her as co-ruler, having her depicted wearing the crown of a pharaoh. Suddenly, she ... read more

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The Good Old Days

October 09, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  A popular mantra tells us that you’re only as old as you feel, but how do you know you’ve actually begun the downward slide into old age? A major road sign guiding you to the geriatric highway can be found in sentimental and unreserved references to the good old days.             After the birth of our son CJ, I swore I wouldn’t abuse my child with stories about how things were when I was a kid. I could have stretched his little ears with stories about televisions with only three channels, no remote control, no capability to record programs and networks that signed off at midnight. I could have baffled him with the world before microwave ovens when you had to ... read more

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Clotilde

October 12, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          She was not much larger than a child and barely reached my chest when standing, ninety pounds of wrinkled entitlement. Her name was Clotilde. Born in Portugal and schooled in France, she claimed her father was in the diplomatic corps—an ambassador. The childless widow of a wealthy industrialist, she was currently living in a retirement facility.                        Mrs. Chatterbox made her acquaintance after taking a citizen’s complaint about our city’s water, which ranks very high nationally. Curiosity about the old woman with the colorful accent prompted Mrs. C. to make a t ... read more

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Grandpa

October 14, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I never knew either of my grandfathers. Dad’s father died early in a car accident, and Mom’s father passed away when she was only nine. My grandmother remarried before I was born, and her husband was the only grandfather I ever knew.             Grandpa was a gruff old bulldog, but we became close when I was small. My brother and I would often spend time with him, but I was the one who’d follow him around like a shadow, listening to his stories about the old country and helping him tend his fruit trees. Grandpa was from Madeira Island, a Portuguese possession off the coast of Africa.             In high ... read more

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Free Is A Terrible Price

October 16, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  During Tuesday’s Democratic debate, socialist lion Bernie Sanders differed from Hillary Clinton by stating college tuition in America should be free. Hillary believes tuition should be much less expensive but not free. I admire Bernie Sanders as a man of integrity and champion of the middle class, but on this issue I agree with Hillary. In my opinion, people don’t value something that’s obtained without cost.             When my brother was a senior in high school he informed my parents that it was their responsibility to provide him with a car. My mother nearly choked laughing. My brother railed and fumed, but never received a free car. When my turn came, I ... read more

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When Fantasies Come True

October 19, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I’ve always had a rich fantasy life. I can go toe to toe with Walter Mitty when it comes to possessing a powerful imagination. I’ve closed my eyes and ridden magic carpets, slayed dragons, played rock music in front of thousands of screaming fans (I don’t even sing in the shower) and traveled back in time to important moments in history, like Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman. None of these fantasies ever came true, but this weekend one did, compelling me to stop, smell the roses and remember how one desire was once vexingly beyond my reach.             Mrs. Chatterbox and I had been living in smoggy overcrowded Southern California, working hard ... read more

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Are You Lucky ?

October 21, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  The line was busy when I dialed my ninety year old mother for our daily conversation, so I called back a few minutes later and got her.             Aside from me, she doesn’t get many calls so I was curious. “Who were you talking to?” I asked.             “I was talking to your Aunt Betty,” she said in a huff.             “You sound annoyed. Did she say something upsetting?”             “Every time I speak with your aunt she makes a point of telling me how &ldqu ... read more

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Honesty

October 23, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  As an artist who likes portraying people, I’m always on the lookout for subjects willing to sit for me. I’ve been told that having an artist stare at you for hours over several days is unsettling. Picasso required Gertrude Stein to endure sixty sessions for her portrait.             Arranging sittings is a difficult task, so over the years I’ve done what many painters have done—I’ve served as my own model and painted numerous self-portraits. Many people think excessive self-portraits, such as those painted by Rembrandt, reveal narcissism, but I know this not to be true. Most artists I know would rather paint someone else if provided the opportunit ... read more

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The Connoisseur

October 26, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          In 1961, judges for the Coopertown Art Association in New York awarded first prize to an abstract painting signed by an unknown Italian artist. That same painting, this time signed by the artist “Percival,” later won honorable mention at a Berkshire Museum exhibition. Both groups of judges must have been shocked to learn the painting they admired and lavished with praise was in fact painted by someone they reviled—popular illustrator Norman Rockwell.                   Norman Rockwell is most famous for illustrations featured on Saturday Evening Post covers. When I was taking art classes, a stinging insult wa ... read more

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Commercial Angst

October 28, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Do you ever get the feeling that the universe is screwing with you?             Last week I was watching TV and waiting for son CJ to arrive so we could take Mrs. Chatterbox to dinner for her birthday. I was flipping around trying to find something interesting to pass the time and most of the channels showed commercials advertising the same product. I’ve become accustomed to pharmaceutical commercials advertising boner pills, insulin pens and adult diapers, but there’s another plague of advertisements—mattress sales!             I don’t know anyone who doesn’t own a mattress, and I find it h ... read more

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Silent Screams

October 30, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’ve been dabbling in fiction, and this piece just won an honorable mention in a short story contest. I’m posting it in honor of Halloween. If you’re terrified of spiders, don’t read this.   *********************     Army brats have no say where their parents are posted. I was miserable when my father, a career officer, was ordered to a base near Berlin. Once again I was torn from my friends, and this time I was dragged to a rickety house at the edge of a dark forest. As always, I held my tongue, all the while wishing for a way to punish my parents, make them pay for all the abuses I was forced to endure.             Unlike American ... read more

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Pure Joy

November 02, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Saturday was Halloween and it poured in Portland. Rain pounded the pavement and the streets were slick with soggy dead leaves. Although few children live on our street, Mrs. Chatterbox and I enjoy seeing costumes and handing out treats so we purchased a bag of candy and hoped some little ghouls, goblins and princesses would brave the elements to ring our doorbell.             We didn’t get many trick or treaters, and those we did encounter were drenched. A few parents followed their kids from the dry comfort of their warm cars. During a break in the action when no one rang our bell, I went to the front window and glanced out at our street. Huddled together under an umbre ... read more

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"Happy Little Trees"

November 04, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I had surgery in the late nineties and was home for a few weeks convalescing. Daytime television was a nightmare and I was constantly flipping channels to find something better to watch than soap operas and Andy Griffith reruns. I landed on PBS, where a soft-spoken man with a funny afro was showing viewers how to paint. The program was called The Joy of Painting. In my opinion, the canvas he was working on was competent but uninspired—hotel art. I was about to continue my search for something better to watch when I was lulled by the gentle rhythm of his voice. I felt like I was being hugged and soon forgot the lingering discomfort from my surgery. This was my first exposure to Bob Ross.      ... read more

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A Few Announcements

November 06, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I know many of you have been blogging a long time, some of you as much as a decade. I’m still a rookie at this with only five years under my belt. Still, I’m proud of reaching a milestone: this is my seven hundredth post. It seems like only yesterday that son CJ was helping build my blog and patiently explaining how it worked. I still have a lot of stories to share and I look forward to doing so until my creative well runs dry—which Mrs. Chatterbox claims won’t ever happen.             In addition to writing, I’ve been working every day on Protest II. This project has taken much longer than expected. I started in June and my goal was to finish by ... read more

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We're Home!

