Love Note #17: Like Her Seasons, She is Fierce and Gentle

Name: Aaron Gallant
I am: President of the Monroe County Young Democrats and aide to Assemblyman Harry Bronson
Years in Rochester: 25, with a stint away to attend college at George Washington University
Current Home: Monroe Village

My Dearest Rochester,

As I write these words, I'm peering out my window onto your streets on a crystal clear February day.  Although the temperature is ice cold, the blazing white sun is melting the top layer of snow as dripping icicles gleam from the rooftops.  I remember all the beautiful times we've shared.  

Your seasons are what I love most of all.  I love your summers on top of Cobbs Hill with my friends from near and far away.  I love your autumns as I run through piles of leaves in the drizzling rain.  I love your springs as the warmth returns to our own little corner of the world.  And I love your winters -- at times both fierce and gentle on days like today.

I adore your neighborhoods, with many still to explore.  They reek of history, both good times and bad.  For centuries, they have been a cradle for those seeking justice and equality.  Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are revered around the world, but with you, they were at home.

We've had our struggles, but I know that you will persevere.  Our neighbors rely on you just as you rely on them.  So let us redeem our spirits, and look forward to the good days that are still to come.

Aaron Gallant

Cobbs Hill Reservoir during a December run

Love Notes #16: Rochester, I Love You to Pizzas

         Name: Alex Fiorille
         I am: 21 years old, student at Bates College
         Years in Rochester: 10 (used to live in Pittsburgh)
         Current Home: Lewiston, ME

How wrong I was. As you have guessed, I have once again left you for another. You must think me cruel, but I was young—I am young, and privy to such indiscretions. Alas, Rochester, I have gone mad. I do not expect your forgiveness, your sympathy, or anything from you for that matter, for you have given me enough. I write to say I was wrong. For years I pushed you away, muttering the three syllables preceding the comma and the “NY.” For years I dreamed of anything but you.
But today, my mind’s eye is open. The lilacs waft amidst the sweat and hormones of my modernist prison, the inescapable cold is warmed by the meaty zest of hot sauce, and the frenetic migrations through Wegmans, so comforting, yet so distant. You are as complex as your history and as simple as the smell of stale coffee and cigarettes that roused me from slumber during sleepovers at Nana’s; jam and runny eggs.

And for some reason, I rejected you. And once I was away, I forgot you.
I have been meaning to write you for years. After a considerable amount of time away, something began to change in me. It began in my dining hall as I dipped my pizza into a dollop of bleu cheese. The looks of horror struck me as odd, and for the first time I felt the divide. Others began immediately assuming by “New York” I meant “Manhattan. Corrections were met with:

“Is that in Westchester?”

“How far are you from the city?”

“That’s like Buffalo, right?”


“What about Rochester?” What about the barbeque, the Buffalo wings, the festivals, the beer, the communities, and the great people inscribed into a picturesque landscape? What about Manhattan Square Park at Christmastime, 100.5 The Drive, and Pontillo’s slices with blue cheese? What about these “so-called-New Yorkers” who hadn’t seen 99% of their state let alone the Flower City?
Today, Rochester, I must live with my abandonment. But today, I assert my pride, drenching my pizza in bleu cheese. Today, I write you this long overdue love letter as an apology for my indiscretions. I will return to you in six weeks’ time, more appreciative than the last; however, I will leave you again. In my heart you shall always remain.

With the utmost admiration and love,

Alex Fiorille
The beloved Pontillo's Slice

Love Note #15: Your story will eventually be the envy of cities that have fallen on hard times

Name: 585
Years in ROC: All of em
Current home: Swedge

Dear Rochester,

You’re without doubt the most underappreciated girl I’ve ever met. Your personality is second to none, undoubtedly a consequence of your perpetual under appreciation.

You’ve remained standing after your largest employer has virtually vanished in a single generation.

You’ve endured the most offensive and undeserved negative commentary by your own residents and those from other cities who feel some sadistic need to put you down.

You’ve been to hell and back and stand to fight another day, another year, decade, century. Your future is a question mark.

I am overwhelmingly confident, however, that your future is blindingly bright.

You’ve taken more blows than most cities have and will ever know. Beyond that, you’ve withstood these seemingly endless assaults alone.

Unlike your neighbor to the west, which has been showered with billions (literally) of cash, you have quietly stood by, fighting an arguably unwinnable fight with few allies.

