Five Years in Philadelphia, Five People That Helped Me Make It
So five years ago this month, I packed up a handful of things and moved to Philadelphia.
I found a horrible, filthy apartment on Craigslist in West Philadelphia. I only had one day to visit Philly before moving here and as crazy as this sounds, the apartment that had crack needles littering the stoop and a third roommate sleeping on a bare mattress in the living room was the best choice. It was a toss up between that one and living in a house in South Philly that regularly got raided by the FBI, as a past inhabitant was on some sort of wanted list. The tenants once had a raid happen in the middle of a party. They thought this was hilarious. I did not.
I didn’t have much. My entire life fit quite comfortably into the backseat of a 2006 Ford Focus. I had to sell two guitars, my entire DVD collection, all my video games, my soprano sax, and my beloved vintage tenor saxophone to afford to move here and have some funds to live off of until I found a job. I bought a futon on Craigslist the day I showed up, and thought I was going to get stabbed in a Chinese restaurant when a man demanded I give him a hug. One of my best friends, who had driven me to Philly in my parents’ car, was hesitant to leave me here.
I told him I’d be alright.
And five years later, I’m doing just fine.
However, these past five years wouldn’t have been nearly as successful and fulfilling without certain people. Whether they were pushing me forward career wise, encouraging me to be a better writer, or educating me culturally, these are the folks that, without them, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far.
Five awesome people. Five awesome years.
Tim Quirino: I was trying to limit this list to solely people I’d met in Philly, but creating this sort of VIP list is impossible without mentioning Tim.
I’ve known Tim for nearly a decade, but we only became close friends these past five years. He did design work for bands, I took their pictures, and we ended up working together on some stuff. Fast forward to me moving to Philly, and he was living in a house in University City while wrapping up his undergrad at Drexel. I was attending grad school and knew no one in the city.
Let’s forget for a moment he’s one of my dearest friends and that he moved me from apartment to apartment over the course of several poor living choices. We launched Geekadelphia together, a site that, much to our surprise, changed our lives quite a bit. A majority of the people I spend my time with, I met directly and indirectly through the website. They came to our events, were friends of friends, local writers, etc.
Tim and I inadvertently helped build our own social circle together. Quite sure that my social life is the direct result of our friendship and the project we built.
He designed the cover of my book, built almost every iteration of this personal blog, and also, he pressured me to get the Master Chief suit built. And we all saw what happened as a result of that.
Brennen Lucas: When I moved to Philly, I had zero job prospects. I dished out my resume to dozens of retail shops, publications, etc. I was turned away constantly. On a whim, I applied for a blogging job on Craigslist. Despite the fact that I’d only been in Philadelphia for two months, Brennen gave me a chance, hiring me at my first “real” job at a non-profit called GPTMC. Philly folks know them better as the Visit Philly people.
I was working in Philly tourism, and at that point, I’d yet to go the Liberty Bell.
Here, I managed a website called Uwishunu for a little over three years. As the original team behind the project left, leaving me the only one from my department there, I slowly grew to dislike the gig… but without it, a lot of things wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have been able to pay for graduate school. I probably wouldn’t have started Geekadelphia or met many of the people I spend time with these days.
In fact, several people who I met because they wanted to write for me, are now some of my closest friends here in Philadelphia. Kishwer, Gino, Ben, my darling Britt Miller (she was an intern there!)… never would have met them without this job.
Him taking a chance on me was the catalyst that launched my life in Philly. And I’ll never forget that. These days, you can catch him at Fishtown’s Whipped Bakeshop, creating delicious wonders with his talented wife, Zoe.
Marisa McClellan: As my dislike of my old job grew, Marisa was my rock. We constantly supported each other when it came to our pet projects and grustles (hustles that you work on during your daily grind). Me, it was my blog and my novel. Her, all her freelance writing and Food in Jars (soon to be an awesome book with Philly’s Running Press). But before we were sitting next to each other in an office, we actually met at a blogger meetup at Ten Stone in Philly, where I went with the intention of recruiting bloggers.
Oh man, did she teach me a lesson.
Marisa taught me a lot about working with bloggers. And not just the whole pay scale / editorial side of things, which I’ve seen applied to Geekadelphia, but how to talk to them, something I do every day now at Quirk. Without meaning to, she taught me the importance of short press releases and pitch letters, when (and when not to) follow up regarding a review, and that bloggers should be treated as legit journalists and media outlets… not just blogs.
This sort of stuff just came up in casual conversation, whenever we were sent a product we didn’t want or were getting harassed by marketing people. Those small annoyances are lessons in themselves, but talking about why they were wrong in our cubicle taught me even more. Marisa prepared me to be good at a job that I didn’t even have yet.
And Marisa, sorry I spelled your last name wrong in the Acknowledgments in my book.
Christopher Wink: Back in New Jersey, I always had playful rivalries with my best friends. My pals Darlene, Miguel, Dario… the closest of us would always mess with one another, bragging about accomplishments, whether it was salary, degrees, etc. It was all in good fun though. We loved one another, and the jabs kept us all trying harder.
I met Chris when I was working on Uwishunu and he was a student at Temple. Him and a handful of his buddies were writing for me, and we became fast friends over the Internets. Fast forward two years, and we were hanging out pretty regularly. And he was launching his own hustle. Technically Philly.
When Chris launched Technically Philly with Brian James Kirk and Sean Blanda, I was thrilled. They were covering local tech news in a way I could never with Geekadelphia (plus Geekadelphia is more about the pop culture side of being a Geek), and at long last… I had someone to mess with. A rival. Finally.
Without realizing it, Chris had finally given me the greatest gift of all… playful competition. I love being able to throw a jab at him now and again via Twitter or on the blog. Mocking him when I see the buzzwords flying… I should list that as an interest on my Facebook profile. I’m thrilled when I hear about a local PR firm thinking Chris and I (aka Technically Philly and Geekadelphia) hate each other. When he gave his keynote speech during the first Philly Tech Week, I ruined his moment with a tweet (this was an accident though!). When he received an award at the Geek Awards, he slammed the hell out of Geekadelphia, and I loved it.
But despite the joking around… Chris makes me want to be better at what I do.
When he started seeing real revenue from ads, I built Geekadelphia’s BlogAds network and started offering up serious ad space. When him and his crew launched Philly Tech Week, that was the punch I needed to finally get the Philly Geek Awards in gear. When I spent some time reading his personal website, I relaunched my own.
No single person in Philadelphia inadvertently pushes me harder than he does, and I love him for it. He’s an inspiration.
Over the course of my year and a half at Arcadia, where I earned my MA in English, Robin helped shape me into the sort of writer and professor I always wanted to become. My first two published essays, one of which is appearing in Philadelphia’s Apiary this month and the other of which is all about Master Chiefing… those are the direct result of having worked with Robin.
As I start work on my second book and revel in my career in publishing, I constantly find myself thinking about Robin and her bits of wisdom.
And to all my many friends in Philly, my current coworkers and colleagues, I love each and every one of you. Thanks for making these past five years so very, very awesome. Can’t wait to see where the next five take me.