You can’t deny people are awesome. Who doesn’t like sitting down with good friends to ask them interesting, insightful, and funny questions? With that in mind, local photographer Brian Carlson introduced an ongoing photo and Q&A series called “11 Questions” where he interviews Orlandoans he looks up to as well as people within the community that he’s always wanted to get to know.
EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED BY CARLSON ON HIS OWN BLOG.
Whenever I hang out with Brendan O’Connor I know I’m going to have a good ‘ole time. He’s got that positive, good-natured Canadian thing. His bubbly outlook on life is infectious! And he’s an incredible asset to Orlando, always trying to make the city more beautiful, creative, and joyful. He’s always up to something, whether it’s at the helm of Bungalower or thinking up some weird new art project. I’m glad we’ve got him (and I’m glad he was game for my weird photo ideas!).
Who do you look up to?
I’ve got a slew of people that I look to on a regular basis for inspiration like Jane Goodall, Jane Jacobs, Candy Chang, and Majora Carter. But my touchstone is my parents, haha which is totally corny but true. My mum works for the local Rotary Club in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario planning their fundraisers and festivals and she raised my brother and me to be her little talent pool/slave workers. (But not really, cuz I loved it).
She stuck us in workshops and things all the time so she could hire us as cheap labor later for her events. We learned how to face paint from Cirque du Soleil performers and were making giant parade puppets in high school for the big Community Day parade.
I won the “Volunteer Award” when I graduated high school, and I felt like a big fraud because I was kind of coerced into it just so I could help my mom. I took the trophy home though!
My dad is an archaeologist and bushman who is a natural storyteller. He made a living out of drifting around and just helping and talking to people. He’s a totally fictional character that talks to birds and rides moose. True story. He climbed a pine tree when I was a kid to steal a baby crow that I raised at the foot of my bed. Poe the Crow! They both raised me to be creative, to always ask questions, and to be myself and I’m super thankful to them for that. I don’t miss piling wood every fall though.
Favorite book, album, or musician?
I’ve got some books that I revisit from time to time … like The Silmarillion, which is basically the most epic creation myth ever, and by Tolkien, so it’s a classic. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is a favorite too. I think the “Hellboy” series is one of the most under-appreciated pieces of literature ever and Mike Mignola’s artwork is breathtaking … it taps into this weird lizard part of my brain. Like a feeling you get when you look at a campfire too long, or if you’re alone in the woods. Album-wise I’m kind of obsessed with Alt-J’s “This Is All Yours” at the moment and it’s gotten me through a few sink loads of dirty dishes. The new “Wonderland” album by Shawn Mendes, Aurora, CamelPhat, and Raleigh Ritchie are all on repeat at my office right now. haha, I started a Playlist on our Bungalower YouTube channel.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Orlando?
This is hard. My job means I get to eat out a lot. Like, I’m constantly at a new restaurant or something stuffing my face with something new so I don’t get a lot of time to revisit places. But, I’m definitely into Black Rooster Taqueria‘s Pozole Verde and I’ve been known to murder a Mama Ling Ling at Pom Pom‘s Sandwicheria. One of the best steaks I ever had was at Umi on Park Avenue though. I used to live in Turkey when I was 16, so I love me some Turkish food. I think the little stall in the parking lot up in Maitland is pretty great, but I miss Atilla’s that used to be in Mills 50 where Pig Floyd’s is now. Other spots to check out would have to include the Soseki pop-up, chicken skin at Tori Tori, the Ritchie Rich at Domu, the bread pudding at Russel’s at Lake Ivanhoe, and the sweet potato noodles from Bolay. Addicted.
If you could mate two different species of animals what would they be?
haha is it weird that I think about this all the time? Like, a penguin/orca would be GREAT because they’re basically the same shape and color, but it would be really big and covered in feathers. Or, a platypus/ jackalope so it’s like four animals instead. Can I say a tortoise and a bonsai tree? While we’re talking I also feel the need to say that manatees are basically just fat dolphins. A puffin/polar bear would be pretty terrifying … haha and a hippo/snake would be like, the hungriest hippo out there, right? Just a big old tube mouth slithering around, wiggling its ears at people and farting out its mouth.
What gives you inspiration?
