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Story Time Mail Time!

Hank Henry

So I’m a bit under the weather and nothing’s really jumping out at me story-wise this week, but my pseudo-deadline ticks and tocks ever nearer. Were it not for the efforts of a few brave readers, whom I certainly don’t know and who definitely aren’t doing me a favor, we would have an unprecedented disaster on our hands. Instead, we have the first ever edition of STORY TIME MAIL TIME.

 (And because I’m nice, have some Willie Nelson while you read.)

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Howdy. How are you? I’m sitting in my office right now, not doing my job. This morning I had what you might call an out-of-body experience where it really hit me for the first time that I’m essentially a middle-manager at a company that makes plastic containers. Obviously, I knew before now what I did for a living but I didn’t really know it in my bones, if you know what I mean. It snuck up on me. One job led to another and another and another and now I’m here. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a boat captain. That didn’t pan out. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Well, Rafael, I wanted to be a zookeeper (I still want to be a zookeeper, if anyone knows of an opening for someone with no relevant experience). When I was in second grade, we did one of those research-your-future-career kind of projects, presumably so the teacher could laugh at all of our stupid dreams and derive all kinds of satisfaction from the knowledge that soon enough we’d be like her, living out our Plan B’s and C’s. She knew damn well that none of us were ever going to be a secret agent or a space explorer or a dentist. But, I wanted to be a zookeeper, so I closed the door of my parents’ bedroom—for privacy—and called an employee at the Cincinnati Zoo and asked her all kinds of questions. I have no idea how I got her number. But, I was a hell of a journalist, and I wasn’t about to miss my opportunity to get the scoop on zookeeping. So, I really held her to the coals. “What does a zookeeper do? What’s your favorite animal? Do you like tigers? What if a tiger fought a dolphin? What’s your second-favorite animal?” I got an A.


Look at you, putting on airs, strutting around on the Internet like a big man. In my day, we had a thing called humility. Your parents would die of disappointment if they knew what you’ve become.

My parents are dead, Randall…and, in fact, they did die of disappointment, so we’re just quibbling over tenses. Thank you for your email.


What if there were a death-match, Mortal Kombat-style tournament between all of the leading men of Hollywood, past and present, in their physical prime? Who would win?

That is a good and important question. You should go ahead and get settled in, because things are about to get involved.

First, I’m going to add some ground-rules. Really, just one ground-rule. I’m going to remove anyone with serious martial arts training. No Bruce Lee, no Jet Li, basically no kung fu guys. No Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris or Dolph Lundgren. No The Rock (fake martial arts training counts). Wikipedia says Jason Statham has studied wing chun, karate and kickboxing, but I can’t tell how much. Just to be safe, he’s out, too. Yes, it would be fun to watch these dudes go at it, but I think it would run counter to the spirit of the event. And, taking them out gives us a more even playing field. Now the bloodsport can begin.

You specified that actors from all eras are included, but I honestly don’t see anyone from before the 1980s being much of a factor. Not enough muscle mass on most of them and few can throw a believable punch. Sean Connery karate chops people, for Christ’s sake. Humphrey Bogart strikes me as a scrapper and Charlie Chaplin has some moves but neither is advancing past a modern actor, unless that actor is three-foot-four Tom Cruise.

So, the culling of yesterday’s leading men is the first trend of the tournament. By round three, even the Joseph Cottens, Rock Hudsons, and Douglas Fairbankses are gone. (Harrison Ford and George Clooney and the rest of their ilk, though more contemporary, fall about this time, too.) The next group to be purged consists of guys like Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon—guys who are in good shape but not quite big enough or mean enough to make it any further. Now only larger, crazier men remain.

Russel Crowe beats the hell out of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Denzel Washington defeats Bradley Cooper. Ryan Gosling takes out Ryan Reynolds in one of the more handsome fights of the entire tournament, and, in a bit of an upset, Daniel Day-Lewis goes to his scary place, wraps his arms and legs around Channing Tatum’s torso, and tears his throat out with his teeth. Bruce Willis pounds mercilessly on Steven Seagal, who, by my rules, should technically be barred from competing but is the lucky recipient of an imaginary waiver that allows him to participate because I hate that fat, squinting, pony-tailed bastard and his losing here gives me a great deal of pleasure.

On it goes for some time. A mass grave off to the side grows increasingly pregnant with famous corpses. I’ll skip ahead to the semi-final. First up is Chris Hemsworth versus Christian Bale. The latter puts up a good showing, but the rage issues that largely account for his making it this far do more harm than good against against a bigger, stronger opponent. He rushes in too close and stays there too long and he pays for it. Hemsworth advances.

On the other side of the bracket, Hugh Jackman, something of a dark horse, squares off against Vin Diesel. But, Jackman is just too nice, and Diesel takes the victory. Then he takes the final, too, for pretty much the same reason. Hemsworth has the edge in size, but not, I fear, in killer instinct (This assumes, of course, that Mr. Diesel is fighting under his nom de guerre rather than the name with which he was born. Mark Sinclair Vincent might not fare so well).

So there’s your answer, Patrick. Vin Diesel. For this reason, Fast Five, featuring a brawl between Vin Diesel and The Rock—a man who could have been our champion, were he not DQed before the tournament even started—is a cinematic achievement that won’t be matched in either of our lifetimes, or probably ever.


That’s all for Story Time Mail Time this time. Send me your comments, or questions, or stories, or insults, or … I don’t know, photos? Basically shoot whatever you want over to [email protected]. Some day you might just get to see it posted in this space. And won’t that be thrilling for you.

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