from one junkie to another!

Hauntings (part 2) May 23, 2012

May 23, 2012

With additional thanks to Liz Wong, illustrator.

Previously on wordjunkies: Annie Maier is haunted by a ghost of earthly existence. Flesh and blood and yet also of her own creation. The identity of said being must remain hidden, due in part to Annie’s desire to remain among the living. When we left her, Annie was inching toward a conclusion: what did this specter have to do with forward motion, writing, and escape?

Before I jump to any hasty conclusions about the presence, temporality, and effect of my ghost, I must call the reader’s attention to the plural s at the end of this week’s (and last week’s) title. Hauntings.


Ah, a surprise! But maybe not. Perhaps you’re way ahead of me. Perhaps you noticed this “s” and made your own conclusions. No self-respecting human has just one haunter, after all, why should I be any different?

I am not. (That is, in a nutshell, the whole point of this blog. We are no different from one another. We look different, give or take a few centimeters between our eyes or drops of melanin in our skin, and we sometimes disagree on important issues like human rights, the efficacy of universal health care and voting regulations (to say nothing of the unimportant question of who might win American Idol), but beneath that, in the pulse and clatter of our veins, we are pretty uniformly crafted. A little blood, a little bone, a few pounds of viscous tissue and viola! a human.)

In fact, the second surprising outcome of my first visit to Life Coach Jackie was the discovery that my other ghost is quite regrettably, and no less irrevocably, dead. I can share his identity due to this state of non-temporality, as well as to the fact that he, my second ghost, Ghost #2, haunting plus “s,” is not a succubus (however reluctant) but is, rather, a poltergeist; in death as in life, he is here to support me, love me and cheer me on. (Because that’s something he and Ghost #1 have in common, though absolutely real the roles they each play in my life are manifestations of my own, often overwrought, psyche.)

It is my father to whom I refer—the venerable but no longer fleshy joseph Rizzo (b. 1936—d. 2007).

Now for the conclusion (which isn’t really, but it’s getting there): I had, in seeking Life Coach Jackie’s assistance, three goals—to complete the final edits on my book, to market my book, to get WordJunkiesPress off the ground, and to be able to leave the house on time each morning without causing myself a nervous breakdown. Primary among these was… well, they’re all primary. I can’t do 1-3 without doing 4; I can’t do 2 without 1… Pressed for an answer, by LC Jackie who could, after one brief phone call, see right through me, I chose number 1. Upon being asked to articulate this desire even further, I said, and I quote from however murky a memory, “I want to find out, and address, why I keep putting off the liberation of my completed but as yet homeless book.” I actually don’t think I used the word liberation. I think what I really said was closer to “ I want to know why I don’t get off my ass and send out my book.”

I didn’t tell Jackie the book’s title, or contents, upfront—not out of a desire to be duplicitous, but because it simply didn’t occur to me. The bizarreness of this statement points to my complete lack of self-awareness while also fully explaining the ease with which my ghosts (1 and 2) infiltrated my head. I mean, really, if I don’t even know I’m up there, how could I possibly be expected to detect anyone else?

Instead, LC Jackie had to do a little digging. Meditatively speaking, she picked up a series of impressions in association with my birth name, Annmarie Rizzo turned Ann Marie Rizzo turned, well, me. Interpreting those impressions was my job.

“The word I see for you” she said by way of intro, “is hesitancy.”

“HAHAHAHA!” I laughed aloud. Perhaps the only more accurate term would have been COMPLETE PARALYSIS!

“The image I see is that of a snake.”

Now, some people might not like being called a snake, but I adore the slinky slithery ophidians. To me they are mysterious and beautiful, adapted in a remarkable way to an environment that prefers long legs and shapely teeth over cold blood and venomous fangs. That they are also considered evil by the bible is just an added bonus.

“But,” LCJ continued, not knowing of my affinity and unwilling at this early date to put me off the whole EFT thing, “this snake has arms.” (I admit it, the arms did creep me out a bit.) “It appears to be shedding, but it’s only gotten half way—its, your, arms are pinned. Have you been having trouble writing?”

Writing? No. Publishing, speaking, putting myself OUT THERE? Why, yes. Yes, I have.

To be Continued….


November 23, 2009 November 23, 2009

Filed under: Misguided Acts of Kindness — Annie Maier @ 1:31 pm
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“A John”      (Part 5)


“What’s that?”

