26 April 2008

23 April 2008

A Puerto Rican girl in an Asian supermarket in Paris

While my roommate is away, my girlfriend Maria is keeping me company. Which, these days, means sitting across from each other on our computers.

This afternoon, craving cha siu baau, or Cantonese barbecue pork buns, Maria and I went to Tang Gourmet on Avenue de Choisy. Wary of the kilo, I sent Maria to the butcher at the back of the store to get us some ground pork for dinner. A quarter kilo? I didn't know.

Meanwhile, in the produce section, a couple holding a large sprig of mint leaves asked me if they could just buy a few leaves. The man made a gesture of ripping off a leaf.

"No, it's a package," I told them in French.

"Okay, so we save the rest for later."


"You can leave them in a paper bag. For a few days."

I walked to the back of the store to check on Maria. First, I found her standing at the counter with her back to me. Then, I saw the butcher behind the counter throwing a final handful of meat into a bag of meat the size of a small child. Surely it's someone else's order, I thought. Not our half kilo of ground pork. Maria and I, speechless, watched the butcher tape the bag closed and hand it to us. "That's a lot," I said. Well, it was ours. All four kilos, or almost nine pounds of ground pork for dinner. And dessert, and breakfast, and lunch.

As soon as we returned to my flat, Maria took off her rings and began making meatballs. She also cleared the freezer to contain a couple kilos of our baby. Pistachio ice cream, anyone? We have some in the fridge.

21 April 2008

I killed my visitor

Just kidding. My first visitor from the States is alive and well and on her way back to Philadelphia. Our second night, we made a beet, fennel, and goat cheese salad. You do the math.

16 April 2008


THAT SPRING, the residents of Bluerose, Texas were not expecting snow. Had there been a single snowflake that winter, the white that powdered the city on a Sunday night in April would not have caused such a stir.

Jay sat Indian style on the kitchen floor with a glass of Maker's Mark (two ice cubes) and talked to his girlfriend, Liz, on the phone. She had gone to Paris for a wedding. Jay and Liz knew the time difference between Bluerose and Paris (seven hours) but asked each other every time, as if it were a hug, or a kiss.

"What time is it there?" asked Jay.

"7 PM."

"Noon here."

“Are you eating Paris brest?”


“A delightful French dessert said to have been created by a pastry chef in honor of a bicycle race between Paris and Brest.”

“I’ll try brest,” she said. There was a pause, and she laughed. “I’ll try my brest.”

“It’s so good. It’s kind of like a cream puff but better.”

The ice cubes in the glass made a loud popping noise. Startled, Jay looked up and noticed the window. Large white flakes were falling outside. He wondered if the flakes would stick.


Our final review is rumored to have lasted seven hours. We survived.

We celebrated with several bottles of wine, fava beans, olives, potato chips, and what I believe were roasted chickpeas, while listening to the songs of musician-turned-architect John Casbarian.

For dinner, I returned to Le Bistrologue (74 boulevard Diderot), where I had had a rare steak and a glass of red wine before my review. At the suggestion of M, I ordered the confit de canard in , or the duck confit (€14,80), which was so good I wanted another. I mean, it's a duck leg poached in its own fat. Also try the souris d'agneau, or braised lamb shank, and the noix d'entrecôte, or sirloin steak.

We ended with drinks at Au Petit fer à Cheval (30 rue Vieille du Temple), a quaint horseshoe-shaped bar in Le Marais.

Courtesy of Flickr.

12 April 2008

P.S. It snowed.

Watch snow in Paris.
An email (with commentary) from the Rice Office of the Registrar:


To undergraduate degree candidates receiving this e-mail, please be advised that assuming successful completion of in-progress courses (Eep.), records indicate that you will be cleared for graduation (Like a liftoff?) this May 2008.

As the semester winds down, we encourage you to finish strong (Finish strong!), to continue to monitor your rice (proper noun) e-mail for important announcements, to regularly update your permanent address in ESTHER, etc. (What's etc.??)

