That’s not kinky—that’s gross!

Perhaps it is a human condition that makes us hide our various personal weirdnesses from our peers. After all, we are social animals. And being social animals means, at least in part, that we need to be members of the group as a whole. More often than not, this results in a tendency to hide our little dramas. Or, in another sense, we perceive that what we are doing isn’t really that weird. Take, for example, the text of a letter found in Hoffman Estates, Ill., by Melissa Brown. The story of the letter is unknown, and its author and addressee are known only by their first names (Mary and Amos). Only the text itself remains: “Last night was terrible!” Mary has written. “I’m so mad at you. I thought we agreed about that thing you do … you know? It’s not kinky— It’s gross!!!”

As for what Amos actually does to/with/for Mary, we will never know. That, in itself, is the beauty of Found Magazine, a periodic collection of, as the magazine’s tagline reads, “the best lost, tossed, and forgotten items from around the world.” It’s a glimpse into how weird the lives of regular people really are and at how tragic, beautiful and funny the stuff we lose or throw away can be when looked at in the proper light.

Editor Davy Rothbart has embarked on a 50-state tour to promote the magazine and the new Found book (a 252-page collection of found items; Mary and Amos reside on page 8). That tour made a stop last week at the True Love Coffeehouse.

One might wonder just how entertaining such a live event would be. After all, how does one “perform” a collection of found notes, fliers and letters? Rothbart is an expert at just such a performance, reading the notes with a tone that captures perfectly the pathos and emotion required. (It certainly doesn’t hurt that Rothbart is a regular contributor to one of National Public Radio’s best programs, This American Life.) Rothbart appeared with a stack of the original found documents and read through a selected set, keeping a packed house absolutely enthralled with funny and sometimes heartbreaking tales of American life. One such found flier read: “Ever cut your skin for fun? Sell your ass? Sleep on the street? Do you like pain? Take heroin? If so lets start a band.” Sign me up.

The most interesting moments came when Rothbart invited audience members to share their own found objects. One person read a note from a local “crazy,” a note that was commented upon by another audience member: “That guy lives on my street. Some people I know have huge collections of his writings.” It is this kind of audience participation that brings the Found show directly into the community itself, ultimately showing that everyone, everywhere, is the same (in other words, we’re all a bunch of freakin’ weirdos who live and work around other freakin’ weirdos).

The Found tour continues throughout the rest of the year. Tell your friends around the country to check it out. More information (including some pretty great finds) can be found (!) at, or you can stop by the True Love and buy a copy of the magazine.