Wednesday, October 31, 2007

C-SPAN Report

As if it is not boring enough, now I'm translating what I viewed on C-Span(channel 71 on basic) last night. I watched a Pentagon press conference conducted by civilian Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morel. The questions from a pool of press was filmed earlier that morning from a small room in the Pentagon.

The major topic of question was stemming from an incident earlier in the week when U.S. Army General Dorko was injured in an IED attack on his vehicle. The General was wounded , his injuries not life threatening but serious enough to get him pulled back to a hospital in Germany. The reporters were not so much concerned with the incident itself but with what came out of it. General Dorko was traveling with a U.S. civilian security service hired by the Defense Department when the IED went off. Morel seemed frustrated and snippy with the questions as they were constant for 30 minutes. As it came out, it is common practice in this war to use civilian security contractors to do the jobs which used to be filled by U.S. service men and women. One of the reporters asked to a reddening Morel, "Does hiring a private firm to do the job of the military not compromise the overall mission?" His answer was all over the place from talking about the needs of trained persons for such jobs to loosely spun talk about policy. Morel spoke of a company called Triple Canopy which is responsible for a better part of the security of the Green Zone and also the protection of visiting U.S. Senators and other high profile visitors. He also said that there were 27 civilian security contractor firms operating between Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of our democracy.

I worry about things like this. I cannot help it because I'm paying attention to it. I guess I could ignore it and then it would not bother me as much. The subbing out of war seems like a really bad idea because the military and civilian portions of government have been in design under separate control, until now. It seems to me that the overall mission would be compromised by replacing the jobs of troops with the best bidding company. I do support our troops and can imagine what some of them are thinking right now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Too much time on our hands....

Here is a little video that Caleb Neeley made of me doing a fixed geared stair jump in front of the Discovery Place on 6TH. Turn it up loud and you can hear the frame scream for help is it hits the flat transition. I used to do stupid little geeky things like this often but the frames just don't like it and my black smith yells every time I bring him something broken.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Header Image

The above header image you have seen now for a week of my high camp on El Pico de Orizaba at 16,500ft was taken by A. Picard on my last adventure on that mountain in 2005. Here is a picture of A.P. that I took of him 7,000ft below, three days earlier in the tree line(off to the bottom left of the tent pic on the opposite ridge the clouds are pouring over) El Pico is an 18,511ft volcanic cone in southern Puebla Mexico at the bottom of the Sierra Madre range and is North Americas 3rd tallest mountain. I first learned of this mountain when my friend Euro Nate suggested it as a potentially good place to get in an alpine climb with altitude and glacier travel with a very fair budget.

The first trip I planned in 2002 was a self written 8 day itinerary that lead to a day 6 summit try. On that morning Ballsberry, R.J.(R.J R.J), Domras and I left out of high camp at 0400hrs though the hummocky petrified lava flow up to the glacier. A foot of new snow had fallen over night and our headlamps made the surface look like it was covered in diamond dust. The way upwards through the flow is a little confusing, it is about 800ft of climb with all these chutes and steps leading up to an exit on the plain that the glacier meets the mountain on. R.J. and I led out and within 20 minutes stopped on a step and looked back and down towards our high camp. It was cold, the air crystal clear and we could see the headlamps of Ballsberry and Domras approaching. It was so quiet up there we could only hear the axes against the hard lava and our breathes. We wound up being in that flow longer than expected because the new snow in the gullies changed the way the route had looked to us just the day before. We were an hour behind some sort of internally dictated schedule when we made the glacier, cramponed up and started the last 1,500 feet up a 47-52 degree ice slope for the summit. Even though the sun had been up for 2 hours the sky was dark grey, the clouds were at the same height we were, the wind began to pick up and it started snowing tiny little snow pellets. After two hours of slow upward plodding we were 400ft from the summit but could only see maybe 30ft in all directions. I remember looking down the slope towards Balls and Domras who faded in and out of the thick grey cloud. The four of us were together at 18,000ft at the base of the final summit cone for about an hour when I realized that the only choice was to go down.

R.J. looked at my face through his ice covered goggles and talked over the wind, "Billy, you think this is stupid enough yet?" As we descended off the glacier I realized I would come back one day, I just did not realize that I would come back more than once. I have been there twice since that original trip and will post the highlights if those trips in the future.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Do I make you laugh?

Click play and find out.....This is obviously a courier with big thoughts, a fat finger and even fatter nostril.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

When in America, do as Mexicans

No, no sorry, I don't mean ride your extreme alpinist friend Bill Nye around in a front loading cargo bike on the pavers in a little village called Tlachichuca at 8,500ft, I mean think about how we use the water we have. I first noticed the drought that has been affecting the entire southeastern U.S. the week I returned from the Trans Germany in mid June. I have always dreaded mowing the grass and always try to push it out as long as I can to conserve in a small way what I can. This summer was a mowing haters dream, I went 3-4 weeks out through August and have not since then. The down side to the self mowing lawn is an almost unbelievable rain water deficit that has left me trying to figure out how our city utilities can continue supporting a nearly 100 million gallon H2O usage every 24 hours much past I don't know, say, tomorrow. The restrictions started going into affect at the end of August after we were already past ten inches negative. At the height of summer usage the 24hr number was more like 170 million gallons.

