Brian McKeever

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What's the Dream?

About 1997, I was driving west on I-435 on the south side of Kansas City. There's an exit for US-69 just the other side of the state line (Kansas City sits on the border between Missouri and Kansas). For years I had driven past the exit. Exit north and you're headed to Kansas City (Ks.) South, lies Fort Scott Ks. The day was sunny and I decided to find out just exactly where Fort Scott was and what was there.

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Picture of the Tracker I drove over 130,000 in eight years.

Since this seminal event, a typical sunny weekend that isn't too cold or too hot will see me put hundreds of miles on my car. Although I've driven down most of the roads within a hundred miles or so of Kansas City (and then some), there is one day I will never forget. I remember distinctly traveling west on Missouri highway FF from Higginsville when Rock 'n Roll Heaven by the Righteous Brothers came on the radio. It was a beautiful day. I had the top off of my red Geo Tracker and was driving into a spectacular sunset. The air was still warm, but there was a definite chill in the air when my tracker descended down a hill where the sun's rays no longer warmed the asphalt.

The music was as loud as I could stand it. I was bellowing out the words that I knew and mumbling the rest as loudly as my voice box allowed. The wind blew my voice out to the silent audience of cows along the road. From behind strands of barbed wire stapled to crooked osage orange posts driven into the ground, the four-legged grass to milk/hamburger bio-engines barely took notice of the strange red object screaming down the highway.

"...[probably paraphrasing] If you believe in forever, that life is just a one night stand. If there's a rock and roll heaven, then you know we've got a hell of a band. Band. Band..."

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Picture of my Jeep that has gone over 130,000 miles and counting.

I could not remember being any happier at a particular instant of time in my entire life.

Monday morning, I went to work as usual. I answered my e-mail. Fielded the normal number of office annoyances and forgot. Maybe forgot isn't the right word. Maybe, didn't remember is a better description. It's a shame we don't have cameras that record the emotions we feel as easily and distinctly as we record the visual information in "Kodak" moments.

Month after month and year after year the steady paychecks came in. Time slips away. One morning you look in the mirror and you're forty years old! Is this what I'm suppose to be doing? Something had to change. It's said that a passable definition of madness could be doing the same thing the same way over and over expecting different results. Although I'm not ready to say I'm completely sane, I did decide that that was not going to be the definition used to describe my particular flavor of madness. As long as the paychecks kept coming, and they showed no signs of ending, things were not going to change. So, after eighteen years, I quit my job. (See what I mean about not being completely sane?) Now, several vocations later, I'm even more convinced that office politics are not for me.

So what's the dream now?

Making virtual tours of natural and historical parks is nice, but enjoying something does not mean it can be successfully turned into a business. Technical skills and a love of the product is not enough. Here's some free advice. (Probably worth every penny.) Learn what you are not good at and — here's the trick — accept you're not good at it and you may never be. Take a deep breath. Move on. There are things for which I whole-heartedly accept I have no aptitude. What's more, after further reflection, I have no desire to develop an aptitude for at least a couple of them: Bookkeeping and marketing. Although I thoroughly enjoy equities, options, etc. the idea of quotidian bookkeeping I find so routine and boring it becomes drudgery. Although marketing is not drudgery, self promotion — in your face, not taking no for an answer — is very uncomfortable for me. Luckily, there are lots of people in the world that excel at the things I do not, and I am fine with that.

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Self portrait standing on my tracker looking back at a lonely road in Nebraska.

Ten years in, I like to think that he original dream is still alive. I will still visit places, take lots of pictures, but for fun. I enjoy the things that pay the bills, I love solving computer problems, but I still cling onto hope that there are other ways that I can augment the income from my computing and programming expertise.

Oh, by the by, Fort Scott is about 90 miles south of Kansas City. It was one of a number of forts (including Leavenworth to the north and Fort Smith to the south) built along the "permanent" indian frontier. To the east, the whites (and a large number of slaves). To the west, Indian territory. This permanent separation ended with the Homestead Act of 1862.

The fort was not used for very long, and is now restored as a national historic site. If you haven't visited and live in the Kansas City area, I highly recommend it for a day trip. When you're hungry, there's a great pizza place in the shopping district adjacent to the fort.

Civilized man conceals from himself the extent of his subordination to nature. The grandeur of culture, the consolation of religion absorb his attention and win his faith. But let nature shrug, and all is in ruin.

Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae