As a gift for making it all the way through high school, my dad bought me a Sony rack stereo system. Up to that point I had enjoyed my favorite 80s music on a smaller unit, which was essentially a glorified jam box, although occasionally, when my parents were out of town, I sneaked a listen on my dad’s audiophile-quality rig.

This was just before the CD began to really take off, and the players were still pretty expensive, so my stereo didn’t have one. But it did have a decent turntable, and from that point forward I only purchased music on vinyl because the sound quality of prerecorded tapes was vastly inferior.

However, using expensive blank cassettes and Dolby Noise Reduction, you could record your own mix tapes and arrange songs in whatever order you liked, and the sound quality was indistinguishable to the ear. At least to my ear.

To make these tapes sound as pristine as possible, I used a record cleaning kit that included an anti-static gun. That is not a joke. I would clean the record with a special brush and then shoot the record with a gun that emitted a stream of ions. These ions neutralized the static electricity generated by the friction of brush on vinyl. Yes, I know it sounds like science fiction but it really did work. My mix tapes were amazing.

As great as vinyl sounded, however, it was not a convenient format to use. I couldn’t play records in my car, and if I wanted to skip a song I was forced to get up and physically move the tonearm. And I couldn’t ever line it up exactly on the song I wanted to hear. And every time you play a record, you damage it ever so slightly. For this reason I didn’t actually listen to the records themselves very often. I considered them source material that I could use to make my own “perfect” mixes.

The engineers who developed the compact disc format were familiar with the limitations of vinyl and sought to eliminate them. Instead of scraping a diamond stylus against your cherished copy of Abbey Road, you could instead bounce light off it. Instead of having to move a tonearm you could just hit a button, and the next song would be lined up perfectly every single time. You could play a CD in your car. It sounded exactly the same on the first play or the 1000th play. The dynamic range of a digital recording was vastly superior to any previous format and the noise and distortion were almost zero.

I’ve always wanted to believe the reason CDs overtook vinyl as the primary music delivery format was because of the superior sound quality. Objectively, when you look at the numbers, there should be no comparison between the sound quality of vinyl and lossless digital formats. In side-by-side listening tests, except on the very best turntables in the world, CDs sound cleaner, brighter, and more spacious. That’s what they were designed to do.

But the enjoyment of music, like life itself, is not an objective experience. It’s a highly subjective experience. The sales of CDs overtook vinyl not because of the supposedly superior sound quality, but because of their convenience. This is the same reason digital files have become the primary way to listen to music today. You can fit your entire collection of music on a little rectangular box that fits in the palm of your hand. What’s not to like about that?

But the scrappy vinyl format never really died. Instead, it fell into the hands of hobbyists who claimed the sound of digital music was harsh and lacked the human, organic experience that vinyl delivered. Over the years I’ve read countless articles in audiophile magazines about the debate between analog and digital, and I’ve always sided with the digital guys. The very thing the analog enthusiasts enjoy the most, the “warm” sound of vinyl, is in fact distortion. Sure, it’s a type of distortion many people find pleasant, but how could one make the argument that records sounded “better” than CDs when the digital format essentially eliminated distortion?

It’s not surprising that for most of my life I’ve been a digital guy. Almost every modern convenience we take for granted involves the use of computers. Digital technology makes nearly everything easier, more productive, and in many ways more enjoyable. It’s romantic to long for simpler times, before technology, but the reality is life before technology was difficult and grueling and left little time to enjoy much of anything. We modern day, first world folks are pampered like no other humans in history.

My own life, in many ways, has paralleled the evolution of the world from analog to digital. When I was younger, I was riddled with self doubt and in the mirror I saw only flaws. I was such an introvert that I didn’t kiss a girl for the first time until I was nineteen. I didn’t have sex until I was 22. I was mortified of women, of social encounters, of almost everything that had to do with other people. But rather than be stuck with these flaws, I instead sought to eliminate them. Over a period of years I taught myself to be comfortable around large groups and with women. I changed my appearance by dressing differently and styling my hair differently and even having major surgery as part of a orthodontic procedure that altered my smile and face forever.

