Bitches With Problems

Bitches With Problems by Bridget RyanBitches With Problems is a wild ride through a cautionary tale of how one young woman barely made her way through the drug filled music explosion of the 1970’s. Set on the Canadian edge of the Detroit River, the journey across that iconic border, from Windsor to that magnetic American city, an alluring metropolis, on the verge of collapse. This is a harrowing journey from one side of recovery to the next, where relapses, rebirth and a life lived in the moment combine to show us how to survive the impulses of youth and all its addictive promise.

Excerpt from Bitches With Problems:

 

 

 


COTTAGE 13
A Bette Davis Greeting 

“The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of ones mind, is the condition of the normal man.”–R.D. Laing

none of us there
dealt with life very well
some less than others
the day I arrived, the rain, heavy and dark

long drive
into the estate
enough to scare
the shit out of me

clearly it had
scared the shit
out of a lot of geese
long before I got there

felt like we
were just driving
along a quaint country road
never seemed to end

becoming more ominous – intimidating
the further we drove
like opening credits
for the gothic thriller my life had become

driven by imagination and addiction
driven along
through miles
and miles of thick forest

when finally we found the place
dark and forbidding
half expecting to see bats flying
out of the belfry

lightning flashing – exploding in the sky
Bette Davis, greeting us at the door
(the older Bette Davis, face all wrinkled
but beautiful in a ghastly sort of way)

her head about to disappear inside
her smoke framed mouth
smoking furiously
with a sinister smile and the famous, “What a dump!”

dripping from her creased red lipstick
running like little webbed streams through her upper lip
becoming deep rouge rivers to her nostrils
Cottage 13 and surrounding environs: a real dump –

a great, big, beautiful dump.
the romantic beauty of the lovely, leafy laneway
turning into a miles-long ordeal
trying to imagine a new beginning

with too much to endure
before we sleep
before any new beginnings
could hope to begin

cars, like sanity, are driven –
driven past all these huge, old
mansion-like structures
architectural madness mixed with mirth and metaphor

housed in our brains – red brick matter
ancient, moss-covered, gothic sense
made out of
mortar and madness

fifteen cottages with fancy porticos
adorning massive columns
pseudo-Victorian mansions
ivy-covered with tunnels connecting each ward

tunnels of not enough love
cliche’s for the kooky
to adorn our minds
asking ourselves if this is at all a good route to follow

this decaying adornment, this labyrinth
to run through but never getting to the exit without bumping
into the same dead end a few hundred times
without realizing you have to fly right out of there

like Icarus – the father cliche – Daedalus egging his son on
we all know how that turned out
wax winged boy and doting dad had some great ideas
too bad it all turned to goose shit

fifteen identical buildings sinking into crap filled madness
was I the lucky one getting number 13
all grouped together beside the lake
surrounded by  fields of crap

crap left behind by
winged creatures tethered – caught – in an orbital maze
finding the good sense god gave geese
to fly right the fuck out of there.
out of Cottage Thirteen…

Cottage 13

“Surely, all who are locked in boxes of different sizes should have their hands held.”

Anne Sexton

you never wanna spend six months
in a place called Cottage 13
not if you can help it
of course, nobody in there, could help it…

never wanting to admit
we were actually in
a mental hospital
who would?

nurses pretending
we were all gathered together
in a “therapy unit.”
the rest of the nuts who needed drugs

were kept under lock and key
somewhere else on the grounds
people don’t like to call themselves nuts
but nuts sounds way better than insane

we all had our reasons
but we were nuts – certifiable
if we hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have been there
now, would we?

