Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pecan Perfection


I woke up this morning with a hankering for pecan pie. Many of you probably have a special recipe for pecan pie and I’m sure all have merit, but I’m just not interested. You see, I’ve tasted nirvana and it isn’t to be found in fresh ingredients or recipes baked with big doses of love. Nope, not what I’m salivating over.
Years ago Mrs. Chatterbox asked me what I thought of pecan pie and, in a moment of weakness, I told her I liked pecan pie. This was a mistake because my wife will do anything to please me, such as baking and serving me a perfect pecan pie, but her efforts were doomed even before she started gathering together the perfect ingredients. To be sure, Mrs. Chatterbox is a wonderful cook who’s labored for forty years to keep me satisfied in the kitchen and elsewhere, but when she presented me with her version of a perfect pecan pie I’m ashamed to admit I was less than enthusiastic.
What was wrong with Mrs. C’s pie? For starters, it was…rich and moist. Her crust was buttery and melted in my mouth, a visual treat, rivulets dripping from the dollop of vanilla ice cream crowning a generous slice.  My wife’s pie tasted like it was fresh from a bakery. It was ALL WRONG! I’d been spoiled by the best.
It began when I was a UCLA student motoring home to San Jose in my ’68 Beetle. I had a hideous case of the munchies and pulled off the road in Bakersfield. After filling my tank with gas I headed for a vending machine near the office. It was empty, except for one package hanging in wait for someone to release it with a couple of quarters.
I wasn’t even sure what the item was; all I could read was BAMA. But I was a starving college kid and I slipped two quarters into the machine.
The package dropped; a mini cloud of dust rose in the tray, making me wonder how long this item had failed to attract a buyer. I claimed my prize and examined it carefully. The package was bright red with Pecan written in festive letters, and America’s Favorite on a blue banner. I could barely make out a picture of the product partially hidden by the letters, enough to make me wonder if I’d just wasted fifty cents. What I saw resembled a circle of…cockroaches. How could this possibly be America’s favorite?
I tore open the package and a pecan hockey puck slid into my hand. I considered tossing it into a nearby trash can but my pockets were empty, the vending machine was empty, and my growling stomach convinced me to give this pie a chance. I bit into it and instantly noticed a chewy sensation, followed by an explosion of taste that expanded in my mouth until I was nearly overcome by tasty delight.
 Over the next few years I made a point of stopping at that gas station whenever I happened to be passing through Bakersfield. Years have passed since I’ve driven through that part of the country. I’ve appreciated many pecan pies over the years, including ones baked in four star bakeries. Sadly, none have measured up to my vending machine ideal. It goes without saying that my wife deserves a husband with a palette far more sophisticated than mine. Unfortunately, we all have our limitations.
I understand the BAMA Corporation is still in business, but I no longer see this product anywhere. If a store near you carries them, make a chubby chatterbox extremely happy by mailing me a few of these tasty treats.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Finding Richard Paul

First posted 10/3/11

While cleaning out the garage yesterday, I discovered him in a box on a dusty shelf, his leg caught in our old George Foreman grill. His unblinking eyes fixed on me when I reached for him, as if to say, “Where’s everybody been?” 
Richard Paul, showing signs of the fierce love our son CJ lavished on him long ago, was once an integral member of our family. Richard Paul is a Cabbage Patch Doll.
I was thinking about him a few weeks back when a distant relative of his showed up on one of those pawn shop programs on TV. It turns out that Richard Paul is actually worth a few bucks. He’d be worth more if he still had his birth certificate and adoption papers, which I’m sorry to say he doesn’t. And I’m sure the signs of wear and tear on his face and body, indications of just how much our son adored him, would detract from his value. Not that it matters. In spite of what people pawn on TV programs, I couldn’t possibly sell a family member, even one with an eye peeling loose. And even if I could persuade myself to do so, even if I could locate his adoption papers, he rightfully belongs to CJ. Just ask Santa! 
Strange how Richard Paul's blue eyes bore into you. How do I explain that it isn’t the 80s anymore, or even the 90s. I'm sure Richard Paul recognizes me as he would Mrs. Chatterbox, although our hair is a bit grayer and I’m chubbier than before. Our dog Ginger, who used to carry him from room to room when CJ wasn’t looking, went to the Rainbow Bridge years ago, but it would be hardest to explain where CJ went. Our son was three when Richard Paul came to live with us the Christmas of ’83. CJ is now thirty-two years old.
As I brush dust off the tangled yarn hair, I remember Richard Paul sitting at our dining room table, smiling as our little boy tried to push food into his unmoving mouth. We once lugged Richard Paul to Hawaii because our son refused to be separated from him. But Richard Paul’s proudest moment came when he offered to spend the night in CJ’s closet. Our son was sure a boy-eating lion was waiting in there to gobble him up the moment we turned off the light and closed the door. I confess that I was the one who volunteered Richard Paul for this assignment, but in the morning when CJ flung open his closet door and saw his unblinking adopted brother sitting there, uneaten and not mauled, it was Richard Paul who got the credit.
I gently returned him to his box, careful to keep his legs away from the jaws of the George Foreman grill. I replaced the box on the shelf. The pang of sadness I felt was lessened by the gladness of knowing Richard Paul was no longer lost.
Just waiting….