Not many people in my life are familiar with the old me, the analog me, because I maintain a tightly controlled public persona. I manage to write novels and TNB posts about many subjects, even emotional subjects, without revealing many details about myself. I don’t like to reveal weaknesses and insecurities, probably because doing so reminds me of the old me. I like the new guy a lot better, this guy I Photoshopped into existence. This digital guy. And lots of other folks seem to like him, too, so why even acknowledge the analog me? I put him in the attic years ago and he’s been collecting dust there ever since.

But a funny thing happened on the way to this supposed road to digital perfection. When I had everything I wanted, or thought I wanted, I realized I wasn’t really happier than before. I lived in a beautiful house, I achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a published novelist, I married a gorgeous, likeable woman whose face was known to everyone in the community. In most measurable ways, I should have been the happiest guy in the world. But instead I was bored. I felt empty. Instead of heeding the advice of John Lennon, I had always seen life as a destination, or like a video game that if you worked hard enough at, eventually you could “win” the game. Instead, my life had been sailing by while I was making other plans. Striving for something else instead of enjoying what was right in front of me.

Over the past few years, especially when I began making friends in the MySpace blog community, I became increasingly aware of the disparity between what I imagined life to be and what it really was. I picked up a lot of regular readers and fans on MySpace, and many people enjoyed my work. But gradually these readers began asking questions. Why didn’t I write more about myself? Why did I always write about things and subjects instead of people and feelings? At first I found these questions annoying. I didn’t understand why it mattered. With every post, I started an interesting conversation that hundreds of people enjoyed, so who cared what I chose to write about?

What I didn’t understand then is that these readers, my friends, weren’t asking questions to challenge me. They just wanted to get to know me. The human, not the writer.

In my novels, I tried hard to focus on the people, and not just ideas, but the ideas always won in the end. Even though there’s a love story in every novel I’ve written, in the early ones the relationships were mainly window dressing for the high concept plot. This is no surprise since, in my actual life, I’d always been more fascinated with the miracle of the cosmos and scientific exploration than with my fellow man. How could my feelings or anyone’s feelings compare to the grandeur of the universe and its very existence?

During the process of writing my newest novel, however, I discovered that knowing the answers to everything, knowing the truth, doesn’t change the essential nature of life. If someone told me today the whole world was an elaborate video game, or a joke, or whatever, I would still have to get up in the morning and eat and go to work and spend time with friends and loved ones. Having a peek behind the curtain wouldn’t change what was going on in front of it every single day.

My entire life I had been striving for a destination that, in the end, was as pointless as it was impossible to achieve. I began to realize that instead of looking to some faraway place for fulfillment and happiness, I could look at the things right in front of me. Which seems obvious and trite, but sometimes life is obvious and trite.

Unfortunately, it was right around this time that the things closest to me took a turn for the worse. In the span of a few months, my marriage ended and I was laid off from a company where I had worked for seventeen years. My agent kept asking for changes to my new manuscript, telling me the characters didn’t seem real or human or likeable, and I began to wonder if I would ever sell another novel, that maybe the first sale was a fluke. Even when my agent finally did accept the manuscript, interest from publishers was minimal, and my savings continued to dwindle.

You think I would have taken advantage of all the free time to write another novel. After all, I already had a new idea. All I had to do was sit down and write it. Without a job tying up nine hours of my day, I could have written something in a few months if I worked hard. But instead, I frittered away the free time and sank into a very dark place. Honestly, I can barely remember what I did with the time. I was off work for thirteen months, and aside from putting the finishing touches on Thomas World and writing a screenplay adaptation (in three days), I accomplished absolutely nothing. When I was down to the very last of my savings, as I pondered complete financial collapse, the mood in my head grew darker still.

It was about this time that I met someone, a girl, who was also recently divorced. I added her on Facebook but made no real attempt to court her. I was in no mood to date someone and I wasn’t sure I would like her, anyway. But little by little we began to communicate, and the more I learned about her, the more I liked. She was (is) extremely intelligent, hilarious, has great taste in music and films, but most importantly she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She doesn’t take anyone too seriously, because she’s had a lot of drama in her life and now just wants to relax and enjoy each day.

