Blog Archive


The Conch Republic

June 01, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Among the first things we noticed after pulling into Key West were confusing references to the Conch Republic. Hundreds of souvenirs were labeled Conch Republic, including a hat I purchased for Mrs. Chatterbox. A little research provided information on an interesting event.   In 1982 The United States Border Patrol, in an attempt to apprehend illegal aliens and drug traffickers, set up a road block and inspection point on US#1, the only bridge leading into the Florida Keys. The mayor of Key West, Dennis Wardlow, made repeated demands for the removal of the barricade as it was destroying Key West’s tourist business, but his complaints went unanswered.      Wardlow decided that if the Feds were going to seal ...

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The Big Squeeze

June 03, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most people are now aware of the python problem in the Florida Everglades. We didn’t see any on our trip through the mangroves, but our guide, Captain Dave, had much to say about the region’s invasive reptiles.             A fallacy has taken root, convincing people that these invasive Burmese pythons were released into the Everglades by pet owners who didn’t want them anymore, but it turns out this is an urban myth. Eight hundred of these reptiles were freed when Hurricane Andrew destroyed a breeding facility in 1992. One can only question the wisdom of allowing anyone to breed an invasive species in the backyard of the Everglades. Word of the release was quickly re ...

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Hemingway's Polydactyls

June 06, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One of the things Mrs. Chatterbox was keen on seeing in Key West was the Hemingway House. The celebrated writer lived here less than ten years, but it was where he was most prolific, penning The Snows of Kilimanjaro, To Have and Have Not and The Green Hills of Africa. Key West has claimed Hemingway as their local celebrity and his name and image turn up like Saint Francis’ in Assisi.             The house, built in 1851 by a rich maritime salvager, had suffered years of neglect by the time it was purchased for $8000 by Hemingway’s second wife’s uncle and given to the couple as a wedding present. Hemingway had little money at the time. The property stands at sixteen f ...

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June 08, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Can one insect make up for a lifetime of bug torment?   All my life I’ve been bugged by—bugs! It isn’t that I’m afraid of them; the sight of multi-legged and winged insects doesn’t set my heart to palpitating. My problem is that bugs like me too much. They see me as a smorgasbord, a yummy blood buffet, tastier than anyone else. I’ve joked that I should rent myself out for outdoor picnics and barbecues to keep insects from biting guests. A doctor once told me that my body temperature is slightly higher than most people’s, drawing blood-hungry insects to me. I don’t know if this is true or not, but what is true is my nasty relationship with bugs.         ...

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A Few More Pictures

June 10, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        On our final day in Key West we bought tickets for a hop on hop off open-air trolley providing running commentary on points of interest. I was particularly interested in literary luminaries who found inspiration here—writers other than Ernest Hemingway.   Our guide pointed out that after a terrible fire in the late 1800s, a law was passed requiring all buildings to have metal roofs. Years later a writer holed up on the third floor of  the Crowne Plaza Key West La Concha Hotel on Duval Street, and while looking out the window at all the metal roofs he was hit with inspiration. The writer was Tennessee Williams, and the work was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.       Crowne Plaza Ke ...

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Last Night in Key West

June 13, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve always had a fascination with the sea. This might be the result of an atavistic connection with my seafaring ancestors from the Azores, but I get crabby if I go too long without smelling ocean spray or seeing the unfettered horizon. Whenever I vacation at a coastal destination I make an effort to be on the water. I love sailing ships and once had an opportunity to sail on a schooner built in the 1800s, the very ship used in the 1937 film Captain’s Courageous. It was awesome walking the same deck as Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, John Carradine, Mickey Rooney and Lionel Barrymore.   Mrs. Chatterbox and I booked a sunset dinner cruise for our last night in Key West. We weren’t able to book an actual sailing ...

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The Cure Will Kill You

June 17, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I can’t even remember writing this post from 2012, back when I only had five followers.   ***********************************   Last night while watching TV a commercial appeared that went something like this. (Note: imagine this being voiced over by a minor celebrity from the Seventies whose career stalled after several DUIs.)       “Is your life so empty that you don’t care your kids are now covered in tattoos heralding a Zombie Apocalypse, or that your spouse has a house account at the Embassy Suites and a credit card receipt for a strip pole in his hotel room?  Or that you’ve broken the tail-wagging mechanism on the formerly exuberant golden retriever that now whimper ...

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A Huge Announcement !

June 20, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Considering the topic of this post, I shouldn’t use the word “huge.” But a few of you left comments on my recent Key West posts that I should address. Some readers noticed that in my photographs I look thinner. In fact, I’ve been working at becoming healthier; so far I’ve lost fifty pounds.             It all began last year a few weeks before our trip to Germany. I’d taken the light rail into Portland to see an El Greco painting on loan from the Cleveland Art Museum. It was wonderful weather, a fine day to enjoy the walk from the transit station to the museum, but I arrived at the museum short of breath, my heart pounding. As I stared at th ...

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A Humbling Confession

June 22, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  In spite of the fact that my interests lean in the direction of art and history, I’ve always tried to present myself as a competent, if slightly atypical, American male. I’ve worked hard most of my life, paid my taxes and was an active parent when it came to raising our son. I’ve traveled the world and participated in some amazing adventures, but I have a dark secret.             Confession is said to be good for the soul, so today I’m coming clean. In spite of many (questionable?) accomplishments, there’s one task where I’m hopelessly deficient. What makes this deficiency galling is that most of you—even you ladies—are comfortab ...

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Sorry, Mr. Einstein

June 24, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                I’m not a fan of Facebook and other than blogging don’t spend much time on social media, but every now and then something will catch my eye, like this rejection letter addressed to a young Albert Einstein, who’d seemingly applied for a doctorate in Physics at the University of Bern.  It was posted on the Internet to inspire people. After all, if Einstein could overcome rejection, so can we. The Internet is filled with patriotic and morally uplifting platitudes, and if you drew inspiration from this rejection letter please accept my sympathies, but I snickered when I saw this—because it’s so obviously a fake.       &nbs ...

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The Eye of the Beholder

June 27, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so the saying goes.   My dad’s Uncle John was a curious fellow. He lived in a hacienda in the foothills of San Jose, built with his own hands in the late 1920s. Uncle John was a painter, potter and writer, quite the intellectual in his day. Once a year his good friend Zane Grey would arrive from New York for a month-long visit. Uncle John was married to Josephine. The couple were not blessed with children, but the couple took an interest in my fatherless dad, who spent many childhood summers running barefoot around the property, killing rattlesnakes, hunting mountain lions that frequented the area, and helping Uncle John with his pottery business.   Uncle John sold his pottery from a ...

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Forty-Two Years Today!

June 29, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today Mrs. Chatterbox and I are celebrating our forty-second wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe we’ve been together that long, and I’m reminded of the day I asked her father for her hand in marriage. This post is an excerpt from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope.   ***********************      It was late December in 1973. The future Mrs. C. always seemed to know me better than I knew myself and figured a proposal was near. She suggested that, when the time came, it would be classy if I asked her father for her hand in marriage. Although I’d seen this done in movies, I should have been better prepared. When I arrived at her parents’ house, I felt like wide-eyed Wally ...

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