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

05/2014

Night Shift

May 02, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Not long ago our son CJ was scheduled for a graveyard shift at our local police department where he’s a records specialist. This got me thinking about the only time I worked graveyard, back in the early 70s during a break from college. My mother worked at the Almaden bottling plant in Los Gatos, California, and she pulled a few strings to get me a job, just as she had for my older brother a few years earlier.      I showed up for work my first evening and was assigned to a wiry little Italian man around sixty. He didn’t speak much English. He guided me to a conveyor belt that rose to the top of the two story warehouse and disappeared into an opening near the ceiling on the far side of the building around ... read more

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The Glories of the City Dump

May 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 3/12/12   It's time for spring cleaning, and this always reminds me of a favorite childhood trip.   **************************************************      When I was a kid there was a place that affected me like metal drawn to a magnet, our town’s very own Disneyland—the City Dump.      Like many boys, I looked forward to our annual trip to this place of riches and enchantment. The visit was preceded by Mom telling Dad it was time to clean out the garage because it was getting difficult to squeeze the car inside. It was a mystery to me how she knew this since she didn’t drive, but before long Dad would be cleaning out the garage and borrowing grandpa&r ... read more

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Taking the Plunge

May 07, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Unlike today, when I was in high school physical education was mandatory. I attended Wilcox High in Santa Clara, California. Santa Clara was also home to the famous Santa Clara Swim Center, where Don Schollander trained for the Olympics, winning a combined five gold medals in Tokyo ’64, and Mexico City ‘68. It’s no exaggeration to say our small city took swimming very seriously.      All high schools in the region had swimming pools, and Wilcox also had one for diving. Before being allowed to graduate, all male students (sexist I know) were required to pass two water tests. First, we were required to tread water in the lap pool for one hour without touching the sides; touch it and you had to start o ... read more

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Washing and Waxing Mother

May 09, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
These days it takes a shoehorn to get my mother out of her apartment. At eighty-nine, she’s becoming a recluse. Mrs. Chatterbox and I constantly invite her to spend time with us. Mrs. C. tries to coax her by offering to prepare her favorite dishes, and I offer to pick her up at her front door, drive her to our place, hold her arm firmly while escorting her up the six steps to our front door and set her favorite mixed drink in her hand before feeding and returning her home.      Whenever I make these offers, Mom’s reaction is the same. “I’ll take a rain check.” Really? Mom has enough rain checks to see her through a deluge. Not even the promise of seeing her grandson can dislodge her from ... read more

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Foxy Lady

May 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve written several posts describing my childhood passion for pets and how my mother’s philosophy was such that I was denied any animal too big to flush in the toilet when it inevitably died. But there was another family member whose lust for animals overshadowed mine. My cousin Eleanor was several years older than me and her parents denied her nothing. When we visited her house I half expected to see a giraffe peering over her backyard fence. Eleanor didn’t make friends easily and experienced educational problems at school. Today a child like Eleanor would be diagnosed as suffering from ADHS or mild forms of autism, but back then kids like her were dismissed as high strung or just difficult.      ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #33

May 14, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Many of my new followers might not be aware of the fact that for many years I was a professional illustrator. While my work sold on five continents, I have a file cabinet of pictures that never sold. I use these images for a feature I call Peculiar Pictures. Many people don’t like discussing art for fear of being made to look foolish but that isn’t possible here. You can’t be expected to know what these pictures mean if the artist who created them doesn’t know.      After a long hiatus from painting I’m back at my easel. I was recently cleaning our garage and trying to carve a workspace from the clutter when I stumbled across this acrylic painting. It was intended to be thought provoking, ... read more

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My Second Favorite Organ

May 16, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It happened just before our son CJ was born. I was brushing my teeth. After rinsing my mouth I looked in the mirror and lifted my tongue. I don’t know why I chose this moment to do so, and I was confronted by an unusual growth on the underside of my tongue that looked like the eyeball of a sea bass. I was horrified.      Later, Mrs. Chatterbox noticed that I was being uncharacteristically quiet and asked if anything was wrong.      “I have a growth on the underside of my tongue,” I answered.      “Let me see it.”       “I’d rather not. I’m kinda sensitive about it.”      She frow ... read more

