Jul 16, 2010

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

740 East Lake St.
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
According to a short biography I read last winter in a re-issue of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig wrote most of this classic in an apartment over Robert's Shoe Store in South Minneapolis. This is only a few miles from my house, and I see this intersection fairly often, because Chicago Ave. is a good alternative to Park/Portland Ave. to get to or from downtown.

Pirsig was an instructor at the University of Minnesota for awhile, and the story line on Zen and the Art starts with him and his son, and two friends, leaving South Minneapolis for a motorcycle trip out west. The trip was factual, but it's also metaphorical in the book.

At any rate, I like that this building is so close to home. I have seen Emily Dickinson's house in Amherst and Mark Twain's mansion in Hartford, but somehow this modest building on a sketchy corner in So. MPLS has equal significance to me.


  1. Interesting "Zen" anecdote. 112 W. Minnehaha Pkwy. (red tiled roof) was the home of Charles Schultz, of Charlie Brown Peanuts fame, when he got a taste of the big 50's money, before moving to One Snoopy Way in CA.

  2. Thanks for that data point. I'll have to check that out. I am not a Charles Schultz fan, but I like local history and Place. I am seriously tempted to rent Pirsig's apartment in a DIY preservation attempt, and the Java Realestate "For Lease" banner makes me nervous. I think this building should be listed on the National Register or something...

  3. Follow up on this - I did check this location out but forgot my camera. Here's a street view of the house, which I've been by a thousand times. Thanks again for the local context.