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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Travels and Travails

January 23, 2013

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Mrs. Chatterbox and I have decided to visit India at the beginning of March. Our travel agent forwarded an e-mail with the address of the Indian Consulate in Washington D.C. Evidently, we need visas for entering India. Last year when visiting Turkey visas were available at the Istanbul airport for thirty dollars. The Indian government charges nearly five times that amount and isn’t as accommodating, requiring these to be purchased in advance.

    

The form was lengthy and we struggled to fill it out. Questions were repeated in a variety of ways and we soon realized these questions were designed to reveal any affiliation with Pakistan. The two countries don’t get along. They’ve been squabbling over Kashmir for ages and Mumbai bombings in 2008 have kept tensions high. We did our best to convince the Indian Consulate that I was just a typical American tourist intent on filling a scrapbook with snapshots of the Taj Mahal. The mistake I made came from checking the box under the section for employment that said: Writer.

    

There wasn’t a box for artist or blogger so writer seemed like the closest choice. Big Mistake! My visa application was flagged and additional pages e-mailed with dozens of new questions because I was a…journalist. I’d never claimed to be a journalist but when I phoned the Consulate this didn’t seem to matter—someone at the Consulate must have feared that The Chubby Chatterbox was a hotbed of sedition capable of bringing a nation of  a billion people to its knees. I was informed that if I didn’t fill out the additional forms my visa would not be approved. In the meantime Mrs. C., who’s worked for the local police department for nearly twenty years, sailed through this ordeal and is expecting her visa in the mail shortly.

    

As for me, they wanted to know what company I worked for, what I intended to write about while in India, who I was meeting, where was I staying and dozens of other questions. I felt like I was visiting my cousin in San Quentin instead of traveling to the world’s largest democracy. I’ve yet to receive my visa. Mrs. Chatterbox may be going alone.

    

When I mentioned this to our travel agent I was told I should have checked the box labeled—Retired, even though I don’t consider myself retired. Next week Mrs. C. and I were scheduled to receive shots to immunize us from hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria and rabies. These shots are expensive and, no doubt, painful. I think I’ll wait awhile before I decide to become a human pin cushion.

    

The sandy beaches of Maui have never seemed more appealing.  