Your informed observer is likely aware that your bleeding has come to an end because quite simply, there is little left to take from you. You have experienced profoundly awful days in recent memory. Those days, if not already gone, are nearing their end.

What remains is a city with a proud past and a future that will reveal a renewed Rochester, filled with more pride than its ever known.

Rochester, your future is not defined by the success or self-induced failure of two or three companies. Rather, your days, years and decades ahead will reveal a city with incomparable will. Your story will eventually be the envy of cities that have fallen on hard times.  

Without outside aid, you’ve saved yourself from disaster. What’s more, you’ve paved the way to your own unassailable success story without a compass.

You still have a daunting list of complicated issues to work though. While all of your admirers are painfully aware of each of those issues, we are even more aware of your perseverance and stubborn unwillingness to fail despite astronomical odds.

You’ve been through more than you deserve, Rochester. Fortunately, all of us admirers, secret and known, will continue to support you by playing whatever role we can to help see our beloved home through any tribulation. You’ve more than proven that you deserve our unwavering and unconditional loyalty, love and sheer admiration.

Love always,

Love Note #14: These are a few of my favorite things

Name: Pamela Rodgers
I Am: Consultant, MC Coach; StressPoint, Effective Strategies for Healthy Living 
Years in Rochester: 38 
Current Home: Homes Acres 

Dear Rochester,

My friend Laura's co-creation of Rochester Love Notes inspired me to write a fan letter to you, our city. I have never written a fan letter but you deserve our attention. I'll move past my shyness to proclaim my affection. Here are just five things I love about you:

The Public Market on a cold, snowy Saturday before the Christmas Holiday. Here I'll run into other like minded souls all bundled up to buy fresh produce, wreaths, trees or something from the indoor market. I end my visit with a warm cup of Joe and might run into the Market Band belting out oldies and maybe see a Santa or two!

The Patrick O'Rorke bridge is a beautiful structure but far more important is the man our city chose to honor. Patrick O'Rorke was born in Ireland in 1838 and emigrated with his family a year later, moving to Rochester in 1842. O'Rorke began distinguishing himself in school as very bright and graduated high school with highest honors. He was appointed as a cadet to West Point where he graduated first in his class. In 1864, in one of the most bloody battles of the Civil War at Gettysburg, O'Rorke led his Union brigade into a heroic battle to capture Little Round Top. He was killed in the Confederate counterattack while hoisting his units colors, attempting to encourage his men forward. His funeral in Rochester was attended by hundreds. The event was credited with unifying Rochester's diverse community and instilling pride in our city. An important thing to remember when admiring and passing over the bridge that holds his name.

I admire the hours given by over 250 medical volunteers at the St.Joseph's Neighborhood Center.The Center provides comprehensive health care, counseling, adult education and social work to individuals and families who lack access to health insurance. Director Christine Wagner, SSJ. reports that over fifteen hundred patients have visited the medical center totaling over twenty thousand visits per year! What's not to love?

I love the wine column written by Holly Howell in the Democrat and Chronicle. Howell, a Rochester native, is one of a few Certified Sommelier in our city. That may sound very serious (and high honor) but Holly is down to earth with her suggestion to branch out a bit and try wines perhaps unknown to us. Holly is a HUGE advocate of our Finger Lakes wines, suggesting we all ask to see more on local restaurant's wine lists. Reading Holly's column is a fun way to go to school. 

The yearly Rochester International Jazz Fest! I can buy a Jazz Pass that let's me select from hundreds of music venues in downtown Rochester in the pretty month of June. Or dance in the street to some of the best free musical entertainment to be found in one place, anywhere. Created by John Nugent, Artistic Director and Marc Iacona, Executive Director. The title sponsor is Xerox. It's a must. This is our city at her best!

So pardon my fan letter to our lovely city. It's a love fest and maybe I've gotten over being shy about it. Who else? What do you love about our unique city?


New Year's Resolutions

The beginning of 2014 brings new hope, exciting new opportunities, and new leadership to Rochester. With a new year before us, the Rochester Love Notes team resolves to breathe new life into our mission to share a message of deep love for Rochester with a global audience. Here are our official 2014 resolutions, all brainstormed with love. Happy New Year!

