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


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


Welcome 2017

January 02, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I hope everyone had a safe and relaxing New Year’s holiday. I, for one, won’t feel sad 2016 has come to an end. For us, it began in a hospital intensive care unit and ended at a funeral home. It was the year our son survived a brain aneurysm, but more recently it was also the year we lost my mother.   My time has been filled making funeral arrangements, having Mom’s cremains shipped to California so she can be laid to rest beside my dad, who passed away unexpectedly eight years ago. Mom never got over losing Dad and I don’t think her final years were happy ones, in spite of the efforts Mrs. Chatterbox and I did to bring some pleasure into her last years.   Cleaning out her apartment has been a painful t ... read more

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Simplifying Buddhism

January 04, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I came across this fun 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 in the air.             He looks down and sees sharp rocks projecting upward. His robes begin to ... read more

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After Christmas Miracle

January 06, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Here is a reworked fictional piece I wrote in 2012 that was inspired by a post 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 my car.           & ... read more

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January 09, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yesterday was a snow day here in Portland—just a light dusting with freezing rain on the way—but the inclement weather reminded me of a time a few years back when our son CJ was visiting for the holidays. We were living downtown and an arctic front had moved down from Alaska. We were snowed in.             With little to do, CJ and I decided to sit out the storm wrapped in the warm glow of liquor. But what to drink? Over the holiday we’d drained nearly all of our potent potables, with the exception of a bottle of tequila.             A brilliant idea surfaced. “Let’s make a batch of margaritas,&rdqu ... read more

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Something Strange in the Neighborhood

January 11, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Something strange is going on at Casa Chatterbox; one room unaccustomed to action is now receiving it—our bedroom!             I wish I could admit that I’m responsible for the new level of excitement in our bedroom, but credit goes to the cable man. Sure, there was a time when I was a firecracker in the bedroom, but these days I’m an inconsistent “Ole Sparky.”   We recently had our equipment updated by Comcast, not that I noticed anything different, at first. I’m typically an early to bed and early to rise person; I don’t get up much during the night, but recently I woke around 2:30 in the morning and noticed a strange light show&mdash ... read more

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Snowmageddon Revisited

January 13, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Thanks to all of you who heard about Portland's big snow storm and e-mailed to ask if Mrs. Chatterbox and I were okay. We survived the storm quite well, although we've been snowbound since Tuesday night and are now suffering from cabin fever. I'd just finished packing the last of my mother's things into a U-Haul truck when the flakes started falling. They say we haven't had snow like this in a decade.   Here are a few pictures I managed to take yesterday when I finally ventured outside:       View from our rear balcony       Looking across our driveway. The fellow in the yellow slicker shoveling snow didn't offer to do our driveway.         This fath ... read more

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End of the Trail

January 16, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I mentioned in my last post that Mrs. Chatterbox and I were going to break out of our snow-choked prison and travel to the coast for a weekend get-a-way—and I promised pictures. CJ and his lady, the lovely Andrea, arrived with news that CJ had finally popped the question and the two are now officially engaged. Mrs. C. and I couldn’t be happier.             It was CJ and Andrea’s idea to make a trip to the coast. I’m not a confident driver and wouldn’t have considered such a trip in these conditions, but this particular snowstorm arrived from the south and hadn’t blown down from Alaska so the coast was actually 15/20 degrees warmer than Portland, or ... read more

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January 18, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Years ago I came to the conclusion that animals were not put on this earth to entertain us; they have as much right to exist as we humans. But I have a confession to make. I didn’t always think so.             You might have heard that after one hundred and forty-six years Ringling Bros. Circus will soon be collapsing its big top for the last time. If you’re like me, you recently applauded when Ringling announced it was retiring all its elephants to an animal sanctuary. I’ve always loved animals, and when I was a kid I loved elephants more than any other. But I also loved lions and tigers and other animals that my childhood imagination transformed into fun companions ... read more

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Comparing Apples and Oranges

January 20, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
During the election, and later over the holidays, I overheard many conversations about politics. People were comparing presidential candidates. Someone said, “They’re all so different! It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”             I’ve heard that apples and oranges reference my whole life and I just don’t get it. When I was small it was right up there with: Six of one, half dozen of another, which I didn’t understand as a kid but now makes perfect sense. Another strange one was: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Growing up I never saw a horse or a beggar in our neighborhood. But why has the comparison of apples and oranges become su ... read more

