Log in


Nuptian Wordish 2: Bridezooky

Bridezooky, yet another figment of my imagination: The Bridezilla thing is everywhere. Straight single men even know about it. I hate reality television for exactly this sort of thing: When I'm talking about the wedding at all*, and I get to the part where shit goes awry--which is inevitable, because I usually don't tell stories wherein shit stays straight--quite often someone cracks a Bridezilla joke. And I don't know what to do.

I don't feel like Bridezilla. Maybe it's because Bean and I made a deal, way back when in 1813 or whenever the hell we got engaged, that I would do exactly as much work as he did on this thing. His initial response was, "But I'm so LAZY." I replied: "Then I guess we'll be having our wedding at McDonalds, because I'm lazy, too." So I've had tremendous help from him, and from a dozen or more other superfriends who are doing amazing things for us for cheap or free, with nary a complaint thus far. It's a little overwhelming right now, for sure, but it's still pretty fun.

So a few weeks ago, I christened myself Bridezooky. I thought Godzooky was the name of Godzilla's adopted son in the Japanese movies, but it turns out that character's name is actually Minya; Godzooky was some annoying little guy in an American cartoon series. But "Brideya" wouldn't make for a very fun Wordish, now, would it?

Peter Jacoby asked me today what kind of noise Bridezooky makes. I sent him this in response:

*Which I was reluctant to do in public up until about a month ago, when it started to overwhelm me completely and I had no earthly choice. Prior to that, I would only speak of it to close friends, in hushed tones like people sometimes do when they talk about cancer.
Kalem Bae/Baekalemed, properish nouns: So this is the first in what I'm hoping will be some notes on the premarital experience. No not that premarital experience*; the road to marriage, which I don't know that I ever really thought I'd be treading, and which I have technically been navigating since February of last year, when Bean and I got engaged. But we didn't actually start making decisions till about eight months after that, and then didn't start any kind of real planning until the start of this year. And now we're eight weeks out from the event. EIGHT WEEKS. What a long, preposterous, stressful, bountiful trip it's been.

One of the first conversations Bean and I had after I proposed--long before any moiling and toiling truly began a-boiling--was whether or not I would take his name. Or rather, whether he would take MY name, as I've long said that, should I marry, I would only take my partner's name if my partner took mine. Since I've published quite a bit under my own name, I would just want to add his name onto the end of mine, so "Stefanie Kalem" would still be searchable. Also so that my name could sound like a nice place to visit: Stefanie Kalem Bae. Lovely. Let's rent a house on the beach.**

Gene Bae Kalem, on the other hand, didn't sit well with my young man. "How about if we combine them?" he suggested. I immediately took a shine to "Baekalem," pronounced like something you'd have done to you--bewitched, bewildered, and baekalemed. He preferred the stress on the first part of the word, so that it sounds like a relative of Bakelite. Such an old-worlder, my young man.

In the end, we decided to remain separate but equal--as with so many other things in our life, we agreed to disagree, and moved on.

Coming soon: Wooden ducks, armpit stains, and the money table.

*Which I have already been writing about, one level or another (and another, and another), for some twenty years now.

**Bean's dad's name is Moon, which means that Bean himself is already half Moon Bae.


I am trying to quit smoking. Again.

I am trying to raze writer's block. Again.

I am still too all-around rusty for public consumption, but, in honor of the last time I tried and failed to give up the holy right-handed cigarette, here's something I wrote back then.

“We are all born with the same size soul.”         1.5.08


So says Metallica’s James Hetfield in the latter part of the heavy metal therapy doc, Some Kind of Monster. He is a few months out of rehab and speaking to a yard full of San Quentin toughskins, so there’s no question that the statement rings consoling under the circumstances. And, when I take it at face value, I find it a platitude worth cherishing, myself. After all, it was the “Chosen People” refrain that originally pricked up my prepubescent ears in synagogue, and probably inspired me, shortly thereafter, to raise up cigarette arms and Sharpied tags against the stalls of my Hebrew school bathroom, practicing swear words and gutter drawl with my fellow book-learnin’ refugee, Navah, the first-generation Israeli-American who, for one brief moment in 6th-grade, dubbed herself “Darkshine.”


