What is “American Encounters”?

Yeah, it sounds like terrible English grammar, but the question is correct – what is “American Encounters”?

“American Encounters” came to me quickly. The muse of inspiration slapped me upside my head, and thankfully, I paid attention!

Photography – and pictures – have always been important to me. Photographs that we take – I feel – are documents of our own history. Since every one of us has a unique eye, the pictures we take are so different, and give us insight into our own minds – as well as the minds of others.

Traveling across America, I have taken the beaten and unbeaten path. I have sought out things that I normally would have never seen, and I wanted to protect those memories in photographs.

Pictures are never as vibrant as what we actually see. However, the development of memories relies moreso on the emotion that we feel when we see something. This is one of the reasons that I drive Sheryl crazy with some of my memories.

Although I was four years old, I can remember my Grandpa Rodgers stomping across the kitchen floor coming towards me, reaching for me. Why do I have that memory? Because of the emotion – I was excited, and happy to see him. And it still makes me feel good to recall that memory.

That’s why movies make us sad, music makes us happy, sports make us excited and we live the way we live – because of the emotions that are triggered at a given point in time.

“American Encounters” is my view of America. The America that I want to remember. The images conjure memories of where I was at a given point in time. Images of the American Southwest that I may never see again… the kitschy-ness of a nearly dead Route 66… some cool landmarks viewed from funky angles. Memories of the vast American plains… the warmth of the sun on my skin… the straight-up hugeness of California redwoods…

Our experiences in life are uniquely our own. No one has lived life the way I have. No one has viewed life like you have.

Sure, we can aspire to see things the way our idols see them – to experience things others have experienced – but it is always going to be different. “American Encounters” is my vision – my view – of life, and it’s something I wanted to share with the world.

I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy it.

St. Mary Star of the Sea


In 2010, we spent Christmas in Florida. While there, we spent a couple of days in Key West. We not only did a lot of walking, but we also rented mopeds for one of the days. As a result, we were able to see a lot more of the island than usual.

This photo was taken at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea. I love the Christmas decorations that churches put up – there are a lot of reds, greens, angels, poinsettias, etc. But having been raised in the Midwest, it was almost impossible to get a shot like this – an open air church (sliding side doors opened wide), with gorgeous, colorful flowers, and the sun shining all around us.

This was definitely a Christmas to remember!

November 11


I grew up in times that were complicated for the American military. We were trying to forget Vietnam, and you only went into the service if you didn’t know what to do with yourself or if you were a screw-up.

After I had already started college, things began to change. The GI bill made the military appealing to those willing to sacrifice a few years in order to get money to go to school – this was a major reason why my brother went into the military. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to not have to worry about him seeing battle duty. In the 80s, we weren’t at war, so it really was a different world.

Of course, since Operation Desert Storm in 1990, America – and its military – has not been the same. Coincidentally (?), the great guilt over treatment of Vietnam vets overflowed. Americans vowed never to treat our men and women in uniform the way we did in the early to mid-70s.

Being raised in the Midwest, I also had a cultural upbringing regarding the American civil war. It was just a standard history lesson, with no real impact on my life. I pretty much just knew names and dates, and the fact that the Midwest was part of the underground railroad.

Now that I live in the American South, the civil war becomes a little more real. Nearly everywhere I look, there’s a memorial of some sort to the confederate army.

This picture was taken in April, 2016, in Raleigh. Walking through the tombstones, it’s easy to realize how families and lives were ruined as a result of war. Battles are honored, as are the fallen – and the survivors, too.

I think it’s good to remember the major issues that create the world we live in today. The good, and the not-so-good. Most importantly, we need to learn from our mistakes and ensure we take steps to improve.

Godspeed to everyone who served in the military – regardless of when, why, or how.

Godspeed also to those who didn’t – regardless of when and why not.

The Sun Sploosh


The first time I went to Key West, it was a magical trip. It was during my “lost weekend” in 2002. After I finished treatments for Hodgkin’s Disease, I took a few weeks to tour the Southeast – to warm up and rejuvenate.

I ended up spending a couple of days with some friends in Miami Lakes, Florida. One day, we decided to drive down to Key West. It was a magical experience for me – the sunshine, the warm breezes (despite being November!), and the music we played on the CD player along the way, all added to the magic!

Just before we hit the 7-Mile bridge, we stopped to eat at Porky’s. At that time, there was nothing better than a couple of Corona beers, some Bar-B-Q (the fried Key Lime Pie was pretty wacky, too!), and local entertainment.

The trip was a brief out-and-back, but it’s one of those trips that give you the warm fuzzies every time you think about it.

Years later, my wife and I spent Christmas in Florida. We stayed a few days in Hollywood, and experienced a big-as-your-head burger at Le Tub for our Christmas dinner. It was crazy to be someplace warm and sunny on a day that’s traditionally cold and cold in the Midwest!

From Hollywood, we drove on down to Key West. We had a blast taking the trolley tour, and hanging out at the wine bar at night. At the tip of Key West is an area called Mallory Square. It’s here that you can see the sun sploosh into the ocean at the end of the day.

Mallory Square is crazy – EVERYONE knows that this is where you can see the sun sploosh. Therefore, EVERYONE is there! There are buskers, artists, performers, all sorts of people trying to get a few bucks out of you (admittedly, one of the funniest shows was the trained cats!).

Each time I go to Key West, it triggers all of those magical memories. Each time, I try to get to Mallory Square for the sunset. Views like this don’t come every day, and you certainly don’t see many cats jumping through a ring of fire!  Plus, If you ever get a chance, rent a moped for a day and explore the island in geeky style – just watch out for the chickens!