Even though we have never watered our lawn which I cannot figure out why I would in the first place, my house is now participating in some extra water conservation. Since July we have been using a gutter style rain barrel for all of our plants and garden needs. We have saved all the plants but the garden was bad and there were no good tomatoes, only peppers and basil. As well I have been dry washing my bikes and for 3 days now have been taking Navy showers just like I did while on these big grey ships which were floating in big water but never had any. The showers on the ships had these spring loaded buttons that you pushed, got 4 seconds of semi cool water and then it cuts off. Lather up, hit the button and rinse, oh the memories of the perks a tour in the military has to offer.

Dicky posed the question last week of the wasted shower water that goes down the drain while you are waiting for it to warm up. He is right, no sense jumping in it, it is cold because the hot water heater was put in place by an American plumber who put it in a closet at the other end of the house by the dining room. So, after a little research and help from the ethnically diverse munie section of the bank I learned what they do in Venezuela with their cool bath water. Apparently this South Amercan nation collectively saves that water in a 20-25 gallon vessel which stays in the corner of their shower and becomes the source for their toilet tank fill water. So smart and simple these Venezuelans, they prolly don't waste water on their lawns very much either. Our house adopted this policy officially Monday after St. Lissa brought home the lidded vessels and I shut off the supply valve to the tank. It is amazing, 2 gallons there about get saved for the toilet tank every time any of us take a shower. We use a pitcher to do the aqua transfer from vessel to tank, which are about 4 feet apart. I put the ceramic tank lid on the floor behind the throne, no need to take it on and off every transfer.

It has been raining steady here in the Catawba river basin since last night. Ten minutes into my commute this morning I felt completely wet but some how warmly clean. I noticed on the Albermarlian traverse an unusual continuous noise to my left ear, it sounded like a shallow river running fast over rocks. I looked over through the falling water while sidewalk surfing along side the autos road surfing and I saw the movement of the water causing this unfamiliar roar. H2O was everywhere, the gutter ran visible into the road and caused these little hydraulics at the drain grates. The downpour was clear and not once did it feel urban dirty or gritty like it usually does when you are so used to having it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Tuesday morning before I left on my commute to pick up my first 8:30am job in the uptown my phones started ringing. Multiple sources were telling me that protesters were hanging from a construction crane a few hundred feet off the ground at College and Trade. They had unfurled a banner facing the Bank of America corporate center that read: Bank of America, Funding Coal, Killing Communities. When I rolled up shortly after 8:30 I saw two police officers standing on the corner along with a photographer from the Charlotte Observer. The photographer was disappointed because she arrived too late to get the shot, the banner and climbers were already down. I then had the chance to do a stand up interview with the police Sgt. who called it in. To protect his identity and mine we will call him The Walrus.

Billy: Morning Sarge, I heard you had some excitement this morning. Were the protesters bicycle messengers?

TW: Actually, come to think of it maybe they were the ones that just look like messengers, no just kidding with you, they were professionals from an orginization called the Rainforest Action Network.

Billy: So can you tell me what happened?

TW: Well, I was working this morning off duty for the bank when at 0620hrs I walked around the Trade and College St intersection, looked up and saw a body hanging from a rope a few feet below the cross arm of the crane. My first thought was that it was a suicide because the body was just hanging there, limp. I called it in as just that, a suicide. Just as the call ended I noticed that the lifeless body started to move around, so I called back and told dispatch that he was alive and may be a jumper or a fallen worker. It was about that time that I realized he had at least one other accomplice who was now lowering himself down 40 or 50 feet from the first guy. On the third call I asked response to be slowed down and to set up a perimeter a block away because I knew at that time that we were dealing with harmless protesters.

Billy: Is that when they came down?

TW: Not exactly. I could hear the sirens of fire and medic in route when I heard the first one hanging yell over to his buddy, "It is show time!" Then they both descended acting as the counter weights for the rising banner. They both hung just below it and were sort of flying in the breeze, it looked like they were having fun. Once the News36 helicopter showed up the two men decided it was time to come down but their rope length was too short. At that time the ladder truck and a few fire fighters were called in to help lower the men to the ground.

Billy: I guess at that point you let them go home or out to breakfast?

TW: chuckling audibly: No, not quite. The two men along with two more helping them up high were arrested and taken to to the County. They will probably be out in a couple of hours.

Billy: What were the charges?

TW: Breaking in and entering, criminal trespass and creating a public disturbance.

Billy: Thanks, Sarge.

TW: Any time.

Creating a public disturbance is right, the traffic between my first job and it's two destinations was all off the normal flow and timing. With 2 tubs of mail on my bars I weaved through the streets passing the stand still of cars, trucks and buses. Even the intersections were jammed with autos getting caught red in front of green going nowhere just like they were all doing. Cars have a tendency to angle themselves left or right when the are stymied from moving forward. Two front bumpers came into my gutter within a half block on Brevard. As I swerved past the second one I realized that it would be hilarious to be taken out on my morning routine because of an anarchistic statement.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Good Spirit

So it has been 4 months from the end of my last short lived blog where Beccina and I documented our once in a lifetime opportunity Single Speeding across Germany in the latest Trans event in the world 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!