But, having repeatedly—from the first acid dropped with scowling rednecks to stepping off a journalist’s path to sojourn in the shoe retail industry—rejected my biblical right to an upper-class berth, do I still find my soul to have the exact same weight as my beloved neighbor’s? Both in theory and in deep-felt desire, the answer is yes. But in practice, the question still begs: If indeed we are all born with the same size soul (whatever stuff that soul is made of, and however the calculations of weight and breadth can be made) then isn’t it possible that the forces of nature and nurture conspire at random and on purpose to reshape and resize it? Even astrology, which I’ve long held (and told to anyone who I’ve been pretty sure won’t laugh) is the exact, soft but scientific place where biology and environment meet, seems to hold in its charts the schematics for the soul’s leaks and buffets, its ebbs and flows and grafts of new, possibly dark matter where the old electric juice has escaped.


25 years ago Kerri Grauer taught me how to inhale, using one of her mother’s purloined Merits; two nights ago I smoked my latest last cigarette, splitting the remains of the pack with my boyfriend and our neighbor. We cursed the foul sexy instruments and swore we didn’t need them, but inside I was thinking of the power they’d once given me, the rush of cool identity flowing through my veins every time the 11- and 16- and 22-year-old me muttered “fuck” and exhaled smoke. Did this buffet the size of my soul? The cigarettes surely negated some lifespan, but is that the same thing? Is the finite length of our days part of the soul-size calculations, at any point in life’s process?


Back when I kept a regular blog—the first time around, anyway—a coworker and regular reader commented that she wished I’d answered more of the questions I posed. And maybe that’s how I keep the size of my soul somewhat expansive, by agnosticizing every heavy thought I have. I do know this: When faced with certain social difficulties, I have been known to comfort myself with various facts of my personality and birth. Back when I was a skinny, sheltered virgin treading the boards of Central Florida’s punk clubs, I would often curl up against my New York heritage for solace; now that I’m teetering over to the second half of my 30s, when I find myself surrounded by youngsters at rock shows, bars, and stinky warehouse parties my new favorite lullaby to my confidence is “I could buy and sell you emotionally.” Whatever works.



Mr. Wordish

Shmitchik, semitic noun: Most people who know me--scrawny, overthinky, poorly coordinated, beer-bellied me--are surprised to find out that my father was a phys. ed. teacher. In fact, my parents met in the phys. ed. program of Long Island University. My mother was a swimming teacher before she became a stay-at-home mom (and, later, a real estate broker, as was the woman's way of the time); my dad played minor league baseball, pitching one major-league exhibition game for the Washington Senators against the Detroit Tigers before being sent back down to the minors. He started teaching elementary school gym shortly thereafter, and continued to do so for thirty years or so. He taught one school district over from mine; the town had its own suburban version of the large San Gennaro Feast in neighboring NYC, and, once he and my mom split up, the annual festival was consistently one of my favorite daddy-daughter dates, except for one thing: Invariably, multiple generations of students (fathers, children of varying ages and genders) would enthusiastically flag him down between the cannoli-eating contest stage and the port-o-lets, shouting "Mr. Wordish! Mr. Wordish!" and pulling at his sleeve. I resented the town's possessiveness of my father when I only got to see him every other weekend, but I had to admire his popularity, especially since, from a very young age, I was awkward and bookish and, to the outside eye, even a little bit retarded.

But he was popular, and I got to see first-hand why on the odd occasions that I would go to school with him. I went to private school for 3rd-5th grade and, even when I started public, our holidays off were sometimes different from my dad's. More often than not, my mother would send me to school with my dad on these days. Just before each class came in, my father would sit me down on one of the spots the students used to line up, alphabetically, at the front of the gym; as they filled in around me, they would eye me with curiosity. My father would take attendance, but stop when he got to me.

