And you know what that means: We’re getting weird today.
Each week, we’re highlighting and celebrating elements of Portland’s wonderful weirdness in collaboration with the amazing folks at Weird Portland United (WPU).
If you haven’t read them yet — you can find our February Weird Wednesdays here, where we interviewed The Unipiper, local artist Cedar Lee, and The Portland Sleestak. And if you missed our interview with magician Spencer Sprocket, peep at that here and last week’s with designer Sundari Franklin can be read here.
Today, we are donning our helmets, elbow and knee pads, listening to an awesome roller skating soundtrack, feeling the pure ecstasy of gliding along a sidewalk in the sunshine, with a beautiful local weirdo looking to make this joy and love accessible for every single Portlander. We interviewed artist, Free Advice Hotline expert, Magic Mondays celebrator, and creator of Disco’s Skate Shop, Carlos the Rollerblader, another recipient of WPU’s 2020 Keep Portland Alive grant awards!
What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.
Carlos the Rollerblader: A Portland icon. (📸: Courtesy of Carlos the Rollerblader)
Mind telling me a little bit about yourself and the work you do that adds to Portland’s weirdness?
Well, being Black, visibly queer, and outspoken adds a fair amount of weirdness to things, though I’m not always certain that it’s adding to Portland’s version of weird. Though, my subversion to the world at large, and therefore Portland, is likely the biggest contributor to the weirdness of the city. My work involves creating space for people like me (generally Queer Trans People of Color) to find relief from the corners of the world that exhaust us on an hourly basis. I’ve done so via laughter in stand-up comedy, through listening/commiseration in the Free Advice Hotline, with midday celebrations in the Magic Mondays rooftop happy hours, and soon Disco’s Skate Shop will do so via roller sports.
How long have you been practicing your weirdness here in Portland, and what got you interested?
I’ve been in Portland since 2013, but Carlos the Rollerblader, as a moniker, happened with the Free Advice Hotline, post-Trump-inauguration, which also happened about the time of starting my local stand-up stint, in 2017. The Hotline was a genuine effort to reach out to others in an informal, earnest fashion in a time where we were really becoming more and more sheltered from one another due to political division. The work I do now is not as heavy-handed or emotionally involved but still heart-focused, aiming to provide space for the marginalized and stressed out to find a present mind.
How did you get involved with the folks at Weird Portland United?
Long story short, the act of ironically running against the city’s #1 Local Celebrity by way of being nothing other than a really cool Black, queer, non-binary rollerblader has given me unlikely allies. For more context, the reason why I know the Unipiper at all is because I made it a goal to topple the presence of the city paper’s #1 most popular local celebrity in a time (2016/17-2019) where I felt white people (in Portland, and in general) enjoyed too much credit and frivolity (at the expense of Marginalized people.) I never “beat” him, but of course I never really had to either. Years later, here we are.
What does contributing to the wonderful weirdness of Portland mean to you?
It means being present — not only for myself but for the bystander or stranger or person nearby who might just need the visual reminder that people like me exist. Appearing to others does require, and also sometimes inspire, strength. In the moments where I feel like I lack it, I also consider what a win it is for those who wouldn’t like me in the world to stay inside feeling weak. Some people can fake it ‘til they make it but that attitude will run you dry in the long run — my “weirdness” is antithetical to that, as it is my honest self, requiring great care and diligence to maintain. Contributing to the outside world is a practice of contributing to my inside world and thus can be a good reminder that life, your way, is totally possible.
Where can folks find you online, and do you have any upcoming events, news, things you want to shout out?
I’ll be opening the city’s, and perhaps Oregon’s, sole inline skate store, Disco’s Skate Shop, where we’ll also host select strollers (for the strollerblader crowd) and quad skates as well. There will be an online shop accompaniment to the brick-and-mortar shop, which will open sometime mid/late 2021. Shout out to everybody Black.
To support Disco’s Skate Shop, go here to help bring this amazingness to Portland.
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