Interview with Davy Rothbart • Co-Creator of FOUND Magazine, Contributor to NPR’s “This American Life”

SM: What is the best reason you can think of for anyone to do anything?

DR: To try and meet girls!

SM: What did you want to happen to you by now?

DR: Well, I really wanted to get drafted by the Detroit Pistons. My services are still available, so Joe Dumars – if you’re reading this – ring me up dogg!

SM: If you were to illustrate yourself doing something your friends and associates have recommended you start doing, what would you be drawing?

DR: A couple friends of mine, and my ex-girlfriend’s dad, and my high-school English teacher, whenever they see me they say, “Hey, are you writing? Are you working on the novel?” This is a novel I’ve been shooting my mouth off about for years but have never actually started. But I like being harangued about it. I need that, it’s motivational, in a way. So I’d draw myself writing.
And my mom and some of my roommates are always bugging me to sleep at nighttime instead of all day. They say, “You just need a regular sleep schedule, then you’ll feel better all the way around.” But I do sleep regular, it’s just from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.!
I like that they care, though. So I’d draw myself sleeping at night.

SM: When was the last time you felt like you couldn’t stop moving?

DR: Umm, today. I just got home from this 50-state FOUND tour, and now it looks like I’m headed to Sri Lanka in a minute. Being still is difficult.

SM: To what degree do you trust your perception?

DR: Like, ninety-six percent? A whole lot, I guess, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some times when I’m completely off base about something.

SM: In the middle of the interview, an anecdote is requested.

DR: Okay. So I just got home from a year of travelling a couple weeks ago, and tonight I’ve been reading through all the finds that landed here while i’ve been gone. I try to sort them into the really good ones that I could use for FOUND Magazine or the next FOUND book and the not-as-great ones which we’ll tape to the covers of the next issue of the magazine. A strange winter thunderstorm rolled through around midnight as I sat on my bed reading all these notes. The windows shook, blue lightning filled the room. There’s a lot of sadness in so many of these notes, and over the course of several hours reading through ’em, this gradually accumulating weight always begins to settle in. Most of the notes don’t have loud, piercing pain (though a couple do)…
more it’s just this heaviness, the hollowness of dreams deferred, hopes thwarted, people wanting things so badly that they’re probably not gonna get, though they haven’t really fully allowed themselves to realize that yet. After 100 notes I had to get out of my room.
So I went walking out in the rain and decided to go shoot baskets across the street at the park. Under the little wooden awning there, a fortyish guy was sleeping on a picnic table in the cold.
He sat up and said, “Dave?” I didn’t recognize him and nobody really calls me Dave, but I figured he was maybe someone I’d played ball with in the past or something. The guy seemed especially glad to see me, which felt good, you know… to be recognized, it felt like i was beginning to be a part of this neighborhood, where i’ve lived for two years though I’ve barely been around. The guy’s name was Clifford. We shot around for half an hour, not really talking much, just taking shots, chasing loose balls down in the wet grass and passing ’em back out to the other, a quiet 2 a.m. kind of fellowship.
The storm moved on and there was just the sound of rain dripping in the trees, leaf to leaf, and the ball clanging off the rim.
Finally I was ready to come back inside and when I left, Clifford said bye, and from what he said I realized that the whole time he’d mistaken me for somebody else: “OK, Dave, say hi to your uncle and Gary, tell ’em Old Clifford from Lansing Tool & Die owes ’em a drink!” But it sort of didn’t matter that he’d been confused, the
whole thing was nice regardless.

SM: If you woke up to find all the clocks running twice as fast, and the people around you going just as quickly with them, how would you spend your day?

DR: I guess I’d just get drunk and go to the tittie bar, same as usual.

SM: When was the last time you felt completely understood?

DR: Talking to my friend Alex Blumberg on the phone yesterday. And listening to Kid Rock’s song “Only God Knows Why” a couple nights ago.

SM: If there was a door anyone could open to see inside your head, what would someone have to say in order to open it?

DR: They’d have to actually do the dance Gene Wilder does in the movie “The Silver Streak” when Richard Pryor paints him with shoe polish to avoid the police at the train station in St.Louis.

SM: Please compose a brief poem or haiku on the subject of your choosing.

DR: Okay, this comes from a t-shirt I own, though on the shirt it’s not
really meant as a poem so much as a declaration. This is also what
I want to name the novel I was talking about earlier, if I ever
really write it:

Yo “Baby”
I’m Real,
so, Don’t ask me 4 shit!