Athens, GA, 2022

Wiley’s basement

What We Leave Behind:

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a college friend about an estate sale in Athens, speculating that it might be the leavings of Wiley Sanderson, our professor, mentor, and tormentor, from many years ago (the early 1970s) in the Visual Arts Department at the University of Georgia. (GO Dawgs!)  He had passed away several years back.

If you have been fortunate to work within a creative lifestyle, and have survived at that for long, you probably had a mentor at some point who gave you the technical and intellectual tools.  That’s who Wiley was for me.  I’ve learned much from many teachers over the years, but Wiley looms the largest.  He was the antithesis of some kind, grandfatherly sort you might choose for a mentor; he was a hard and demanding taskmaster who pointed you in a direction and then insisted you think and do the work.  He was sure of the rightness of his directions and offered little compromise to anyone.  One of the signs he kept posted in the communal student darkroom was, “Most people would rather be ruined by praise than improved by criticism.”  He was committed to improving us.

An Estate Sale is the ultimate and final ignominy, the redistribution of all the accumulations of a lifetime, minus any personal value one may have attached to them.  My friend and I drove up for the sale, a pilgrimage to remember the man, and to see if there might be some memento of him each of us might want to bring home.  I did get several prints, and some books. And I remembered that what he also left behind, of immeasurable value, is the legacy of all the young voices he influenced.

Another Georgia icon lost this week—Vince Dooley.  I’m not really a sports guy, never played, so I had no direct connection, but I love Georgia football and have him to thank for many emotional autumn seasons ranging from agony to ecstasy.  It was always a little reassuring to know he was still in Athens.  RIP Vince.

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Northern Italy, 1986

Along the Ligurian Sea


“Faraway places
With strange soundin’ names
Faraway over the sea
Those faraway places
With the strange soundin’ names
Are callin’, callin’ me”

Songwriters: Alex Kramer / Joan Whitney

It was the last night of my first trip abroad, and near the end of the first trip Barbara and I would take together. The wanderlust I had only experienced with books, TV, and movies was a real thing now, inescapable; I was firmly ensnared on the travel hook. 36 years later Barbara and I are still traveling together, through life, and to some of those faraway places, with strange sounding names. A couple of years after this trip my work began including a lot more travel, and that, combined with personal trips, has led me to 48 states and 45 countries. That doesn’t sound like much when you consider there are almost 200 countries in the world, but we continue to work on expanding our list.

A few years ago I found a postcard pinned to a bulletin board backstage at a performing arts theater where we were teaching. It said, “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” (Wade Davis) A couple of lessons I’ve learned from all that wayfaring are that people all over the world are more alike than different, and that they can invent an almost infinite variety of workable solutions to the same or similar problems. So now, whenever I see a ship heading out the Savannah River to ports unknown, it is a romantic image to me, and makes me think of lines from “Moon River” written by a Savannah favorite son, Johnny Mercer:

“Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way

“Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see”

I have created a new gallery on my website with the photos from the beach that last evening. To see that go to

Pisa, Italy, 1986

Pisa, Cathedral and Leaning Tower.

“16 feet per second per second” is a formula I remember from high school physics. I don’t really get the math, but I understand the idea is to calculate the acceleration of a falling object starting from an at-rest position. This is, of course, theoretical, and does not include factors such as air resistance. Galileo, an astronomer-physicist-mathematician-engineer, in an apocryphal story, in the late 1500’s, supposedly dropped two spheres of differing mass from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to show that acceleration was a constant, disputing Aristotle’s theory that objects of a larger mass would fall faster because of gravity. If someone tried to replicate that particular experiment today, with the sea of visitors standing around the Tower, someone would likely be badly injured, or worse. As we walked onto the plaza surrounding the Tower, Cathedral, and (not shown) Baptistery, we noticed some odd contorting behavior from randomly scattered people. Since this was long before the advent of Flash Mobs, we did not have that as a quick-to-mind explanation, but soon realized it was individuals, usually with an assist from a friend, trying to use a camera and forced perspective to compress their position photographically with the Tower and appear to be holding it up, or trying to right it. My attempt was to seem to be sitting, leaning back against it. (Of course we did photos too.) One factoid I learned is the Baptistery building was necessary (for baptisms) because in the Middle Ages anyone not christened was prohibited from entering the Cathedral, and my favorite lesson from Galileo is that you can be judged a heretic, and still be right, but it might take 350 years to set the record straight. “e pur, si muove”