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Free is a Very Good Price

January 23, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Cleaning out the apartment of a deceased parent can be traumatic, but I’m the sort of person who always looks on the bright side, often finding humor in the most unlikely of places.             Mom had some nice pieces of furniture but Mrs. Chatterbox and I already have a house stuffed with furniture, and our son CJ didn’t want much more than a few mementos. We contacted a consignment store that had previously sold items for Mom when she downsized into her apartment. The consignment store refused to take the items I was most eager to see hauled away, so I made numerous pilgrimages to Goodwill. I think I made up for that time I talked them down on the price of a frame, for ... read more

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January 25, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          It turns out that I don’t need to check my peculiar picture file to find peculiarities: I’m surrounded by them. There are countless peculiar items at Casa Chatterbox. Some of these have stories, others are a mystery and I have no idea where they came from. Little unintentional arrangements seem to be springing up like mushrooms, perhaps a commentary on our ability to keep an orderly home. These items can be attributed to our eclectic style and sense of whimsy.             Señor Chill was purchased on a trip to Mexico. Painted in bright colors and crafted in various sizes, millions of these brightly painted grinning skulls gree ... read more

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The Face of Genius

January 27, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Until modern times, a widely accepted premise in the art world held that a bad picture of a famous person was more valuable than a brilliant painting of a still life or landscape. America has always lagged behind when it comes to creating great portrait artists. There are no masterpieces showing George Washington because the best painter in post Revolutionary War America was Gilbert Stuart, a competent craftsman lacking the spark of genius. And we can only wonder how Abraham Lincoln’s soulful eyes might have been rendered by a master like Rembrandt.   In the 1840s, photography began dealing a deathblow to oil portraits. Sitting for a photograph was easier and became a popular activity, even though it required the subject to rem ... read more

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Diamond Shopping

January 30, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Our son CJ recently asked me to help find a radiant cut center diamond for the engagement ring he planned on giving his fiancée. CJ generously shares his automotive expertise with us and I was happy to reciprocate by sharing my knowledge of diamonds, since I’d managed a jewelry store for eight years.   Society has changed significantly since I stood behind a diamond counter. When we walked into Jared Jewelers we were greeted at the door and asked what brought us in. CJ responded by saying we were looking for an engagement ring.   The greeter grinned and said, “Congratulations, you two.”   What the F*+#K? CJ is my son. The greeter thought we were a couple!   As we browsed through t ... read more

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Mystery Box

February 01, 2017
This reworked post is from 2012             The box looked like it had been constructed in a hurry, even to my twelve year old eyes, It was rough and unpolished and made of cheap plywood, six panels forming a twenty-four inch cube. Little care had gone into the construction; the sides had been roughly screwed together and there were no hinges or latches to indicate an opening. Nothing was written on it and there was no way to glimpse inside without tearing it apart.             When I was growing up, the box collected dust in our garage. Its only official purpose was to serve as a pedestal for the short and stout Christmas trees ... read more

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Mystery Box: Conclusion

February 03, 2017
  If you missed Part One of this post you can find it (here).   ***************************************      The box had occupied space in our garage for as long as I could remember, and even though it was off-limits I’d allowed Ricky Delgado, my best friend, to talk me into opening it.   My heart sank when I didn’t see a Japanese flag or a chunk of scorched metallic scrap from a kamikaze. Only boring papers and old photographs, just what Dad had said was inside. Black and white snapshots of a remarkably young Dad in his Navy uniform, hamming it up with buddies on shore leave, downing drinks in exotic looking bars. It’s hard to accept that your parents had lives before you came along, ... read more

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February 06, 2017
The older we get the more rites of passage we experience, momentous events like a first kiss, receiving a driver’s license or getting married and having children, but nothing strikes with as much sobering finality as seeing your parents’ names on a tombstone.             This weekend was notable in several ways. Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday and I’m always reminded of 2008 and Super Bowl XLII. We’d invited my parents over to watch the game and enjoy a few munchies. Mom grew bored and insisted they leave at halftime. Dad called from home when the game concluded to thank us for having them over and to share his joy at the game’s outcome; we were both root ... read more

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Peculiar Pictures 57 & 58

February 08, 2017
Both of these illustrations are peculiar, yet both were commissioned pieces published as magazine covers. I’m posting them as examples of marginally successful illustrations, not because the clients were displeased with them, but because they have no use on a secondary market.   I was an inexperienced illustrator when I created them, unaware that my work could generate additional income being resold to other art directors, a common practice in the business. My illustrations typically sold for under a thousand dollars. At first I painted in oil, eventually switching to quick-drying acrylic. At the peak of my career I was painting as many as three illustrations a day. Often, I’d sell the same illustration half a dozen times ... read more

