Keeping Portland weird isn't easy.
As the gritty city we used to know continues to give way to the shiny and new, the landscape might look increasingly homogeneous, safe, perhaps even bland. When the skyline is dominated by the same glass-and-steel condos you'd see in any West Coast metropolis and every neighborhood has a Little Big Burger, Blue Star Donuts or Bamboo Sushi, can we even honestly still don the badge of weirdness?
That's why one of Portland's weirder local celebrities is working hard to preserve and promote our oddball status.
Our very own bagpipe-playing, flame-throwing master of balance the Unipiper (aka Brian Kidd) is launching a nonprofit with an ambitious list of goals. The mission of Weird Portland United includes everything from awarding grants to emerging talent with an eye for eccentricity to acting as a clearinghouse for events and places with a flair for the bizarre. It even aims to make our time stuck in traffic spiked with quirk by purchasing billboard space throughout the city and reserving them for weird-use only.
"Starting a foundation to formally recognize and protect the weird in Portland is an idea that I have been sitting on for many years now," Kidd says. "I've long thought that our particular brand of weird is unique enough to warrant coordinated efforts at preserving it."
Funding for these projects at this point will come from a combination of donations from businesses and individuals as well as "Weirdo Memberships," according to the organization's website, which cost $10 a month or $100 per year.
And to commemorate the project's launch, Portland Brewing is issuing a collaborative beer. You can buy Unipiper Hazy IPA on draft and in limited edition bomber bottles beginning Jan. 25, with proceeds going to help seed the nonprofit.
"Honestly, we're sitting on a wealth of untapped potential for defining the cultural identity of the city by drawing on our weird past," says Kidd, "and building toward a hopefully weirder (and more fun) future."