“Can I pray with you?”

Damn! Why couldn’t he have said pray for you? Even before I gave up on religion, praying wasn’t something I did with anyone.

“Would that be okay?”

I nodded, once again aware of the passing cars.

He lowered his cross. “Is it okay if I touch you?”

At his tone, which clearly said he would understand if I refused, my hesitation vanished. This was Jesus after all and a little more human (some would say divine) interaction is something we could all benefit from. “Absolutely.”

“Can I ask your name?”


Without moving any closer, he placed his left thumb on my forehead and began praying. “Lord, please look down on your daughter Annie. Bless her, take care of her, take care of her family. Thank you for sending her to me today. Enter her heart, let her know your love.”

At first, my thoughts were clear, because every one of my senses were singing with self-consciousness. As he kept going, however, I lost track of his words. My heart rate slowed and I quit thinking about what Mom or anyone else might think about this impromptu blessing.

He finished, once again lifting the cross and whispering amen. 

We stood quiet for a moment and then he thanked me. Turning to go, I asked his name.

“Me?” I thought for a moment he wasn’t going to answer, but then he said, “I’m a John.”

“A” John. How was that different from plain John? I had no idea, but clearly there was some distinction. No matter. I held out my hand, saying, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, John.” And because he knew I was sincere he grasped my palm, holding it for what would have seemed, in the real world, a breath too long. 

“Take care, Annie.”  

“You, too.”

Climbing back into my car, I felt my face flaming. Forestalling Mom’s questions, I handed her the ten dollars, tossing the groceries into the back seat.

“Didn’t he want it?” she asked.


“No? What kind of a nut is he?”

“He’s not a nut,” I replied. “He’s a John.”

Or so he said. I’m thinking he was a Jesus.



November 18, 2009 November 18, 2009

Filed under: Misguided Acts of Kindness — Annie Maier @ 11:07 pm
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A John            (Part 4)

By now I knew this man would never accept Mama’s ten dollars, but I also knew I’d better not climb back into that car without at least trying. “Since you won’t take food, I imagine money is totally out.”

He laughed, probably at my awkward delivery more than my words. “Yes, money is definitely out.”

Relaxed now – all my offerings had been dispensed and rejected, what else did I have to lose? – I found myself enjoying this man’s company. No longer bothered by the traffic, or the stares, I began speaking as a human being, not a helper of the homeless. “I think I understand,” I told him, “but I have to admit I’m a bit chagrined at being rejected.” As his eyes registered the slightest hint of remorse – rejection had definitely not been on his list of things to do today – I rushed on. “No, it’s okay. It’s was a lesson that needed learning.”

He let that go, instead nodding in the direction of the road, where my bright red Mini Cooper rested. “Nice car you have there.”

Surprised, because I had more or less decided this man was Jesus and who knew messiahs had any interest in cars, I thanked him. At the same time, I cursed whatever gods had given me the means to have such a vehicle when this man didn’t even have a safe place to sleep. “It gets great gas mileage,” I said. As if that somehow made everything alright.

“I appreciate you coming out here.” 

He did?

“It was a brave thing to do.”

It was?

I thought about this. I knew what he meant – I had felt exposed and stupid facing all that traffic. But twenty feet of discomfort is nothing compared to hours of cross-bearing. “I don’t know about brave. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I’m wrong about that sometimes.”

“Not entirely wrong – there is one thing you can do for me.”

I knew where this was going, of course. Had known since this morning when I first saw him. Somehow though, I had hoped to extract myself before Jesus offered me something I didn’t necessarily want. It was too late now, however. I had offered and he had accepted. I had no choice but to suck it up and be gracious.


November 17, 2009 November 17, 2009

Filed under: Misguided Acts of Kindness — Annie Maier @ 11:08 pm
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A John            (Part 3)

“I’ve got everything I need,” he said. “I have a tent, and I get food stamps.”

“Oh.” I swallowed. “I just thought…” I drifted off. What did I think? I thought he was homeless, which was apparently correct, but I also thought that being homeless meant he needed my help. As his eyes finally met my own, I realized how wrong I had been. They were clear and direct – so deep a blue as to resemble the autumn sky above us. Intelligence was there, as was humility and, now that he had acknowledged me, compassion. He needed something, to be sure, but not from me. Not from anyone naïve enough to offer in such a way.

