All About Dogs – This day I felt fate tugging on my sleeve as I had two rides connected to dog adoption services. On one, I picked up David, who was a volunteer at Mostly Mutts. This is a private dog adoption service connected to dog rescue and is a non-profit. A few hours later, I picked up Elizabeth from a satellite location of the Atlanta Humane Society – dog adoption facility. She was also a volunteer. When I sat waiting for her in the “Adoption Pickup Area,” I thought she may come out carrying a squiggly puppy, then hop in my car and announce that I should adopt this dog, I was worried I could not resist. I love dogs.
For better or worse, she exited alone. As I drove away, I could have sworn I heard the yelping of eager puppies yearning for a human companion. I also thought she may have had a sound app on her phone. She probably gets a bonus for drivers who return and adopt. Damn humans.
Total time to prepare – Approximately 1 1/2 hours.
–– This was a popular dish in the 1950-1980 era and was also known as Johnny Marzetti. Some families even called this Ghoulash. It’s ever so easy to make and is a real comfort food. Serves 6. If you want lots of leftovers, this is easily doubled.
1 lb. Ground Beef (80/20)
1 Onions – Diced
1 Green Bell Pepper – diced.
1 Can Diced Tomatoes (14.5 oz) or Ro-Tel (10.5 oz) with juice
2 Garlic cloves – minced
1 Tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp. Black Pepper
1 tsp. Salt
28 oz can of Tomato Sauce
15 oz. Elbow Macaroni
Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Place ground beef and onion in an electric skillet or dutch oven.
Brown the ground beef and break into little bits, saute the onion.
Add Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes and Minced Garlic
When the ground beef is done (no red meat remains and majority of liquid has evaporated,) drain the excess fat. At this point, I recommend patting the ground beef and onion with paper towels to absorb more of the excess fat.
Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, bell peppers and simmer until vegetables are tender, about thirty (30) minutes.
Boil water in a separate pot and boil pasta until el dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.
Add the macaroni to the ground beef mixture and mix until blended. Simmer for fifteen (15) minutes.
Serve and enjoy! Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if you prefer.
Blacksmith – When Jon told me he was a blacksmith, I almost didn’t believe him. Then, I thought I misinterpreted his words. But nope, that’s his occupation all right. Jon was in his late twenties and had served two years as an apprentice before he was certified as a blacksmith. I had to ask what that career path was like now. I couldn’t imagine a long line of horses outside his shop while they awaited new shoes.
Then I learned that he did not work alone. He worked for a company called Smithworks. He had just finished creating an iron base for a nine-hundred-pound piece of art. Before that, he built a wrought iron stair case inside an upscale home near the city. He added that construction of wrought iron fences was in constant demand.
I learned a great deal from this young man. I never anticipated that blacksmith was a career that still existed in the twenty-first century. I guess I still have lots to learn.
Total time to prepare – Approximately three (3) hours.
–– I’ve been making versions of Swiss Steak for about forty years now, and this is one of my favorites. I once used Round Steak and pounded it with a mallet and that worked great. I remember my Polish mother making this using the end of a saucer. That worked well, too! But now I use round steak that you can purchase in the meat case that is already scored. This is a very adequate substitution for beating the steak with a meat mallet (and quieter too!)
1 ½ lb. Round Steak patties – already scored for Swiss Steak. (about 6 pieces)
2 Onions – halved and sliced thin.
1 Yellow Bell Pepper – diced.
2 Carrots, sliced thin
16 oz. Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
Garlic Powder to taste
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Paprika to taste
Black Pepper to taste
½ Cup Flour
2 Cups Beef Broth
2 cans 14.5 oz. Diced Tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsp. Cornstarch (optional)
2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil (Olive Oil is fine.)
Put the flour in a plate.
Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with Paprika, Black Pepper and Garlic Powder. A light sprinkle on both sides is adequate.
Dredge the meat in the flour on both sides and set aside.
Add the oil to the Dutch oven and heat to medium-high.
Brown the meat in the hot oil on both sides, then remove and set aside. (If there is an accumulation of oil in the pot, dab with a paper towel to absorb. Be careful – Oil is HOT! And do not wipe out all those tasty brown bits. You’ll need those for an added flavor bonus.
Add the cut onions, carrots, and bell pepper to the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Return the steak to the Dutch oven and lay the pieces atop the vegetables.
Add the Beef Broth, Diced Tomatoes with juice, Worcestershire sauce.
Cover and place in pre-heated 350 degree oven for one hour.
Remove the Dutch oven and place on heat-proof surface. Add the sliced mushrooms to the top of the meat. Cover again and continue baking for an additional hour.
Remove the Dutch oven again and place on heat-proof surface. Blend the mushrooms into the meat and vegetables, then cover and return to the oven for additional fifteen (15) minutes.
Serve and enjoy!
I recommend serving with mashed potatoes, or over noodles (my favorite method.)
The Eagle is Grounded – A very large gentleman, perhaps in is fifties, hobbled out of his ranch home, down the single step and onto the driveway. I pushed the front seat back all way to enable him to have as much room as possible. He was on his way to the doctor, and that is not unusual. Transportation back and forth to medical appointments is a common use for rideshare. This particular gentleman shared that he was a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles in the mid-80’s but his career was not long. He played just a few years. He then hit hard times and became a corrections officer, and somehow contracted a bacterial infection which became so severe that his leg was amputated above his knee. He admitted he was in pain, and this visit to the doctor was to determine what action could be taken next. The infection seems to have not been stopped and he said they are discussing additional amputation.
There wasn’t anything I could do to help this man, but he seemed kind and in need of some good news. I hope he finds it and recovers to enjoy a bit of his life.
