Think That Love Letter Is Gone? Think Again

Davy Rothbart has made a career out of collecting discarded notes and lists.

ByABC News
August 18, 2008, 1:02 PM

June 12, 2009— -- There are many things out there, just blowing around in the wind: a wish, a discarded love letter, a shopping list.

If you think you got rid of those scraps forever, think again. They may now belong to Davy Rothbart.

Rothbart, 34, collects and sorts castoffs from the most waste-producing culture the world has ever known: ours. It's not trash in the typical sense of the word, but rather bizarre to-do lists, lost item notices, lists of expenses, love letters, hate notes and others that are a bit hard to categorize.

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"Now, this is one that was found in North Carolina," said Rothbart, who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. "It says, 'Dear Ron, the longer I think about what I'm doing, the sicker I feel. Ron, I'm sorry but I don't think we should continue to have a relationship together, at least not as a couple. I love you but things have not been the same since we found out that we were related.'"

Rothbart has made a career of recycling lost advice and rants and ideas and emotions into the business of publishing trash. The collections have made their way into a series of bestselling books and magazines, called "FOUND."

A favorite find of Rothbart's is someone's budget.

"This guy had typed it up and lost it," he said. "So it says, 'monthly budget -- rent: $600; cell phone: $50; electric gas: $45; food: $500; liquor: $600; crack: $600; attorney: $250; savings: $100.'

"So that's a responsible guy, right? Putting 100 bucks away in his savings every month.," Rothbart said. "If he could spend a little bit less on crack and liquor, he'd be golden."

Rothbart works with friends, rummaging through finds that people send them from around the world, along with what they've discovered on their own.

He's so involved with the discoveries and the stories behind them that he goes on tour, traveling coast-to-coast, reading the best of his lost-item collection in front of enthusiastic crowds. His brother has even joined in, setting some of the finds to music. Now, they're on a cross-country tour, sharing their incredible finds across the nation.

"I never anticipated that so many other people out there would share my fascination, you know, of looking at these little scraps of paper -- you know, getting a glimpse into other people's lives," he said.