January 9 2006, 8:44 PM
It's great to have good friends. And when I was in a serious funk last week, I really needed to surround myself with them (and then go hole up for large chunks of alone time). So where do you go when you need a chat, a hug, a good gossip session, or just a nice quiet-like place to gather with your pals? In my neighborhood, there are two perfect spots. I could walk from my house to either of them but for the still-broken ankle (will it ever go away?), and they have that groovy neighborhood vibe that makes them instantly welcoming. One night, not in the mood for food or cocktails -- a very unusual feeling for yours truly, I'll admit -- I opted to go spend the evening with a friend at Stella's, the quirky little coffee house on South Pearl Street. (Check this coffee blog for pics.)Now, the coffee there is decent, but not outstanding. Same for the Italian sodas and little baked munchies on display. The staff was indifferent, if not bordering dangerously close to rude. But what's stellar about Stella's is simply the ambience. The little converted Victorian house is full of rooms, which are in turn full of little tables, big tables, coffee tables, couches, stools, and straight-backed chairs. There are magazines, books, and newspapers strewn about, and oddball lamps and overhead lighting here and there. None of it particularly matches, it's all a bit worn in, and the whole place, including the front porch with its space heaters, offers that cozy best-friend's-kitchen atmosphere that is so very comforting when you're down in the mouth. When you have that, who cares about the semi-snarky barista? Of course, me being me, the desire for a quiet place to drown my sorrows was not too far behind my coffeehouse expedition. I've been keeping to my immediate neighborhood for the past week, not wanting to dress up and hit the town, or go anywhere that required anything more than a ponytail and a pair of big sunglasses. So the spot I picked for my most recent girls' night out was just up the street from Stella's. Myself and two gal pals hit the Village Cork, the darling little-bitty wine bar at South Pearl and Louisiana. Lisa, the owner, has a good radar for sad chicks, apparently, and was particularly kind to me that night. And her wine list is delicious, if short. We sipped on our vino, and noshed on the cheese plate (goat cheese, natural bleu cheese, and some sort of divine hard cheddar) and on the antipasto plate (carmelized whole baby onions, pickled artichokes, salami, olives, cheese) and gabbed about all the sad, happy, and beautiful girly things in life. Tonight I may head out with another girlfriend. She's determined to get me out of the house, and has promised to find someplace that is both new and cheap. I guess I'm up for it. Just as long as I don't have to dress up or do my hair.