November 23, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  When word reached me that Paris had suffered a series of terrorist attacks I was lying on a beach in Puerto Vallarta with a drink in my hand. Although fortunate to be away from such carnage, I felt sad for the families and friends of the victims; my vacation buzz vanished like a fart in a fan factory. But on our journey home an incident happened that refreshed my faith in humanity.             We departed Puerto Vallarta for a three and a half hour flight to San Francisco, with a ninety minute layover until our connecting flight departed for Portland. We needed to clear customs, but several other planes had arrived along with us. Thousands of people were queued up to turn in t ... read more

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Puerto Vallarta Scrapbook

November 25, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Our hotel in Puerto Vallarta was old and in need of repairs and didn’t look nearly as charming as it did in online photographs, but it was ideally situated on the Bay of Banderas, close to Old Town and The Malecon—a coastal promenade and walkway—yet far enough away from the fleets of buses filled with tourists. The ocean was close enough for us to hear the waves lapping the shore from our balcony at Las Palmas by the Sea. Unlike the high rise hotels in the city’s newer section, Las Palmas was patronized mostly by Mexican families and a scattering of Canadians; we encountered no fellow Americans. I enjoyed being immersed in these boisterous families, and even attempted to use my grade-school Spanish, with limi ... read more

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Puerto Vallarta Scrapbook II

November 27, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        I hope everyone had a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. I made merry yesterday and didn’t have an opportunity to write anything, but here are a few photographs from a trip we made to El Edén Eco Park near Puerto Vallarta. Our bus struggled up a dirt trail—it would be a stretch calling it a road—and the jungle was so thick it was easy imagining disheveled contestants from Naked and Afraid emerging from the jungle.       After leaving our bus, we climbed down a trail towards El Edén Restaurant and were confronted with Predator and a crashed helicopter. Evidently, this was where the movie was filmed. We weren’t allowed to pass without having our picture taken w ... read more

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Puerto Vallarta Scrapbook III

November 30, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                      On our last evening in Puerto Vallarta we enjoyed a sunset cruise. We arrived at the marina as the sun started its descent.       Our boat in the marina             This was to be a three hour tour. What could go wrong, right? It was probably my imagination but I swear I heard the skipper refer to me as his “Little Buddy.”            Our intrepid skipper       Leaving the marina             Drinks were served once we left the marina and liquor flow ... read more

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Chubby and the Haberdasher

December 02, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, an early work (1938) by Dr. Seuss. In the story, young Bartholomew is arrested for not showing King Derwin respect by removing his hat when the king passes through the village. In fact, Bartholomew did remove his hat, only to have another magically appear on his head. Bartholomew tries desperately to bare his head but to no avail. Each time he attempts to remove his hat a larger, fancier one appears. The king, frustrated and feeling disrespected, orders Bartholomew’s execution, but the ax man insists he can’t sever the boy’s head until the hat is removed. Over four hundred hats are plucked from Bartholomew’s head, until finally the ... read more

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What's So Funny ?

December 04, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’ve been hearing strange sounds at Casa Chatterbox, the sounds of babies laughing. I’ve yet to make a thorough check, but to my knowledge no babies currently reside under our roof. The source of these sounds is Mrs. Chatterbox; lately she’s become addicted to YouTube and Facebook videos of laughing babies. I’ve watched a few and I’ll admit they’re contagious, but I’m left wondering what it is these babies find so amusing.             I’ve been told I have a great sense of humor. As a kid, I developed my sense of humor to survive an overly dominant parent—my mother. My brother had challenged her authority head-on and never ... read more

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The War on Christmas

December 07, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  My ninety year old mother was hot under the collar when she called last week. “What’s wrong?” I asked.             “I just received a card from management.”             “How nice,” I replied. My mother lives in a retirement facility.             “It isn’t nice at all,” she spat into the phone. “The card says “Happy Holidays and doesn’t even mention Christmas. There’s a war on Christmas, in case you didn’t know.”          &nbs ... read more

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A Mystery in ther Desert

December 09, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Not long ago I posted a story about the possible discovery of the final resting place of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, who may have been the original occupant of King Tut’s tomb, and still might be entombed behind a sealed wall. Egyptian authorities are now 90 percent certain something is behind a wall in Tut’s tomb, but it remains to be seen if it’s the mummy of Tut’s famous stepmother. In two or three months we should know if we’re on the brink of the greatest archeological discovery of our age. Until then, I’m fascinated by another mystery of the ancient world.             Over the centuries, ancient obelisks have been taken as spoils of war or prese ... read more

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Tilikum Crossing

December 11, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  With a series of storms heading our way, Mrs. Chatterbox and I decided to visit the new Tilikum Crossing last week. Downtown Portland has a dozen bridges, giving the city one of its nicknames (Bridge City) but no new structures have been built to span the Willamette River dividing Portland since 1973.             During the late 80s and early 90s, Federal money was offered to US cities interested in expanding light rail, with the goal of alleviating congestion and pollution. Portland was one of only a handful of cities to accept matching Federal funds, and this year a new bridge, designed and operated by TriMet, Portland’s regional transit authority, opened to the public ... read more

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All Too Familiar

December 14, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It was one of those instances that occur all too often, and it stuck like a burr on my emotional sweater.             Mrs. Chatterbox and I were circling our grocery store looking for a place to park. It was raining hard as we climbed out of our car. I didn’t pay the woman any attention until she approached and said, “Sorry to bother you, but can you help me?”             Pale and thin, it was hard to gauge her age—maybe forty. She wore the colorless clothes of a zombie in The Walking Dead. Most of her teeth were missing and she looked like a hardscrabble life and bad choices had finally caught up ... read more

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Peculiar Pictures 39, 40, 41

December 16, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’ve mentioned the Business Fundamentals CD I created for Artville back in the 90’s when I was a professional illustrator, and here are a few images from that CD.             I was tasked with painting business clichés and other images that might appeal to art directors in need of business related imagery—the reason many of the men are holding briefcases. I was given two months to create sixty illustrations, after first providing drawings for approval before beginning the final pieces. This left me only six weeks to paint sixty images, so these were all painted rapidly in quick-drying acrylic, sometimes two or three illustrations a day. Because I worke ... read more

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Mrs. Gonsalves' Last Christmas

December 21, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  In an attempt to create a Chubby Chatterbox tradition, I’m repeating this true holiday story first posted in 2011. I hope you enjoy it.   *************************************     Christmas is that time of year when the pull of my ethnic background is strongest. Dad’s folks weren’t anything in particular, but Mom’s parents were Portuguese and her side of the family always won the weird relative contest.            On Christmas day we always converged at our traditional gathering place, the massive family room at my aunt’s house. An entire wall was covered with a Cheers-sized bar, and a ten foot aluminum Christmas tree stood in a cor ... read more

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Trojan Christmas

December 23, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  No, I’m not giving Mrs. Chatterbox a box of Trojans for Christmas, not even ones ribbed for her pleasure. I was going through photographs looking for something suitable for a Christmas post and I landed on these two pictures, taken in Turkey on our visit to Troy several years back.             It goes without saying (clearly I don’t know what that saying means) that this is not the original Trojan Horse, if ever there was one. This was built as a tourist attraction, although there are original walls and ramparts to explore that are over four thousand years old. I was surprised to see how far Troy is from the sea, but today centuries of sediment have built up and no ... read more

