Brendan O’Connor personifies the community that he lives in. He IS Orlando. The REAL Orlando. He has a big heart and a big appetite for art, culture, festivities, love, and shining a light on all that happens here as well as throwing a little shade…as our Live Oaks do from time to time. Bicycle-riding, schwing-wearing, colorful Canuck with calves for days, and the best laugh around. Get to know the artist, Brendan O’Connor.
Your motto? Haha my daily speech is peppered with little slogans and things that just fall out of my mouth like little verbal crutches in case there’s some uncomfortable silence that I need to fill but one of the things I say the most is “#hideyourhusbands” which is essentially a rallying cry for me to step it up and be fierce enough that I could possibly steal somebody’s husband.
Mantra-wise? 2019 is about slowing it down and trying to do the whole self-care thing. I tend to go 110 percent and my body suffered last year as a result. Gotta tighten it up so I can be around long enough for someone to invent injectable nanobots to keep me around forever.
Childhood memento? Lord, I still have my teddy bear. His name is Basil (pronounced “Bah - Zill”) and he’s a 2-foot-tall polar bear. My mom brought him back to us from a New York trip but I woke up earlier than my brother that day so I could crawl into bed with my parents and I saw him wrapped in plastic at the foot of their bed. I unwrapped him and we imprinted on each other and we were inseparable all through my youth. I still use him as a pillow sometimes if I’m reading a good book.
Recent acquisition for your home? Totally rent a little bungalow in Park Lake Highland for way cheaper than I should be paying. I’m a professional blogger so I don’t see myself buying a home for the foreseeable future unless I find a bag of diamonds on the beach.
Current obsession? I literally cannot stop listening to “Warrior” by Chloe x Halle, which they wrote for the latest iteration of “A Wrinkle in Time.” I found it when I went down the rabbit hole trying to find out who Halle was when it was announced that she was going to be Ariel in the next live-action Disney movie. I’ve listened to it like twice a day for a week and can’t stop imagining a new music video for it. Other than that, working is an addiction for me. I can’t stop doing Bungalower stuff at all times of the day. I’m obsessed with working.
Favorite hobby? I kind of feel like my life is a series of hobby addictions. I’m an artist but my practice is essentially putting things on other things. I did a Nerd Nite talk about it. I paint weird things in old thrift store landscape paintings, or glue ceramic critters on signs, or drawing eyeballs on beach balls and jamming them into shrubs. It’s all so I can go thrifting, keep something for a year, and then clean my studio and publicly litter under the banner of “art.” Art gives me a chance to shut off my brain and make something that doesn’t live on a website or require proof reading and just sit on the floor with some tools.
Always on you - watch, memento, etc? A man dressed as a pirate gave me a “magic dubloon” one Halloween at Parliament House and he told me it would bring me good luck. It may have been the mushrooms I was on that night but it really hit me that something special was happening and that I shouldn’t lose that coin. It’s a real one too that I bet he dragged up with him from the ocean. Haha I dunno, I just kind of love it. I’ve had a good 10 years since he gave it to me too so there may be something to it.
Favorite neighborhood restaurant/s? SO MANY GOOD RESTAURANTS! The problem is that my person, Scottie Campbell, has some definite opinions on food so there are a bunch of favorites of mine that I can’t go to often because of his feels. But you can bet I have them for lunch. I think the Orlando Meats crew are always pushing themselves and their craft and I love seeing that especially when their food is that consistently good. We did a heart dinner with them for Valentine’s Day last year too. Shout out. That butternut chicken burrito at Tako Cheena is completely bangarang. The chicken pepito sandwich at Latin Square. Cafe Linger has some really special dishes, K Restaurant is fantastic. I can’t choose just one.
Favorite museum? I’m going to have to say the Salvador Dali Museum because they had that Yayoi Kusama exhibit but OMA had that amazing Nick Cave show where I got to meet him during a gallery tour that kind of stands out as a landmark occasion for me. He’s one of my top 5 favorite contemporary artists and he’s super-sexy. Brain and brawn. Meow. What were we talking about? Haha the Orlando Museum of Art is my favorite local museum. Their educational programming is top-notch too. Shout out to Orange County Regional History Center though for doing some really great programming. They just won a HUGE award and they did a DNA exhibit that I got to take part in. I’m a big fan of their work. If the Morse Museum shared their neon sign collection publicly I’d have to say them though.