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Conclusion: My Second Favorite Organ

May 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Check out Part I (here)   The oral surgeon scheduled the removal of the growth resembling a sea bass’s eyeball on the underside of my tongue. During surgery, several muscles were cut that made speech difficult for the next few months. Fortunately, a biopsy revealed that the growth was a harmless calcium deposit, and not cancerous.      Since speech was difficult, I took a medical leave of absence from work and focused on rebuilding my ability to communicate clearly. It was a slow and arduous process. As babies, we mimic our parents’ speech and learn through repetition how to position tongues in our mouths to create certain sounds, but this became difficult when I no longer had control over this vital ... read more

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Vanished

May 21, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  We recently passed the sixth anniversary of my dad’s passing, although it seems like only yesterday when I received a call from Mom telling me Dad was gone. His death was totally unexpected and much that happened during that time is a blur. One incident does stand out clearly. It had to do with a painting.      I made arrangements to return Dad’s ashes to California so he could rest near his mother and where Mom’s family members are buried. Years ago I painted a portrait of Dad, and Mom asked me to frame it and bring it with us so it could be set on an easel during the service. I didn’t think it a good idea. Dad hadn’t really liked the painting. It wasn’t that he felt I&rsquo ... read more

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Wandering Buddha

May 23, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First posted 7/27/12      Not long ago Mrs. C. and I decided to visit The Portland Japanese Garden. Portland’s climate is similar to Japan’s and our garden is considered one of the best in the country. We visit every few years and try to time our trips when the cherry trees are blossoming. Helpful guides are on hand to explain the history of Japanese landscape design and the evolution of a garden which was once the site of our zoo’s elephant house. We’ve always preferred wandering around on our own, but this last time a tour was departing as we entered. We joined it.      I snapped dozens of pictures; as usual I never fail to be rejuvenated by the garden and inspire ... read more

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In Memory Of...

May 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was not familiar with the Battle of Monte Cassino when I spotted the buildings high on the mountaintop as our bus rolled into the parking lot of a well-tended cemetery. Yet fellow travelers on our bus were pulling out handkerchiefs and wiping their eyes even before the bus braked to a stop. For some, this was the focus of their trip, the reason they’d come, to see the place where their fathers and brothers closed their eyes forever during a series of battles that stretched over a hundred and twenty-three days taking thousands of Axis and Allied lives.      The weather was dreadful in February of 1944 when the ground we stood on was soaked with blood, but this was a beautiful day; flowers perfumed the air as we ... read more

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Tina's Garden

May 28, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Mrs. Chatterbox and I were invited to a Memorial Day barbeque at the home of our good friends and travel companions Bruce and Tina. In addition to the warmth and hospitality, I always enjoy spending time with them because Tina is an avid gardener and her backyard is brighter than the palettes of most artists. I’ve never been able to grow anything and Mrs. Chatterbox will only go near dirt if convinced the world has suddenly been rid of bugs, but Tina and her husband Bruce spend hours in their garden and their diligence pays off in beautiful flowers. Several years ago when we visited Monet’s garden at Giverny we purchased a package of seeds for them. Those seeds are now blooming plants. Lately, Tina has been delivering bo ... read more

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Four Corners and a Void

May 30, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
       Expatriate American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is best known for his flattering portraits of aristocrats, heiresses and well-heeled businessmen. He is famous for virtuoso brushwork and his ability to capture a moment or gesture. But his name doesn’t spring to mind when one thinks of portraits that dig beneath the surface to reveal the complexities of human nature. For the painting The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, Sargent chose not to group the four sisters—Florence, Jane, Mary Louis and Julia— together for a happy family portrait, creating instead an unconventional tableau.            Although critics praised this group portrait when f ... read more

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