Derek Gentile: Town ranks as cool with British paper

Friday November 9, 2012


A friend of mine notified me that The Guardian, a leading newspaper in Great Britain, has named Great Barrington one of the "Six Coolest Cities in the U.S."

I don’t know, but I may have had something to do with that.

I was sitting on Main Street in Great Barrington in front of the Fuel coffee shop a few weeks ago, eating my usual gluten-free banana bread. (I admit that before I had to deal with my diabetes, I had no idea what gluten-free was. So, lay off. I eat it for medicinal purposes).

Anyway, this young couple stopped in front of me and the man asked me, in a British accent, if there were any good places to eat in Great Barrington.

"By your accent," I said, "I’m betting your not from around here. Maybe Williamstown? No, farther away than that."

(This is my standard ice-breaker when I meet English people. It’s hilarious, I’m sure.)

So they laughed and the young men said, no, they weren’t from Williamstown, they were from London. I nodded sagely. And I proceeded to name as many good eateries in town as I could think of. Within walking distance, I pointed out, there were about 10 good places.

"So you’re from here?" the British guy said.

"I live on Main Street, a couple dozen yards down the street," I said. "Some call me, ‘The Mayor of Main Street.’ "

"Really?" said the guy.

"Well, just a few," I said. "And mostly when I ask them to."

So we chatted and I also told them of some good spots to have a drink later that night. Actually, I pointed out, since it was already 2 p.m., they could have a drink now. We got along famously, as the saying goes.

So maybe that couple had something to do with the story in The Guardian. Well, probably not. But with most of the columnists in The Eagle probably talking about the election, I thought it might be good to have a little comic relief.

But do I think Great Barrington is one of the coolest places to live, according to The Guardian, or The Smithsonian magazine, which posted that a few months ago? I don’t know. I haven’t lived everywhere. I happen to like the place.

I admit, unless one visits at least half the towns in the U.S.A., I think it’s tough to make that kind of call.

But Great Barrington has elements of coolness. The town has a theater and a movie house and, amazingly, two bookstores, and a grocery store and a bakery and a coffee shop. It has a converted church that now features the funkiest shows this side of Woodstock, N.Y. And if one is on Main Street on a weekend, it’s a snap to find some place where music, both live and recorded, is being played.

It has an ice cream store and a candy store and a hardware store and a couple of sandwich shops. And a cheesemonger. I don’t actually eat the cheese at Rubiner’s, but I do eat the chocolate, of which they have an amazing selection.

Great Barrington also has a bowling alley that is, in fact, open late, and a golf course. And this big mountain that’s good for hiking and has a great view. It has a public beach. It has, in fact, bars galore. I don’t drink, but I do socialize. That’s pretty good for a town of its size.

I know there are people who believe there is more wrong with Great Barrington than right, and that’s their opinion, which I respect. But I’ve learned not to take things for granted in this happy world, so when I walk out of my apartment on one of my rare nights off, I have this huge, huge menu of places where I can go. So, to quote Bill Murray in "Caddyshack," I have that going for me.

Derek Gentile is an Eagle staffer. You can reach him at, (413) 496-6251, or @DerekGentile on Twitter.


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