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Next story: The AV Ultimate Valentine's Day Mixtape

Valentine's Day

With the likely exception of Flag Day, no holiday is given shorter shrift than Valentine’s Day. If it even is a holiday, and not merely a sales tool for chocolatiers, florists, and restaurateurs in the slowest of the late-winter months.

Folks routinely leave to the last minute any thought of a gift or an evening out with their loved ones, or, worse, pretend to be too cool and urbane to be taken in by the schmaltz and rank consumerism of the Valentine’s Day machine.

That’s a crying shame. Leaving aside the heart-shaped cards and tennis bracelets, the friendship rings and dinners out, the pervasive red of shop windows and the specialty cocktails, what better, more universally inclusive justification for a holiday could there be than love? (And sex. Love and sex. Or love of sex.) Everyone loves someone; everyone dreams of being loved in return. And, as the great John Prine wrote, “…dreaming just comes natural/Like the first breath from a baby/Like sunshine feeding daisies/Like the love hidden deep in your heart.” This is the Rust Belt, sweethearts: If you aren’t full of love for somebody or something around these parts, then what are you still doing here?

This year, we surveyed a handful of young, single Western New Yorkers to learn what kind of love they’re dreaming of, and how the dating scene succeeds or fails in delivering on those dreams. And we asked some young couples to tell us how they were lucky enough to meet one another. (You may notice a preponderance of artists and bartenders among our participants. We plead guilty to loving practioners of both professions immoderately.) And, because some of you are still merely dreaming of love (or sex, or love and sex) we’re offering up our editors’ picks of the best and worst (there really isn’t much of a dividing line there) opening lines they’ve heard used in real-life, looking-for-love situations.

Give your love a little extra attention this year. Don’t worry if it seems uncool. Don’t worry that it makes you feel vulnerable. Don’t worry when your love doesn’t seem to align with its readily purchased facsimiles and melodramatic representations. Let the great John Prine be your guide in this, too, as he is in all things: “Love has no mind/It can’t spell unkind/It’s never seen a heart shaped like a Valentine.” Get out there and love.

Joey and Nikki McIntosh

Husband and Wife, bandmates in Wooden Waves

“Nikki was going to school in Cleveland but was home visiting her parents in Rochester for the weekend. On a whim, she decided to go to a show where Joey’s band, Sleeping Kings of Iona, happened to be playing. They struck up a conversation and hit it off right away. Nikki went back to school and Joey went back to Buffalo, and for the next few months, they called each other daily and memorized the stretch of highway between Buffalo and Cleveland. They moved in together the day after Nikki graduated from college and Joey proposed the day after that. It was a whirlwind romance, but they both knew they had something special from the start and weren’t willing to let it get away!”

Phill and Lisa Freedenberg

Husband and wife, bandmates Red Tag Rummage Sale

Phill and Lisa met at SUNY Purchase at a blazing Knife Crazy show in February of 2006. Phill and Lisa had been eying each other across the room for a number of hours, and after Phill played, and Lisa observed, there was some after show banter exchanged, and some more meaningful glances. At the end of the evening Lisa approached Phill to say her goodbyes, but at the last second decided to stay-up until 5am drinking whiskey and eating candy bars in a friend’s dorm room instead. Their first date was yet another Knife Crazy show, but this time in New York City at Sin-é. Lisa took a bus in from Rockland County alone on Easter to meet up with Phill at the show. Yet again, the night proved to be long and adventurous and ended with their first kiss at Ship Bar in Brooklyn. After that Lisa visited Phill in Buffalo, and it was obvious that this is where she belonged. They live off of Hertel in North Buffalo with their 1 year old daughter Saffron Una and 3 cats in a house full of music and love.

Matthew “Ogre” Grote and Cori Wolff

Boyfriend and girlfriend, artists.

“The first time I ever saw my girlfriend was at Bluegrass night at the Hardware Café. This was a few months before I actually met her. She stood out because she was this beautiful girl dancing and enjoying the music, seemingly without a care in the world. The memory of her stuck with me, but months went by. Life went on as usual, but one night I decided to go to an art event at The Eights bar and restaurant. It was there that a new friend of mine introduced me to a beautiful girl named Cori Wolff. She was friendly, poised, and intelligent. We didn’t talk for too long, but made a point of getting in contact with each other. I believe Facebook was our first connection. We parted ways with anticipation for what the future would bring. The very next day I was out with friends going to the Blue Monk. As I was telling them about this girl I had met there I happened to see her sitting on the patio with friends. So I was faced with looking like a super creeper following her around, but I decided to say hi anyways. What did I really have to lose? After a very short polite conversation we made plans to meet up at Hardware later in the evening and we never looked back after that.”

