Saturday, March 27, 2010

Get Fresh

For any of my blog readers in the Quincy, MA, area I highly recommend the restaurant "Get Fresh" on 1259B Hancock St. We eat there at least once a week, sometimes twice. (OK, sometime three times.)
The food is Asian and American, very inexpensive and wonderful.

Your first assignment, however is find the place. It's in a kind of strange location. Try to explain it to people who are from the area and you get puzzled looks. Try to explain the location to people from out of the area, and they think you are crazy.

The address is Hancock St., but the restaurant doesn't face Hancock St. at all. The front door is between Hancock St. and the MBTA station, facing the park next to City Hall. It's between Quality Dental and (the soon to be moving) South Coastal Bank.

The restaurant is tiny, with 7 small tables. The decor is not your typical Asian restaurant stereotype...most of the decorations (and name) are left over from the previous establishment on the premises. A little bit of rustic country look, with antiqued table tops and farm pictures on the wall.

The owners/cooks/waitstaff/dishwashers/cashiers are couple named Lynn and Phu Nguyen, who are from Vietnam. They are extremely friendly and make Get Fresh a welcoming place to eat. Once people go there, they tend to come back and you will see the same people over and over again.

There is no table service, you go up to the counter and put in your order. Lynn will bring your food to the table when it is ready.

Each dish is prepared to order (except the soups), so it can take a little while to get your food (we have never had to wait an inordinate amount of time, however) But, MAN is it worth the wait.

I would like to be able to tell you all about all the food they offer, but I admit I'm stuck on ordering the Tofu and Vegetable Pad Thai. I probably get that nine times out of ten. For $6.50 you get a heaping plate of noodles, perfectly cooked tofu (something that most restaurants find difficult to do) and a wonderful selection of vegetables, that can vary depending on what's available, but usually include carrots, green beans, broccoli lots of fragrant cilantro. Because it is made to order, there is no problem leaving out any ingrediant you might not like. Lynn remembers that I hate celery, so there is no worry on my part that an errant piece of that hideous vegetable might make its way into my dinner!

We also almost always get the Vietnamese springrolls. You get two large springrolls with your choice of chicken and shrimp or tofu, for $3. They are soft wrapped rolls, filled with lettuce and herbs and pieces of chicken and shrimp, absolutely delicious.

I've also tried the shrimp stir fry with black bean sauce, (amazing), the crispy noodle with tofu (delicious at well as so beautifully served, I wish I took a picture!), the Pho Do Chay with tofu and veggies.

The Pho is an wonderful noodle soup that they serve in many different forms, including beef brisket, meatballs, seafood and several other styles. It comes in a giant bowl with a side of vegetables, sprouts and herbs that can be added at the table. It can cost between $6.75 and $7.25, depending on what style you get. The bowl is so huge, you would be hard pressed to finish it in one sitting. But, no worries, Lynn will pack it to go for you, if can't eat it all!

The menu is very large for a small place, with American dishes like BLTs and Cheeseburgers offered, along with the Asian cuisine. You would be hard pressed to not find something you like on the menu. They offer wraps, salads, sandwiches, Vietnamese subs, fried rice, curry, and may other specialties. They also have a board in front listing specials of the day. They have sodas, iced tea, Vietnamese coffee, juice as well as an assortment of smoothies.

As soon as the warm weather gets here to stay, they will put tables out on the side walk in front of the restaurant, enabling you to enjoy the food and people watch as folks heading out from the train station head over to Hancock St.

All in all, Get Fresh is a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend it. If you decide to go, drop me a line and maybe we can meet up! (If I"m not already there!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Story That Probably Only I Find Funny, but I REALLY Think it's Funny, About Death, Car Accidents, Blizzards and Broken Knees.

I swear to you that as far-fetched as this story sounds, every word of it is true.

It all started with my sister falling down her attic stairs and breaking her knee. She had to wear a big brace on her leg, and she couldn't get around too well. Luckily, she had her husband to help her out.

