It has been well-documented in this very blog that students have a remarkable capacity to act like jackasses, and there is perhaps no place where this is more apparent than the library. For reasons that remain unclear to me, students are allowed to sign in to the library during study halls, regardless of whether they actually need to be in the library. As a result, a lot of loud, obnoxious kids gather at the center tables every hour to see how much they can talk without getting in serious trouble. It's a very academic environment. In an effort to combat the noise (and general idiocy), the librarians have put together a collection of "Selections for the Terminally Bored" on one of the shelves. The other day, I finished grading papers while my Advanced Comp. kids were in the library computer lab, so I strolled over to check it out, thinking I'd spend the last 15 minutes of class reading The Far Side or looking for Waldo. But I found something else.
Even though I've been warned not to, I judged this coffee table-type book by its cover, making note of the bright colors and quotes, such as "A great book" (David Letterman) and "It will break your heart" (David Sedaris). The book was called Found. I don't want to overexaggerate here, but I think it's the most brilliant thing I've ever held in my hands. Here's the story:
The author (editor?), Davy Rothbart, tells a story about one night when he was visiting a friend. He left to find a note under his windshield wiper that read, "Mario, I f***ing hate you. You said you had to work then whys your car HERE at HER place?? You're a f***ing LIAR. I hate you I f***ing hate you. Amber. PS Page me later." Point of clarification: Davy is not Mario. Amber had made a mistake. But it got Davy to thinking about all of the random notes/letters/pictures/etc. that you come across on the street/left on computer lab printers/in school hallways/etc. So he decided to collect them and put them into a book. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, the book that we have in our library is the second collection, based mostly on things that avid readers of his magazine (here's the web site) sent in. Again, there's basically no context for any of this stuff, but I think that adds to the allure. Here are some examples (disregard grammatical/spelling/etc. errors--everything here is word for word, letter for letter):
A WILL found in Chicago, IL: "I, Al Burian, being of reasonably sound mind and body, do hereby deliver my last will and testament, on this morning of November 3, 2001. Should I die under circumstances other than the total collapse of civilization, i.e., if it's at all possible to arrange a funeral, I would like it to happen in the following manner: I'd prefer to be cremated, then have my remains laid into the earth in a ceremony where 'Another one bites the dust' by Queen plays over a public address system. That should put people in a jovial mood and hopefully a good party will follow. Signed, Al Burian."
A NOTE found in Las Cruces, NM: "Love you Dad. Get job. Just joking."
A FATHER'S DAY CARD found in Delton, WI: "Happy Fathers day to you, even though you told me I couldn't cook and the pie I made sucked."
A NOTE found in Ann Arbor, MI: "Here is a Free Ticket to the Thursday, Jan 22nd performance of EMU's gritty drama, In the Blood. We hope you can attend and enjoy the show! Sincerely, Billy, Angela, Dave, Misty, and Chris...and Jesus."
A LETTER found in Gainesville, FL: "Dear Mrs. Dionne, I am so, so sorry about your husband. I want you to know that it was not my fault. I left Dragon's Tongue. Nick Trenkle and Dom Walbridge did most of what was done. Andy is a great photographer. I saw you at the trial, and I wanted so terribly much to say something to you. To tell you how sorry I was. How sorry I am. I am so, so sorry. Sincerely, Mike Mcafee."
A NOTE found on the door of a store in Sebago, ME: "Today is my grandmothers 100 birthday AND There is a raccoon in my bathroom. Will open at 3 p.m. Thanks."
A LETTER found in Chicago, IL: "Mike, I have lost the will to write, act, compose, create. Have a nice day. Mitch."
A TO-DO LIST found in Los Angeles, CA: "1) Pray to God for guidance. 2) Find local cat for blood sacrifice...3) Kick dog for recent barking...7) Untie the neighbors. 8) Talk it over with them...9) Thaw out chicken in freezer. 10) Call Manny for recipe--chicken pot pie??"
A BIRTHDAY CARD found in San Francisco, CA: "Happy 30th kiddo. It gets better and better! Then it gets worse. Dad."
A NOTE found beneath the covers of a motel bed in Latham, NY: "If this is still here, they didn't make the bed after I slept in it. Yuck."
A HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT found in Sacramento, CA (NOTE: We don't know the questions--only the answers): "1) I would name my twins Mickey and Miney. 2) Hell no, I mean if your gonna control the U.S. armed forces then you have to be born and raised here in the U.S. 3) The book would be about the ghettos of the world and the title would be 'The ghettos of the world.' 4) Set my arms on fire using rubbing alcohol or spitting flames using rubbing alcohol. 5) Nothing at all. 6) I love you God, Jesus saved me."
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Some of it's funny (a collection of fan mail to Adam Sandler), some of it's sad (a couple of suicide notes), and some of it's terrifying ("There are two children buried under a home located in Long Beach!"). But it's gripping from beginning to end. I'm asking for the first one for the next holiday for which it's acceptable for me to ask for gifts. Possibly Memorial Day.