The Big Easy

North America
December 13th 2009
Published: December 13th 2009
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I feel so big by Brian!I feel so big by Brian!I feel so big by Brian!

Brian is still as big of a crack up as ever. I'm wearing a Christmas stocking cap with elf ears on it. I wore it to the pot luck.

Bouncing into New Orleans

We took a pretty quick ride into New Orleans through Alabama, Mississippi and finally Louisiana. The roads were good until we approached New Orleans. The roads were broken into sections and each section was a little up or down from the last section. The unevenness doesn't make much of a difference until you have your house on your back. When the RV trailer started hitting these discontinuities in the road, the trailer started rocking up and down and it made our truck bounce up and down like a merry-go-round. We'd been traveling 70 mph quite a bit of the way, but when we hit this rough patch, I had to slow down to 40 mph to keep her steady. We went for a few miles like that and then got to the RV park.

We got to the campsite at about 2pm and we were very hungry. Instead of detaching the truck and hooking the sewer up, we decided to have Grace push out the slides while I hooked up the cable and electricity. Then we could eat quickly and do most of the work afterwards. We worked like a well-oiled machine! While Grace slid
Grace and BrianGrace and BrianGrace and Brian

Grace pried the deep fried tacos open like an oyster and Brian stuffed romaine lettuce into the open mouth of the taco.
the slides out around me - by pushing a button, I connected the electricity and hooked up the cable. I hooked up the cable so we could watch the unbeaten Saints and turned to head in and smashed the middle of my forehead right into the slide that Grace had just opened. The slide wasn't there when I started connecting the cable, but it was there now.

The trailer shook from my head butt and Grace asked "Are you all right?" I had to say "NO" - and I hate saying no to Grace. She asks this a lot when I hit something with my head or drop something on my toe. This wasn't an ordinary scrape to the top of my head. My black Kangol cap fell down into my hands and when I saw a piece of skin in it, I knew this wasn't my typical head injury with a good scrape off the top. The next thing I knew, blood was pouring down my forehead and dripping off my nose.

Head wounds always bleed profusely for a while but the bleeding stopped pretty quickly. Grace had me lay down and we were eating lunch before
Brian's Fried TacosBrian's Fried TacosBrian's Fried Tacos

Brian and Liz took us to a pot luck. Brian made these crispy, pulled chicken tacos that were superb. Brian has worked in the restaurant and bar business for decades and knows his food.
too long. I struggled internally while I watched the Saints make their incredible comeback (and go to 12-0 on their perfect season) and Grace did all of the hooking and unhooking to the RV . The injury was rather confined to the middle of my forehead and what hurt the most was wearing a bandage in the middle of my forehead for the week. Hitting my head on the RV wasn't that great of a story, so I had to start making up tales of fights on Bourbon Street to explain my injury.

My Aunt Kathy had asked if I'd learned anything that week about RVing, and I mentioned I'd learned something minor. What I hadn't learned - or listened to - was the advice of Lucky Don. When we were unpacking the RV in Navarre, Lucky Don had told me to get a swimming noodle, cut a slit down it and stick it on the edge of the slides. This gives a nice cusion if you hit your head on it. Of course I was too busy to do that so I paid the price in blood. I hope to make the time and safety proof the RV
Inspecting Irene's Inspecting Irene's Inspecting Irene's

Grace is looking at our Prosciutto appetizer at Irene's. This is one of our favorite restaurant because Grace and I stumbled into here 11 years ago when we staying in a hostel in Nawlins.

80-year-old Bus Girl

The RV is in the repair shop to fix the two quarter panels that I smashed on the first day on the road. Luckily, we have my brother Eric's old friend Brian living down here. He's recently married and was kind enough to have us stay with him for the weekend before we go to Taiwan. Near his house is Mahoney's PoBoy shop. We walked there in the rain and sat down for a fried shrimp PoBoy - the New Orleans name for their delicious sandwiches.

While we waited for our food, we couldn't help but notice this spunky old lady running around bussing tables and smiling while we watched the #1 KU basketball team whip up on another team. The old lady was under 5' tall and she immediately reminded me of Grace's mother who we'll see in a few days. She had a big smile on her face and hustled around with the energy of a teenager delivering food while Grace and I watched her.

