24-Nov-2015 08:29

Country dating town

In five years in New York City, I can't even name more than one person from any of the apartment buildings I lived in.

They made jokes about vehicles spotted in my driveway.I'd bartend while people told stories (not all true) about whomever I was seeing. Spend five minutes perusing Tinder in Redwood and you'll find your neighbor, a handful of your friends, the guy who painted your house, and six people you played pool with at the bar last night.You change your location settings -- 30, 40, 50 miles away -- and still, you recognize these people.The only strangers you'll see are military (Fort Drum is a stone's throw away) or Canadian (the border's 15 minutes from here).North Country is more Alaskan than Manhattanite: people here travel by ATV or truck, hunt and garden their way to full bellies, and feel largely intolerant of annoying downstate legislation like gun control.An uninitiated city girl without friends (or SO potential) in this new world, I picked up a two-night-a-week gig slinging $2 beers and well drinks to the locals at one of Redwood's gin mills.

I'd never tended bar before, and loved listening to people's stories while pouring them generous shots of clear and bronze liquors; snapping metal caps off Genny Light and Busch bottles; and dutifully scribbling notes in my reporter's journal behind the bar.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I'd just sidled up to a front-row seat to the dating culture of rural America. In cities, you can visit 100 different bars on 100 different nights and not run into any of the same people.

After four years of college in Massachusetts, I spent a mostly single half-decade in Manhattan dating people from every borough -- but it wasn't until I moved 350 miles away to the absolute middle of nowhere that I found a dating culture richer, more fun, and far more enjoyable than anything Manhattan had to offer.

Redwood is a 600-person hamlet along a tiny speck of road 10 miles from the Canadian border in rural New York.

This is the "North Country;" a term for an outlier region of the state beyond the tundras of Syracuse, Albany, and even Rochester.

This label draws a geographical line in the sand between here and the misnamed "upstate" provinces of places like Westchester and the cultures therein.

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