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  • Writer's pictureHOT LITERATI

The People According to Hot Literati #1


We’re walking the streets of the Lower East Side trying to find willing participants to entertain us in our game. I hold a bucket of those sugar tubes children guzzle down and we try to invoke that same juvenility in our gambit, the Pixy Stix their prize. It’s hard to approach people at first; then it is exceedingly easy. All you have to do is speak and wait for a response. No one is particularly unfriendly.

Our query: what is your favorite memory from before you had a phone? From before social media?

Most people say playing outside. Most people were only kids. The Bulgarian couple says street games. The restaurant staff emanating cigarette smoke in a circle of three does not care to play along. My favorite is the bouncer.

He is in his sixties. He has been a bouncer for a long time. Before there was Instagram, or Eventbrite, or Kylie Jenner there were print shops. He says he made copies of fliers in color for parties and clubs and nighttime, and he posted them around the neighborhood, and he got people to come. I am nostalgic for this piece of the past I have no memory of.


I felt alive today, this body of mine felt every emotion, I was anxious, a little sad, but I ended the night happy - at 4am… It was a pure summer day, I started drinking at 2pm, was tipsy the entire way to Manhattan where I met my friend at wash, of course I brought a drink for her and as the day continued we walked and drank all around lower manhattan gossiping about game of thrones, within that hour I knew everything about the entire franchise and I was getting more drunk by the minute. I couldn't walk straight, but I didn't care. I laughed when I stumbled. We stumbled upon a block party so we danced a bit and then continued walking to try and find a god forsaken bench in the city for a smoke. I'm going to skip some details but all you need to know is that I kept drinking and then I met up with Hailo and Bella Ve at 9pm.

I had been wearing a little dress, black lace socks, and my sambas. Hair wet, body feels gross, I sweat my lipstick off- this new york heatwave is getting to me but honestly I crave the heat, the winter is far worse for me. I love hanging out with Hailo and Bella, every time I see them I'm no longer obsessed with the idea of being happy, but I just am. So here we have “the people according to hot literati,” a new idea, where we reveal the life of others with each new interaction. To me it feels like sharing intimacy. I think it's sweet that a stranger can have an impact on my writing, yes I will be writing about you later and I'm going to tell everyone what I learned about you - all with love of course, maybe.

Tonight we asked people in Manhattan what their favorite memory was before they got a phone. I posted a video saying I got a phone at four years old, and I really don’t think I'm exaggerating. I wish my parents didn't do that. I had flip phones but I got an iphone when the first ones ever came out so I was still very young and had no reason to be on that thing. Even though I've kind of always had a phone, I didn't really like it, and I still spent more time doing other things, like GOING OUTSIDE. Those are my favorite memories. I miss having a little front yard with grass where I just ran around all day and my only problem was curing the itch and finishing my potion.

But back to the people according to hot literati, and this is cool because most people all said the same thing, “going outside.” We all miss playing games outside with our friends and family. I let Bella do most of the talking while I admired her, only speaking after she did- because I am the most anxious person I have ever known. I think Bella will do a better job at recalling what everyone else said and I love her for it. My favorite person we talked to was the club bouncer. Can you guess what his favorite hobby was before he had a phone? It was clubbing. I think this was his first phone,


After saying goodbye to Bella Ve and Hailey Cognetti, I kept going. I have a very bad habit of wandering around alone. It is when I'm my happiest.

First, I went to a famous French restaurant in the center of SoHo. I sat at the bar and ordered a Tanqueray tonic. Soon enough, I started getting questions about why I had a bucket of pixie stix, and began asking everyone bout their pre-phone childhoods.

The bartender was very kind. She told me about how her mother used to go all out for Christmas. used to chew up carrots for the sake of pretend reindeer. When it stopped, she said it practically shattered her world. I came back a few days later for a coffee and she was back. I saw her and giggled but didn't say hi yet because I was writing. I realized later that maybe she thought I was rude. That maybe she thought I'd laughed at her, and not in delight at seeing her. Writing -- actually writing -- not blogging -- propels me into my own little world sometimes. One with chewed up carrots and words and visions. One where I fall in love with people through words and words alone, and I forget that you have to look at people, speak to them, be with them, for them to feel your wonder at them and the world you're all inhabiting.

The man next to me was from Puerto Rico. He owned a coffee company and claimed that the espresso here was not good. He remembered climbing mango trees as a child.

The man two barstools to my left was reluctant to procure his own memory as if it didn't matter. When he finally did, it was his father taking his hand and leading him to the kitchen as a child. He was astonished at his own memory. Kept repeating it. Telling it to other people.

I got a slice of pizza. The guy I knew there showed me a picture of his child. Asked if I had one. I had a nightmare that I did last week. A rapper came up to me. Was adamant to give me his Instagram. Had 11k followers. I'm never impressed by numbers. I need something more ephemeral. Tension. Energy. Life. A white woman came up to me.

"Love your vibe."

I wandered deeper downtown. Ran into the bartender at a place I frequent. We smoked back and forth, back and forth. He remembered traveling as a kid. Playing cricket. We hugged each other goodbye.

There were three interns. I asked my question.

"I wanted to be a billionare" one said.

I had to ask them a lot of questions to get them past a desire for money. Desiring money and money alone is an extremely empty pursuit. One loved soccer. One loved animals. One loved travel. Remebered eating fresh mangoes from the tree as a child. One said, before I left

"I have a crazy question... are you single?"

I explained that they were much too young for me.

"It's because you read a lot as a child," the mango one said.

I went home. I love Manhattan. I love walking around. I love being a voyeur to many worlds. I'm finishing this in a random tattoo parlor watching them film their podcast. There are so many people in the world with so many memories. The best thing that the internet has done is bring these narratives, these memories, these stories together.

But, I will say, nothing beats the look on someone's face as they try to recall a childhood memory. The tilt of the head. The roll of the eyes. The surprise that you asked. The love. The humanness.

That can only be found in the real world, asking someone yourself.

The second (re)Cognition Summer task is to go into the world and ask someone about their favorite memory from before when they had a phone. Write about the memory and the overall interaction. Mail this to us.


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