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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  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 :: written in: All Blog Posts
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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My First Time

February 27, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        It isn’t often I can remember the first time I ate something. Most things I consume out of habit from childhood, but some items were included later in life. One such food, once known to few Americans, is now ubiquitous enough to be sold everywhere. Any guesses what I’m referring to? Clue—it isn’t unicorn meat.   The year was 1975. I'd recently graduated from UCLA and gotten married. I was working at an art gallery in Santa Monica called Le Garage (it had once been an auto repair business) and one of my co-workers suggested a lunch excursion to a part of Los Angeles I’d never visited. Her name was Aarone (pronounced Aar-ó-née). Her father had expected a boy an ... read more

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Public Art

March 01, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I recently happened across one of my children, not a flesh and blood child—of which I have only one—but an artistic child of which I have many. It brought back memories; I was proud of this assignment when I landed it in the 90s; at $2000 my biggest assignment to date.   I’d only been a full-time illustrator for a couple of months and had been pounding the pavement in downtown Portland, prowling advertising agencies and municipal offices looking for illustration assignments. My timing was good when I walked into the offices of Portland’s MAX Light Rail.   Portland had just entered into a deal with the Federal government to share cost of building a light rail rapid transit system. If you’ve ever vi ... read more

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Pet Alternatives

March 03, 2017
Mrs. Chatterbox and I are empty nesters. I’ve worked from home for years, although I consider myself retired, and after twenty years with our police department Mrs. C. will be retiring in October. We’ve discussed getting a pet but so far haven’t made the trip to the Humane Society.   A pet would add a fresh perspective to our lives but we plan to travel more and don’t relish the idea of kenneling a dog. Cats are nice, but unfortunately Mrs. C. is allergic; her eyes water and turn red like a heroin addict’s if she sets foot in a house with a cat. Too bad; we both like cats.   I’ve discovered a few ways to combat loneliness for those of us without pets, especially if you can't afford to spend ... read more

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Peculiarities #3

March 06, 2017
   I’d just climbed into a barber’s chair when the front door opened and a raggedy fellow entered, struggling with a peculiar item under his arm.   “Anyone want to buy this?” he asked, extending his chin in the direction of the thing in his arms.   The occupants of three other barber’s chairs shook their heads, along with the scissor-wielding barbers hovering behind them. But I was intrigued, and had watched too many Antique Roadshows to ignore a possible treasure.   “What is it?” I asked.   The raggedy man cleared his throat and shrugged his shoulders, a gesture made difficult because of the item in his tattooed arms.   “Where did you get it?&rdqu ... read more

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Another Parody

March 08, 2017
      Back when I was teaching classes at our local art college, students often asked me where my illustration ideas came from. I’d point out that a rich source for ideas could be found in parody. Not long ago I published two posts, one on artistic parodies and the other on American painter Andrew Wyeth. This post combines the two. You probably know that a parody is a lampoon, caricature, imitation or mockery—a takeoff of something serious for satirical purposes.             You might have seen Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World, showing the artist’s crippled neighbor crawling across an empty field, one of America’s most ic ... read more

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Incredible Spaghetti!

March 10, 2017
I haven’t been eating much spaghetti lately, but this post from 2013 reminds me of the best spaghetti I ever ate. *********************   The other day Mrs. Chatterbox made spaghetti. I like spaghetti well enough but this spaghetti was different. It was—incredible, so good that after a few mouthfuls I could barely concentrate on what I was eating. I finally set down my fork and said, “What’s different about this spaghetti?”   “Funny you should ask,” Mrs. C. said. “Do you remember when we went to Italy and I bought that special cooking oil in Sorrento?”   I confessed I didn’t remember.   “Well, I found it in the back of the pantry and thought I&rsq ... read more

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A Good Book

March 13, 2017
I’ve lived much of my life with a book which, until recently, I’d never read, a book belonging to my mother. I remember seeing it on a bookshelf as a child, listening to Mom talk about it over and over when I started writing in earnest. Mom would have been a child when she first read it, and it made such an impression that eighty years later after she passed and I was closing down her apartment, I happened across a copy of this special book. Finding it wasn’t hard. It was on the coffee table in her living room.             Mother was a voracious reader; it’s hard thinking of her without a book in her hand. Back when I received my driver’s license and was ... read more

