FOUND Magazine tour coming through town this weekend

Dec. 13, 2012 @ 03:10 PM

Since 2001, brothers Davy and Peter Rothbart have been publishing FOUND Magazine, a collection of notes, photos and odds and ends that the Rothbarts, their readers and contributors, find in passing. To celebrate 10 years of publishing, the Rothbarts will bring their anniversary tour to Chapel Hill and Durham this weekend.
The Rothbarts trace the idea for the magazine to 2000, when Davy Rothbart found a note on his windshield intended for someone else. In the note, Amber vented her rage on Mario, calling him a liar, but at the end of the note she added a postscript, “Page me later.”
That note and other found items represent “a little human story. It’s one puzzle piece,” Davy Rothbart said in a phone interview. “It’s up to you to fill in the story,” he said. Some notes are very poignant, but others are hilarious, Rothbart said. The brothers decided to do a small magazine of found items, and readers responded. “It’s just really grown in this organic way,” he said. About 50,000 editions of the magazine, published once a year, are printed today.
The magazine is available in bookstores, but the brothers maintain a website,, that features a new found item each day.
Recent finds include a note about “fetid, disgusting” tennis shoes, a photo from a woman with the handwriting “Forever yours,” along with numerous “to-do” lists. The brothers receive about 10 to 20 finds each day, Davy Rothbart said. “I take my favorites. The ones that make me tear up or laugh out loud are the ones I end up using in the magazine.”
He is drawn to the more poignant notes, Rothbart said. He recalls a note written by a boy in high school who had recently obtained a driver’s license. In the note, he is telling his mother about his girlfriend, and how he wants his mother to meet her. The magazine reader who submitted the note found it in a cemetery, attached to a balloon, Rothbart said.
The magazine is not trying to have fun at others’ expense; rather, the goal is to see our common humanity, Rothbart said. “People are drawn to truth,” he said. “When I laugh at a note, I’m laughing at myself because I’ve written the same note myself.”
In their live show, Davy reads from several finds, and Peter sings songs he has written based on various found items, often speculating on the story behind the item, Davy Rothbart said. At the local shows, Davy Rothbart also will read from his new book of essays, “My Heart Is an Idiot,” which he said is a book about some of the interesting people he has met while publishing FOUND. He has presented some of them on the radio documentary show “This American Life.”
Audience members often bring found items to their live show, and the Rothbarts encourage audience members to keep their eyes open for interesting finds. “I’ve found looking for this stuff has brought me out of my own head,” Rothbart said. “I find it has opened me to the world around me, and not just to the found stuff.”

Go and Do
WHAT: FOUND Magazine’s 10th anniversary tour
WHEN and WHERE: Dec. 14, 7 p.m., Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, and Dec. 15, 8 p.m., The Casbah, 1007 W. Main St., Durham.
ADMISSION: The Chapel Hill show is free. Tickets to the Durham show are $5 at the door.