Brass Tacks

The truth of who we are — our character, if you will — always surfaces in time, especially under extraordinary circumstances. It’s unavoidable.

Many moons ago I was a performing musician, which meant I would find myself in questionable places from time to time (it’s just part of that life). An event comes to mind from those days where I was standing outside of a bar talking to a couple of friends. There were lots of people around. I recall being vaguely aware of a commotion nearby. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I recognized the voice of my friend Danny in a hastened, yet calm tone saying, “Gun!” In that instant I felt his arms wrap around me from my left while he pushed me forward a few steps. As I looked back to the left I noticed a guy had been standing right next to me facing away from me. And right in front of him another guy was holding a large pistol two feet from his forehead. Thankfully nothing happened. It turns out the guy holding the pistol was an undercover cop, and the guy with the gun pointed at him had just stabbed a guy in the throat a few feet away.

People, including the friends I was talking to, screamed and scattered as they realized what was going on. Danny and I stood there as it all diffused rather quickly. Another friend sprang into action and, borrowing a pen from me, performed a tracheotomy on the victim, most likely saving his life.

In the next moment what happened hit me. Had that gun gone off it likely would have entered and exited the guy’s skull and then found its way into mine. That could have been the end of me right there. Danny, in the process of grabbing me and pushing me out of the way, had to pass through the path of that possible bullet. He put himself right into the line of fire, having no way to know whether that gun was about to go off. Everyone else ran. My friend didn’t freeze. He didn’t run. Without thinking, without hesitation, he acted on my behalf. He was ready to take a bullet for me. I would come to learn that’s just the kind of guy Danny is.

In these kinds of decisive moments much is revealed. I don’t recommend anyone go looking for people with guns to test the instincts of friends, but there are numerous less dramatic things that happen in our lives. See who is there, even when it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable for them. And ask yourself, are you there when you need to be? There’s a point beyond which none of this can be faked. You are who you are. The people in your life are who they are. The truth shines through.

I highly recommend investing in these kinds of friends. “Invest” means you have to work to earn the privilege. I have had the fortune to have a few over the years, and no matter how our orbits may take us into and out of proximity with each other I know that when it’s important they are in my court.

David, Todd, and Danny, making music together, circa 1984.

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