Best (Non-Bar) Places to Meet People in Town


Rust Belt Books

The rose garden at Delaware Park

Cafe Aroma

A Western New York Book Arts Center workshop

Spiral Scratch Records

A language class at the Latin American Institute

Tailgating at Ralph Wilson Stadium

First Fridays art events & galleries

Thursday at the Square

Video Liquidators

Skiing at Kissing Bridge and Holiday Valley

The Artvoice Best of Buffalo party

Local wine tastings and vineyard tours

Buffalo Youth Hostel

JIn a house or bar league soccer team

UB Outdoor Summer Movie series on Hayes Hall lawn


Waiting for the train at the Allen Street NFTA station

Ryan Ackley

33, Bartender, Q

How would you describe the dating scene in Buffalo?

Sorta lame. Everyone seems to know everyone already, or have slept with them.

What are qualities that you look for in a potential date?

No matter what anyone says, looks definitely play a part, but they have got to have a good sense of humor, spontaneous, and a kind soul.

Do you have any automatic “dealbreakers” that would disqualify a potential date?

They’re already dating someone. Not fair—you can have two, when some don’t have any.

How would you describe an ideal first date?

I love to cook, and I believe I’m sorta romantic, so candlelight dinner, even better if someone surprises me with a homemade dinner! Oh, and flowers!

Where are some of the best places to meet interesting people around town?

Seems to be the bars or one of the many events Buffalo puts on, though it’s a crap shoot!

What’s the worst pickup line or come on that you’ve heard?

(From a 5-foot-4 guy): “Well hello, sexy tall man, you look like you need to be climbed—and I already have my harness on! (And he was wearing a leather harness.) And the ever frequent: “Wow you’re tall, is everything in proportion?”

P.S. I’m working Valentine’s Day, 3-9pm, at Q on Allen Street, if anyone wanted to bring me flowers and chocolates!

Chae Hawk

28, Rapper

How would you describe the dating scene in Buffalo?

A Larry Clark film.

What are qualities that you look for in a potential date?

Goal-driven, open-minded, healthy soul. She smells good, appreciates film and music. One-of-a-kind features.

Do you have any automatic “dealbreakers” that would disqualify a potential date?

A negative personality, no style.

How would you describe an ideal first date?

Good food followed by great smoke, then appropriate entertainment with delicious treats or stiff drinks.

Where are some of the best places to meet interesting people around town?, Wegmans, all local music venues.

Describe your swag with one word.


What’s the worst pickup line or come on that you’ve heard?

(From a man): “Great legs! What time do they open?” (From a woman): “I really like baseball so take me home, baby.”

Things to Eat Before Gettin' It On


Aphrodite arose from the seas on one. Casanova was known to eat them by the buckets full to keep his women satisfied. American and Italian researchers have found that they contain amino acids which trigger increased levels of sex hormones and zinc, which aids in the production of testosterone. But it just might be the way that oysters are eaten. With all the slurping, sucking, and swallowing whole, who wouldn’t get a little feisty.

Deer Penis Wine

Hippocrates suggested consuming deer penis to resolve sexual difficulties. Deer penis has long been used in Chinese medicine for its therapeutic properties. Deer penis wine, made from soaking the member in alcohol, is sold in Asia for up to $450 for two liters, hence Taco’s get-rich-scheme of Three Penis Wine in FX’s The League.

Fugu (Blowfish)

Fugu is the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world. Its use as an aphrodisiac stems from the adrenaline response most get from consuming food that could be lethal. Fugu is most popular in Japan, where it is tightly controlled by law, and chefs must go through a rigorous qualifying process to handle the fish.

Cobra Blood

In the same vein as Fugu, cobra blood is a popular aphrodisiac in Southern China and Southeast Asia. Prized for the difficulty and danger of catching and consuming it, cobra blood can sell for upwards of $80 a pound.

Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumbers are available all over the world but are most popular in China. When agitated, the sea cucumber (which is already quite phallic in shape) stiffens and squirts water to deter predators. ’Nough said.

Spanish Fly

Secretions from this beetle cause swelling and irritation when applied to human skin. It’s been used to increase arousal of the male member since the days of Julius Caesar. The Marquis de Sade was purported to be fan. Distilled versions of the acidic component can be found throughout Europe for $3 a bottle.

Eliza Schneider

33, Owner, Merge

How would you describe the dating scene in Buffalo?

There’s a dating scene in Buffalo?

What are qualities that you look for in a potential date?

Passionate, funny, independent, worldly, outdoorsy.

Do you have any automatic “dealbreakers” that would disqualify a potential date?

A guy who litters, is pompous, or doesn’t like animals and children.

How would you describe an ideal first date?

Surfing on the Great Lakes. Does anyone have a board? If not, we can meet up at Sweetness_7 cafe, bike ride together down to the waterfront for a sail on the Spirit of Buffalo, followed by a picnic at an outdoor concert with the Albrights, Megan Callahan, and Free Henry hosted by the

Where are some of the best places to meet interesting people around town?