She’s a very analog girl.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have met her. She looks at the world in the exact way I wish I did. She sees beauty in the spaces that most of us miss. Whenever I spend time with her, I learn something new about the world, about her, about myself.

Around the time I met her, almost to the day, I was contacted by a placement firm about a good job opportunity. Also around the same time is when I signed the contract to have my third novel published. In mere days, my fortunes reversed in almost every measurable way. This near-miraculous good fortune should have instantly cured my dark moods.

But old habits die hard. I couldn’t quite let go of the digital destination I’d always envisioned. For example, when my new book sold, instead of being thrilled, I was disappointed that I wasn’t paid as much as the first two. As the book neared publication, I began to feel an intense amount of pressure on how it would be received, on how it would sell. I tried to convince myself how fortunate I was to have sold a book at all, considering the economic climate and the state of the publishing world, but I continued to focus on what I hadn’t achieved, instead of enjoying what I had.

Recently, all this confusion surfaced as a series of irrational arguments I started with my new friend. For those who know me well, this sort of behavior stands in direct contrast to my normal personality. Even as I was creating this artificial turmoil, and especially afterward, I could not answer why I had behaved so bizarrely. Especially not when everything in my life was now moving forward. How could one feel like the world was his oyster, and yet somehow reject it?

In the digital world, information is encoded in such a way that makes alterations easy to perform. You can retouch a photograph or add special effects to a film or create amazing music so easily that you begin to expect the real world should behave that way. On more than one occasion, I’ve made my own remixes of songs I enjoy, using a multitrack recorder to shorten or lengthen songs at will. I retouch photos and I create funny golf videos from footage that often isn’t funny at all. In the digital realm, with enough patience, you can exert complete and precise control over every facet of existence, you can send it wherever you like, play it in your car, play it on the other side of the world with almost no effort.

Things are different in the analog world. Complete control is not achievable. In the analog world, emails become handwritten letters, Facebook avatars become the real faces of your friends, and CDs become record albums.

Last week, after spending time with my new friend, listening to her record collection, I asked my dad to dig out his Bang & Olufsen turntable, circa 1983, from the attic. I found a stylus cartridge on eBay, and retrieved my record collection from my own attic. I hadn’t taken care to store the LPs very well and some of them were too warped to play properly. But most of them were salvageable, and I spent the better part of my weekend listening to those old albums. More than once I had to correct myself when I picked up the remote, intending to skip to the next song. And since I no longer own the cleaning brush or anti-static gun, the listening experience was not a fidelity level to which I am accustomed.

And of course it was beautiful.

I also spent an evening reading about Buddhism. I’m not a religious person and probably never will be, but I’ve always been curious about Zen and what that worldview is like. What I read was not groundbreaking stuff, not at its most basic level, but it did have a profound effect on me. There’s no controlling the world, the behaviors of others; in fact the disorder and warts and the many and differing personalities that comprise the world are in fact the beauty of the world, that to achieve peace you must be okay with your place in it, with your beautiful and flawed self.

Do I think records sound better than CDs? I don’t think it’s a question that needs to be asked. They simply sound different. Records sound warm and pleasant, and listening to these particular records had an unintended effect as well: I was flooded with images and sounds and smells from that directionless summer after I graduated high school, the countless hours I spent erasing any trace of static from my recordings, when I rearranged record albums into mix tapes the way I wanted them, when I spent far more time with my stereo than I did with other people; I remembered pounding out terrible short stories on my Royal electric typewriter, sending them away to this magical and foreign place known as New York City, where they were immediately rejected by faceless gatekeepers; I remembered standing in front of the mirror every morning, staring at my face, at the angry, volcanic ranges of acne, not understanding how I was ever going to ask a girl on a date looking like that; I remembered the doctor who fixed my acne problem, and my first kiss, the first time I ever told anyone I loved them; I remembered the palpable discomfort I felt in bars and in giant college classrooms; I remembered sitting down to begin my first novel, a story I wrote in serial format, sending each new chapter to my friend who was suffering though Army Ranger training…with every crackle and pop and skip in those records I remembered my analog self, and a sort of calm came over me, and the darkness that had built inside me like cancer over many months seemed to bleed out of me, replaced with a sense of peace I had not experienced in a long time. On the blemished surfaces of those platters of vinyl I saw my own imperfections very clearly, how they will always be part of me, and even if I were to achieve every goal I could possibly dream, there would still be a lifetime of days to enjoy, one at a time, and understanding this means there’s no more pressure of a destination, of forcing things to be just so.

