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


Mother and the King

September 01, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My mother wasn’t content keeping house and drinking coffee with the other housewives. In 1962 when I was ten years old she shocked the neighborhood by setting her sights on finding a job. Back then gas was cheap and Sunday drives were a popular pastime. Mom, Dad and I piled into our Packard and drove into the foothills near Los Gatos. We ended up at the bottling plant for Almadén Vineyards and noticed a sign offering free tours of the facility.      We were escorted through vineyards, warehouses and bottling plant. I can still recall the massive three story oak barrels brought to California a century earlier by clipper ship. We were fascinated to learn that Almadén was the oldest vineyard in Califor ... read more

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The Ultimate Rice Cooker

September 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  My only sibling, an older brother who happens to be a partner for a major Wall Street bank, has always been status conscious. He married the high school prom queen, owns homes in prestigious neighborhoods, drives highly touted luxury cars and only reserves tables at trendy restaurants. When time came for him to acquire a dog he researched the subject and paid top dollar for a golden lab from a well-known breeder. My nieces and nephew named the dog Wilsy.      When my parents moved into a retirement community my brother and his family paid them a visit, bringing along Wilsy. They didn’t know dogs weren’t allowed on the premises, not even dogs like Wilsy with remarkable pedigrees.     ... read more

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Who Killed the Pig?

September 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve devoted more than a few posts to the fact that I was denied dogs and cats growing up. It didn’t help that every time we visited Grandma she’d ramble on about the old days when they’d butcher pigs. I was a soft-hearted kid who cried at the end of Charlotte’s Web just thinking about poor Wilbur being left alone, but the thought of pigs like Wilbur being butchered turned my stomach, but not enough to turn down ham or pork chops.       My grandmother was a sweet and gentle woman who my mother claimed was vastly different from the stern woman who’d raised her. Grandma came to this country from the Azores at the age of five, but she always lived in Portuguese communities, this ba ... read more

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September 08, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m not a golfer and might never have had the opportunity to set foot inside a venerable old golf club were it not for my in-laws, avid golfers who joined The Portland Golf Club shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1985.      One Saturday afternoon my father-in-law invited me to lunch at the Portland Golf Club. My father-in-law was a gregarious guy who’d made friends with Mr. Denley, the club’s general manager. While enjoying our lunch in the men’s grill, Denley approached with something in hand.      He said, “Mr. Petty, look at what I found upstairs stored away in a box.” He handed an old scorecard to my father-in-law. It was signed by Humphrey Bog ... read more

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I'm Being Published!

September 10, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    I know many of you have been published, but I’ve been writing nonstop for a decade without seeing a single word in print outside the Blogosphere. I recently learned that a California publisher has accepted my work for an upcoming collection of true stories titled Working for a Living. The collection is being published by Not Your Mother’s Books and is tentatively scheduled to come out in November.      The publisher liked my story enough to request a photograph to accompany it. My piece is called Out With the Mop Water, an account of me being fired from my first job as a janitor’s assistant at Kress Department Store. Creating a photograph to accompany my piece turned out to be more d ... read more

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The Mrs. Urbanick Experience

September 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      As I was driving home from swimming the other morning, the road in front of me was choked with school buses collecting kids and transporting them to school. Those buses reminded me that in the sixth grade someone briefly lit up my juvenile universe, outshining Helen Delgado, my best friend’s mother, who I’d had a crush on since I was five years old. Briefly eclipsing Helen was Mrs. Urbanick, my sixth grade teacher. Back then, I had no idea how quickly, or tragically, my new infatuation would end.   ************************************************   Every sixth-grade boy at our school had a thing for Mrs. Urbanick. Sophisticated, blond, regal; she was the Grace Kelly of our elementary schoo ... read more

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The Night Watch

September 15, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I enjoy sharing my love of art history and recently asked for suggestions for topics readers might want discussed. This post was prompted by someone suggesting Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Essays on art can be rather dry but consider yourself warned; you’re about to see a man having his brains blown out.      Few paintings are as famous as Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, or as misunderstood. For beginners, it’s set in a dim alley but doesn’t depict a night scene, and it isn’t a watch. A famous Charles Laughton movie would have us believe that people laughed at the painting when it was unveiled, bringing ruin upon the artist—again, not true. Still, I rank this as one of the grea ... read more