Merge! It’s where people “come together!” I also meet cool people at local galleries, seeing live music, through Barn Raisers, and at classes or workshops. Just get involved, volunteer.

What is one homecooked meal that would win you over?

Thai green curry made with organic vegetables from Massachusetts Avenue Project or even better his own garden! And for dessert, a fresh lime sorbet with a hint of cilantro or something equally yummy and creative.

What’s the worst pickup line or come on that you’ve heard?

“I hear you’re into yoga, you must be flexible…”

Heather Mordaunt

28, Jewelry Designer

How would you describe the dating scene in Buffalo?

Do people actually date anymore? Buffalo dating scene: slim, but hopeful. Its not that I think there is a deficiency of decent, single, handsome fellas in Buffalo, but finding someone with a similar lifestyle, who you really connect with and are attracted to is tough.

What are qualities that you look for in a potential date?

I keep my eyes peeled for an outgoing, intelligent guy with a sense humor and good work ethic. Someone who can keep up with my spontaneity yet is stable and focused. If this were the 1940s I’d morph the sensitive nature of Humphrey Bogart with the manliness of Marlon Brando.

Do you have any automatic “dealbreakers” that would disqualify a potential date?

Poor hygiene! I don’t like stinky men. I’d have to say an unkempt man is a no-go for me. Oh, and he mustn’t hate the Sabres.

How would you describe an ideal first date?

Getting to know someone new can be tough, so an ideal first date is more about the conversation and chemistry than what we go out and do. If we’re talking about what we’d call a first “real” date, I like it classic—good atmosphere, good food, good wine.

Where are some of the best places to meet interesting people around town?

Openings at the Burchfield or First Fridays in Allentown are great for that. Generally, Buffalonians are really friendly people, so whether I’m at Sweetness_7 in the morning, the Co-op midday, or out watching a Sabres game at night, there is always potential to meet someone interesting.

What’s the worst pickup line or come on that you’ve heard?

“I definitely know you.” Mostly when you definitely don’t know that person. It gets worse when they start naming all their Facebook friends that you might possibly know, and definitely don’t know.

Best Places to Go on a First Date

Niagara Falls

It’s tough to beat the kitsch of a date in Niagara Falls—former honeymoon capital of the world. Something about the hypnotic rush of turbulent water cascading over the brink before crashing and rising in ethereal mist. The power. The danger. The beauty. If your date isn’t so thrilled with nature, you can always go for drinks in the casinos, and wind up goofing around on Clifton Hill in Ontario. Thus completing a trip abroad. Not bad for a first date.

Forest Lawn Cemetery

Probably not on everyone’s radar as a romantic hotspot, Buffalo’s most beautiful and storied graveyard is an ideal destination for an amorous couple. The grounds are lovely, and the winding paths are perfect for relaxed conversations and stolen moments. Pick up a free guidebook at the office near the Delaware/West Delavan entrance. Soon, you will be surrounded by generations of lovers who went before you—now sleeping side by side. For eternity. If that doesn’t scare off your date, the both of you might just be on to something.

Tifft Nature Preserve

A quick trip to Tifft Nature Preserve is a great way to escape the city and gain a bit of peace and quiet without planning an elaborate camping excursion. Hike back among the trails and try to spot deer and waterfowl. Impress your date by pulling out a handfull of bird seed. Place some in her hand and tell her to remain still and silent. Watch the wonder break across her face as chickadees land there to dine.

Gilbert Joyce

28, Bartender, Founding Fathers

How would you describe the dating scene in Buffalo?

People are easily dismissive of the dating scene in Buffalo, but it is not as meager as it seems. Buffalo often seems like the largest small town on earth, but that doesn’t make it a hopeless place.

What are qualities that you look for in a potential date?

I don’t really consider myself as looking for a potential date on a day-to-day basis, and therefore I don’t really have criteria that I need another to have. I like people who are funny and can make me laugh, who have passion for music, who don’t hide their intelligence, who appreciate art in all its forms. Creativity helps.

Do you have any automatic “dealbreakers” that would disqualify a potential date?

Traditionally I said that I would never date a man who wore tighter pants than I do, or spends more time on his hair than I do. This is becoming increasingly difficult.

How would you describe an ideal first date?

My ideal date would involve some of the following: I totally dig Niagara Falls, whatever that makes me. I love art galleries, I love parks, and I love music. I like being introduced to new things. Show me what makes you passionate.

Where are some of the best places to meet interesting people around town?

Meeting new people around town is incredible difficult, and again much easier than we allow ourselves. Just talk to people, it’s the easiest thing in the world. We just have to stop worrying what people think about us.

What’s the worst pickup line or come on that you’ve heard?

Hands down worst/(kind of the best because I remember it like it were yesterday) pickup line: “Can I poke you in the eye?”

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