When I was ten years old I was ordered to run an errand for my mother, a task
no boy should be asked to do unless there’s a licensed psychiatrist in the
family. Read about it Here, and while you're at it sign up for the new Chubby Chatterbox if you haven't already.
Here’s another illustration that seemed like a good
idea at the time, but I don’t think it’s ever been published. I’ve always been
a lover of bold colors and that love is evident here, even if nothing else is.
Does this picture mean anything to you?
Tomorrow at the new and improved Chubby Chatterbox I'll be sharing one of my favorite Ricky Delgado adventures from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope. I hope you'll come along for the ride (Here) and I hope you'll take this opportunity to join the new site if you haven't already.
Millions of folks are buttering up
turkeys today and preparing to slide them into ovens, but you might want to
read about a happy accident responsible for the best turkey I’ve ever eaten.
Check it out Here. And sign up to join the new Chubby Chatterbox while you're there.
Many people have wondered what
it would be like to work in a bank and have someone walk up to you and say, “Give
me the money or there’s going to be trouble!” This happened to me and you can
read about it Here. If you enjoy my story I hope you’ll show your support by
joining the new Chubby Chatterbox.
When I graduated from college I
discovered that my art degree made me about as hirable as a shepherd. I finally
landed a job, but it was a disaster. Read about it here, and while you’re at it
I invite you to Join the new site.
When you dig into your family’s
past you’re likely to discover things you’d rather not know, like the dirty 126
year old secret I discovered. Read about it here, and while you’re at it please
sign up to join the new Chubby Chatterbox.
We know so many important names in
history, the first human to set foot on the moon, the first person to fly solo
over the Atlantic or the first intrepid souls to reach the poles or scale Mount
Everest, but who was the first person to have their picture taken?
picture snapped is an occurrence we all take for granted. You don’t need to be
a famous fashion model to be photographed relentlessly. We’re photographed at
the DMV, entering banks and convenience stores, enjoying ourselves at sporting
events, pausing at stop lights and often just walking down the street, which
many see as a violation of privacy. Conservative estimates place the number of
photographs taken by year 2000 at an amazing 85 billion—an incredible 2,500
photos per second—and experts believe we are rapidly closing in on 3.5 trillion
photographs. But, as in all things, when it comes to having your picture taken
someone had to be first.
1838 Louis Daguerre, the father of modern photography, tired of taking
still-life pictures of fruit and plaster casts in the corner of his Parisian
studio. He aimed his bulky contraption out the window to shoot a photograph of
bustling Boulevard du Temple below. He held his camera as steady as he could
for ten minutes, the amount of time required for an exposure. His arms must
have ached when he finally set down his cumbersome camera. The picture Daguerre
later developed showed the boulevard just as he’d seen it. Well, not exactly;
the buildings and trees were perfectly recorded, but where were the
well-dressed couples promenading down the street? Where were the bustling
carriages and prancing horses? What happened to the street peddlers showing
their wares to young dandies out for a leisurely stroll?
picture took so long to develop that all moving things disappeared from the
scene, as if they hadn’t been there at all. Or so it seems. If you look closely
at the bottom left hand corner of the image, a man stands on the otherwise
empty street. Who is he? Had he been an astronaut or explorer we would surely
know his name. He is standing still because he is having his shoes shined—the
man doing the polishing is moving too quickly to be recorded and has blurred
into oblivion. Upwards of fifty billion pictures of people have been taken
since the perfection of photography, and this man, oblivious to the
significance of the moment, was the first. Yet we know nothing about him.
Perhaps he was someone just like you.
How many times have you paused on a sunny
day for a simple pleasure? An ice cream cone, a chat with a friend, a lingering
moment on a park bench to watch the world pass by. Haven’t we all done
these things and disregarded them as common occurrences unworthy of reflection?
Once upon a time a fellow paused to have his shoes shined.
Treasure each moment of your life
because at any moment something extraordinary can happen.
To my knowledge, this illustration
from my royalty free CD Business Fundamentals has never been used. Years ago I sat in my studio imagining what sort
of illustrations art directors could use. Altogether, I created sixty images
for my CD and I still receive royalty checks. Most of these illustrations have
made their way into books and magazines around the world, but this one has yet
to be published. Can you think of a purpose for this picture?
Mrs. Chatterbox is slightly
older than me; she turned 60 three weeks ago. Since then I’ve pretended I was a
younger man consorting with a cougar. But yesterday was my birthday. Now I’m
S-I-X-T-Y, and taking solace in a post I wrote back in my younger days, when I
was a mere 59:
There are benefits to not being good with
numbers and I’m reaping one right now. I thought this was the year I hit the
big 60 but I now realize it’s only my fifty-ninth birthday, which I thought I’d
celebrated last year. Because I have difficulty accessing that part of my brain
where mathematics lurks like a creepy spider I get another year before leaving
behind my fifties. Twelve months that I thought I’d spent but hadn’t. Quite a
gift, but what should I do with it?
know me well have little difficulty believing me capable of such a mistake. In
school I was a dullard at math; numbers were just beginning to make
sense when the government instigated something called “New Math,” to help
us compete with the Russians, who’d recently launched Sputnik and were about to
take over the world and make us drink vodka and eat stinky black fish eggs.
