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

2012

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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