"And you are?" he would growl, pen tapping his clipboard.

I would shrug and smile.

"Who is this?" he would ask the kids around me. "What do you mean you don't know? She's in your class, isn't she? What's wrong with you kids today? Do you even pay attention at all?!"

After five or so minutes of this, my father would introduce me as his daughter, and business would proceed as usual: The kids would grab their basketballs and jumpropes and whatnot, and I would retire to the gym office to read a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. This was actually not that much different from my usual gym class. Perhaps as a kind of weak-ass rebellion, I habitually lied and scammed my way out of 12 years' worth of gym class, plus the bulk of sports activities during my six years of sleepaway camp. in school it was easy, since other teachers knew and respected my father and therefore turned a blind eye. In camp it required a bit more creativity, although not that much; teenage counselors are ultimately more interested in each other than in whether or not you're writing poetry in the outfield.*

But during those early bait-and-switch sessions, I got to see my father's work persona: mean as a snake and funny as hell. One of the things that would always break the kids up was his elastic sense of the language. My father was indeed Mr. Wordish; he was American-born, but his vocabulary was somewhat limited by his rough-and-tumble upbringing. So if he didn't know the word he needed, he would gladly make it up. There were many, many of these over the years, occasionally heard at home but most often heard in the gymnasium. Sadly, I can't remember any except for one: Shmitchik. He uses it to this day, much in the same way anyone else would use "thingamabob" or "whatchamacallit," except with a special emphasis on technology. A shmitchik can be a button or a device; it is often a remote control. I, personally, use it as a name for the tablespoons from my paternal grandmother's silverware that my dad has flattened with hammers and distributed to his three children as spreaders.** Sadly, my Korean-American fiance cannot pronounce "shmitchik," although he uses the spreaders often. He also pronounces "agita" as "ah-gee-TA," somewhat ironically giving me more agita.

* I even kept myself out of learning to swim, despite the hours spent at the lake at camp and my mother's aforementioned aquatics career. Petty rebellion successful! Could you hand me that life jacket, please?
** My grandmother spent her last 10 or 12 years living with my father, proving that she actually was mean as a snake, no "funny as hell" about it. As he was too good a son to call her out on it, he took out his frustration on her fine cutlery.

just 'cause

I wrote this back in 20001. I remember who it was about,  but I don't remember what it means.


    We were awoken by a scream, a throaty, Southern wail. I sat up immediately, though at first I thought it was just the ducks that Fred had been telling me about, so it was only my body that was alarmed. He’d been watching them for a few weeks now -- a drake and a girl duck that seemed inseparable, spooning tight circles in the air and on the river, ruffling each other’s feathers for fun. Fred had told me that he’d seen the drake take off the day before yesterday, in the morning; when Fred came back from work at the bike shop that night, the girl duck was clutching the shoreline, alone, quacking lowly. By the time Fred had finished his dinner, though, the couple were sequestered behind a big old cypress knee, miraculously reunited.
    Fred, a fairly recent and considerably romantic acquaintance of mine, has since sworn off poultry.
    “I think there’s a fight going on across the river,” he murmured, his mouth full of pillow. Negotiating his body backward across the twin bed, one warm Polish-Puerto Rican shoulder found my naked hip and proceeded to bronze that spot.
    “I can’t believe you fucked that whore!!” screamed a decidedly unduckish voice.
    I clambered over Fred and went to one of his 16 windows. Boat-lovers built Fred’s house, so most of its windows are portholes. The exceptions are in his bedroom, which lies at the top of the house’s only staircase, swaying over its panopticonic riverview like a rummy lighthouse keeper.
    Fred joined me at my eastern window, kneeling next to me on the edge of the bed and laying his elbows on the sill. There were two vans parked across the river, on Broad Street. They were back-to-back, as if they’d been passing each other on the grassy riverside before quacking to a halt. Three men sat nearby, their fishing poles and feet in the water.
    The screamer was a blocky white woman. She had on a mullet hairdo and a soft yellow dress, the latter of which did little to soften the fact that she was the aggressor. The object of her hoarse hollers and occasional falling blows was a tall, potbellied fella with a mustache and a brief ape-drape of his own. His words, though indecipherable from our perch, were obviously intended to calm. 
    It wasn’t working.
    “I’m gonna kill that bitch, and then I’m gonna kill you!” Her voice hit the river like flat stones, skidding across to our sleepy ears. Fred lay down again. Surrounded by pale blue sheets and the light that filled the room, his naked skin may as well have been a small, momentary sun, quietly rolling our Sunday to a start.
    “Dorrit? Come back to bed.”
    Below me swam two ducks. They moved northward in a snug line, hugging the dock. On Broad Street, one of the vans peeled away, and the tall man rejoined his fishing buddies, one of whom scrambled to hand him a beer. I searched around on Fred’s floor for my jeans. Pulling a cigarette from the pocket, I settled in to watch Fred, trying to determine what kind of day we would have from the way his lips curled in sleep.