In 2014, Rochester Love Notes resolves to: 

1. Rally around Rochester's first woman mayor as she takes office and leads our City into a new era
2. Forge new connections and collaborations with all the groups – large and small, nonprofit, grassroots, and otherwise – working to revitalize our City
3. Help to spread the word about re-imagining vacant properties in the City as vibrant places. Every day.
4. Support efforts to continue to bring back Downtown. By eating there. By shopping there. By walking there. And bringing friends there.
5. Be a commercial  - or “Brand Ambassador” – for our City wherever we go.

We hope you had a great holiday season, and that 2014 brings you many opportunities to embrace and fall in love with the City of Rochester, NY.



Love Note #13: The deaf and hard of hearing world-wide look to Rochester to improve their lives

Name:Wanda Dulski
Years in Rochester: 31 +
Current Home: 27 years in Pittsford

Rochester Darling, 

You're a classy Northern lady graced with southern manners with a dash of Midwestern values located in the likable four seasons weather of the Genesee Valley region .

My going on 32 years commitment with you parallels your inclusion of National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID) into your overall community.  Integration of deaf and hearing hasn't been easy on either of us.  As one person of hearing suggested, us deaf, "always want more & are never satisfied." I could say the same about Rochester -- always asking full fee for services, taxes and an expectation that I be fully present without expecting accessibility in return.

NTID started out isolated & segregated from Rochester; a reflection of times, values and dictation of governmental funds.  Your community's preferential treatment of hearing was obvious despite my being required to pay the same for services, health care, performances, learning and recreational activities.  Most of your barriers continue to stem from pre-supposed loss of revenue, perceived limited resources and fear of being spread even thinner.  You still make the mistake of short-changing our contributions, energy, devotion, faithfulness and tax dollars. 

Still, over the past 30 years I've seen your attitude change from rigidity and blatant, offended refusal to ignorance and resistance and then leading into modification and tolerance.  I'm beginning to see your awareness, accessibility and inclusion spread out more evenly and even as far away as Naples, NY.

Nationwide, 34 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. Rochester set the baseline back in the late 1960s when Lyndon B. Johnson personally advocated for and established the National Technical Institute of the Deaf.  The deaf and hard of hearing world-wide look to Rochester to improve their lives.  They look to you to show what access, equality and fairness mean.  Assuring basic human rights for all deaf and hard of hearing is vitally important to all Americans.  Its not a matter of whether the hearing will have a hearing problem, its when and how severe it will be. Rochester is the trailblazer for the rights of Deaf and Caption-Users alike. 

Most Rochesterians are able to finger-spell and sign a few phrases or at least, know now to slow down and face me. I've become courageous about stepping up to ask for what I need.  Both of us have gotten over our shyness.  You call me one of yours.  My special name for you is, "Home, Sweet Rochester."
L, Wanda

Love Note #12: You fostered in me a love of cities

Name: Andrew Cutillo
I am: A recent UofR graduate who got to know the city as a student, intern, volunteer, motorist, concert-goer, Wegmans patron, and more.
Years in Rochester: 4
Current home (away from home): Washington, D.C.

My Dear Rochester,

You filled my head with knowledge and you fostered in me a love of cities. You gave me conversations in cafés and music in the streets. Your oldest relics whispered to me of industry and wealth; of civil rights and equality; of culture and the arts. These voices still reverberate, from renovated concert hall to abandoned subway, and the stories they tell will always serve as the exposition from which future narrators craft their tales. 

With all my summers away, I don't know how to pin our relationship (on-again, off again?). Perhaps I have more of my own story to craft with you, perhaps not. However the plot unfolds, I am so thankful for our time together. You are truly remarkable, and you welcomed me with such open arms. You let me march in your parades, chow down in your diners, and shop in your local "Oh-wow-is-this-really-a-grocery-store?!"

I will always have a reason to return to my "beloved college home beside the Genesee," but you lend extra pull to that cause. I will continue to keep a keen eye towards your growth, and look forward to the many great things ahead for you! I remain,

Very truly yours,
Andrew Cutillo

Love Note #11: An Apology

Name: Amanda Geraghty
I am: 25 years old, and Weekend Assignment Editor at 13WHAM news
Years in Rochester: 23
Current home: Gates-grew up in the South Wedge

To the city I love, my first love, the one undeniable love that will follow me all the days of my life:

I'm sorry.

I have been awful to you. While you have held me since birth, and all my 25 years, I have not been faithful.

I have walked your sidewalks, drank in your bars, laid in your parks, and kissed under your street lights. I have laughed and loved on your streets.

I have abandoned you.

