Focal Point: Our Favorite Coffee Mugs

Published on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 10:45 - Written by Dave Berry


“We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.”

Jerry Seinfeld

What is it about a favorite coffee mug that makes you smile?

It’s probably not the silly slogan on the front. And a mug is a mug, so it probably has nothing to do with intricate design, elaborate finish or the vast sum you paid for it.

Coffee mugs are simple to accumulate, easy to lose and quick to fall from grace.

But sometimes one becomes your favorite, brings a smile, feels good in your hands, prompts memories, tickles your fancy or takes you to a time and place almost forgotten.

I have a few of those.

I love that cheap mug I bought at Goulding’s Lodge outside the entrance to Monument Valley, Utah. It was a simple white mug adorned with a line drawing of one of the iconic buttes. We were in the historic motel where John Ford and John Wayne stayed while making “Stagecoach” and a half dozen other westerns. And we were seeing the beauty of the valley just as they had seen it.

Arising before dawn on our first morning, I cranked up the cheap motel coffee pot and had it steaming before the horizon began to brighten. Then, camera in hand, I sat in the dark on the balcony, watching the sky change from purple to orange. I wore my fuzzy robe, but there was a chill in the air, and while the coffee was nothing special, at least it was hot. I will remember that sunrise each time I see that mug.

The one I use most often here at the office is called “Rainbow Warrior.” Its bright reds, oranges, yellows and blues make it appear very modern. But riding across that multi-colored sky is a warrior on horseback, feathers trailing.

It helps me remember Bill Rabbit, a Cherokee painter I only knew briefly. A veteran, he had volunteered for duty in Vietnam, where he served in the 25th Infantry Division. A Cherokee National Treasure, he died too soon just a few years ago. He and his daughter Traci, both talented artists, were devoted to each other. After his death, she created an art scholarship in his name. Proceeds from “Rainbow Warrior” go there. I think of them with every cup.

Another mug was equally beloved. It was ugly blue with a scraggly line of mountains in the distance. I bought it long ago in Estes Park, Colorado. It reminded me of Trail Ridge Road, a wolf on the slope, a daughter too young to hike on her own, picnicking above the clouds, and a deer that almost ran us down on the trail.

It was a familiar part of my right hand in three earlier newsrooms, and when I brought it to Tyler, the staff took to calling it “Muggy.” It didn’t respond well to that name, but I let it slide. Then one day, Muggy was kidnapped — on my desk one day, gone the next.

Ransom notes began arriving. I still have them somewhere, just in case … you know, just in case. The notes were usually accompanied by photos.

In the first, he was spotted on the curb, hitching a ride. In another, he was sleeping under a newspaper on a park bench. Another showed him in handcuffs. Once, he appeared to be in some sort of jail cell. He was a hard-luck mug.

I never got the full story about the kidnapping, but I’m pretty sure it was an inside job. When he finally came home, he had escaped by stowing away inside a can of Maxwell House Coffee.

Muggy led a wild life but met his demise in the men’s room at the newspaper. After a good scrubbing, he was being dried with a paper towel when he leaped to his death onto the tile floor.

I scooped up all the ugly blue splinters, said a few words over him, wrapped him carefully in that day’s edition and laid him to rest in the trash can by the elevator.

It was a sad day.

His replacement was not so easy to find. For a time, I carried a yellow Associated Press mug. Then, a black South Carolina mug adorned with a line of peaches became a temporary favorite. A copy editor had moved away and sent it back to make sure I remembered her. Yes, Betty, I do.

I sometimes revert to my Davy Crockett mug from the Alamo. You know the one. It says, “You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas.”

I’ll continue to carry Bill Rabbit’s “Rainbow Warrior” mug and try not to drop it.

If you have a favorite mug, send me a note about it. Where did you get it? What does it say? (Send a photo if you like.) Why does it mean so much to you? Keep it short so I can highlight the best in a future column. I’ll buy coffee at Brady’s for the best one.


Dave Berry is editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph. His Focal Point column appears every Wednesday on the front of the My Generation section. It goes down well with coffee.