I grew up in a coffee house. Not like, a Starbucks. I mean, I grew up in a house full of people who would program the coffee maker to be brewing coffee before they rolled out of bed, because they were incapable of functioning without it. If this were cocaine, we’d all say they had a problem, but given that it was coffee, the addiction was a-ok by society’s standards. I grew up knowing that coffee was something that was as essential to the proper functioning of an adult as oil was to Oz’s tin man. I understood this, but still thought coffee was pretty gross.
This changed when I was around fourteen and had just met a girl named Jen. She was a tiny bit older than me, bleached her hair and wore makeup. She showed me how to make cat eyes with eyeliner, how to kiss, and how to drink coffee. I will always remember that day my freshman year of high school. We were standing in my kitchen, and in an attempt at politeness, my mother offered Jen a coffee. She accepted, and proceeded to dump pounds of sugar and cream in it. “Do you want a sip?” she asked. I tried it. Hey, coffee wasn’t bad when it composed only about a third of the beverage, the sugar and cream making up the rest!
This wasn’t the beginning of the coffee obsession, though. That came much later. I was in my late twenties and had just broken up with my husband. In a bid for independence, I got a job (my first in years) as a waitress in a diner. It didn’t pay well, obviously, and the tips were pretty bad, too, but we were allowed to eat one hot meal a shift and as much soup, salad and dessert as we wanted. This was really important in those days, as while I still lived with my ex, he had stopped providing food for me months before. The coffee was free at the diner too, and I drank it with abandon: hot coffee in the colder months and iced coffee when it was hot out. I would drink coffee throughout my whole shifts. My new group of friends encouraged my coffee addiction as well, as one of their favorite things to do was to sit at Barnes and Noble, Dunkin Donuts or any number of local coffee shops, drink coffee and talk for hours. Coffee became an inextricable part of my daily life.
And along with the coffee came the coffee mugs. With the notable exception of My Little Ponies, I never really collected things. Coffee mugs, however, tempted me to buck that trend. I have a tendency to attach memories to the few objects I have, and coffee mugs make that easy, with their quirky slogans, graphics and colors. I still remember the mugs that my parents had when I was a kid (and that they still have, for the most part.) And I still remember where and why I got all of the mugs that I have in my collection now. Now, let me make like a mentally ill subject of a “Hoarders” episode and show you all my favorite coffee mugs!
This spring I did an online course through the Mid-Hudson Library System called “10 Things” in which we had to complete weekly modules about the use of social media and other online tools in the promotion and implementation of library programs and services. It was informative and interesting, and as the course wound down, I attended an in-person workshop at the end of which we got MUGS!!!
Apparently, someone involved in running the program (hopefully they will forgive me for not remembering who) E-mailed Mango Languages to tell them about our work promoting their language-learning program in our libraries, and they responded by giving us enough “points” to facilitate the purchase of mugs for everybody! I was so psyched, I took a picture of my mug right away. Then I went outside and promptly dropped it on the sidewalk, breaking it.
It was awful! The mishap wasn’t in slow-mo, like in a movie, but there was a lady peeking out a window at me from behind the curtains. She mouthed “Oh no!” as I shamefully retrieved the shards of broken Mango mug. Oh, the humanity!
But wait! Happy ending: My boss, Bonny, went to the next workshop and picked up another mug for me. She’s the best.
Race to the End of the Earth
In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen faced off against his British rival, Robert Scott in a race to see who could reach the South Pole first. There was penguin-observing! There were killer whales devouring ponies! (Yes, ponies. Pro tip: don’t bring ponies to the Antarctic.) Sadly, Scott didn’t survive. Amundsen, possibly due to his greater willingness to adapt the ways of Arctic peoples to the Antarctic mission, won the race (and got to go home.)
In 2010, the American Museum of Natural History did a really cool exhibit on this whole debacle, called “Race to the End of the Earth.” I have a long-standing interest in Arctic exploration, which translated, in this case, to an interest in Antarctic exploration as well. I dragged Dimitri along with me and we went to the exhibit (which was, as I said, really cool. We had a very nice day in the city.)
I didn’t get a souvenir then, but months later returned to the AMNH on another NYC trip, and I found a sweet mug commemorating the exhibit in the gift shop for 15% off. Score!
The Monkey Mug
My friend Gregg is a bum, a drifter, a hobo, a transient, a vagabond. He also is very monkey-like in my opinion, and in the early days of our friendship I spent many gleeful hours in diners sketching Gregg with armies of monkeys on the paper placemats. The monkey thing became somewhat of an ongoing joke, so when I saw this fantastic monkey mug (with an arm for the handle!) at Pier 1, I had to buy it for him. I figured noone’s too transient to own a mug, right?
Alas, I was wrong. Gregg ended up giving the mug back to me because he didn’t think it made sense to have a mug when he didn’t have a stable home. The new plan became for me to hold onto the mug and only use it for Gregg’s tea when he visited. Gregg pretty much never comes over these days, so I just started using his damn mug. Take that, Gregg!
Bonus Beer Mug!
I know this entry is already way too long, but I have to include my newest addition to the collection: My FDR glass beer mug.
Part of the 1932 Democratic party platform was the repeal of prohibition (why anybody had ever thought prohibition was a good idea in the first place is beyond me, but I’m glad at least some Americans realized their mistake.) FDR, of course, won the election and made good on his campaign promise. With the Cullen-Harrison act of 1933, he authorized the sale of low-alcohol-content beer and wine (yay!). Prohibition was repealed later that year.
Lucky for me, they sell beer mugs commemorating this achievement of FDR’s administration in the gift shop at the FDR Library and Museum (where I’ve established myself for the time being as a perpetual intern.) There really isn’t a very interesting story as to how I got it: I was putting together bags of swag for a visiting teacher’s conference and these were one of the items we were including. I asked my boss nicely if I could have it. He made me feel like a jerk for asking (as he likes to do) and then gave me one. I haven’t drank beer out of it yet (or coffee for that matter, only juice so far) but man is this a cool mug!