so this has been a LONG time coming, but with some other things to have tended too before this, I finally decided to take it in and get some upgrades done!
I found(actually through Craigslist!) a place here, in Hollywood:http://www.macprola.com/http://www.yelp.com/biz/macpro-la-hollywood
I spoke with Ray(owner) multiple times about configurations and pricing(120gb SSD, 16gb ram upgrade, new battery install). After tax, it came in @ $650 even.
Chris was the tech who did the work on it, IIRC. Very nice guy(well both of them, but I only met Chris).
I'm typing this response on the now LIGHTNING fast upgraded machine, and with a boot time of ~10sec(and shutdown time of ~4-5sec max), I'm really enjoying this major(to me) upgrade from my former '08 MBP.
Having experienced what so many others on yelp(see reviews on above link) have raved about, I can highly recommend their services if anyone here in the LA area needs any upgrades/repairs done. Small place, but as the saying goes "good things come in small packages"