I went West, and loved another city, all but replacing you in my heart. Then, when that city betrayed me and I couldn't bear to be there, I ran to you, and you enveloped me again, without judgement.

I fell in love with you in a whole new way. There are new parts of you to enjoy, and my favorite places feel more like home than ever before.

There are parts of you that are broken and need mending. Just like me.

Together, we can fix our broken parts.

I would be a rudderless ship without you. A wanderer with no real place to anchor.

I have been a selfish child, and I'm sorry. I have learned how to truly appreciate you, and no city can ever replace you. I know that now.

You are scarred. You are burned. You are broken.

But, my sweet Rochester, you are so beautiful. Everyday, you somehow steal my heart and make it you're again.

As I sit here on South Avenue in my favorite neighborhood and watch the cars go by, you inspire me.

You are stronger than I could ever hope to be.

Just the mere fact that you accepted me after leaving you and being unfaithful is humbling.

But you have allowed me to succeed-fostering new friendships, building a new relationship (that I have you to thank for), giving me an education, and helping me find a career.

All those things would never be possible in the same place without you.

You made me who I am.

Thank you.

Rochester, my darling, my love, I'm so sorry for what I have done to you. I will never be able to make up for what I have done.

But if you let me try, we can both be stronger, and heal.

All my love, all my days.

Amanda Geraghty

Love Note #10: I know I love you when we're apart

Name: Michael Brown
I Am: Originally from Irondequoit but now living in the city and working to complete my Ph.D. in American history at the U of R
Years in Rochester: The first eighteen years of my life and the last ten, with a five-year  departure in the middle
Current Home: East Avenue near Culver Road

Dear Rochester,

I feel a bittersweet kind of love for you when I am literally flying away. On all those weeks when I’m tangled up in town—dashing from the U of R to the public market to the Rundel to Charlotte—you feel so full. You’re full of people that I love, full of places that I cherish, full of memories in which the story of my life is etched. 

And then there I am speeding down the runway at your grandly named Greater Rochester International Airport, hangars and houses rushing by as I look out the little oval window of my plane bound for JFK, ATL, EWR, ORD, or BWI.  We’re quickly above the trees, and I see the cars on Chili Avenue or 390. There’s the dome of Rush Rhees Library and the auburn-tiled brilliance of Monroe Community Hospital. Then the little plane banks and curves, circling around downtown and exposing a panorama that opens all the way to Lake Ontario’s unbounded bluish-gray expanse. A second later—just a second—we’re over farmers’ fields: green in summer, golden brown in spring and autumn, white in winter. The city that seemed so full is quickly swallowed up by the vastness of the land around it. On overcast days, the disappearance is even quicker. I see your skyline for just a moment before a curtain of clouds closes over the scene.

How compact you are!  How much it seems, from that airplane window, that I can hold all of you—memories, people, and places—in the hollow of my hand.  


Love Note #9: I want to thank you for being my happy place

Name: Mary Staropoli
I am:  Mother of two beautiful daughters (9 & 6 yrs old), wife of a pretty awesome husband, member of a kick-ass family, neighborhood and city enthusiast, non-profit administrative professional (currently working for Rochester Downtown Development Corporation)
Years in rochester:  18 childhood years + 11 adulthood years = 29 years
Current home:  Highland Park neighborhood

Dear Rochester,

I write this love note sitting on a bench in Highland Park, my happy place. In fact, this whole city is my happy place. But I haven't always thought of you this way. I’m a Rochester native, born and raised here. I was the product of a self-doubting city (did they teach it in school?), and when I left for college, I was one of those people who said, "I'll never come back here." Rochester was for losers. I was going out into the big wide world and was going to stay there, thank you very much. I stayed away summers, and didn't spend more than a few nights back home over school breaks. I spent about 10 yrs living in the fine city of Boston, a place with a constant hum, with national sports teams, with shopping and culture galore. But it was a lonely place, full of transients, and community was hard to come by. I didn't know my neighbors and they didn't know me. When I went to the grocery store, the chances of running into a familiar face were slim to none. I was anonymous, disconnected. The decision to return to Rochester (dragging along my Boston native husband) was mainly due to my large and loving family calling me, and because it was a place we could afford to buy a nice house where we would start a family.

