Davy Rothbart has been collecting those pieces of people’s lives since he was a kid. And what would he possibly do with all those scraps of paper? Publish a magazine, of course.
“The idea started with one note in particular,” Rothbart said.
The note, left on Rothbart’s windshield outside a friend’s apartment went something like this:
“Mario, I f**king hate you. You said you had to work, then why’s your car here at HER place? You’re a f**king liar. I hate you, I f**king hate you. Amber. P.S. Page me later.”
“She seemed so mad, yet still in love,” Rothbart said. “I kept showing it to my friends, then they would show me stuff they had found. I kept wishing there was a way I could share the stuff we had found.”
So, armed with a bunch of “finds,” some sheets of assorted colored paper and a little ambition, Rothbart and some friends headed down to the local Kinkos.
“We went there to make 50 copies; I figured I had 50 friends to sell it to,” he said. “The kid working there said we had to make 800, and he gave us a discount.”
After that, Rothbart threw his first “Found” party where he invited as many people as he could and read some of the things he found in the past. He ended up selling 100 copies of the magazine that night.
“My roommate wasn’t very happy about having boxes of 700 magazines in our living room,” Rothbart said. “I went on a trip and when I came back all the boxes were gone. I figured my roommate had thrown them away.”
It turns out that people had been coming to Rothbart’s apartment to pick up copies of the magazine. So many people had come by and rang the doorbell that the neighbors thought he was selling drugs.
After that, Rothbart printed more copies and started going on the road promoting his magazine.
“It was so surprising to me. Something I had thought of as my own private hobby,” Rothbart said. “I met people that had been collecting these things since before I was even born. I call them the ‘O.G.’ finders.”
At a Found party in Louisville, Ky., Rothbart discovered that all types of people were doing the same thing.
“There was a group of teenagers who read some stuff, then a real conservative guy who read a raunchy note he found,” Rothbart said. “It turned out this guy was these kids’ principal. They made some plans to go dumpster diving together.”
“I get stuff sent in from all kinds of people. Some kids as young as six years old. And there’s a 96-year-old guy in Florida that sends stuff in,” Rothbart said.
Rothbart added that Found magazine has received stuff from every state in the country and dozens of countries throughout the world, including places he has never even heard of.
“In the same week, I got something from Iceland and Greenland. I thought that was pretty cool,” Rothbart said. “I even got something from Burkina Faso. I thought that guy played for the Orioles in the 1970s.”
The amount of “finds” being sent to him is amazing, Rothbart said.
“It all gets sent to my folks’ house. If I go away for a few weeks, when I come back there’s crates of stuff,” Rothbart said. “I’m so grateful for people’s reactions.”
As of now, the magazine is mostly funded my Rothbart himself, although he does place some advertisements.
“I put ads in for local businesses, and fake ones too,” Rothbart said. “Like ‘guy with truck call Johnny,’ stuff like that.”
One “fake” ad in an edition turned up a lot of publicity for one person.
A business card that said “Single Freshman and King Pimp,” along with a name and phone number was printed.
“I got an e-mail from the kid saying he was getting phone calls from all over the country. He said he now was a national pimp,” Rothbart said.
Rothbart added that other people have called him wondering why anyone would care about the details of their life.
“I tell them why it’s important to me, because I can relate to it. Because I have probably written that same pitiful love note,” Rothbart said.
“Any finds that are printed now have all the personal information changed,” he added. “It never occurred to me that people would read the magazine and contact these people.”
There have been four Found magazines since the first one was printed in June 2001. Along with the four “regular” Found magazines, there have been two “Dirty Found” magazines, which include “pervy Polaroids, sleazy birthday cards,” and more.
Along with the magazines, Rothbart and company have put together two full-length books. The newest of which was released April 26. All the Found magazines and books, along with stickers, T-shirts and various musical recordings can be bought online at www.foundmagazine.com.
The Web site also features a daily find, for those looking for a quick fix. There is also a page that invites everyone to send in their own finds.
“I love reading the notes people send with their finds. You can learn more about the person that sent it in than anything,” Rothbart said. “I feel lucky I can share something I really like with so many people.”
Dominic Graziano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.