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

04/2016

An Arrangement in Amsterdam

April 01, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Travel can be strenuous and taxing on the body, and Mrs. Chatterbox and I often share colds and other maladies while traveling. In 1976 on our first trip to Europe, I contracted the flu while in Dijon, France, and it was a nightmare. Dijon is the mustard capital of Europe and has been producing mustard for hundreds of years. Believe me, when you’re sick, your head is spinning and your nether region is leaking like the Exxon Valdez, the last place you want to be is in a city where everything, including every wall in your hotel room, is painted mustard yellow. But this isn’t a post about illness—it’s spring and this post is about flowers.   After regaining my health in Dijon, we loaded our backpacks and headed f ... read more

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Peculiar Pictures #45, #46 & #47

April 04, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I didn’t get a chance to write a new post for today because I spent the weekend trying to purchase a new coffee maker for my mother. Regular Chubby Chatterbox followers will recall that my ninety-one year old mother can be a handful, and when the nerve-calming martinis wear off I’ll write a post about this called: Death by a Thousand Drips. Until then, here are a few more Peculiar Pictures from my illustration files.       Catching a Tiger by the Tail (Acrylic on panel)   It’s hard creating characters that don’t resemble anyone in particular. Our son CJ wasn’t thrilled to have the fellow holding the lion’s tail resemble him so closely.     ... read more

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Death by a Thousand Drips

April 06, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My mother is extremely particular about her coffee. For years she swore the only coffee worth drinking was percolated. For those of you who haven’t checked recently, percolating electric coffee pots have become as illusive as dolphin safe tuna. My mother has a habit of cleaning appliances so aggressively that when finished they no longer work. A shelf in her walk-in closet is a mausoleum of fallen coffee makers no longer capable of providing her magic elixir. The oldest resembles a camping coffee pot designed to sit on an open flame. These are still available at camping gear outlets but fire and my mother are a bad mix since she often forgets she’s left the stove on. I’ve yet to impress her with the virtue of a single-cup ... read more

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ASS-Law College

April 08, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      The news can be so dreadful that it’s good to pause and laugh when you can, and something I recently read made me chuckle out loud. It involves the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who I won’t pretend to like, but this isn’t about that.             An anonymous donor (thought to be the Koch brothers) just gave twenty million dollars to George Mason University on condition that its college of law be renamed to honor Scalia. The University accepted the money and changed the name to Antonin Scalia School of Law.   Students bristled at the acronym, and expressed concern over attending an institution that would henceforth be loving ... read more

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Theater Courtesy

April 11, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Several Bloggers have weighed in on a topic I think about every time Mrs. Chatterbox and I go to the movies, which it seems we do less and less as we grow older. But when we do go to the movies I’m particular where we sit. Here in Portland, most of the theaters are divided into two sections with a horizontal aisle dividing the first twenty-five rows from the remaining seats. I like the first row in the second section because there are a few seats behind a metal rail perfect for resting your feet on and nobody to sit directly in front of you, as there would be on either side of these few seats. I hate it when we pick empty seats only to have Mr. Lincoln show up in his stovetop hat and slide into the seat in front of you just as the mov ... read more

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Who Wears the Pants in Your Family?

April 13, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    When Mrs. Chatterbox and I go to the mall, one of our favorite things to do is people watch. As a portrait painter, I analyze people and mentally sketch them. When it comes to couples, I often find myself trying to figure out the family dynamic—as in who wears the pants in the family. In my own family, it was my mother who wore the pants, figuratively and literally, and made all the decisions. This brings me to Thomas Gainsborough’s double portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Andrews.   Painted in 1750 when the artist was twenty-one, this stunning double portrait remained in the sitters’ family until the 1960s and was relatively unknown until recently. Today it’s one of Britain’s most popular paintin ... read more

