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

2017

Welcome 2017

January 02, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I hope everyone had a safe and relaxing New Year’s holiday. I, for one, won’t feel sad 2016 has come to an end. For us, it began in a hospital intensive care unit and ended at a funeral home. It was the year our son survived a brain aneurysm, but more recently it was also the year we lost my mother.   My time has been filled making funeral arrangements, having Mom’s cremains shipped to California so she can be laid to rest beside my dad, who passed away unexpectedly eight years ago. Mom never got over losing Dad and I don’t think her final years were happy ones, in spite of the efforts Mrs. Chatterbox and I did to bring some pleasure into her last years.   Cleaning out her apartment has been a painful t ... read more

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Simplifying Buddhism

January 04, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I came across this fun story which attempts to explain Buddhism with a simple parable.   **************************   A young Buddhist monk walks through a forest, so deep in meditation that he doesn’t notice he’s being stalked by a large man-eating tiger. When he becomes aware of the beast he hurries away and a chase begins. In his haste, the monk doesn’t pay attention to where he’s going and runs off a cliff. As he falls his robes catch on the exposed root of a tree protruding from the cliff. Instead of plunging to his death the monk hangs suspended in the air.             He looks down and sees sharp rocks projecting upward. His robes begin to ... read more

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After Christmas Miracle

January 06, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Here is a reworked fictional piece I wrote in 2012 that was inspired by a post 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 my car.           & ... read more

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Snowgaritas

January 09, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yesterday was a snow day here in Portland—just a light dusting with freezing rain on the way—but the inclement weather reminded me of a time a few years back when our son CJ was visiting for the holidays. We were living downtown and an arctic front had moved down from Alaska. We were snowed in.             With little to do, CJ and I decided to sit out the storm wrapped in the warm glow of liquor. But what to drink? Over the holiday we’d drained nearly all of our potent potables, with the exception of a bottle of tequila.             A brilliant idea surfaced. “Let’s make a batch of margaritas,&rdqu ... read more

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Something Strange in the Neighborhood

January 11, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Something strange is going on at Casa Chatterbox; one room unaccustomed to action is now receiving it—our bedroom!             I wish I could admit that I’m responsible for the new level of excitement in our bedroom, but credit goes to the cable man. Sure, there was a time when I was a firecracker in the bedroom, but these days I’m an inconsistent “Ole Sparky.”   We recently had our equipment updated by Comcast, not that I noticed anything different, at first. I’m typically an early to bed and early to rise person; I don’t get up much during the night, but recently I woke around 2:30 in the morning and noticed a strange light show&mdash ... read more

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Snowmageddon Revisited

January 13, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Thanks to all of you who heard about Portland's big snow storm and e-mailed to ask if Mrs. Chatterbox and I were okay. We survived the storm quite well, although we've been snowbound since Tuesday night and are now suffering from cabin fever. I'd just finished packing the last of my mother's things into a U-Haul truck when the flakes started falling. They say we haven't had snow like this in a decade.   Here are a few pictures I managed to take yesterday when I finally ventured outside:       View from our rear balcony       Looking across our driveway. The fellow in the yellow slicker shoveling snow didn't offer to do our driveway.         This fath ... read more

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End of the Trail

January 16, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I mentioned in my last post that Mrs. Chatterbox and I were going to break out of our snow-choked prison and travel to the coast for a weekend get-a-way—and I promised pictures. CJ and his lady, the lovely Andrea, arrived with news that CJ had finally popped the question and the two are now officially engaged. Mrs. C. and I couldn’t be happier.             It was CJ and Andrea’s idea to make a trip to the coast. I’m not a confident driver and wouldn’t have considered such a trip in these conditions, but this particular snowstorm arrived from the south and hadn’t blown down from Alaska so the coast was actually 15/20 degrees warmer than Portland, or ... read more

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Toby

January 18, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Years ago I came to the conclusion that animals were not put on this earth to entertain us; they have as much right to exist as we humans. But I have a confession to make. I didn’t always think so.             You might have heard that after one hundred and forty-six years Ringling Bros. Circus will soon be collapsing its big top for the last time. If you’re like me, you recently applauded when Ringling announced it was retiring all its elephants to an animal sanctuary. I’ve always loved animals, and when I was a kid I loved elephants more than any other. But I also loved lions and tigers and other animals that my childhood imagination transformed into fun companions ... read more

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Comparing Apples and Oranges

January 20, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
During the election, and later over the holidays, I overheard many conversations about politics. People were comparing presidential candidates. Someone said, “They’re all so different! It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”             I’ve heard that apples and oranges reference my whole life and I just don’t get it. When I was small it was right up there with: Six of one, half dozen of another, which I didn’t understand as a kid but now makes perfect sense. Another strange one was: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Growing up I never saw a horse or a beggar in our neighborhood. But why has the comparison of apples and oranges become su ... read more

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Free is a Very Good Price

January 23, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Cleaning out the apartment of a deceased parent can be traumatic, but I’m the sort of person who always looks on the bright side, often finding humor in the most unlikely of places.             Mom had some nice pieces of furniture but Mrs. Chatterbox and I already have a house stuffed with furniture, and our son CJ didn’t want much more than a few mementos. We contacted a consignment store that had previously sold items for Mom when she downsized into her apartment. The consignment store refused to take the items I was most eager to see hauled away, so I made numerous pilgrimages to Goodwill. I think I made up for that time I talked them down on the price of a frame, for ... read more

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Peculiarities

January 25, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          It turns out that I don’t need to check my peculiar picture file to find peculiarities: I’m surrounded by them. There are countless peculiar items at Casa Chatterbox. Some of these have stories, others are a mystery and I have no idea where they came from. Little unintentional arrangements seem to be springing up like mushrooms, perhaps a commentary on our ability to keep an orderly home. These items can be attributed to our eclectic style and sense of whimsy.             Señor Chill was purchased on a trip to Mexico. Painted in bright colors and crafted in various sizes, millions of these brightly painted grinning skulls gree ... read more

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The Face of Genius

January 27, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Until modern times, a widely accepted premise in the art world held that a bad picture of a famous person was more valuable than a brilliant painting of a still life or landscape. America has always lagged behind when it comes to creating great portrait artists. There are no masterpieces showing George Washington because the best painter in post Revolutionary War America was Gilbert Stuart, a competent craftsman lacking the spark of genius. And we can only wonder how Abraham Lincoln’s soulful eyes might have been rendered by a master like Rembrandt.   In the 1840s, photography began dealing a deathblow to oil portraits. Sitting for a photograph was easier and became a popular activity, even though it required the subject to rem ... read more

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Diamond Shopping

January 30, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Our son CJ recently asked me to help find a radiant cut center diamond for the engagement ring he planned on giving his fiancée. CJ generously shares his automotive expertise with us and I was happy to reciprocate by sharing my knowledge of diamonds, since I’d managed a jewelry store for eight years.   Society has changed significantly since I stood behind a diamond counter. When we walked into Jared Jewelers we were greeted at the door and asked what brought us in. CJ responded by saying we were looking for an engagement ring.   The greeter grinned and said, “Congratulations, you two.”   What the F*+#K? CJ is my son. The greeter thought we were a couple!   As we browsed through t ... read more