She saw Grace and walked right up to us and asked her where she was from. In an odd southern, asian accent, she
Population ChartPopulation ChartPopulation Chart

Here's a chart that shows the population distribution according to age. 60% of the population is between 19 and 65, but only 47% pay taxes. That leaves up to 13% living under the table or off the government.
told us how she was from Japan and was a spry 80 years old. I figured she was a war bride or at least an occupation bride from the Big One - WWII. She started telling us how this was her grandson's restaurant and took us up front and showed us the newspaper picture of the restaurant with her and her grandson in it. She had umpteen grandchildren and she started working here after her husband died in Katrina. Her husband was on a respirator in the hospital when Katrina hit. Without power, he soon perished. A while after that, she started working in the restaurant and she said she didn't need to get paid as long as her grandson gave her Bingo money.

The funniest thing about our talk was when she said that Grace's skin was so soft and reached over the table and rubbed Grace's cheek. It was a kind gesture but Grace's cross-contamination alarm went off. Grace learned about food contamination at Johnson and Wales University and this was a breach of protocol! Grace didn't say anything though and we had a good laugh at the spunky little lady.

Welfare City

Federal SpendingFederal SpendingFederal Spending

This chart shows how the federal government spends money. Mostly on welfare, defense and debt repayment.

Brian told us about several neighborhoods that he wouldn't drive through in New Orleans and other Section 8 neighborhoods that had been built after Katrina. Section 8 neighborhoods are government supported housing for people who can't afford to rent normally. New Orleans is known as one of the poorest cities and it's rather shocking to see the scale of the problem.


If you don't want to read about some political topics, skip to the next section.

In my political discussions with my Uncle Jim and Aunt Kathy, one topic we discussed was the scale of the people of welfare. I did a little investigation and this is what I found:

In 2007, there were about 295M people in the US and 138M taxpayers. So 47% of the population is paying taxes and 53% aren't. When you consider that 40% of the people (see chart for details) are under 19 or over 65, you can calculate that 13% of the population is working for low wage or under the table (and not paying taxes), living off others or living off the government. With another 1% being disabled, we're down
Government Spending GrowthGovernment Spending GrowthGovernment Spending Growth

This shows how the government has been on a spending terror since the mid 70s. It doesn't seem to be slowing down.
to about 12% or 36M people are freeloading. If another 6% of those taxpayers can't find work right now (10% unemployment - 4% of natural unemployment), then we're up to 18% or 54M people are living off the fat of the land.

Another article just said that 1 out of 4 children and one out of 8 adults are on foodstamps. That's a lot of people eating for free.

So where are these unemployed supposed to get jobs?

Many of the factories have moved overseas but what I hear is a bigger job killer than offshoring is automation. More jobs are being replaced by automation technology than are going overseas. How is the middle class going to survive without many middle-class jobs? Is our undereducated, underclass going to be able to get jobs that will feed them through their lifes or is the government going to support them and give them free food, education, healthcare, housing and retirement?

What should the government do?

I looked into what they are doing and here is a look at how we spend our taxes and deficits now:

From the spending chart, the big three federal expenses at
Presidential DebtPresidential DebtPresidential Debt

What are the trends I see? The Democrats reduced debt/GDP while the Republicans raise it. Cutting taxes is nice, but when are they going to cut benefits too?
the bottom are defense, health and human services (social security, medicare, welfare and 300 other programs) and debt repayment. Most of the growth is from the bottom three as well with some other departments declining - like education, energy and international assistance. The growth in any of the big three from 2005-2008 is more than the total spending of any of the other categories. The Treasury Dept. saw the largest growth among these three and I bet this was due to debt repayment.

The second chart showing the spending increasing exponentially over the decades. I was shocked at this at first, but when I plotted GDP/year, it grew about as fast. While federal government payments have grown exponentially since the 70s, so has the GDP and defense has grown since 9/11. It’s interesting that the govt spent more on defense than welfare until 1970. The spending is growing about $200B additional spending from 1980-1990, $250B from 1990 to 2000 and probably $300B from 2000-2010.