About a week later, I'm in work and get a call from my sister saying that she just got a call from the police, and they told her that my aunt had died. It was a sudden death, probably from a heart attack, and she was found by a neighbor at her senior housing complex.  As sudden as it was, she was older so it wasn't a complete shock.

Because of my sister's hurt leg, she couldn't drive up to my aunt's apartment, and unless she took the brace off, she couldn't even fit in her husband's car, and she wasn't supposed to take the brace off. So I agreed to shoot over to the senior complex, to meet up with my uncle (my aunt's brother), and with the police. My sister said my brother-in-law would meet me there in about an hour.

I go over there, and the undertaker has already taken her away, so there is really nothing for me to do but sit and console my uncle, and wait for the police and my brother-in-law.

And we wait, and wait. No police, no brother-in-law. I try calling my sister, but there is no answer on her cell phone, nor her home phone, which is really odd, since she supposedly can't leave the house.

My uncle and I are starting to get worried now, since there is a big snow storm coming, and we want to be home before it hits. Finally, I tell him to go, and I'll stay and wait for the police and my brother-in-law.

Two hours later, neither show and no one is answering my sister's phones.

I give up and go home.

I stop at the grocery store along the way home, since a blizzard is about to hit and of course, no one else will think about going to the store on a night like that.

After I fight my way through the mobbed the store, I get home, put my feet up and hunker in for the big storm, still wondering what happened to my sister and her husband.

Then SHIT! I forgot the groceries in the car. I head out to get them. I live on the tenth floor. The elevator is broken. Double SHIT! I hike down 10 flights, only to realize I locked my keys in my apartment. Triple SHIT!

I called all the phone numbers I had for people on the board of directors of my condo building, to get someone to get my extra key out of the office and let me in. Of course, no one is home, because the are all out shopping to prepare for the impending storm.

I use to work in a group home on the first floor of the building, so I went in there to wait out the return of someone who could help me with the key situation. I walked in, and I guess all the frustration hit me at once because I burst into hysterical sobbing and couldn't even tell them what was wrong. I finally managed to get it, and they were so wonderful and so sympathetic to me. They fed me dinner and let me wait it out.

My cell phone rings (thank goodness I had that with me.) It's not someone on the board as I had thought, but my sister's neighbor. Seems that my sister had decided to disobey the doctor's orders and take off her brace and drive up with her husband. Then her husband had a coughing fit in the car, passed out and hit another car head on. They were both taken to the hospital in an ambulance. She couldn't call until then, because she couldn't turn her cell phone on in the hospital. They were keeping her husband in the hospital, but sending her home. Her neighbor was going to go get her, but she would need someone to stay with her until her husband got out of the hospital. Which, of course, would be me, but I can't get into my apartment.

Finally I get a call that someone is coming to help me.  She comes, gives me the extra key, and I have to climb the ten flights to my apartment. Then back down ten flights to give her the key back. Then go to my car and carry groceries up ten flights. Then pack a bag, then head down ten flights again. At this point, I'm completely out of breath and wheezing like an old steam engine.

I was beginning to worry that my aunt's funeral wouldn't be the only one my family would be attending that week.

Luckily, the storm hadn't started yet, so I'd have plenty of time to get to my sister's house before it started.

At least that seemed like it was possible. Really, the way things were going, what made me think that the drive to my sister's house would be easy? Naturally, the snow started when I was about half way there. I literally could NOT see where I was going. I judged that I was on the highway by crawling along the white line on the break down lane. I was honestly never so terrified of a drive in my life. I nearly got out and kissed the ground when I got to her house, but I would have been immediately buried in snow and they wouldn't have found me until spring.

And apparently the police had been to my aunt's building, but despite the fact that my sister told them at the scene of the accident that the needed to find me and tell me what had happened, the went into the office of the building and left without ever looking for me.