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Mystery Box

February 01, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This reworked post is from 2012             The box looked like it had been constructed in a hurry, even to my twelve year old eyes, It was rough and unpolished and made of cheap plywood, six panels forming a twenty-four inch cube. Little care had gone into the construction; the sides had been roughly screwed together and there were no hinges or latches to indicate an opening. Nothing was written on it and there was no way to glimpse inside without tearing it apart.             When I was growing up, the box collected dust in our garage. Its only official purpose was to serve as a pedestal for the short and stout Christmas trees ... read more

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Mystery Box: Conclusion

February 03, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  If you missed Part One of this post you can find it (here).   ***************************************      The box had occupied space in our garage for as long as I could remember, and even though it was off-limits I’d allowed Ricky Delgado, my best friend, to talk me into opening it.   My heart sank when I didn’t see a Japanese flag or a chunk of scorched metallic scrap from a kamikaze. Only boring papers and old photographs, just what Dad had said was inside. Black and white snapshots of a remarkably young Dad in his Navy uniform, hamming it up with buddies on shore leave, downing drinks in exotic looking bars. It’s hard to accept that your parents had lives before you came along, ... read more

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Passages

February 06, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The older we get the more rites of passage we experience, momentous events like a first kiss, receiving a driver’s license or getting married and having children, but nothing strikes with as much sobering finality as seeing your parents’ names on a tombstone.             This weekend was notable in several ways. Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday and I’m always reminded of 2008 and Super Bowl XLII. We’d invited my parents over to watch the game and enjoy a few munchies. Mom grew bored and insisted they leave at halftime. Dad called from home when the game concluded to thank us for having them over and to share his joy at the game’s outcome; we were both root ... read more

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Peculiar Pictures 57 & 58

February 08, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Both of these illustrations are peculiar, yet both were commissioned pieces published as magazine covers. I’m posting them as examples of marginally successful illustrations, not because the clients were displeased with them, but because they have no use on a secondary market.   I was an inexperienced illustrator when I created them, unaware that my work could generate additional income being resold to other art directors, a common practice in the business. My illustrations typically sold for under a thousand dollars. At first I painted in oil, eventually switching to quick-drying acrylic. At the peak of my career I was painting as many as three illustrations a day. Often, I’d sell the same illustration half a dozen times ... read more

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A Nice Surprise

February 10, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It’s always a nice surprise when I encounter my artwork in unexpected places. Not long ago while vacationing in Sedona, Arizona, I picked up a copy of Arizona Business Magazine in the restroom of the bed and breakfast where we were staying. As I thumbed through it I spotted a familiar picture­—one of mine!             This generic image was included in my CD Business Fundamentals. I never know how or where my work will be used; the only restriction is the art can’t be marketed for its own sake, like a T-shirt design or wall décor. Illustration CDs are old school, not used much anymore, but I still receive royalties for individual sales. The magazine should ... read more

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A Tale of Two Couches

February 13, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In the forty-two years that Mrs. Chatterbox and I have been married, we’ve purchased our fair share of furniture, including a half dozen couches. We’re never happy with the couches we select; they end up being uncomfortable, the color is wrong or they fall apart—perhaps our fault since we live on our couches and we aren’t lightweight people.             There was a time when we decided on a sectional but got cold feet, instead purchasing two matching moss-green couches. We enjoyed them until we moved and they no longer looked good in our new place. We purchased a new down filled red couch from Crate and Barrel (which we also hated because of constant molting) a ... read more

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Executive Action

February 15, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m confused, and worried!   We’ve all seen pictures of our new president signing executive orders. Some, like the one placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council, we now know he didn’t even read, but my confusion isn’t about the content of these executive orders. Rather, my focus is on why Trump finds it necessary to resort to them.             The Constitution permits the president to issue executive orders for a variety of reasons. Presidents have signed them throughout our history, often in times of war or when Congress has adjourned. And let’s be clear, they’ve always been subject to judicial review.   Every president, w ... read more

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A Chance Encounter

February 17, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
There are times when I miss having a studio in downtown Portland. Cities have a pulse that suburbs lack. Pioneer Square is Portland’s living room, a fun spot in the center of the city to watch people and soak up rays if it happens to be a rare sunny day. While strolling across the square I’ve encountered sandcastle contests, Cultural Fairs, Irish dancing, religious fanatics and political activists. When Bill Clinton was president I saw him and Hillary at Pioneer Square.             One sunny afternoon years ago I happened to be crossing the square when I saw a good looking young guy playing a guitar. Guys playing guitars aren’t a rarity in downtown Portland so at fir ... read more

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Peculiarities #2

February 20, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This is the second installment of my new feature, Peculiarities, odd items found around the house, some of which defy explanation.             I’ve written about the hundred-year-old house we owned in downtown Portland, but I haven’t mentioned the bathroom we decided to remodel. The house came with an original claw foot tub, which we were excited about until we tried to use it. That tub took an hour to fill and the water was icy cold long before reaching a proper level. We needed a shower and I hired a contractor, Rusty, to build one. A vent was needed to insure a smooth flow of water so an opening had to be cut, providing access to the attic so a hole could be cut in the ... read more

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Bolshoi Bragging

February 22, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  This reworked post is from 2012     The Fantasy             Cultured and sophisticated people are a different breed from Joe Six Pack and the other plebeians on the street. The world is their playground and they cast a larger shadow than average people. They donate money to museums and universities and have their names engraved on libraries, hospital wings and research centers. They donate to Masterpiece Theatre (cultured folk do not spell it theater) their children attend exclusive schools and their dogs are the offspring of champions awarded ribbons by stout dog experts with names like Mrs. Fitzboozer Smythe or Mr. Roger-Bailey Van Bumsby.   While most me ... read more

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Lucy's Selfie

February 24, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t normally post pictures from the Internet but I’m sure everyone has Trump fatigue and some of you might welcome a brief distraction.   This image recently caught my eye. Lucy was born at a shelter in Greater Rochester, New York. No one seemed interested in the pup and it looked like she’d never find a permanent home.   Lucy’s picture was eventually added to the shelter’s website and it wasn’t long before someone called to point out something interesting in the image, something no one at the shelter had noticed. One of Lucy’s ears sported a selfie—a close likeness of the pup.   Workers at the shelter were startled when it was pointed out. Hard to believe such a strik ... read more

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My First Time

February 27, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        It isn’t often I can remember the first time I ate something. Most things I consume out of habit from childhood, but some items were included later in life. One such food, once known to few Americans, is now ubiquitous enough to be sold everywhere. Any guesses what I’m referring to? Clue—it isn’t unicorn meat.   The year was 1975. I'd recently graduated from UCLA and gotten married. I was working at an art gallery in Santa Monica called Le Garage (it had once been an auto repair business) and one of my co-workers suggested a lunch excursion to a part of Los Angeles I’d never visited. Her name was Aarone (pronounced Aar-ó-née). Her father had expected a boy an ... read more

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Public Art

March 01, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I recently happened across one of my children, not a flesh and blood child—of which I have only one—but an artistic child of which I have many. It brought back memories; I was proud of this assignment when I landed it in the 90s; at $2000 my biggest assignment to date.   I’d only been a full-time illustrator for a couple of months and had been pounding the pavement in downtown Portland, prowling advertising agencies and municipal offices looking for illustration assignments. My timing was good when I walked into the offices of Portland’s MAX Light Rail.   Portland had just entered into a deal with the Federal government to share cost of building a light rail rapid transit system. If you’ve ever vi ... read more

