Mugs: A Review

Since I moved out of my parents’ house I’ve accumulated more mugs than any reasonable person needs. I’m also on the lookout for more. It’s gotten to the point where Emily regularly teases me about how many mugs I have. Even though she bought many of them for me. I admit, it’s a lot. But is it enough? Probably not.

So here is a review of some of my favorite mugs, some of them have a story behind them. Others are just neat.

Handmade Mug from Dalhonega Georgia

When I first moved out this was the mug I used the most often and the one that I am using as I write this. I don’t remember the name of the store where I got this mug but I do remember the circumstances.

It was almost immediately after my graduation from college, my cousin was getting married so my father and I drove down to Georgia for the wedding. My father’s sixtieth birthday was also happening that week and my aunts had arranged for a surprise party at a restaurant in Dalhonega.

After the party, my dad and I took a walk around town and wandered into a pottery shop where almost everything had been handmade by the man who owned it. We were looking around, and at this point I think we had signed the lease for my new apartment, and my dad decided that I needed a mug as a housewarming present and told me to pick one.

It’s a good mug and it’s safe for dishwasher and microwave use. Although the shape is a little unusual I really love the little imperfections from when it was made. It really adds to the uniqueness of the mug.

Saratoga Coffee Traders 10 Year Anniversary Mug

Saratoga Coffee Traders is a coffee shop in, you guessed it, Saratoga Springs. They’re also one of the best places to go to get Death Wish Coffee, which is not unique to them but they do sell a lot of it. If you haven’t had Death Wish Coffee then you need to. It’s loaded with caffeine, perfect for those morning where you want to wake up and induce a heart attack at the same time.

Besides serving various drinks and snacks, Coffee Traders also sells a selection of mugs, bagged coffee, coffee accessories, and coffee-sponsored comic books (yes you read that right). The problem is all of these cost money, so while I would stand in line waiting to order a large Death Wish I would often admire the various mugs on display and look mournfully at the price tags. So one Christmas my dad asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted a mug from Saratoga Coffee Traders.

He ended up getting me two of these anniversary mugs. These mugs are handmade and they are BIG. They are very well made and I like the colors, the problem is that they are so large that my coffee often cools down before I am able to drink it all. Because of this I don’t use these mugs often but I do enjoy them. Plus they tie in nicely to the next mug on the list.

Saratoga Guitar 25th Anniversary Mug

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.

“Damn that’s one fine looking mug. I want that mug.”

Well too bad. You can’t have it.

This mug was part of a very limited run that my father had made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his store, Saratoga Guitar. He had always sold hats and shirts but had also talked for a long time about adding other merchandise. So to celebrate the stores anniversary he ordered a limited run of these mugs from Deneen Pottery. Deneen Pottery is the same company that made the Coffee Traders mug. They specialize in hand made, custom ceramics.

Besides being the owner of Saratoga Guitar, my father also organized and ran the Capital Region Guitar Show. A yearly/twice yearly (depending on the year) convention in Saratoga Springs for guitar aficionados. To celebrate the 25th year of being in business by father organized an after party for the 2019 show. Many of his friends came to perform for this afterparty, pizza was delivered hourly, and multiple charities came to fundraise at the event. My dad also ordered a very limited quantity of these mugs. Most of them were immediately sold or given to staff, so yeah, if you want one then too bad. You should have come to the show.

This mug is a little awkward because of the large lip, but it’s easily my favorite mug and the one I use most frequently.

Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Mug

You may not know this, but I happen to be a brother of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the world’s oldest and largest secret national music fraternity. Though Greek Life has many issues, fraternity members rarely live up to stereotypes, and for many fraternities provides a safe space for men to connect with other men without having to worry about the baggage that comes with toxic masculinity.

Being a part of this fraternity helped me a lot in college, I was chapter president during my senior year and since graduation I’ve continued to work with my fraternity as a regional alumni coordinator. Mostly I just send out newsletters, but it gives me something to do and many alumni are very appreciative of my efforts and it’s nice to be appreciated.

I don’t get as many occasions to wear letters as I used to, but I like keeping around a few mugs that I can break out during virtual province meetings.

