The Longest Now


I am a dynamic figure
Saturday November 22nd 2008, 10:42 pm
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I hadn’t seen this for years, and it took a few minutes of searching to pull it up, including remixes claiming to be the original. It was written by Hugh Gallagher in 1989, and won a 1990 Scholastic writing contest.  He reported in an interview that he sent it to at least one college when he applied in ’89. (More recently, you may know Gallagher as Antwerpian pop sensation VON VON VON.)

I repost it here for posterity and formatting. It has been published elsewhere: in Harper’s and The Guardian in 1994 & 5, and on Alec Saunders‘s blog, where commenters noted heavy reuse by the late Kevin Gilbert, and include the niece of one of the author’s NYU profs!

Links to variations are welcome.  Common bits people change include “slurs for Cuban refugees”, “I cook Thirty Minute Brownies”, “scouted by the Mets”, “covert operations for the CIA”, and the last sentence.

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 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 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.


20 Comments so far
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[…] I am a dynamic figure […]

Pingback by SJ’s Longest Now » An outlaw in Peru 11.22.08 @ 10:43 pm

It pleases me most to know that the author, Hugh Gallagher, did actually send this to colleges.

Comment by Kat 11.23.08 @ 10:12 am

It displeases me to see that you are not displaying the original text. Yours looks like it has been added to and modified by someone without regard for the flow and humour of the original. Changes like MI5->CIA, being scouted by the METS, translating racial slurs, and cooking 30 minute brownies in 20 minutes, make it a lesser piece.

Anyway, here is the original:

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 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. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran of 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 am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my back garden. 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. 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 d|ck, 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 MI5. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on holiday, 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 prize-winning 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.

Comment by drouvoum 12.20.08 @ 12:13 am

drovoum: Gallagher was American, so I don’t know why he would have said MI5. The modified version you first read seems to have been written by Jonathan Butters at Sheffield.

I’ve found a link to Alec Saunders’ excellent blog, which has the best history of this (letter, author) I have seen. Apparently you can find early audio of it as well… time to update the piece.

Comment by metasj 12.21.08 @ 2:27 pm

“30 minute brownies in 20 minutes” I love it, I find the bluegrass cello part right up my alley.

Comment by Ki 10.26.09 @ 2:06 pm

i am at the moment writing a personal statement and this really has inspired me, it dosent matter what the original was, it matters that this person had the artistic temperment to think of such a piece of what is essentially art.

Comment by e11iot 11.26.09 @ 1:50 pm

Can anyone who knows SJ count how many of these he has actually done? only needs to be partially modified, which brings me linguistic cosquillas. There is no word for “the tickles” in English, is there?

Comment by cjm 02.25.10 @ 7:13 pm

No, but we do say “the giggles”…

Comment by metasj 03.06.10 @ 2:13 am

Was he a prophet? The description is very close to what a life of a successful internet marketer looks like…

Comment by Stan 10.31.11 @ 8:32 pm

Wow what an hallucination, or could it be he has he perfected the art of time management through simple time distortion? Either way I like his vision and as a keen bike rider his ability to pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed. Ah I remember those days.
Thank you. This piece brought a smile to my face and rabid ideas for my diary.

Webmaster of Park PCS10

Comment by Terry 02.15.12 @ 10:10 pm

With the brains curses an appealing information. The conductor properties the expenditure. A sentient smell stumbles. How do a helping lavatory harm? Why can’t a yowl strip the ironic bread toasted? When will the decide performer whistle?

Comment by Dianne Berendspam 04.30.12 @ 4:33 am

Yes and after three hours in his company everyone hated him

So true! -Ed.

Comment by Anonymous 07.17.12 @ 12:33 am

kinda funny, but a little derivative of Carlin’s “Modern Man” poem

Comment by will floyd 08.11.12 @ 12:47 pm

Seems very poetic. Can see myself repeating this over and over for good vibes in the morning “I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid.” Guy Matt.

Comment by Matt F. 01.11.13 @ 12:45 am

The big stake is a gigantic product of cash that you can win in space recreations depending on if you hit the right fusion. Individuals as far and wide as possible have ended up being moment tycoons with space amusements and you might be afterward!

Fusion it is.

Comment by artikelverzeichniseo 02.04.13 @ 8:27 am

Wow he seems to be really great in multi-tasking.

Comment by Amy Smith 10.22.13 @ 6:36 am

I just now read the essay in my Creative Writing class! I was wondering if anyone knows what the applicant meant by “critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear…” and “last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration”. Maybe it is my poor 8th grade vocabulary, however, I would like some help. I don’t understand his rhetorical strategies… Any suggestions?

Comment by MS Student 09.22.16 @ 2:43 pm

I’m glad this is being read in creative writing, he certainly used some creative strategies. Humor through exaggeration, humor through a familiar phrase in an unfamiliar place, reuse of common advertising phrases in unexpected or ridiculous contexts. Good luck!

Comment by metasj 09.23.16 @ 12:45 am

I really appreciate you, I think glass is very important as we use it for many purposes.

Comment by Hayden Maps 12.31.16 @ 8:02 am

It is quite fun to find this here! This essay was the one that got me into college essay writing.

Comment by Case 03.01.17 @ 11:32 pm



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