There ain’t no angels in hell town.

On Sunday March March 5, we played The Escape Game in Austin, Texas.  My daughter Justine (Bibi) posted this picture on Facebook with the comment “Don’t hire this crew to save the world. We ^almost^ escaped. World destruction is on our shoulders.”  I think she was being too hard on our crew (left to right: Gale, me, my daughters Bibi and Gael, and Gael’s husband Todd).   In order to let ourselves out of a room, we had an hour to find the date, time, and place where a major terrorist attack was planned.  When our time ran out, they gave us a little bumper sticker that said we ^almost^ escaped.

There was no “almost” about it.  We weren’t even close, but the blame lies more with the “generals” who planned this operation (to paraphrase the Tweeter-in-Chief).  Because there was little information given about the kinds of puzzles we’d have to solve, we went into the game not really knowing what game we were playing.  Or actually what games. At the end, for instance, they changed the game to solving three or four different types of codes, each of which took a bit of time to work out, once you realized you were dealing with a code. By “code” I don’t mean just numbers and letters, but also physical actions like knocking on a hard surface or moving hidden pieces of metal with a magnet in the right direction and sequence.  Particularly on the physical actions we lost time because heavy-handed male motions tended not to work and we only succeeded when gentler, female players stepped in.

No excuses here.  We could have done better, but I’d still hire that crew again.

The night before we’d all gone out to The Broken Spoke to hear Dale Watson, and do some Texas two-step.  Sunday evening Gale and I went to C-Boy’s Heart and Soul to hear The Wagoneers, a rockabilly band we’d heard on our last visit.  The people who were dancing seemed like pros, so we didn’t dare go out on the floor.  But we really enjoyed the music.  A couple of numbers were classic rock instrumentals that took me back to high school in the late 50s.

One number, called “Hell Town,” caught my attention because it reminded me of the blog posts about hope that I’d have to finish when I got back to New Jersey.  The chorus goes:

There ain’t no angels in hell town
Sinners run free
There ain’t no angels in hell town
And there’s no hope for me, no hope for me

The story in the song would remind you of Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”  It paints the same stark picture of male loneliness and failure, but with fewer words and fewer details.  Kristofferson’s song is a ballad lamenting isolation from other people.  “Hell Town” is more a cry of regret from Sartre’s “No Exit,” where hell is other people.

The story behind the delay in publishing blog posts about hope illustrates why my entries here have become less frequent and more irregular in timing.  Just as I was pulling together my notes on hope in early February, I saw the obituary for Bulgarian-French writer Tzvetan Todorov, one of those people you’ve heard of, but never read.  One line in the obituary caught my particular attention: “Mr. Todorov said he was skeptical of the concept of good, preferring simple kindness.”   For reasons that will become clearer when I finally get down to finishing these pieces, Todorov’s skepticism resonated with my skepticism about hope, and my search for an alternative preference like his for “simple kindness.”

In pursuit of this line of thought, I’ve read Todorov’s books on A French Tragedy resulting from an action by the French Resistance on D-Day and The Fragility of Goodness in how the Bulgarian Jews were saved from the Nazis.  I’m midway through his longer work subtitled “Moral Life in the Concentration Camps,” and Vasily Grossman’s 870-page novel Life and Fate, which profoundly influenced Todorov’s thinking on goodness and which I’m finding thought-provoking on the question of hope.  So, please be patient with me, as has been said before, I love to read and scribble.



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