2.17.2006

The Middle-of-Nowhere in York State: Pt. 1

I want to know all of York State. I want to have some sort of memory to recall for every village, township etc. in York State. I'll make a map to show how much of York State I need to know(what I consider York State) which also includes how much I know so far. Cities aren't interesting, I want to find the most middle of nowhere place. For me to know a village it needs to have some sort of main street, some sort of structure(s) to represent that community -something to give it a center or consciousness(or at least an apparent one, so I can form a picture to go with the name on the map.)

I figure most everything west of the Hudson to Jamestown, everything from the NY-PA border well into the Adirondack's and Watertown are my borders. The villages of the western and southern Catskills are of a different sort than those of the Adirondack Park, so the Catskills will probably be more prominent in my formation of York State. Although, just south of the St. Lawrence there are probably some true-blue York State hamlets -but an expansion of my York State conciousness will have to wait until I've mapped out everything south of Lake Ontario and west of Rockland County. I want to know all of York State.

I know where the people of Tunnel go to get their mail, I know that the most depressing bar south of the Finger Lakes Region is in the Town of Lisle, I think Triangle might not be more than a general store and an antiques shop. I need to have some sort of memory to associate with any village someone mentions, or writes about, or with words on a directional sign when I'm on my way somewhere. My father can recall some random thing about every town he's been in; he's probably been in every middle of nowhere place in southern and central York State. He grew up in Norwich, I can ask him what's more 1980's: Greg's Big M grocery store in Whitney Point or the Great American grocery in Cooperstown, and he knows what I mean and replies that the Great American in Cooperstown is probably more 1960's. It's actually slightly disturbing that he can't recall that I have my degree in anthropology, but can recall arcane information about where the name White Sulphur Springs came from besides for there being sulphur springs.

In Tioga County there is a town which is the crossroads to all of central York State, this is Richford -birthplace of John D. Rockefeller. My girlfriend recently asked me where I wanted to live if I could live anywhere, and I told her Richford. She knows what Richford is; it's a gas station across from a tiny ice cream/hot dog stand and some streets with houses. She was baffled as to why I'd want to live there, but I would -and I'd go to the potato festival there or whatever festival it is, and I'd own the ice cream stand -right there at the crossroads. I would probably come into contact with a ton of York Staters venturing north to Cortland, west to Ithaca, south to Newark Valley, or east to Greene who are from even more middle of nowhere places than Greene. They could tell me something about their town, and I could probably tell them something about how an abandoned mausoleum across from a cemetary there reminds me of a certain horror movie -or I can ask them if the guy with the bad brain tumour that they were collecting change for in the gas stations ever had that operation.

There are places like German, Fishes Eddy, and Beaver Meadows that I'm not sure have any type of main street, but I still have some memory to associate with the places. They can't be considered for winner of absolute middle of nowhere because they don't have any type of apparent center(I don't think the one-lane bridge over the eddy in Fishes Eddy counts, even if everyone travels over it everyday.) I figure there's some township north of Olean and southeast of Buffalo that may win it all. Although I'm not counting out the space north-west of Oneonta and East of North Norwich.

There's too much going on in the Adirondack's and Catskills during the different seasons for their towns to pull most middle of nowhere place, sorry Swan Lake. Last summer I was lost trying to get to my favorite two townships in north PA, which will remain nameless, and ended up in some village with a million antique stores, a lumber yard, a small grocery/bait shop and a couple bars. I went into a bar for a sandwich and there were already 4 or 5 regulars drinking at 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I learned quite a bit about the town from the walls, plus some interesting gossip from the patrons and bar tender. It was strange to me that there were regular working people that lived in the Catskills all year round; since my picture of humanity in the Catskills has always been either that of the Bed and Breakfast patron from downstate, the outdoors family vacationers, or the old men who kick it with Rip Van Winkle outside the saloon(Jesus, I can't remember, maybe it was by some tree.) to escape doing work or being nagged by their old dutch wives. In fact many towns in the Catskills are as York State as Palmyra, and there is even a secret city there called Liberty!