People who do things and don’t just talk about them forever. Someone picking up litter while they’re walking. Mothers herding their kids with calm authority. City employees who don’t get recognition for actually doing their jobs but sticking with it for 30+ years anyway. Ballet dancers. Really good art. Architecture that takes people into account. Entrepreneurs that were smart enough to skip university and are killing it. Restaurant owners. A really good bike ride. Chimpanzee hands. People who are brave and talented enough to do drag for a living. Man, everything is inspiring and it’s why I find it so hard to keep my to-do list down since I’ve always got crazy projects popping into my head.
If you had a chance to live in a different decade, which would it be?
That’s tough … the Golden Twenties in Germany would be a gas but I’m gonna say in the future when we have nanobots to clean up my body for me so I can keep eating tacos every day. We’ll probably have a monorail to Mars or something by then too, with Buddy Dyer on the speaker welcoming everyone to outer space and wishing us a safe trip like at OIA.
What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?
I never thought I’d be making a living doing what I do now and I think I owe it all to my man, Scottie Campbell. When we first started dating I was serving tables at Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot and he was the one that was writing for various newspapers and had a radio show on WPRK and had just done a play at Orlando Fringe (where he was totally naked).
I wasn’t doing anything but making loads of cash from tourists and partying it all away, so I was kind of starstruck when we first hooked up (on my brother’s couch). I never really thought I had a voice like that or anything valuable enough to say that anyone would want to listen, so the longer we were together the more confident I became about putting down thoughts on paper or speaking up in a public forum.
The folks at Orlando Weekly really tried their hardest to teach me as much as they could while I was there, but Scottie was the reason I was offered my current job at Bungalower and he’s the reason I’ve stuck with it for as long as I have because he constantly reminds me how lucky I am to have all of the opportunities I’ve been given and this platform. That being said, I work really hard.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
Haha, I exist in perpetual imbalance. I work all the time. I’m always on, which is the nature of my job. I have no work/life balance but I’m really lucky to have an understanding partner who knows that my work gives me so much joy that he lets me work until the wee hours 6 days a week instead of curling up on the couch to read a book.
That being said, I’m trying to look after myself more. I’m much cuter when I’m not a fat slob. But I have a really hard time saying no to things when people ring me up. Scottie always shouts out a quote from George Bernard Shaw when we need to rally ourselves, “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.” That being said, I don’t want to hear anyone yelling at me about the gig economy blah blah blah and glorifying work culture. I just like to do a lot, all the time. I’m like a “work shark,” I have to keep swim/working to live.
Anything you haven’t done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?
Sure. I have a long laundry list of things I’m hacking away at slowly. I’ve traveled a lot but I’d love to get back at that again, and I’ve been writing about development for years now and I’m itching to get a chance to do some myself. I went to school for Urban Planning and Environmental Studies so I’d love to do some small scale development projects. I do some consulting work periodically to help other people with their development projects and that’s really been picking up so here’s hoping I make enough at that that I can start purchasing some property sometime soon.
I’d love to visit my parents more. I’ve been in Orlando for 13 years and I’ve always thought of myself as a dual citizen, which I am, but someone called me an ex-pat the other day and it really hit home that I’ve been away so long. Canada, and the North in general, have really been hit hard by a “brain drain” of young professionals who’ve fled southward and I’d love to go back in my later years with some more capital so I could re-invest in a region that really had an impact on who I am at my core. I’d also like to have more time to cuddle with my dog, Bernie.
What are your other interests?
I’m an artist and I love to do random public art projects around town. I converted an old phone booth in the Milk District into an Elvis Shrine, there’s a rainbow birdhouse pole by Se7enbites that I installed with my friend Robert Henry Thompson with 49 birdhouses on it for the people we lost at Pulse Nightclub. I do illustration stuff too, weird sculptures with found objects. I love making shit and then putting it outside somewhere. Like chairs that I used to tie up to bus stops around town that were all arted up.
What rejuvenates you?
A big, stinky joint on the beach, a bonfire with friends, a hammock cuddle with my dog Bernie, fake karate fights with my gay boyfriend Scottie Campbell, and trips home to skinny dip in Lake Superior. I love completing a project too.
Click HERE to read more “11 Questions” columns by Brian Carlson.