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Grandpa's Ghost

April 15, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A ghost sat at our kitchen table when I was a child, a ghost by the name of Grandpa Frank. He was my mother’s father, and he died eighty years ago in 1936. How he died always depended on who you asked. Stories range from scarlet fever to an accident brought about by falling from a church steeple he climbed on a dare. I don’t think I’ll ever know, but I have it on several counts that he was an invalid for the last two years of his life.   My mother has refused to let go of her father and carries his memory with her to this very day, speaking of him constantly. As a kid growing up it was as though Mom had fabricated him from a mental matrix, projecting his image at our kitchen table. Mom wasn’t a crackpot, didn& ... read more

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Giants

April 18, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I consider myself to be a somewhat skeptical person, someone who looks for hidden truths and questions nearly everything I’m told. I’ve been called a contrarian, a Doubting Thomas, but this wasn’t always so. I was a gullible kid and easily accepted what I was told. It didn’t help that my extended family included people who loved pulling my short little legs. As an example: it took very little to convince me that giants existed.             Uncle Art lived close to my grandmother’s house and after visiting Grandma and Grandpa my family would often walk over to Uncle Art’s house for a visit with him and Aunt Betty. In the corner of Uncle Art’s f ... read more

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Enough is Enough

April 20, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I can’t stand it any more. Everyone has a limit and I’ve reached mine. The human brain can only handle so much before gray matter starts squirting out your ears. You’re probably wondering, at least I hope you are) what has brought me to this fever pitch of annoyance? The current state of our politics? No. The idiocy of those who can’t read the writing on the wall and accept that humans are affecting climate change so we can finally begin doing what we can to save our planet? No. Is it that Blogger keeps eliminating people from my blogroll and I’m never going to reach three hundred followers? No. My panties are in a bunch because I’m sick and tired of hearing about…Jon Snow.      ... read more

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Old-Fashioned Selfies

April 22, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most painters create self-portraits during the course of their careers, and a few, like Rembrandt, made them a focus of their output. Vanity isn’t usually the reason for staring into a mirror to capture the nuances of your own countenance. At a young age I desperately wanted to master flesh tones and capture likenesses, but posing for a portrait is an odious task and no one was willing to sit for me. Artists are often reduced to painting from photographs, which limits the ability to capture the ineffable qualities of human existence.   The greatest drawback to painting from photographs is the lack of psychological information more readily available when an artist interacts with his subject, even if the subject is himself. Clien ... read more

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The "Shred"

April 25, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yes, I was a chubby kid, a plump roly-poly who seldom turned up his nose at food, with one exception. I could never bring myself to eat something that resembled vomit, and I put my ample foot down when it came to consuming something that looked like it had already been eaten and rejected by someone—creamed corn.   My mother ignored my revulsion and served it often, doling out a generous scoop of creamed corn onto my plate. The vile stuff triggered my gag reflex. I couldn’t bear looking at it. I can still hear my mother saying, “Eat that corn or go to bed without supper!”             My response: “Fine!”   Off to bed I’d go. When ... read more

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Motoring with the Chatterbox

April 27, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Our son CJ just informed me that my vehicle needs four new tires. I was reminded of his guest post from 2011, where he describes what it was like buying a car for me.     *****************************   People have referred to me as a “Car Whisperer,” a term I am not particularly fond of; I don’t have conversations with cars. Well, that’s not entirely true. I may thank my car from time to time when it completes a particularly arduous task like towing a trailer or getting me home safe in the snow or pouring rain. I might also utter a colorful metaphor from time to time as I repair and maintain my cars in a rainy driveway. This isn’t, however, a story about my love for cars. It’s a tale ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #48

April 29, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    This picture was originally an illustration for an Oregon nursery association’s spring catalog. The art director’s idea was to show the map of Oregon being pushed into outer space by a giant beanstalk. I thought this a questionable concept, but the client is always right, especially if you expect payment for your work.             I seldom sold the original artwork, so when this piece was returned I scraped away the map of Oregon and tried to think of something to replace it. At the time, Bill Clinton was going through his impeachment woes so I entertained myself by adding him to the picture. I was pleased with the likeness, especially since this was painte ... read more

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