A working class hero is something to be

From the gallery of Trevor King.

From the gallery of Trevor King.

Amongst my admittedly small social circle are several folks whose career path has led them to join the ranks of academia as university professors.  I’m sorry to admit I know little of their individual journeys and the challenges they faced and overcame along the way.  So I really appreciated this post written by Dr. Colby King, recently ensconced at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.  I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Colby, especially because he is one of my few left-of-center friends who is willing to actually  engage in a serious discussion of some of the issues facing our nation.  We rarely reach agreement but we do find on occasion some common ground or at least mutual understanding of our respective viewpoints.  Most importantly, I always learn something new and for that he earns my gratitude.  My respect and understanding were greatly enhanced after learning more about his personal story.  I encourage you to give it a read.

Being the selfish bastard that I am, Colby’s story set me to thinking of my own.  I grew up in an upper middle class area of Orange County, California.  But our family was definitely working class.  My father was managing a fast food restaurant when I was born.  After a McDonald’s opened across the street from his store, “The Rite Spot”, there was a futile burger war (it’s hard to undercut a 15 cent hamburger) and my father moved on to driving a truck in route sales.  My mother supplemented the family income first as a carhop and later working the night shift in a factory.

We always had food on the table (lots of fried chicken and ground beef).  We had a roof over our heads (a rented roof of a 1940s era house surrounded by fancy new subdivisions).  And we had clothes on our backs (in my case usually hand-me-downs).  So we weren’t “poor” in the classic sense of the word, but comparatively speaking we were amongst the poorest people in our community.

Kids can be cruel, and they were at times.  I recall classmates mocking “the shack” in which we lived.  And since my clothes were functional but not fashionable (and cleaned at the local laundromat) I took some heat for that too.  One painful memory from sixth grade was the day I wore some shoes my uncle brought home from the store where he worked.  They were a little too large for me, but they were new.  And I guess maybe they didn’t really go that well with the blue jeans I invariably wore to school.  Anyway, we were lining up for class and all the other kids pointed at my shoes and started laughing uproariously.  The teacher came out to see what all the commotion was, took a look at my shoes, and laughed too.  Needless to say, that was the first and last time I wore those shoes.  They looked something like this:

A painful memory.  Looking back on it now, maybe I would have laughed too.

A painful memory. Looking back on it now, maybe I would have laughed too.

Then there was the 7th grade math teacher (Mr. Peter Boothroyd the bastard) who found it appropriate to discipline misbehavior in his class by announcing “keep it up McCrarey and you’ll wind up like your father–selling Jello out of a truck.”  Suffice to say, by the time I finished high school I had developed a pretty healthy inferiority complex.  Which I self-medicated with copious amounts of pot smoking.

I floundered around some after graduation, taking a few classes at the community college but mostly just getting high and doing whatever minimum wage gigs I could find.  My daughter was born one week after I turned 20 and that kicked in a new found sense of responsibility.  So, I found a job in route sales (fuck you Boothroyd!) and actually did pretty well at it.  I took the Postal Service entrance exam and after a couple of years was hired as a letter carrier.  I was finally on my way!

I subsequently added a son to my family, transferred to Prescott, Arizona, and bought my first house.  I was living the American dream and was content to spend the rest of my life carrying mail and enjoying what for me was the best life I had known.  Then the marriage fell apart and I wound up with custody of both kids.  I started dating a grad student (I wrote about her in some detail here) and hanging out with her college professor friends at Northern Arizona University.  And probably for the first time in my life I started to realize that these people I admired were not better, or necessarily smarter, than me–just more educated.  So, it was back to the local community college for me!

The grad student relationship ended badly and left me pretty much emotionally devastated.  Being a single father was more than I could handle, so I transferred to Oklahoma (technically Fort Smith, Arkansas) so my mom could lend me a hand with the kids.  I was still delivering mail, but now I was doing it in stifling summer humidity and winter ice.  Made the job a lot less appealing!  Worst of all it was not mentally engaging.  As I carried my mail route I’d imagine doing things that I’d actually like to be doing.  And suddenly, I’d have completed my rounds and not recalled actually having done so.  I was just in automatic mode, mental masturbation if you will.  So, I realized that I needed to make a change in my life, but had no idea what exactly to do.

One perk of being a mailman (especially a single mailman) is that you tend to meet a lot of women along the route.  One of these was Iris Breed, the Director of the Fort Smith Girls Club.  One of the smartest people I’ve had the good fortune to meet on this road we call life.  We began dating and I shared with her my general dissatisfaction with the malaise of my career.  She said why don’t you take a management job?  Well.  I mean, who’d want a guy like me on the management team?  Besides, I was the union steward.  Working in management was against everything I stood for!  But she continued to encourage me and pointed out that the only thing I truly lacked in life was the confidence to pursue my goals.  So, when a job came open to manage the safety program I applied.  I knew nothing about safety management, but at least I felt like I could continue to support the rank and file from inside the beast.