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Pet Alternatives

March 03, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I are empty nesters. I’ve worked from home for years, although I consider myself retired, and after twenty years with our police department Mrs. C. will be retiring in October. We’ve discussed getting a pet but so far haven’t made the trip to the Humane Society.   A pet would add a fresh perspective to our lives but we plan to travel more and don’t relish the idea of kenneling a dog. Cats are nice, but unfortunately Mrs. C. is allergic; her eyes water and turn red like a heroin addict’s if she sets foot in a house with a cat. Too bad; we both like cats.   I’ve discovered a few ways to combat loneliness for those of us without pets, especially if you can't afford to spend ... read more

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Peculiarities #3

March 06, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
   I’d just climbed into a barber’s chair when the front door opened and a raggedy fellow entered, struggling with a peculiar item under his arm.   “Anyone want to buy this?” he asked, extending his chin in the direction of the thing in his arms.   The occupants of three other barber’s chairs shook their heads, along with the scissor-wielding barbers hovering behind them. But I was intrigued, and had watched too many Antique Roadshows to ignore a possible treasure.   “What is it?” I asked.   The raggedy man cleared his throat and shrugged his shoulders, a gesture made difficult because of the item in his tattooed arms.   “Where did you get it?&rdqu ... read more

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Another Parody

March 08, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Back when I was teaching classes at our local art college, students often asked me where my illustration ideas came from. I’d point out that a rich source for ideas could be found in parody. Not long ago I published two posts, one on artistic parodies and the other on American painter Andrew Wyeth. This post combines the two. You probably know that a parody is a lampoon, caricature, imitation or mockery—a takeoff of something serious for satirical purposes.             You might have seen Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World, showing the artist’s crippled neighbor crawling across an empty field, one of America’s most ic ... read more

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Incredible Spaghetti!

March 10, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I haven’t been eating much spaghetti lately, but this post from 2013 reminds me of the best spaghetti I ever ate. *********************   The other day Mrs. Chatterbox made spaghetti. I like spaghetti well enough but this spaghetti was different. It was—incredible, so good that after a few mouthfuls I could barely concentrate on what I was eating. I finally set down my fork and said, “What’s different about this spaghetti?”   “Funny you should ask,” Mrs. C. said. “Do you remember when we went to Italy and I bought that special cooking oil in Sorrento?”   I confessed I didn’t remember.   “Well, I found it in the back of the pantry and thought I&rsq ... read more

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A Good Book

March 13, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve lived much of my life with a book which, until recently, I’d never read, a book belonging to my mother. I remember seeing it on a bookshelf as a child, listening to Mom talk about it over and over when I started writing in earnest. Mom would have been a child when she first read it, and it made such an impression that eighty years later after she passed and I was closing down her apartment, I happened across a copy of this special book. Finding it wasn’t hard. It was on the coffee table in her living room.             Mother was a voracious reader; it’s hard thinking of her without a book in her hand. Back when I received my driver’s license and was ... read more

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Spiders and Sputnik

March 15, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This post is an edited excerpt from my biography The Kid in the Kaleidoscope.   ***************************   I was a first grader in 1957, and one day after lunch our teacher pulled out a book and began reading a wonderful story called Charlotte’s Web, the tale of a spider who befriends a piglet. There were many super illustrations, making it easy for Miss Ludlum to cover a few dozen pages each day. When she came to the emotional ending I was sobbing so hard I got the hiccups.             My opinion of spiders was warped by this loving fable, but a reality check came when a fellow first grader trapped a black widow spider in a mayonnaise jar and brought it to our ... read more

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Fun with Flags

March 17, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
He was swarthy enough to look exotic, a fact he exploited, telling friends his blood was Middle Eastern. His name gave credence to the ruse—Hassam—which sounds like Has’sam (Arabic) although it was actually pronounced HASS’m.   Childe Hassam was an American Impressionist painter, but for years he included a crescent moon with the signature on his paintings. He even adopted the nickname “Muley” (from the Arabic for Lord or master), invoking Muley Abul Hassan, a fifteenth-century ruler of Granada in Washington Irving’s novel Tales of the Alhambra.   I mention this because one of Hassam’s paintings resides in a famous location. You might not recognize Hassam’s name but you&rs ... read more

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Controversy at Chubby Chatterbox

March 20, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The photo accompanying this post shows all my posts since starting Chubby Chatterbox seven years ago. I’m a terrible typist (actually I don’t type) so I peck these out the night before they’re posted. Mrs. Chatterbox, a former English major, checks them for inevitable typos and grammar issues—an answer for those of you who’ve asked if she reads my blog.   Believe it or not, I’ve tried to avoid controversy. My purpose in creating a blog was to entertain and share my love of art and travel. I try my best to steer clear of politics and religion, although I’ve dipped my toes into these waters on a few occasions. In spite of my efforts not to offend anyone, I’ve managed to do so on three occ ... read more

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People Soup

March 22, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. -Shakespeare-   *********************************************   Years ago I was not the sophisticate I would later pretend to be. I’m thinking about a time when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were newlyweds and had recently moved into a small one bedroom apartment. Money was tight; after paying our rent and other expenses there wasn’t anything left for entertainment. One cold November evening we were bored watching television when I came up with a great idea.   “This apartment complex has a swimming pool. Let’s go take a dip.”   “It’s much too cold outside to go swimming. Do you even know if the pool is heated?&rdqu ... read more

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Washington is Bugged

March 24, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
No, I’m not going there. This isn’t about politics. This is about a different kind of bug.   When CJ was twelve we made a trip to Washington D.C. The time was soon coming when he’d become a surly teenager not wanting to vacation with his uncool parents. He was studying US history in school and was the perfect age to be exposed to the capital. Money was tight, but Mrs. C. found a hotel that would accept our Entertainment Book’s fifty percent discount, and airfare wars made travel affordable.   Mrs. C. and I had never been to Washington and were excited to see the sights and do touristy things, but I was startled when I questioned CJ before the trip as to what he was most excited to see. I expected an ans ... read more

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Buzzing in the Bathroom

March 27, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This post might fall into the “Too Much Information” category but I’ve been inspired by a fellow blogger who wrote a humorous and informative post about poop, so here goes.   A few months ago I had my annual teeth cleaning. The hygienist informed me I had very little plaque but I was brushing too hard and should consider using an electric toothbrush to avoid future gum issues. I drove to Costco and purchased a Sonic electric toothbrush.   These devices, I discovered, require some getting used to. A week after converting to an electric toothbrush, after I’d grown accustomed to the annoying sound of electric buzzing, I noticed it looked like snow had fallen in our bathroom. White specs were everywhere, li ... read more

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The Timeless Art of Seduction

March 29, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
              Remember George Costanza and the timeless art of seduction? This post is about the art of seduction, but it involves a different Costanza.   The Museo Nazionale del Bargello is better than a dozen American museums, yet in Florence, Italy, it’s considered so second rate that many of its rooms are often locked, including the room housing a sculpture many consider one of the greatest works ever conceived.   The sculpture is a marble bust of a woman carved by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), a towering figure of Baroque art. You might remember my post on Bernini’s astonishing Apollo and Daphne (Check it out here). Thanks to his copious sculptures, fountains, in ... read more