Actually, people tell me I look much younger than I am. Either they’re just
being nice or there are benefits to having a fat face—fat puffs out the
wrinkles. If I start losing weight I’ll look like a deflating zeppelin. But
there’s another reason I’m often mistaken for someone younger: I possess a
disarming sense of immaturity that is so rare in one my age that it’s often
mistaken for youth. In short, I’m childish, and I work hard at staying that
I ended the post last year with this
should I do with this extra year? Skydiving? The only way to get me to jump
out of a plane is to set it on
fire. Learn another language? I haven’t mastered or done much with this one. Oh
wait, of course! I know what I’ll do, if I can summon the nerve. I’ve never
done anything like it before and it will be f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c….
Last year I did manage to accomplish my
goal of doing something fantastic and I’d love to tell you what it was, but as
many of you know my wife and son both work for the local police department.
Many of our men in blue read Chubby Chatterbox. I can’t admit what I did
because technically…it wasn’t legal.
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 and closest friends—the reason we selected them to
be our son’s godparents. They’d agreed to raise little CJ should a tragedy make
him an orphan. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were visiting them a few weeks before our
first trip to Hawaii. Mrs. C. and I hadn’t traveled anywhere since our son was
born and we were bubbling over with anticipation of tropical breezes, white
sand and rum drinks served in coconuts.
Wine had loosened our tongues by the time
Mrs. G. said to me, “You guys are going to have a great time in Hawaii. I hear
the snorkeling is incredible.”
I laughed and said,” You’re kidding, of
course. I have no intention of going snorkeling.”
Had Mrs. G. not been working on her second
glass of rosé she might have remembered my fear of sharks. Instead, she looked
down her sharp nose and said in a tone she, no doubt, used on her patients,
“You know, if you go all the way to Hawaii and refuse to go snorkeling because
of your fear of sharks, it’s no longer a fear; it will have grown into a
“Do you have any idea how many people are
killed in Hawaii because of sharks?” I said. “They keep it out of the papers so
it won’t affect tourism.”
Mrs. G. shook her head and made a
tsk…tsk…tsk sound. She spelled it out: “P-h-o-b-i-a.”
Her words were still haunting me when a
few weeks later Mrs. C. and I arrived in Hawaii. I’d be damned if I’d let my
fear grow into a phobia. I purchased a snorkel and mask, and like a doomed
convict being pushed toward a firing squad made my way into the surf.
I spent nearly two hours in the water.
Without my glasses, everything was a blur; every rock seemed to be sprouting
razor-sharp teeth and my head was filled with the sound of cello music and
blood pounding in my ears. It was the worst two hours of my life, but when I
staggered from the waves I was rewarded with the satisfaction that I did nothave a phobia.
Months later the Gs visited us in Oregon.
We shared pictures of our Hawaii trip and I mentioned my snorkeling
accomplishment with pride. Mrs. G. congratulated me. Eventually the
conversation shifted to other things.
“Did I mention my grandmother is
flying to Israel for a month and has offered to pay all my expenses if I join
her?” Mrs. G said.
“That’s incredible!” I knew how proud she
was of her Jewish heritage. “When do you leave?”
Mrs. G. shook her head. “I have no
intention of going.”
Her answer shocked me. “Why not? It would
be a trip of a lifetime.”
“It would require a long flight, and I
have no intention of strapping myself into a flying coffin. Do you have any idea
how heavy airplanes are? No one can explain to me why they don’t just drop out
of the sky.”
“But you’ve wanted to visit Israel for
years!” I exclaimed.
She crossed her arms tightly and said,
I thought long and hard, choosing my words
carefully. From the far side of the room my wife glared at me, a glare I
understood to mean: Do not go there! But I couldn’t help myself.
I looked squarely into Mrs. G’s eyes. “You
told me that if I went to Hawaii and refused to go snorkeling, my fear of
sharks would become a phobia, so I went snorkeling, and it was two of the worst
hours of my life. Now you tell me you’re turning down an all-expense paid trip
to Israel because you’re afraid to fly?”
“That’s correct,” admitted the godmother
of my child—one of my oldest friends.
“There’s a word for women like you.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “Really. What would
The Gs are still our oldest and best friends. And eventually Mrs. G. did make
that trip to Israel. Also, this blog will be shutting down shortly so please
rejoin at chubbychatterbox.com/blog.
Here’s a picture I painted a few
years ago. The inspiration came from a photograph taken in a stairwell in
Florence, Italy. The initial illustration seemed incomplete and I was at a loss
trying to figure out what the composition needed. I set it aside. Several years
later I dug out the unfinished illustration and figured out what was missing.
Painted with acrylic on untempered
masonite, I used glazes to build up the translucent darkness from a mixture of
viridian green and alizarin crimson; no black was used. I approved of the dark
mood, inspired by the backgrounds in many of Rembrandt’s paintings, but the
painting lacked an emotional counter punch. So I added the balloon.
This illustration has never been sold and
seen by only a handful of people, until now. What does it mean? I have an idea,
but what do you think?
