Two intriguing entertainment venues have recently opened in downtown Asheville, North Carolina: Conundrum and Breakout. They use virtual reality and other technologies to create adventures of escape, journeys from lost to found, and mysteries to explore. Participants assume new identities as hostages, questers, secret agents, or detectives.
Recent news, as so often is the case, has brought images and descriptions of young black men shot by police officers. The narrative is sickeningly familiar: a young person dies; protests take place; authorities promise a full and fair investigation and, if warranted, consequences for the officers involved; journalists and community leaders remind us of the long series of these deaths; voices call for mutual respect and genuine collaboration between minority communities and law enforcement agencies, and insist on reform of the justice system. Hardly anything changes.
Like many cities, Asheville, North Carolina, has a “Before I Die . . .” wall—a large chalkboard with multiple spaces for people to write some of their hopes for the future. Since the wall is on the path I take for most of my downtown walks, I read them several days each week. I’ve laughed and wept, said “me too” or “not me,” and wondered how many of the hopes chalked on that wall will be realized.