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

08/2013

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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