Comments

27 Comments
Oh, wow. An innocent choice and everything runs amok!! Hope it works out in the end, and that the end isn't too far down the road.
By: jenny_o on January 23, 2013
You have a cousin at Q? Tell us more.
By: (not your) Uncle Skip on January 23, 2013
You never know what's going to be a trigger word for government agencies. I have gotten flagged (only one in a car full of people) coming back into the country from Mexico as a possible drug cartel leader because of the SUNGLASSES I was wearing. It took them a long time to believe I really am a mild mannered teacher who happens to like blingy sunglasses. All the best on getting your visa quickly.
By: Shelly on January 23, 2013
I will not travel outside of the USA unless there is a beach involved. I rely on people like you to do the dirty work and send pictures...I am good with just pictures. Ain't red tape grand? I would have checked "retired" I am too honest and can't consider myself a writer. You should have lied and said "retired." Enjoy India...don't order the "Big Mac."
By: Cranky Old Man on January 23, 2013
Yep, i learned that one when I traveled to Mexico a few years ago and more recently going into Canada after a boarder crossing incident - retired is the correct choice. Good luck. Mindy
By: mindy on January 23, 2013
I've heard that India is extremely inefficient, bureaucracy bound, and corrupt. Personally I would view missing a trip to India as a blessing, but that's just me. Enjoy Maui! :) S
By: scott park on January 23, 2013
What a shame. I really hope you can sort things out as I'm sure you'd have an amazing time in India.
By: LL COOL JOE on January 23, 2013
Stephen, I have a friend who has visited India many times, as a woman traveling alone. She says she is almost overwhelmed by the colors there but also by the massive humanity and some of its actions. Enjoy your trip and . . . don't forget to write! :^)
By: Bruce/Catalyst on January 23, 2013
Clearly the power of the Chubby Chatterbox is well known even outside America. All those shots are another good reason not to travel abroad.
By: PT Dilloway on January 23, 2013
Sadly, some countries are 'particular' about who they let in. I've been through U.S. customs several times and it can be an exercise too. Many of the shots you mentioned last a long time (10 yrs.) You should consider Hep A & B which is sold under the name 'Twinrix'. http://www.twinrix.ca/en/ When you arrive at their airport, start making pro-feminist remarks. ;0 Enjoy the experience and savor all the sights, scents and aromas.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 23, 2013
Well, i just hope, when you get to India, that it turns out to have been worth it.
By: mimi on January 23, 2013
ah the joys of traveling ...I remember back in the old days that when one traveled to Mexico you had to pay $10 in cash to be able to leave.....really! There were times when I wanted to ask- and how much will you pay me to stay? Naturally I didn't as I wasn't sure of the officials sense of humor.... bon voyage!
By: Kathe W. on January 23, 2013
But The Chubby Chatterbox IS a hotbed of sedition, isn't it? Don't tell me I've been misunderstanding the secret code you send out in these "posts." Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 23, 2013
Oh that is funny. They have you flagged now and will probably follow you around while you are there watching your every move. You probably have someone monitoring your blog post now. All for checking a little box. The first time I flew I found that my name was on the No Fly List, I was pulled aside and taken to another person where they had to check my status and to see that I was not the person on the list. I haven't had a problem since, thank goodness. Hope it all works out for you and look forward to seeing your post from India!
By: Lighthousegal on January 23, 2013
Thank you for this bit of advice. I shall never check "writer" when filling out a Visa form for a country I intend to visit.
By: Michael Offutt on January 23, 2013
hi. curious - i use blogger & want to keep up with you blog - any clue how to add it to my follow list? when i try through blogger it does not like it? any clues? thanks. ( :
By: Beth on January 23, 2013
Oh no, Stephen. I hope they don't read your anti-Panda post. They'll never let you into the country. Maui is really beautiful, though. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on January 23, 2013
I am not a world traveler. The boundaries of my box are Boston, Daytona Beach, Juneau, and Rapid City. But please listen to my advice. If you see your cousin Jack at the airport, DO NOT holler a greeting to him.
By: Val on January 23, 2013
That's too bad. Who would of thought that the word writer would be in issue???? I am in the mood to take a trip but the only place I might go is Nova Scotia. My husband is up there on business for two weeks. I doubt that anything I would say would get me barred from NS this time of year. Hope you get it all worked out and your Visa arrives.
By: Cheryl P. on January 23, 2013
This could only happen to you, Steve! I know what you are saying about checking boxes! Sometimes the answers given don't really match with what you want to say. When and IF you get your visa,have a good time in India. That is one place I really don't want to go!
By: Linda on January 24, 2013
Well, I don't care to visit any other countries until I've seen all of this one. I've a passport and that's all I need. I hope you get this figured out soon. Have a terrific day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on January 24, 2013
Oh and Seymour the pet rock hails from Colorado. :)
By: Comedy Plus on January 24, 2013
Oh! You coming to India? That's good! Hope you like it here! You are invited to be a part of an upcoming blog event. Plz visit the link - http://andmylifegoeson.blogspot.in/2013/01/whats-your-story-you-are-invited.html
By: Manju on January 24, 2013
Well they are already giving you stuff to write about and that's kind of cool! This may not be the last bureaucratic headache that you face when traveling to India, but I hope everything gets sorted out real quick.
By: Kerry on January 24, 2013
India and Pakistan have been squabbling over Kashmir for ages? I mean, it's a good song and all and I'm sure Led Zeppelin is thrilled, but it's not worth fighting over. Now, take Stairway to Heaven. I'll knock your block off if'n you try and take that one, dagnabbit.
By: Al Penwasser on January 24, 2013
tell em you want to encourage tourism and plan to write very flattering pieces about their fine nation.
By: lime on January 27, 2013
The Taj Mahal is so totally worth it! Live and learn. Oh yeah, the shots are worth it too! Z-
By: L/Z on March 2, 2013

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