Returning as an adult, I began to see Rochester through a different lens, and what I saw was...
 -A town full of neighborhoods like mine (Highland Park) where people are connected to each other, and passionate about where they live
 -A town small enough to see people you know everywhere you go (and have fun figuring out your degrees of separation), but big enough that you will always keep meeting new and interesting people
 -A town that's "Big enough to get Springsteen. Small enough to get tickets.*"
 -A town with more festivals and culture than I could ever take in
 -A town where I can take my kids to a great ballpark without breaking the bank
 -A town with beautiful parks to enjoy, and in short driving distance to gorgeous natural sights and places to visit
 -A town with short commutes, where everything I need is in a 5-10 minute radius, so I get to spend my time doing things I care to do
 -A town with four unique seasons, where I've learned to embrace the beauty and fun of winter
I could go on.

Over the years I developed first a defensiveness, then an outright pride in my hometown. In fact, put me on a plane seated next to a stranger and I'm a traveling promotional advertisement for the place.

So I'm writing to say that I'm sorry I ever wrote you off, Rochester. You're one cool chick. And I want to thank you for being my happy place.


*Taken from a VisitRochester promo ad

Love Note #8: I have left you but I'll always love you.

Name: Evan Lowenstein

I am: Dad, husband, from Painted Post in the Southern Tier, eternally awestruck by nature and humanity and committed to preserving both"

Years in Rochester: 1999-2013

Current Home: Charlottesville, Virginia

Dear Rochester, 

I have left you but I'll always love you. 

I will miss...

...the peace of Highland Park under a blanket of fresh snow
...bumping into friends at the Market shopping at the Market on a crisp fall day, coffee in hand 
...the smiles and laughter of kids busting through the doors of School 23 
...the kindness of my neighbors on my beloved Arlington Street beautiful--and affordable--masterpiece of an old house  
...the cooling breezes off the Lake on a hot summer day 
...the breathtaking beech trees 
...greeting folks on their porches on a sultry summer night 
...saying I share a hometown with Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony 
...the civic pride and spirit that makes Rochester so special 

Thank you for fourteen wonderful years. I hope I gave as much as I received. 

Evan Lowenstein

Who We Are

Ana Liss, Laura Fox and Tanya Zwahlen are three like-minded Rochestarians trying to improve the discussion about Rochester by showing her a little love.

From left: Laura Fox, Ana Liss, and Tanya Zwahlen

Ana Liss was born in the South Wedge and grew up in Pittsford. She fell in love with Rochester as a kid, frequenting the Public Market, Seneca Park Zoo, and the Strong Museum with her family; and nabbing more than her fair share of chocolate chip cookies out of the free cookie bin at Wegmans during the '90s. Today, she's helping to build a brighter future for all of Upstate as an Empire State Fellow working in the New York State Executive Chamber on Governor Andrew Cuomo's economic development team. Previously, she worked in business development and policy analysis at the Greater Rochester Enterprise and the Center for Governmental Research; and was President of the Monroe County Young Democrats. Before that, she was the morning news anchor at WETM 18 News in Elmira, and did a stint as a reporter for our own 13 WHAM News. She is a staunch defender of the Flour City, possessing a war chest of trivia knowledge about it that sometimes comes in handy. Try her.

Laura Fox is an urban planner working for Bergmann Associates as a full-fledged Rochester resident after ten years of convincing her family that she'd never return. After a four-year love affair with Philly, she backpacked around the world for over a year, became a yoga instructor, worked on a bunch of farms in places difficult to find on a map and earned her Master's in Boston when the siren's call from Rochester became too loud to ignore. Her love for Rochester is wrapped up in her love for and from her family, boyfriend and friends. As an adult now living and working in Rochester she is inspired by the possibility of progress and sense of optimism alive in the city and her supporters. She spends her free time dreaming up ways to grow food in the city, running in the woods and being slowly converted into a carnivore by the culinary skills of her boyfriend Marty of Marty's Meats.   

Tanya is a city planner who relocated to Rochester from Boston via Ithaca in 2003. She tried not to love Rochester, but gave in around 2005. In 2007, she founded a city planning consultancy called Highland Planning, which specializes in commercial district revitalization and public outreach. In 2012, Tanya and her friend Jason Haremza started Young Lion, a company that creates works of art that celebrate Rochester as a place of opportunity and culture. She lives in the Highland Park neighborhood with her husband (Christian), their two children (Claire and Hartley), four chickens (Princess, Featherball, Deer Boss and Freckles), and cat (Ginger). 

Love Note #7: I'm destined to be with you.

