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

12/2012

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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