The other day you said, I can’t stand things that are perfect.

In that case, you must really like me.

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RICHARD COX is the author of The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He can be reached on Facebook or at his personal web site, www.richardcox.net.

39 responses to “Everything Zen: A Meditation on the Difference between Analog and Digital”

  1. J.E. Fishman says:

    Wow, Richard. This is a great piece. It’s worth reminding us, as you remind yourself, that listening to music, like life itself, is a subjective experience. One might say the same, of course, for the experience of reading. E-reader or no, I think novels, at least, will always be analog. And thank God for that.

  2. Becky Palapala says:

    Well, I for one am glad you had all that free time. If it’s not too selfish to say, I feel like I benefited. I got to know you pretty well (I think).

    I take a weird satisfaction in knowing that I got to know you best when you were at what you perceived to be your worst. I prefer to get to know people like that, I think.

    I think I like you because I know you’re not totally like what you pretend to be like. But it’s a thin veil. I never got the sense that you were a bullshitter or dishonest about who you are or were, at least not totally, at least not to me. Seemed more like an open secret if it felt like a secret at all, but it was understood that it was a touchy subject, so it was always a tap of the nose and a wink of the eye to the little alligators on your shirts.

    Anyway. I’m glad your new friend is proving to be such a positive, affirming influence in your life.

    Suppressing an urge, of course, to mention that if she does anything to harm you or so much as a HAIR ON YOUR HEAD, you just tell me and I’ll…

    Something.

    I won’t mention that. Because your new friend might be reading and think I’m a crazy person, which I am, but in this case, harmless.

    I, too, am re-learning to appreciate analog. This seems to be a trend lately. I’m not sure if it’s limited to TNB or if there are other, larger powers at work, but it seems healthy to me. More satisfying. Grounded and rewarding. I’ve had this conversation with more than one person in recent weeks. I’m sort of still in the angry phase of breaking up with digital, though. I still call it up just to shout at it sometimes.

    None of this, however, should be mistaken for a promise to never again g-chat you up drunk at 9 pm on a weeknight and ask you inappropriately personal questions. Because that will probably totally happen. As in all things, balance is key.

    Om.

    • Gloria says:

      I broke up with Facebook before any of you! Ha! Jai Guru Deva om, bitches! (I totally stole that from Becky.)

      But I agree with her. I’m glad to have gotten to know you well at all, much less during your bleak year. (Which, by the way, you weathered far better on the outside than you appear to have inwardly. You’re a champ.)

      XO

    • Richard Cox says:

      I appreciate the support over the past year. It’s nice to be able to vent without having to worry if I’m coming across too confrontational. Hahahahaha.

      I don’t think I necessarily mislead anyone on who I am. I just don’t usually reveal the full picture in my work here. It’s like selecting only your favorite photos to go on Facebook. Sanitized reality.

      My new friend says she has no interest in harming my hair, but she does appreciate the concern.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    Well, I’m glad it all worked out, Richrob.
    Didn’t I tell you it would?
    I love it when I’m right.

  4. Gloria says:

    Did you know “they” don’t use the terms first world, second world, third world anymore? I was out drinking with a friend of friend the other night, an immigration attorney, and she schooled me. Apparently it’s underdeveloped, developing, and developed. Funny how this fits nicely in with your incredibly beautiful essay.

    This the most honest, beautiful thing I’ve ever read of yours. Like, truly, truly honest. You’re a sweet man, Richard Cox.

    • Richard Cox says:

      “They” should stop taking away all the good phrases. Who wants to say “developed nation problem” in lieu of “first world problem.” Borrrrrrrinnnnng!

      Thanks for your kind words about the post. I’ve tried to write about this before, the battle between the logical and emotional self. Thanks to some inspiration from my new friend, I think I finally got it right.

