Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Blog Archive

09/2016

Mending Holes

September 02, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      My mother went to work in the Almadén bottling plant in Los Gatos, California, when I was eleven. This occurred at a time when my grandmother’s life was slowing down and she had little to do. I don’t know all the details, but Mom and Grandma made an arrangement for Grandma to do our laundry. I doubt Mom paid for this service; Grandma probably did it out of love and was happy to have something to keep her busy.             Whatever the arrangement, it worked well for a few years. Grandma lived nearby and Mom or Dad would pick up our laundry once a week after work. This might have been Grandma’s real payoff because she loved company and a ... read more

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Motu Man

September 05, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      When Mrs. Chatterbox and I travel we always search for souvenirs that encapsulate our experiences and serve as a reminder of our visits to exotic locations. Over the years we’ve filled our home with items, and now our home is bursting at the seams and can’t handle more souvenirs. These days I’m inclined to purchase Christmas ornaments or other items that don’t take up much space. Motu Man is an item we purchased before deciding to downsize and limit our acquisitions.             Motu Man (a motu is a small Pacific island) was purchased on Raiatea, an island we visited while touring Tahiti and French Polynesia. Motu Man is hand carved fro ... read more

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Big Boy Toy

September 07, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
On Saturday, Mrs. Chatterbox and I were joined by our son CJ for dinner at a Mexican restaurant that recently opened near our home. As we neared the entrance, CJ spotted something across the parking lot that made him laugh. He pointed at a tractor on a trailer and asked if I noticed anything unusual. It took a moment, but I finally figured it out.             When CJ was a toddler he was fascinated with tiny cars and trucks. Eventually, he ended up with hundreds of them. Two of his favorites were called Red and Yellow, for obvious reasons. He slept with them in his chubby little hands and when we heard the metal cars slide to the floor we knew our little boy was in the land of nod. He ... read more

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Queen of Roads

September 09, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve always been interested in popular sayings and enjoy researching the source for popular phrases in our culture. Referring to someone as “upper crust” is easy to figure out: bread was historically cooked in a flat pan over an open fire. The bottom usually ended up burnt and was given to children or servants. The middle was given to adult family members with the golden brown top of the bread reserved for high-ranking company. Eventually these esteemed guests were referred to as “upper crust.”             Many sayings originate with ancient Rome. Romans were incredible engineers. They developed the arch, making massive structures like aqueducts, baths an ... read more

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An Incomplete Education

September 12, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
While growing up in the fifties, we were by no means the poorest family on the block. Both of my parents worked, which was unusual at the time. My brother and I had the best of everything, but there was one area where our household was lacking—books.   My mother was a hardcore reader and always had her nose buried in historical biographies from the library, but in the home where I was raised there were no books lining the shelves. Books could be had for free from the library. Spending money on them was foolish.   One day while accompanying my dad to the grocery store, I spotted a promotional display of encyclopedias. I was immediately drawn to the colorful pictures and easy-to-read articles on the history of mankind. The ... read more

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The Scourge of Princes

September 14, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
“If you want to annoy your neighbors, tell the truth about them.” —Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) —   Haven’t heard of Pietro Aretino? There was a time when he was one of the most talked about men in Europe, and one of the most feared. He was an Italian author, playwright, poet and satirist, but he was also a blackmailer who wielded tremendous influence on contemporary art and politics. He also invented modern literate pornography. His prose might be beautifully constructed, but many of his stories were based in brothels and poked fun at the rich and powerful.   Born out of wedlock in Arezzo and banished before reaching adulthood, Aretino made his way to Rome where in 1516 he penned a satirical pamph ... read more

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The Chatterbox Neighborhood

September 16, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Several of my favorite bloggers have shared pictures of their homes and neighborhoods, often including local wildlife. I always enjoy these posts because it makes me feel closer to people I don’t otherwise have an opportunity to know. Here are pictures of the area in Portland, Oregon, where Mrs. Chatterbox and I live. This region was once a forest bordering Dutch farmland; our neck of the woods is still called Peterkort Woods.   We’ve lived here for eight years, and I really enjoy the landscaping. Our development backs up to trails maintained by the local park district so the woodland behind us will never be lost. I haven’t enjoyed the trails much because I’ve spent the last eight years ... read more

