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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tonight at Holocene: Davy Rothbart

Posted by Joe Streckert on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 2:44 PM

For the past ten years Davy Rothbart has been publishing notes, letter, scraps of paper, odd photos, and other ephemera in Found magazine. The publication celebrates its tenth anniversary tonight at Holocene, where Rothbart will debut Found's eighth issue. I interviewed Rothbart last week about Found's tenth anniversary, and his new memoir My Heart is an Idiot.

Found has been around for ten years. What do you think are the major ways that it has changed in the past decade?

The main thing is that the community of finders has grown. The first issue was just me and a few friends collecting stuff. The second was a couple dozen people. Now we have hundreds and thousands of finders sending in things from around the country and around the world, sending things in the mail every day. Some are mailed in, some are scanned in. It’s so awesome, it’s so profound, really, to dig through these deep, human stories. One thing that we’ve done just recently is… Well, someone sent in this picture of this giant, white rapper that they found in an abandoned desk in Miami. I had this thing in my desk for years, I tried to find the guy online, I couldn’t find him, and eventually I was able to track him down. It turned out he was living ten minutes from my house in Michigan. He was managing a pizza joint and I got him over, and we just talked about life. He was from this working-class suburb of Detroit and his name was Biggs. I went to visit his neighborhood, and we hung out with his mom and his friends.

So, it’s almost more like a documentary in the new Found. Biggs is on the cover and inside there’s this long interview with him and pictures of him and his crew, his mom, his neighborhood. So, it’s sort of like taking things a step further. Who is the person who made this? I love how with Found notes, you imagine a story behind it. Every once in a while, how cool is it to discover who the person actually is, and what happened.

How often does that happen? How often have you been able to backtrack and find out who actually wrote a note or whatnot?

I never really sought them out, but it has happened a few times when people say “Hey, that’s mine.” They email us or whatever. I’ve worried that people would be freaked out, but the few times it’s happened people have been really cool about it. Either they’ve been honored or usually just mystified, wondering “Why would anyone care about these little details of my love life?” I explain them why it means so much to me, why I can relate to it, it’s something we’ve all been through. There was this one girl- she saw her note in Found number one. She was writing to a friend for advice about two different guys she was involved with, Kevin and Chad. She emailed us and said that that was hers, she ended up giving me this whole big thing about how she was with Kevin, but Chad was coming that weekend. It was pretty funny.

In a future issue, we might do a “where are they now?” section.

If someone were to go back in time ten years and tell you what Found would be like today, how would you react?

It wouldn’t have been entirely inconceivable, but I would have been pretty surprised. When I started the magazine I thought it was just my own little hobby. What’s been really rewarding has been to see that it’s a lot of people’s little hobby. There’s an invisible community of people collecting and appreciating these things on their own.

Do you think there’s an element of voyeurism to Found?

Absolutely. A certain degree of voyeurism is healthy. We’re all surrounded every day by strangers, walking down the street, sitting on the bus. It’s natural to be curious about what other people are doing. These Found notes give us a profound and potent way to get pictures of other people’s lives. It makes us feel more connected to the people around us.

What was the genesis of My Heart is an Idiot?

Over the last ten years I’ve been roaming around the country, doing these Found magazine tours, and some of it is about love, relationships, and misadventures in that arena. Also, a lot of the stories are about people you meet when you’re traveling around. Interesting people that came into my life whether it be someone you meet by the side of the road or someone who, if I ran out of gas or had a flat tire, picked me up. I like hearing stories from other people about how, you know, the ways their hearts have been idiots. I think it’s kind of a universal thing. I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to. I like hearing those stories from people, and I thought it would be fun to share my own.

I’ll say this too: Found magazine, we publish these really raw, personal notes from people. I figure that I’ve been publishing other people’s private thoughts for the last ten years, so it’s only fair that I put myself on the line in the same kind of way.

Do you have any particular favorite essays from the book?

I have three or four favorites, maybe. One is New York New York, about taking a Greyhound bus to New York City after September 11th. It was a really vivid experience for me. It was meaningful to be able to put that down on paper. Canada or Bust, that’s a favorite of mine about this kid Hakim and driving with him to San Francisco. The funny thing about that is when we began our tour this year…

These characters from the book, they’re real people. Every calls them “characters” but they’re real. In Brooklyn we did an event where I read that story and Hakim was sitting in the third row. I didn’t even know that he lived in New York. I hadn’t seen him for years, but he was there. We got to hang out. It was cool. So, it’s fun to see the stories come to life. And Tarantula, that’s another favorite of mine. Maybe because it’s set very specifically in the part ofsoutheast Ann Arbor where my folks still live. Driving past the stores and shops from the story- I haven’t nailed the specific experience, but people have been telling me that’s a favorite.

What’s your process for memoir writing? Do you keep a journal, notes, blog, something or something to work from?

It’s really just from memory. I have kept journals. I’ve looked back through old emails. That story Canada or Bust, I emailed a friend of mine who lives in London about Hakim and the trip we took that night. I read that email and borrowed parts of it. Old emails were helpful for reconstructing things, but generally I just work from memory about things that I’ve thought a lot about, and I’ve probably retold the story to a lot of people. They’re the kind of thing that stick in your mind.

Found's tenth anniversary party is tonight at Holocene starting at 8:30.


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