Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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I Didn't Relish This One

July 30, 2014

I was excited when my agent informed me she’d landed us a plum assignment with Steinfeld’s Products. Steinfeld’s had been manufacturing pickles, sauerkrauts and relishes for over a century, and I was eager to work with them.
I arrived at Steinfeld’s advertising agency in downtown Portland and was seated in a conference room, which quickly filled with men ...

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The Hoax

July 28, 2014

This piece, originally published 1/25/12, is the only one of my five hundred posts to receive a negative comment. Someone told me I was just a lazy bum and I should get off my ass and learn math. This was intended to be tongue in cheek but some people thought I was serious. Well, maybe I was...a little.
This might be the most self-serving post I’ve ...

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Land of the Unknown

July 25, 2014
I’ve stopped watching the news at dinnertime because it’s too disturbing. Mrs. Chatterbox and I have been watching—please don’t judge us too harshly— Family Feud. A recent question asked was : Aside from their cars, what do men value most? The #1 answer was…their tools.
My dad was a professional mechanic and had lots of tools. I had uncles ...

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Picture of the Week #2

July 23, 2014
Actually, it’s more like the picture of the month since it took that long to complete this painting. Hopefully, you’ve read my previous post (click here) so this picture, which I call The Little Sultan, will make sense.
In Turkey, boys between the ages of five and ten are dressed up as sultans and fêted for an entire day. Later that evening ...

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Sultan for a Day

July 21, 2014

I wrote this post several years ago, shortly after Mrs. Chatterbox and I returned from Turkey. I’ve spent the last four weeks working on a painting based on this post. I’ll reveal my finished canvas on Wednesday.
I saw him when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were sitting on a bench between sixteen hundred year old Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque in ...

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July 18, 2014
First posted 1/9/12
Do you remember when it was considered a compliment to be called clever? I remember hearing comments like, “That Johnny is one clever boy.” I wanted to be like Johnny. I thought my parents wanted me to be clever, a term I equated with smart. But somewhere along the way clever became undesirable. My ears are still ringing from the last time my wife said, ...

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July 16, 2014

Life had not treated Raju kindly. He’d been sold as a baby fifty years ago and since then his life had been a living hell. He’d been taunted, beaten, starved, forced to perform tricks and had been reduced to eating scraps thrown at him by tourists. You might have read about Raju recently. He’s become famous for doing something remarkable, something extremely common in humans but never before witnessed ...

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Cue the Cello Music

July 14, 2014
I was terrified long before the theater lights dimmed. It was July of 1975 and Mrs. Chatterbox and I, living in West Los Angeles, had come to see the movie Jaws. The theater was packed with enthusiastic movie-goers, here for 124 minutes of terror and gore.
I’d long had a fear of sharks, a phobia inherited from my grandfather, a Portuguese fisherman who’d described in detail ...

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Holier Than Thou

July 11, 2014
“You might feel a slight pressure,” she said, but I only felt a gentle tingle when she pushed the needle into the fleshy portion of my right hand, between my thumb and index finger.
“That isn’t anywhere near the pain,” I said.
Angela explained, “Pain radiates. Your body is unbalanced. My goal is to balance you.” She began ...

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I'm Not Proud of It

July 9, 2014
First Posted 2/8/12
On most days I turn on my computer to find that I’ve been invited to join a contest or have supposedly won one I never entered. Let me be clear: I never win contests and seldom enter them. I’m a great finder of things, particularly in the homes of people on vacation.
My streak of bad luck at winning contests started with, ...

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Ken Orrett's Magic Carpet Ride

July 7, 2014

When Ken Orrett entered our college classroom that first time I thought he looked like Santa Claus with a Bahamian tan. Jovial and bursting with knowledge, he was here to teach art history, a subject I knew very little about. He explained that, while he loved teaching art history, he was primarily an artist and had been painting for nearly forty years.
A hand shot into the air with ...

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Eulogy for Pizza Oasis

July 4, 2014
Happy Fourth of July everyone. On this day I’m always reminded of King George III’s diary entry for July 4, 1776. He wrote, “Nothing unusual happened today.”
A few days ago I drove through our old neighborhood and noticed Pizza Oasis had shut its doors and gone out of business. A lump rose in my throat as I thought about the neighborhood pizzeria where many times ...

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John Doe

July 2, 2014

This painting harbors a secret. It looks conventional enough, a wealthy older man in a posh setting, an expensive Japanese screen in the background and an antique leather chair beneath him. He is easy in his own skin as he faces the sunset of his life, a scarf around his throat and a jaunty handkerchief in the pocket of his coat. He isn’t one to suffer fools easily but he appears friendly and probably has a good ...

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June 30, 2014

June is a time of celebration at Casa Chatterbox. Thursday would have been my dad’s 88th birthday, Friday was our son’s birthday, and yesterday Mrs. Chatterbox and I celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary.
This picture shows us shortly after our honeymoon when we’d moved into an old duplex in West Los Angeles. I’d inherited the apartment from my college chum Ray, ...

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