Blog Archive



December 01, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      It’s been cold and dreary here in Portland, and I’ve been thinking about a wonderfully sunny excursion Mrs. Chatterbox and I took several years ago. After cruising through the Panama Canal, we stopped in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California Penninsula. At the end of the pier was a tired old vessel. I’ve always been interested in vintage ships and once wrote a novel about the mysterious Mary Celeste. I was fascinated by the ship tied to the pier, and delighted to learn it provided rides, with an excursion about to depart.               The 1885 schooner was called the Sutherland. She needed a paint job and her rig ...

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Why, God?

December 03, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m receiving pictures from fellow bloggers showing snow-covered front lawns and backyards, reminding me of the first time I saw snow. Mrs. Chatterbox was an Army brat and grew up in Germany where snow is plentiful, but for me snow was an elusive mirage constantly out of reach. The Santa Clara Valley, home until I was twenty, was famous for its moderate fruit-growing weather, and the snow I coveted would have destroyed crops of luscious apricots and pears, but when my family piled into our car for a trip to the coast we’d pass a road stop in the Santa Cruz mountains called Santa’s Village, a tawdry collection of quaint buildings covered in plywood candy canes and plaster snow. I’d ask if we could stop and walk around ...

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I Almost Felt Guilty

December 05, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts

The nice folks at Retirement and Good Living have asked for another story, and I’ve shared an account of a special car I purchased to celebrate my retirement. I might have gone too far with a practical joke I pulled on my salesman—you be the judge. Please follow the link and leave a comment so they’ll invite me back. Thanks.



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A Fraud at Westminster Abbey?

December 08, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                    Most of Britain’s great writers are memorialized in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, and quite a few are buried there, including Chaucer, Blake, Browning, Dickens, Tennyson and Kipling. Interred here is James Macpherson. Never heard of him? He pulled off the most successful literary scam in modern history.               James Macpherson (1736-1796) was a Scottish divinity student who claimed to have discovered ancient Gaelic poems while traveling through the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles. He showed his translations to a few scholars who encouraged him to publish them. After fi ...

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Complaining About the Weather

December 10, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. —Mark Twain— *************************************** Most regions of our country are currently experiencing severe weather and quite a few bloggers are commenting on it. It seems that weather reports on the evening news are getting longer and longer, as if we’re all still farmers and need to know when to go out and plant the back forty. Well, I don’t know any farmers and I don’t need to know if it’s going to drizzle in Gilliam, Sherman, Wheeler or other counties where people are few and a good time is had by dressing farm animals in people clothes.   As far as I’m concerned, rain is rain, and I don’t ...

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Contest Update

December 11, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
On November 17th I mentioned that I was entering a travel writing contest with my entry Whirling Dervishes. My piece made it through the first round and is being considered for a prize. The originator of the contest is We Said Go Travel and my story was posted a few days ago. Unfortunately, it hasn’t received any comments and I’m hoping a few of you can provide some. I know this is asking a lot at this busy time of year, and most of you have already read my story, but any help you can give would be appreciated. Here’s the link. Thanks so much. ...

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Playing With Food

December 12, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 3/21/12             I was driving home from the grocery store yesterday and the deejay on the radio was spinning moldy oldies and asking trivia questions. One of the questions was: “What was the first toy or game advertised directly to children on television?” I’m terrible at trivia and usually rely on Mrs. C. to fill me in on the Zeitgeist, but I couldn’t help shouting out answers. The Hula Hoop! Play-Doh! Cootie! “Wrong,” said the deejay when listeners phoned in these answers. I’ll pause here before giving the correct response so you can yell an answer at your computer screen..................   Okay; the correct answer is—Mr. Potat ...

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Free Delivery

December 15, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m only being honest when I say most people like me. I’m light-hearted and don’t take things too seriously, and I’m great at faking sincerity. It’s true that the corners of my mouth curve upward in an impish grin that people sometimes take for a smirk, but all in all I get along well with people. I’ve also spent years in retail and know what it means to give good service, and I treat salespeople as I wanted to be treated when I was wearing the nametag. But one fellow didn’t care much for me in spite of my attempts to thaw his icy disapproval.             Backing up just a bit, we’d just moved into an old house in downtown Portland. We&r ...

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Finding the Porziuncola

December 17, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Like many Catholics, I grew up enthralled by the story of Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. Francis and I both shared a profound love for God’s creatures, and one of my childhood treasures was a book showing a fresco of Saint Francis preaching to birds. One of the details in St. Francis lore capturing my attention was the Porziuncola, a small chapel that had fallen into disrepair in Francis’ day.             The name Porziuncola means “small portion of land.” It’s well-known that Francis came from a wealthy family only to turn his back on riches and luxury to focus on the poor. He was living in rags near this ...

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The Deal Breaker on Being Jewish

December 19, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This year I finally completed my memoir “The Kid in the Kaleidoscope,” and it includes this reposted story from 2012. I painted the illustration for a card company in 1995.   ***************************   Jonathan Khorman lived three houses down from me. One day while perched in the sycamore tree in his front yard he turned to me and made a startling declaration. “I’m one of the chosen people,” he said.   “Chosen for what?” I asked.   He shifted his weight on the branch he was sitting on. “Chosen to be special.”   “Who chose you?”   “God did.”   “Really?”   “Says so in the Bible. Jews are Go ...

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Mrs. Claus in Old Town

December 22, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Since closing my illustration studio in Portland over a decade ago, I’ve had little reason to travel downtown, a place I’d avoid completely were it not for a certain food that calls to me like heroin summoning a junkie. Portland is famous for its many food trucks, and when my studio was operational I became addicted to lamb biryani, a curry and rice dish served up by a truck beneath a tawdry sign reading Taste of India.             Several days ago I was bored and struggling to generate enthusiasm for the Holidays. Lately, I’ve been feeling low, and housebound, and decided to take the train downtown to improve my mood—soak up Christmas lights, do a little shopp ...

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An After Christmas Miracle

December 26, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Some of you might not be ready for Christmas to be over, so here is a fictional piece I wrote that was inspired by an after 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 m ...

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A Lesson for CJ

December 29, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
How nice it would be if my creative inventiveness accommodated the season—if only Christmas stories would flow from me right before the holidays, the same with Easter or Halloween. But my brain doesn’t work that way. This morning I was scratching my head for something to write about, and instead of an idea about dreary winter popping into my head, a vintage summer memory filled my thoughts. So, for those of you in need of a break from hoary Old Man Winter, here’s a warm weather story.             Mrs. Chatterbox’s parents moved to Portland when CJ was five years old. They wanted to be near enough to play a role in their grandson’s life, and we all got alo ...

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No Fashion Guru

December 31, 2014 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few years ago I made a dreadful mistake, something absurd for one as cultured and capable as yours truly. Even before revealing what I did, I can imagine you ladies— and some of you guys—tsk..tsk…tsking me for my stupidity. I can almost hear you turning to loved ones and speaking of me as if I’d been picked up on the street in my underwear, not knowing who I was. “He seemed so smart,” you might say, “…and he knew all that crap about art.” With hope that some benefit will come from a full disclosure, here is a questionable and insincere acknowledgement of my failure as a fashion expert and cultural know-it-all.             Not l ...

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