I am: Roc_Guardian
Current Home: Monroe Village
Years in Rochester: For life, except for college 

My Dearest Rochester,

I don't mean to be too forward, but I think I'm destined to be with you. This might seem silly coming from someone of my youth, but I have never been more sure of anything in my life. We've known each other for a long time, and the I older I get, the deeper my feelings for you grow.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I've found that to be true. Every time I came home from college to see you, I realized why I could never really leave. When all the girls I met were stuck-up, selfish and boring, you were wholesome, down to earth, and full of surprises.   

So I've returned home, planted my roots, and give my life up to you. After this day, there is no woman in this world who could tear me from your side. I just hope that you can share with me your many ways of love, and we can grow old together, basking in the light of a world we have worked so hard to improve.  

Yours eternally, 

Love Note #6: You seduced me with your sophisticated and educated charm, Mr. Rochester.

We'll let Rochester be addressed as a man just this one time (notice what angst HE causes the author) with a note originally posted to The Sensory Cart 

Name: Stacey Rowe
I am: Communications/Marketing/PR pro presently seeking new adventures
Years in Rochester: 19.5 years
Current home: Rochester, NY

Dear Mr. Rochester,

I can't say that I never thought we'd reach this point. Alas, I think the moment is upon us.
I remember when we first met. I was just a child, but when visiting my grandmother, I recall the sense of dangerous attraction I felt overlooking High Falls from the revolving top of the First Federal Building in the early 1980s.  We would not meet again until I was 16 and in search of colleges.  In 1994 I arrived and began to make a life with you. Yes, Mr. Rochester, we've actually been together for nearly twenty years.
In my mid-twenties, my father warned me about your arrogance and your beautiful but damned existence. "I don't know who these Rochester people think they are," he said, forgetting he had married my born-Rochestarian mother. True to his Syracuse roots, I labeled him as resentful of the place that I thought could offer me more both culturally and economically.
You seduced me with your sophisticated and educated charm, Mr. Rochester. I fell hard for your proximity to water, your museums, and rich history. The trappings of high-end retailers, fine dining, country clubs with beautifully maintained golf courses, fundraisers, and personalities bigger than their britches certainly have provided a lot of social entertainment. There have been nights we've happily celebrated successes together and nights where you've managed to make a drunken fool of me. You've even dressed up as a woman for me on several occasions, but that was all in good fun.
I think that sometimes you forget that I've also seen your darker side, that flawed side of you that causes people to turn off the news at night.  I worked with the last of your Holocaust survivors drawing pictures of German soldiers. I walked door to door in neighborhoods ridden with poverty, filing missing person reports on your children. I've found razor blades lodged in my windshield wipers in said neighborhoods where, at the time, home tutors were being raped. I've experienced "good-old-boy," top-heavy, glass-ceiling management. I've seen your elders fall short of funds in senior housing communities only to be sent somewhere where medicaid payment is accepted but laden with state deficiencies and questionable care. I've had five car accidents here. I've been stalked, stolen from, yelled at, harassed, snowed in, and ice-stormed with no power for five days. Truth be told, I wouldn't change any of it because you have made me stronger. In fact, you have made me who I am.
Despite all of the ties that bind us together, lately I've noticed we seem to be drifting apart.  I suppose I can't blame you entirely.  We've had our share of indiscretions.  There was that time in 2003 when I contemplated leaving you for Arizona. Then again in 2006 when the vapid narcissism of southern California called my name. Neither could offer me the commitment I wanted and so I stayed out of loyalty and sadly, fear of the unknown.  I started to feed the urge to leave you by traveling halfway around the world and back, but ultimately you couldn't fulfill the financial resources it would take for me to continue that hobby. Over the past few years I traveled less and tried to make a life worth living here. I became more involved in volunteerism and community service at organizations that I believe make a difference in your well-being but ultimately, I'm just not sure it's enough. I suppose I could do even more for you. I could sport a myriad of apparel or accessories proclaiming my love and adoration for you.  But you and I both know I've never been one for public displays of affection; and I'm certainly not into something previously enjoyed by one of your other women.
I've questioned your fidelity because you've been reckless with me, Mr. Rochester. You've left me jobless three times now, and brokenhearted more times than I care to recall. Thankfully, I'm resilient enough to wind up on both feet and better off each time, but I'm forced to wonder when my luck will run out. We're both aware of my intelligence and talents; and I'm certainly more Catherine Linton vs. plain Jane Eyre in the looks department.  And yet, sometimes you look right through me as if I don't exist. At 37 years old I'm without a husband, children, or a career that fulfills me.  I've given you the best damn years of my life, Rochester. Why must you continue to deny me of the very basic needs that could keep me here forever?
I implore you to give me a reason to stay, Rochester. Now please forgive me as I throw your own words back in your face while I question the fate of our future together and know that this is not about hating you or falling out of love. It's simply knowing when it's time to let go: "Since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life: and I will get it, cost what it may."
(Quote from Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë)