American Chemical Society Membership Mug

The American Chemical Society does this cool thing where they send mugs to their members that correspond to the number of years they have been a member. This one is Hydrogen (Element 1) because it was send to me for my one year anniversary of membership. Roughly.

Unfortunately I don’t have any more of these because membership fees are expensive for a lowly graduate student such as myself so I chose not to renew. But still, I love ACS swag.

The Wisdom of Uncle Iroh Mug

This is a relatively recent addition to my collection. At the start of quarantine I got back into Avatar the Last Airbender, and I mean REALLY into it. And so did several of my friends.

Randomly, my friend Lauren, who is also a fan, saw this mug and ordered me one and I love it. Lauren is pretty cool and you should check her out. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram as a_science_life, she also founded ForensicBites, a scicomm initiative that makes new developments in forensic science accessible to the general public.

Hartwick College Mug

One of my greatest regrets from undergrad is that I never bought a mug. I was a poor college student so I would often admire the mugs and other drinkware but never bought one. Eventually, I graduated and I was a poor college student no longer. Instead I became a poor graduate student and I was finally able to buy one of the mugs I had wanted for so long.

I have no complaints about this mug but also no special praise. I enjoy the shape of it and the finish has a nice texture. The only problem is that sometimes soap scum sticks to the outside. It’s not a big deal though, and it’s a good mug.

Thanks for reading this far! This post is a little different from my normal content. If you like it and want me to create more content you can help out by buying me a coffee.

My Father’s Guitars

I’ve been thinking about my father a lot in the past week and I’ve been handling his death a lot better than I thought I would. It’s been the little things that have made the loss feel more real. Moments where I pick up the phone to call him and I realize I can’t.

Even though there was often silence between us I loved working with him. I loved going to guitar shows and talking with the other dealers. It was a great time to just sit with him and admire the music we both enjoyed. He never tried to make us be like him, he always supported what we wanted to do and never pressured us to take up guitar like him, but I could see how happy it made him when I would pick up a guitar at work and clumsily strum a few chords. It made him happy, and it made me happy, and while I will never been as good as he was it makes me happy to have been able to share that with him.

Keeping busy has helped. I’ve been helping my mother go through his things, mainly his guitars. He owned a guitar store, so of course he bought and sold them all the time, but he also had a lot of guitars in his personal collection. Some of these were investments (he treated guitars like other people treat stocks), some he just thought were cool (he had sooo many vintage Peaveys), some were built for him by his late friend and luthier Rodger Bennedict, others he had bought because he wanted to give them to my brothers and me one day.

Once we’ve had some time to process the loss, my brothers and I will go through the collection and decide who gets what, but in the meantime the guitar I will be playing is one that my dad gave me years ago.

When I was born my dad bought me a guitar, and he did the same for my brothers. He bought each of us a Seagull and held on to them until we were ready to have them. He actually tried to give it to me several times in the past few years but I never accepted it. When I lived in the dorms I didn’t feel safe taking it with me. I didn’t want someone to get drunk at a party and try playing it and I worried I wouldn’t be able to keep it humidified properly. But now my dad is gone and I have an apartment where I know it will be safe. So I took it, and it’s what I’ve been playing the last few days.

I really can’t overstate what great condition the guitar is in. The stickers were still on it until a few days ago. For those who don’t know, Seagull is a brand of guitars made in Canada under the Godin umbrella. All of their lines are phenomenal, but Seagulls always held a special place in my father’s store. Every customer who came in looking for an upgrade had a seagull thrust into their hands. My dad loved them, and he bought three of them, one in 1995, one in 1997, and another in 2000 for my brothers and me.

For twenty-five years this guitar has been waiting in storage for me to pick it up and I really cannot understate how incredibly well-preserved it is. You see, guitars are very particular, solid top guitars especially. The strings place a massive strain on the instrument, over time the neck of the guitar can warp and the bridge can start to pull away. And if the wood dries out the top can begin to crack. For this reason, guitar stores and guitar players work hard to keep their instruments properly humidified. And if the are going to be stored without being played the strings are often loosened or taken off completely.

My dad was always better at giving advice than following it. This guitar was stored in exactly the way it shouldn’t have been and it is pristine. The neck is nearly perfectly straight and the spruce tops looks brand new. All it needed was a new set of strings. You could hand me this guitar and tell me it came out of the factory yesterday and I would believe you. It’s really amazing how well built it is.

