Saturday, September 24, 2011

That's What I Miss About Mass.: Abbey Cutters

I attended my five-year college reunion in St. Paul, Minnesota earlier this year and realized, as I did on a visit two years ago, that I miss the place an awful lot. A significant portion of that comes from the fact that I had a lot of fun with good friends around that time, something that can't exactly be replicated with everyone scattered around the country and creating lives for themselves, but it still got me thinking about my own wanderings. There was a lot of time in Lanesborough, Massachusetts; the better part of four years in St. Paul; stints in England and Vermont; and a few years in Maine. Though I enjoy where I'm at now in New London, Connecticut, there are still places and things I miss from my old stomping grounds and thought I'd start documenting them.

Let's start in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, just south of the town I grew up in, with a little place called Abbey Cutters.

This screenshot from Google's Street View is, unfortunately, the only photo I can manage to pull of the business. It doesn't have a website, as perhaps is the case with most barbers. If your main service is cutting hair, it might not really be worth it to keep your shop in cyberspace just to let people know about its address, phone number, and hours. Especially when a place like Abbey Cutters likely has a lot of word-of-mouth traffic.

Abbey Cutters has more personality than any barber shop I've been in. It has the standard setup of a waiting area with a few magazines and a few chairs (only one of which is ever used). But the first thing you notice is the art. Dozens of prints of well-known pieces, posters for classic movies like Grease and Spartacus, photography, and a lot of quirky works cover every free space of the walls. A price sign at the counter offers the costs for various trims. Of course, they all cost the same and are simply qualified with conditions such as "Haircut with unwanted advice (happens often)." A relatively recent addition, gifted to owner Teddy after my family moved away, is a cactus in the window that has grown nearly out of control.

Teddy is a novelist in his spare time, working on stories about boxing. I kind of got the sense that he was looking to get his foot in the door in the writing world and then close up shop, but with a place like this you kind of hope that wouldn't be the case. I wish him all the luck in his writing endeavors, of course, but he could do worse than to be a famous or semi-famous author who has a barber shop.

Abbey Cutters (artist's conception)

Now I'm not one to insult someone who has done my shearing since, and I'm especially not one to criticize the woman who has control over a significant part of my appearance now. But you get kind of spoiled if you have Teddy as the guy who cuts your hair. I've visited three barbers since leaving Massachusetts and had a decent conversation or two with each one, but Teddy is one of those rare members of the old guard. He'll cut your hair and regale you at the same time with a perpetually upbeat demeanor and unmistakable Brooklyn accent. He's the priciest of the barbers I've been to, but you get plenty for the buck. A shampoo, some styling, and of course that advice, wanted or unwanted.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that Teddy is the kind of barber who will chat with you non-stop. Unless you're the most tight-lipped and somber patron in need of hair shortening, you'll be able to carry on a good conversation as it meanders to everything from space exploration to sex.

Posted for you people who search for Summer Glau and sex and think this image represents that. And because we haven't seen her on the blog in nearly a year. Also, "It's the hardest thing to get"

Teddy is the kind of character you don't get all that often anymore in the barber shop: a genial, humorous, shoulder-to-lean-on, competent fatherly type figure, and from Brooklyn to boot. Admittedly a specific genotype, but a valuable one nonetheless. Here's to his continued health, well-being, and business success.

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