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

02/2017

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

 + photos!,  read more

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

 + photos!,  read more

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

 + photos!,  read more

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

 + photos!,  read more

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

 + photos!,  read more

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

 + photos!,  read more

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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