“Blogs are so 2000,” she said. And with that boost of confidence, I was off and running. I’m usually not the last one to hop on the bandwagon, but just about. I still wore the tight-roll during Y2K.

When I was first approached by Derek to contribute to his blog I was flattered, but then immediately terror-stricken. Like John Hicks, I’ve never written for a blog before, much less read many. Would there be deadlines? Do I have to wear pants? Would I be able to stop myself from looking like an ass? What could I offer that would be different from anything else found here or throughout the web?

I am from Chicago and share the same first name with two other contributors from here. I also share the same last name as another on this blog. Having read the work of my namesake, I already find we share similar professions and an affinity for similar things (White Sox, old school Chicago). We work right down the street from one another, although there are probably 100,000 people living and working between our workplaces. It’s eerie knowing your doppelgänger may be so near. At some point, one of us will be tempted to play the twin that switches identities with his brother to pull one over on the teacher/girlfriend/bully/cop. Good luck keeping us straight. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

Robbie Rist

Standards are hard to live up to, so I am hoping to set the bar low to start. With the addition of so many talented people to BBL&L, I hope to avoid the fate of hated Cousin Oliver, the character played by Robbie Rist during the final season of the Brady Bunch that people of my age generally associate with the point when the show began to suck. I should be so lucky. He seems to have turned out better adjusted than many child stars, and I kinda like some of the songs on his Myspace page. I’m a sucker for decent power pop.

So, yeah, my name is Tom Long (people call me “Tomlong”) and I guess I’ll be writing a little bit about cultural shit, music, cats, Chicago, sports, myself and life’s absurdities (which are often the same thing). I am not an expert at anything and most of my hobbies have been self-learned. I’ve developed a lot of bad habits along the way. I have opinions; ask anyone who knows me. I also play bass and sing in a local indie band that’s best known for playing at Fort Roxxzz (the basement).

I’ve lived in Chicago for almost 20 years — after being raised in the suburbs and schooled at a university tucked away in a corn field. And I’m amazed to realize I’ve now spent nearly half my life here. My neighborhood is Lincoln Square. It’s a place on the north side that used to be made up mostly of people of German descent until the first Mayor Daley built the University of Illinois at Chicago on the near west side, which displaced many Greeks, who found their way to the north side. The first apartment I rented with my girlfriend was owned by a couple: the husband was German, the wife Greek. In Chicago, people still identify strongly with their ethnic heritage (I’m Polish, English, Scotch-Irish, Lexembourger, Austrian, Slovenian, Czech, Alsatian and part tabby). About a dozen years ago, after the Old Town School of Folk Music moved into an abandoned library, the neighborhood became more professional and home to baby stores and restaurants. The housing boom took off. We bought a two-flat and watched the neighborhood change. In the ensuing years, I guess I’ve become more professional too. Still, I miss the edginess that originally attracted me to the city.

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Walking home from the L last week, I took a detour to Laurie’s Planet of Sound to pick up the new Superchunk CD. Along Welles Park  Queen of Angels Church was hosting Harvest Fest — an annual fundraiser, with food booths and a couple soundstages for the cover bands. Sunnyside Avenue was blocked off for the event and some Jock Rock CD was blasting through the PA system while people were setting up for the weekend.

Contrary to what I’d normally expect to hear, I was embraced by the familiar, comfortable guitar solo. It put me in a good mood and I couldn’t help but walk down the street wearing a big shit-eating grin. Black Sabbath. “Iron Man” played at a Catholic church fundraiser. When I got to Western Avenue to cross at the light, the song that was playing was “Rock and Roll” by Gary Glitter — the pedophile. I’d like to think the music selections were ubiquitous and not planned. Catholics come home. I’ve got Blue Oyster Cult cued up for you next — a little “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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