Once this all shakes out I’m going to come away with a lot of guitars. But this guitar, the first gift he ever gave me, is one I will treasure always.

My Dad Died

That’s it. That’s the title.

He had been battling COVID-19 for about two weeks. He had it rough, but he had never been the type to admit that he was sick, but he took it seriously. I was very worried about him at first when I called him and it sounded like he could barely speak. But then he got better, and after awhile his appetite returned. He had been living alone since my parents split up. I and many of his friends arranged to have food and medicine delivered to his doorstep.

A few days ago he excitedly told me how he had eaten some of the jello I sent him. He was tired, but he was feeling better. Then yesterday morning, January 12, he wasn’t answering his phone. I called my mother, she called the police, I rushed over. I told myself he had just fallen asleep without charging his phone, but I knew. I knew. I just didn’t want to admit it to myself yet.

Over the past decade, even longer maybe, I have wondered what this day would be like. Would I have any regrets when he was gone? We didn’t always have an ideal relationship We fought a lot because he wasn’t always the father I wanted him to be. He was hard to talk to, he didn’t always care about the things we cared about, he didn’t always understand our hobbies. But I loved our roadtrips together, I loved working with him in his guitar store, and I loved watching movies with him. Whenever a new historical or war movie came out that no one else wanted to see I could always guarantee that he would want to go with me.

And he was so supportive, of everything. He was always so proud of me and my brothers and his friends say that we were all he talked about. When I first tried my hand at writing on sheets of loose leaf paper he was so excited that he bought me my first computer. He was the first to sign up to my email list, and would contact me after every post. A few weeks ago I sent him the first eight chapters of the book I’ve been writing. He loved it. I wish I could show him the rest.

About two years ago my parents split up and my dad moved out. It was a hard two years for him, but at the same time it was something he needed. We grew closer, he became more attentive, more talkative. We grew a lot closer. I wish that we had had more time together. I wish that he had been able to fully grow into his second bachelordom. There are so many things I still wanted to do with him. I had ideas for roadtrips, I had diners I wanted to visit. I wish we had more time.

At the same time. I can honestly say that I don’t have any regrets. He knows I loved him, he knows I didn’t hate him. There’s nothing more that needed to be said and I am thankful for that.

My father was very popular in his community. It has only been a day and already there has been an incredible outpouring of support. All day I’ve been on the phone with his friends, and my friends. Dozens of people have posted to Facebook about him. He was a big part of the local community and he is dearly missed. In the coming months I’ll be using this post as a way of archiving all of the tributes being made to him.

I know these times are hard, but if you have a few dollars to spare it would mean a lot if you could donate to Caffe Lena or the Franklin Community Center in the name of my father, Matthew McCabe. No one who walked into his store needing help ever left without it, but these are two causes that he kept coming back to.

Thank you. And wear your mask. Please.

Tributes To My Father

  • A celebration of my father’s life is being planned for Feb 20th and will be hosted online by Caffe Lena. Anyone who wants to say a few words can email a 3-4 minute video to reese@caffelena.org.
  • I had really only just begun to upload all of my father’s music to Youtube. He was so excited by the idea of sharing his music again. I still need to upload the rest, but you can listen to what is there so far here.
  • As long as I knew my father he was playing music. He used to bring me to his gigs when I was little. He would say I was his roadie and make me feel important, and then order me a plate of chicken tenders. Life for all musicians during covid has been tough. A few weeks ago he sang at his last gig which was done over livestream. He was so excited, it was the first time I ever heard him get nervous about a gig. You can find it here.
  • Just a few hours after his death there were dozens sharing their grief and their support. It’s so good to see that the community he loved so much loved him back. Saratoga Living was quick to share the news.
  • I spoke with a very nice reporter at the Saratogian about this article this morning. As much as I miss him it helps to talk about him.
  • Spectrum News interviewed several of his friends the other day.
  • An article from the Times Union.
  • The mayor of Saratoga Springs plans to declare a day for him.
  • Another article with details on the tribute being planned for him at Caffe Lena.
  • Saratoga Living recently published this tribute, which includes quotes from several people, including myself.