How to Embrace Your Inner Weirdo in Portland
And you know what that means … It’s time to get weird.
Every week, we celebrate elements of Portland’s wonderful weirdness in collaboration with Weird Portland United. So far, we have featured The Unipiper, the Portland Sleestak, Spencer Sprocket, Carlos the Rollerblader, Strawberry Pickle, and many more colorful local characters.
Did you miss a story from this series? Don’t worry, you can find our archive of Weird Wednesdays right here.
And today folks, we’re talking about the beautiful weirdness that resonates inside of each of you (yes, you, reading this newsletter), and a local advocate who embraced his own weirdness and is now on a mission to help you embrace yours.
We interviewed No1, also known as Eric Putman, about his background, how he fell in love with the City of Roses, and his “Be Weird” art project that inspires others to connect with their true selves.
What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how the work you do adds to Portland’s weirdness.
Before I became No1 (no one), I worked with endangered animals back east. One day after a long day of working with Buck (a Kodiak grizzly bear at the habitat), the founder told me I was a showman and that more people should focus on what’s right in this world instead of getting lost in all that is wrong. I have been called weird most of my life, but never a showman. Little did I know this would be the boost of confidence that would begin to ignite my ability to believe in myself. I needed that to begin the pursuit of my next dream: Being me.
The “me” that many of us suppress inside to fit into this monetary world. So I began creating a character that would give me an outlet to channel the intense / impulsive energy that comes with having ADHD. I have struggled my entire life with containing the bottled lightning within my mind. Never sure if it was OK to put on display how different the “me” inside my mind is. In most places doing anything other than following the flock is frowned upon and being “weird” or “different” isn’t always a positive connotation.
Stepping off the plane in Portland was like landing on another planet. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who not only tolerated the different — they encouraged and accepted it. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged somewhere. A place where a person can be who they truly are. No matter how wild that inner person is. I was welcomed here in the west in a way that southern hospitality could not compare. This city gives me a purpose for my passion. I hope to create art here with my fellow weirdos forever.
How long have you been practicing your weirdness here in Portland, and what got you interested?
I started the Be Weird art project while working with Bridge City Media in January of this year. I felt I needed to not only give back to the art community that has encouraged me and helped me get to this point, but also to create a video that will hopefully help show other extraordinary people who are living in places that make them feel they cannot be true to themselves that a place such as Portland exists and they are just a flight / drive away from finally showing the world who they are.
The Be Weird project is all about overcoming inner conflicts such as fear, depression, anxiety and many other things. It follows the mantra of being yourself and embracing your ability to Be Weird. (📸: Courtesy of Eric Putman.)
How did you get involved with the folks at Weird Portland United?
Liz Miller custom-made a beautiful pair of shoes for the No1 character that have the Unipiper on one side (I’m a big fan.) I reached out to the Unipiper and asked him to join my “Be Weird” project. He in turn introduced me to Weird Portland United and the rest has been history. WPU’s well-rooted connections to the heartbeat of Portland’s weirdness have helped me create a beautiful scene for this project. I wouldn’t be able to pull this off without the help of WPU and the Unipiper.
What does contributing to the wonderful weirdness of Portland mean to you?
Creating art here in this city with these artists is a once in a lifetime opportunity I appreciate beyond what I can convey in text. But just know that this project has already profoundly affected me in a beautiful way. I am blessed to have so many artists coming together for this. Giving i.e. paying it forward is the greatest gift.
A pair of custom-made weird shoes featuring one of Portland’s most well-known weirdos, the Unipiper. (📸: Courtesy of Eric Putman.)
Where can folks find you online, and do you have any upcoming events, news, things you want to shout out?
On July 12, August 8 and 24, and Oct. 12 we will have the next sneak peeks / behind the scenes drop [of the video] on social media. On Aug. 3 we will be attempting a world record for the world’s tallest hat at 20 feet tall made here in Portland. The Be Weird project will release its first video at the end of this year. If anyone wants to be a part of this project they can email me at [email protected]
Whether it’s a weird place we should film or a person we should meet. All are welcome.
Thank you to our Bridgeliner Unabridged members. Stories like these are made possible with your membership and support.