MANNO: Discover what it means to be FOUND

Talking to Davy Rothbart was something like meeting Santa Claus. That is, if you’d like a stocking full of awkward prom photos and stories about peeing in bottles instead of a brand new Xbox, like me.

Davy’s the creator of FOUND Magazine, a published collection of all kinds of lost items that people, well, find. From scraped up photos to shopping lists, death threats to “Big Booty” mix tapes, Davy collects all kinds of lost stuff in the mail and publishes it for the world to see. Never again will I pass a dropped note card without checking it out – could be one of those angry-park-job notes.

He and his brother, Peter, are celebrating a decade of FOUND with “My Heart is an Idiot: Found Magazine’s 10th Anniversary Tour” in a whopping 79 cities across the country. Tonight, they’ll be telling stories, playing some music and reading some favorite FOUND notes in Milwaukee at 8:00 p.m. at Boswell Book Company on 2559 N. Downer Ave. Tomorrow they’ll be in Madison for the same deal.

I talked to Davy on the phone as he was stopping by his parents’ house. Peter was walking the dog. He said the tour’s been going really well so far – he and his brother shared a bunk bed before, he said, so traveling in a van hasn’t been so bad.

“Getting up there and reading my favorite FOUND notes is a way to bring them to life,” Davy said. “It’s a way to express what that person may have been feeling.”

His new book, “My Heart Is an Idiot,” caricatures some of the quirky events of his life in a way that is witty, profound and sidesplitting. It’s alternative storytelling at its best. And as someone who’s looking for my niche in the write-o-sphere, I’ve gotten a good idea of how it can be done: two parts honesty, one strange encounter, a pinch of “wha?” and a few parts hilarity.

I mean, that’s just how Davy’s stories come off. He’s a modern storyteller, able to spin the ordinary into the bold, the personal into the universal. It makes me feel not so crazy about the time I sat in General Mitchell Airport and wrote stuff down about everyone who walked by. That’s right – keep an eye out, kids.

“One nice thing that I’ve been discovering (at the events) – it’s been college kids, people in their 60s and 70s,” Davy said. “It’s the kind of stories that are very plainly spoken. People have said it’s the kind of book they just pick up and get lost in – I consider that high praise.”

Davy seems like a cool dude. He’s the kind of guy you’d grab a beer with, only for you two to witness the world’s strangest bar fight. In some alternate life, I’d love to be his pestering understudy.

Davy also pops up on NPR’s “This American Life” a few times a year, telling some of his stories in a way that fits right in with Ira Glass’s program. I listened to it every morning this summer – between that and Radiolab, these kinds of stories are impossible to get fed up with.

Peter will also be playing some songs at the event based on favorite FOUND notes, from the amusing to the solemn.

“There’s a lot of inspiration to be found in the notes, and I’ve written songs from the ones I’ve found most captivating,” Peter said. “There’s a great range, just like there is in the notes themselves.”

I’ll be bringing along a couple of things I’ve … wait for it … FOUND over the years, and Davy as Peter kindly welcome in-person submissions.

And when it’s said and done for these two, they’ll find themselves with that road movie inspiration.

“Traveling around the country is a meaningful journey – to meet new people, to have new adventures, being in all these cities and seeing the scenery,” Davy said. “It’s a book about being on the road, so to celebrate it by being on the road kind of makes sense.”

The humor’s been lauded by lots, from Jon Stewart to the Los Angeles Times to Tony Manno of the Marquette Tribune. Check out the Rothbart brothers’ stuff if you get a chance, and for the love of love notes, head to tonight’s event at Boswell.