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Merry Christmas 2015

December 25, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
              I hope everyone has a festive and safe holiday. Merry Christmas from Casa Chatterbox. Take care and eat a piece of fudge for me.         Happy Holidays!       Follow my blog with Bloglovin   ... read more

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A Sour Note

December 28, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
2015 is ending on a sour note for our thirty-five year old son CJ. On the day after Christmas, CJ collapsed. After spending the holiday with us, he'd left to visit a friend and passed out. He was rushed to the emergency room where a CAT scan showed his brain was bleeding, causing pressure that made him lose consciousness. He was rushed into surgery where a tube was inserted into his head to drain blood and relieve pressure to prevent a stroke. Fortunately, CJ isn't experiencing cognitive trauma. Nurses are constantly peppering him with questions like: Who's the president? What year is it? And so on. Some of the math questions he's answered correctly I would have gotten wrong.   Doctors aren't certain as to the cause of this trauma. N ... read more

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CJ Update

January 02, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Thanks to everyone for sending good wishes for our son CJ's speedy recovery. Today marks the seventh day since CJ was struck with a cerebral hemorrhage. He's still in the intensive care unit where he'll remain for the next two weeks but he's finally starting to show signs of his old self. He still has a drain in his head to relieve pressure, and controlling his headaches is a constant challenge. The doctors tell us his recovery will be complete but slow and it will be several months before he returns to work full time. He's been receiving lots of visitors from police co-workers and many cops have been dropping by to talk cars with him. The cops are great, rallying around CJ and reassuring him that he's part of the police family. I warned th ... read more

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Another CJ Update

January 06, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A recent angiogram showed that our son CJ did in fact sufferer from a brain aneurysm on December 26th. It doubled in size the week he was in the intensive care unit, making it possible for doctors  to see what was previously invisible.   A decision had to be made as to how to treat it, either by entering the brain through the femoral artery in the groin (an angiogram) or open brain surgery. Because CJ was experiencing brain spasms, it was deemed too dangerous to perform brain surgery at this time so the angiogram procedure was used to insert metal coils into the aneurysm to stabilize it and prevent further bleeds. These coils are about as thick as a single human hair, yet the doctors believe they were successful at neutralizing ... read more

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The Contrarian

January 11, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I called my mother yesterday to fill her in on her grandson’s status in the hospital (all good news) and when I’d finished reassuring her that CJ’s progress was slow but steady, the subject changed to the lottery, which as you probably know is now worth over a billion dollars.             “Why haven’t you bought me a lottery ticket?” she asked.             “They don’t sell them at the hospital, where I’ve been spending most of my time,” I answered. “Besides, you’re ninety-one years old and don’t need a billion dollars. You don’t spend the money y ... read more

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New CJ Update

January 18, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When our son was told he’d be in the neurological intensive care unit for three weeks after suffering a brain aneurysm, it seemed hard to believe he’d actually be hospitalized that long, but Saturday marked three weeks. After having surgery last week to insert a permanent shunt into his head to drain excess fluid, he’s been moved out of the ICU and into a regular room for a few days. He’s no longer connected to dozens of tubes and monitors and can finally move about his room more easily.   We expect he’ll be released this week, perhaps as soon as today. A delay in his release might take place because he’s “salt wasting,” not currently maintaining enough body salt. He’s being given ... read more

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Going Viral ?

January 20, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My dignity is currently in the toilet. It’s possible I’m about to be featured in a video that, if posted, might go viral.             I haven’t been getting much exercise lately so the other evening while Mrs. C. and I were driving home from an errand, I had her drop me off a quarter of a mile from home so I could stretch my legs. I wasn’t about to let darkness, wind or rain deter me and grabbed the umbrella in the trunk before she drove off.             A few words about that umbrella: I purchased it a few years ago as a Christmas gift for Mrs. C., who’d expressed a desire for a “cheerful&rdq ... read more

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Requiem

January 22, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m here to lay to rest a beloved person from my childhood, someone who gave me hours of laughs and served as a fatherly role model for many years—Bill Cosby.             I’m not referring to the Bill Cosby currently in the news, the fellow accused of drugging and sexually assaulting nearly fifty women. I don’t know that Bill Cosby. The Bill I knew, or thought I knew, was warm and funny, a comedian who never swore or belittled anyone, whose keen insight brought to life universal humor based on the heartwarming foibles of the human condition.             When I was a kid, I mowed lawns and collected newspa ... read more

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The Chatterbox Awakens

January 25, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m usually the person whose opinions run contrary to everyone else’s, but on Saturday I realized how far I swim from the mainstream. Perhaps I belong in isolation with other deviants, a chubby cellmate for El Chapo, or maybe I belong in a special camp for like-minded people unable to be assimilated into proper society, aberrant people such as those with a passion for Jerry Lewis or think Sarah Palin a gifted intellectual. On Saturday, Mrs. Chatterbox and I saw the new Star Wars movie, and throughout most of it I wished I was in a different galaxy, one far far away from the movie theater where my butt was growing sore.   Spoiler Alert: If you have yet to see the movie you might not want to continue reading.   & ... read more

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America's Michelangelo

January 27, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Frederick Edwin Church (1826-1900) is not a name that springs to mind in a discussion of great American painters, yet there was a time when he was considered the Michelangelo of American landscape painters.             A member of the Hudson River School, Church began his career by painting rural America at a time when our country’s natural beauty was first beginning to be celebrated in art. Church came from a wealthy family and never struggled to make a living; at eighteen he became the youngest associate of the National Academy of Design. Unlike his mentor Thomas Cole and other Hudson River painters who focused on American landscapes, Church grew restless and traveled the worl ... read more

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The Final Procedure

January 29, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today CJ is having a final procedure to remove the aneurysm from his brain. Two weeks ago, before he was discharged from the hospital to recover from previous procedures, an angiogram revealed that the coils inserted into his aneurysm weren’t sufficient, leaving CJ at risk for future bleeding. The solution is open brain surgery to clip the aneurysm—a procedure that sounds terrifying yet is considered routine and has proven highly successful. CJ has shown remarkable poise throughout this ordeal; I doubt I would have been so even tempered while facing brain surgery.   Today’s operation is scheduled to take four to six hours. He will recover in the neurological ICU for a day or two and then spend three to four days in ... read more

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The Lighter Side of Brain Surgery

February 01, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
On Friday CJ had a final surgery to clip his aneurysm. The procedure took four hours and went remarkably well. We were told his speech and mobility might be affected for a few days, but so far this hasn’t been the case. When not knocked out by morphine and fentanyl, he’s been good natured and chatty—well, he is a chip off the old block. He does have an incision with fifty staples stretching from his left ear to the middle of his forehead, but the doctors were considerate enough to make their incision well into CJ’s hairline so, once healed, it will barely show. For weeks I’ve been reassuring our son that chicks dig “scars” (as if I’d know) but now it seems he won’t be sporting a visible ... read more