The first table shows the change of debt during each presidency. While all spending bills start in the House of Representatives, I think considerable credit (or blame) should be given to the president and
Total Government SpendingTotal Government SpendingTotal Government Spending

This chart made me feel a little better since we are spending more money on education than defense when you consider local governments.
it seems to vary sharply with each president.
The last two columns are most meaningful to me. The debt was rather small and barely changing until Ronal Reagan took office. Then debt even grew more during the Bush 1’s term. Then it decreased twice under Clinton and jumped more under Bush 2. The tax cuts and spending increases during the republican terms increased the debt the most and the change in debt per GDP.

The next next table that shows total government spending was interesting as well. It goes beyond the federal and includes state and local. Spending goes up to 36% of GDP when this local spending is added - WOW! There's no doubt that govt is growing. What pops out to me is that education spending is more than defense - good news. Healthcare is about twice that of welfare. The governments are already spending about $800B/year on health care. The health care bill (the last I read) is for about $1T over 10 years, so there is probably a lot of non-federal spending in this tabulation. Too complex for a quick answer of course.

That's a few stats that I hope you find interesting. I tried to work with Jim on a post, but he's busy right now. I could post some things from Jim, but I don't think it would flow very well. I've asked him to comment on the blog instead of trying to coordinate the original writing.

Final Thoughts

I was thinking about writing several posts on political topics with Jim, but I think that should be another blog - not the RV blog. Although it is very relevant to our lives in America, I'm going to avoid writing about politics and stick to first person accounts of what I experience in the RV instead of political topics. I hope you'll find that more interesting and more fun!

Happy Holidays,

PS. Here is a poem from my Uncle Jim who is the guitarist. He isn't political in these (as far as I can tell) and is rather deep and involved. Enjoy...

out in the street
hangs the supernatural
head hands and feet
the marks are irrefutable
cauldron unrestrained
silent bubbling crucible
a fountain in the rain
shrouded and invisible
CHURCH (passing an old church in KCK on the way to work)


We all deserve a purple heart just for living
In this world completely void of forgiving
Out of context and into the news
WE said it WE cooked OUR own goose
It don’t matter what was meant
To a lesser extent
We all deserve a Purple Heart just for living

For service and valor for living a living hell
He wears his medal proudly on his lapel
His limp made it tough to forget
George Washington’s silhouette

In this world where you get by on good intentions
I found that I was pretty good at intervention
I’m the soldier on some foreign sand
Getting’ battered for taking a stand
From the womanly side
You wounded my pride
We all deserve Purple Hearts just for living

I know that he will gladly die for said traditions
even if the whole thing falls to sedition
a scandal exposed in the dark
the fuse is provoked by a spark
the enemy's song
let's all sing along
Now We deserve a Purple Heart just for living

DEAR CHARLATAN (an open letter to the past)

Dear Charlatan
Politics poetry and pain
Left me right for plucking
You picked my brain
Dear Charlatan
All I aimed was repartee
What mistook for gospel
Was wisdom’s dull forte
Dear Charlatan
Low heat crock pot back burner
My slow soul naive no more
Has caught on fire


14th December 2009

Happy Holidays
Happy Holidays and safe travels to you and Grace. It sounds as though you are having the great adventures that you had hoped for (and some that you had not!!) Thank you for sharing and you are in our thoughs here back in KC. Happy Trials, Hilary.
14th December 2009

Re: blog entry
Hey taco team, nice blog.........feels like I'm there amidst the delicious and bloody details.........enjoyed the socioeconomic stats too.........yes, you could organize a whole blog on crunching the numbers for people to help put our obscure world in perspective. Keep your holiday spirits high............and your head low--scalp in your Kangol cap is not where you need to be putting your head these days. We need your thinkiing cap for saving our planet one meal and blog at a time. Taco hugs.......crunch crunch crunch!!! --the Kirkus
16th December 2009

First 3 months
Scott and Grace don't forget to come back..the cards said the next 6 months of the rv trip were going to get really good, the rough part is over! Have a great holiday with your family in Taiwan.. Come back so Todd and I can ride with you both before you go;) missing you both sooo much!

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