Toasting Hipsters, Mental Health and Community

Toasting Hipsters, Mental Health and Community

The Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club in San Francisco.

Surely, by now, depending on the city, urban culture in America has entered a post-post-post-hipster stage, right? Try as we might, this development appears thoroughly resistant to any definitive categorization.

Because, of course, by definition, the true/authentic/real hipster necessarily stays ahead of the cultural curve—an impossibly dramatic sociological feat. It sounds adventurous enough and thrilling enough until you stop to think about how exhausting it really is to live that way.

Either way, as this 40-something outsider can see (even without Buddy Holly glasses), if you're a hipster and you're receiving mainstream coverage from traditional cultural institutions like, in my city, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, well, it's officially time to acknowledge the anti-empire empire that once was. The ruins are everywhere. I'm sorry.

Not to mention, if a leading religious magazine is featuring the convergence of hipsterism and faith (in yet another vortex involving American spirituality and consumerism), well, grab your warm-weather beanie and a Pabst. It was a nice ride—on your fixed-gear bike—while it lasted.

Giulietta Carrelli.

For some (including me), most hipstersin their various but similar disguisescan be easy to dismiss or, generally, to be annoyed with. They are often the subjects of delightful parodies like this scene from Portlandia in which it is said that the dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland. Then there's the debate over slacktivism.

But suddenly, you are mindlessly mowing your lawn, which is really just a yard. You are listening to a podcast of This American Life. You are feeling especially cultured for a person who mows his own lawn. And you get caught up in an unlikely story featuring artisanal toastsurprise!a foodie trend in San Francisco.

You now have a problem, and it's a very good problem. You can no longer simply reduce toast, or this story, to hipster-inspired counter-cultural excess.

$4 cinnamon toast, it turns out, is all the hipster rage. But it serves as a much more interesting backdrop for a young woman's dark battle with mental illness and self-identity, her subsequent journey toward small-business owner, and, as the Christian-in-me would say, the latent, grace-filled, transformational powers of community.

"I had lived so long with no comfort," Giulietta Carrelli says, explaining why toast made it onto the menu at The Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club. Her story of healing and well-being is as tender as it is strong. And it's worth the hearing.

Enjoy "The Hostess with the Toastess" on This American Life here. Or read the original story, in Pacific Standard magazine, here.

I’m wearing the same outfit every day. I take the same routes every day. I own Trouble Coffee so that people recognize my face—so they can help me.
— Giulietta Carrelli

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