The scene: You’re out with a group of friends, hanging in a coffeehouse. You haven’t visited with these people in many months, because you’re all adults and have jobs, kids, whatever. You’ve got your drinks, you’re comfortably seated, you start catching up. But wait! Three of the five friends are engrossed in their iPhones. One by one, they come up for air, blinking, “huh? Did you ask me a question?”
It’s gotten to the point where I find myself declining invitations to socialize and you can blame smart phones for that. I’m just old enough that I can remember way back when, before the advent of cellphones, when people would gather and the conversation would flow, minds would meld, ideas would be hatched. But I know that if I hang out with people at a coffeehouse or go to dinner nowadays, conversation will not flow, it will happen in fits and spurts as pockets buzz and “oh, it’s my boyfriend, I’d better text him back.”
There was a time when human beings weren’t all on-call, 24/7. When people would revel in one another’s company and THAT WAS ENOUGH! Gather ’round kids, let me tell you a tale…
The year was 1991. I was sitting in the living room of a friend’s apartment in Venice Beach. There were a bunch of us, bohemians all-musicians, writers, painters. As wine flowed, we touched on the topic of the Italian Renaissance. The question was posed: Can a group of people be a catalyst for a modern renaissance? What would be needed for a renaissance to happen? In these pre-internet days, we decided that there’d have to be a hub, where the talent could congregate. I hit on the idea of a magazine as hub and as we lolled on the floor and couches and the night wore on, we talked excitedly of plans to bring about a modern day renaissance.
In the sober light of morn, we stretched and laughed about our big, deep talk, went our separate ways. But I became obsessed with the idea of starting a magazine that could act as a cultural hub. In 1993, when I had a little extra money to mess around with, I decided it was time to do this thing. I considered calling the magazine “Renaissance” but thought that sounded pretentious. I wanted my zine to be playful and light-hearted and thus, “Burnt Toast” was born. With covers in bold, bright primary colors, featuring artwork, articles and poems, my intention was for BT to be a creative hub for locals in my hometown of Huntington Beach and the surrounding environs. Long story short, Burnt Toast was published bi-monthly for the next year and a half and it was one of the best things I ever did. BT was popular and loved and helped to launch the careers of several writers. There are a few books out there floating around where Burnt Toast is cited in the acknowledgements. Just the look on people’s faces, to have budding poets throw their arms around me, so excited to have their poem published, was the greatest thing ever.
See what I mean! All that came from one, incredibly iPhoneless conversation! And while I realize I’m probably sounding like a grumpy old cat lady, fact is, if the people I hang out with are going to spend half that time gazing at their phone, then I’d rather be home, strumming my guitar or ensconced in a book, cuddling Harold and Mod.
And while you’re at it, get off my lawn! Dagnabbit…