By Sally Duros
It’s a cool spring evening, and four bloggers and I are sitting
outside at the Cafe Ennui in East Rogers Park, huddled against the
cold air that slices off the lake and cuts up the block to Sheridan
Road where it lands squarely between our shoulder blades.
It’s getting dark, and it is definitely getting cold, but we
persist at sitting outside because this is East Rogers Park — we
are stubborn — and three of the five of us smoke.
Where else in the city would the smokers outnumber the clean-lung
While other North Side lakefront Chicago neighborhoods have soared
to fashionable heights of rapid appreciation featuring cheery
3-bedroom homes, an SUV or two, two children, two cats, two dogs or
a suitable combination thereof, East Rogers Park is the belligerent
holdout, hosting more than its share of drugs, crime and
unpleasantness. But why?
Despite its natural beaches and beautiful older homes, East Rogers
Park is stuck in a time warp, playing out the story line to an
episode of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” — the beatnik-era TV
show — where the benchmarks of success are a beret, nicotine
poisoning and lifelong unemployment.
But now comes Outside.in, a New York-based Web site seeking to be
the “blog of the blogs” for neighborhoods nationwide, and
Outside.in has issued an alert that there might be a deep fracture
in this long-held community psyche.
It recently named East Rogers Park the fifth bloggiest nabe in the
Outside.in’s Web site is tracking 3,252 neighborhoods in 59 cities.
Within this universe the only nabes bloggier than Rogers Park are
1. Clinton Hill, Brooklyn; 2. Shaw, Washington, D.C.; 3. Downtown
Los Angeles; and 4. neighborhoods in Newton, Mass.
Outside.in tallied the number of postings by day, comments per day,
and numbers of blogs that linked up to make the ranking, says John
Geraci, who co-founded the site with Web pioneer Steven Berlin
“When we started it,” Geraci says, “we were thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it
be cool to give people a way to discover neighborhoods online?’
“The bloggiest nabes was a very tight race,” Geraci says. But
pushing Rogers Park over the finish was bloggers’ local obsession:
Don Gordon and Joe Moore’s heated race for alderman of the 49th
Ward. “People were blogging like mad about this political race,”
Geraci says. “Chicago is so much about local politics, urban
planning, zoning, development.”
So what unites Rogers Park’s disparate group of bloggers is the
wicked witch of a common enemy: the alderman. And they’re marching
together through a bramble of thorny problems: Parking and zoning
and crime — oh my!
Introducing me to this blogging gang is Tom Mannis, resident
blogger of the Cafe Ennui, producer of the Rogers Park Bench, and
high critic of my headline writing. He countered a Sun-Times real
estate section story we ran on Rogers Park headlined “Chicago’s
Venice Beach” by running photos of scantily clad young women
roller-blading on the Venice Beach, Ca., oceanfront, saying “Venice
Beach has girls like those seen here on the beach — Do you see
this in Rogers Park?” Mannis is uncharacteristically silent
“We wanted a basic journal of our side of the story,” says Sandy
Goldman, 76 and retired, the self-described Rogers Park Community
Curmudgeon. Technically Goldman is an essayist, not a blogger. “I
don’t think being the bloggiest in the nation means an iota of
anything,” Goldman says.
“Perhaps it’s a symptom of something else in this community,” I
“No it isn’t!” Goldman says.
“I think the number of blogs is a symptom of dissatisfaction with
the way the neighborhood is run,” says Toni Duncan, whose
howardwatchers.blogspot.com regularly refers to newspaper reports
and links to the dozen or so other Rogers Park Web sites. “You
don’t plop down several thousand dollars to be a prisoner in your
I ask: “Why would you live in a neighborhood you apparently dislike
“I love the one I hate,” Goldman says.
“Rogers Park has a lot of great qualities,” counters Craig
Gernhardt, publisher of Gay Chicago Magazine, owner of a condo near
Morse Avenue and producer of the Broken Heart of Rogers Park.
“We’re trying to get focused on the problem and work together to
The bloggers met initially at community meetings, but now their
blogs host a virtual community meeting. They say they have little
in common except a unified vision of what they don’t want for their
“It’s clearly a divided community. It has been for years,” 24/7
Howard Watchers’ Duncan says. “The ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots.’
Do you take either side? “There’s good ‘haves’ and there’s good
‘have nots’,” she says. “It’s just that we need to get together.
Credit: The Chicago Sun-Times -COPYRIGHT- Â© 2007 Chicago Sun-Times.