Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mug Shots

Hoarding? Archiving? Collecting?
Call it what you will but I have a pretty mean streak of this right down the center of my spine.
The objects may change but the habit remains.
I could blame it on ingrained American consumerism or from the 'beginning of time' greed as in "You have something pretty and I want it too!" 

Our local Chinese co-workers and friends love the lure of upscale Western brand names but have avoided the sting of this collecting bug. 

I have MY theory of why not and here it is:

Chinese folks live in much smaller spaces than us expatriates or 'wealthy' ones.  Often they share living areas with two or even three generations of family members. If they are younger and live in a city area, like ours, they share apartments with multiple friends, rent is divided and so is a small living space. University students have 3 or 4 bunk beds in a small room making it necessary to have their clothes hanging from high places.  Conserving space means that having extra "stuff" is very impractical. 

In an effort to orient us into the Chinese culture a former USA expatriate suggested being selective when gifting a Chinese friend or co-worker.  "Gifting is a definite element of the Chinese way. Express gratitude with consumables - food, tobacco, flowers, alcohol, money or a meal," he said. 

 It sure makes perfect sense given the space constraints, less income and the size of the Chinese population.

But having space (or the lack of it) has never stopped my ever-changing need to collect "stuff."  I've self-diagnosed this as sometimes bordering on a  very mild obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Through the years I've sought out certain things to fulfill the need:  

"I gotta HAVE it!"
Now, you could go all "Biblical" on me:

"Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and  where thieves do not break in and steal."~ Matthew 6:20 

You'd have every right to quote that and I absolutely get the message.


You could diagnose this obsession as "Psychological."

Do I have a gaping hole in my childhood? 
My brother and I were lavished upon when compared to my Depression-raised parents.

But in the end, who really knows (or cares,) so I proclaim that solving the "Why?" of my collecting obsession is so less interesting than the "What?"
What have I collected?

As a pre-teenager I collected autographed photographs of TV/Movie stars.  All one had to do is send a request to specific studios in California. For the cost of a 5-cent postage stamp and a three-sentence pledge of undying pre-adolescent devotion to that particular star my collecting blossomed.  Receiving a brown envelope with your name on it delivered by Mr. Pottle, our mailman for 20 years, was worth raiding my mother's stamps. Pretty photos arrived of these celebrities:

Annette Funicello
Troy Donahue
Edward Byrnes
Pernell Roberts
Shelly Fabares
Richard Chamberlain
Ricky Nelson

Sandra Dee
Paul Peterson
Bobby Darren
Vince Edwards
Tuesday Weld
Paul Anka
Hayley Mills
Michael Landon
Connie Stevens  - <this is where "Cricket" came from>
Tony Dow
and the cast of Bonanza & Leave it to Beaver

So now you know where I fall into a time-line and some of you will have to google these stars of yesterday, I'm certain. The celebrity status of Hollywood stars were "brought to you by" 1960's television, radio or what I'll call Bubble Gum movies.  Every winter Sunday afternoon, after church and lunch, a parent would drop us off at a curb on Michigan Avenue.  We'd stand in a line that wrapped around a cement-block building in our penny loafers and anklets with frozen knee caps and chapped cheeks. After purchasing a thirty-five cent ticket at the Calvin or Dearborn theater we'd enter a dark velvety cushioned lobby, buy our 10-cent box of popcorn, a drink with two straws and enter the darkened theater.  Wide-eyed we'd watch a cartoon and 2 full-length movies. Beach-Blanket Bingo, Gidget, Parent Trap, A Summer Place...the stage was set for teenage indoctrination and capturing stars.   Those studio photos were stored in a manila folder marked "Movie Stars" for many years and are sadly gone.

Since then I've had an endless history of collecting things, going in spurts and bingeing and purging through the years. I sometimes felt that I had outgrown the collection or needed the space. You, no doubt have a list.  Mine includes:

  • Goebel "Redhead" figurines
  • an entire Vest of Tac Pins
  • WKNR - Top 40 - Music Guides
  • Vintage Table Linens
  • Charm Bracelets
Seems to be a theme of nostalgia and reminiscing when I look at that list.  Not surprising having had a charmed & wonderful life.

Before arriving in Nanjing, China to our new home, I decided that I wouldn't bring any part of a collection. 

