10:00 A.M. at the Caffe Trieste (1975)

HOME PAGE       ABOUT       IMAGE GALLERY        SHIG’S REVIEW SAMPLER       OTHER  VIEWS     AUDIO      UPDATES       SOURCES       CONTACT

                                                                              

 

Shig Murao is sitting next to me at the Caffe Trieste. He asks me if I know the Beatles’ song “Number Eight, Number Eight.”


I look at him and say, “Shig, what do you mean? It’s Number Nine!”


But Shig is laughing. He’s playing with me. Later I realize this quip signaled my acceptance into his circle of friends.



It wasn’t unusual to run into Shig at a North Beach cafe, but in 1975 he began showing up at the Caffe Trieste, where I was a regular, each morning around 10. Shig had never seemed approachable at City Lights. But his demeanor in the cafe had changed, and one day I introduced myself and sat down with him.


Our conversation that morning, and for many mornings thereafter, had only one subject: his burning resentment against Lawrence Ferlinghetti. His former partner, Shig told me, had eliminated his position at the bookstore when he returned to work after suffering a stroke.


As I was beginning to consider altering my own schedule so I wouldn’t have to listen to his rant yet again, Shig began to open up. Our discussions moved on to books, politics, music, and more.


I play the French horn, and Shig had taken up the shakuhachi, a Japanese flute, as therapy for his right hand, which had been affected by the stroke. He questioned me about breath control and other musical subjects and dubbed me his Western music teacher.


I soon realized that there were two Shigs: the difficult, aloof persona he presented to much of the world—especially to those who wanted something from him—and the warm, playful persona he reserved for those accepted into his inner circle.


Once Shig accepted you, he made you feel as if you had been granted admission to an intimate cafe reserved for a select few.


Shig operated in a world of nuance and gentle playfulness, and there were always word games.


Jack Hirschman remembers that Ginsberg taught Shig some Yiddish words, which he loved to pull out at opportune times; mishugina was one of his favorites.


“Whenever I’d see him in the day, I would say, ‘Cleveland,’ and he would say, ‘Ohio,’” remembers actor and long-time Francis Ford Coppola collaborator Tony Dingman, describing a standing joke he and Shig shared for a time.


“Good morning” in Japanese is Ohayo gozaimasu, usually shortened to Ohayo. “So every day would be Canton, Ohio; Sandusky, Ohio; Lima, Ohio. We worked through a lot of cities of Ohio as a way to say good morning.” 


Some of Shig’s word games, like the “Number Eight” bit, don’t translate well in the telling. But such wordplay was Shig all over.


Shig had his own way of looking at the world, and you never knew what might come out of his mouth. When I told him about a friend who was a birder, he said he would like to meet him. But when I invited the two of them to my apartment he had only one question of my friend: “Why do seagulls shit white?”


If I held forth on a subject he suspected I didn’t know much about, he would arch an eyebrow and inquire, “Is that your professional opinion?”


He would often say that people prefer dead poets to live ones because nobody wanted them to come over with their “dirty socks.”


Shig was undeniably self-obsessed, a purist, and the most obstinate man I have ever known. This quality frustrated many, but I found it endearing.


He was unflappable and comfortable with his life. He didn’t care what others thought. Nothing could budge him from his chosen path.


Previous Chapter                    Next Chapter



Copyright information here.


 

Shig and Allen Ginsberg at the Caffe Trieste,1989.

Photo by Misao Mizuno.

Mary Boyd Ellis and Shig at an August 1987 brunch at Mary’s place.

Photo by John Murao.

If Shig didn’t perform the tea ceremony he certainly cultivated the ritual of the morning cappuccino.  Chatting and laughing and gossiping with Shig at the Trieste restored my sense that the world was a good place. He was my psychic protector, an urban Toshiro Mifune armed with only a sense of humor. Though he was gentle and somewhat vulnerable, you knew he meant business.

—Poet and Greenlight Press publisher

Kaye McDonough

Tony Dingman in photo displayed at Francis Ford Coppola’s Cafe Zoetrope in San Francisco’s North Beach.

Photo by Richard Reynolds, 2011. Original photographer unknown.

SHIG’S STORY



SHIG’S
 DREAM   
JOB
(1953)Dream_Job_2.html

AT THE
COUNTER:
THE EARLY
YEARS
(1953)At_the_Counter.html

SHIG’S
INNER
CIRCLE
(1953)Inner_Circle_2.html


THE
HOWL
TRIAL
(1957)The_Howl_Trial_2.html


SHIG’S HEYDAY AT
CITY LIGHTS
(1960)CL_a_la_Shig_2.html


THE END
OF AN
ERA
(1975)End_of_a_Era_2.html


10:00 A.M.
AT THE
TRIESTE
(1975)


LIFE AFTER
CITY LIGHTS
(1976)Life_After_CL_2.html


A SAMURAI
FAMILY
(1920)Samura_family_2.html



SHIG’S
PLACE
(1976)Shigs_Place.html



SHIG’S
REVIEW
(1983)Shigs_Review_2.html


THE
FINAL
CHAPTER
(1984)Final_Chapter_2.html