Open City: Blogging Urban Change
Driving from Suburbia
By Peggy Lee

 

Driving from Suburbia

trees wave in Westchester.
grandfather’s laundry store on the corner of
39th/Lex
we got regulars – a legacy.
piles of starched, white sheets in neat folded squares,
like the parceled backyard
the kitchen island
grab the keys,

hop into the spaceship Chevrolet Lumina-
mom, dad, grandma, son, daughter,
quiet sardines, slicked hum of highway
hear the air change.

smell the air change. pass the South Bronx
into the city

a habitual pilgrimage:
to Chinese School,
pangs of anguish felt for 8am Saturday cartoons to be missed,
again and again.
grandma prays in storefront temple.
mother shops for the best produce with fervor and elbows.
a greedy hand grabbing more than she can hold,
shiny beans, slipping between
her fingers
but a sale is a sale.
father aloof, collects a stack of newspapers for the week,
assigned heavy-lifter for bag of rice, watermelon, gallon of vegetable oil, etc.

on the trip back to Westchester, my brother falls asleep, drooling.
he is startled awake by the moan and grumble of the
automatic 2-door garage
opening its mouth,
welcome.

(Inspired by personal memories of family trips to Fort Lee from a suburb in NJ, and excerpts from oral histories with Susan Yung on 5/7/11 and activist Lida Shao 5/19/11.)

Do you have a suburban travel narrative?

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About Open City
Open City: Blogging Urban Change is an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Five commissioned writers, called Organizing Fellows, are working with community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes. Read more.
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Featured Profile
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities was formed in 1986 (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) as a response to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes both in New York City and around the country (which included violence by police officers against Asians).
They have two offices – one in Manhattan’s Chinatown (which houses the Chinatown Tenants Union, and the new Asian Youth in Action organizing project) and the Youth Leadership Project office in the Bronx – and have members from all over the city. Over the years, CAAAV’s main campaigns have focused on community-based organizing work rooted in Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Although their advocacy and organizing work is focused mainly in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the northwest Bronx, CAAAV’s work also touches upon larger issues (such as affordable housing, war, and immigration) shaping communities all over the world: “Our work is primarily centered around issues facing New Yorkers, but always with a global analysis.”
CAAAV’s mission is to organize and build the power of working-class Asian immigrants, refugees, and youth to change concrete conditions and participate in a broader social justice movement. In the past, CAAAV’s work included organizing South Asian taxi drivers, Korean women workers, and Filipina domestic workers. Several of these organizing projects have gone on to become their own organizations, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Domestic Workers United. CAAAV’s current work focus on three different program areas: Read more.

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Community Announcements
Manhattan CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee
Monday, May 2 at 6:30 pm -- Rutgers Community Center, Gymnasium - 200 Madison Street (btwn Rutgers & Pike Sts)

Brooklyn CB7, Land Use/Landmarks Committee Regular meeting
Continued discussion on potential 8th Avenue rezoning

Manhattan CB3 Economic Development Committee Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30pm -- Community Board 3 Office - 59 East 4th Street (btwn 2nd Ave & Bowery)

Read more.

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