A bestselling book — then a tragic loss

A bestseller then tragic loss
Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968.


Robert Pirsig, who wrote the 1974 bestseller Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, lived to the age of 88, but fate wasn’t so generous to his son.

Christopher Pirsig was stabbed to death outside the San Francisco Zen Center on November 17, 1979. He was just 22.

A bestseller then tragic loss
Chris Pirsig just before his death.

Chris lived and worked at the Zen Center. At 8 o’clock on that Saturday night he left the center to visit a friend who lived a block away on Haight Street.

A car pulled to a stop on the street beside him and two black men jumped out.

One of them got behind Chris and grabbed his arms, while the other stood in front and went through Chris’s pockets. When he found nothing he pulled out a large kitchen knife, witnesses said. Chris said something to the mugger which the witnesses couldn’t hear. The thug became furious and plunged the knife into Chris’s chest. The two men jumped back into their car and sped away.

Chris slumped against a parked car to keep from collapsing. He staggered across the street to the corner of Haight and Octavia streets, where he fell to the sidewalk and died. He was just two weeks away from turning 23.

A bestseller then tragic loss


His father, who was divorced from Chris’s mother, tried to cope with the loss philosophically. His best memories always harked back to when Christopher, at the age of 11, joined him on a cross-country motorcycle journey of self discovery.

“I go on living, more from force of habit than anything else,” Pirsig wrote. “Where did Chris go? He was a real, live person, occupying time and space on this planet, and now suddenly he was gone. Did he go up the smoke stack at the crematorium? Was he strumming a harp on some cloud? None of these answers made any sense.”

Bestseller then tragic loss
Robert Pirsig

Pirsig concluded: “The Chris I missed so badly was not an object but a pattern and although the pattern included the flesh and blood of Chris, that was not all there was to it. The pattern was larger than Chris and myself and related to us in ways that neither of us understood or could control.”

Robert Pirsig died on April 24, 2017.

Ok coverThe Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. — Robert Pirsig,Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.’

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Billion dollars to buy presidency while homeless people die


I try and avoid getting into politics for the same reason I avoid going into a rat-infested building.

But former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg warrants a comment.

Bloomberg, who is worth more than $50-billion, will spend more than one billion dollars in what inevitably will be a failed attempt to “buy” the U.S. presidency. Mark my words.

Bloomberg could save homeless

Can you imagine the good he could do with that billion dollars!

Every night in America there are more than a 700,000 people — men, women and children, in many cases whole families — trying to survive on the streets, in alleyways, in abandoned cars, under freeway overpasses and in “tent cities.” That number is an extremely low estimate — in reality there are more likely twice that number.

Bloomberg’s billion dollars could provide housing for many thousands of these homeless Americans. 


Bloomberg, a publishing tycoon, donates just seven percent of his personal worth to different causes, including the opioid crisis, gun control, the arts, and the environment — but for some reason homelessness seems not to be one of them.

Bloomberg could save homeless

Helping the homeless takes precedence over one little man’s futile campaign to be president of the United States.

Since beginning his campaign in November, Bloomberg has spent more than $250 million on TV ads — including $10-million for a Super Bowl spot.

All the ads are doing, by the way, are annoying people and turning off voters — especially during the Super Bowl which people watch to get away from politics.

Meanwhile, more than one hundred homeless people will die on Super Bowl Sunday.

You gotta have a home!

Bloomberg could save homeless

Die in street

Streets of SF

Bloomberg could save homeless

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The Art of Homelessness

NEW YORK—Rainbow Johnson lived in a room in the Cavalier Hotel on 34th Street. The bathroom was down the hall. He had a hot plate for boiling water for coffee. He ate his meals in the coffee shop downstairs.

Before moving into the Cavalier Hotel, he was homeless in several cities across America.

He was a multicoastal bum, from east to west and north to south. He rated the cities in terms of his experience. New York was a killer; Miami Beach was survivable; Chicago was brutal; Los Angeles was tolerable; Boston was a bastard; and San Francisco was miserable.

It was chiefly a question of climate, both meteorological and sociological. Miami Beach, according to Rainbow, with its sun, beaches and flotsam and jetsam personality, was the best place to be homeless.

“You don’t need much clothing and you can use the showers on the beach that are put there for swimmers. Every day you can scoop up enough change left on the tops of bars to buy something to eat. The bar owners and customers don’t mind.”

Depending on his take from the bars, he could buy a Macdonald’s hamburger or a Subway sandwich with all the veggies, sufficient nourishment for a lean man of no means.

“I managed fairly well in Miami Beach,” he said. “In New York City I nearly fucking died.”

But New York is home to him, and when he received a small annuity from a distant uncle, he came back home. The sum he received allows him to live frugally at the Cavalier Hotel. What would be a lousy life to many people is a sanctuary to a man who hasn’t had a permanent roof over his head for fifteen years.

In that room, on several legal pads, he wrote “The Art of Homelessness,” a slim volume of reflections that was published in New York to good reviews and modest sales.

Appearance is the first order of business for a homeless person, the book begins.

Beg, borrow or steal a decent set of clothes, he advises — another reason favoring warm cities like Miami and L.A., where you don’t need as much clothing as in New York or Chicago or San Francisco.

“An old school friend who became a stockbroker gave me a designer suit he had grown too fat for,” he said. “I wear that suit everywhere I go in New York City. Man, let me tell you, I’m the best dressed bum in town.”

Homeless across America

Rainbow Johnson is a pseudonym of Bill Michelmore

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