The Happy Sad Place, music theory: The Germans have schadenfreude, meaning pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. I'm thinking that at least one of you out there (probably the one who lived in Germany) will be able to create or call up a German term for the Happy Sad Place--a mental place you purposely journey to in order to feel sadness. It is closely related to the mental place you accidentally go to when you have insomnia, wherein your darkest experiences and greatest fears gambol out of their nighttime corners to peel your mind's eye even wider after an hour or so's restlessness.

So there's probably a German word for that, too.

But the Happy Sad Place you go to on purpose, because sometimes feeling sad on purpose is very satisfying. Teenagers know this. So do opera singers.

I went there this morning, I'd slept five or so hours on the couch* the night before, and my heart felt heavy and stupid while I drove to work. I turned on the college radio station just in time to hear the DJ back-announce the last set; he mentioned that he'd played a Richard Thompson song, and I was sorry I'd missed it. So I plugged my iPod into the stereo at the next red light and pressed play on the first of five or so Thompson songs I have in the player.

It was "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," and I had tears in my eyes by the first line of the last verse. When I arrived at work, I pulled out my pocket journal and wrote a list of five songs that can usually be counted on to make me cry (or at least feel like I want to).

They are:

1. "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" by Richard Thompson
This is such an amazing story song. I loved it long before I started dating a man whose primary mode of transport is a motorcycle, but I'm can't recall if it made me cry before that.
I have never actually seen this movie. The fact that it makes me emotional feels completely random, just like the fact that sound bites of Ronald Reagan's speech at the fall of the Berlin Wall does. I swear I never had a male teacher that I was close enough to that I'd write a song about him; nor have I been to Germany, as indicated by the beginning of this entry.
"Oh Comely" by NMH is another doozy. In fact, if I were a more melancholy sort, the band's entire brief and lugubrious catalog would be well-nigh unlistenable for me. But as it is, as much as I love their first album, I can't get past the second song on it ever since my mother died in a hospital in 2001.
One of my all-time favorite Waits songs. I really prefer the older, more stripped-down version on Early Songs, but this one on Heart of Saturday Night gooses my ducts, too. It so cool, so true, so sad, and so tough all at the same time.
It's a Ronettes cover, and the original version has everything you'd expect from Ronnie Spector and her then-husband's Wall of Sound. But the Orton version--both the studio one on Trailer Park and the live one in the video linked above--put a whole new ache on it. I rememebr listening to it more than ten years ago, working on my computer late at night, alone, a little stoned, and just bursting into tears halfway through.