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Hair / Loss

February 03, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Mocking the misfortune of others is a good way to invite bad karma, but I was too busy bringing our son CJ home from the hospital yesterday to pen anything worth reading. Instead of skipping a post, I’ll risk bad karma by posting these pictures that made me laugh.     Karma may have the last laugh since Trump is currently ahead of Cruz in many upcoming primaries. While I dislike Trump and believe he’d make a terrible president, Cruz, the winner of the Iowa Caucus, scares me more.      What do you mean the people of Iowa FIRED ME?                         Follow my blog with Bloglovin ... read more

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The Fill Up

February 05, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Reworked from 2012.   In 1942 he was a lanky sixteen year old and glad to have a job pumping gas, checking oil and washing windshields at a Texaco in Modesto, California. Most of the men had dashed off to war or he wouldn’t have landed this job. He had numerous brothers and sisters. Now he was able to contribute money to the jar on the kitchen shelf to pay for food and a roof over their heads.   He’d just finished filling the tank of an old farm truck when a shiny black Buick pulled into the station. He’d seen the expensive car a few times and recognized the man behind the wheel. An icy claw must have squeezed his heart—he’d never been this close to the driver. It’s easy to imagine him runni ... read more

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Protest II: Finale

February 08, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Over the past few months much has happened at Casa Chatterbox and I just now realized I never posted final pictures of Protest II, my effort to recreate a smaller version of a massive painting I created fifteen years ago. Both versions of The Protest show a group of people on the steps of a public building. Some are actively engaged in a protest while others, like the bag lady with the shopping cart, pass this spot every day and have been swept up in the action. I haven’t stated what this protest is about, leaving it to the viewer to figure it out; there is no correct answer. I like painting people, and placing them on steps makes it possible to flesh out many personalities without those in the foreground blocking those behind.   ... read more

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Music of the Night

February 10, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My mother is being haunted by the music of the night, but not the pellucid notes of Andrew Lloyd Webber. She’s hearing voices. Lately, we’ve been having conversations like this:   “How was your night, Mom? Did you finally get a good night’s sleep?”   “No! I’m hearing that music again!”   “Is it possible you’re imagining it? Could it be in your head?”   “Listen, Buster, I may be old but I’m not senile. I know when I’m hearing something.”   “Did it start up again at exactly 2:00?”   “Yes, but it didn’t wake me. I woke and then heard it.”   “I think you’re hearing i ... read more

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Face Off

February 12, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I ventured out last night to see a documentary on the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. Goya is a personal favorite, a painter whose bravado, womanizing (he was rumored to have had an affair with the Duchess of Alba) and deafness have long captured the public’s imagination. His flirting with danger caused him to come in conflict with the Spanish Inquisition, especially when he painted female nudes like The Naked Maja. Goya was a superb portraitist when he chose to be.   In spite of his interest in etching and lithography, Goya’s income was always dependent on portraits of the rich and powerful. Surprisingly, his sitters didn’t mind his frank assessment of them. His brush cut through pretense to lay ... read more

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The Madonna and the RV

February 15, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It was an unsettling debate. Rest assured I’m not about to launch into a diatribe on the fiasco that was Saturday night’s CBS Republican debate. I’m here to dip my toe into waters far more contentious than an exchange over who should be our next president. Recently, Mrs. Chatterbox and I had an energetic discussion over who is more inclined to hold grudges—men or women.   This started during a recent visit with my mother at her assisted living facility. She launched into a discussion about how my late father took great care with his possessions while not giving proper consideration to her things. I mentioned that I always observed Dad taking care of everyone’s belongings, often fixing things she managed ... read more

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Sweet and Sour

February 17, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Reworked from a 2012 post.             This picture was taken in Sorrento, Italy. Those sunglasses are large enough to fit around my big head. When I snapped this I was reminded of an incident I hadn’t thought about since fourth grade.   My Portuguese grandpa had a green thumb and could grow just about anything. He was hard of hearing and didn’t mind me shadowing him and pelting him with questions he either ignored or couldn’t hear.   Behind his house grew a small grove of fruit trees he used for making brandies. But another tree in his front yard always drew attention; one side yielded oranges and the other side apples—Grandpa had grafted two trees to ... read more

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Feast or Famine

February 19, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                For hundreds of years, few words struck more terror than those calling you to appear before the Roman Catholic Inquisition. In 1573, Venetian painter Paolo Veronese was summoned to appear before the Inquisition to answer for the irreverence of his painting The Last Supper, designed to cover the entire rear wall of a Dominican refectory and one of the largest paintings of the sixteenth century.       The Feast in the House of Levi by Veronese (1573)       Center scene (Detail)   In Florence and Rome most large paintings, like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling and Last Judgment, were done in fresco—wet plaster appli ... read more

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Peculiar Travel pictures

February 22, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        As regular followers of this blog know, I’m a retired illustrator and from time to time I post peculiar pictures I created for clients, pictures that for one reason or another were never published. This time I’m posting a few peculiar pictures I snapped while on vacation with Mrs. Chatterbox. There’s no rhyme nor reason to these pictures; they just made me smile.       This picture was snapped in the lobby of a hotel in Izmir, Turkey. If they didn’t want people smoking, why place ashtrays on every table? Note: I emptied the ashes before taking this picture.       Hong Kong has many islands and on one of them I spotted this statue in a four- hun ... read more

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Weird On Ice

February 24, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I can’t recall how the subject came up, but at a recent breakfast with some friends I found myself in a discussion about the strangest item ever placed in my freezer. Hey, one can only talk about politics for so long. Heads at nearby tables in the restaurant turned in my direction when I blurted out that the strangest item in our freezer was—a cat head.   I know many of you are fond of cats, but before you report me to the police for animal cruelty let me assure you that I’d never intentionally harm an animal. The cat head in our freezer was not real. It was made of white chocolate.   Mrs. Chatterbox was an Army brat and grew up in Germany where white chocolate was popular. When she and her family returned to ... read more

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Blubbery Infamy

February 26, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It happened in 1970, ten years before Mrs. Chatterbox and I relocated from Southern California to Oregon. It was a moment sure to live forever in the annals of Oregon infamy. Until Bob Packwood (U.S. Senator 1969-1995) humiliated Oregon with his sexual peccadilloes or Tonya Harding (1994 Winter Olympics figure skater) soiled the state with her icy indifference to morality, this was Oregon’s great claim to shame.   In November of 1970 a dead sperm whale washed up on the beach at Florence, Oregon. The Oregon Highway Division settled on a questionable method to dispose of the rotting carcass. The solution for removing tons of rotting whale included—dynamite.   Years ago this video gained wide circulation when Dave Bar ... read more

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Durnstein Castle

February 29, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I were headed toward the famous Melk Monastery in the Wachau Region of Austria when our bus stopped so we could tour a vineyard in a region famous for producing Riesling wine. Having worked in a winery during college (Almaden Vineyards) I wasn’t much interested in seeing another winery but didn’t fancy sitting on the bus while everyone else toured the facility and sampled wine.             As we were walking among well-tended vines beneath a darkening sky, the ruins on a nearby hilltop caught my eye. I asked our guide about it.             “That is Dürnstein Castle,” I was told in ... read more