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Hidden Treasure

March 31, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The lure of treasure! It has led greedy men to far corners of the earth in search of riches and glory. But when I was a kid I didn’t need to search the globe for the stuff of legends and dreams; it could be found behind our backyard fence. Close, yes, but the treasure wasn’t easy to find, yet once found the joy of discovery was mind boggling, providing the discoverer with instant popularity.             No one was happy when the pear orchard behind our house was ripped out to make room for a Catholic parish, except my parents who’d send me and my brother to church while they slept in on Sunday mornings. Before the church arrived, I’d reach over the fence and gr ... read more

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Into Dust

April 03, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Nearly thirty years later, it remains a day in retail I’ll never forget. A customer walked into the jewelry store I managed, asking about opals. I showed him a few but he wasn’t interested in buying. He seemed to know more about opals than I did, or so it seemed until disaster struck.   The secret to being a great salesperson doesn’t necessarily reside with the products you happen to be selling. Here’s a secret you might not know; the key to being a great salesperson is convincing the client that you’re the person they want to buy from. Convince them of this and you can sell them anything. To this end, I was tremendously successful. My ability to chatter like a magpie served me well.   One day a g ... read more

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A Piercing Dilemma

April 05, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This post describes another questionable adventure in retail. It happened several years after I’d become manager of the jewelry store mentioned in the previous post.   **********************             Jerry was one of my best customers. He and his lovely wife Mary Anne had purchased a small fortune in bling from me over the years. I was polite with all of my customers but over the years I developed a real fondness for Jerry and Mary Anne. It helped that Mary Anne was a beautiful woman, shapely with cascading Pre-Raphaelite red hair.             One day while browsing, Jerry slid up to me while Mary Anne was on the ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #59

April 07, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This illustration was not a commission. Painted on spec in my spare time, my hope was that art directors might find it useful. I painted hundreds of pictures in this manner. Frankly, I can’t even remember painting this one.    It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I found this image in a drawer, forgotten along with half a dozen Y2K illustrations that will never again see the light of day since the world didn’t end in the year 2000, seventeen years ago. I could easily imagine art directors using an illustration of a fortune teller for a variety of purposes: divining the future of the stock market, predicting the rise or decline of the dollar, sports results—anything with an uncertain outcome. With so many ... read more

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Peculiarities #4

April 10, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I had no idea where this post was going to lead when I started writing. My intention was a lighthearted description of another peculiar item at Casa Chatterbox, but a Google search sent me in a more serious direction, a tragic one.             It began in 1976 when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were backpacking through Europe with a dog-eared copy of Frommer’s Europe on Ten Dollars a Day. While exploring Paris near the Eiffel Tower, we passed many shops selling gorgeous Art Nouveau figurines and collectables—all costing hundreds of dollars. I love Art Nouveau and considered throwing our $10 daily budget out the window, but I couldn’t convince myself to spend hundreds of doll ... read more

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Freshly Brewed Hype!

April 12, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I always look forward to posts by Rick Watson, a talented author/columnist, blogger, and singer/guitar player. Rick’s blog, Life 101, is extremely well written and always uplifting, and we can always use more of that. I mention Rick because he recently posted a piece about his love of coffee. His initial experience with this brown elixir, which he refers to as “…love at first sip,” was much different than mine. Check it out (here). In contrast, I’m posting my very first blog from 2011 where I describe a very different reaction.    *********************************             Some things in life just don’t live up to their hype. Every time I ... read more

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Tulip Time

April 14, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Oregon’s weather is much like that of the Netherlands, which means tulips grow exceedingly well here. And once again, tulip time has arrived. It’s much anticipated because tulips bloom sooner than other flowers around here. Other than a few daffodils, nothing much is happening, except in Woodburn, Oregon, a sleepy agricultural community about thirty miles south of Portland where the fields have once again erupted in color.   I love photographing children almost as much as I like snapping pictures of flowers, and both were present in abundance. There were dozens of children out enjoying this colorful spectacle.                           ... read more

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A Very Good Dog

April 17, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I once saw a cartoon speculating on what dogs think. In the cartoon, owners were talking to the pooch but all it was hearing was, “Blah…blah…blah…Ginger,” poking humor at the millions of dogs forced to live with the ubiquitous name.   Years ago while I was toiling in retail, Mrs. Chatterbox and CJ went to the pound the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year. I recently came across a picture of our very own Ginger. Our son CJ had initially wanted to name the dog G.I. Joe, which didn’t seem appropriate for a female dog. We asked him to reconsider, and he chose Ginger.   Many families have a menagerie of pets over the years, and Casa Chatterbox is no exception. Ginger w ... read more

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Line By Line

April 19, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In order to be a successful illustrator, I found it necessary to wear a lot of hats. Clients often wanted portraits of CEOs for corporate reports, authors of newspaper columns and local politicians for editorial pages. Budgets were often small so color portraiture was out. I needed to create an inexpensive black and white product for images often destined for newsprint, which isn’t the best paper for reproduction; images often look washed out or mushy.   So, to satisfy my clients I set aside my paints and changed hats. I’ve long been interested in pen & ink line drawings. You might recall some of my previously posted caricatures. To increase my business, I developed a crosshatch style that reproduced cheaply without l ... read more

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Doggone!

April 21, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
On Monday I published a post about Ginger, the pet who tugged hardest on our heart strings. If you missed it, check it out (here). There was more to the story. I wasn’t present when the events of this tale unfolded, but Mrs. Chatterbox filled me in on the details.   It was 1997. Our beloved pet Ginger, who’d lived with us for nearly ten years, had been put to sleep when her organs shut down two years earlier. Mrs. C. was shopping at Macy’s. After entering the lingerie department and browsing through a few racks, she spotted an uncomfortable looking man, fidgeting while holding what was presumably his wife’s purse. Mrs. C. isn’t in the habit of looking at strange men (unless they’re first-string fir ... read more

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Kids Say the Darndest Things!

April 24, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
People of a certain age will recall Art Linkletter and his television shows in the 50s and 60s pointing out that Kids Say the Darndest Things. I was thinking about Art and his wonderful interaction with children a few days ago at the gym where I work out.   The gym is actually an old school high school, and the men’s locker room is situated off the gym area housing the auditorium/basketball court. When I finish in the weight room and head to the showers I must cross the basketball court, which is usually filled with dozens of toddlers having a playtime. Pedal cars and blocks are scattered about, and instructors play with the kids, showing them how to throw basketballs and kick soccer balls while parents (mostly mothers) sit on ... read more

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Dad Goes Solo

April 26, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was inspired to post this reworked piece from 2012 after discovering this photograph among my late mother’s things. It was taken after Dad soloed, earning his private pilot’s license. I’m the little grinning dork in the copilot seat, although I waited on the ground during the solo.   *****************************   Whenever Dad saw a picture of Amelia Earhart, he’d get a wistful faraway look on his face and mumble under his breath, “You know, she would have been an attractive woman with just a bit of makeup.”   I remember observing Dad as he watched a news report about her on TV: A picture of a smiling woman with short-cropped hair had popped up on the screen, and Dad was wearing th ... read more