*I move to the couch when the wakefulness gets too intense, so as not to bug the fiance.

fuck y'all

Allay'all, colloquial contraction  of my own coinage: Who knew? Yesterday I accidentally coined a phrase. I mean, I guess that's the point of this blog, but, as folks who have read Wordish before know, some of these entries are jacked from other people, who have often, in turn, jacked them from other cultures. And when I do think I've made something up, usually, over the course of writing an entry, I open a browser tab, fire up the Google, and discover that I'm just the latest in the long line of word-murderers to have come and coined before me. But yesterday, when I updated my Facebook status to "making beer," the following "conversation" ensued:

Wordish is making beer.

Patricia Massari likes this.

Jay Yamada at 5:58pm May 2

Tei Gundolfi at 6:07pm May 2
Do I get to come over for the tasting when it's done?

Tallulah Mae at 6:11pm May 2

Jen Loy at 7:14pm May 2
when are you scheduling the tasting?

Wordish at 7:27pm May 2
All you gotta do it throw a barbecue or a party to get a taste... that's why we make it, so we don't have to buy chips and salsa to bring to allay'all's houses.

Beth Sandefur at 9:09pm May 2
allay'all never seen it written out quite that way. made me smile

Michael Henning at 2:41am May 3
why are you making beer when you could be making... wait for it now.... MONEY (the fabric of money?)

or hey, even paste would be acceptable!

and wow, perhaps you are the originator of allay'all as a hybrid word... have you googled it yet?

Why, no, Michael*, I hadn't Googled it. And then I did. And couldn't find it! Hooray! This seems strange to me...people SAY "allay'all" all the time. But perhaps when they write it out, they try to gussy it up with "of" or some such unnecessary nonsense.

When I first moved to the south, I resisted saying "y'all" for at least a year. When it finally burst from my Long Island-born lips, it was accompanied by the most wonderful feeling of release and acceptance. For surely "y'all" is proper poetry compared to "youse," which is, of course, indigenous to my upbringing.** And the near-palindromic nature of "allay'all" amps up and highlights the much-maligned contraction even further. And when you add the apostrophe-s and make it into "allay'all's," somehow it starts to look like it wants to rhyme with "alley-oop."

Funnily enough, I once had a discussion with Michael—whose comment above prompted my Googling—wherein I chose to defend my potty-mouth by exalting the colorful and useful nature of the word "fuck." Now, as back then, I wonder why I should limit my word arsenal to what is polite? Sometimes no other wod but "fuck"—or "y'all'—will do.

And so I present "allay'all" to you...please write it with impunity...and much pleasure.

*Just ignore the rest of his comment... it's quite funny to me, but probably not to anyone else (except for him, of course).
**I understand that in the Pittsburgh area there is "yinz," but I can't prove this without hitting Google yet again, and I'd rather not press my luck over there.

Because I do like thinking about the thing.

Vogue Esposa, wedding porn: After two months of resisting, I have finally up and done it. I bought a wedding magazine. I still think it's a bad idea, though, and here's why: Bean and I have budgeted $3K for this shindig, tentatively slated to take place on or around the auspicious (and easy-to-remember) date of 10-10-10. Said shindig will (hopefully) be fun, unique, at least a little classy, and large--the "A list" of guests alone comprises more than 125 friends and family. What all this means is that I have a year and a half ahead of me, filled to the conversational brim with married, soon-to-be-married, or wanting-to-be-married friends and acquaintances, all with the best of intentions, treating me like I am the worst kind of ignorant, illusion-drunk fool for thinking we could pull off such a feat on such a meager budget.

Now, I'm not saying that ALL of my friends and acquaintances are like this--thankfully, there are some who trust and believe in the power of my sheer will (and superhuman networking skillz) to get shit done on the cheap. But combine everybody else in that group with an entire wedding industry specifically designed to convince myself and Bean that our union will be cursed from the get-go if we don't have careful flower arrangements with blown-glass take-home souvenir pieces on each and every (compulsorily) linen-laid table, and you've got me running a little bit scared from the whole affair.