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The Sphinx of 22nd Place

March 02, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Reworked from a 2012 post.   In 2005 Mrs. Chatterbox and I decided to explore urban living; we bought a hundred year old house on Northwest 22nd Place in downtown Portland. The neighborhood, dotted with late Victorian houses, had a shabby chic quality. Our street was slightly run down but our realtor convinced us to overlook the decay.   The area was adjacent to the trendy shops and restaurants of Northwest 23rd only a block away. Our street had seen its ups and downs over the years but our realtor told us it was about to experience gentrification. By gentrification he must have been referring to all the money we would need to invest to keep our house from falling down.   Not long after moving in I decided to explore ou ... read more

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Peculiar Pictures 42, 43, 44

March 04, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m about halfway through my files of peculiar pictures, created back when I was a professional illustrator. My specialty was conceptual illustration—images created to accompany articles and make people stop turning the pages of magazines and newspapers long enough to read the articles.   Many of the pictures in my files were created on speculation, without a buyer, and some of these turned out to be my best sellers. The challenge was to create images useful to different art directors who understood that unless they purchased the copyright to an image I’d market it elsewhere, a common practice in the industry. Some illustrations were tailor made and very specific, making them less successful in a secondary market. ... read more

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What Happened to Apricots?

March 07, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It’s been cold and dreary here in Portland. Emotionally, I’ve been sailing over spring and thinking about summer, particularly the sunny summers of my childhood in California. I grew up in the Santa Clara Valley, famous for fruit production before the massive orchards were ripped up and asphalted over to make room for the Silicon Valley. Jack London wrote about the astonishing fertility of a valley so famous for fruit that it prompted my ancestors to migrate from the Azores to work the orchards and canneries. Many people had fruit trees on their property, resulting in a steady supply of cherries, apples, pears, oranges. But when I close my eyes and thing about those warm summer months, it’s apricots I think about.  & ... read more

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What Size Humanity?

March 09, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The other day I spotted a dapper gentleman at the mall; he was impeccably dressed in a black suit, sported a well groomed beard and black derby. His head was of normal size but he had a child’s body and was less than four feet tall. I’ve seen dwarfs in Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, but I haven’t encountered many in my lifetime—outside of museums.             Dwarfs were once considered property, owned by royalty for purposes of entertainment. You might recall the dwarf in a jester’s costume I recently posted in Veronese’s painting The Feast in the House of Levi. For centuries, artists included dwarfs in paintings to highlight the nobility a ... read more

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The Birth of Reason

March 11, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Rest assured this is not a post about Plato, Descartes, Rousseau or the Age of Reason, subjects I’m not qualified to expound on. I’m no philosopher, but recently I did witness the birth of reason—as experienced by a toddler.             Mrs. Chatterbox and I live rich and rewarding lives, but there is one area that is lacking. We don’t have small children in our lives. Our only child is thirty-five and still looking for the right woman, so grandchildren are nowhere on the horizon. I offer this not as a complaint but rather as an explanation for why I was so intrigued by an incident I witnessed at our park and recreation facility where I swim.     ... read more

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Art and Money

March 14, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
These days the news is replete with stories from the art world of record-breaking auction prices. While it’s highly unlikely any of my works of art will auction for millions of dollars, some of them do include money.   On more than one occasion I’ve referred to the CD I created in the 90s for Getty Images. These sixty royalty-free images were quickly created in fast-drying acrylic in less than five weeks. The topic assigned to me was Business Fundamentals, with the focus on money or business issues. This assignment inspired me to create images that included money.   I struggled to think of imaginative ways to include actual money in my compositions. This isn’t to say I glued actual greenbacks to my artwork, b ... read more

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Lions in the Closet

March 16, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Our son was an easygoing child. Mrs. Chatterbox and I coasted through his terrible twos and beyond without any problems. Many parents have difficulty putting their children down for the night but CJ, our blond haired, blue-eyed little Hummel, slept until morning without incident—until the monster arrived.             “Daddy, I can’t sleep. There’s a monster in the closet!”             “A monster?”             He nodded.             “What kind of monster?”  & ... read more

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My Best Vacation Ever!

March 18, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Last week my mother called in tears because she couldn’t hear. We’d gone to the doctor the day before for her annual check-up and she hadn’t complained of hearing issues, although she doesn’t hear anything in her left ear which was damaged after working many years in a winery bottling plant. The doctor examined her and concluded the problem was a blockage from ear wax, which my mother packed tightly with a Q-tip, even though she’s been cautioned many times not to use them in her ears.   After her ear had been irrigated and her hearing restored, I was driving her home when she asked if anything similar had ever happened to me. Indeed, it had. This reworked post from 2011 is about a true incident that took ... read more

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Keeping My Mouth Shut

March 21, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It won’t come as a surprise to most of you that someone who identifies himself as a chatterbox would find it challenging keeping his mouth shut. Here’s an example of when I probably should have zipped my lip.             I was at Michaels Arts & Crafts Store over the weekend thanks to a discount coupon cut from the Sunday paper. According to my coupon, if I purchased a regularly priced item I could get a second item of equal or lesser value for a penny. I purchased a small art canvas for a few bucks and received a second one for a penny. While leaving the store I spotted a young man talking with a salesperson about airbrushes. I’d studied airbrush techniques in p ... read more

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The Pool of Pamukkale

March 23, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m definitely in the mood for warm weather, which is months away for Oregonians. Lately I’ve been thinking about some of the warm places Mrs. Chatterbox and I have visited.   We try to absorb as much local flavor as possible. We’ve ridden camels in the Great Thar Desert, explored Old Delhi in rickshaws and bathed elephants in Thailand. I never want to return home feeling like we missed out on an experience, but there was a time when I denied myself one, and I think about it often.             We were exploring Hierapolis, an ancient Greco/Roman city founded in the second century B.C. in southwestern Turkey. Ancient Greeks had been drawn to the location becaus ... read more

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Free Expert Advice

March 25, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In an effort to make my blog more educational, I’m here to share a special expertise I’ve kept hidden until now. It’s quite possible that a few of you might someday be coerced into an activity of which I can offer useful tips. No, I’m not going to advise anyone on painting or writing because there are already too many so-called experts marketing their expertise. I’m here to help you claim a blue ribbon should you ever find yourself in—a pie eating contest.             It shouldn’t come as a surprise that anyone who identifies themselves as a “chubby” chatterbox has eating skills. I’ve never been selected for my athletic prowe ... read more

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Learning How to Share

March 28, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Last week I shared my expertise as a successful pie eating contestant. I mentioned that I was never selected for sports competitions and had no sports accomplishments to speak of. After reading my post, Mrs. Chatterbox reminded me of a time when I did manage to win a sports competition. Many of you will have celebrated far more memorable moments of athletic prowess, but this is all I have so I’ll cherish it as much as possible.             The event in question took place at a street party to celebrate the Fourth of July, back when our son CJ was six. In Portland, the Fourth is often dreary, but on this occasion the day was clear and sunny, if not warm. Mrs. Chatterbox’s p ... read more

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Time to Forgive Michael Jackson