For additional commencement information, schedule of events, FAQs, etc.:

If you know that you will *not be attending* (I will *not be attending*, as I will be in Paris. Besides, I've already been there, done that. Wait, who's speaking this year?) the May 10, 2008 commencement ceremony, please formally advise us via e-mail at registrar@rice.edu

Congratulations . . . (Thanks, I like ellipses too. Usually I use them to express uncertainty . . .)

Krystle Warren & the Faculty

Krystle Warren & the Faculty is in Paris.

One summer night in Brooklyn, I met Krystle through a friend on one of my favorite rooftops of all time. Krystle and I both liked Six Feet Under. I don't think she sang that night. We drank, instead. And smoked cigarettes. Lots of cigarettes. I probably owe her one.

Please go see her for me tonight.

Le Paris Paris
5, Avenue de l'Opéra
75001 Paris, France
01 42 60 64 45

11 April 2008


When I told my sister that I was going for a run later that afternoon, she said, "What?! Is that even legal in Paris?"

Who would have thought that I would go for a run, in Paris. Today was the first time I wore my New Balance since I arrived in January. Feeling silly in my Awkward Running Outfit (ARO), I considered going all out and replacing the white laces with a pair of neon orange ones that I had packed with me.

Not having packed a sports bra, I wore a camisole with a built-in bra. Over which I layered a black turtleneck (an architecture student's staple) and my bright red American Apparel hoodie that should not be paired with bright blue shorts. Was my ARO a salute to France or America? And last but not least, the black Isotoner gloves that made me feel a bit shady.

I didn't need the gloves. It was warm enough to run in a T-shirt, but everyone was still in a coat and scarf. So, feeling extremely out of place, I ran as quickly as I could. For most of the run, I worried that people didn't understand what I was doing. Which is ridiculous. Passing through the Parc de Choisy, I felt less out of place. But Parc de Choisy is not very big.

When I returned to my flat, my face and thighs were as red as my hoodie. I changed into jeans, threw on a coat and went to Monoprix, where I feel much more comfortable.

Judging books by their covers

The other day at Champion, thinking I might convert from coffee to tea, I bought this Regent's Park Earl Grey Blend, mostly for its packaging. Fine use of , black-and-white photography, colors, font. Also, it was one of the cheaper teas (€1,64). The tea itself, however, was only okay. And now I have to get through 19 tea bags of this okay tea.

There was a day during senior year of high school when we received our GPAs. Someone passed them out on white slips of paper. When we hadn't yet heard who was ranked first (I fell somewhere in the teens), we began asking around. Within five minutes, we learned that it was Goth Girl. Goth Girl's hair was long and black (dyed) and fell upon always a melange of black clothing. Her face was round and very white (powdered). She wasn't a far cry from Goth Talk's Circe Nightshade.

My friends and I weren't at all surprised to hear that our friend Goth Girl was "first." But others who didn't know her were expecting anything but Goth Girl. A tall, bird-faced lady in a red sweater and crisp Lee jeans stopped at my lunch table while walking round the cafeteria. I still don't know what her job was, but I knew her type. Loves football games, (especially Homecoming), has authority over you. And, even though the students she preferred were barely in the top ten (percent), curious about the rankings.

She asked my table, "So who's number one?" I told her Goth Girl's first and last name.

"Who's that?" she asked. I pointed at Goth Girl, who was seated a few tables away, her right side facing us.

"That's her," I said. Bird-face studied Goth Girl.

"Well, you should never judge a book by its cover!" she exclaimed with a chuckle. Charming. I didn't reply and waited for her to walk away before getting back to my chicken fried steak.


Schmap has included my photo of La Vieille Charité Center in the newly released second edition of their Schmap France Guide.

"In 1951, the international architect Le Corbusier used his personal prestige to help the Vieille Charité in being classified as a 'National Historical Monument.' The restoration works were decided in 1962 and started in 1970. They lasted till 1985 and cost over 100 million francs."

09 April 2008

Final cut

I present to you the final cut of Sain et sauf (Safe and Sound).

Click on the screen to view the film in full screen mode on YouTube.

