After work I took Jane on our fairly regular Saturday afternoon stroll down Austin to the Suspension Bridge and along the river. As we passed Heritage Square and rounded the Convention Center, with all the dressed up prom and wedding revelers of a typical spring weekend in Waco, I noticed the sound of music. Approaching University Parks Drive I remembered Britt telling me about Smoke on the River, an annual event put on by the Junior Chamber of Commerce to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.
It was near the end of the day and almost everyone had gone home. (Assuming anyone had been there to start with.) The band playing on the street was a relatively decent oldies and country group, singing a range of tunes from Elvis to Johnny Cash, Josh Turner to Don Williams. The day was beautiful and I assumed there would be a good crowd. As I got close I realized it was not. Other than the people walking their dogs and riding bikes around the river, there were eight people in the vicinity of the band. Eight, and one of them was the sound guy.
I thought about why the band chose to go on. Kyle and I used to joke that the only thing worse than no people showing up for a group meeting was just one or two people showing up. It's easier to just go home than to try to pretend that you aren't disappointed that more people didn't show. But this band kept on playing, and I think I know why.
I sat down on the curb to listen. The sun was bright, air cool. I was sitting on a curb in the middle of the city with my dog next to me, licking my face. Ashamed that I have never owned any alcohol-themed apparel, I have recently purchased a Miller Lite ball cap, which I was wearing this afternoon. I was feeling quite badass.
Then an elderly couple, probably in their early 70's, took the street to dance, diminishing the crowd of onlookers to just under a half-dozen. As they were sitting on their lawn chairs they seemed fragile, ready to break and just happy to be out of the house. But arm in arm, swinging and spinning to the music, they were as vibrant and alive as the teenagers in the Convention Center next door, horning it up to the loud beats of a washed-up D.J. It was this couple, in fact, who were the true badasses, taking to the dance floor of an empty street being inhabited by the music of a handful of middle aged band members who were playing just because they had the stage.
When the music ended, I clapped. I was the only one, but it didn't matter. It would be blasphemy not to recognize the genius that was occurring before my eyes.