“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)

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.

Alas, it looks like his luck may have finally run out. Ken and his wife, Wendy, moved to Nebraska last year to get their shit together. But the bad habits they were fleeing from soon found them. Earlier on this year, they got into some pretty serious trouble. And they’re doing some pretty serious time as a consequence. But their lives need not be defined solely with reference to this mistake. These are friends of ours. They will be out one day, no doubt brimming with fascinating stories to tell. Let’s be sure to remember what great storytellers they are. And let’s be sure to remember that their stories aren’t over yet.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here: A Love Letter to Montréal (2018)