Montreal’s Hunter S. Thompson: Ken Hechtman

“Hechtman said he wasn’t scared during the ordeal because he was confident he could convince his captors that he was not behind the airstrikes. . . . But he admitted being concerned at one point that a ‘hothead’ might decide to shoot him.”—“Canadian Journalist Released by Taliban,” CBC News (December 2, 2001)

Ken and his wife Wendy (photo credit: Alexander Somma)

Though tragic mismatches between talent and inclination are everywhere to be found in this broken and burning world, few get on my nerves more than an ill-starred mismatch between story and storyteller. Many of the best storytellers have nothing but boring stories to tell, and many of the people with the best stories suck at storytelling—which is why people with the full package, people like Ken Hechtman, make such delightful dinner guests.

All sorts of crazy shit has happened to “Crazy Kenny” and he’s somehow—against all odds—lived to tell the tale.

Speaking of Ken Hechtman, a blues musician who used to date my sister once quipped: “If a cat’s got nine lives, that cat’s got ten!” In 2001, for instance—and NO, I’m really not making this shit up—Kenny was captured, detained, and tortured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet he somehow managed to talk his way out of it and return home to safety!

photo credit: Wendy Hechtman

Sometimes I wonder: Does Ken live under a lucky star or is he some sort of karmic billionaire? Did he save an entire village in a previous lifetime? Or is he actually an alien from outer space, with superhuman powers, sent here to study our wayward ways? I’m really not sure. But I think we should seriously entertain all of these possibilities.

Be that as it may, we haven’t heard the last of Ken Hechtman. Of that I am sure. His best work is ahead of him. And I can’t wait to read it. Because I can think of few others who so perfectly embody the wisdom and the insanity of this great city.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)

*For more of Alexander Somma’s amazing photographs click here for his Flickr account.

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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