I do like thinking about the thing. And I do like talking about the thing. But the fact is that right now, 18 months or so from the thing actually happening--when we haven't yet found the spot that will beget really setting the date, which will, in turn, beget making a thousand other tiny decisions that will make the thing actually happen--most of the time, talking about it just leads to the inevitable conversation about how it's not possible for that little money. Or it leads to a whole lot of questions that I'm not really ready to answer, not till we've found the spot and set the date; not till I've lost 5-10 pounds; not till (and here's a big one) I've finished the script for issue 12 of 12 and can find an illustrator and therefore move onto the next big project which, as mentioned here, is THIS THING.

But I do like thinking about it.

So, yesterday--a sunny, lazy, bicycling Saturday that started with brunch and ended with bourbon-marinated pork chops on the grill--when Bean and I stopped into our by-far-favored locally owned newsstand, I took the plunge. And after consulting with the female half of the ownership, I put back the print magazine version of a "hip" wedding website*, and instead chose to pay through the nose for some super-legit wedding porn, seen here at right.

See, it's in Italian. ALMOST ALL IN ITALIAN, despite the English words on the cover. Which means I can look at the pictures, but the magazine can't even pretend to sell me anything. Because I CAN'T EVEN READ THE PRICES. Not really. And if I could, I wouldn't be able to do the currency conversion without some help. So I can just look at the pictures, ooh and ahh over custom-made, hand-painted cake toppers, wonder how far into the six figures the prettiest dress might be, and leave it at that. I can think about the thing, while looking at pictures of things that are sort of, kind of supposed to be somehow related to the thing. i can connect, without being affected. Because, I mean, seriously, look at this.

I KNOW I can't afford THAT. And I'm allright with it.

*A magazine which, somehow, still bubbled dangerously over with skinny fleets of bridesmaids in peach satin.

signed of life

Yeah, it's been a while... I've been focused on my day job and on the comic series, and it took me more months than expected to recover from Bali. I'm  not sure if Wordish will get back to being its regularly update, definitionary self any time soon, but I do know that I have something to tell you all right now:

I have organized my bookcase.

This is highly significant. My bookcase is over six feet high and somewhere between three and four feet wide. And when I moved out of the Plymouth Rock House back in August of ought-seven, I packed my books in size order (for easy packing) instead of my usual shelf order (for easy unpacking). The result? Packing was easier,  but organizing never happened---the books sat on the shelves to the left of my desk, unworried by any order any longer, taunting me with their disarray for over a yearf and a half. Smug, inanimate bastards. But no longer! Today, on this, the last day of my two-week oliday break from my parent company, I have finally accomplished the seemingly unaccomplishable. There are rebooted sections for fiction (now with short stories mixed in!); poetry; reference and writing books; comics (now on a prominent top shelf all their own!); biograph\ies and memoirs; music and movies and media; lit journals and zines; feminism, travel, and miscellaneous spirituality; and a miscellaneous bottom shelf featuring activities, kids' books, financial guides, and what-have-I.


I have a paper grocery bag full of discards, a small pile of books to return to their rightful owners, lend to folks who have asked, and give as gifts.

I have marked about a dozen books "to read" with slips of origami paper.

And I have discovered that I have a very strange collection of autographed books:
Satan Says by Sharon Olds
Dreamtoons by Jesse Reklaw
Rat Catching by Crispin Hellion Glover
The Sun Would Shine on His Nose No More by my old pal Aaron Lepley
Love and Rockets Vol. 2, Number 5 autographed by Xaime/Jaime Hernandez

I also have first-edition copies of Brautigan's The Pill Vs. The Spring Hill Mine Disaster and Shaft (yes, there was a novel first), although neither are in mint condition. But the most important thing is that, along with the desk cleaning I did Friday, I now have an office that does not terrify me.