March 30, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  In 1984 Michael Jackson was flying high with Thriller, voted the most influential pop music video ever. I was managing a jewelry store in Oregon at the time and Jackie, one of my employees, approached to ask for a few days off. “Why?” I asked.             Jackie was one of my best salespeople when she wasn’t attending classes at a local college. She seldom asked for time off. “I want to buy tickets for the Michael Jackson Concert at the Tacoma Dome up near Seattle. The concert is in a few months and tickets go on sale in two days. I plan to camp on the sidewalk in front of Ticketmaster to have a crack at choice seats.”     &n ... read more

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An Arrangement in Amsterdam

April 01, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Travel can be strenuous and taxing on the body, and Mrs. Chatterbox and I often share colds and other maladies while traveling. In 1976 on our first trip to Europe, I contracted the flu while in Dijon, France, and it was a nightmare. Dijon is the mustard capital of Europe and has been producing mustard for hundreds of years. Believe me, when you’re sick, your head is spinning and your nether region is leaking like the Exxon Valdez, the last place you want to be is in a city where everything, including every wall in your hotel room, is painted mustard yellow. But this isn’t a post about illness—it’s spring and this post is about flowers.   After regaining my health in Dijon, we loaded our backpacks and headed f ... read more

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Peculiar Pictures #45, #46 & #47

April 04, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I didn’t get a chance to write a new post for today because I spent the weekend trying to purchase a new coffee maker for my mother. Regular Chubby Chatterbox followers will recall that my ninety-one year old mother can be a handful, and when the nerve-calming martinis wear off I’ll write a post about this called: Death by a Thousand Drips. Until then, here are a few more Peculiar Pictures from my illustration files.       Catching a Tiger by the Tail (Acrylic on panel)   It’s hard creating characters that don’t resemble anyone in particular. Our son CJ wasn’t thrilled to have the fellow holding the lion’s tail resemble him so closely.     ... read more

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Death by a Thousand Drips

April 06, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My mother is extremely particular about her coffee. For years she swore the only coffee worth drinking was percolated. For those of you who haven’t checked recently, percolating electric coffee pots have become as illusive as dolphin safe tuna. My mother has a habit of cleaning appliances so aggressively that when finished they no longer work. A shelf in her walk-in closet is a mausoleum of fallen coffee makers no longer capable of providing her magic elixir. The oldest resembles a camping coffee pot designed to sit on an open flame. These are still available at camping gear outlets but fire and my mother are a bad mix since she often forgets she’s left the stove on. I’ve yet to impress her with the virtue of a single-cup ... read more

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ASS-Law College

April 08, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      The news can be so dreadful that it’s good to pause and laugh when you can, and something I recently read made me chuckle out loud. It involves the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who I won’t pretend to like, but this isn’t about that.             An anonymous donor (thought to be the Koch brothers) just gave twenty million dollars to George Mason University on condition that its college of law be renamed to honor Scalia. The University accepted the money and changed the name to Antonin Scalia School of Law.   Students bristled at the acronym, and expressed concern over attending an institution that would henceforth be loving ... read more

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Theater Courtesy

April 11, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Several Bloggers have weighed in on a topic I think about every time Mrs. Chatterbox and I go to the movies, which it seems we do less and less as we grow older. But when we do go to the movies I’m particular where we sit. Here in Portland, most of the theaters are divided into two sections with a horizontal aisle dividing the first twenty-five rows from the remaining seats. I like the first row in the second section because there are a few seats behind a metal rail perfect for resting your feet on and nobody to sit directly in front of you, as there would be on either side of these few seats. I hate it when we pick empty seats only to have Mr. Lincoln show up in his stovetop hat and slide into the seat in front of you just as the mov ... read more

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Who Wears the Pants in Your Family?

April 13, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    When Mrs. Chatterbox and I go to the mall, one of our favorite things to do is people watch. As a portrait painter, I analyze people and mentally sketch them. When it comes to couples, I often find myself trying to figure out the family dynamic—as in who wears the pants in the family. In my own family, it was my mother who wore the pants, figuratively and literally, and made all the decisions. This brings me to Thomas Gainsborough’s double portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Andrews.   Painted in 1750 when the artist was twenty-one, this stunning double portrait remained in the sitters’ family until the 1960s and was relatively unknown until recently. Today it’s one of Britain’s most popular paintin ... read more

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Grandpa's Ghost

April 15, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A ghost sat at our kitchen table when I was a child, a ghost by the name of Grandpa Frank. He was my mother’s father, and he died eighty years ago in 1936. How he died always depended on who you asked. Stories range from scarlet fever to an accident brought about by falling from a church steeple he climbed on a dare. I don’t think I’ll ever know, but I have it on several counts that he was an invalid for the last two years of his life.   My mother has refused to let go of her father and carries his memory with her to this very day, speaking of him constantly. As a kid growing up it was as though Mom had fabricated him from a mental matrix, projecting his image at our kitchen table. Mom wasn’t a crackpot, didn& ... read more

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Giants

April 18, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I consider myself to be a somewhat skeptical person, someone who looks for hidden truths and questions nearly everything I’m told. I’ve been called a contrarian, a Doubting Thomas, but this wasn’t always so. I was a gullible kid and easily accepted what I was told. It didn’t help that my extended family included people who loved pulling my short little legs. As an example: it took very little to convince me that giants existed.             Uncle Art lived close to my grandmother’s house and after visiting Grandma and Grandpa my family would often walk over to Uncle Art’s house for a visit with him and Aunt Betty. In the corner of Uncle Art’s f ... read more

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Enough is Enough

April 20, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I can’t stand it any more. Everyone has a limit and I’ve reached mine. The human brain can only handle so much before gray matter starts squirting out your ears. You’re probably wondering, at least I hope you are) what has brought me to this fever pitch of annoyance? The current state of our politics? No. The idiocy of those who can’t read the writing on the wall and accept that humans are affecting climate change so we can finally begin doing what we can to save our planet? No. Is it that Blogger keeps eliminating people from my blogroll and I’m never going to reach three hundred followers? No. My panties are in a bunch because I’m sick and tired of hearing about…Jon Snow.      ... read more

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Old-Fashioned Selfies

April 22, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most painters create self-portraits during the course of their careers, and a few, like Rembrandt, made them a focus of their output. Vanity isn’t usually the reason for staring into a mirror to capture the nuances of your own countenance. At a young age I desperately wanted to master flesh tones and capture likenesses, but posing for a portrait is an odious task and no one was willing to sit for me. Artists are often reduced to painting from photographs, which limits the ability to capture the ineffable qualities of human existence.   The greatest drawback to painting from photographs is the lack of psychological information more readily available when an artist interacts with his subject, even if the subject is himself. Clien ... read more

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The "Shred"

April 25, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yes, I was a chubby kid, a plump roly-poly who seldom turned up his nose at food, with one exception. I could never bring myself to eat something that resembled vomit, and I put my ample foot down when it came to consuming something that looked like it had already been eaten and rejected by someone—creamed corn.   My mother ignored my revulsion and served it often, doling out a generous scoop of creamed corn onto my plate. The vile stuff triggered my gag reflex. I couldn’t bear looking at it. I can still hear my mother saying, “Eat that corn or go to bed without supper!”             My response: “Fine!”   Off to bed I’d go. When ... read more