Did you ever lose someone special? I still mourn the loss of my Woody Woodpecker doll.

Note: Be sure to enjoy all of my new posts here at 

Friday, May 17, 2013

King of Dorks-Part II

  This tale is a true account of my one and only childhood confrontation with the law in 1966. If you missed Part I, check it out (here). Part II is (here.)


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

King of Dorks

 Many of you have asked for more stories about my friend, Ricky Delgado. This tale is a true account of my one and only childhood confrontation with the law in 1966. Of course Ricky had a lot to do with it. Read about it (here) at the new and improved Chubby Chatterbox.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Graffiti Grandma


I’d like to introduce you to my good friend Jo Barney. Jo is launching her latest novel this week. We’ve been writing companions for years, and she deserves much of the credit for improving the quality of my writing. I think you’ll find her latest work extremely compelling, and I hope you’ll take advantage of her free book give-a-way.

Hello, All!  And thank you, Steve, for this chance to join your blog for a day. Over the twenty years since I decided to be a writer, I’ve written four or so novels. Right from the first, each of them has come from some aspect of my own life, but each is mostly fiction. 

The first is set in an elementary school containing a character who is a counselor, a rigid principal, little kids. Just like me, except this counselor had a great sex life as well as job worries.

The second’s hero was a hockey player who quit the sport and drank beer until he came to grips with his changing life.  Like my son, sort of.  He advised on the ice scenes but not on the love scenes.

The third tells of a reunion of four old college friends and their reactions to a request from one of them to help her commit suicide.  The friends and their backstories are almost real, the request not.

And now Graffiti Grandma.  For a time, I lived in a neighborhood under attack by mid-night artists who left their marks on every mailbox, street sign, telephone pole on every street in my neighborhood, and the ugliness of their efforts drove me a little nuts.  I began going out with Graffiti X and removing what I could whenever I got mad enough.  One day, in a real snit, I found myself imagining a crabby old lady in red tennis shoes (my shoes were new Nikes) and a NY Yankees cap scrubbing down mailboxes––a little like me.  In my imagination, she is approached by a Goth girl heavy with black mascara and wearing torn net stockings. “Can I help?’ she asks.

What could bring these two very different people together? the writer in me wondered.  It was probably the toxic fumes of the Graffiti X that inspired me, but somehow as I made my rounds of boxes, my almost-story got peopled with a little boy and his grandpa, a cop, his autistic son, street kids and a psychopath.  Not my usual companions, but intriguing to think about, the mix, the story, the truths I would find.

Again, a corner of my own life grew into a piece of fiction containing unfamiliar people and scenes, but built on an idea that has always been vitally important to me––that we each have an innate need for family and when we have lost one, we will try to find another. 

So when I am asked the genre of Graffiti Grandma, I always hesitate.  It is a thriller of sorts, a description of desperate lives most of us will never experience, but mostly, I think, it is a story of love which we all look for.  A thriller with a heart. Does it bother you, a reader, that a book has no clear identity?  If not, perhaps it’s because most of our lives do not fit into neat slots, but are sprawling, messy, one or two ideas holding it all together.

Graffiti Grandma, ebook,($2.99) will be offered free on Amazon on May 13 and May 14, 2013. The paperback ($13.95) is now available on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Eternal Love

 Although the Taj Mahal was the catalyst for our trip to India, I admit to viewing it with trepidation. I’d unwisely made a judgment; without laying my eyes on it I’d concluded that this was the most beautiful edifice ever created by the hand of man. I’d based this opinion of photographs. But I’d been disappointed before and worried I’d set my expectations too high. Could reality match my imagination? Find out about it here....