Invitation to Follow

In the time it takes for me to create 46 more posts, I will throw a party. Since I have no idea where I'll be, the location is TBA.

And yes, you're invited!

Girl, you need a grocery bag.

As far as I'm concerned, there are no baggers here. You know, baggers. A person who packs groceries. Your high school boyfriend. Your high school crush. Yeah, him. They don't have those here. At least not where I generally shop (Tang Frères, Champion, Monoprix).

Four months, and I am far from mastering the art of bagging. Every time I'm about to check out, I try to mentally prepare myself. Prepare the bag as you greet the cashier. Begin packing as soon as he/she scans item one. Item two, three, four will come faster than you think. Don't try to hold your wallet while you pack, but if you put it down, don't forget it. Put the heavy items at the bottom. If you need two bags, don't load one bag with all the heavy items. You will hate yourself for this on your walk home. You can do this. Well, at least better than last time.

Once, at Champion, where they charge you for each plastic bag, a female cashier actually waited for me to finish bagging before she began to check out the person behind me. The last thing I want is an audience.

Sunday at Tang Frères, the butcher (young, beefy, Asian, only speaks French) refuses to thinly slice the beef for the pho I want to attempt for dinner. Granted, I ask for half a kilo (I'm bad at math), which the butcher wraps in wax paper and a clear plastic bag. He slaps on a white sticker printed with the word JUMEAU. Of course it was beef, but for a moment I wonder if it might be MEAT OF TWIN (BOY). The butcher is so nonchalant about denying my request ("You can do it at home."), I figure he has it in him to give me not-beef, as a nonchalant joke. How could I tell the difference?

Oh right, this post is about bagging. Two years ago, when I was living on New York's Lower East Side, I discovered that I have trouble opening those plastic produce bags. Sometimes, my friend Lauren would meet me at the Chinese grocery store on Clinton St. to help me with this simple task. Turns out, not only do I have trouble opening produce bags, but I have trouble opening grocery bags in general.

I'm still at Tang Frères, checking out, and my right index finger, thumb, and hand oils simply cannot work together to open the grocery bag. The cashier laughs at me, shows off her bag-opening skills and tosses one, two in my direction. I give her a "Silly me!" chuckle and try to pack my groceries, including a giant leek, as fast as I can, which is never fast enough. At least the bright yellow plastic bags, fixtures of the 13th arrondissement, are free. As usual, I walk out of the store holding one or two items for all of Avenue de Choisy to see.

Back at my flat, I'm about to start this pho and realize I rushed out of there without the small cube of pho flavor that I was so pleased to find. I feel sad and hungry.

I wonder what the French would think of an American grocery store. Not only is there someone at the end of every register ready to bag your groceries, but you have the choice of paper or plastic and whether or not you want it wheeled out to your car. I'm guessing a French person might say, "I have my own bag. And no, thanks, I'll carry it myself."

To all you baggers out there, you are awesome.
From top to bottom: Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Ann Chou, Age 24.

Talking to the deaf

On my way to a walking tour entitled "Second Nature: Guimard and Art Nouveau," I was caught off-guard by a child on the métro. For once, I had been reading.

The child shoves a sheet of paper and a pen in my hands. Or maybe he hands these things to me, and I take them. I can't remember. In any case, I haphazardly scan the paragraph heading the paper. Since it's in French, and I'm nervous because other métro riders might be watching, I only comprehend English-like words, such as "enfant," "muet" (or maybe it was "sourd-muet," which means deaf-mute), "handicap."

Below the paragraph is a form. Ten or so lines have been filled in. I feel like I've been scanning the paragraph for way too long and decide to just sign the damn thing. I think, Yeah, I support deaf-mute children. The child sees that I'm going to sign, and he clasps his hands together in thanks.

Not soon enough, after I've put down my name, postal code, and signature, I see the euro currency sign. The donations column. The people before me have all donated something between €20 and €30. Who are these people, I think. As usual, my wallet is empty, save for some useless coins. I can't even give the kid a €2 coin. I begin to say to the kid in French, "I'm sorry, I don't have any money on me." He signs angrily at me. Nice, Ann. Talking to the mute. Learn some sign language, you awful person. I try to give the paper and pen back to him, but he refuses to take it. He dramatically underlines the word "handicap" with his index finger and actually imitates a handicap by making his hands into fists and, arms bowed outward, walking in place.