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Tuscany, 1986

Olive groves between Florence and Pisa

I love olives, and I’ve worked my way to the bottom of many a martini, to that prize nestling in the perfect v shape, in the only style of glass appropriate to that particular refreshment. I like them whole or pitted, gin-soaked or not, with or without pimento stuffing, seldom with blue cheese or almond stuffing and never, ever that in a martini. I love chocolate, too, but a Chocolate Martini is an abomination. In today’s world of infinite options, one must maintain some standards. Somewhere in the ancestry of every urban dweller is someone who was the bridge from country to city. For me, that was my parents. They grew up in rural 20’s, 30’s and 40’s America, which was much more remote than rural America today, and were tempered by the Great Depression and World War. Just the communication technologies alone blur the lines between those regions now, but Mom’s and Dad’s families would only listen to the radio for a carefully calculated amount of time, to conserve the batteries. Neither Mom nor Dad finished school, Dad (the oldest son of 7 kids) dropping out in the 7th grade to help work the farm, and Mom (middle child of 8) quitting in the 10th to help take care of her siblings. So the table I sat at growing up offered a basic meat and potatoes diet; nothing exotic like olives or stinky cheeses (I love those also, the stinkier the better), but they knew where every food item came from, the time and labor it took to produce it, and what (sometimes bloody) process it went through in becoming our meal. I didn’t and I don’t, except in the most general way. If there is an apocalypse and I survive the initial impact, I will almost certainly poison myself or starve to death because of that gap in my education. So maybe it’s understandable that when we passed the first olive grove I had ever seen, and with fruit on the trees, I could not resist plucking one and popping it into my mouth to taste a really fresh olive (I understand now that may be oxymoronic). I was lucky to not chip a tooth; it was hard as stone. It may be a character flaw that even all these years later I don’t know how olives get from that to delicious, but I’m grateful that when I go to the supermarket to harvest my olives, someone does know how to prep them for me.

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Florence, Italy, 1986

“David” by Michelangelo

I had been wanting a leather bomber jacket for awhile, and heard Florence was a great place for leather goods, so my quest, when I got there, was to see “David,” the Uffizi, and find a jacket I liked, with some random wandering the streets in between. We were staying just outside the city and when we drove in on our first morning, I grabbed the first parking space I saw. Immediately, we saw a leather goods shop right next to our parking space. They had a jacket style that seemed exactly what I was looking for, but only one in my size. It was the first place we shopped and I was reluctant to commit without looking around some more, so we spent the rest of the day shopping, but never found anything even close. First thing the next morning we went straight to the shop, but no parking was nearby, so I dropped Barbara off and drove on until I found a space. A few minutes later, as I entered the shop, Barbara’s face and the shake of her head told me right away that it was gone. The saleswoman, in halting English, told me how sorry she was, but that a customer had come in after us the day before and bought it. Knowing I would not be happy with anything else at that point, we concentrated on the rest of our casual itinerary. I don’t know if the museum layout is the same today, but when we went into the Accademia Gallery, from the lobby, we stepped into a dark hallway and at the other end he stood there, spectacular, glowing in a pool of light. Slowly, as our eyes adjusted to the low light in the hallway, we could see five of Michelangelo’s Slave sculptures, raw and muscular and more powerful in some ways than the polished, finished “David” that he had created earlier in his life. The Uffizi, the food, the wine, walking the streets–it was all so good that my disappointment over the jacket gradually receded. Three months later, when I opened my Christmas present from Barbara, it was the jacket. In the few minutes it had taken me to park the car she had bought it, arranged shipping, and coached the clerk, without benefit of any Italian language, on how disappointed to act. Even thirty six years later, I have never been able to surprise her so well.

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