(only watch if you can handle expletives and a laugh)
I went a little sideways for this week’s creative crush. Actually I’m going back in time, into my distant past, to the teenage Hugh Gallagher. The author of “the Mother of all Application Essays- The Wonder Years”. Or as many refer to it the 3A Essay.
It’s that time of year when college applicants are writing essays in hopes of rising to the top of the pile. A grand notice in the right hands can gain them entry into their college of choice, the big questions begging to be answered. High school kids everywhere are trying to stand out from the pack.
My coworker brought me her daughter’s college entrance essay to read and edit. The question was to discuss an event that marked their transition from childhood to adulthood. What a question for 18, an age when so few truly fathom adulthood. Her writing teacher didn’t feel her essay reflected enough of who she was. As her mother pointed out self-reflection was not her strongest suit. I think for many people this kind of bloodletting and honesty can take years, decades. Then to be able to put your words on display for peoples scrutiny is another comfort level all together.
The very absurdity of these types of questions being posed to kids so young was the impetus for Hugh’s 3A essay. His humorous riff became an “urban legend” and gained him entrance to NYU. Said famous satirical essay has been reprinted and forwarded all over the world since 1990 when it won Scholastic Press Inc’s national writing contest. (Which was prior to submitting it to the college). It caught the attention of JFK Jr. in Harper’s Magazine which in turn spring boarded Hugh’s career writing for Rolling Stone.
All this I already knew about Hugh. The thing is I knew the boy who became the legend and then grew into the man. I can assure you Hugh Gallagher is real, empathetic, easy going with some fierce wit. But what I didn’t know about Hugh (among a million other things-since I haven’t seen him since high school) was he had to fight the urban legend rumor. Actually hire lawyers to prove he existed. Imagine having to prove you’re real. Seems somewhat surreal to me. Nor did I realize that Hugh’s words have been plagiarized in millions of online dating profiles all over the world because men want to appear funny. God I hope I never fell for one. Seriously that would be embarrassing. Look out girls, I assure you there can be only one.
Over his career he has written for Wired, Harper’s, MTV, Comedy Central and Spike Jones as well as worked with brands such as Nike, Microsoft, and Jose Cuervo. He has also been known as the spoken word poet Hugh Brown Shu and 1980s popstar holdover from Antwerp Von Von Von. I swear years ago I even saw him on Jerry Springer playing a compulsive liar.
Hugh wrote a book called Teeth that purportedly Gore Vidal proclaimed “the dental masterpiece we’ve all been waiting for”. I HAD to purchase it of course, and read it when it was published (1998). Well come on! I was at the infamous party that caused the dental damage which served as the baseline of his tale. It’s a night I’ll never forget, for my own personal reasons-a tale for another time .
But I must tell you- Hugh is funny! Always has been. He was our senior class president. The only guy I knew who could rock those god awful eighties yuppie plaid pants and make them somehow edgy. And if asked I will deny the following. (Yes I realize it’s in print) The first time I ever got stoned was at his hands. I have never laughed so hard in my entire life. I simply could have peed myself. Thankfully did not. But that day was so much fun that I often think back on it. Thank God I don’t have an addictive personality. To this day Hugh’s humor was the best high I’ve ever experienced.
So it is that I find myself thinking of him every year around college essay time. More so these days now that I have friends whose kids are attempting to attend college. I find myself confirming to my friend’s kids that “Yes”, this guy they talk about “is in fact real”. The man whose essay teachers share hoping to spark young creativity does exist.
In high school I think he even came up with a new method for answering an algebraic math problem that was published by our teacher in an academic journal. But perhaps I have that mixed up with another of my illustrious class mates. If so then perhaps I can create the new urban legend of Hugh Gallagher, this week’s creative crush.
So now all that is left is to leave you with Hugh’s Essay.
3A. ESSAY: IN ORDER FOR THE ADMISSIONS STAFF OF OUR COLLEGE TO GET TO
KNOW YOU, THE APPLICANT, BETTER, WE ASK THAT YOU ANSWER THE FOLLOWING
QUESTION: ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD, OR
ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HAVE REALIZED, THAT HAVE HELPED TO DEFINE YOU AS A
I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.
I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.
I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.
I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.
I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But I have not yet gone to college.
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