"I don't need anymore "stuff."  

"The more you have, the more you have to take care of," I repeatedly droned.

But, like any other afflicted soul, you're clean until your next "hit" and the "hit" was in the dragon's scope.

*~* Five buildings south of us on a granite-topped kitchen counter top they glistened. Southern sunlight "ping"ed across their bony white surfaces.  There before me, lining a Nanjing window sill, sat Pete's collection of
* ~*~Starbucks City Mugs~*~*
 Each mug announced a city or country's name emblazoned over an iconic representational image. The colors differed and the interior of each mug matched the exteriors focal color.  Dreamy. *~*

"These are really GREAT!" I swooned as I picked up one with orange accents with the words Hong Kong in a rich Colombian brown. I turned it from side to side, looking at the bottom and it's pleasing citrus-hued interior.

 "Yup, Pete gets one wherever he travels, kind of a "collection," (ding-ding-ding!) remarked the  lovely  Mrs. Pete, as she rolled her eyes. 

"Nice! Would you mind if I did the same, Pete?" 

 "Sure, go ahead, I don't care," he naively replied.

And that's when my fate was sealed, I began a Collection in China and it hasn't stopped.
China mug with dragon and fiery interior

There ARE parameters to this collection in which Pete and I are on the same page: 

1) A member of the household must have BEEN to a Starbucks in the 'land of the mug.' Could have been way back when......but if one of you was there, in a Starbucks, in the city or country written on the mug then it is permissible to purchase and proudly display. No exceptions.

Simple rule and oh so much adrenalin-driven fun. 

Before you judge me, know that the hunt requires honest to goodness research. 

The Spirit of Detroit
  • Is the destination city/country represented by a Starbucks mug?
  • Is it the 'right' series - (2008)
  • How many Starbucks are located in this town?
  • Where are the Starbucks located?
  • Shall we call ahead and check if there are any on their shelves?
  • Will they hold the LAST one till we get there?  zooooooooom

I've shared the fun upon a visit to our Shanghai friends as four of us taxi-ed swiftly through Shanghai. Just like a Chinese Fire Drill back home 'The girls' ran into three separate Starbucks for the hunt and gather expedition. The third store was the charm as we walked out with three - one Shanghai for me, one Shanghai for Jane and a China one for her, too. Thus began Jane's window sill collection.

My collection has grown with our traveling about.  So much so, that the Big Guy has fashioned a beautiful wood shelf to house and display them.  Wanna see?
My New Shelf - Thanks, Big Guy!

Pete is WAY ahead of me since he travels to places like Fuzhou on business and we probably never will...but that's okay because I have Thailand and Phuket, right?  
The friendly competition to Beat Pete has resulted in playful barbs. Pete remarked to Gordon that building HIM a shelf TWICE as big as mine will be necessary sooner than later. :o)

Anyway, it's been a fun way to collect something that represents our time here in China and the Asia Pacific region. I've justified this collection by every one's need to hydrate and reminisce.  In the Chinese way these mugs take up very little space and are a practical addition to our household.  When we're older and grayer we can sip hot water with sliced lemon from our mugs (because caffeine will be off limits) and we'll fondly recall our three-year China Adventure.  It's a Good Life!

Thanks for Reading,

P.S.Before leaving on a trip to Cambodia I researched to find the closest Starbucks to Si em Reap or Phnom Penh. NO Starbucks ie: NO mug - I almost cancelled the trip! 


marsha said...

How Fun! What a great way to remember all the places you've been.....and to anticipate all the places you'll go.

Allison J D said...

Our house is already overrun with mugs -- from the dozen we received with our wedding, to the multitude we've gathered from projects and jobs...I fear that I may be compelled to join in the game. AY YI YI.

You can eat soup out of mugs, right?
And cereal?
How about steak??

Becca said...

I confess- I have a huge attraction to mugs. Over the years I've had SO many that I've had to cull the collection multiple times. Of course I have my favorites, and the one I use often in the mornings was one (the last one left) of a set I got to match my pink kitchen in 1976!

The idea of collecting mugs from all the different Starbucks internationally is a great one, I think. It has a nice focus, and they are functional :)

And boy, did that Keener 13 list bring back memories! I had a stack of those in my desk drawer.

Great post!