Sunday, July 6, 2014

Calla lilies

     "Calla lilies!" I thought to myself, trucking north on Franklin last week. "What an odd place for calla lilies, in a glass vase, next to a white plastic bucket, beside that cement truck."
     I can't say for certain those actual words coursed through my brain, but some sort of enzyme flash that approximated those words. I slowed down, diverted my path to investigate.

Calla lillie
     But first, an explanation. As much as society today celebrates knowledgeable, sensitive men, in theory, I'm not sure that recognizing a calla lily on sight is something for a guy to brag about. In my defense, my wife had us focus intently on the top 50 or 100 flowers used by humanity over the past century when planning our wedding, and this particular flower must have lodged in some little-used antechamber of the brain, where it flashed catching glimpse of orange after laying dormant for nearly a quarter century.
     And my further defense, I was wrong. When I saw what my supposed calla lilies really were, I smiled, and took the above photograph, which sent two cement workers, standing nearby in their yellow vests and hard hats, hustling over to see what I was photographing.
     Nobody wants to get in trouble.

   I must have perfected a certain disarming manner, however, because within moments I had explained the nature of my confusion, and we were happily talking cement, particularly its quality of heating up as it hardens. I explained that not too long ago I had been out to tour Prairie Materials, in Bridgeview, for a pending concrete story—fascinating stuff, concrete, the trucks are everywhere this summer—and they insisted I include their company, Ozinga, which is another big cement concern in Chicago.
     By the time we parted, we were old pals. They took my card, and assured me the top bosses at Ozinga—fourth generation cement guys—would leap to be involved in my story, and explained how construction workers put decals on their helmets, as tokens of their jobs, like fighter pilots painting kills on the sides of their jets. They gave me an attractive Ozinga sticker for my hard hat, and they were ready to give me a hard hat too, but I insisted that I already have a serviceable one my friends at the CTA had given me.
     I parted in maximum good spirits, hurried to my office, dug out my hard hat, and put my trophy upon it, at the very back, in the place of honor. If you had told me that knowing a calla lily on sight, perhaps coupled with not the best eyesight at a distance, would help me make a good connection at a cement company for a story, well, I would have been dubious. But that is indeed how things work in the city. Wonderful world.



  1. Wow, you could've fooled me. They certainly DO look like calla lilies in a glass container at first glance. You have a keen eye for noticing some of the more eclectic goings-on in our fair city. Thanks for the day-brightener.

  2. Almost missed the mistake. Even at second glance, the gloves (?) look like lilies, albeit beat up ones.

  3. Ozinga. Those are the guys in the closely held company that's likely to follow Hobby Lobby's lead, right?

  4. “The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower—suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in memory of something that has died.” –Katherine Hepburn in "Stage Door" (1937)

  5. I too was sure the Ozinga story was going to tie into Hobby Lobby. They seem like nice guys. Too bad their employer doesn't care about their wives and daughters.

  6. I'm with you--slightly-bedraggled callas!


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