Open City: Blogging Urban Change Peggy Lee

For Open City, Peggy Lee has written about the food politics of the lunchtime rush and the Chinatown Soundscape Series, which investigates karaoke and gentrification,  among other topics. Find out more about her approach to this process in the interview below. For an overview of the project, click here.

Bruce Lee restaurant in Sunset Park.
Urban Omnibus (UO):

What have you been looking at specifically? And where?

Peggy Lee (PL):

I’m really interested in the blurry boundaries of crossovers: language, accent, race, immigration paths, sound, veneer, and etc.

UO:

How do you define urban change?

PL:

Urban change could be a time unit. Measured by changing storefronts, a nightlife scene, an avenue, it is a process that happens both at a snail’s pace and in a blink of an eye.

UO:

What have you particularly enjoyed writing about?

PL:

As one example, karaoke — a weekend passion of mine —  is one of my starting points. I’m getting to know the karaoke jockeys who work at my favorite venues in the three Chinatowns, which I write about in my Chinatown Soundscape Series on Open City. Open City has given me the opportunity to be more intimate and critical with my daily life, with its dailiness. I learn something new everyday walking in Sunset Park, my neighborhood. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying thinking about how karaoke sound and music night life in Chinatown connect to larger circuits of diaspora, immigration, in-translation, class, race, and, of course, urban change.

UO:

How are you going about investigating urban change in this project?

PL:

My point A is investigating my own daily habits and surroundings. Really, where else can you start? I’m getting to know the karaoke jockeys who work at my favorite venues in the three Chinatowns, which I write about in my Chinatown Soundscape Series on Open City. Song is place, identity, and it’s fun to think about gentrification through the medium of music and musicality in the context of nightlife.

UO:

As a writer and performer, in what ways do you find blogging a useful medium of investigation of or communication about this topic?

PL:

Blogging is useful because of the potentials for connection. The blogging world is such a cornucopia of personal thoughts, trivialities, and angles, both political and popular. It can be a bit of a black hole sometimes, easy to get lost in. That’s why intention is so important when you’re cruising through or writing in the blogging world.

A drawing from Peggy Lee's personal journal

Peggy Lee resides in Sunset Park, Brooklyn where the neighbor’s cursed rooster crows at 5:30 in the morning, a neighborhood cat ritually pisses at her window, and she has had many Tecate-driven conversations interrogating “life” on her roof top over-looking the Upper New York Bay and Lady Liberty. It is home. Her sensitivities to location, space, place, threaded by sonic experience are owed to her erratic moving history. Peggy admits being touched deeply by the lagging grunge scene she experienced in St. Louis and later, the hip hop circuits of LA & the Bay Area. She loves how questions about her childhood begin with “military brat or foster care?” Neither. She graduated with her M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University and a B.A. in Feminist Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. She is a poet, performer, youth worker, and hustling, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed writer in New York City.