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Dad Goes Solo: Conclusion

April 28, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Miss Part One? Check it out (here).   ******************   Valuable time ticked by as Dad fiddled with the plane’s flight instruments. When he’d finished tapping and adjusting every device in the cockpit, he contacted the tower on the squawky radio and we were told to proceed to the runway. With my heart beating like a hummingbird’s, I looked over at Dad. He appeared fully in control as man and machine became one. I still think of him this way, Helios the sun god. And I was to accompany him in his flaming chariot on a journey across the sky. The moment burned into my memory.             Dad cracked a window and shouted, “All clear!”  & ... read more

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Pope Paul III and His Grandsons

May 01, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I was an art history instructor I often told my students to check out “unfinished” paintings because they reveal far more secrets than finished ones. Like trees laid bare in winter, unfinished paintings reveal the architecture of their creation, illusionary tricks making the effects possible.   Titian was arguably the greatest painter in Western art, certainly the one who pushed oil and canvas beyond anything previously accomplished, so much so that his methods continue to influence artists four hundred years after his death. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I’ve written about Titian more than any other artist.   In 1546 Titian, regarded as “The Prince of Painters” by ... read more

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A True Story of Kindred Spirits

May 03, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  A fellow blogger recently asked if anyone has had a psychic experience, reminding me of this reworked post from 2012.   **************   In 2002 when we bought our house it was nearly a hundred years old. We’d only lived in it a week or two, not long enough to learn about the neighborhood or meet our neighbors. We’d arrived in the fall and the golden leaves on the old maple trees lining the street were falling with urgency.             One evening we were bundled up for the brisk walk home after dining at a popular neighborhood bistro when we rounded a corner and approached our house. I was so busy taking in the autumn colors and crisp fall air that I ... read more

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Tools and Taborets

May 05, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  My dad must have been smiling in heaven the other day over something that, while alive, he wouldn’t have anticipated —his mechanically challenged son walking into an auto parts store. My dad was a professional mechanic who retired from the City of Sunnyvale after twenty-five years of servicing fire trucks, ambulances and patrol cars. I did not inherit my dad’s aptitude for repairing things. At our house, if it can’t be fixed with a screwdriver, butter knife, rusty pliers or duct tape I get on the horn and call someone.   Backing up a bit; it’s spring, the weather is turning warmer and, as usual for this time of year, my thoughts turn to painting. Our house doesn’t have a proper place for me ... read more

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Two for One

May 08, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yesterday morning while Mrs. Chatterbox was cracking eggs for breakfast, I was reminded of something I hadn’t thought about since childhood.   My dad liked his eggs cooked “blindfolded,” where hot frying pan oil is flicked over eggs with a spatula. Like Dad, I preferred my eggs blindfolded. My mother was a good cook but she always broke the eggs, and even though I was a chubby kid I wouldn’t eat fried eggs if the yolks were broken or rubbery. Mom would just smash them and call them scrambled, and Dad would say it didn’t matter what they looked like, they all went to the same place, leaving me to wonder where he was implying they went.   Yes, Dad liked his eggs blindfolded but, unlike me, he’ ... read more

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Hitting the Road

May 10, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 It’s that time of year when Mrs. Chatterbox and I dust off our suitcases and prepare to hit the road. This time we’re headed to the south of France, the lavender fields of Provence to be specific. I was a bit worried about our trip because of the French election, but the French seem happy with their selection for president and, fingers crossed, there won’t be terrorist attacks or angry protests. If anyone starts ranting about Trump, who actively supported the losing Trumpesque candidate, we’ll tell them we’re Canadian.   We fly to Seattle and then on to Paris, where we won’t be spending much time since we’ve been there several times. We’ll be traveling to Dijon, mustard capital of ... read more

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Hotel of God

June 05, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
We’re back from our trip to southern France, and I’ll begin by making an important declaration—Mrs. Chatterbox and I are no longer Uber virgins. We downloaded the Uber app and paid only thirty dollars for a ride to the airport instead of paying nearly fifteen dollars a day at Portland airport’s Economy Parking. I doubt we’ll ever use a cab again.   The Flight to Paris was uneventful, even though the days of stretching out on an empty row of seats in an under booked airplane are over. We’ve been to Paris several times and the French capital wasn’t the focus of this trip, but we had a lovely meal at a small restaurant near Notre Dame called The Little Prince. Most of our travel companions were ... read more

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Leaving Dijon

June 07, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          Before leaving Dijon I popped into a museum and wandered through many rooms of impressive Medieval art. One sculpture caught my eye, not for the boring gold-draped couple but for the wonderful demons presumably tempting them.       Every city in France seems to be famous for something, especially in the Bourgogne region where food production reigns supreme. The city of Bresse (pronounced Brez) is famous for its milk-fed poultry production, with 1,200,000 chickens produced annually. This roadside sculpture proudly touts the city’s pride and joy.       There’s a joke about Bresse chickens that, frankly, took me a while to appreciate. It goes like thi ... read more

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Wine Country

June 09, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’m not much of a wine drinker. When I do enjoy a glass I prefer the cheap stuff, like Three Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. But we were visiting one of the world’s most prestigious wine regions and many people on our tour had come to experience as much of it as possible.   We traveled to the vineyard of Philippe M., whose family had produced wine for hundreds of years. Philippe had a wry sense of humor not captured in my photos, and his passion for wine was palpable. I learned much. Surprisingly, vines are kept short, unlike California or Oregon vines, on the assumption that vines and leaves shouldn’t take nutrients best absorbed by the grapes. I was surprised to learn the French don’t irrigate th ... read more

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A Sunny Place for Shady People

June 12, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Somerset Maugham famously described Monaco as a sunny place for shady people, but that changed when Hollywood royalty Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier and invited her elite friends and famous costars to the principality. Uncharacteristically, it was raining on the French Riviera as we traveled the short distance from Nice to Èze, (pronounced ez) a Medieval town perched on a hilltop with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean. But when we emerged from the Fragonard perfume factory at the base of Èze, with my wallet much lighter, the clouds had vanished.   Inhabited since 2000 BCE, Èze is today referred to as a “museum” town, and is popular with tourists looking for art galleries, souvenirs and a spe ... read more

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In Van Gogh's Footsteps

June 14, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Few artists have captured the public’s imagination like Vincent Van Gogh, whose self portraits, sunflower still lifes and sun-soaked fields are instantly recognized world-wide.   It was in the south of France that Van Gogh’s genius took root. Artists such as Cezanne (lifelong resident of nearby Aix-en-Provence) and Van Gogh made much of the quality of light in southern France, and as a fellow painter I was curious to see if I could perceive this special light that held such prominent artists spellbound.   Perhaps this was due to the fact that many French artists touting southern light were originally situated near Paris where the light is inconsistent, not ideal for landscape painting. Van Gogh wrote at length abou ... read more

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Bridging History

June 16, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’ve long been fascinated with bridges; being driven over the Golden Gate Bridge as a kid was quite a treat. Europe has many rivers and bridges and we were fortunate to visit three on our recent vacation. Many of these ancient bridges come with colorful stories about their construction.   The Pont d’ Avignon (built 1177-85) is world famous for the nursery rhyme known by most French children, and while standing on the broken span we heard dozens of children bursting into renditions of Sur le Pont d'Avignon. The bridge was already built when the Pope moved here from Rome in 1309 and began construction on a new papal palace, a move that would eventually cause a schism in the Church until the popes returned to Rome. According ... read more