  5. My mix tapes were amazing.

    Admit it. You’ve used this line to pick up girls. (:

    Recently, all this confusion surfaced as a series of irrational arguments I started with my new friend.

    Ah. I really get this, Richard. I did the same thing when I first started seeing David. Luckily, he is highly therapized and immediately saw through my self-sabotaging attempts. Rather than letting me get away with it, or walking away, he called me out on my behavior, which was the first time I’d ever thought about it, or realized I did this. (Consistently. In every relationship.) I later figured out that I was using a common abandonment issues defense mechanism, pushing people away and creating reasons to leave them before they could leave me.

    I’m so glad you’ve found someone with the patience, understanding, and kind heart necessary to let you work the irrational arguments out of your system and get yourself sorted (like my husband did for me), and especially someone who appreciates the value of imperfection.

    Perfection is the most boring thing in the whole wide world, isn’t it? I need to remember that every day.

    When he was three, I was explaining to my son that nobody is perfect, trying to keep him from acquiring the intense perfectionism that makes me so much harder on myself than on anyone else, and sets me up for constant frustration. He said, “I’m perfect because I make mistakes.” I think that will be my T-shirt.

    This is my favorite piece you’ve ever written, and definitely the most honest. I’m so happy that you’ve found a great girl, and a job, and sold the book, and are in a better place. You deserve so many good things, my friend. xoxo.

    • Richard Cox says:

      You’re a smart chick, Tawni. I don’t know anything about therapy or defense mechanisms, but what you say makes sense. Of course, what you say always makes sense.

      I’m glad to know other smart people make dumb mistakes. It’s good to know I’m not alone in that. Ha.

      For a long time I never understood why someone wouldn’t want perfection in their lives, in their stereo system, in whatever. Now I get it. I have lots of people to thank for that, including all you wonderful people here on TNB and my lovely new friend.

      Thanks for sharing your own experiences and for enjoying this piece.

  6. Lorna says:

    Richard,
    Just a couple of thoughts.
    1. I do believe I read your writings a couple of times on myspace. I so much enjoy the experience of technology and getting to know the author on a more personal level. With that being said, when I read the God Particle I felt removed from you as an author. It was a strange feeling. I had to remind myself that I knew more about the person writing the book than the book revealed. But, I suppose, this is the difference between a novel and a short story format. And, of course, the book does not have the ability to return comment on my thoughts of the storyline.

    2. The format of interaction here on TNB has been extremely therapeutic for me. I believe just about every one of the comments before me on this thread have given me something I needed to hear. So, thank you to everyone who participates in the comment section.

    3. I miss our world domination threads.

    • Richard Cox says:

      People always mention that it’s weird to know the author of a book, like that experience is significantly different than some random author you don’t know. I don’t feel that as much when I read the books of authors I know, but maybe that has something to do with being part of that community. I don’t know. I mean, when I read Totally Killer, I knew I was reading something Greg wrote, and I imagined the protagonist as him. But other than that the experience was the same as any other book. Hmmm….

      The comment culture and conversations here at TNB are what make the site special, and I hope it eventually returns to how it was before the site became so popular and full of content. It’s the closest thing I know to the MySpace blog experience, which, at its height, was the best blog community I’d ever been a part of.

  7. Mandy says:

    I am resisting the urge to make a crack about nihilism.

    I like the analog you. It’s nice you dusted him off and brought him out for the people to hear.

    • Richard Cox says:

      If you won’t, I will. Buddhism isn’t nihilism. It never gets old.

      I’m learning the analog me still has plenty to offer, though I’ve been in denial about that for a long time.

  8. Jessica Blau says:

    This is a great post–so open, so honest, so real!

  9. One of the (many) things I liked about Thomas World was in the afterword where you discussed its genesis as a MySpace blog post. I smiled at the nostalgia, remembering having read that particular piece and now having been enjoyed the fiction it became. It was a fun piece that became a cool novel.

    Allow me to imagine a future self reading a future afterword in which you mention this piece as inspiration. If “Ants” could become Thomas World, well, I can only imagine what this here might become.

    Because this was really terrific, Richard.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Hi, Will. I’m glad you read Thomas World. I’d love to know in more detail what you thought about it, since you know I’ve had plenty of opinions about your own novels. Grin.