Love Note #5: Charlotte/Rochester/Home

Name: Bryan Horn
I Am: Teacher
Years in Rochester: 1975-1998; back 4-5 times a year, 38 years old
Current Home: Brewster, NY

Dear Rochester,

Your name represents a city divided by suburban sprawl and economic disparity, but your name is a steady and stalwart reminder of all that was and all that can be, with some "shoulda" and "coulda" sprinkled on top. Despite the numerous suburbs surrounding the Genesee Falls and the downtown city-scape, when I run into people from Fairport and Greece and Pittsford, they all say they're from Rochester and that means something. I am from Charlotte and I say Rochester but I write of Charlotte: of biker bars, expensive beach-front homes, summer crime, the smell of fish-fry fro the LDR and the home of the Lighthouse rising into the sky. Despite living 5 hours away, you're always there when I call. Thanks for being you, Rochester.


Love Note #4: Your Winters Test My Fidelity, but I Still Love You

Name: Trista Wilson 
I Am: mom and teacher with a love/hate relationship with Rochester winters but figures it’s probably time to get over it and just go sledding
Years in Rochester: 20 years in total 
Current Home: Highland Park Neighborhood 

My Dearest Rochester,

I know I have not always been faithful. I left you briefly for Buffalo. But please know that she cannot ever compete with you my darling. Sure, her chicken wings were scrumptious. But she doesn’t have your garbage plate. I must also confess that I had a fleeting fling with Oswego. And although you can be cold for about 9 months of the year, she was downright frigid. Please don’t take offense. I love all of your seasons, I do. But you have to admit my dear, that on your sunny days, life is quite wonderful. I can visit Lake Ontario and enjoy a chocolate almond ice cream at Abbotts. In the fall there is hiking, apple picking and trick-or-treating. And even on your coldest days, I know I can always enjoy gingerbread creations at the George Eastman House, a movie at the Cinema, ice-skating at Manhattan Square Park, or a cross-country ski in Highland Park. So my love, I hope you will consider taking me back. I promise to be loyal, at least until mid-February, and then I may need a temporary tryst with Florida.

All my love,


A Call To Action

About Rochester Love Notes
Rochester is a girl who doesn't realize she's hot. This web site is a collection of love notes and reflections that highlight her strange allure. They are written by her admirers, those who openly adore her and some who are secretly crushing on her from afar. We invite you to share your stories with us. We hope that this collection of notes will help us all become a little more comfortable with and a little more open about how much we love our city. And that, as new stories are posted, we will realize that in spite of her imperfections, Rochester is worthy of our deep admiration.

Submission Guidelines
We welcome our fellow admirers to submit their love notes to us at lovenotesrochester (at) Notes should be written to the City of Rochester -- she’s a girl. Make it short and sweet by keeping it under 500 words and 3 photos or fewer. Tell us a little bit about yourself -- your name, your current home, how long you've lived (or used to live) in Rochester and your profession should do. Or if you prefer, your love note can be anonymous (who doesn't want a secret admirer?). Our editorial team reserves the right to remove inappropriate content and correct grammatical and formatting issues.

The content of this site is a compilation of many authors thus the views expressed in individual notes do not reflect the views of other note writers. Submitting your note gives us the permission to share it elsewhere.

Love Note #3: Brownfields as Opportunity

Name: Laura Fox
I Am: urban planner, secret farmer, food truck enthusiast
Years in Rochester: on and off all my life, officially in Rochester as an “adult” for the past 5 months
Current Home: 14618

Dear Rochester,

You’re rusty and I love you for it. Signs of your former shine are all over town, but I’m more interested in the messes you’ve made. My daily drive to work downtown takes me on the inner loop, which tells the story of the divorce between your downtown and your neighborhoods, then past parking lots that stay empty and abandoned properties that appear to be long forgotten. On the surface you look pretty strung out, but you have a way of demanding a second glance. I’m increasingly looking around the corner and finding something worth exploring and fewer reasons to make a disparaging comment about you not being a “real city.” Better yet, your admirers are committed to righting past wrongs by cleaning up your brownfields, developing parking lots and filling in the inner loop. You aren’t imagining that you’re staging a comeback, it’s happening. 

Rochester, you’ve made me a staunch defender of cities and have made me want to make cities better. I unwittingly became an urban planner so that I could move back here to help connect the dots of all that is promising and true and lovable about you.  I see opportunity in your blighted lands and abandoned buildings and thankfully so do many of your other admirers.


Love Note #2: Don't Touch That Dial

Name: Ana Liss
I am: part of the economic development team in the NYS Executive Chamber; Rochester lover; southpaw 
Years in Rochester: 21 if you count birth through high school graduation and 2.5 years working there as an adult
Current Home: Albany, NY

Dear Rochester,

I live about 202 miles away from you now, well outside range of your satellite signals. But I can’t bring myself to change the presets on my car radio. The order on the FM dial is 88.5/90.5/91.5/93.3/94.1/95.1/96.5/97.9/98.9/100.5/101.3/102.3/103.9/106.7/107.3; and my AM presets are simply 1180 and 1370. I miss Beth Adams’ voice anchoring my morning commute, and the Saturday funk parties on WDKX. But maintaining the stations right where they are on the dash of my Honda is somehow reassuring in an uncertain, callous world. 

The act of changing them just seems so permanent and wrong. Like, if I did, it would be akin to switching football teams…giving up carbs…or becoming a citizen of a different country.
Sometimes, when I come home to visit family, I’ll park my car along Buckingham Street, where I used to live. I walk around like it’s still my neighborhood, and I shop at East Ave. Wegmans as though it’s still my grocery store. I’ll even buy milk, despite the 3.5-hour drive back to Albany. 

I think I fell in love with you sometime when it was dark, in the dead of winter, when snowflakes were quietly falling on the ice below the Broad Street Aqueduct. I may have been snug in a booth at Dinosaur BBQ, looking out the window. 

You’re just wonderful. You make me feel warm when it’s freezing. You give me comfort when life is harsh.
I love you just the way you are. The same goes for my car radio presets. 


Love Note #1: Bike Kids

Name: Tanya Mooza Zwahlen
I am: Wife, mother of two, city planner, Massachusetts native
Years in Rochester: 10
Current Home: Highland Park

Dear Rochester: On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, my five year old daughter, Claire, learned to ride her bike without training wheels. I stood in the road with four or five of my neighbors and their kids for several hours that day, watching as they rode up and down the street. Every few minutes someone would yell, “CAR!” and we would step to the curb to let a car pass.

Sometime around dusk, a group of 30 bicyclists turned onto the far end of our block. I remember hearing a boom box and seeing the group move quietly down the first half of the street. After a few seconds, a few of them let go of their handlebars, sat up and clapped their hands. One of them excitedly shouted Claire’s name, and they all hooted and hollered. She stopped pedaling in little circles around the street and looked at them in amazement. We all did.

After a few seconds, they were upon us. Thirty people on bikes. Taking up the width of the street. All of them smiling. A few of them high-fived Claire. One of them was our next door neighbor, Scott.

The group was Critical Mass, whose purpose is to “celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists’ right to the road.” They choose different routes each week. That night, Scott had shared with them the story of Claire learning to ride, and suggested they swing down Mulberry Street to congratulate her.

As quickly as they had come and enveloped us with cheers, they were gone. Off to explore the rest of the city. Those few moments transformed me. That night, I thought long and hard about this little gesture of encouragement, made by 30 strangers to my daughter, and it made me realize that I really love this city.

It is remarkable in and of itself that Scott, a bachelor, noticed that Claire had learned to ride her bike that day. It is more remarkable that he convinced 30 people, some of whom he didn’t know, to alter the course of their night. That would not have happened in the suburban Massachusetts neighborhood where I grew up. There were no biking advocacy groups cruising down our cul-de-sac. It would not have happened in the North End of Boston, where I lived after college. Critical Mass was active, but the roads were too busy for children to ride and we didn’t know many of our neighbors. I’m not even sure it would have happened in Ithaca, a community known for its appreciation of alternative modes of transportation, where we lived during graduate school.

It happened here, and I am so proud that it did. Rochester, thanks for being a city where people encourage each other. I love you.

Claire (and Hartley) Zwahlen, August 24, 2011, moments before critical mass came down the block.