FOUND Magazine's Davy Rothbart on dumpster divers, shared stuff and the human condition
Peter (left) and Davy (center) Rothbart.
Davy Rothbart is famous for his love of detritus. Ten years ago, he launched FOUND Magazine, an exuberant, low-fi celebration of things left behind: love letters, Post-It notes, journal entries, birthday cards, shopping lists and other strangely revealing minutiae of human existence. FOUND's pages are hilarious and heartbreaking; often, they're both at once.
Though Rothbart remains the magazine's most intrepid finder, it's a group effort. That's part of the reason he and his songwriter brother, Peter, have taken to the road for FOUND Magazine's 10th Anniversary Tour. They'll visit the Bug Theater, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, October 24, for a show that will include readings and music inspired by stuff in the new issue, as well as excerpts from My Heart Is an Idiot, Rothbart's new collection of essays.
In advance of that appearance, we asked Davy to share some thoughts from the road, and what keeps FOUND going.
Westword: You're doing more than seventy dates on this tour. Do you like being on the road?
Davy Rothbart: Being on tour is such a great way to see the country, to see friends and meet new, interesting people. So many people have come into my life as a result of being on the road. And there's something adventurous about going to so many places and so rapidly having these experiences accumulate on top of each other. It's like a surreal wave.
How does being on the road fuel the magazine?
We always get a ton of finds in each city we visit. FOUND is really just a gigantic community art project, and it requires participation of people all around the country and the world. The tours function almost as a way for me to get people excited and inspired to contribute. After each visit to a city, we always get a ton of finds. So, people send you stuff after a visit in a city? Do people bring stuff to the shows, too?
Oh, yeah. We're constantly collecting stuff from people. People will say stuff like, "You know what, dude? I've had these finds for like three years, and just kept meaning to send them in. It took you coming to my town to actually get them to you." In general, people rarely drop stuff in the mail anymore, so people send stuff in less often.
We do get really cool finds almost every night. It's part of the fun of being on the road. My brother and I will read them aloud to each other. Whoever is not driving kind of goes through the stack of finds and reads them to whoever is driving. It's really delightful and nourishing, because this thing started out as like my own little personal hobby, and now to find out there are so many kindred spirits who are curious about the world we share.
It must be fun to put faces to finds.
We have people who have sent in finds every few months for years. They're like our regulars, such a wide range of people, from young people to 70- or 80-year-old men and women. Some of their professions put them in constant contact with found objects, like janitors, piano tuners, demolition guys who break down walls, who find old notebooks and stuff left behind by the builders. Cops come to our shows, artists. Afterwards, everyone will kind of gather around and check out the new stuff and connect.
One time we did an event in Louisville, and two kids came up afterwards. They were like, "Our principal, he's a real hardass. But he was here! We had no idea he was into found stuff." Later, they went dumpster diving with him. People make friends because of this shared interest. There was a couple who got married after meeting at one of our shows. It's just a way of bringing together people who share a somewhat skewed, subversive view of the world.
I find it hard to totally understand why I love FOUND so much. There's something about it that is just irresistible to certain people. It's hilarious, it makes me cry. What is it, do you think?
I think a big part of the appeal is that FOUND invites you to see how universal some experiences are -- like the pain of a breakup, and how it can feel like the end of the world.
Definitely, there's a lot of compassion and empathy. The idea is that the tone is always compassionate. We're seeing the humor in what other people go through, but we're really laughing at ourselves, because we've written the same pitiful love note 100 times. I think it appeals to people who are intrigued by the mystery of the human story. Sometimes I'll find something, and I'll think, 'Did I find this thing just now for a reason? Did the universe deliver it to me?' Sometimes a find will almost act like a key to unlock a door for you, because it speaks so clearly to a question you're dealing with. It's pretty amazing. It's a pretty great way to go through life.
Tickets to Wednesday night's event are $6; call 303-477-9984 for more information.
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