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How ‘Bout Dem Saints?

We Are Marshall has nothing on the real-life comeback story that’s unfolding in the wake of the New Orleans Saints’ playoff win over the Eagles. Last weekend’s game had me on the edge of my couch, swearing like a sailor, desperate for a win for my adopted city. No place needed it more.

When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have neighbors who were born and bred in New Orleans. In my hometown of Brentwood, L.A.–with its stately homes and well-manicured denizens–Auntie Gayle and Unkie Ralph’s zany ways were a departure from the norm. In short, they were more fun than anyone I had ever met. For Christmas, they wrapped their front door in gleaming, metallic paper with a giant bow like an oversized present and tangled themselves in battery-operated tree lights and bulb ornaments for my parents’ Christmas Eve parties. When my brother and I watched scary movies at their house, they would jump up from behind the couch to incite even louder screams from us kids.

From an early age, I saw them as the embodiment of New Orleans, a bewitching place where music courses through the city’s veins, where you dare not utter the word “voodoo,” lest wandering ears “put da curse on you,” and where the convivial spirit of Mardi Gras abounds all 365 days of the year.

Putting My Foodie Souvenirs to Use

There are a handful of constants I employ in all of my travels–everything else, I leave to chance: I always visit museums, ride the local transportation, learn to say “hello,” “please,” and “thank you” in the official language, and I always explore the markets. According to my husband, who has been dragged to countless farmstands, grocery stores, and open-air stalls around the world, no kitchen-related item is too mundane to peak my curiosity. (To that I say, “Have you seen the scrub brushes they use in Seoul?”)

Sussing out ingredients unique to far-flung corners of the world is my kind of treasure hunt, one which makes good use of my Kiva convertible duffle bag. This is why I check the mail every single day in January, desperately awaiting the arrival of the Saveur 100, a compendium on insider food finds from the editors of Saveur magazine–kindred spirits in all travel-related ingredient quests.

The Adventures of the Flying Burrito

If I had a nickel for every time a fellow transplanted Californian and I had this conversation…

What good is a Steve Hanson-ish up-market Mexican restaurant in Manhattan–with its artisanal tequila tastings-this and wood-fired mole-that–when all I want is a $3 burrito? Sure, I’ll order one of their burritos for lunch, just to sate the craving for something carby and rectangular that’s topped with guac and sour cream. But nothing satisfies like a burrito from La Taqueria in San Francisco’s Mission.

Vacation Sex…You Know It’s Better

Without going into detail, let’s just say I see where Danny DeVito was going with his Lincoln bedroom commentary on “The View” a few weeks ago–though I would have preferred to hear it from his buddy George Clooney. There is such a thing a “vacation sex.”*

DeVito’s rant aside, I get what he meant. Being away from home, from work, and from the distractions of our everyday responsibilities makes, ahem…you know, totally different than at home. Indeed, better…and more frequent.

A Tragic Lesson in Survival

For the last week, I have been completely preoccupied by the heartbreaking story of the Kim family from San Francisco and the tragic discovery that the father died of exposure and hypothermia while seeking help for his family in Oregon.

Last week, CNET senior editor James Kim bravely set out on what his wife Kati described to authorities as an heroic last resort to save her and their two young daughters. After running the car for heat and running out of gas, then burning all four tires, James set out for help on a 10 mile trek through rugged, snowy terrain. Sadly, his path led him in a near circle—his body was recovered only one-half mile from the family car.