**WARNING:** Philosophical, pseudo-inspirational words ahead.

I’ve written before about my torrid affair with the Coffee People Black Tiger milkshake. [Last time I mentioned it]( was summer 2006, and I was up at 3am, having polished off one of these extremely caffeinated milkshakes about seven hours earlier.

Coffee People, which was one of Portland’s original espresso chains, is now [mostly defunct]( The brand’s last outpost is a few stands at Portland International Airport.

Sort of.

I was out in Portland today and came across [Jim and Patty’s Coffee]( Jim and Patty are the actual coffee people from the Coffee People logo. They’re like the local band that hit it big, drove around in a tour bus for a few years, then went back to playing at the bar down the street. They sell Black Tiger milkshakes and all the other old CP favorites (lemon cheesecake, espresso mocha, Velvet Hammer).

More important, however, they had an exhibition of Road Tour mugs. As the Portland Business Journal put it:

> In this age of Starbucks ubiquity, it’s worth remembering there was a time when the unveiling of Coffee People’s annual “Road Tour” mug was close to a genuine cultural event. Coffee snobs didn’t tote some stainless steel contraption with the Starbucks mermaid logo. The beverage transport device of choice for the coffee elite was the now quaint plastic “Road Tour” mug.

(I tried to get a picture of the display but it was behind very reflective plastic.)

I bought the Road Tour mug annually for several years in the early 90s. It was as important a part of my wardrobe as my Pearl Jam t-shirt. Apparently they were still doing them [as recently as 2006](

When I saw the display, which featured maybe five mugs from my coffee-willing heyday, it was a big nostalgia sandwich. I remembered driving around Portland in my little Mazda, spilling coffee (no cupholders), and doing various stupid high school things. Seeing those mugs was great–I still have residual awesome in my veins, hours later.

I had a minor pang about the fact that I’d gotten rid of my (dirty, plastic) road tour mugs. Why hadn’t I held onto them and created my own little shrine?

Then I had a flash of insight. Maybe even an insight sandwich. Here’s what would have happened if I’d kept the mugs. I would have them stashed in my closet. I would know they were there, but they would have stopped bringing me any joy years ago, after they got too gross to drink out of. Periodically I’d waste time moving them from one apartment to another and stashing them in a new closet. Then, today, at Jim and Patty’s, I would have seen the mug display and shrugged at the same old mugs moldering in my closet. They would have been robbed of their awesome.

This, I think, is a part of why I so enjoy getting rid of things–even irreplaceable things of the greatest sentimental value. I didn’t mention this aspect of decluttering in [my recent column on the topic](, and perhaps the idea sounds deliberately inflammatory, but today is not the first time I’ve gotten considerable and unexpected pleasure out of getting rid of something of sentimental importance. In fact, now I try not to accumulate anything like this at all, stuff that will play my own life back to me until I get bored of it.

(Another hypothesis is that I do this because I’m a guy.)

By the way, I didn’t order the Black Tiger shake, because–call me old-fashioned–I feel like sleeping tonight.

15 thoughts on “Memento

  1. devlyn

    The original coffee people is one of my fave coffee places. They always know how to do my Habanero Mocha exactly to my liking – it’s the only place in town I trust with “flavors” in my coffee.

  2. Marisa

    I had every Coffee People Road Tour Mug from 1994 through 2002 (including the single hideous corporate one that deviated from the traditional size and shape).

    I adored them, but a few years ago, pitched them all (they took up far too much space), save my first 1994 tie-dyed one that was so emblematic of the early/mid nineties in Portland. I don’t use it, I just have it and love it. I still go to Jim and Patty’s when I’m in Portland, to appreciate those mugs of yore.

    You didn’t happen to go to Lincoln, did you?

  3. Jess

    Wow, I remember those milkshakes. I used to get the one with raspberry in it, I think. My favorite Coffee People drink is the iced Mexican cocoa, now.

  4. sphitz

    Flashback to Portland! I used to work for Jim and Patty at the 23rd Street Coffee People basement store back in ’92. I still harbor fond memories of the whole scene, from the smell of the beans to baking the cookies to having a line of my regulars out the door when we opened on a weekday morning and knowing who wanted what before they got to the front of the line. Aw. I still reflect sweetly on the Jimbo the Hippie cookies and, of course, Jimbo the Hippie, who was even more wonderful than the baked goods named after him. Thanks for taking me back, Matthew. :)

  5. Marisa

    Oh I remember Boyds. I’d either go there, or we’d walk down Salmon to the Coffee People on the park blocks (where Humphrey Yogart used to be). Ah, high school.

  6. Marisa

    I graduated from Lincoln in 1997, so it looks as thought we just missed each other. My friend Matt Baker was there during your time, though.

  7. Camille

    Thank you for that steaming mug of nostalgia! I still have, somewhere, the “Rosebud” tiger mug. Was it ’95? Used to fill it up with Espresso Mocha Milkshake when I was feeling flush. Otherwise, it held water or tea brought from home.

    Yet Another LHS Grad (’96)

  8. dancinmikeb

    I remember when I was around 15 and I ordered a Black Tiger Slammer without having any idea what it was. All I knew was that it was less than $2.00 and I had $2.00. It was, of course, a straight shot and very strong. I did not finish that one;)

  9. my spatula

    i just heard your podcast with molly on spilled milk and i just have one question for you: when are you quitting your day job and doing stand-up?!? HILARIOUS!!! you made my day.

  10. Kristin of Intrepid Murmurings

    Flash back to the nineties indeed! I loved Coffee People (even though I didn’t drink coffee). Loved the milkshakes and ADORED the mugs — the tie dye one was my favorite! It was a sad day when I had to say goodbye to those.

    But indeed, purging is good. I am working hard on upping my game in that arena.

    Also, hello! Found your blog through goodreads. I did not go to Lincoln but had friends there (I went to OES). Good ole’ PDX, I miss it.

  11. Bri

    I just arrived here from Molly’s blog, but had to chime in as another lover of Coffee People. Every morning before I trudged into class I’d swing by the “coffee block” next to campus. In this one block, there were 14 coffee shops and the only one I frequented was CP. Black Tiger Mochas and milkshakes were a staple. I still have one of my CP road tour mugs (from 1998 I think) but only because it was my “smoothie only” mug. The coffee mug unfortunately didn’t make it.

    A friend told me about Jim and Patty’s about a year ago and I’ve been meaning to make it up there for a visit for a long time. Thanks for the nudge, I may have to make a road trip.

  12. kismet art

    Those Black Tiger Milkshakes got me through many an afternoon working with a classroom full of energetic 4 year olds (may just be worth a trip to the PDX next time I’m in town!)

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