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Motoring with the Chatterbox

April 27, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Our son CJ just informed me that my vehicle needs four new tires. I was reminded of his guest post from 2011, where he describes what it was like buying a car for me.     *****************************   People have referred to me as a “Car Whisperer,” a term I am not particularly fond of; I don’t have conversations with cars. Well, that’s not entirely true. I may thank my car from time to time when it completes a particularly arduous task like towing a trailer or getting me home safe in the snow or pouring rain. I might also utter a colorful metaphor from time to time as I repair and maintain my cars in a rainy driveway. This isn’t, however, a story about my love for cars. It’s a tale ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #48

April 29, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    This picture was originally an illustration for an Oregon nursery association’s spring catalog. The art director’s idea was to show the map of Oregon being pushed into outer space by a giant beanstalk. I thought this a questionable concept, but the client is always right, especially if you expect payment for your work.             I seldom sold the original artwork, so when this piece was returned I scraped away the map of Oregon and tried to think of something to replace it. At the time, Bill Clinton was going through his impeachment woes so I entertained myself by adding him to the picture. I was pleased with the likeness, especially since this was painte ... read more

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As Old as You Feel?

May 02, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t think about my age very often but it’s undeniable that the years are stacking up; I’ll be sixty-four in November. Many people think I’m younger than I am. I often joke about possessing a disarming immaturity most people mistake for youth. It’s often said that you’re only as old as you feel, and lately I’ve been trying to do things to feel younger- like taking tennis lessons from Tina N., a good friend you might remember as being a master gardener.   One of the few advantages of being overweight is that fat tends to reduce wrinkles. My facial hair has gone grey but when I add a bit of color I can pass for forty-five, which annoys Mrs. Chatterbox who is often thought slightly older than ... read more

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Tornado

May 04, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This might be a peculiar picture, or just a prophetic one.   This wasn’t an illustration assignment. When I painted this years ago I was already troubled by climate change. I’d flown over Greenland and seen the missing ice and snow, and my home state of California was beginning to experience the droughts that would only intensify over the years. Scientists, who aren’t the best at public relations, left themselves vulnerable to ridicule by referring to changing weather patterns as global warming. It was beyond many people to understand how the world could be growing warmer when so many severe snowstorms were affecting the country. The science behind this phenomenon is beyond a simple answer, but is understood and acc ... read more

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Parody

May 06, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
While teaching conceptual illustration at our local art college I was asked one question more than any other: Where do your ideas come from? As an illustrator, I enjoyed problem solving almost as much as painting. If an art director had a problem, I was paid to solve it—visually. Perhaps the text in a layout was boring and in need of a punch to keep readers interested, or the writer was dealing with complex issues requiring a visual to help readers understand the concept.             When my students were lacking in inspiration I suggested they create a parody, defined by Webster as   an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exagg ... read more

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Happy Birthday, Mom

May 09, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
To all the moms out there, I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day. Today is another special day in the Chatterbox family; it’s my mother’s ninety-first birthday. I’ve written about my mother many times but I’ve never mentioned her eating disorder—she doesn’t like eating in front of people. She cooks her own meals and refuses to eat the food she pays for in the dining room of her retirement facility. In fact, I can’t recall sitting down to a meal with her when she actually ate. Years ago when she and my dad would fly to Oregon for a visit, she’d refuse to join us at the dinner table. After their departure we’d find crumbs of food she’d squirreled away and eaten in bed. Mom cl ... read more

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Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden

May 11, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Sometimes it takes out-of-town guests to prompt a visit to wonderful attractions in your own backyard. Last week I was visited by one of my favorite bloggers, Michael Offutt, and his good friends James and Brad. They wanted to visit Portland’s Chinese Garden, build back when I had my downtown illustration studio but a place I’ve never visited.             I was amazed at the masterful manipulation of space in a setting surrounded by high rises and urban traffic. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is a recreation of a sixteenth century Chinese scholar’s garden, built from traditional materials and methods, a historical treasure and a place where people, ideas and cultures inte ... read more

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A Stupid TV Show

May 13, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    A forensic team would have difficulty finding my DNA on our TV’s remote control because it’s usually in Mrs. Chatterbox’s hand. She schedules most of our programs. She thoughtfully records programs I like and I’m grateful. However, she also records programs I refuse to watch. I won’t mention which programs because I know my good friend Cranky at Cranky Old Man watches many of these shows and I don’t want him tearing me a new one.             The other day I walked into the family room and Mrs. C. was watching a cooking show on the Food Network.             “What show ... read more

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Saving a Life in Key Largo

May 30, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One of the reasons Mrs. Chatterbox and I travel is to challenge our preconceptions of a place with firsthand experiences. I’d heard about the Florida Keys my entire life and was excited to lay my eyes on them.             We rented a car in Miami and drove to our first stop—Key Largo, made famous by the film with Bogie and Bacall. Frankly, there wasn’t much to do in Key Largo except eat key lime pie and try to cool off in swimming pools hot enough to poach an egg. The Keys are surrounded by a massive coral reef so the water is still, without waves. However, we took an excursion that proved extraordinary; doused in insect repellent, we toured a saltwater portion of th ... read more

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The Conch Republic

June 01, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Among the first things we noticed after pulling into Key West were confusing references to the Conch Republic. Hundreds of souvenirs were labeled Conch Republic, including a hat I purchased for Mrs. Chatterbox. A little research provided information on an interesting event.   In 1982 The United States Border Patrol, in an attempt to apprehend illegal aliens and drug traffickers, set up a road block and inspection point on US#1, the only bridge leading into the Florida Keys. The mayor of Key West, Dennis Wardlow, made repeated demands for the removal of the barricade as it was destroying Key West’s tourist business, but his complaints went unanswered.      Wardlow decided that if the Feds were going to seal ... read more

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The Big Squeeze

June 03, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most people are now aware of the python problem in the Florida Everglades. We didn’t see any on our trip through the mangroves, but our guide, Captain Dave, had much to say about the region’s invasive reptiles.             A fallacy has taken root, convincing people that these invasive Burmese pythons were released into the Everglades by pet owners who didn’t want them anymore, but it turns out this is an urban myth. Eight hundred of these reptiles were freed when Hurricane Andrew destroyed a breeding facility in 1992. One can only question the wisdom of allowing anyone to breed an invasive species in the backyard of the Everglades. Word of the release was quickly re ... read more

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Hemingway's Polydactyls

June 06, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One of the things Mrs. Chatterbox was keen on seeing in Key West was the Hemingway House. The celebrated writer lived here less than ten years, but it was where he was most prolific, penning The Snows of Kilimanjaro, To Have and Have Not and The Green Hills of Africa. Key West has claimed Hemingway as their local celebrity and his name and image turn up like Saint Francis’ in Assisi.             The house, built in 1851 by a rich maritime salvager, had suffered years of neglect by the time it was purchased for $8000 by Hemingway’s second wife’s uncle and given to the couple as a wedding present. Hemingway had little money at the time. The property stands at sixteen f ... read more

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Bugged!

