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

2014

Happy New Year!

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

 

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

 

 



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Unfettered Capitalism

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

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Packing the Suitcases Again

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

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Popping the Question

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

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Apollo and Daphne

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

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Buddhism Made Simple

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

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Renoir Update

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

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This One Sold #8

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

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A Lurking Monster

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

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Gate Crashing

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

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More Talent Than Luck

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

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Smarter Than the Average Bear

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

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The Angel of the City

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

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Expiration Dates

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

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The Dowry

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

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Jewelry Shopping in India

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

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Boiling Over

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

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Happy Super Bowl

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

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Proud Papa

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

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We're Off!

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

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The Elusive Buddha

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

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Waterworld

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

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The Kingdom

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

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A Tale of Two Buddhas

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

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Ayutthaya

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

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An Eden for Elephants

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

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Where's the Peanut Sauce?

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

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D & D

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

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Thai Contraband

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

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Angkor Wat

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

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Kong

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

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Phuket Island

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

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Writer's Blog Hop

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

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Juan de Pareja

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

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All Too True

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

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The Accumulator

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

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Enough With The Depression Already!

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

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Color Test

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

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CJ's First $50

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

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Tulip Time

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

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The Monument

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

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Mary's House

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

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The Perfect Job

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

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Hookers

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

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The Most Beautiful Sound

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

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The Purple Octopus

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

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Brushes in Hand

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

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Night Shift

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

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The Glories of the City Dump

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

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Taking the Plunge

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

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Washing and Waxing Mother

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

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Foxy Lady

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

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Peculiar Picture #33

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

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My Second Favorite Organ

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

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Conclusion: My Second Favorite Organ

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

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Vanished

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

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Wandering Buddha

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

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In Memory Of...

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

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Tina's Garden

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

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Four Corners and a Void

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

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The Century Plant

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

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Not the Man I Once Was

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

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The Biggest Peeve of All

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

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Paintings of the Week

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

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Go By Train

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

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The Last Judgment

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

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Tiffany

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

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Peculiar Picture #34

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

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Running Down the Governor of California

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

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Cutting the Cord

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

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Try This At Home

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

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CJ's Birthday

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

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Celebrations

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

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John Doe

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

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Eulogy for Pizza Oasis

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

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Ken Orrett's Magic Carpet Ride

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

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I'm Not Proud of It

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

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Holier Than Thou

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

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Cue the Cello Music

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

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Raju

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

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Clever?

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

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Sultan for a Day

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

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Picture of the Week #2

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

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Land of the Unknown

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

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The Hoax

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

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I Didn't Relish This One

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

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Not So Great Expectations

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

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Superstition

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

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Shame!

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

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Madame X

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

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Perfectly Clear

August 11, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One day my fifth grade teacher walked up to my desk and asked me why I squinted when I looked at the blackboard. Until then I had no idea I was a squinter. It must have been a rhetorical question because she must have known why I squinted. She sent me to the nurse’s office and I was given a note to take home to my parents. The note suggested I might need corrective lenses and my eyes should be checked as soon as possible.      A few weeks after visiting an optometrist I showed up at school with new glasses. I didn’t mind the jokes about being a four-eye because I was fascinated by the newfound clarity of all that I beheld. It was as if a fog had lifted and the world was suddenly clear, richer in details a ... read more

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The Bomb Shelter Game

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

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The Waltzing Bandit

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

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The Cement Boat

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

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Picture of the Week #4

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

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

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

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Process of Elimination

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

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The Appendix Couch

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

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Justifying The "B" Word

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

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Mother and the King

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

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The Ultimate Rice Cooker

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

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Who Killed the Pig?

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

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Bogie

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

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I'm Being Published!

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

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The Mrs. Urbanick Experience

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

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The Night Watch

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

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Bugs and Bistros

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

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Picture of the Week #5

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

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Moosh-vega

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

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Late Night Intruder

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

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Really, I'm Not a Terrorist!

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

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You Never Know

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

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Yes, I Have a Drinking Problem

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

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Small World

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

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Doing the Right Thing

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

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Taft's Tub

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

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Confession Time...Again

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

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The Leopard Changes Its Spots

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

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The Leopard Changes Its Spots: Conclusion

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

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Viral Couch

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

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Subject Matter

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

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Bifurcate

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

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Would You Eat This Stuff?

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

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Danish Traffic Jams...and Jellies

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

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Hung in Fussen

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

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How to Ruin a Ruin

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

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The Panama Canal

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

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An Old Radio

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

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Manly Me!

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

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Danger!

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

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Tons of...Fun?

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

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Not So Smooth Sailing

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

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Whirling Dervishes

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

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The Raft of the Medusa

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

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Bordello Chair

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

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The Harrison Stamp Company

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

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The Best Turkey Ever!

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

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My New Friend

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

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Sailing

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

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Why, God?

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

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I Almost Felt Guilty

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

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

 

  


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A Fraud at Westminster Abbey?

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

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Complaining About the Weather

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

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Contest Update

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

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Playing With Food

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

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Free Delivery

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

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Finding the Porziuncola

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

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The Deal Breaker on Being Jewish

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

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Mrs. Claus in Old Town

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

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An After Christmas Miracle

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

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A Lesson for CJ

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

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No Fashion Guru

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

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