Bobbie McLane was the Human Resources director and I had met her often when I dealt with her on union issues.  I guess she liked how I handled myself in those meetings because she took a leap and actually hired me.  And sent to the USPS Management Academy in Potomac, MD for several weeks so I could actually learn how to do the job.  I’m forever grateful to her for giving me that chance to be more than what I had been.  But the rest was up to me.

And I did alright I guess.  I was promoted to a labor relations position in Columbia, SC.  I went back to school (at an actual university–Go ‘Cocks!) and finally earned my bachelor’s degree in 1991 (at the tender age of 35).  After that, more promotions found me in D.C. where I took advantage of a management development program and graduate degree studies.  Thirty-four years after first putting on that letter carrier uniform I retired as GS-15 Director of Human Resources for the United States Forces Korea.

What a ride it was!  I had some luck along the way.  And help and encouragement from people that saw in me things I didn’t see in myself.  But ultimately, it was up to me to overcome my self-imposed limitations and find a way to achieve my potential.  Being from a working class background made that more of a challenge I suppose, but I’d argue that it wasn’t really society that put me in the box.  It just took some time to understand that no one can define who you are or what you can be, unless you give them that power.  Which sounds pretty simple when I write it now.  But learning that proved to be my life’s greatest achievement.



The problem with kids these days…

…is that they have no respect for their elders!

Which is my tongue-in-cheek way of explaining why I lost to ADO National Youth Champion Dylan Andersen in the third round of cricket singles last night.  I hung with him though and actually played well enough to win, except that I didn’t.  As is her custom, Jee Yeun jokingly tells a victorious opponent “I don’t like you.  You beat my husband.”  Dylan responded “no I didn’t, he beat himself”.  True that.

It doesn’t matter how many great darts you throw (and I hit some big ones) if you don’t throw the winning dart.  And I didn’t.  But other than the fact that I lost I felt good about my overall performance.  I kept my head in the game, didn’t get flustered or intimidated, and gave a superior player all he could handle.  In the past I haven’t done any of those things, so I call that progress.

(Jee Yeun posted a video clip from the match on Facebook.  Not sure how to move it here.)


To the sea!

A little ditty to sing on the way to Myrtle Beach for the Ghost on the Coast tournament.

Beach bound and down
And ready for some chuckin’
We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done
We’ve gotta lot of darts to throw
Over by the ocean
We’re gonna shoot ’em up and have us all some fun!


With apologies to Jerry Reed.

Korea: Land of the morning “microagressions”?

This article was written by a guy living in Japan, but I’ve witnessed many of the same behaviors in Korea.  My “favorite” is how even on a crowded subway many Koreans don’t want to sit next to the scary waeguk.  Or maybe it’s just because I’m fat.

Having said that, I really believe the writer needs to take a chill pill.  Your experience in Korea, Japan, or anywhere else you might travel (or live) will be enhanced if you learn to just go along and get along.  Why choose to be offended by something that doesn’t really matter? Are these “microagressions” really cultural?  Perhaps, but Lord knows, I’ve seen tourists in the U.S.A. treated pretty rudely.

Back when I was hiring people to work for me in Korea I noted that about 70% of the new hires loved Korea and wanted to stay beyond the initial two year tour of duty.  The others hated living there and couldn’t wait to get out.  And most of their complaints were really about those trivial things that could have just as easily been ignored.  There is so much to love about Korea and Koreans and the rich and unique culture.  You just have to be open to the experience, good and bad.

The only thing that ever caused me to lose my temper in Korea were rude taxi drivers.  But then again, I had issues with the trike drivers in the Philippines, cabbies in NYC, and people in Philadelphia generally.  But the Koreans I got to know and call friends have always been gracious, warm and generous.

Anyway, the article is worth a read.



Glory days

hall of fame 010

So today I attended the induction ceremony as my daughter was enshrined in the Pelion High School Hall of Fame.  Yep, she was quite the athlete. Lettered in basketball as an 8th grader, was the South Carolina 800m champion in track, and excelled in cross country.  She still holds most of the female records in those sports twenty years after graduation.  She was honored to be honored and it made her daddy proud to boot.

Brought back some memories as well.  I recall my motivational speech before the State Track meet.  I told her if she won the championship I’d buy her a new car.  I admit I figured it was a pretty safe bet since she had a lot of long legged competition.  But I wound up buying the car.

She was aggressive as hell on the basketball court too.  She’s only 5’5″ and most of the girls she played against had a few inches on her.  But she didn’t take no shit from anyone, driving the ball to the basket over, around, and when necessary, through her opponents.  Once she had gotten into foul trouble so was sitting the bench.  Towards the end of the game I heard her pleading with the coach “Put me back in!  I’ve got one more foul left.  I want to use it!”

That’s my girl.hall of fame 001

Make mine vanilla


This simple paragraph embodies what I dislike most about life in America:

Whatever virtue this bad-tasting Z-grade atrocity once contained derived from its exemplification of a set of certain cherished American fables—immigrant ingenuity, the cultural melting pot, old things combining into new things—and has now been totally swamped and consumed by different and infinitely uglier American realities: the commodification of culture; the transmutation of authentic artifacts of human life into hollow corporate brand divisions; the willingness of Americans to slop any horrible goddamn thing into their fucking mouths if it claims to contain some byproduct of a cow and comes buried beneath a pyramid of shredded, waxy, safety-cone-orange “cheese.”

