About This Project

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Shig Murao is in danger of being written out of the history of City Lights and the San Francisco Beat era. It is my hope that this website will find an audience and be useful to others as they continue to chronicle the bohemian culture of the mid-twentieth century.


I began conducting interviews in the summer of 2003, three and a half years after Shig’s death. I felt almost possessed by his spirit and decided that someone needed to tell his story before the details were lost.


Had I brought up the subject of writing about him while he was alive, my friend would have laughed at the idea and implored me not to do it.


Indeed, when Gerald Nicosia attempted to interview Shig in 1977 for Memory Babe, his Kerouac biography, Shig told him, “I am Japanese, and we keep certain parts of our lives private. I do not wish to share my experiences with Jack—they were private and personal.” 


Nicosia says that once he and Shig got that out of the way they had good relations. “Frankly,” adds Nicosia, “I respected him for that, and for the fact that he had no interest in becoming quasi-famous, as a lot of people have done, by tagging on to the coattails of a famous friend.”


But I decided to go forward with this project anyway, and I hope Shig will forgive me for that.


It has been challenging to pin down many details about Shig’s life, especially when two sources offer differing accounts of the same event. I have done my best to sort out what actually happened.


Everything in this memoir came from my personal experience, interviews I conducted, or from previously published material. The source list can be found here.


The anecdotes that lead off each section should not be taken as strict reportage. All of them are based on what I know of Shig’s life. But in some cases I have taken liberties, such as placing an event in a particular setting.


I welcome corrections, comments, and additional information readers feel might flesh out this resource. Please contact me here:

espressomnATearthlinkDOTnet


About the Author


My name is Richard Reynolds. I worked at Mother Jones magazine for thirty-two years, mainly in the role of communications director, and retired in 2010.


In addition to my work at the magazine, I am a professional French horn player and have written numerous articles on music, food, and coffee.


My writing has been published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Gourmet, Saveur, Gastronomica, Imbibe, Fresh Cup, Salon, and other publications.


Shig and Me


Growing up in Detroit, I was one of the straightest kids in the Western Hemisphere. Little changed when I moved on to the University of Michigan. I had a flat top, I rejected rock ‘n’ roll as vulgar, I didn’t have a drink until my twenty-first birthday.


But in 1967 I discovered sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. I devoured the Beatles, the Stones, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix. I was the official hippie teaching assistant of the Wayne State University English department.


By the time I hit San Francisco in the early seventies, the hippie era had lost its gleam. But there was Shig: an unrepentant bohemian. He became my model.


He lived his life without any concessions to what society expected of him. He followed his passions, didn’t worry about what his family or anyone else thought of him, didn’t aspire to financial success. And yet he was respectful of others and operated by a strict moral code.


Looking to Shig, I followed my passions, didn’t much concern myself with money, and lived the life that called out to me.


Acknowledgments


I could not have developed this website without the extensive contributions of Shig’s nephew, John Murao.


I met John many times with Shig, and over the years we bonded through our shared affection for him. Much of the information John provided came through our initial interview in December 2003. But as I finished up the project John and I enjoyed an active and rewarding e-mail correspondence. I would e-mail him, asking that he confirm two or three points, and he would respond at 2 a.m. the next day with six pages of text full of details so rich that I could not resist adding many of them to the narrative.


I also owe a debt of gratitude to Deborah Branscum, who kick-started me when the project was languishing and provided invaluable assistance in editing the text.  Dr. Tom Laurence contributed by showing no mercy when I belabored the obvious and employed ill-advised adverbs. My wife, Fran Haselsteiner, and my brother, Roger Reynolds, offered valuable support and editorial feedback.


George Mattingly, Andreas Jones, Davis Krauter, Carol Polsgrove, Steve Pacheco, and Bob Schenker provided counsel on design and formatting, as well as help in scanning the photos and other images found on the site. Elizabeth Whipple provided invaluable assistance on several occasions.


In 2013 The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley took over hosting this site to ensure its survival for future researchers. Queries should be directed here:

bancref@library.berkeley.edu



Copyright information here.




 

Richard Reynolds and John Murao at an August 1987 brunch hosted by Shig’s friend Mary Boyd Ellis.

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)Shigs_Place.html



SHIG’S
REVIEW
(1983)Shigs_Review_2.html


THE
FINAL
CHAPTER
(1984)Final_Chapter_2.html