It May Have Been a Shithole (But It Was Home)

We lived on the other side of the tracks
Where the hookers spent all night on their backs
Where the hobos fell down through the cracks
Where I figured out what I was gonna do

Daddy, he worked out at the lumberyard
and Momma had a job as a prison guard
My siblings were mean – they called me a retard
and my ass was often purple and blue

It may have been a shithole but it was home
My parents, they did the best they could
When I felt I needed an adventure
The nearby junkyard I would roam
Oh, it may have been a shithole but it was home

I’d hang out with kids who were older than me
We were all like one big messed up family
My parents were too poor to own a TV
I’d get used books from the library book sale

We’d go to the Salvation Army for our clothes
Why we went through that, God only knows
When Daddy wasn’t at work, he’d compose
about the different things he went through in jail

And it may have been a shithole but it was home
My parents, they did the best they could
When I felt like I needed an adventure
The nearby junkyard, I would roam
Oh, it may have been a shithole but it was home

One fateful day my Daddy’s fortune was reversed
No longer did we all feel that we were cursed
The song we all thought was his worst
was picked up and recorded by a famous man

The royalties alone paid for a brand new place
The money we made put a smile on Momma’s face
Daddy taught us it’s not how fast you run the race
You just gotta stick to your guns and your plan

Well it may have been a shithole but it was home
and I don’t go back there as often as I should
I’m now on my own crazy adventure
and my doctor said I have Stockholm Syndrome
It may have been a shithole but it was home

Oh, it may have been a shithole but it was home.

2017

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Our Family Rules

Our family rules
Our family rules
Your family drools
Cause our family rules

We sing songs in the car
About drinking beer
And if you don’t like us
We best get outta here

We’re loud and obnoxious
We fight and do drugs
We’re loyal like our dogs
We’re like a big ol band of thugs

Our family rules
Our family rules
Your family drools
Cause our family rules

We go huntin’ and fishin’
We have the same tattoo
It’s of a small skull and crossbones
We aren’t well to do

We just go town to town
And raise all kinds of heck
Campin’ and stealin’
And grillin’ out on our deck

We don’t know why you don’t like us
So it’s best we don’t care
You do your thing and we’ll do ours
We’ll soon be out of your hair

Our family rules
Our family rules
Your family drools
Cause our family rules

2016

We’ve Been There, Too

You don’t want to hang with your friends
You don’t even want to talk to me
You’re at that stage
when you’re filled with rage
and you can’t break free

You don’t want to play with your sis
You refuse to go see a movie
You just need to chill
and you’ve had your fill
You just want to climb up a tree

Well, we’ve been there, too
Sixth Grade is coming soon
You’re outgrowing your toys
You’re learning about boys
And you’re wishing on the moon
Everything’s so confusing
Everything’s still so new
Just know that we’re here for you
and we’ve been there, too

Your Mom and I support you
We know you’ll be just fine
Just take a deep breath
and count to ten
Please try not to whine

We hope you enjoy this Summer
Soon, you’ll be in Junior High
This is not time for you to cry
But if you do,
know that we’ve been there too.

Darling daughter of ours,
We’ve been there, too.

2016

Part of being a parent to me is knowing instinctively when to leave your kids to figure out stuff on their own and when to reassure them it’s OK – that what they are going through is just growing pains and they will be fine. This was one of those moments tonight where I just wrote this as an exercise in sharing something deep without being too personal.

Dash Between The Years

In a church filled with family and friends
My father’s best friend got up to speak
He was older so his walk to the altar was long
and he was tired – his voice was a little weak
He said some profound things that morning
about their friendship & what they liked to do
Then he repeated a small piece of advice
I wish to share with all of you

It’s not how many years you live
It’s what you do with your life
Whether you’re a college graduate
or a busy corporate man or wife
It’s the time it takes in-between
the day you’re born and when you die
You’ll want to do it right but you won’t
You’ll make mistakes & regret them – but don’t
You’ll go through it all, the laughter & the tears
during that dash between the years
During that dash between the years

That made me reassess my life carefully
Was I living to just get by, or through
by trying to avoid all those hoops
By avoiding doing anything new
Was I truly living & giving my all
or just doing everything half-assed
Was I too anxious for the future
and also resting on my laurels from my past

Then I hugged my Mom and family
Talked with them for a little while
Many of those memories we shared
made us laugh, cry, and smile
And I realized right then & there
Dad’s friend was right in his speech
Dad used his life to be an example
others could learn from, or teach

That it’s not how many years you live
or the fancy car & SUV that you drive
The whole point of being on this journey
Is truly living while you’re alive
So do that dream you’ve been dreaming
Have faith in what seems to be a mystery
Whether you focus on your family or careers
May it be a life well lived – That dash between the years
May it be a life well lived – Your dash between the years.

2017

Lyric Notes: I know this theme has been written about, but I felt the frame could be improved. A little from here, a little from there, this is a story I frame with my Dad’s memorial, but that’s just because I feel like a Father is a perfect example of how to convey a message such as this. My Dad was a Controller turned Life Coach who at the end of his life, was just as optimistic towards the people he loved as he was when he didn’t have cancer. There’s a lot of stuff there, but I wanted to write a serious message about that passage between when you’re born and when you die – as advice to live “a life well lived,” as David Wilcox (one of my favorite singer-songwriters) has put it in a couple of his songs. Maybe this one will hit you differently, but it’s a good lesson to just go for your dreams while you’re still alive. Something I probably need to hear regularly as well.

KDG


He was his aftershave, he wore Mom’s favorite – Bay Rum
He was his passion, coaching – Great advice, he gave me some
He was his religion, a Catholic through and through
He was his parents who survived the Depression & World War II

He was that one room schoolhouse he went to – Emigrant Gap
He was his favorite San Francisco 49ers baseball cap
He was all three boys of his, that includes yours truly
He was more than a slight improvement to our family tree

He had a smile that brightened even the saddest of days
He made time for me a lot, we’d go on little getaways
He was the only Father I’d ever wanted and had
He liked it when I called him “Pops” or “Dad”

We both were right handers, unlike my Mom & brothers
When he was with me, he wasn’t thinkin’ ‘bout his druthers
Now I look at both my daughters and I hope they’ll see
The Dad I’ve always hoped I could be

He was those cashmere V Neck sweaters he’d wear a lot
He was those aloha shirts he wore when it would get hot
He was the kind of man who was always cookin’ up a plan
and he was a dedicated San Francisco Giants fan

He was that man who many went to for advice or just to talk
His point of view was like the cliffs near the Boardwalk
He was the deck he built with Gramps when I was a child
When he was laughing, I’d laugh, and when he smiled, I smiled

When he was in his bed during his last dying days
I’d look at his eyes, he had a glossy gray gaze
There were stickers with visitors names up on a board
On the last day I saw him, I told him he should run to the Lord

His initials were KDG, his name was Kenneth David Gray
He is a huge reason why I am the man you see today
He taught me about tennis, about how great life can be
I was so glad he was alive to enjoy my family

Now, my daughters, they talk about him, they miss him a lot
For he was our fearless leader and yet he wasn’t a big shot
He was a good man through and through, did the best he could
I am thankful for what he taught me during my childhood

And as I sit here tonight in the front room of our house
I think about the time he introduced my girls to Mickey Mouse
I think about all our good times and memories
He may be gone for good, but he’s guiding me

My Dad, My dear Father, My good friend – Good ol’ KDG.

2017

Inspired by my Father, Kenneth David Gray. I think that says it all.