Vendor Profile: J.Neal Carr

By Cole Merkel, Staff Writer

Neal Carr is a philosopher at heart. He has always been philosophically minded, he says, and the existential question, along with Eastern religion keeps him optimistic and hopeful, “I know,” Neal says, “this life is just a temporary part of our soul’s existence.”

Carr has lived in Portland for 16 years. Having grown up in the Bay Area, Neal moved northward because he needed a change of environment, which he found.

“It was a good place to start over. It was an easy place to get a leg back up on the horse, so to speak.” Shortly after arriving he began to study philosophy at Portland State University.

In the time he has lived in Portland, Neal has witnessed a large influx of individuals and a shift in consciousness, with the city becoming less tolerant in the last few years toward homelessness in the downtown core, sweeping it instead to the Eastside. The city, too, has become less friendly than it used to be. “I don’t know if it’s with the economic depression or what it is, but it seems people have become a little more jaded in regards to how they treat people.”

He finds hope, though, in the customers and friends who support him every day in sales. “He’s a pretty good guy.” says a regular customer at Carr’s location outside theHollywood Library at Northeast 42nd Avenue and Tillamook Street.

Carr’s favorite aspect of his location is the people that frequent it. “Libraries draw an intelligent class of people and people who like to read,” says Neal. “I find the people that come to this library in particular are really friendly and really good people. I get a lot of support and encouragement from them.”

Aside from the great customers he has on a daily basis, Neal also enjoys the physical location of his turf, where he is stationed under an overhang between a library and a coffee shop. He wants readers to know, “I really appreciate the regulars, and I appreciate Rain City Coffee, also. They’re very supportive. And the library staff, too. Everybody is very welcoming.”

On top of his interest in philosophy, Neal is a musician, artist and writer. Before he became a Street Roots vendor he worked for a few years as a street musician playing the Irish penny whistle, guitar and keyboard. His musical talent derives from persistence.

“Mostly I was self-taught. I took percussion in school as a kid, but I taught myself all the other instruments. I really put a serious effort into studying the Irish penny whistle.” He paints in oil and has been keeping an online journal for several years.

Neal also enjoys checking out books from the library, and recently he has been reading a lot of paperbacks. His favorite genres are horror, fantasy and the magical arts.

“I’d like to write a book someday,” he says. “I’m just not exactly sure what I want to write about.”

J. Neal Carr sells Street Roots full time outside the Hollywood Library at Northeast 42nd Avenue and Tillamook Street.

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