I know–I guess, knew would be a better word today–New Orleans, the Cajun country stretching across South Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast extremely well, having been taken to New Orleans on my first fall break in college, a wide-eyed 21-year-old graduate student (relatively) fresh off the boat from India. It was, to use a contemporary phrase, awesome.
Not only did we drink all night and whatever part of the day we were up–I particularly remember sitting on the sidewalk swigging Boone’s Farm Apple wine (99 cents a bottle, I kid you not)–but we danced on the streets, heard the finest music and I almost ended up married to a girl who was dancing naked on my table at a bar just off Bourbon Street one night.
These memorials are not even at the Hall of Fame, just on the way up the hill. But the HoF has its share too, with plenty of inscriptions. Carved in stone at the entrance is this: “This temple of prowess (commemorates) the supreme sacrifice of those who laid down their lives in the defence of the motherland since 1947 in this sector.” Wandering about, you find “They Liveth Evermore”. And “Slain thou shall obtain Heaven, Victorious thou will enjoy the earth” from the Bhagavad Gita. And “How can man die better, than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his father and temples of his Gods” from Horatius. And “Thrice blessed is that warrior/Who is called to such a war by destiny/A war to be hailed as an open door to heaven” from the Bhagavad Gita again. And this: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer, or neglect it. For I shall not pass this way again.”
Words, words, words, Eliza Doolittle might have said. I am grateful for them, because they tell us of the bravery and commitment of a whole parade of soldiers we didn’t know about or don’t remember anyway, none of whom shall pass this way again. Yet I am also saddened and almost angered by them. I’m so sick of words, as Eliza might have said. For this reason: what I wouldn’t give to have those warriors here, instead of words to remember them by.