Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Lost and Found


Yesterday while driving back to Georgia, I was listening to an NPR show The Connection. It was announced as a reprise, because of the holiday, I'm sure, but the topic of the show that I heard was FOUND Magazine. The magazine publishes "found" notes, shopping lists, letters, etc that have been found on the street, in the bushes, placed on cars, etc. The founder (ahem) of the magazine and website, Davy Rothbart, has published a book of these items, and during the radio show he and the host read some of them to illuminate their discussion. (To listen to the show, go to this page.)

In many cases, these scraps create a mystery which is unsolveable. What was it about Amber's parent's anyway? According to the note that was read on air, it wasn't "what you'd think."

It was fascinating to listen to these things, but I almost felt like I shouldn't be. There was a letter from somebody to his dad that just about made me cry.

The feeling, to me, is similar to what I feel when I see those impromptu roadside memorials. I am intrigued by the mystery -- who died here? How did it happen? (This side plot in Y Tu Mama Tambien is one of the reasons I loved that movie so much.) But part of me is appalled. Do not make me party to this tragedy. I did not know this person.

A few years ago, I was walking around Hollywood Cemetery with the guy I was seeing at the time, taking photographs of the interesting monuments, etc. We came across one little angel statue with an outstretched hand, and there was a folded up piece of paper in it. He wanted to take it and read it, but I was quite adamant about just leaving it. Although it was in a public place, it just seemed so private. I didn't want to intrude.

While I was listening to the radio show, I thought about blogging and how it might be similar. Or maybe it's not. Blogging is voluntary and not quite as anonymous. There are some blogs that are quite personal and revealing -- GeekSlut (adult supervision required, blah blah blah), for example -- but still, a blogger still has the final edit on what gets posted. And in general, you know who wrote the blog. And yet, there are times when you "stumble across" a blog via a search or by blindly following links and you find yourself thrust into somebody's life.

These found scraps seem so revealing, but revealing to who? Do the notes themselves reveal something about their authors, or do our reactions to them reveal something about ourselves?


In any case, I wish FOUND magazine had been around when my friend J found a shopping list in a Walgreen's somewhere in Florida:
  • Gin
  • Pills
  • Mascara

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