In the blank space of my dawning awareness, he glanced down at the plastic bag in my hand. I had been holding it slightly behind me – trying, I think, to hide my sudden embarrassment from him as well as the staring pairs of eyes from the road beside us.

“I understand that you don’t need anything,” I said, “but you might want something… a soda maybe or a sandwich.” I lifted the bag higher, thinking maybe he could be tempted. “Wanting is much different than needing, after all.”

He laughed and the remaining embers of his aloofness vanished. “This is true, but I don’t eat or drink anything when I’m out.” He gestured to the cross. “It’s just my way.”

I nodded, finally understanding. He might not word it this way, almost assuredly not being Catholic, but this was his penance. An Act of Contrition without words. Having formed this opinion, I immediately jumped to the next – no one could be sinful enough to warrant living in a tent, eating food supplied by an indifferent government and standing on the side of the road holding an enormous cross and praying no do-gooders will come along to spoil your solitude.   

“I’ve committed my share of sins in the past,” he continued, smiling at the memory. “Maybe more than my share. This is a small gesture to make amends.”


November 10, 2009

Filed under: Misguided Acts of Kindness — Annie Maier @ 6:43 pm
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November 10, 2009

The following piece is about one of those experiences in life that you just can’t get out of your mind. I decided to break the telling into smaller segments because no matter how I tried, I couldn’t seem to make it any shorter. And while I love the sound of my own voice as much as the next person – I don’t think I should expect anyone to spend their valuable attention span molecules on my blog. Blogs should be short and pithy, a microcosm of the larger universe if you will, piquing our interest while leaving plenty of room in our heads for more lengthy and, some might say, important literary endeavors – like War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings.

(If you have another perspective on this assessment, please let me know.)  

A John

Driving to my mom’s house last week, I passed a man standing on the side of the street holding an enormous, handmade cross. He was bedraggled looking, with long gray hair pulled into a half-hearted ponytail, a straggling beard creeping toward his chest and ancient, soiled clothes of an indeterminate color. The weather was warm, and his sleeves were pushed up past his elbows. I saw him from about a half mile away, giving me plenty of time to form ideas and opinions about who he was and why he might be standing there. Slowing down to turn, however, I caught a glimpse of his eyes, and was startled to realize that far from engaging passersby as do most of the men who occupy this corner, he was staring off into the distance, deliberately avoiding contact. Clearly my first impression had been wrong. This was no beggar. But what then was he doing standing beneath the blaze of a mid-afternoon sun holding a cross and looking in desperate need of a handout? Surely he wanted attention – why else stand so openly exposed at the edge of a busy street? I had noticed a dirty backpack at his feet, but it seemed deflated, empty. Either he had no belongings or had stored them elsewhere for the day. Homeless? Maybe. Poor? Obviously. What about the cross? Hewn of two long tree limbs and tied together with an old, red rag, it stood about eight feet tall. Perhaps he was an evangelist, stumping not for any particular religion, but for God.

I picked up my mom and the two of us went on our way, running errands and having lunch as we do every Wednesday. Heading back at the end of the afternoon, I decided to bring the man some food. I had a sandwich, but nothing else, so on my way I stopped at a gas station and bought a bag of chips and a soda. The station also had Snowballs, my mom’s favorite treat in the world, and on impulse I bought those as well. As I climbed back into the car, Mom handed me a carefully folded ten dollar bill. I had told her I didn’t think the man wanted money, but she insisted. Then she handed me the cupcakes, saying, “Here. He needs these way more than I do.” Touched by the gesture, but still a bit put out that she had so readily given up my gift, I tossed them in the bag.

When we arrived back at the corner, it was rush hour. I pulled over, trying to get out of traffic as quickly as possible and thus avoid irritating any potentially volatile commuters, and jumped from the car. In my haste to get off the road, I had parked quite a distance from the man. Stumbling along the uneven mix of dirt, rocks and mud, I started feeling stupid. Despite my best efforts, I was causing a snag in traffic – people were slowing down, looking. Some were honking, and others shouted for me to get the hell out of the way. Lurching and sweating and wondering if I had lost my mind, I considered turning around and climbing back into the safe anonymity of my car. But I was on a mission and backing away from that didn’t seem like much of an option.


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