June 08, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Can one insect make up for a lifetime of bug torment?   All my life I’ve been bugged by—bugs! It isn’t that I’m afraid of them; the sight of multi-legged and winged insects doesn’t set my heart to palpitating. My problem is that bugs like me too much. They see me as a smorgasbord, a yummy blood buffet, tastier than anyone else. I’ve joked that I should rent myself out for outdoor picnics and barbecues to keep insects from biting guests. A doctor once told me that my body temperature is slightly higher than most people’s, drawing blood-hungry insects to me. I don’t know if this is true or not, but what is true is my nasty relationship with bugs.         ... read more

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A Few More Pictures

June 10, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        On our final day in Key West we bought tickets for a hop on hop off open-air trolley providing running commentary on points of interest. I was particularly interested in literary luminaries who found inspiration here—writers other than Ernest Hemingway.   Our guide pointed out that after a terrible fire in the late 1800s, a law was passed requiring all buildings to have metal roofs. Years later a writer holed up on the third floor of  the Crowne Plaza Key West La Concha Hotel on Duval Street, and while looking out the window at all the metal roofs he was hit with inspiration. The writer was Tennessee Williams, and the work was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.       Crowne Plaza Ke ... read more

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Last Night in Key West

June 13, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve always had a fascination with the sea. This might be the result of an atavistic connection with my seafaring ancestors from the Azores, but I get crabby if I go too long without smelling ocean spray or seeing the unfettered horizon. Whenever I vacation at a coastal destination I make an effort to be on the water. I love sailing ships and once had an opportunity to sail on a schooner built in the 1800s, the very ship used in the 1937 film Captain’s Courageous. It was awesome walking the same deck as Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, John Carradine, Mickey Rooney and Lionel Barrymore.   Mrs. Chatterbox and I booked a sunset dinner cruise for our last night in Key West. We weren’t able to book an actual sailing ... read more

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The Cure Will Kill You

June 17, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I can’t even remember writing this post from 2012, back when I only had five followers.   ***********************************   Last night while watching TV a commercial appeared that went something like this. (Note: imagine this being voiced over by a minor celebrity from the Seventies whose career stalled after several DUIs.)       “Is your life so empty that you don’t care your kids are now covered in tattoos heralding a Zombie Apocalypse, or that your spouse has a house account at the Embassy Suites and a credit card receipt for a strip pole in his hotel room?  Or that you’ve broken the tail-wagging mechanism on the formerly exuberant golden retriever that now whimper ... read more

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A Huge Announcement !

June 20, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Considering the topic of this post, I shouldn’t use the word “huge.” But a few of you left comments on my recent Key West posts that I should address. Some readers noticed that in my photographs I look thinner. In fact, I’ve been working at becoming healthier; so far I’ve lost fifty pounds.             It all began last year a few weeks before our trip to Germany. I’d taken the light rail into Portland to see an El Greco painting on loan from the Cleveland Art Museum. It was wonderful weather, a fine day to enjoy the walk from the transit station to the museum, but I arrived at the museum short of breath, my heart pounding. As I stared at th ... read more

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A Humbling Confession

June 22, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  In spite of the fact that my interests lean in the direction of art and history, I’ve always tried to present myself as a competent, if slightly atypical, American male. I’ve worked hard most of my life, paid my taxes and was an active parent when it came to raising our son. I’ve traveled the world and participated in some amazing adventures, but I have a dark secret.             Confession is said to be good for the soul, so today I’m coming clean. In spite of many (questionable?) accomplishments, there’s one task where I’m hopelessly deficient. What makes this deficiency galling is that most of you—even you ladies—are comfortab ... read more

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Sorry, Mr. Einstein

June 24, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                I’m not a fan of Facebook and other than blogging don’t spend much time on social media, but every now and then something will catch my eye, like this rejection letter addressed to a young Albert Einstein, who’d seemingly applied for a doctorate in Physics at the University of Bern.  It was posted on the Internet to inspire people. After all, if Einstein could overcome rejection, so can we. The Internet is filled with patriotic and morally uplifting platitudes, and if you drew inspiration from this rejection letter please accept my sympathies, but I snickered when I saw this—because it’s so obviously a fake.       &nbs ... read more

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The Eye of the Beholder

June 27, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so the saying goes.   My dad’s Uncle John was a curious fellow. He lived in a hacienda in the foothills of San Jose, built with his own hands in the late 1920s. Uncle John was a painter, potter and writer, quite the intellectual in his day. Once a year his good friend Zane Grey would arrive from New York for a month-long visit. Uncle John was married to Josephine. The couple were not blessed with children, but the couple took an interest in my fatherless dad, who spent many childhood summers running barefoot around the property, killing rattlesnakes, hunting mountain lions that frequented the area, and helping Uncle John with his pottery business.   Uncle John sold his pottery from a ... read more

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Forty-Two Years Today!

June 29, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today Mrs. Chatterbox and I are celebrating our forty-second wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe we’ve been together that long, and I’m reminded of the day I asked her father for her hand in marriage. This post is an excerpt from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope.   ***********************      It was late December in 1973. The future Mrs. C. always seemed to know me better than I knew myself and figured a proposal was near. She suggested that, when the time came, it would be classy if I asked her father for her hand in marriage. Although I’d seen this done in movies, I should have been better prepared. When I arrived at her parents’ house, I felt like wide-eyed Wally ... read more

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On Bent Knee

July 01, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In 1973 I decided to propose to Mrs. C.  I sought out the perfect spot to ask her to marry me, and finally made reservations at a restaurant in Sausalito reputed to have a beautiful view of San Francisco across the Bay. I knew Mrs. C. would enjoy the illuminated skyline of her favorite city. The restaurant, William A. Sterlington, was everything I’d hoped for—I couldn’t imagine a more romantic setting to pop the question. The restaurant was elegant, with linen tablecloths and upholstered chairs, and there were so many ferns and flowers that it was like eating in a botanical garden. I spotted an old portrait on one wall. William A. Sterlington? If so, what had this winking dandy with piggish features done to merit havi ... read more

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Please Be the Judge

July 04, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Mrs. Chatterbox and I seldom have disagreements, but an issue has developed where we disagree and I’ve agreed to let my readers decide who’s right and who’s wrong. I promised Mrs. C. I wouldn’t prime the pump by slanting this in my direction, so here goes.   Lately, instead of spending hundreds of dollars ordering custom frames I’ve been purchasing them at Goodwill. It’s unbelievable what I’ve found; frames I’d pay $200.00 tagged at only a few bucks. I recently purchased an amazing frame that looked like it had been stolen from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art—priced at $5.99.   Last week I discovered two frames I had to have; one was perfect for a portra ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #48

July 06, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                    Most of the images in my Peculiar Picture File were created as illustrations and designed with a purpose in mind, even though they were not commissioned. This picture is different in that it was never intended as an illustration. It’s a 36” x 48” acrylic painting that grew out of a doodle I made in my spare time back when I was a professional illustrator. It’s hard to explain how an idea germinates, but I’ve always been fascinated with hot air balloons. This painting, nicknamed The Conversation, exploits the link between conversation and hot air. At the time, I was fascinated with Goya’s “Black Paintings” and I tri ... read more

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Picture of an A*#hole