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In the rented Mitsubishi he's driven across the Midwest and down the East Coast, Rothbart, 27, arrives in Dallas on November 20, when he'll host a Foundgathering on the SMU campus.
Here's what Rothbart had to say about Americans' fascination with their neighbors' trash when we caught him on his cell phone, navigating the interstate somewhere in New England.
Are you surprised so many other people share your love for found stuff?
We're all curious about the people around us. It's a voyeuristic instinct. With these notes and things we're getting a peek into the hearts and minds of strangers. What's incredible is the economy of language on some notes. You get to know someone so deeply and not all the pieces of the story are there. As finders and readers, we get to supply our own story. Each one's a little mystery.
You seem to have a "Spidey sense" for good scraps. Where's the best place to look?
Schoolyards, where stuff blows up against the fence. Just on the street. Anywhere, really.
Who are the best scavengers?
The best things for Foundcome from school custodians, teachers, mail carriers and librarians. They're the great finders. In Michigan, some police officers came to the Found party with a huge wooden Santa they picked up in an alley. I had a 7-year-old send something from San Diego. A 96-year-old in Florida sent something. Everyone can play.
Has anyone seenFound and recognized something they lost?
It's happened a couple of times. In issue No. 1, I printed an e-mail from this girl about going out with a guy and borrowing an ID. She got in touch recently, and she wasn't mad. She said she was honored and mystified that people all over the world would be interested in her love life.
Get many naked pictures?
Lots of pictures of people's genitals. I didn't realize how common it was for people to take these kinds of pictures. They're not only taking the pictures, but losing them. And people are finding them and sending them to me. My friend Mike says he wants to start a magazine called Dirty Found.
Any favorite recent finds?
Some great ones. Novel-length. Entire journals and notebooks. You wonder how people could part with those things. Something that meant so much to someone just sitting by the road, pages blowing in the wind. In Madison, Wisconsin, this woman found a kid's journal from November 1963 talking about JFK's assassination and how everyone was crying "except the Republicans." Then it talks about the brat she has to baby-sit for. I've been reading that at all the stops.
Ever lost anything you wish someone would find and return to you?
A red T-shirt I used to have that said "Justice for janitors." If someone found that, it would be pretty cool. --Elaine Liner
Davy Rothbart hosts aFound magazine party at 7 p.m., November 20, in Room 131, Dedman Life Sciences Building on the northeast corner of the SMU campus. It's free and everyone is encouraged to bring "finds" to share. Call 214-284-5889 for directions or more info.