Cottage 13 – a big mansion facing the ocean
like something right out of “The Great Gatsby”
not “The Great Gatsby” of the early chapters
where Daisy and Jay think they might have a second chance;

“The Great Gatsby” after the swimming pool scene
once the place has gone to pot
and the head of the house
has bled in the pool

but at first glance
even with its ominous tone
slightly decaying air
it really was beautiful

“What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin’? Well you’re
not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walkin’ around on the streets and that’s it.”–Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

try it – squint a little
imagine all your memories
far more positive
than they really were

Cottage 13
and the surrounding grounds were, well –
really quite beautiful
from a warped, romantic perspective

despite having
to avoid piles
of goose shite
everywhere you walked

beautiful grounds covered in crap
just like my memories
but there’s a silver lining, right
tell me there’s a silver lining

I’m still looking for it
maybe I’ll find it here, in my shit covered memories –
those beautiful grounds, covered in feces
once in a while one would come wandering
this crazy bastard, screaming he was Jesus Christ.
would spot me and shout, “and there she goes – it’s Mary Magdalene”

always smiling seemed pretty harmless
I’d see him out there, me in my sunglasses, even in the rain
with my rubber boots; even in the sunshine,
there we’d be: Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ, trying to find our way

I have found it easier to identify with the creatures who verge upon Hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really. –Tennessee Williams

wading through fields of goose shit
there were twenty-seven of us
all forced to live together in this weird
place by the sea

most of us had some serious personality problems
which is why we ended up in there in the first place
I guess it’s kind of mean of me to call us all crazy
even when I include myself

but crazy is it is always the first
word that comes to mind
when I think of that time
at Cottage 13

group therapy everyday
sitting on ugly couches
nurses in our group
so very pleased

when someone broke down
proof of a breakthrough
ready to deal with the pain
never felt comfortable

crying in front of others
so I kept my mouth shut
sat silently on the fringe
like some kind of ghoul

“The natural role of the twentieth-century man is anxiety.”
Norman Mailer

it wasn’t like the people who were trying to help
went out of their way to make us feel anything but crazy
some good people but generally speaking, everyone
staff and patients alike, were all a bit off

strong kind of crazy – Patsy Cline crazy –
song of the love loons
like good coffee
like the dark haired men

I learned to crave
strong and crazy
brawn and hazy
filtered though as the music and the booze played on

you could say that it was all a little off kilter
like a Gothic thriller, a film or a book
with half-crazed characters wandering through the
pages and the scenes and the goose poo

only difference was
we couldn’t just switch off the insanity
like old movies on a late night TV set

set on the night table – then switch off the light
just go to sleep
or wander out of the movie theatre –
taking all those images imbedded in your brain –
back into a normal life
learned one normal thing there
and so many other places
learned there’s
no such thing – no normal

something I should have seen coming
driven in that little Falcon
with my lovelorn first lover
headlong into life

“Normal” as fiction – like films or stories –
only exists on the page
something everyone tries to capture
call it their own kinda normal

some of us get there
more slowly than others
detoured by cottage 13


THE MAN IS NAKED
Just after landing a teaching job at the Foothills Indoor Tennis Club, in Calgary, I found a great place to live.  It was an old, enfeebled, Victorian house, complete with turrets and leaded glass windows. It was downtown, close to the club, the rent, an unbelievable two hundred dollars a month, for the ground floor flat. Strange as it may seem, after paying the landlord for the first months’ rent, he never came to collect the rent again, so I lived there for free.

Detroit Drawing by Rusty McCarthy
Detroit illustration

From the aerie, that was my bedroom, I could see through the ample glass of the French Doors, the stone steps descending to a grove of trees, their arching bows, a leafy canopy, shielding the sumptuous sanctuary of a lush garden. Such dense foliage cloaked the house that I could roam the grounds undetected, secure in the knowledge that I could not be seen and more importantly, to be living alone.

Home from the tennis club, by 2 p.m., I would slip into my bathing suit, head for my private Garden of Eden, set up my chaise longue in the sun, roll a joint, pour a glass of wine (or two), stretch out and listen to my favourite “Motown Soul”, (ever hopeful that my freckled skin would somehow tan).