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Spiders and Sputnik

March 15, 2017
This post is an edited excerpt from my biography The Kid in the Kaleidoscope.   ***************************   I was a first grader in 1957, and one day after lunch our teacher pulled out a book and began reading a wonderful story called Charlotte’s Web, the tale of a spider who befriends a piglet. There were many super illustrations, making it easy for Miss Ludlum to cover a few dozen pages each day. When she came to the emotional ending I was sobbing so hard I got the hiccups.             My opinion of spiders was warped by this loving fable, but a reality check came when a fellow first grader trapped a black widow spider in a mayonnaise jar and brought it to our ... read more

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Fun with Flags

March 17, 2017
He was swarthy enough to look exotic, a fact he exploited, telling friends his blood was Middle Eastern. His name gave credence to the ruse—Hassam—which sounds like Has’sam (Arabic) although it was actually pronounced HASS’m.   Childe Hassam was an American Impressionist painter, but for years he included a crescent moon with the signature on his paintings. He even adopted the nickname “Muley” (from the Arabic for Lord or master), invoking Muley Abul Hassan, a fifteenth-century ruler of Granada in Washington Irving’s novel Tales of the Alhambra.   I mention this because one of Hassam’s paintings resides in a famous location. You might not recognize Hassam’s name but you&rs ... read more

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Controversy at Chubby Chatterbox

March 20, 2017
The photo accompanying this post shows all my posts since starting Chubby Chatterbox seven years ago. I’m a terrible typist (actually I don’t type) so I peck these out the night before they’re posted. Mrs. Chatterbox, a former English major, checks them for inevitable typos and grammar issues—an answer for those of you who’ve asked if she reads my blog.   Believe it or not, I’ve tried to avoid controversy. My purpose in creating a blog was to entertain and share my love of art and travel. I try my best to steer clear of politics and religion, although I’ve dipped my toes into these waters on a few occasions. In spite of my efforts not to offend anyone, I’ve managed to do so on three occ ... read more

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People Soup

March 22, 2017
Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. -Shakespeare-   *********************************************   Years ago I was not the sophisticate I would later pretend to be. I’m thinking about a time when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were newlyweds and had recently moved into a small one bedroom apartment. Money was tight; after paying our rent and other expenses there wasn’t anything left for entertainment. One cold November evening we were bored watching television when I came up with a great idea.   “This apartment complex has a swimming pool. Let’s go take a dip.”   “It’s much too cold outside to go swimming. Do you even know if the pool is heated?&rdqu ... read more

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Washington is Bugged

March 24, 2017
No, I’m not going there. This isn’t about politics. This is about a different kind of bug.   When CJ was twelve we made a trip to Washington D.C. The time was soon coming when he’d become a surly teenager not wanting to vacation with his uncool parents. He was studying US history in school and was the perfect age to be exposed to the capital. Money was tight, but Mrs. C. found a hotel that would accept our Entertainment Book’s fifty percent discount, and airfare wars made travel affordable.   Mrs. C. and I had never been to Washington and were excited to see the sights and do touristy things, but I was startled when I questioned CJ before the trip as to what he was most excited to see. I expected an ans ... read more

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Buzzing in the Bathroom

March 27, 2017
This post might fall into the “Too Much Information” category but I’ve been inspired by a fellow blogger who wrote a humorous and informative post about poop, so here goes.   A few months ago I had my annual teeth cleaning. The hygienist informed me I had very little plaque but I was brushing too hard and should consider using an electric toothbrush to avoid future gum issues. I drove to Costco and purchased a Sonic electric toothbrush.   These devices, I discovered, require some getting used to. A week after converting to an electric toothbrush, after I’d grown accustomed to the annoying sound of electric buzzing, I noticed it looked like snow had fallen in our bathroom. White specs were everywhere, li ... read more

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The Timeless Art of Seduction

March 29, 2017
              Remember George Costanza and the timeless art of seduction? This post is about the art of seduction, but it involves a different Costanza.   The Museo Nazionale del Bargello is better than a dozen American museums, yet in Florence, Italy, it’s considered so second rate that many of its rooms are often locked, including the room housing a sculpture many consider one of the greatest works ever conceived.   The sculpture is a marble bust of a woman carved by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), a towering figure of Baroque art. You might remember my post on Bernini’s astonishing Apollo and Daphne (Check it out here). Thanks to his copious sculptures, fountains, in ... read more

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