I used to collect Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts mainly because they had the names of the cities they were from on the front of every shirt. It was my way of letting people know that I have traveled to that particular city. When I visited my friend in Israel many years ago, I asked him to take me to a Hard Rock Cafe for dinner on the first night. He lived in Rishon LeZion, a few miles from Tel Aviv. He was perturbed at the idea of going to an American establishment to eat instead of us trying one of the acclaimed local Israeli restaurants in the city. I told him, without being embarrassed, that all I was after were those Tel Aviv Hard Rock Cafe shirts. (Of course I didn’t eat at every HRC I went to. In later years, I just bought the shirts and left).
Looking back, I now cringe at my shallowness and lack of sophistication. But because I was still young and naive, I can point the blame on my age (although young people in this present generation are a lot more worldly than I ever was). Dozens of unworn Hard Rock shirts later, I eventually stopped collecting them (what was I thinking—I didn’t even like wearing T-shirts in the first place!). Plus I realized how many good local restaurants I have missed out on whenever I opted to eat at a Hard Rock Cafe.
However, after many years have passed without any collections to boast, I began to collect travel memorabilias once again. This time they are more useful and definitely more worthy of praise—travel mugs from Starbucks! But I still kept my annoying habit of going out of my way just to find a Starbucks location wherever I go. When my mom and I went on a tour to Eastern Europe, I had to ask every local guide if they had a Starbucks. To my disappointment, they didn’t have it in Budapest or Slovakia (back then). The people in our tour group soon learned about my strange obsession with Starbucks (after the many times they heard me ask, in desperation, for a location). When the guide in Prague informed me there was a Starbucks in the city, everyone in the group cheered for me. Unfortunately, after breaking away from the tour and going out of my way to find it, I almost fainted when I was told they didn’t sell the mugs! I wanted to protest and cry miserably inside the store, hoping they will magically find me a ‘Prague’or a ‘Czech Republic’ Starbucks mug. To compensate my heartbreak later, I found a couple Starbucks locations in Vienna. I heard they now have Starbucks in almost every city in Eastern Europe (lucky me!).
Recently the United States has started improving its relations with Cuba. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Cuba told me I better visit it soon because it is still frozen in time. God forbid, once the doors open up, American chains will start popping in. McDonald’s, TGI Friday’s, KFC, and others will shamelessly come and ruin the country with over-commercialization. I totally agree. They should forbid all those awful restaurant chains from entering Cuba but I am fine with allowing only one—just one! Because seriously, I
must have…. I got to have…. can’t live without….well, okay, it would be really nice to add a Havana mug to my collection 😉
I can’t decide which mug is my favorite. Every city or country has an interesting design. Each one has given me so much pleasure whenever I make myself a
cup mug of tea. In solitude, I quietly sit in our kitchen table every morning drinking my tea. My Starbucks mug takes me away to a destination and allows me to escape from my dreary life.