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When Pigs Fly

June 19, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When we travel I try not to over familiarize myself with our destinations to maintain the element of surprise and avoid preconceptions that might turn into disappointments. I’d never heard of Carcassonne, and was amazed at what we found.   We passed through the fertile Languedoc region before heading inland to the fortified town of Carcassonne. We’d already been to several medieval fortified towns and I was less than enthused to see this one, but I was pleasantly surprised when we approached the massive walls and ramparts. The spot had been occupied since Neolithic times, with the Romans using it as a base until the fall of the western empire, but the city became even more prominent as a Cather stronghold when the Pope wa ... read more

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Where It All Began

June 21, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        As previously mentioned, I don’t study our travel itinerary before leaving on a trip, although I did notice that one of our destinations in France was Lascaux. Lascaux was mentioned on page one of my first art history book.   If you’re unfamiliar with Lascaux, it was discovered as World War II was heating up. Four boys were exploring the forest near Lascaux when their dog fell down a hole. After rescuing the dog from an underground cave, the boys returned with lights to explore. What they found has astonished the world ever since.         Lascaux Cave discovered in 1940         Twenty-five thousand years ago, our ancestors transformed th ... read more

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Rocamadour

June 23, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Never heard of it? Neither had I. Our guide informed us that in this region of France the “Rs” are trilled; Rocamadour was pronounced RRRRRock-ama-door. Having never heard of it, I had no expectations, but what we encountered reminded me greatly of the white city of Ministirith from the movie Lord of the Rings.   The lovely village of Rocamadour is on the eastern edge of the Dordogne southwestern France. Each year the small village of Rocamadour (population around 600), receives more than a million visitors. Why so popular?                 First, Rocamadour is an important pilgrimage destination, and has been since before 1148 when miracles cre ... read more

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Dining in France

June 26, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Disclaimer: Photographing food is a skill I’ve yet to master, unlike fellow bloggers Mitchell at Mitchell is Moving and Bruce Taylor at Oddball Observations. These guys regularly post images that make you want to lick your computer screen.   ********************   It’s always surprised me that Mrs. Chatterbox and I have had such bad food on our trips. Perhaps it’s because we travel with a tour and accommodating large numbers of people is problematic, or it could be that as diabetics we tend to eat early, and Europeans are famous for eating late. This time we were going to the south of France, a region famous for its cuisine. In spite of my recent weight loss, I was determined to enjoy the best food Franc ... read more

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Goodbye France

June 28, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
              We had a wonderful time in France, ate well, saw magnificent history and impressive scenery, but all too soon it was time to return home. Here are a few final photographs:       This shot is typical of the incredible scenery on our trip.           The most visited museum in Paris, once the Louvre, is now the Musée d’Orsay, formerly a train station and now home to France’s greatest collection of Impressionist works. This is a view of a café behind the massive exterior clock. In the distance you can barely make out Sacré-Coeur.         This shot of the Eiffel Tower was taken fr ... read more

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Land

June 30, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
“The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it's the only thing that lasts.” —Frank O’Hara to daughter Scarlett in Gone with the Wind—   ****************************   I haven’t written about it, but I own land in another state. I haven’t mentioned it before because I didn’t want anyone to think I was some sort of patroon, a Ben Cartwright with the deed to The Ponderosa in my pocket. Nor is this land worthy of Frank O’Hara’s comment that land is the only thing worth working, fighting or dying for. The land I own certainly isn’t. I need to back up for a bit of an explanation.   In the seventies, ... read more

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Tag---You're It!

July 03, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Many families have quirky habits not shared by other households, special words or favorite activities that bond a family together. Here at Casa Chatterbox we have such a quirky habit—okay, it’s really just me! I’m taking a risk that you won’t judge me harshly for admitting to such an aberration, but we’re all friends here, right?             I can’t recall when it first started; I think it began with a stereo/turntable Mrs. C. and I purchased in the 70s. I didn’t give it any thought until months later when it was pointed out. By then it seemed too late to rectify the situation. People figured I was making some sort of statement; if I were, I d ... read more

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A Near Disaster in Chartres

July 05, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Several followers recently asked if Mrs. Chatterbox and I ever felt in danger during any of our trips. The answer is “no” although there was a time when we almost died.   In 1999 Mrs. Chatterbox and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We’d traveled to Paris to celebrate, but unfortunately everything was on strike: museums were closed, monuments shut down, cabs and garbage collectors had ceased being operational. Since the French government had a tight grip on the media, there wasn’t a word about this in the papers. Thousands of tourists were lined up in front of the shuttered Louvre and Musée d’ Orsay. Other than eating at overpriced cafes and bistros, there was little to do in Pari ... read more

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A Dining Disaster

July 07, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Last week Mrs. Chatterbox and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary. We’re past the gift giving stage but I wanted to celebrate by taking Mrs. C. out for a nice dinner. I had no idea the evening would conclude with the manager of the restaurant threatening to call the cops if I didn’t leave.   The restaurant was La Provence, a place we’d previously been served good breakfasts. I selected it because of our recent trip to the South of France. It was a beautiful evening and I’d reserved an outside table near their pond. The restaurant wasn’t crowded, and it was only six o’clock; we tend to dine early.   Things started out well, although it took a long time for our waiter to appear, ... read more

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Sorting Fish on Tonle Sap Lake

July 10, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
You might recall a post I published before heading off to France, a post about the new painting taboret I assembled with the help of son CJ. I mentioned that I would have preferred buying an old beat up one off of Craig’s List but instead settled on a new one that I was afraid to use because I didn’t want to mess it up. I can now report that my new taboret is “messed up.” I’ve painted several canvases since returning home, a self-portrait Mrs. C. says makes me look older than I am, (Ain’t love grand) a female head of no one in particular and a large painting based on photographs I shot on Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia a few years back.     Tonlé Sap Lake is a massive body of fres ... read more

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Fire and Ice

July 12, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Winston Churchill was a competent landscape painter. When asked about his paintings, the former British prime minister famously quipped, “They’re too good to give away but not good enough to sell.” In 1954, to celebrate Churchill’s eightieth birthday, a full length portrait commission was awarded to Graham Sutherland, one of Britain’s most highly acclaimed artists. The fee was 1000 guineas, approximately $35,000 today. The story of this painting was featured in the Netflix series The Crown, with John Lithgow playing Churchill, a role that won him an Emmy.       Graham Sutherland     Churchill had been painted many times, and was even sketched by that titan of Edwardian portrait ... read more

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It's Almost Here!

