Love Hurts

The rocky road of romance

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The subject line in the email I sent myself to remind me about an upcoming author event at Village Books read “Rothbart is an idiot.”

I wasn’t being mean. When Davy Rothbart returns to Bellingham Fri., Sept. 6 for what’s sure to be a rowdy reading at Village Books, the Found magazine creator, author, frequent NPR contributor, occasional documentary filmmaker and intentional wanderer will be reading from his recent collection of essays, aptly titled My Heart is an Idiot.

While the moniker of his memoirs may lead readers to believe the tales he’s telling solely concern the rocky road of romance, there’s more to the 16 essays than what happens when Rothbart finds love, loses love, hopes for love and chases love—which he does, often, and almost always with reckless abandon.

The overarching theme of the decades-spanning chapters is indeed the prickly subject of the stupid things Rothbart’s hopeful heart forces him to do—things like fly to a different time zone to meet a woman he’s had hot, anonymous phone sex with only to find out “she” might be a “he” and romanticize a character from a movie to the point of obsession—but there are bigger factors at work.

Because he’s spent a lot of the past decade traveling the roads and airways of the United States on behalf of Found—a bestselling trio of books he created with his brother Peter that highlight discarded letters, notes, photos, lists and other earthly ephemera from around the world—the people he’s met on his journeys are major characters in the book. This is evident in chapters such as “Canada or Bust,” “New York, New York,” “How I Got These Boots,” and “The Strongest Man in the World”—which features Rothbart’s friendship with Byron Case, a man in Missouri serving a life sentence for a murder many believe he didn’t commit.

In that essay, Rothbart ruminates on everything from a failed justice system to a mother’s unwavering love to what an ass he is for using his friend’s prison predicament to try to pick up girls. This particular essay is, like much of his writing in the collection, heartfelt, crass, funny and insightful.

Elsewhere in the tome, Rothbart tackles 9/11, what to do with the numerous bottles of urine he stowed away when he broke his ankle and didn’t want to traverse the stairs to use the bathroom, the shenanigans he and his two brothers got away with as kids because their mother was deaf, and the temporary affection he felt for a perfect woman who probably didn’t want to be his girlfriend and a teenager in trouble he was giving a ride to.

“I kept peeking over to watch my passengers sleep,” Rothbart writes of the road trip. “It felt like Missy was my wife and Hakim was our kid, although I’d only known them for five days combined. Still, on a drive like that, you get a sense for how joyous it might be to have a family of your own.”

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