For as long as I can remember Action Heroes (Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jason Statham come to mind), have been a huge part of my life. For starters, these action heroes stand out in a crowd and are usually outnumbered, outgunned and outside the law. They are thrust into situations that mere mortals would shrink from. Yet, these heroes stand their ground against some of the most violent bullies and criminals on the planet dishing out the just desserts with great elan and panache.
While most people pray or meditate before sleeping; others opt for a soothing App such as “Falling Rain” or “Ocean Waves.” But not me. The only way I relax before bedtime is watching Facebook reels of my action heroes make short work out of those who would do us harm. While my wife refuses to cozy up to the pugilistic grunts, cries and sounds of broken bones emanating from my side of the bed, I on the other hand, am relaxed by the way they brusquely mete out justice and re-establish order. However, to keep peace in the bedroom, I have compromised—ear buds are obligatory!
Let me introduce you to my Newest Action Hero. He’s a man who has a few (very few) things in common with me—we are both from Brooklyn NY and share the zodiac sign of Scorpio. An American actor, director, and martial artist, I first saw Michael Jai White on the big screen reprising the role of the hot-headed mob boss, Gambol, in the movie The Dark Knight. He’s also portrayed the boxer Mike Tyson in the HBO series Tyson and starred opposite both Van Damme in Universal Soldier:The Return and Steven Seagal in Exit Wounds.
But it wasn’t until I saw Michael Jai in the following fight scenes that I decided to adopt him as my “Newest Action Hero.” In the movie Blood and Bone our hero is confronted by half a dozen burly inmates carrying shanks. He calmly steps away from the urinal, removes his orange prison shirt thus revealing a Soloflex-manufactured physique, then gives the bad guys one last chance to re-think their wayward plan. Of course, they’re inherently stubborn, and Michael Jai leaves them in an inert heap in the prison’s restroom. My hero’s message, “If they get the notion to f–k with me, DON’T!”
In the movie The Hard Way he plays Payne, the sentimental new owner of a bar in Queens, NY, where he and a teenage nephew are confronted by a pair of racist Mafia types who have been sent to intimidate and buy him out. The pair clearly don’t know who they’re dealing with, and, by the scene’s conclusion, one thug has been launched through the bar’s window while the other is dispatched into unconsciousness while reaching for a gun. Order restored. Michael Jai White tells his nephew, “…it’s technically not a fight if I’m the only one throwing the blows.”
Fast forward to several weeks ago. My wife and I have settled into a table at our favorite restaurant. My chair faces the entrance where the blinding glare of the sun prevents me from clearly seeing the faces of the patrons trickling in. Then it happens. That voice in our bedroom! The voice from my iPhone…. it’s him–my ‘Newest Action Hero.’ The couple are greeted by the animated owner who ushers them proudly into his establishment. As the man brushes past, I look up squinting, but can make out his handsome features—Michael Jai White!
I spend the next thirty minutes debating with my wife if I should introduce myself to the actor and martial arts expert…maybe inform him that he’s my ‘newest action hero.’
My wife shakes her head, “Not a good idea honey—he’s with somebody…having dinner. Better not bother him.”
My wife’s right. I’ve seen what he can do when bothered.
The author in me pleads, “But I could give him my book.”
Again, the voice of reason from my better half, “You left your book at home.”
I will not be deterred. He’s only two tables away from us…OK, maybe three.
I am imploring my wife now, “I could say something as he passes our table to leave.”
My wife shakes her head and points to my stained casual attire, “Your clothes are dirty. Admit it, you don’t look presentable.”
She’s right you know. But there’s still hope. I’ll be back to this restaurant. You can count on it. And when I do, I’ll be dressed in clean clothes, at the top of my game, and toting my book with a special dedication for Michael Jai.
“To Michael Jai White, my Newest Action Hero,
Thank you for coming into my life. Your calmness in the face of adversity, against all odds, is inspiring. Thanks for leveling the playing field in this turbulent world of evil and bad actors.
Your new friend,
Ken Strange (my real name)”