Friday, October 24, 2008

Namaste-Good Spirit~

This Sunday is the 2 year anniversary of the Death of my friend The Good Spirit, David Ray Chisholm. I realize that anniversary dates are sometimes over emphasised to the point of the understanding and true meaning being lost however in this case I can never unlearn the impact this man had on my life. All that took place by knowing Ray and being part of his untimely death has influenced my understanding of not only true justice but of our place in society and I cannot look away from the obvious. The Good Spirit gave me an education that could not be paid for and his life legacy has been part of my inspiration to make photographs, write and share with those who take a peek into the blogosphere. I ask that you take a minute and read my very first post in memory of David Ray Chisholm better known as The Good Spirit......

So it has been 4 months from the end of my last blog http://team283.blog.com/ where Beccina and I documented our once in a lifetime opportunity riding bikes across Germany and now I'm back. During the past two months more than 2 people who were not related to me in any way have asked me to continue writing. At first the idea seemed silly to me but then on further reflection I decided to come up with a plan. Germany and the dream team of 283 is in the past so now I present to you the ramblings of a mad man in the new. I realized that this project will continue as long as I feel it is good for me and stimulating my urge to create. There is what seems to be this voice in my head that sometimes whispers, "Create", sometimes it says it with a scream or a shout.

Many people who have lived in Charlotte for more than let's say a year or two may not recognize the name but prolly recognize the human form of David Ray Chisholm. He was the local Charlotte artist who had lived on the streets pulling his red cart loaded with original works of art since roughly 1973, after an explosion at his job took his left arm. Ray was working for his dad operating a welding torch when it accidentally ignited the liquid gas inside what was thought to be an inert tank. The fire ball and metal shrapnel sent him into a coma from which the doctors did not think he would come out of. On the morning of the 19th day he did wake with a new understanding of his place in the world, his truth. Shortly after recovering Ray took to the streets to spread the word of his life truth using his art work as a medium to express not only verbally but wholly what he believes.

Almost thirty years later in the summer of 1998 is when I met him working on a painting in the main avenue of uptown Charlotte. The oil on canvas was fading shades of blue to black upwards from a glowing blue earth at the base. From the center rose a yellow white spirit, a type of positive presence rising into the universe. I asked him about what I was looking at and he said that he was inspired by the spirit of man and all that is good. I wanted this piece of art and asked him if he would sell it but he declined, saying that one day he would leave a piece of art for me. My friend Elin smiled and said that Ray was The Good Spirit, which is what I have known him as since that day. Over the next 8 years I became friends with the Good Spirit and chatted with him frequently about life, art and the positive influence of belief and the power of doing what is right. One day in the rain on the way home I found a glass vase left under the Independence overpass, it was accented with gold and burgundy paint custom by the Good Spirit. I put it in my messenger bag trying not to smear the paint and brought it home and placed it on my fireplace mantle where it sits today. Late last August after returning from a trip to Scandahoovia I stopped to talk with Ray at the corner of Albermarle and E. Harris early in the morning. I told him what I saw above the arctic circle and he shared with me a clock that he was working on. He told me that this clock was keeping time with eyes open. I looked at the piece for a few minutes realizing that the clock did take on a human like face, adorned with jewels and color. Before we parted I asked him if I could take his portrait with my new digital camera, he smiled and quietly said, "Sure". I said goodbye and Namaste to him and as I rode away I told him that one day soon I would make a big print of one of the images for him.

I never got the chance for a few short weeks later, on October 26, 2006 he was hit and killed by a car on South Blvd while crossing with his art wagon. The driver of the car that killed him was legally intoxicated with a .18%BAC, according to the blood work done at the hospital. The Good Spirit's funeral was fittingly enough on Halloween at an established Presbyterian Church off of Providence Rd. My 7 year old daughter and I attended the service in which there was an open casket that caused me to stop in my tracks at the end of the aisle. Ms. Arcen grabbed my hand and said,"It's okay daddy, you have to do this or you will be sorry." So there was Ray, laying silent with paint brushes in his pocket, through the tears I managed to say, "Namaste Good Spirit, so long."

A few weeks later armed with a copy of the driver's ticket I went to watch the accused's administrative court proceeding. Outside court room 2205 of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse I approached a sheriffs deputy to find out the status of the case. Just as I was done talking to the deputy a woman grabbed my hand firmly, smiled and said, "I'm Ray's sister Deborah, what did you learn about the case?" Enter Deb, the Good Spirits sister. We quickly became friends and for the next 11 months were obsessed with the truth on the criminal case against the accused.