I wonder if people who've briefly stopped in Johnson City remember the shopping mall, or massive Christian store -which is named 'Arrowhead' for some reason, or if they went down Main Street and thought that there sure were alot of dollar stores and dirty-looking diners. Maybe they've been there before and wonder what happened to the gay bar, eyesore abandoned factories, or strip club that were on or just off Main Street. I want every town in York State to feel familiar, for whatever reason even if no specific memory can be recalled -but it's even better if I can picture the castle of Walton or the bar me and my friends walked in and then out of in Hancock(across from a crappy auto-dealer with a stupid car pedestaled into the air) when the bar-flies eyed us--when someone says they're from a village between Hancock and Walton.

-Posted by Joe

5 comments:

sean said...

joe -

maybe this is off your map, but here's a place you might want to seek out:

i grew up in dunkirk, 40 miles west of buffalo, in chautauqua county. i used to commute to college in erie, pa., and my buddies and i used to stop sometimes at this lonely little stone bar maybe 10 miles west of westfield, off route 5, on the new york side of ripley. in other words, it was in the last lonesome border area before pennsylavia, probably a solid eight-to-nine hour drive from new york.

we'd go by at night and you'd see the lights from this place, set back from the road, surrounded by woods and vineyards, and there was nothing - no houses, nothing - around it, just beer lights in the windows. we'd pull off the two-lane highway and go into the dark parking lot and walk into the bar where two or three people would turn to look at us as if we were a different species, heads turned from the bar, before going back to whatever they were doing. they were in their 20s and 30s - tattooed and leather, country rough - and we would drink a beer while someone played loud medal on the jukebox and we would think this is it, what they warned columbus about: sail farther, and you'll fall off the edge of the world.

i wonder, sometimes, if the place is still there.

- sean

Joe said...

There's maybe 5 towns west of westfield in the area: Ripley, South Ripley, State Line, Sherman and farther south Findley Lake. I imagine State Line and South Ripley to be some fairly middle of nowhere places, I think someday I'll be out there. I'm liking what I see farther south, there's a ski resort in Cutting which is the absolute south-east tip of the state -and east of there, there are towns with no apparent reasons that you'd even drive thru them to get somewhere else.

Speaking of Dunkirk, isn't Perry's Ice Cream from there?

What's caught my attention East and South-east of Buffalo in Wyoming county for awhile is this town called Bliss, for some reason I heard something about it and haven't forgotten it. North of there going to Darien Lake I have been through the town Wyoming, what a hotbed that was.

I'm hesitant except towns within 10-20 miles from Lake Erie or Ontario, there's just too much potential in being near a great lake.

If Natalie reads this: Do you know that name of a smallish club in North Syracuse that has all the best indie bands? I've been there twice and can't recall the name now.

Natalie said...

I've got to say Joe, I haven't the foggiest idea. Very few "club" type venues stay with their original name/ownership/target audience for more than a year. The club you're talking about was likely a techno dance club and a r&b club or maybe even a jazz club in it's previous incarnations. Venues for the punk and ska shows of my youth have all been changed several times over by now (except of course the Wescott Community Center)

sean said...

joe ... perry's ice cream is based outside of buffalo. dunkirk used to be synonymous with dunkirk ice cream, which had that distinctive green squiggle trademark on its trucks up and down the thruway. but the company sold out and is no longer local, as is so often the tale upstate (although, i believe, the plant still exists).

as for dunkirk-fredonia, let's see: dunkirk used to be the home of the fred koch brewery, maker of black horse ale. but they shut the place down in the early 1980s, just before the revival of so many local brands and microbreweries; it could have turned out to succeed like f.x. matt. ah, well. fredonia, i believe, is still home to red wing, a jelly and peanut butter-maker whose peanut butter is beloved by william buckley, among others.

westfield was the home for ages of welch's jelly and grape juice, until the company moved its corporate headquarters closer to gotham ... no surprise. as for fredonia, mark twain's mother and sister lived there for many years, and that is a story unto itself: twain, or sam clemens, believed a guy he met in fredonia essentially ruined his life, although it was a bit more complicated than all that.

i spent a lot of my youth at point gratiot, a park in dunkirk overlooking lake erie: for some reason, the place was always full of red-headed woodpeckers.

- sean

Frances said...

Joe, perhaps you are thinking about the Lost Horizon, which became Club Tundra and I think it still has that name. It is right near Le Moyne, but at least in the past they used to have pretty solid bands.