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

07/2014

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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