Once you meet Davy Rothbart, you will be kicking yourself for all the trash you've never picked up.
No, Rothbart is not a litter-crazy environmentalist; he's the creator of FOUND
magazine, and he knows that every scrap of paper you see on the ground could have a profound story to tell.
Davy and his brother Peter Rothbart returned to Big Car Gallery on Tuesday, May 19. FOUND
is a magazine, book series and community art project that, according to their site, collects abandoned and displaced "love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles - anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life."
The project began in 2000 after Rothbart found an emotionally raw note on his windshield meant for someone else. When he showed others the note, all his friends seemed to have their own found objects, and Rothbart realized the universal appeal of these small paper glimpses of life.
Reading the FOUND
books or checking out their online find of the day is a joy, but seeing Davy Rothbart in person is worth every penny - a value made even better at Big Car, which donated some of the proceeds to Second Story, a non-profit writing project for local kids. Rothbart brought a stack of his favorite finds to read aloud, bringing the notes to life with a keen balance of respect for their creators and humorous appreciation for their weirdness.
You just can't appreciate a catfight-via-note-passing until your hear Rothbart give voice to both foul-mouthed teenage girls. Rothbart is so eager to share these notes that he reads them as though they are completely new and thrilling and not something he sees every night on this 57-city tour. In Indy, Rothbart brought this playful excitement to his own writing, sharing a hilarious take on life with his deaf mother in a piece he wrote for This American Life
Davy's brother Peter brings an innovative take to the tour, performing songs based on some of the found objects with his guitar and clever lyrics. He included laugh out loud pieces, such as an ode to the tough choice between one more beer and catching the last bus or the FOUND favorite
"The Booty Don't Stop." However, Peter also balanced out the show's humorous tone. As he performed a song based on a note by a man whose wife had a miscarriage, people around the room wiped at their eyes, and I was struck by the sincerity of the moment.
It was moving to see a crowd of strangers united in compassion for the real man who wrote that note, not expecting it to ever be seen by another person. Sure, people will cry for a plot line on a network drama, but this was a moment of humble, unsolicited compassion that reminds us, as Davy writes in his first book, "that we all share the same universal emotions and experiences - that we're all connected."
The Rothbart brothers are talented performers who make you laugh, cry and feel like their childhood best friend (seriously - they even invited everyone out to the Alley Cat afterwards). Yet, this tour is so powerful because the message of FOUND
is so refreshing and perspective-changing. Not only could any scrap of paper you see become a FOUND
treasure, but every person you pass could be harboring one of the amazing narratives FOUND
's objects bring to view.
For more information about FOUND
magazine and the tour, check out www.foundmagazine.com.