Three dogs. All adopted. All rescued. All spoiled. All really, really big.

My favorite mug. The only one I ever drink from. Ever. The mug that sits beside me when I write. The mug that goes with me in the car. The mug that never gets put back in the cupboard because as soon as I wash it I fill it up again.

If I were to make a movie montage of myself with something that I love, it would involve that mug. Me and the mug on a picnic, feeding each other scones. Me and the mug lying on our backs pointing out shapes in the clouds. Me and the mug watching Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones on a Saturday afternoon. Me and the mug on a bicycle built for two taking a spin around a lake.

Yeah. Me and my mug.


Me and my mug. See how happy we were?


Today, as I write this, I wear the black band of mourning around my arm. The mug is broken.

It was an ugly death involving a barking dog, a leap, and the horrible silence that comes after a car crash . . . when there’s nothing but twisted metal and vapor spewing engines before the sirens sound in the distance. . . like after a lightning flash, when you know the real noise is right behind it but beforehand there’s that awful pause filled with tension and dread.

I saw the death, the fall from my hands, my mug bleeding coffee all over the floor, my dog slipping in it in her scurry for the door. (Cue the slow motion montage and the sad music.)

My mug is dead.

My dogs are not.

My dogs are named for the Rocky movie: Rocky, Adrian, and Apollo. The message of the movie—go the distance. I’ve always liked that film. (Who doesn’t?) And I think my dogs are amazing and inspirational. Who knows what an adopted dog’s past involves? How many miles did they walk before they were picked up? Did they spend nights scared and alone before they were found? Were they beaten by their previous owners? Did someone break their favorite mugs?

I’ll never know. All I really know is that they are always happy, always enthusiastic, and always ready for love.

Now you may be asking yourself what I did after the mug broke. Did I yell at the dog? (It was Adrian, by the way. She can jump like an antelope.) Did I smack her on the nose and tell her she was bad?


Adrian, Breaker of Mugs


Actually no. A friend helped me clean up the crime scene, including incriminating paw prints. My husband picked up the pieces of my shattered mug and told me it would be okay. Adrian nuzzled my legs, apologizing and comforting me in her canine way.

The next days were a haze of confusion and grief . . . and dehydration. What would I drink from now? What vessel could possibly offer me the joy my poor dead mug offered?

Behind me were the days of companionship and warmth and comfort we shared. Ahead of me stretched the rest of my life . . . mugless, thirsty, drinking tepid coffee from my cupped hands. Time passed. I shopped online.

Courageously, I push on. I write. Beside me sits a new mug. We eye one another warily, still unsure if this relationship will work out. Does this mug, for example, prefer football or hockey? I happen to like both. Does this mug favor fall or spring? Christmas or Halloween? I can’t tell yet.

For now, it is a relationship forged in the fire of necessity and the kiln of a New York potter. And that’s all it needs to be.

As for Adrian? All is forgiven.  She and the mug keep their distance from each other, unsure yet of one another. And perhaps that’s as it should be. I don’t want dog hair in my coffee anyway.


My awesome new mug from Aime H Bean


But let me say this . . . I find it much easier to write with something familiar beside me . . . a mug (obviously), a picture, a book, something that grounds me. I find it to be a mental cue that subtly lets my brain know it’s time to do the work of the day.

What about you? Do you have something you use all the time, something you’ve come to rely on when you write? I’d love to hear about it.

–JB Kohl


Filed under fun, Humor, life, musings, writing

5 responses to “Vessel

  1. J.B.: I’m so sorry to learn of the demise of your favorite mug. I drink from any one of several, depending on my mood. There’s the Nat Sherman mug I purchased from Nat Sherman’s on Fifth Avenue in NYC, before they moved to a smaller location, thanks to the higher tobacco tax. I also purchased two boxes of cedar matches from them several years ago and, when my supply began to run low, wrote them to ask how I might obtain more since their online store didn’t show them as an item for sale. They told me they were not allowed by law to ship matches as they are considered incendiary devices and they “eagerly awaited my return to the Big Apple.” Yeah, I’m sure they’re holding their collective breath. I get to NYC once every decade. Another is my Guinness mug—black with gold trim that I learned, when attempting to reheat cold coffee in the microwave, was real gold. Then there is the one I purchased online from Lithuania, with the evil imp composing the handle, its tongue lolling thirstily for a sip of my favorite morning beverage, which I won’t share.

    No attachments for me to coffee mugs. I find my Sunday morning muse in a good cigar. Can’t write without one. It’s the routine: going to the humidor and picking the right one, snipping the head, inhaling the fragrance of the wrapper, lighting it, watching the smoke billow … Whatever gets you through the session, eh?

    I’m sure you and your new mug will bond, but it’s going to take time. Be patient.

    • JB Kohl

      Don’t you love a good routine? I can’t say I smoke cigars, but I get the symbolism of it, the ritual, the bracing feeling it must give you as you settle in and get going.

      Sometimes I get so caught up in answering e-mails, reading news, or doing other mindless things I forget to do what I’m supposed to be doing (and what it is I really want to do) . . . hence, the mug. A super strong cup of coffee, a quick review of yesterday’s chapter, and I’m off.

      • J.B.: I think we all laugh at the family dog because he or she has a routine; but humans are little different. As I near the end of a novel I begin to fret over my next project. I don’t like to let too much time pass for fear I’ll develop bad habits; that is, I’ll get lazy and won’t write. It’s like an exercise routine—you’ve got to keep it going or you’ll lose it.

        I do the email thing, too, check the hits on my Web site from the previous day, alerts and so on—all good ways to procrastinate. Yes, going over yesterday’s work is a great way to get started.

        The best that I’ve found, however, is to end the previous session in the middle of an action sequence or an exchange of dialogue. Nothing makes me more anxious to start in the morning than something left unfinished. Of course, some mornings it can’t be helped—new chapter, blank page, hazy on where I’m picking up the story.

        Still, I’ve found nothing so gratifying than chasing words around on a blank screen and arranging them into some semblance of order to provoke, entertain or amuse, whether it’s fiction, a memoir, or a sports or op-ed piece.

  2. christinehusom

    You have turned something sad into a touching post. I don’t have a favorite mug, but I have had some treasures that grandchildren have broken because they couldn’t resist playing with them–irreplacable antique miniature kerosene lamp, my mother’s locket, etc. Even though I have felt terrible, I have to let it go.

    I don’t have a consistent writing schedule, so I don’t have any special triggers, but I’m thinking maybe I should get one.

    • JB Kohl

      Hi Chris,
      You know, I wasn’t even aware I had triggers or the need for familiar things until I started to have trouble working without something nearby. I have no idea if that comes with age or experience and getting set in one’s ways . . .

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