Champagne Girls – Time: 8:45 AM, Friday morning after Thanksgiving. Location: Buckhead, just north of downtown Atlanta. I answered the chime to pick up two females. I had some difficulty locating them, but after a few moments, they stumbled into the nearby parking lot. When they piled into the backseat, the car was enhanced with an odor that mixed stale smoke and a urinal with an exhausted freshen disc. Destination? 50 miles north…50 miles equates to at least 45 minutes in the best of traffic. Fortunately, the Friday morning after Thanksgiving is as slow a traffic window as possible in Atlanta.
All was acceptable until they spoke. “My friend doesn’t get out much. She’s got a ten and twelve-year old at home.” Wow. My first judgment was that neither was old enough to drink. Wrong.
“Did you have a good Thanksgiving?” That seemed an appropriate and safe question.
“Did we f….ng ever! You know, we’re not cheap drunks. We’re what you call champagne drunks. There’s a difference, you know?”
“I didn’t. Thanks for the information.”
That introduced me to 45 minutes of a new education in foul word combinations that I never imagined. They laughed. They shared their opinions on some of their acquaintances, all interspersed with expletives that were not fit for a prison cell. Perhaps not even solitary confinement. I located their destination which was one of their homes and they dragged themselves out of the car and stood erect at the garage door, giggling and chatting like death row inmates granted a few more moments of a stay of execution. They weren’t home yet until they walked in that door. I left them in glee.
Emergency? Call Rideshare – Two figures clung to each other as they stood outside an apartment building. At first, I judged them to be males. The taller one wore a crisp black eyepatch and had an arm wrapped around the stockier, shorter companion. As they stepped forward, the arm now provided more support as the second figure grimaced in pain. The right leg was askew and trailed behind the move to my car. After several moments, they both had maneuvered into the backseat, but not without a few squawks of pain.
Onward to our destination. I then learned my riders were mother and daughter, with the mother wearing the eyepatch which she earned during a fight at a bar while playing billiards. They laughed as she recounted the episode. Full body laughs, chortles, with an occasional pause for the mother to swig from her flask.
Meanwhile, the daughter spoke several times about how she received her injury, but her thoughts were convoluted. She fell? Someone fell onto her? A large dog? The dog jumped onto her and pushed her over, then someone fell onto her? The dog? The mother? I never was sure what happened but was certain it was very funny. It had to be. They laughed all the way to the hospital, until the pair hobbled together through the sliding glass doors that opened for them. The daughter’s right leg below the knee dragged at a severe angle.
* * *
I continue to rise before dawn each morning and embark on my day’s adventures. It is a rare occasion when I return home without at least one memorable ride. Humorous. Peculiar. Even dangerous at times. Always unpredictable. But I must ask. When you next have an urgent need for transportation for a medical emergency, would you dial 9-1-1 or choose Rideshare? (Keep in mind – I believe an ambulance will have an open container regulation.)
Christy or Anna – Not sure. As drivers, we are only provided with a first name, or initials. I’ve driven several people who identify only by one letter, and two “DRs” who did happen to be doctors. But I have had the privilege of driving one young lady a few times who has two names. I first met Christy, or Anna at a woman’s shelter. She’s in her early twenties or so is my guess and works as a server in an upscale breakfast restaurant. She explained she was Anna, not Christy but that was the name under which she ordered the ride.
After that, I picked up the same young lady, still identified as Christy on the rideshare app, but now she had moved and was renting a room in a much improved neighborhood. She explained that the lodging at the shelter was not that comfortable, and she was only permitted to stay for a limited time. Anyhow, her new digs were awesome.
I’ve never asked why the shelter, or why the Christy/Anna names. I still drive her on occasion, and have become a fan of the eating establishment where she is employed. I will always request her table. I know little of her past, but hope that her future is brighter. Seems she deserves it.
The Big Rig – I typically get an address or name of landmark to locate my passenger. On many occasions, this is a retail location or a name of a residential complex. The app pinpoints the requestor at the time of the order so even if there is a data entry error, I can locate the rider almost always by targeting their icon. The signal is sent from their mobile phone. In this instance, I had an address and icon that was in a large shopping plaza. I wasn’t worried about finding the rider since the icon was visible as soon as I entered the parking lot. As I approached the area, I only saw an idling deep-black eighteen-wheeler. A man stepped down from the rig and waved his hand. He was indeed my rider. On we went to pick up two small boxes from his post office box at one of those generic postal stores. The trip was uneventful and only about ten minutes one-way. He was an amiable man, friendly conversation, nothing out of the ordinary.
I wondered why he would request rideshare when he could have driven the short distance in the truck. The store was in a rather large shopping plaza as well and this was at 8:30 AM. Plenty of parking. I appreciated the fare and enjoyed the trip, as I do with most. But I will always question the reason. I will never have the answer. Sometimes I wonder what was in those boxes. After all, it would be my license plate and description on the video cameras. Life goes on.
The Unhealthy Trio – I’ve picked up three men who work at a plant that manufactures countertops. I’ve driven them to work a few times and wonder if there will always be three. You see, they seem to be the unhealthiest trio imaginable. First, when I pick them up, they are finishing their last puffs of cigarettes. Once in the car, they start coughing and explain they are sanders. They use sanding machines all day long and even when wearing masks and goggles, the sand permeates into their mouth, nose and eyes. They explained a cloud of dust in the plant is always present. But they cannot smoke on the plant property, and I was thinking that was probably a good thing. This explained their need for the last few nicotine doses before the ride. But then they asked to stop at the gas station for chewing tobacco because they couldn’t smoke at the factory. I obliged, but felt their path to poor health was set, and the haze of particles inside the building would likely blur any path to escape.