Riki: We’re both Pennsylvanians. Though you’re from Kutztown and I’m from Philadelphia. They’re about 65 miles apart. What brought you all the way from PA to Texas? Was Austin your first stop?
Chris: Slight edit, I went to Kutztown University, but grew up in Schnecksville, which is closer to Allentown in Lehigh County.
My previous job was as a political organizer and that work had me moving around a lot for a number of years. When I started a longer term project, my bosses thought I would be a good fit for working in Texas and other nearby states because of my growing up in a rural part of Pennsylvania. Austin was actually a “control” city when I first started, meaning that it didn’t get an organizer working with volunteers here so I first moved to the Dallas area. But as soon as the test phase was over and all cities were going to be treated equally, I moved to Austin as quickly as I could.
I imagine not many Texans have heard of Kutztown, but it neighbors Allentown, which was made famous by the Billy Joel song. Joel finished writing “Allentown” around 1982. Was Joel’s Allentown like the Allentown you’re from?
Living in the Allentown area was very much a mix of neighborhoods, especially where I went to school as it was a district that stretched from Allentown proper out into farm country. My house originally had cornfields behind it but it became more and more suburban as I grew up. I had classmates who lived in very urban areas and others who lived in very prosperous suburbs because while inner-city industry was dying out, other companies just outside Allentown took their place.
Do you avoid telling people that you grew up near Allentown because you know people will sing that song to you if you even mention the name?
I do get “Allentown, like the song?” a lot when talking about where I’m from. But the song actually isn’t directly about Allentown, it’s mostly about the next city over, Bethlehem, and the death of the steel industry there. I guess Billy Joel didn’t want people thinking he was writing a Christmas carol so he took liberties in his lyrics.
Like Joel’s song, I did spend weekends at the Jersey Shore growing up. I even recall what it was like when the first casino went up in Atlantic City. Did you go to the Jersey Shore? Salt water taffies — am I right? (I actually don’t care for salt water taffies really one way or the other. But fudge!! That’s good stuff.)
We went to the Jersey Shore occasionally, to Wildwood. But most vacations involved travelling farther inland as my grandparents lived Northeast and Central PA.
What foods do you miss most? For me, it’s soft pretzels and cheesesteaks (wit!).
Wawa hoagies (it’s a convenience store chain that has a great food counter). It’s very hard to find a place in Austin that can replicate the vibe of a real east coast hoagie. It’s mostly about those local brands. Yocco’s hot dogs. Rita’s Italian Ice. And ice cream straight from the dairies where the cows are milked.
Are there any foods that you love when you’re back home but when you get it here, it just doesn’t taste the same? I don’t really care for Texas Chinese food. It’s not the same as Chinese food in Philly and New York. Especially the wonton soup.
Beyond hoagies, bagels for sure. [Editor’s note: Ugh. Yeah. I agree.] I have yet to find a bagel in Austin that matches the feeling of an east-coast bagel. I eat them all the time when I’m back home and almost never here.
What non-food items from Pennsylvania and the east coast do you miss here in Central Texas?
More of a place than an item, but one spot I haven’t been to since I was in high school is Knoebel’s Grove amusement park. It’s so old-school and brings back a lot of memories. They don’t charge a thing for admission and instead, you buy tickets to pay by the ride, or you get a wristband for the whole day. So my grandparents could take us without paying $40 for a bunch of roller coasters they would never go on.
Do you think you're in Texas for good?
I waver on this one a lot. I love the weather and culture of Austin, but also feel a pull to go back and live closer to home, especially as my nieces and nephews are growing up quickly. I’m the only kid in the family that doesn’t live within 45 minutes of my parents’ house.
You work at a company called Telefund. And then you’re also the social media manager for Primetimer. Can you tell members about these jobs?
I work full-time for Telefund. They do fundraising work for non-profits and progressive political clients. My role is working with the data we receive and send to clients. We have three call centers across the country and a bunch of what I do is prepare client data for the systems that make fundraising calls. I also get reports and data back to clients so they can analyze results and get the funds they need to do all their good work.
I also work part time as the social media manager for Primetimer.com, a television news and features site. I’ve been involved in social media for years through my own personal stuff and a soccer site I founded back in 2012 so when I saw this new website run by people I really respect, I offered to take on the responsibility of running the accounts they created but weren’t yet using. It’s a great way to exercise a different part of my brain.
Check out one of Chris’s latest articles at Primetimer, “What You Need to Know About Letterkenny, the Cult Canadian Series That's Now a Hulu Original”.
I know you’re really into pop culture. What are some of your favorite TV shows or movies right now?
I’m a Marvel nerd so have been deeply into the MCU movies and am looking forward to the upcoming TV shows. Avengers: Endgame may always make me cry. But I’m also looking forward to seeing potential Oscar contenders that will be coming out in the next few months. I keep up with a lot of British TV and love quizzes and panel shows from across the pond. My favorite is Taskmaster, which is pretty much just comedians being assigned ridiculous tasks to do. It’s an instant endorphin-raiser. This new fall season I’ve been keeping up with new shows like Evil and Stumptown, and I’m looking forward to 9-1-1’s take on Austin this January.
You’re also into trivia. Do you play regularly? Where?
I play Geeks Who Drink with a team every Thursday at The Iron Bear downtown.
I’m not sure if members know this about you, but you’re Ellie’s favorite member here at Createscape. Do you make friends with a lot of 5 lb chihuahuas that wear clothes in cold weather?
he funny thing is, I actually don’t! I’m not much of a dog person at all, which is a testament to how cool Ellie and Mike are. Maybe it’s because they’re cat-sized? The feeling is mutual.
When you were looking for a coworking space, was our dog-friendly policy something that appealed to you?
Not at all! But since my first trial day visit, it has seemed like there’s a pretty good “cool dogs only” policy here.
Anything else you like about Createscape that you care to compliment Keller on?
The sense of community Keller works to curate is something that is really important to me. I highly recommend to my fellow members to check out all of the after-work fellowship opportunities that are available. Exploring local spots and hanging out together is a blast.
How did you end up finding Createscape? Were you working from home before you decided to become a coworking space member?
My company used to have an Austin call center but as things shifted around that office closed but I wanted to stay in Austin. In comparing the co-working options around this was the top of my list and my first visit confirmed that Createscape was the right fit for me.
Thanks for talking to us and answering our questions!