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A Nice Surprise

February 10, 2017
It’s always a nice surprise when I encounter my artwork in unexpected places. Not long ago while vacationing in Sedona, Arizona, I picked up a copy of Arizona Business Magazine in the restroom of the bed and breakfast where we were staying. As I thumbed through it I spotted a familiar picture­—one of mine!             This generic image was included in my CD Business Fundamentals. I never know how or where my work will be used; the only restriction is the art can’t be marketed for its own sake, like a T-shirt design or wall décor. Illustration CDs are old school, not used much anymore, but I still receive royalties for individual sales. The magazine should ... read more

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A Tale of Two Couches

February 13, 2017
In the forty-two years that Mrs. Chatterbox and I have been married, we’ve purchased our fair share of furniture, including a half dozen couches. We’re never happy with the couches we select; they end up being uncomfortable, the color is wrong or they fall apart—perhaps our fault since we live on our couches and we aren’t lightweight people.             There was a time when we decided on a sectional but got cold feet, instead purchasing two matching moss-green couches. We enjoyed them until we moved and they no longer looked good in our new place. We purchased a new down filled red couch from Crate and Barrel (which we also hated because of constant molting) a ... read more

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Executive Action

February 15, 2017
I’m confused, and worried!   We’ve all seen pictures of our new president signing executive orders. Some, like the one placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council, we now know he didn’t even read, but my confusion isn’t about the content of these executive orders. Rather, my focus is on why Trump finds it necessary to resort to them.             The Constitution permits the president to issue executive orders for a variety of reasons. Presidents have signed them throughout our history, often in times of war or when Congress has adjourned. And let’s be clear, they’ve always been subject to judicial review.   Every president, w ... read more

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A Chance Encounter

February 17, 2017
There are times when I miss having a studio in downtown Portland. Cities have a pulse that suburbs lack. Pioneer Square is Portland’s living room, a fun spot in the center of the city to watch people and soak up rays if it happens to be a rare sunny day. While strolling across the square I’ve encountered sandcastle contests, Cultural Fairs, Irish dancing, religious fanatics and political activists. When Bill Clinton was president I saw him and Hillary at Pioneer Square.             One sunny afternoon years ago I happened to be crossing the square when I saw a good looking young guy playing a guitar. Guys playing guitars aren’t a rarity in downtown Portland so at fir ... read more

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Peculiarities #2

February 20, 2017
This is the second installment of my new feature, Peculiarities, odd items found around the house, some of which defy explanation.             I’ve written about the hundred-year-old house we owned in downtown Portland, but I haven’t mentioned the bathroom we decided to remodel. The house came with an original claw foot tub, which we were excited about until we tried to use it. That tub took an hour to fill and the water was icy cold long before reaching a proper level. We needed a shower and I hired a contractor, Rusty, to build one. A vent was needed to insure a smooth flow of water so an opening had to be cut, providing access to the attic so a hole could be cut in the ... read more

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Bolshoi Bragging

February 22, 2017
  This reworked post is from 2012     The Fantasy             Cultured and sophisticated people are a different breed from Joe Six Pack and the other plebeians on the street. The world is their playground and they cast a larger shadow than average people. They donate money to museums and universities and have their names engraved on libraries, hospital wings and research centers. They donate to Masterpiece Theatre (cultured folk do not spell it theater) their children attend exclusive schools and their dogs are the offspring of champions awarded ribbons by stout dog experts with names like Mrs. Fitzboozer Smythe or Mr. Roger-Bailey Van Bumsby.   While most me ... read more

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Lucy's Selfie

February 24, 2017
I don’t normally post pictures from the Internet but I’m sure everyone has Trump fatigue and some of you might welcome a brief distraction.   This image recently caught my eye. Lucy was born at a shelter in Greater Rochester, New York. No one seemed interested in the pup and it looked like she’d never find a permanent home.   Lucy’s picture was eventually added to the shelter’s website and it wasn’t long before someone called to point out something interesting in the image, something no one at the shelter had noticed. One of Lucy’s ears sported a selfie—a close likeness of the pup.   Workers at the shelter were startled when it was pointed out. Hard to believe such a strik ... read more

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