July 14, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                  I don’t usually gush over TV programs but Mrs. Chatterbox and I are diehard fans of Game of Thrones. Last year we binge-watched all six seasons, and it was even better the second time around. So it may be July…but winter is coming. This Sunday marks the premier of Season Seven of Game of Thrones. If my dragon egg doesn’t hatch before then I’ll be glued to the television.             Are you ready? I am!     Winter is coming!       Follow my blog with Bloglovin  Save Save ... read more

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Casinos

July 17, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It’s summer and several fellow bloggers are grabbing their lucky talismans and heading to casinos. Our son CJ recently returned from an Indian casino in Washington State after winning a hundred and fifty dollars on a nickel machine, and he managed to leave without losing it.   I’ve been to Vegas and Reno a few times, and we have several Indian casinos in the Portland area, but I never win and always lose my money in record time. Two pathetic casino experiences come to mind.   Once while staying at The Venetian in Las Vegas, CJ and I wandered into a tawdry casino next door where I spotted a five-dollar blackjack table, a rarity in Vegas. I queued up behind one of the chairs and waited for my turn at the blackjack ta ... read more

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A Rose is a Rose

July 19, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          Gertrude Stein once commented that the reason so many people look alike is because there are only six faces out there and we keep encountering them over and over. She might have been joking, but it does seem that many faces look familiar.   Several days ago, son CJ and his fiancée Andrea came to dinner. During the course of the evening I showed them a few paint sketches I’d been working on.   CJ took a look at an imaginary woman I whipped up and asked, “Why did you paint Rose from the movie Titanic?       I said, “I didn’t. It’s just a face I invented.”   “It’s Rose, alright,” he said, reaching for h ... read more

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A Gold Skeleton in Our Closet

July 21, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was unable to locate the accompanying photograph when I first published this piece in 2012. I recently found the photo in my late mother's things.   *************************************************   Most families have their own stories and legends, and mine is no exception. In Hayes family lore, Great Great Grandpa Phil is credited with finding the second largest gold nugget ever discovered in the state of California.   As I understand it, my ancestors were once wheelers and dealers in Central California. They lived on an impressive ranch near Hollister and rode around in monogrammed carriages. The source of their affluence was—GOLD. In 1886; Phil Hayes found a single gold nugget weighing in at nearly forty po ... read more

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A New Dinner Hangout

July 24, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The weather here in Portland has been fantastic, with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. Thanks to CJ’s fiancée Andrea, we now have a new summer place to dine, Island Cafe. I say it’s a summer place because it’s closed in winter.   There are many islands on the Columbia River separating Oregon and Washington, and Island Cafe sits on Tomahawk Island, one of the smaller ones. Island Cafe floats near a marina that connects to the much wider Columbia River, and boats sail up to the dock and moor beside the restaurant. It was a fantastic place to people watch, one of our favorite pastimes, and pick out our favorite boat from the many expensive pleasure crafts sailing past.   On Saturday we had a table ... read more

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Six Minutes

July 26, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
These days the police seem to be receiving a lot of bad press, so a good cop story would seem to be in order. You might have missed this on the news because there wasn’t a tragic outcome, but for me it’s personal; it happened in the building where my wife and son work.             The Police Records Department is located several yards inside the front door to our city hall. A thin young man, approximately eighteen years old, paced in the entryway before approaching the window and mumbling something.             Kathy (not her real name) was working the desk. “Could you repeat what you just said?”    ... read more

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Peculiarities #5

July 28, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This strange device was on our living room mantel during my childhood, and I’ve now owned it for over fifty years. It looks like a small oil lamp, but it served a different purpose. It’s an antique vaporizer. Herbs and medicated oils were placed in the bowl at the top; when the wick was lit it warmed the liquid and made breathing easier.   My mother spotted it at my grandmother’s house and expressed an interest in it, and my grandmother gave it to her since she hadn’t experienced asthma attacks in years. She had my dad clean and paint it a few times, which probably destroyed any value it might have had. Back then Antique Road Show hadn’t yet premiered, so people weren’t cautioned against over clean ... read more

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Summer in the Garage

July 31, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This summer I’m spending less time writing and more time in the garage painting. I even cancelled a tennis game last week so I could paint. I told my partner I was taking time away from tennis to take advantage of the great light for my painting. She sent an e-mail telling me to be careful and not fall off my ladder. She must have thought I was painting our house.   In the past week I’ve painted another self-portrait, a few oil sketches and a portrait of Mark Twain, just because I felt like capturing a likeness that wasn’t mine. I combined several photographs and made him look a bit younger than he appeared in my reference pictures, and I’m pleased with the results.       Mark Twain (oil o ... read more

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It's the Principle!

August 02, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When people squabble over small amounts of money they often claim it isn’t about the money; it’s the principle. Money has never been my life’s focus and I’ve dismissed these people as being foolish. Well, here’s yet another example of my hypocrisy.             Last May my mother cancelled her cable service, but accidentally overpaid on her Direct TV bill. She received a statement claiming she had a credit of $32.40. Mom’s retirement complex covered the cable for the television in her living room and she’d only been paying for the cable in her bedroom. Since she no longer had a TV in her bedroom and wouldn’t be incurring any more expense ... read more

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Twenty-One Years

August 07, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Last week was National Night Out, a time for the community to come together and enjoy free pizza and ice cream on a summer night while mingling with the police in an effort to build bridges between citizens and our municipal government. Readers of this blog know that Mrs. Chatterbox works for our local police department. In addition to managing over a hundred volunteers who save our taxpayers more than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year, she’s been responsible for planning our National Night Out event.             Mrs. C. will be retiring at the end of September so this was her last National Night Out. CJ and I had come to surprise her, even though it was hard f ... read more

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America's Great Pastime

August 09, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Summer is the time for reruns, which this is, and sports. Many bloggers have great tales to tell about their athletic prowess. I’m not one of them. But there was a time when I was coerced into participating in a baseball game. Those of you who know me are right to assume it didn’t go well.             Mrs. C. and I were attending one of CJ’s Junior League baseball games, minding our own business and enjoying the fresh air when I was tapped on the shoulder by a coach who’d wandered over from a distant ball field. He asked me, “Your boy playing in this game?”             “I nodded and poin ... read more

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America's Great Pastime: Conclusion

August 11, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Check out Part One (Here).   **********************************   My difficulties as an umpire fell into two categories: first was a lack of familiarity with the rules of the game, conveyed to players and spectators by the erratic methods I used to communicate my decisions; second, my co-umpire (Mrs. C.) found it all but impossible to remain impartial and not show favoritism to the hardworking smallest kid in the game.             I learned the hard way that it’s prudent to step back when base runners charge the plate, especially if you’ve just lost a contact lens and can no longer see very well. In my case, when spectators griped that I must be half blind, t ... read more

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Flying Without a Net

August 16, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Last night I did something in bed I haven’t done in years. I was contentedly lying there, dreaming I was King of Bloggers and had finally figured out the difference between further and farther, and a while and awhile, when it happened. Mrs. Chatterbox was on the far side of our king-size bed and in no position to monitor what was going on. That’s when it happened. I felt ashamed when it was over. I mean, I’m not a kid anymore and this sort of thing doesn’t happen to grown men, even men with bladders shrunken to the size of peanuts and requiring frequent trips to the bathroom.   Okay, I’ve let you wallow in prurient thoughts long enough. I didn’t abuse myself or have a noctur ... read more

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The Worst "Selfie" Ever, or the Best?