My customary peace was shattered one hot Friday afternoon, by a loud knocking. I thought it must be the landlord because I had not told anyone, of my exact location. I hurriedly threw a shirt over my bathing suit and hustled through to the front door, neglecting to look through the peephole. I swung the heavy door open and there stood A Naked Man!

“Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God,” I squealed.

I slammed the door in his face and tore back through the house, closing drapes, locking windows and making sure the French doors were bolted. Shaken, I made my way to the phone and called the police.

I was frantic. Why was this guy standing on my front porch without a stitch? Did he just stroll down the street and happen to turn in at my house? He must have stashed his clothes in the bushes, knowing he could not be seen from the street.

I waited for the cops to come as I hastily downed another glass of wine. This could not be happening. It was surreal.

A second knock! A squint through the lens of the peephole revealed two detectives. I opened the door gingerly.

They asked me to step outside and began asking questions.

“What color was his hair?” smirked the first detective.

“I really didn’t get a good look at his hair.”

“Well, what color were his eyes?” they countered.

“I didn’t get a good look at his eyes, either,” I answered.

Snicker, snicker. They were laughing at me.

They began to look around the property and then advised me to get a friend to come and stay with me. I had just moved to the city and I did not know anyone.

The police assured me they would have a patrol car parked in front of my house and told me not to worry.

“Right,” I thought. “The naked maniac is probably going to come back here, in the middle of the night to murder me.”

Their theory was that someone had been watching me from a high-rise apartment, near my house and the appearance of my man was a one-off thing.

But not in my mind. The vision of my naked visitor haunted me night and day. I was sick with fear and the only relief I got came when I drank.

One morning I awoke to find the leaded glass windows throughout the house had been cut out. Apparently leaded glass is rare and fetched good money.

Just about the time I began feeling a little safer, I decided to go camping with two girls I had met through tennis.  As we were leaving, I noticed a woman moving into the flat on the top floor.  She was very fair with long blonde hair, freckled and the same height and size.  I was pleased that I would have an upstairs neighbour but she looked just like me! It was a little discomfiting but not about anything that I could put into words. It was strange that my doppelgänger was now living above me and at the same time I was pleased to have would have a neighbour upstairs. Life would be safe again.

When I got back to town, I took a cab home.  As soon as we turned the corner to my block, I could smell smoke and I saw the fire engines.

“What address didya want?” the cabbie asked me.

I could barely answer for fear it was my house that burned down. Sure enough, there is was, with no top half to the house left.

The turrets were gone and it was now a square block of smouldering wood. I got out of the cab and quivered my way toward the fireman standing before the front porch.

“I live here,” I sputtered.

“What happened?”

One of the fireman told me not to worry as the bottom of the house had not caught fire. He took me into the house and showed me the streaks of black soot running up and down the inside walls.

He took me to the top of the stairs. There was nothing left of the apartment. It was horrendous. My doppelgänger had not been home when the fire was set. Later, I found out, that two men had broken in and had soaked the walls and floors with gasoline and set the place alight.

She looked just like me.


ABARS

a somewhat seductive seedy bar

a swaggering elderly shambling hotel

the original rickety wooden tavern

kneeling on the grimy banks of the Detroit river

a honky-tonk bar!

the perfect dive bar with

pickled eggs and beef jerky

with booming jukebox

filled with great music

we riverside voyageurs

on hot summer nights

underage and undercover

we primped and wore lip gloss

white jeans with serious belts

trying to break the age 19 legal age image

we would connive and pass slack doormen

edging through to the back to regroup

sitting at the big round table

the table on the dance floor

the one furthest from the bar

an untouchable dream

for un-carded youth

we drank cokes and pitchers of beer

blissfully dancing with fervour

ABARS was the happening

place with all the cool bands

and all the cool guys

still scoping the room

older siblings.

who would surely escort us out by

our ears

 

drenched in the humid secrecy of lives

daring to be have lived life

too young,too soon

amid waves of youth

craving adulthood

in all the wrong places

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