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Bugs and Bistros

September 17, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      First posted 8/03/11   Mrs. Chatterbox and I recently dined at her favorite bistro in a fashionable part of town not far from where we live. After being seated, I placed my napkin on my lap. When it dropped to the floor, I bent down to retrieve it and noticed a dead cockroach under our table. I’m not particularly squeamish—little over the years has prompted me to lose my appetite—but the sight of that cockroach conjured up an incident in another restaurant years ago.      In 1976, Mrs. C. and I had only been married two years when we decided to backpack through Europe. We’d just landed in Athens. With a copy of Frommer’s Europe on Ten Dollars a Day in hand, we soug ... read more

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Picture of the Week #5

September 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Years ago I attended a three day seminar by noted illustrator/painter Marshall Arisman. Arisman had made a big splash in the world of illustration with work featured on the cover of Time Magazine, as well as other major publications at the time. Arisman’s work was unique in that his figures were grotesque yet impossible to categorize by race. If a magazine featured a cover story on child molestation, the editors were determined to avoid offending particular ethnic groups. If the molester was portrayed as white, white folks would be offended. If the molester was portrayed as black or Asian or Hispanic, those people would be likewise upset. Arisman’s work offended everyone equally. It’s been s ... read more

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September 22, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Do you have special words in your family that aren’t found in the dictionary, words only those who share DNA with you can understand? A few weeks ago our son CJ was visiting. Mrs. C. fried up some chicken. After eating his fill, our son pushed away his plate and announced he’d had enough. I wasn’t finished eating and without thinking exclaimed, “Moosh-vega!”      “Are you having a stroke, Dad?” CJ asked. “What was that you said—moosh-vega?”      “It’s a Portuguese word your grandmother taught me as a child. Your grandmother’s family spoke it at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other holiday celebrated with food. It was ... read more

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Late Night Intruder

September 24, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I enjoy watching HGTV, especially programs where designers compete to remodel older properties. Lately I’ve noticed that wallpaper, which had all but disappeared as a home fashion statement, is making a comeback.      I shiver while recalling previous homes with hideous wallpaper that had to be removed, or wallpaper that had been painted over. A prized moment happened years ago when I managed to get an entire strip of wallpaper off in one piece. Removal usually took forever, with the detached pieces the size of postage stamps. I was glad when wallpaper went out of style.      Shortly after CJ was born in 1980, Mrs. Chatterbox decided she wanted to brighten his nursery wit ... read more

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Really, I'm Not a Terrorist!

September 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Three days ago I received an e-mail from one of my favorite bloggers, Catalyst/Taylor at Oddball Observations. His e-mail was short and succinct: Say it isn’t so!!! This link was attached.   http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/09/stephen-hayes-on-dhs-terrorist-watchlist-195996.html   When I clicked on it, I was connected to a news story about a journalist who’d discovered he was on Homeland Security’s Terrorist Watchlist. The journalist’s name was Stephen F. Hayes.      Frankly, I’ve been terrorized by this fellow for years. He’s a regular Fox News contributor (shudder), and a senior writer for The Weekly Standard, not a publication I hold in high regard. Worst of ... read more

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You Never Know

September 29, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Recently while shopping at our local grocery store, I was reminded of someone I hadn’t thought of in years, someone who’d inadvertently changed my outlook on life. It happened shortly after I got married and moved to Oxnard, California.      My art degree hadn’t opened any career doors for me, but after a long and exhausting search I landed a job as a display manager for Mervyn’s Dept. Store. I was trained to trim windows and change mannequins, and sent to a newly opened store in Oxnard, California. Oxnard was a small coastal town about an hour north of Los Angeles. Back then, it was an agricultural community famous for growing lettuce and soybeans. Mrs. Chatterbox and I weren’t particul ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

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