That day is when I first felt like there was a chance that this driver was going to slip through the cracks of the system and get off with only a DUI charge and punishment because the only charge present was DUI. In other words for whatever reason the DA's office never recognized that anyone had been killed that night therefor all the system knew was DUI. I was in disbelief at what I was seeing so I sought the pro bono council of a dear friend off of the record the very next day. I sat with Angel of Munich for an hour or so and told her everything I knew about the case so far and she reinforced my initial fears that this one may slip through the cracks. She also said something that would repeat over in my head for the next 11 months, "Stay on the DA with this one or they will let her off." The part that was missing in this case from the start was paper attached to the original summons that would identify the aggravated circumstance of the DUI, in this case the death of David Ray Chisholm. The law states that if you are arrested for DUI it is a misdemeanor, if you are arrested for DUI involving an accident that results in the death of a human it is automatically a felony DUI/death by vehicle.

The day of Aren Mccoy's trial in December came quickly. Deb and I sat together in disbelief that the prosecutor had just called her name and announced the charge of misdemeanor DUI on the morning docket. When the PA, Ms. Copeland finished the docket call she asked all states witnesses to queue up in the back and she would speak to us individually. In my bag was a 10 x 15 black and white portrait of the Good Spirit that I had taken back in August, dry mounted to a white matte with three inches of border. I took the print out and told Deb, "This is my chance." When the Prosecutor stood in front of me I was holding Ray's portrait against my chest facing her, she said, "How may I help you?" My response was rehearsed but trembling, "My name is Bill Fehr, you and the judge are about to prosecute Ms. Aren McCoy for DUI having no knowledge that anyone was killed that night." She looked down, saw Ray then instantly made eye contact with me again and asked, "How did he die?" I did my best to repeat the words of the summarized police report which describes the driver hitting Ray on or near the tracks of South Blvd and taking him off the road on the hood of her car, coming to a stop on the first light rail stanchion before Clanton Rd.. Ms. Copeland scrolled through the docket until she came to the case line, where she made some notations in the margin. Then she told me that she would file an extension immediately until the DA explained to her why this case was brought before the court without all of the information needed to make a fair prosecution.

As the months passed the DA's office started to talk with the Good Spirit's family and things were moving slowly but in the right direction. I even was able to get the Mayor involved after talking with him for 4 minutes about the case in February. Mayor Pat understood exactly what was going on and contacted the DA's office on the behalf of the Chisholm family. That was great news and in April the DA announced that the correct charge of felony DUI/death by vehicle was now brought against the accused. A plea conference was set in August which was the day I chatted with Aren Mccoy as she was leaving the Courthouse. I was amazed at her genuine sorrow, she was entirely remorseful and quietly trembling recounting the outcome of the event that had happened 10months prior. I looked her in the eyes and told her that no matter what happened in the court that she was going to be okay. She then apologized for my loss which I had trouble accepting not the apology but the fact she was apologizing to me. I explained to her that even though I felt the loss of Ray's human artistic form, I also had this strange feeling of gain and learning from his death and all that he had taught me.

On October 11th I sat with Deb, Brenda and her daughter in Courtroom 5310 as we watched Ms. Mccoy plead guilty to her felony charge. With that plea the DA agreed to the following punishment, 46 months drivers license revocation, 16 months in the state penitentiary-suspended after 36months supervised probation, 45 days in the County lock up to be served on the weekends consecutively, starting Oct 19th, 50 hours community service, Alcohol assessment program, submission of DNA sample and restitution to Deb of 5,000$ to pay the costs of burying Ray. After her punishment was listed but before it was final the judge asked her if she had anything to say. Leaning forward into the courtroom microphone Ms. Mccoy paused, then said to Ray's friends and family, "My god, I am so sorry." I know she is and I am sorry that she is in the place that she is. I hugged Deb, she whispered in my ear, "thank you", 4 times then I got out of there as fast as possible. It was finally over and I could release from my connection to being obsessed with justice based on equality.

I saw The Good Spirit two days before he was killed in the parking lot of the old Pepsi plant on South Blvd, pulling his cart. I did not stop as I headed out for an afternoon breakaway but I yelled, "Namaste, Good Spirit!", from the cockpit of my fixy. I glanced to him and he raised his hand slowly in his signature wave. His art cart was right there and on top of it was a wood/tile mosaic of a fish or what appeared to be a fish. It was resplendent in the afternoon light, little bits of colorful shiny matter forming the contours of this creature from the sea. This piece was his interpretation of the fish that swallowed Jonah from the biblical book of Jonah. I read the book 2 months after he was killed. To me the story is amazing considering that his requiem piece is tied in to faith, equality and justice.

Namaste Good Spirit!

3 comments:

Doug said...

Nicely written Bill. I always wondered what happened to him...

Tanya and Michael Storm said...

Thanks for writing this, Bill. It was lovingly told.

Tanya and Michael Storm said...

Thanks for writing this, Bill. It was lovingly told.