      Thanks for liking this piece, and especially for putting the idea in my mind that it might become a novel. I think it will find its way into the next story I’m working on. More on that later.

      Hope all is well. Take care.

  10. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Really enjoyed this personal, conscientious piece. The analogy of your life own changes to those in the world of technology rings true for me, too.

    Recently, I was listening to someone’s antique and still-playable Victrola, the kind with the massive horn attached to it and the sort of thing that people, especially in France, get into collecting. My first instinct was to say the sound was somehow better than an MP3 or CD. There was plenty of distortion, but the sound had a kind of presence that you don’t get in digital. But it was good mostly in that it reminded me that digital is only one kind of sound. It’s worth being able to return to the analog, antique or otherwise, from time to time. We must have progressed enough technologically by now to understand the value in a balance.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Interesting story about the Victrola. By any objective measure, there should be no way a machine like that could deliver the transparent performance of a CD. But again this is an example of the subjective nature of listening to music, of life itself. Yes, the CD may sound more like the studio recording than the Victrola. But that doesn’t necessarily make it more enjoyable. That depends on the listener.

      Thanks for reading, Nat.

  11. Wonderful, candid piece, Richard. I like your analog girl! And the peak at the analog you.

  12. Joe Daly says:

    Far and away my favorite Coxy piece. Hands down.

    I love how you segue from the turntable debate into your emotional growth. That is a part of everyone’s story that always fascinates me- “what happened along the way that made you the way you are right now?”

    It’s true that people who view life as a journey tend to be happier than their destination-oriented counterparts, but I wonder if you have to experience the failure of the destination before you can truly appreciate the majesty of the journey. My experience has been that life’s day to day experiences become more valuable when you’ve spent some time in the Seventh Circle of Hell.

    Glad you’re chugging along, glad we got a chance to hang this year, and thrilled to hear how well things are going for you. Sounds like you’re at the outset of a nice stretch of your journey and I’m stoked to see that you’re savoring it.

    Rock on, Coxy.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I was curious to hear what TNB’s resident music expert might have to say about this piece. Although I write more about technology than the music itself…except for the Eagles, of course, who I’m sure you count among your favorite bands.

      But the story is really about the human condition, and the evolution of one person’s emotional maturity. I totally agree with your assertion that to properly appreciate the journey, you first must experience the disappointment of focusing on the unachievable goal.

      I’ll always remember that moment at the GY!BE concert when they began playing “Storm” and we made eye contact and both knew the performance was something special. Thanks to you and Kelly for joining me to experience that. Especially since Lenore bailed. I still haven’t cashed your check, Lenore.

  13. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Richard, I’ve always found the way you write fascinating, and I attributed my fascination to a simple experience of the other. I always enjoyed your work because I found it so alien to the way I perceive things, and I made assumptions about what your life had been like based on the reasons I had for feeling differently, and reading this now, most of what I’d guessed about what your life *looked* like was right. But those assumptions were irrelevant to what intrigued me about you. You have a meticulous, scientific, almost sanitized view of the universe, and the patience and precision with which you behold people in your articulated world belies a marvelous innocence. You may have been able to mask your innocence, but you’ve never disguised it, and this is why people read your stories, and it’s also why your stories make people, myself, so curious about you as a person. I don’t know what else to say except that I found this so incredibly moving and honest. Your ability to render darkness with such innocence, it’s really a beautiful gift.

    Also, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6E4Oy6pFKQ

    • Richard Cox says:

      Hi LRC. This is an interesting and thought-provoking comment. I know I’m an earnest writer, even when I try to be ironic and disaffected. I think it has something to do with my Midwestern upbringing. Us flyover folks are always trying to prove we’re as good as the coastal artistic geniuses.

      That sanitized view of the universe emerged from an early age. Logic is simple, the universe works on logic, therefore the universe is simple. Like Occam’s Razor…the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.

      But in recent times I’ve realized that logic and order aren’t always the best way to appreciate life. You can find beauty between those innocent, parallel lines. In fact it’s where life is lived.

