We Want Answers: Emma Fried-Cassorla, Founder of Philly Love Notes

The local blogger and waterfront booster opines on New York, the Pope’s visit, and why our city’s low expectations might be a good thing.

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Your website, Philly Love Notes, lets people pay tribute to various things in our city. But you haven’t always loved Philly so much, have you? No, definitely not. It takes a little while to learn to love Philadelphia. I think everyone gets a little kicked around by it. And I think you sort of have to become part of the community, or a community in the city, to really start to love it.

The first time I came to Philly, I asked a shop clerk what it was like, and he said to me, “It’s okay, but it’s no New York.” That sounds about right. That sounds about how a lot of people would answer. I’m glad it’s not New York. I lived in New York; I’m happy to be in Philly.

Was Philly Love Notes a deliberate effort on your part to avoid getting overtaken by the dark Philly outlook? There were a couple of things going on when I started. I was sort of in a weird place in my love life, and I was also a little lost. I was actually born in Germantown, raised in Cheltenham; I’m basically from the area. But I still didn’t really feel like I knew the city or that I had a real connection or a place here. And so I made a very concerted effort to make that connection. It was really easy: I started a blog, and I started talking to people. That’s the nice thing about this city: I found the connection I needed just by cold-emailing people, asking if they’d meet me in some strange place.

By now, hundreds of people have contributed love notes to your site. Is there some characteristic that all of those love notes share? Um, they’re all really personal, right? For the most part, people have gone two ways: They’ve either found something that’s completely unusual — a storefront somewhere, or a tree in a park. Or they take something that’s really popular and well-known, like Rittenhouse Square or Reading Terminal Market, and given it some sort of emotional significance. Maybe someone broke up here but then found the love of their life two blocks the other way.

We are a famously self-loathing city, right? Yes.

So what makes us lovable? I think people here don’t try and pretend that we’re a great city. We’ve all convinced ourselves that we’re second-rate, so anytime anything comes along that’s really positive, everyone gets incredibly excited about it. Our expectations are set kind of low, and they’re constantly being exceeded. And I think now more than ever they’re constantly being exceeded.

Well, the Pope and the Democratic National Convention are coming to town. We haven’t gotten to the point yet that we expect all of these good things to happen. And I kind of hope that we don’t.

You have a day job at the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, so you’ve been part of making the city more lovable. Last summer the corporation helped jump-start the pop-up-park craze with Spruce Street Harbor Park. What’s planned for this summer? Spruce Street will be back. We’re also building a fishing pier — we should be open by the end of the summer — and that’s gonna be down in South Philly. It will be one of the only places along the Central Delaware where you can legally fish. You’re not supposed to eat them.

What is the one thing you love most about Philly? Can I just be like totally corny and say the waterfront? If I’m not working on Philly Love Notes, it’s where my energy is going.

What’s the thing you hate the most? Oh, there’s a lot.