Davy Rothbart is the creator of FOUND magazine, an occasionally-published journal filled with found notes, photos and audio sent in from all over the nation. The magazine prints these found submissions using grainy, black-and-white photocopies seemingly taped together on the page.
The found objects could be love letters, reminders, journal entries, even scrawled threats like this one: "Paul and Olivia, Our doorbell is NOT a toy, stop ringing it or I'll have to call your parents."
Rothbart says that catching these drifting pieces of ephemera isn't about hunting for them. "It's just having an awareness of bits of paper floating around," he tells NPR's Melissa Block. "One in five is usually pretty wonderful.
"The key, I think, is to not tune out things you normally would," he says. "Don't pick up any trash, but things that look promising. Stop for a second, and give a look."
Rothbart is aided by an enthusiastic band of "finders" who share his passion. They scour and scavenge and send him their best finds. Block joined two FOUND "finders" recently — Eldad Malamuth and A.J. Wilhelm — in search of FOUND-worthy ephemera in the Washington, D.C. area.
There's a lot of dirty disappointment in the hunt — chicken bones, a gas receipt, used Kleenex. But occasionally finders are rewarded with something with meaning or mystery. On this day, it's a card cut in the shape of Babe the pig, with a nametag that says "Brandon." Inside is a special note, scrawled in a child's hand: "Hi Pig. Today is Monday. It's rainy day. Love Brandon."
Rothbart figures he gets about 10 FOUND submissions in his mailbox every day — 10 chances for something that might make it into the latest issue of FOUND magazine, which comes out this fall.