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Return of the Swifts

September 19, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mid September has arrived, which means the swifts are here but will soon depart.    **********************************   Mrs C. and I weren’t the only ones looking for a new home in Portland Oregon in the early 1980s. Winging up from Central America for a feast of flying insects, a cigar-shaped Vaux Swift was desperately seeking a new late summer home. The hollow tree serving as a roost for generations had been toppled by a recent storm. With thousands of hungry swifts soon to arrive, this scout must have been desperate to find an alternative roosting site.             In early September of 1980 a student from Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland wa ... read more

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Speed Racer

September 21, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My dad was a professional mechanic for the City of Sunnyvale in California. His mechanical ability and interest in cars leapfrogged over me to our son CJ, who shares his late grandfather’s passion for cars.             Last Christmas, CJ treated himself to an automotive experience at Portland International Raceway. He signed up to drive half a dozen laps in a high powered vehicle, but the aneurysm he experienced the day after Christmas forced a postponement until after his recuperation. He finally took his ride in May when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were in Key West so I wasn’t present to take pictures, but here are a few CJ snapped. I wish he’d taken a selfie.  &nb ... read more

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Thanking Dad

September 23, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Lately, I’ve been thinking abut my dad who passed away eight years ago. This post from 2013 is a reminder of the type of man he was.   *************************************   A rather large spider has erected its web above our front door and Mrs. Chatterbox has demanded I eliminate it. She refuses to exit our home through the front door until I practice spidercide. Some might comment that Mrs. C. should dispatch it herself if she wants it done so badly, but over the years we’ve devised an equitable plan dividing household chores (Mrs. C. would rightfully scoff at my usage of the word equitable.) Bug killing falls to me. I’m not fond of spiders but, unlike Mrs. Chatterbox, I’m not terrified of them. I w ... read more

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Peculiar Pictures #51 & #52 & #53

September 26, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    We had out of town guests for the weekend and our dishwasher malfunctioned flooding our kitchen right after our guests departed. I’ve spent the last few hours emptying the water and cleaning all the traps so I hope it will work properly. As a result, I didn’t have time to write anything new so I’m turning to my Peculiar Picture File—illustrations created when I was a professional illustrator. These are based on clichés popular with art directors and all three of these have appeared in print.     The Tip of the Iceberg         Behind the Eight Ball         A Long Road to Hoe     I hope everyone has a terrific week. ... read more

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Requiem for Civility

September 28, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Shootings are taking place around our country with sickening regularity, and I think I know why. Sure, the proliferation of unlimited guns on our streets is a contributing factor, as is an entrenched overseas enemy (ISIS) using the Internet to ensnare disgruntled individuals for sinister purposes. Another factor is unequal opportunities for minorities trapped in an economic system that marginalizes them, but these are only contributing factors, and like the five blind men trying to describe an elephant after each touched a different part, they don’t provide a true picture of the overall problem which was birthed from a lack of civility.   As I see it, the polarization of American politics escalated when Newt Gingrich tried to u ... read more

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A Heavy Price

September 30, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve mentioned before that after my morning workouts at our local park district I head to the cool gym/auditorium before I hit the showers. There’s usually a toddler play session in the gym and I enjoy watching the kids stagger around like tiny drunks, having fun with a vast assortment of toys. Yesterday, a toddler around eighteen months, with what looked like a full diaper, climbed into a plastic car. I cracked up when he adjusted the glassless mirrors before pedaling away.   Yesterday there were ten parents present, seven mothers and three fathers. At first I thought it great that there were more dads present than mothers. Historically, dads have concentrated more on bringing home the bacon than spending time with their ... read more

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