I hope you’ve moved over to the new
Chubby Chatterbox. This site will be closing shortly.
I've been playing with fiction. Here's something new.
“I thought you wanted to be a
writer,” the old woman said to fourteen year old Becky.
“I do, Granny. My brain is full of ideas,
but I have trouble putting them down on paper. All of the kids at school have
computers. I wish I had one.”
The old woman looked at the orphaned
granddaughter she’d spent nine years struggling to raise. Every cigarette the
old woman had ever smoked was present in her voice when she said, “Sorry,
kiddo. Money’s tight. We barely manage to keep up with the rent on this old
Becky’s cheeks turned crimson. “Sorry,
Granny. I’m being a brat.”
“Go to your room and write something while
I scratch up some dinner. Practice makes perfect, they say.”
Becky’s hair was getting long. Granny used
to trim it, but now her hands shook too much when she held the scissors. Becky
pulled her hair back from her face, bent down to kiss her grandmother’s
wrinkled cheek and headed to her room.
It hadn’t been easy for the old woman,
living off disability and welfare checks. A computer for her granddaughter
would be nice but there was no money for it, not to mention the monthly internet
service. The Child Protective Services had already knocked on the door to find
out why the phone wasn’t working.
The old woman took a long pull on her
cigarette, exhaled a cloud of grey
smoke and extinguished the cigarette in the horseshoe ashtray beside her
tattered Barcalounger. She was down to her last few cigs; she’d finish this one
later. Shouldn’t be smoking around the kid anyway, according to the Child
After reaching for her cane, she lifted
her bad leg from the “otman” and struggled to stand. Instead of going to the
kitchen to open a can of raviolis, she teetered to the hallway and peered into
her granddaughter’s bedroom. Becky was sitting at a desk salvaged from a
Dumpster behind the trailer park. One of the drawers was missing. Yellow
writing pads from the Dollar Store were stacked on the desktop near a dented
lamp, another Dumpster find. Her granddaughter was staring at a blank page.
She shuffled off to her room and dropped
onto the corner of her bed, exhausted. She was getting weaker every day. She
didn’t need a crystal ball to know that one day she’d be zipped into a bag and
carried out of here. What would happen to the girl then? She shuddered to think
Her closet was only a few steps away, but
reaching it was an agony. She managed. Inside, her clothes hung as cruel
reminders of better times—pretty things that once caught the eyes of handsome
men—back when her skin was smooth and soft, not like the wrinkled crepe now
hanging from her bones. A knockoff Schiaparelli sweater came into view, bought
with her first paycheck when she wasn’t much older than Becky. The shiny eyes
of a fox stole glinted in the shadows.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d
acquired anything new, but pretty things weren’t needed anymore; she seldom
left home. Recently, she’d acquired the habit of talking to herself out loud
when alone. “Vintage clothes are all the rage right now. There must be a pretty
penny here.” She paused, closing her rheumy eyes as she rubbed the throbbing
pain in the back of her neck. “Enough for a computer? Probably not, but enough
to keep the wolf from our door a bit longer.” She made a mental note to have
the girl box up these old things for a trip to the secondhand clothing store
down the road. For now, she pushed them aside.
Her fingers reached into the dark recesses
of the closet, finally closing on the subject of her search—a man’s pea coat,
the navy-colored wool slightly moth bitten. She carried it to her granddaughter’s
room and settled onto the corner of Becky’s bed. The pad of paper in front of
her granddaughter remained untouched.
“I have something for you,” she
said. “It isn’t a computer, but I’m hoping you can put it to good use.”
Becky eyed the old jacket, a furrow
deepening between her eyes.
“Ever heard of a writer named Ernest Hemingway?”
“Granny! Of course I have. He was one of
America’s greatest writers. We studied him in school.”
“Well, here’s something you don’t know; he and I were once an item.”
Granny sighed. “Yes, a couple. This was
before I met your grandpa. Ernest and I eventually broke up, but he left behind
Becky’s eyes widened like saucers. “That’s
Ernest Hemingway’s coat? Granny, are you fooling me?”
“Have you ever known me to fool you?”
Speechless, Becky shook her head.
The old woman stood and draped the coat
over her granddaughter’s slender shoulders. “In many cultures it’s believed the
talent of a person rubs off on their clothing.” Fortunately, the girl didn’t ask
her to name them.
Later that evening after the old woman had
finished smoking the rest of her cigarette
and was lumbering off to bed, she
paused to peek inside her granddaughter’s bedroom. Instead of being fast
asleep, Becky was wrapped in the pea coat with the cuffs rolled up to expose
her wrists. She was writing furiously.
It occurred to the old woman that pea
coats were traditionally worn by sailors. Had Hemingway been a sailor? She
didn’t think so. The girl would learn the truth eventually, but by then the pea
coat would have served its purpose. It had been abandoned, left hanging in the
closet when she rented the trailer years ago.
“A little fib isn’t so bad,” she mumbled
to herself, “especially if it’s all you have.”
Note: I'll soon be closing down this site and posting exclusively at chubbychatterbox.com. I invite everyone to follow me by signing up there. CC