Joey had a collapsed lung and a tiger tattoo that crawled up his arm like it could leap off and sink its claws right into you. It didn’t, of course. It just lay there, blown-out and faded, tensing when he tensed and twitching when he twitched.
He showed it to me, that first night in the truck, all the places where it was wrong: missing a toe, tail crooked, its front paw as big as its head. “I told the guy to stop, to just stop, he was fucking it all up.” He puffed on his vape and the sick-sweet smell of maple swirled around me. “But he finished it anyway.”
Rogers’s warmth and earnestness were hallmarks of his show, from the gentle manner in which he’d describe an ordinary experience like going to the doctor, to the way he’d handle more complicated emotions like jealousy or fear. Fifteen years after the last episode of Mister Rogers aired on August 31, 2001, its spirit of affirmation persists in excellent children’s pop culture, such as recent episodes of Sesame Street, Inside Out, and Kubo and the Two Strings.
It also lives on in an unlikely place—the modern advice column.
When my twenty-two-year-old artist father moved into his raw loft space in SoHo in 1975, he had to pay an extra $1,000 to get basic plumbing risers installed. The floor was stained with machine grease from the bookbindery that had operated there; there were no walls or partitions, and he slept on a mattress in the corner on the floor. Trash collection was seldom, and basic groceries were a half-mile away.
For the first couple of years, a printing press still operated upstairs, shaking his entire building during business hours.“This is not an apartment!” his family cried. Yet, he never had to take a roommate to make rent. He had the entire space to himself, where he could set up his creative life: print his etchings and work on oil paintings and illustration projects. Sometimes, on breaks, he would pretend he was a baseball player, running around the 1200-square-foot space and sliding into an imaginary third base.
This is big, serious, completely involving fiction of a kind rarely written today. By modelling the topology of genius and fear, Canin has achieved a proof of his own high value to American fiction.
The life of a homo deus will not be nasty, brutish and short, but painless, purposeless and long. In such a future, one can imagine that most deaths will take place though suicide. “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?” writes Harari.
He met me a week later outside of my apartment, in Two Bridges, and we walked south to go to dinner. “Where are we going?” I asked.
“To a Chinese place,” he said.
“Seriously?” I asked. I thought he had to be very brave or very dumb to take a Chinese girl to a Chinese restaurant on a first date.