I reach into my bag for my wallet. I unzip the coin pouch and show him the little I do have. I realize that it looks like I'm just hiding my banknotes. But I'm not. And I attempt to gesture that I will give him all of the coins. He doesn't want it. He just stares at me with his angry little face. Finally, when we arrive at a new stop, he takes the paper and pen from me and runs out the opening doors in a huff.

I put my book in my bag and sit with a frown until my stop.

07 April 2008

It's Not You

In the recent Sunday Book Review of The Times, you can find an essay titled It's Not You, It's Your Books (March 30, 2008). It reminded me of the article It's Not You, It's Your Apartment (March 29, 2007). Apartments contain books, no? I think you get my drift. In any case, this time last year, I was inspired to compile this list in response to the article. Call it the New York version. Paris version to come.

What's "charrette?"

I hate explaining this one, possibly more than I hate explaining the five-year (no, six-year) architecture program that I'm eleven days away from completing.

"Charette" is a French word for "cart," or "chariot." In my case, it describes the final push before deadline, or "pencils down." (And X-Acto knives, rulers, glue bottles. Drawing, cutting, measuring, gluing, plotting—no. Drinking, crying, smoking—yes.) This use of the word "charrette" is believed to have originated from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 19th century, where a cart, or “charrette," went around collecting final drawings while students frantically put finishing touches on their work. Some students went as far as riding the cart ("en charrette") through the streets of Paris.

Wikipedia notes:

The period of a charrette typically involves not only a focused and sustained effort, but also "all-nighters" or sleepless nights of toil. The word "charrette" may also be used as a verb, as in, for example, "I am charretting" or "I am on charrette [or: en charrette]," simply meaning I am working long nights, intensively toward a deadline.

I would also like to point out that, historically, "charrette" can also refer to the cart used to carry the condemned to the guillotine, also known as Final Review.

Our deadline here at Rice School of Architecture Paris (RSAP) is Friday, April 14 at 6 PM. Final Review is the following day. Bon courage to all the archis near and far. See you on the cart!

06 April 2008


Dear Mr. Leek,

I think I'm in love with you. I didn't know much about you before. My mother mentioned you once at Thanksgiving while preparing the turkey. I was too young then to recognize how special you were.

When I first met you at Picard, you were a bit cold, but you warmed up quickly. I will never forget that time in the kitchen. You're beautiful. Long, pale and unexpectedly sweet.

I've been thinking about you a lot since our last time together. What a pleasure it was to see you at the grocery store. My friend saw us walking up Avenue de Choisy. She says we make a good-looking couple. Until next time.


04 April 2008


Summer 2005. I moved to New York without an apartment or a job. I stayed in the living room of my sister and husband's East Village apartment for a while and finally found a sublet in Brooklyn at S 3rd St and Hooper (with a painter friend I had met at RISD Pre-College four years before), where band VietNam seemed to be squatting. For days, maybe weeks, I sat at the kitchen table replying to Craigslist postings. Arakawa + Gins was looking for an assistant of some kind. I got in contact with Madeline Gins and managed to get an interview. I saw on their web site that they had decided not to die. "Architecture against death." I remember arriving at the office on Houston Street in a sweat. I remember being very, very nervous, as if I were in the company of the queen (of immortality, I suppose). Everything I said sounded foolish.

She sat at a long table covered in papers while one of her employees tested my architectural graphic skills. And that was it. I waited and waited to hear from her and eventually was told I had, more or less, failed the test. After some more time at my kitchen table, brief stints at The Architect's Newspaper's old office on Lispenard and "Asian pub" near Cooper Union, I found a paid internship at a small architecture firm in Brooklyn.

Three years later, there's an article about this kooky woman in The New York Times. Watch this.

Incredible, wonderful.