Discarded letters once lost, now FOUND

Think twice before you carelessly throw away an old love letter. That is, unless you want to see it in print.

While most people would never collect pieces of paper found in the street, Davy Rothbart, who visited the College on Nov. 13, has built a business out of doing just that.

The Ann Arbor, Mich., native is the creator of FOUND Magazine, a collection of letters, cards, photos, drawings and other items that give the reader a “glimpse into someone else’s life,” according to the magazine’s Web site.

“Say you’re walking down the street and you find a love note or a to-do list,” Rothbart said. “People send me those things from around the country, from around the world, really.”

During the hour-long presentation co-sponsored by the Class of 2011 and Ed@TCNJ, Rothbart shared many of his favorite finds.

Rothbart’s first selection set the tone for much of the rest of the night.

The letter, sent to a man named Ron in North Carolina, began as any other love note might. However, the writer went on to explain that their relationship hadn’t felt the same “since we found out we’re related.”

“It’s so hard to find love in this world,” Rothbart said, as the audience laughed. “It’s so hard to find that special someone. How much would that suck?”

Another crowd favorite was a letter written by an unhappy traveler to an airline company. The letter was written over the course of the flight and expressed the passenger’s anger at being assigned seat 29E, directly across from the bathroom.

“All of my senses are being tortured simultaneously,” the man wrote. Later, he threatened, “The next ass that touches my shoulder will be the last.”

Rothbart also read a short piece titled “Nibble, lick, suck and feast,” which details his eight-month, 50-state tour following the publication of the first FOUND book in 2004.

The event that sparked the piece’s title occurred while Rothbart was waiting to be interviewed for a small-town news program. While waiting, Rothbart and a security guard came across a racy note written by one of the anchormen to a younger camerawoman. On a dare, Rothbart decided to share the note as one of his found items.

“What an expression that fellow had on his face,” Rothbart said.

“I thought he was awesome,” Meaghan Lenahan, sophomore psychology major, said. “Just the way he delivered everything he found, it was so much funnier than just reading it.”

Not all of the items Rothbart read were humorous.

As one of his 10 favorite found items, Rothbart shared a letter written from a boy to his mother, who had passed away. The letter described the pain the boy had suffered since his mother’s death, but said he had met a girl who was helping him through it. The woman who sent the letter to the magazine said it was found tied to a balloon and tangled in a tree in a cemetery.

“I hope the rest of you will be inspired if you see something laying on the ground to pick it up and see if it’s interesting,” Rothbart said.

Started in June 2001, FOUND Magazine has grown to include five issues, a handful of FOUND books and several issues of Dirty FOUND, a magazine containing content too explicit for regular issues of FOUND.

For more information about FOUND Magazine, visit the magazine’s Web site at foundmagazine.com.

Kelly Duncan can be reached at duncan5@tcnj.edu