by Patrick Hunt
while perusing the magazine isles of Barnes & Noble,
amid the testosterone-injected super-men on the covers of
sports magazines and the emaciated models enticing you from
the covers of womens fashion magazines, you might
also find an amateurish, grainy-paged magazine entitled,
FOUND. This homegrown magazine doesn't feature frivolous
Hollywood gossip, celebrities, or hyper-stylized advertisements.
Nor does it provide the ultimate guide to improving your
sex life/body/job/diet/health/workout. Instead, FOUND features
little vignettes into the human soul.
FOUND accomplishes this by publishing love notes, grocery
lists, to-do lists, receipts, journals, doodles, and photos
that are found and collected by Davy Rothbart. Now that
word has begun to spread, people from all over the world
have begun to send him their findings as well.
Rothbart is 28 and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His fascination
with other peoples lives, and the tangible clues they
leave behind began when he was a child. On his way to school,
he would walk across a field, past a pile of debris that
always seemed to have strangers notes or photographs
serendipitously placed among its mass. Intrigued by these
items, Rothbart began collecting them. One night in the
may of 2001, Rothbart found a note that inspired him to
begin publishing his findings. One night, after a thin layer
of Chicago snow had homogenized the landscape, Rothbart
found a note attached to his windshield that read:
Mario, I fucking hate you, you said you had to work then
whys your car HERE at HER place?? You are a fucking LIAR.
I hate you. I fucking hate you. Amber. p.s. page me later.
That note, as Rothbart says, spurred me into action
and over the course of the next three nights, with tape,
scissors and markers, he put together 50 copies of FOUND
magazine. A friend saw the work and suggested that Rothbart
make 800 copies and sell them at local stores. They quickly
Since then, a subsequent issue has been published, and another
is slated for this fall. Rothbart, and his partner, Jason
Bitner, have seen praise and acclaim from The New Yorker,
The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post,
as well as from NPRs This American Life.
I didnt want to make a big magazine, per se,
Rothbart says. I like that its grown. The more
people who know about it, the more people who send stuff
Rothbarts findings come from all over the place, on
deliberate FOUND searches, and unexpectedly. He says that
some of the best discoveries have come from around
schools, since kids are great at losing things, as
well as libraries, inside Kinkos copy machines, and
university printing centers. Buses, subways, cabs, and trains
are goldmines as well.
On the other hand, he claims, some of the best notes and
photos are the ones you stumble upon when you aren't even
looking in the first place. Its more about (finding
stuff) in your everyday wanderings throughout the world.
Rothbart insists he has an eye for fabricated notes and
photographs and that only a few counterfeit submissions
have been sent to him. Since only a tiny percentage of the
submissions get printed in the magazine or posted on the
website, its a lot of energy for a hoax that
doesnt pay off.
To me, the truth is stranger than fiction, he
says. And I have a good sense about what is real and
In fact, some of the notes are so sincere, or bizarre, that
it's tough to believe that someone didn't fabricate them.
Take for instance this note that was placed on the windshield
of a car parked illegally in a handicapped space:
Why are you parked here? I saw you go into Wal-Mart
and you are not handicapped. Have some respect for those
who are. Who gave you the right?
Or the love note the website dubs as what all other
notes should aspire to be:
I love you. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Others, such as this one found beneath a fallen tree along
a woodsy path, wrenches your heart:
This was a beautiful spot that helped me say goodbye.
This one, made me laugh out loud:
Paul and Olivia, Our doorbell is not a toy, stop
ringing it or Ill have to call your parents.
This note, was found by "Jennifer" in her 91-year-old
neighbor's apartment after he died. She played music, that
apparently "Ralph didnt like. The scrawled
note reflects the humorous agony the neighbor must have
endured while Jennifer played:
Jennifer, that noise dont make sense. Cut
it out (sic) pls. Its weird.
The magazine never invades peoples privacy, since
it doesn't directly identify anyone, but FOUND does have
its foundation in spying into other's lives. But voyeurism
to a certain degree, Rothbart says, is healthy. Its
natural to wonder what other peoples experiences being
human is like."
The notes and pictures in FOUND inevitably raise questions
about what inspired them and about what resulted from them
as well. Readers of FOUND will find themselves in the middle
of complex stories about other's lives. Perhaps that is
what makes the magazine so intriguing and so difficult to
put down. It's difficult not to be entranced by a girl who
calls herself "Avon Minisure" and talks about
how her favorite sport is acting like a teenager.
Without sounding grandiose, Ive always thought
about the human condition, Rothbart says. "Whether
youre a CEO or a prisoner sitting in a cell, were
not too different from each other and were all struggling
with the same issues in our lives." Rothbart claims
that hes even started paying more attention to the
strangers around him.
Ive started gazing into peoples faces
a little more and listened to the conversations that surround
Rothbart plans on a third issue this fall and hopes to publish
a book based on the magazine. Found is carried mostly by
small independent bookstores, but you can subscribe or access
the magazine via the website, www.foundmagazine.com.