  14. D.R. Haney says:

    I read this weeks ago, Richard, and I meant to comment at the time, and I apologize that I didn’t, but I wanted you to know, and still do, how much I appreciate the time and thought and skill and honesty that went into it. This could even be your signature TNB piece, although I wouldn’t want to go on record as saying so, since there are bound to be — I hope there will be – other pieces forthcoming.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Hi Duke,

      Thanks for reading this long piece. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I certainly consider it my best TNB piece, if not my finest piece of writing period. It should come as no surprise, since the person who inspired it has had such a profound influence on my life.

      I’ve read your latest piece as well, and keep meaning to comment. I will shortly.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        I’m glad you saw my comment, Richard, since I posted it at a moment when we weren’t getting emails about comments, as we are again now. Yeah, it really did seem like a lot of your themes really came together here in a definitive way.

  15. Jammie Kern says:

    Nice transformation, soldier. It’s funny that I knew you back then, during the digital wishing time, whilst I was facilitating many digital wishes for many remastered individuals. Thank God I reconciled with my own inner analog and also found peace.

    And while you felt you were disconnected, I’ll have you know that you made a very personal impression on me in the small space of time that we talked. Apparently you have that way about you. I tell myself regularly, “Richard Cox wrote for 2 hours a day after work, I can find two hours today after the kids go to bed…” and lo and behold I am ever closer to a finished novel.

    I appreciate your humanness. It’s wonderful to be real.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, Jammie. That’s a pretty long time ago, indeed. I like your wording, “facilitating digital wishes for remastered individuals. ”

      And thank you for telling me about any impression I might have made on you. That means a lot. I’m curious to know more about your novel, and glad to know you’ve been putting in the hours. That’s what it takes. No other way to get there.

  16. Kevin Armstrong says:

    As someone who was fortunate enough to know the analog you, I really enjoyed reading this article and reflecting on my own journey though life. I always wanted to thank the analog you for taking me to play golf for the first time at the old La Vista Golf course. I also experienced some of the same things that you did. I still find it difficult to enter a room full of people and make conversation with strangers. I find peace in my solitude instead of in public.

    I’m 42 years old and I still look in the mirror and wonder who I am and what am I doing with myself. Most would consider me successful at my chosen career. I’ve been married for 18 years to the same wonderful girl I met in college. I have 3 healthy, intelligent and athletic children. It often is difficult to figure out if we have changed for the better or if we are improving as humans, even as we enter the second half of our lives and we (hopefully) know more than we did in the first.

    I just wanted to let you know that I’m glad things are improving for you. I enjoy reading your work. I enjoy remembering playing golf together, eating lunch at the vending machines as sophomores or talking about the Cowboys. I hope you find enjoyment and happiness whether in an analog or digital life. Take care…

    • Richard says:

      When the Cowboys finally made it back to the Super Bowl after the ’92 season, I wondered about you. And remember how we thought Herschel Walker would be the savior when the USFL folded? Turns out he was, just not in the way we anticipated.

      Thanks for your kind words. I remember golf at La Vista. Man, I was terrible back then. But it was a blast, no?

      I was just telling Kim the other day about the vending machines at Old High. Six chocolate donuts and a coke. Or a fried pie. Or both! I went to the 20-year reunion (good lord, was that 3 1/2 years ago already?) and enjoyed the nostalgia tour, including vending machines. I was really interested to see how many people, if any, would remember me. Having attended three high schools, and living in nine cities, my childhood feels ephemeral, like it might not have really happened. Because at that point I wasn’t in touch with many people from that time. Today, with Facebook, it’s different, and it’s nice to reminisce and see familiar faces (or voices). I’m honored that you read my posts here. If you’re curious about the reunion experience, I wrote about it here.

      It’s interesting to wonder if we’re really better off, no? Is financial success a measure? Achieving dreams? I thought being published was the most important thing in the world, and for a while it was, but now my life with Kim is just as important, if not more. But would I say that if I were still struggling to get published? (Kim, if you’re reading this, of course I would!)

      I’m glad you seem pretty content and happy. And that you live in Big Stink (I mean Big Spring.) And I hope you like Tony Romo. I don’t get all the hate. He was the best thing about the Cowboys this year, not the worst.

      Take care, man.

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