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

09/2013

This One Sold #5

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

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Losing My Hair: The House of Estrada

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

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Beam Me Up!

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

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Not What It Seems

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

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The End of an Era

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

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If Looks Could Kill

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

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A Home for the Swifts

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

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Cosmic Cuties

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

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This One Sold #6

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

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God, Can We Talk?

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

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Hear Him Roar!

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

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Two Announcements

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

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A Curious Heist

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

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Beautiful Island

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

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Guppies

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

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Wrong Place: Wrong Time

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

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Dead Caesar

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

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Peculiar Picture #29

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

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This Spaghetti is...Incredible!

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

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