Now, obviously he’s talking about food here, Cincinnati-style chili to be precise, but it also captures the homogenization of American culture that I detest.  Everywhere I go it’s just more of the same.  Chain restaurants, impersonal franchised bars, strip malls, ugly signage, and other non-distinct urban clutter.  We’ve lost what once made us diverse and unique.  Even regional accents are fading away.  Alas.

Anyway, this rant is brought to you courtesy of this state-by-state ranking of the culinary delicacies that the natives claim as their own.  South Carolina came in second with shrimp and grits.  And I detest grits.  Which outs me as a non-native more often than I like.  Anyway, it’s a fun read.

Bon appetit!

Hat Tip: Althouse

A milestone reached

A goal accomplished.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been hankering to earn a spot on the American Darts Organization list of nationally ranked players.  I’m proud to say I’ve made the cut!

Alright, so I’m tied for 401st.  Out of 903 players.  But hey, it’s a start!

If I play well in Myrtle Beach later this month I might be able to climb a few notches.  And now I’m motivated to get off the computer and actually go practice some!

Pardon me boy…

…is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?

Damned if I know, I’m driving.  Off to Chattanooga today for a little weekend darts action.  If things go well I experience a miracle, I’ll be receiving a paid entry (including lodging!) to the big New World Dart Series event in New Orleans next month.  Although truth be told, I’ll settle for just throwing well and playing competitive darts against the big boys.

A pessimist is rarely disappointed and sometimes pleasantly surprised.  Here’s hoping!


And if that old tune I referenced above is stuck in your head now, give it a listen:


Money for nothing


A friend from Georgia was in town last night and stayed at our place.  He wanted to treat us to dinner, so we took him out to our favorite Korean eatery here in town, the Korean Garden. 

Justin had never enjoyed the Korean dining experience before so it was a lot of fun watching him get so excited about all the side dishes and the unique flavor of Korean meats and stews.  We ordered up a little of just about everything–jumuleok, L.A. galbi, bulgogi, doinjang jiggae, kimchi jiggae, and a yakimundo appetizer.  It was all good, and it was nice to wash it down with an ice cold Hite beer.

After our feast, it was off to the Kwagga Sports Pub for our regularly scheduled Wednesday night darts.  I was off my game which is pretty frustrating given all the time I’ve invested in practice.  Justin played well enough to make it to the finals.  When we got home Justin suggested we play a few games for money.  I reluctantly agreed.

I almost never bet on my games this way.  The thrill of competition is all the motivation I require.  Now, I’ve seen lots of guys play head-to-head for big money (I’m talking several hundred dollars here) and that certainly takes the “friendly” out of the game.  Anyway, Justin wanted to play for ten bucks a game and it was on.  Did I mention we had sipped a little whiskey before we started?  That and some beers.  So, neither of us was feeling any pain.  But I wound up putting a hurtin’ on him anyway.  As bad as my darts had been at Kwagga earlier in the evening, they made a miraculous recovery back at the house.  After I took the first three or four games, Justin wanted to up the ante to twenty bucks.  So, we did and I won again.  It was now getting close to 2:00 a.m. and we mercifully came to the mutual decision that we were finished with darts for the day.

He made a few comments in jest this morning (at least I hope it was in jest) about my cleaning out his wallet, and I really did feel kind of bad about it.  Which is the main reason I don’t like to play for money that way.  The money was not at all important to me and I would have not minded giving it back.  But I think there is a certain etiquette involved in gambling and I wasn’t wanting to offend him by making that offer.  Jee Yeun told me after he left that she slipped twenty bucks into his bag.  So, I guess she felt guilty about it too.

Ah well, more darts on tap tonight at State Street Pub.  I wonder which game will show up this time.

The government is not working…

…but I am!  More or less.

It’s the first of the month and that means payday!  Not sure if the shutdown will affect next month’s pension check, but I’ll worry about that, well, next month.

So it was off to my credit union to pull out some cash.  And seeing as how the credit union is right next door to Sam’s Club, we dropped in to do some buying in bulk.  And given that Sam’s Club is in the vicinity of the Korean market, I took Jee Yeun there to restock her supply of kimchi, noodles, and various and assorted other items.  Over a hundred bucks worth!

Returned home and drafted up some rules and bylaws for the Columbia Area Darts Association.  Tried to keep it simple and straightforward.  Still took 8 pages to say what I felt was the minimum to say.

Having worked up an appetite, I cooked up a nice taco salad for my first meal of the day.  Well, I didn’t cook the lettuce, but you get my meaning.

Having satiated my hunger, I had the energy to write this post.  And now I’m fixin’ (damn, I’ve been in South Carolina too long!) to head out for an evening of darts.

And that’s where things stand in my neck of the woods.