Shig’s Place (1976)

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Shig Murao is soaking in his bathtub at 1367 Grant Avenue. Duke Ellington wafts in from the front room. Bookshelves cover every wall of the apartment, including the bathroom. He reaches for a book and settles back with Richard Brautigan’s Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel.



Shig’s apartment at 1367 Grant Avenue was his inner sanctum, and few people set foot on the jute mat that covered the entryway. He was fond of dried flowers, which adorned both the apartment and the back window of his Saab.


There were bookshelves everywhere, including all four walls of the bathroom. The apartment was also home to dozens of Daruma dolls, which represent the Zen Buddhist holy man Bodhidharma, who was said to have meditated so long that his body became a squat oval.


Joining his Daruma dolls on the bookshelves in the front room was his collection of mingei, Japanese folk art, including toys on the lower shelves for children who might visit.


The apartment was home to a Marantz amplifier and big Advent speakers. Shig listened to all kinds of music: Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, and Duke Ellington; classical music and the opera his father loved; B. B. King, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan.


Shig’s appreciation of the latter groups was influenced by his friendship with Bill Graham. Shig’s nephew John remembers going backstage with Shig and Ginsberg to visit Dylan after a Graham-produced concert at the Oakland Coliseum. And when Graham reopened the Fillmore West in the mid-eighties, he virtually carried Shig up the stairs singlehandedly while John parked the car.


1367 Grant Avenue was also Allen Ginsberg’s residence when he visited the Bay Area, and Shig set aside closet space for his friend. Ginsberg stored a few clothes and personal items in the closet, which also held the futon he would sleep on when he was there.


On the back of the apartment door, where Shig could view it each time he left the apartment, was a print of the famous samurai lord Saigo Takamori. The print originally hung in the family home in Seattle. But Shig’s father took it down on December 7, 1941. Shig did not see it again until 1984, after his mother died.


Shig’s older sister, Mitsuko, had saved the picture for forty-three years, never displaying it. Now she asked Shig if he wanted it.


In 1983, after Shig’s second stroke, John gave me the keys to his apartment in case he needed anything. I visited Shig in the hospital frequently as he recovered. When I told him that John had given me the keys, he held out his hand and said, “Give them to me!” I never set foot in the apartment.


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Shig at home, with bookshelves, 1989.

Photo by Misao Mizuno.

Now and then, Shig looked to me like some wise, renegade monk. You’d get the feeling, as you often did when you sat down with one of the longtime residents of bohemia, that you were being taught. Just what, you weren’t exactly sure.

Poet and Greenlight Press publisher Kaye McDonough

Ginsberg’s seersucker jacket in Shig’s closet.

Photo by Ira Nowinski. Copyright © 2011, Ira Nowinski.

This photo of samurai lord Saigo Takamori hung in the Murao family home in Seattle before the war and later on the inside of Shig’s door at 1367 Grant Avenue.

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)10_00_A.M._%40Trieste_2.html


LIFE AFTER
CITY LIGHTS
(1976)Life_After_CL_2.html


A SAMURAI
FAMILY
(1920)Samura_family_2.html



SHIG’S
PLACE
(1976)



SHIG’S
REVIEW
(1983)Shigs_Review_2.html


THE
FINAL
CHAPTER
(1984)Final_Chapter_2.html