Writer’s Workshop: Surprises

Baby Surprise Jacket (photo: Saz/Flickr, from Ravelry.com)

Mary has been knitting most of the 39+ years we’ve been together, and is a devotee of Elizabeth Zimmermann, who designed, among other things, the Baby Surprise jacket. The first time she made it, she told me what it was, and I asked, “So, what’s the surprise? It ends up being a hat?”

Years ago, I did some training at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Marshfield is just about smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin, and it’s a quiet little city. I was there the first week of December, including the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which for us Catholics is a holy day of obligation. I found the church in town, went to Mass, then picked up a copy of the Marshfield News-Herald so I’d have something to read while I ate dinner.

Anyway, I got home from that trip, and a couple of days later Mary received a book she had ordered from Schoolhouse Press, Ms. Zimmermann’s publishing company. When she opened the box, she pulled out the packing material, which just happened to be wads of the Marshfield News-Herald from the day I had bought the paper. No, it wasn’t my copy, but it surprised both of us. Guess we didn’t realize that she lived in that area.

Ms. Zimmermann died a few years back, and her daughter, Meg Swansen, now runs the business. One day, Mary had a question about something in one of her knitting books, so she called Schoolhouse Press. She was chatting with the person who answered her call, and asked who she was speaking with, and was surprised to learn it was Meg Swansen herself.

Buddy Guy. (Photo: Larry Philpot, http://www.soundstagephotography.com)

One Friday night when I was in college, a few friends of mine and I went to see Buddy Guy and Junior Wells at Ratso’s in Chicago. Ended up spending a fortune, which was a not-so-pleasant surprise, but the show was good. Buddy played the first twenty minutes or so, then Junior came out. At the time, Junior was drinking pretty heavily and had a tendency to go off on these rambling stories, and during one story, I ran to the men’s room.

I was standing at the urinal, and someone comes running in and stands at the other urinal. I look, and it’s Buddy Guy. Surprise! I said, “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be on stage?” He laughed, “Yeah, well you know Junior.” We finished our business and chatted for a couple of minutes, then he said, “Sounds like he’s almost done. I gotta get back. See ya.”

15 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Surprises

  1. What are the chances…well probably slim to none. Actually, our friend runs into celebs all the time. He has this weird magnet for it. Once he was in a hotel lobby waiting to go to a concert. Eddie Money was headlining it. He literally ran into him – smack dab into his chest and Eddie said “Are you coming to watch me play?” and our friend said “Yeah!” so Eddie said “You’re riding with me man.”
    So our friend got in Eddie’s car. He was sending us pictures of them together on the way to the concert. It was hilarious.
    I’m off to google the sweater. I’ve never heard of that story before. Did it actually turn into a hat??


    1. No, that was a joke. There’s a picture at the top of the post. I forget the story behind the “Surprise Sweater,” but they now have patterns for adult sizes, or so Mary tells me.

      Eddie Money seems like the kind of guy who would do that kind of thing.


  2. Great story – even better than my seeing Cheap Trick for $2.50 and all the beer I could drink at Champaign, Illinois’ Chances-R in 1978. We played the same club – to a much smaller crowd.

    Stevie Ray Vaughn always cited Buddy Guy as a heavy influence.


    1. Buddy Guy influenced a lot of players. He’s still at it and still amazing.

      Were you with me the night Jim Peterik played at Huey’s down near Loyola? That was an unexpected surprise…


  3. LOL I had to Google Baby Surprise Jacket to see if it really turned into a hat! Good one, John. I’ve been to a lot of concerts but never encountered anyone famous in the bathroom (although most of the bands we see are guys so…) Did meet Ross Valory from Journey in the bar one night though. We were there to see Bob Seger. I asked him why he wasn’t backstage hobnobbing and he said he had had to show ID to get in. Guess he was pleased we recognized him πŸ™‚ Happy Thursday.


  4. “I’m John, I encounter Blues Legends in the restroom.” All I can say is that it’s highly unlikely I will chat to Buddy Guy in the restroom πŸ˜‰


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