Now staying with my sister was an adventure. We are very different people, it's hard to imagine that we are even related. The weekend started off nice, but ended like "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane".  I was never so happy to see my brother-in-law walk through that door as I was that day, and thrilled to put that weekend behind me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

R.I.P. Mr. Rat


Mr. Rat was the first rat that I had. I got him from my friend Jim, AKA "The Rat Daddy".

Jim travels a lot, and as I have found out, getting a 'rat sitter' isn't easy. He put out an email asking if someone would be willing to adopt Mr. Rat. I had hamsters before, and I've always been a big fan of the rodents, so I thought, "What the heck, how much different could a rat be from a hamster?" Hamsters are easy to care for, so a rat will be a breeze.

Yeah, sure.

First I did my research. I read every web site about pet rats that there is. I could hardly find two sites that agreed on anything. Crap. But I soldiered on, because really, how hard could this be?

Several of the web sites said that rats need big cages. So I bought a big cage. A great, big, cage. That was completely impossible to put together. I mean really impossible. It had 50,000 parts and none went together like the badly written instructions said they should. Luckily, Art has more patience than me, along with strong arms so we got the stupid thing put together.

Next the sites said that rats need lots of toys. So I bought toys. All the toys. I couldn't make up my mind, so they all went in the cart. Balls, houses, hammocks, shells, nests, ladders, name it, Mr. Rat had it.

His favorite toy? The cardboard box one of the toys came in.

Then there was food. Everyone has a different opinion about what rats should eat. I went to the New England Wildlife Center http://www.newildlife.com/ and bought some fancy-shmancy rat food that cost $11 for a bag. Apparently, it was made out of rat poison. At least according to Mr. Rat it was. He wouldn't touch it. Back to the pet store for cheapo food. Which he ate begrudgingly. He just wanted bananas and grapes and spaghetti, but if he was hungry enough rat food would do.

I was such a neophyte about rats that I really did a lot of experimenting with poor Mr. Rat, trying out all kinds of things on him until we hit what he liked. I tried letting him loose in my kitchen, but he wanted to go behind the stove, and he didn't like me to stop him. He liked running around in my bathroom, but chewed on the door so he couldn't be alone in there, since it had varnish on it and that wasn't good for him.  He liked the play pen, but just like Calhoun, he would jump out and take off over and over again.

Then all the web sites said that rats need friends. They shouldn't be alone. And you're not just supposed to go to the pet store and pick out any old rats, because apparently pet store rats have can have the plague or something. So off to North Andover to pick out two little friends for Mr. Rat from a rat breeder.  http://annsrats.com/

I brought them home and settled them in to a little cage right next to Mr. Rat, where he could get to know them and learn to love his little friends and live happily ever after in their rat commune.

Except Mr. Rat hated the little ones. I mean HATED. With an unholy white-hot passion past all hope of redemption. Hate. Serious, all-consuming, unending hate.

I tried over and over again to introduce them. I switched cages back and forth to get them used to each other scents. I poured perfume over on them to cover their scents. I put them in neutral territories so no one would feel like they had to protect their area.

I only ended up with two terrified little rats and one angry big one.

So, off to Craig's list to find another cage, this one used and already put together, but even bigger than Mr. Rat's, and squeezed it into my tiny condo. Back to the store to buy more toys and more hammocks and more food.

Play time became like a constant version of the "shell game". Mr. Rat couldn't be out of his cage at the same time as the little ones, and my apartment is small, so I had to make sure that one was in the cage while the others were out, and no one's paths crossed.

About four months after Mr. Rat came to live with me, I went on vacation to Las Vegas. I had Art and another a friend check on the rats every morning and every night. While I was gone, Mr. Rat died in his sleep. I felt awful that I wasn't there and he had to die alone. Worse, he had to die with no one around but those little rats that he hated so much.

I just recently found out that Mr. Rat was probably pretty old. He had been returned to the pet store where his "Rat Daddy" rescued him. I like to think that (with the exception of those evil little rats) I made the last few months of his life happy.

Life is a little calmer around here with only one rat cage and two rats, but I do miss him every day.