Best gift recently received? I’m gonna have to go back to the History Center for this one. They did a full breakdown of my DNA and family history for their Genome exhibit and then gifted me a massive binder and digital collection of all the research they found on my family. They gifted me my family. Like, that has ramifications for generations because I can share that professional research with my family and my nephew. It was a really humbling and centering gift that I’ll always carry with me.
Most inspiring book you’ve read? Most-inspiring? Probably Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. He examines the story of humanity through the lens of a telepathic gorilla. It’s like “Congo” but good and with a real message. My mom gave me a copy of The Giver in high school that kind of affected me too.
At the top of your to-do list? Haha to combine all of my to-do lists. I carry a giant canvas bag full of tasks with me at all times. I’m like Sisyphus. But gay … so more like, “Sissy-phus.” Today the top of my list is to send out a sponsorship deck for our upcoming Downtown Survival Guide we’re releasing this August to coincide with the opening of Creative Village and the new Downtown UCF/Valencia campus. I’ve got three more stories to publish on Bungalower before lunch and then we have a production meeting I need to prep for this afternoon before heading out to a restaurant site visit.
The thing you most love about your city? I love that Orlando is totally open to new ideas. If people trust you and you can present a clear concept for something, there are people out there who can help you make it happen. I actually need to learn to shut my mouth because I keep ending up with more projects than I can handle because I’m always running my mouth and connecting dots. I’m a dot-connector.
Best thing about what you do? Bungalower has been an amazing platform for me to launch side hustles, side projects, and then help others do the same. All under the banner of “Building Stronger Cities.” I went to school for art before getting a degree in “Environmental Growth Management Studies” in the Rollins night program. It lets me learn every day, meet really inspiring people, and stretch all my muscles. It’s exhausting but one of the most rewarding gigs I’ve ever had. I’ve gotten a few job offers since I took the editor job at Bungalower but nothing that would be as fulfilling as heading this weird little ship. Haha it sure ain’t the money keeping me here!
Favorite drink? Hmmmm, watered down cranberry juice … Harmless Coconut Water is crack (but expensive), cold tap water in Banff, Alberta, sake with friends, Bungalower Lemonade from Ivanhoe Brewing Co., and the Army Navy at The Guesthouse.
Always in your fridge? The amazing Bob Kodzis made Scottie a beautiful mind map of what it takes to be in a relationship. I don’t know how to explain it really besides saying it’s this genius mashup of doodles, inspirational words, and real talk that kind of cuts through the bull shit of ego and just lays out the importance of patience and heart-forward communication. It’s like a Beyonce song made with marker.
On your nightstand? I’m glad you didn’t ask what’s “in” my nightstand! Pai-yow! I found a giant wicker basket on the side of the road a month ago so I cleaned it up and put a snake plant in it. They’re one of the best air purifying plants ever so I put it on the nightstand to filter out the bad joo-joo of the day while I’m sawing logs.
A film that holds a special place in your heart? I think Willow is one of the best movies ever. Trivia tidbit, the man who wrote the Willow novel was a friend of my parents and he wrote a whole novel inspired by my dad. His name was Wayland Drew and he was born in Oshawa, Ontario. My brother and I watched that movie all the time and I was recently nerding out about it with my parents saying I’d love to screen it here at Dickson Azalea Park and they just casually dropped that they knew him. How could they avoid telling us that when we were kids? Hahaha I’m still fake-mad at them for not saying anything till now. The book inspired by my dad is called “Halfway Man” and it’s really beautiful. Here’s a quote:
“My name is Travis Nishigwun. I belong in the north-on the shore of Lake Superior and in the Shield beyond. I belong where the lakes are still the eyes of the earth, and where the shadows of invisible beings move on the snow in moonlight. I belong where there are spirits still."
A quote that you think defines American culture? “Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” - Dan Rather
Favorite drawing pen/pencil? Anything with a sharp point.
Now it’s my turn to add an editor’s love note.
Brendan O’Connor is the reason Townie Tourist got off the ground the way it did. He ponied up to join me in sharing Orlando in a new way and I have enjoyed every second of our friendship, partnership, and collaboration. I can’t mention Brendan without also mentioning Scottie. The two of them are #RelationshipGoals for me. It’s such a joy to be around a whip-smart couple who just understand each other so completely. If I can get them to road trip to SRQ, we’ll share a Gulf Coast show with ya!