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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Justifying The "B" Word

August 29, 2014
First posted 11/07/12
Yes, I admit it; in a moment of weakness I looked my son’s godmother in the face and called her the “B” word. Horrible I know, but don’t condemn me until you know the facts.
Our son’s godparents (I’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. G.) are psychologists and a delightful couple. They live in Sacramento and are our oldest ...

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The Appendix Couch

August 27, 2014
During the summer break before my sophomore year of high school I woke one night with a terrible pain in my side. I should have figured it was my appendix since the Hayes appendix isn’t worth a damn and all male members of my family have had theirs out, my brother when he was only two, but for some reason my appendix wasn’t suspected of being the problem.
When I couldn’t stop ...

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Process of Elimination

August 25, 2014
Everything associated with babies is usually considered cute and adorable, including the elimination of body waste. Call it what you will: potty, or doody, boom boom or poopy, but at some point in life the cozy euphemisms no longer apply. When is that all-important moment when snuggly slang metastasizes into a clinical word like stool?
As most of you know, Mrs. Chatterbox works for the local ...

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

August 22, 2014
Have you ever wondered about the biggest bell in the world? Most people would say it’s in Moscow, weighing in at 445,166 pounds. The Tsar Bell was commissioned by the niece of Peter the Great. It broke during casting and has never been rung. But it’s possible the Tsar Bell will soon lose it’s ranking as the world’s largest. The new contender for the title ...

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Picture of the Week #4

August 20, 2014

Artists often set aside paintings in progress for a variety of reasons. Perhaps other commissions got in the way, the subject of a portrait might have died, or the artist didn’t have the technical skill to finish it. I was heavily under the influence of Rembrandt when I began this painting of fantasy characters in 1985. I recently found ...

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The Cement Boat

August 18, 2014
An excerpt from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope:
When I was a kid my dad often took me and my older brother David to the Cement Boat. Originally designed as a cargo transport in 1918, the Cement Boat missed action in World War I. She was made with a material not recognized ...

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The Waltzing Bandit

August 15, 2014

“The Waltzing Bandit? That’s a stupid name for a crook.”
“Maybe so, but he buried stolen gold around here,” I said.
We were spending the day at Alum Rock Park in the Diablo Range foothills on the east side of San Jose. I’d brought along my best friend Ricky Delgado. Ricky’s dad was a drunk and currently incarcerated on the Farm, ...

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The Bomb Shelter Game

August 13, 2014

This was among the first posts on my original site. I’ve listed it under favorites on my new blog but it hasn’t received any comments. I thought it might be fun to rerun it in case you missed it.
Back in 1967 when I was a junior in high school, Mr. Farrington, our social studies teacher, came up with an interesting idea that made us all stop thinking ...

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Perfectly Clear

August 11, 2014

One day my fifth grade teacher walked up to my desk and asked me why I squinted when I looked at the blackboard. Until then I had no idea I was a squinter. It must have been a rhetorical question because she must have known why I squinted. She sent me to the nurse’s office and I was given a note to take home to my parents. The note suggested I might need corrective lenses and my eyes should be checked as soon ...

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Madame X

August 8, 2014
“A disgrace!”
“The artist should be whipped!”
The painter John Singer Sargent had no idea his portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau, known for her artful appearance, would become the talk of Paris at the Salon of 1884. Sargent hoped to enhance his reputation by painting her portrait, but instead of ...

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August 6, 2014

The last time I felt this much shame I was thirteen and busily abusing myself after finding a discarded copy of Playboy in a trashcan on my walk to school. That was a long time ago and I’d assumed I was beyond debasing myself, but I was wrong. I blame Mrs. Chatterbox for what happened; she’s the one who brought it to my attention. Of course I knew about it, but I’d resisted ...

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August 4, 2014
A mirror is handy to have in my studio because it allows me to see my work in reverse. I find this useful because after long concentration my eyes often go dead to what I’m painting and a mirror reveals the flaws. Yesterday while painting I reached for the small mirror on the taboret beside my easel. It slipped through my fingers and hit the concrete of our garage floor, shattering into many pieces. Looking down ...

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Not So Great Expectations

August 1, 2014

Today in Portland it’s in the nineties, but summers aren’t always warm, or even dry. When our son CJ was small we wanted to abandon dreary Portland for a few days. We decided to head east to Sun River in central Oregon. I made a few calls to secure lodging and discovered we weren’t the only ones trying to flee the bad weather. Sun River was completely booked…except for one condo. I asked the ...

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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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