Sunday, January 13, 2008

Good Mood on Moody

I spend a lot of time on Moody Street -- that's not a euphemism for the blues, it's a fact of life and geography. Waltham has a Main Street, but to me it's all about Moody. It runs from Moody-and-Main -- where the Sovereign Bank lives, the Cafe on the Common, and the Common itself, in back of and around the City Hall -- down past the historic mills and over the Mighty Chuck, where it boasts a dam and riverwalk area, along into a gritty and sometimes pretty amalgam of furniture stores, pubs, ethnic restaurants, martial arts ventures, nail salons and Indian groceries.

I'm making it sound tawdry, and perhaps to some it is. But I get it all done on Moody Street, where my going-on-ten-year love affair with martial arts and working out hard at Perry's Tae Kwon Do is still happening. I found Queen Cleaners, where it's so convenient to drop my dry-clean-only stuff some weeknight and pick it up on Saturday morning. When Steve and I need to reconnect for a few minutes in all the busy-ness, a pint at The Skellig is a welcome respite. We're a known quantity at Bison County, where we get some good 'cue on occasion and the best turkey tips around. It's hard to get a bad meal on Moody, and there are so many options, from Ponzu to Guanachapi's to the venerable Tuscan Grill.

My pal Susan and I spent a few hours on Moody yesterday. First we got our pizza on at The Upper Crust, whose Moody Street outlet does not disappoint. Being the chief home executives that we are, we realized we both were in the market for vacuum cleaners. Mr. Sweeper on Moody let us play with the fancy Mieles (yeah, that's why their floor looks so clean, 'kay?) and even offered a trade-in discount. We hit Compleat Gamester on the even-numbered side of the street and played with puzzles and brain-teasers (slightly less work than vacuuming up sand at Mr. Sweeper). We traded restaurant and drink recs as we passed The Lincoln (wicked good Dirty Martinis where Frosty's used to be) and Tom Can Cook, which is fabulous for pan-Asian (but not fusion as it advertises - go to Ponzu for that). Next stop was Back Pages Books for a re-nunion (yeah, I said it) with Patrick, Steve and Alex Green (the owner). I scooped up great used volumes recommended by friends on Good Reads and didn't feel the least bit guilty (my credit from selling Alex some books earlier in the year kinda helped).

The street is a scene and it's always changing. It makes me so happy, how much it's changed since my days at Brandeis when Grover Cronin was crumbling and you only went to Moody for Indian food and then got the hell out. I forgot to tell Susan we needed to get to Gourmet Pottery for cool gifts and cards, but she remembered to check into an afternoon tea reservation for next week at The Tea Leaf, a delightful place we explored for a few minutes in our jaunt.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Just enough holiday insanity

Steve and I promised not to get any gifts for each other this Christmas. I had surprised him with a birthday/Hanukkah couple of items (a book that I could not resist, and an old TV comedy series on DVD). We are both up to our gills in books, music, food and all the other stuff we like. I told him that just the pleasure of his company during this lots-of-down-time holiday season would be enough for me. To which he replied, "In that case, let's get each other gifts." You have to know him to appreciate that...

Anyway, he was the one who caved/covered his butt by surprising me with a copy of Julia Child's My Life in France. I've only just started it but of course it is wonderful. Our "real" holiday celebration was the classic combo of Christmas Eve at my aunt Patti's and Christmas Day lunch and gift exchanging at my brother Dan's.

As usual, about 30 adults and kids invade Patti and Jim's tiny cottage on an overlook in Hull. The lights and decorations can be seen from space. The kids race from one end of the house to the other (not a long distance), weaving in between the adults, collapsing to the floor to shred the paper from a new toy or gadget, and disappearing periodically into a small bedroom where there is - YES - a computer they can fight over to see who gets to play the latest game. The adults usually hang out, catch up on family gossip, and drink too much. This year we did that but with the added insanity of a Yankee Swap a la my mom, who had a method that proved to be madness. It all worked out in the end and everyone had a good time. I thought it was successful as Steve and I ended up with the same two items we brought.

Dan and Chrissy's Christmas hosting was great as usual, with a successful "pot luck" approach resulting in far more delicious food than even the fairly big crowd could consume. I brought a pan of roasted sweet potatoes and onions to go along with all the meat (roast turkey, roast ham, roast beef) plus the gifts for the kids and the adults' "secret Santa". Chrissy's brother Bill entered with raw ingredients and proceeded to make a to-die-for shrimp scampi that started with two sticks of butter. Her dad, Jim, made his traditional grape leaves - one of those things I have to have, no matter what else I eat that day.
We cap off the day with a birthday cake for Nick, the Christmas baby who is - gasp! - 8 years old. Brother Joe always has to have the first taste of frosting. This family togetherness is fun for me and right about the right-sized dose. I get to see the kids all excited to open presents and check out everyone's Christmas tree. We haven't had a tree in probably 10 years or more, and I don't miss it at all. We make the rounds and visit and provide the ooh and aah for those folks who really put the effort into the decor. Seems to work!