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June 5, 2023


The last couple weeks have felt like a dream. It all started in Tres Pinos when Confederate and Union soldiers in full regalia—rifles drawn—battled among the 19th century clapboard houses at San Benito County Historical Park. Then on Saturday an assortment of explorers, fair maidens, madcap barons and wenches galore converged on Casa de Fruta for the first day of the Northern California Renaissance Faire. I had not seen so many corseted bosoms since Madonna’s “Vogue” period in the 1990s.

I was curious about why people donned the costumes and affectations of generations past for fun. Was the Civil War and the Renaissance really that much of a hoot?

“It is an escape,” said a gentleman at the Faire who looked like Sir Francis Drake from my old elementary school history textbook.

“There are no devices here,” whispered a Civil War re-enactor in a starched-white bonnet, her voice low enough so nearby teenagers could not hear her treachery. “It is a good family activity.”

As a mom to a nine-year-old who needs at least one device on her person at all times, I was intrigued.

Looking around the Faire and the white tents of the make-believe Civil War there were families with children of all ages. They were smiling, laughing and talking to each other. There were no blurry eyes because of excessive screen time. Minecraft and YouTube did not exist.

It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday hustle of commuting, organizing play-dates, volunteering at your kid’s school and working long into the night.

Thanks to personal technology like the smartphone, the line between leisure and work has been irreparably blurred and the very nature of relaxation has changed so that fifteen minutes playing a mindless mobile game like Candy Crush counts as downtime. My daughter hates it when I tell her that back when I was a kid we didn’t have on-demand television, smartphones and tablets and when we went on long drives in the car the only entertainment we had to mark the miles was punch buggy and 20 questions.

Over the last few decades advances in consumer technology have completely transformed our lives in both big and small ways. The internet spurred entirely new industries and careers. And if you missed a music video the first time around on MTV you can find it on YouTube.

But there is a downside to the instant gratification that technology affords. We have all grown a bit more impatient, are less willing to be bored and daydream and instead of talking to each other, we are all looking down, checking email and posting on social media. So here’s a challenge. Let us all unplug for the day and put on a corset or tunic or do as one of our readers suggested, hop on a Harley and drive the back roads of San Benito County.

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