August 18, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
We live in the age of the “selfie.” They’re everywhere on social media, and people are even buying selfie sticks so they can extend their reach and get better images of themselves. I-Phone cameras even have a key that reverses the camera to focus backwards, making it super easy to snap a picture of yourself.             The first selfies were, of course, self-portraits, with artists staring into mirrors as they captured their own likenesses. Self portraits served a purpose beyond vanity. Potential clients could study a self-portrait and compare it to the artist, and if the likeness and technique were deemed suitable a commission could result. Artists like Titian, Rub ... read more

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The Eclipse of Reason

August 20, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
An early post with a tip for viewing the eclipse.   ******************************   Are you ready for the eclipse?   Oregon is one of the states where the eclipse will be on full view, and people are going nuts. Port-o-potties are being placed in public places and along freeways to accommodate people pausing to view the sky show. People seem as excited by this celestial event as our prehistoric ancestors, who probably thought the gods had blotted out the sun to show displeasure with the human race. Few things live up to their hype and I suspect this eclipse will be the same, but the prospect of the world going dark at 10:18 in the morning is too much to resist.   Our son CJ lives across the Columbia River in Van ... read more

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Thanks, Rowdy

August 23, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This post may not be for the squeamish.   **********************************             The children I grew up with were not always kind, especially when their attention fell on short chubby kids like me who talked too much. Making matters worse, I had a peculiarity that prompted additional ridicule, a birthmark on my upper lip. When I was a kid, one of the popular Smith twins across the street commented that my birthmark reminded her of the one on Marilyn Monroe’s cheek. Her comment was overheard and before long everyone was calling me Marilyn, even my best friend Ricky Delgado.             Being short and chubby ... read more

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The Birds Are Coming!

August 25, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox and I have lived in a lot of places over the years and every time we’ve selected an apartment or purchased a house Mrs. C. always says something like, “That corner by the living room window will be just perfect for our Christmas tree.” I watch House Hunters a lot and prospective buyers often utter similar statements. A few weeks ago we visited our son’s new apartment and it wasn’t long before my wife pointed out a proper place for a Christmas tree.   Frankly, I couldn’t care less where the tree goes. I have another concern when I judge the suitability of a potential home. I need to know where I’ll be hiding when the birds attack.   It isn’t that I’m particul ... read more

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Peculiarities #6

August 28, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This poster has been hanging at Casa Chatterbox for over forty years. As most of you know, I like to paint in a traditional manner so this poster might seem out of place, yet there was a time when I was extremely interested in modern art. In particular, I was a fan of Russian painter Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935). Russia was at the forefront of modern art around World War I and the art scene might have shifted from Paris to Russia if Lenin hadn’t come to power and outlawed all modern art.   Lenin didn’t think much of Malevich’s work, and I’m sure paintings like the one featured on my poster were baffling to him. Malevich was determined to create paintings not based on anything in the natural world. He didn&rsqu ... read more

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Restaurant Review

August 30, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    In keeping with my desire to always focus on the important issues of the day, like North Korea’s missile launches, Trump’s disregard for our country’s time-honored institutions and Hurricane Harvey, today I bring you another important post, one sure to impact your life.   Mrs. Chatterbox and I are fans of the TV show Better Call Saul. Last season there was a funny episode where Jimmy (Saul Goodman) is instructing his dour legal secretary on how to talk to senior citizens, Jimmy’s bread and butter. When potential clients call, Jimmy tells his secretary to sound as “folksy” as possible and always, always, work The Cracker Barrel Restaurant into the conversation. According to Jimmy, se ... read more

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My Magic Lunch Box

September 01, 2017
Lately, I’ve been prowling junk shops and Goodwill stores on a quest for frames for the growing number of paintings in my garage, and yesterday morning I spotted something that brought back a flood of memories.   When I was eight, a Drug King opened nearby, and as part of the grand opening they were selling a few Army Surplus items. Strange that a drug store would sell Army surplus, but such was the case. I was intrigued by a pyramid of green metal boxes—ammunition containers according to a sign. They looked cool—boys love most things military— and at only fifty cents each I had to have one.   Once I got it home I needed to find a purpose for it, something creative since I didn’t have any ammo. I ... read more

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Say Yes to the Dress

September 04, 2017
Female rulers have experienced problems their male counterparts haven’t had to deal with. Rulers like Henry VIII used court painters like Hans Holbein to make them look more “kingly,” concealing weight, broadening shoulders and fashioning massive codpieces to promote masculinity, but women have also used clothing to cement their rule in a world dominated by men. Elizabeth I was no exception. Her challenge was to transform herself—the shamed daughter of an executed Queen consort—into one of Europe’s most powerful monarchs. One of the ways she accomplished this was with clothing.             Animals instinctively puff up their profiles when confronted ... read more

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Chess

September 06, 2017
              Thanks to Tabor at One Day at a Time for allowing me to use her photograph as inspiration for my painting. I’ve been busy the past few months, and this will be my eleventh canvas this summer. I haven’t posted pictures of all of them but perhaps I will when this one is completed.        Blank Canvas             I purchased a canvas 36 by 36 inches ( I don’t think I’ve ever painted on a square surface before) and sketched the main characters in the composition. I usually do this in burnt umber, which works well with later colors. Usually, I start painting the main character, wh ... read more

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Unleash the Dogs of War!

September 08, 2017
You might recall that I’ve been fighting with DirecTV over a refund owed my late mother, a refund of $30.90. My mother spent hours on the phone trying to get her refund and died without receiving it. She’d often complain about the incompetence of the people on the other end of the phone, and since she could be a cantankerous old soul I assumed she was the one responsible for the problem. Sorry Mom, it wasn’t you. DirecTV has the worst customer service I’ve run across in my sixty-five years.             A month ago I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone explaining for the umpteenth time that I was executor of my mother’s estate and we were still ... read more

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A Special Project and an Update

September 11, 2017
My thoughts this week have been with the folks in Florida facing Hurricane Irma, as well as the people in the Houston area still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It’s hard to know how best to help those affected by these tragedies and sending money seems cold and heartless, although the authorities say this is the best way we can help those in need.   This past week I’ve been working on a special project. I paused work on my chess scene to paint a picture for my future daughter-in-law. Her mother was killed in an auto accident eight years ago and, with CJ’s help, I painted a portrait of her mother as a pre-wedding surprise. It’s a challenge to paint someone from a snapshot, someone you’ve ... read more

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A Fun Psychology Test

September 13, 2017
      There are scores of psychology tests but to my knowledge this is the shortest, the only test that’s actually fun to take, and in my case the only accurate one. Take a moment to answer these five questions honestly and you might discover something you didn’t know about yourself. Feel free to write down your answers, and don’t over think your responses; your first thoughts are the most revealing. The answers are revealed at the end.   Question #1  Imagine that you’ve just awakened from a deep sleep to find yourself walking on a path in a forest. What time of day is it?   Question #2 While walking on the path in a forest you look down and find a cup partially buried in leaves. ... read more

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War Games

September 15, 2017
The war is over.             It began a year and a half ago when my mother overpaid on her DIRECTV account. She tried to get her refund but DIRECTV dragged its feet until my mother passed away. I spent hours on the phone trying to resolve this issue. We were only talking about $31.90 but you’d have thought I was asking for the keys to the kingdom.             Over the past year, I’ve spoken to a score of DIRECTV employees, some in India and others in the Philippines. I was told I was speaking with supervisors when I wasn’t, and promises were made that weren’t kept, and many times I was hung up on. I was t ... read more

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The Perfect Crime?

September 18, 2017
                While most of this story is factual, some of it is speculation. It’s up to you to decide how much to believe.   ***************************           Take a look at this face. Do you see a mastermind? A patriot? An idiot? This post is about the theft of the most famous painting in the word, a theft that caused this painting to become the most famous painting of all time.           Vincenzo Perugia     Some details are known, but much of this story is conjecture. In 1911, Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. For two years her whereabouts were unknown. Mona Lisa’s face was, for the ... read more

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