The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Fight or Flight

This post over at House In Progress has been knocking around in my mind since I read it. I particularly like this passage:

“More than once over the last three years, I have really, REALLY wanted to ditch this house.

There. I said it. It's off my chest and I'm relieved. I have daydreamed about leaving the door unlocked with a sign on it that says, "Help yourself" and taking the first flight out of O'Hare to...I didn't care where. Somewhere far away where I could rent an apartment or, better yet, sleep on a beach and work as a waitress and never pick up a power tool again. This has happened more often than I've let on. And regret is a nasty roommate at 3:00 a.m.”

Even when they are wrapped in the throws of regret and despair, I admire their restraint. I’ve had similar thoughts and feeling though I’d be more inclined to burn the Devil Queen like a pagan king laid upon a pyre than leave a “Help Yourself” sign on the front door. Melodrama and catharsis are hard to beat.

This post also reminded me of a post of my own I started a month or two ago and never got around to posting. For whatever it is worth, here it is.


“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

- Winston Churchill

Several months ago, things were bleak. The Devil Queen's relentless pressure was grinding us into a fine powder. It did not make for a happy home life.

My wife was ready to call it quits. She didn't care if we were crushed in the falling wreckage, because, at the rate we were going, it wouldn't matter anyhow. This would make me furious, and she was always mystified as to why. She'd ask me, "Why do you want to keep going? Why do you want to keep pouring money into this? It's hopeless. We've squandered our time, our money, and our opportunities. I'm tired. I don't want to try, to struggle, to fight anymore. Why do you!?"

I didn't know either. I had no cogent arguments, and I needed them to win over my wife. Aside from the fact that she'd hate it, she would make a great lawyer. Her cross-examining skills are incisive and brutal. I even had the advantage that she secretly wanted to be won over to my side. But, I faltered and failed.

Months passed, we muddled through the miasma, and, miraculously, things improved.

I'm lukewarm about many things. I am passive to a fault. Commitment isn't something I fear per se, but I lack the energy and initiative to rise to the occasion. Then, at some inauspicious hour, I am fire-inspired and set ablaze. I latch myself to the object of my obsession with a death grip. Prudence is not a consideration. Even if it's decidedly not in my best interests, it's too late.

The Devil Queen is more than a house, a project, or a commitment. She is more than an obsession too. To my own detriment, she has become my punishment, my penance, and my redemption. If I succeed, a string of failures will be broken, poor choices will be forgiven, and I shall reign victorious over the field of battle. I hope.

I haven't achieved anything that I'd really hoped to at this point in my life. I've had what I believed where good ideas go bottom up. Things didn't work out, I was a victim of circumstance and my own poor planning.

Then there is the Devil Queen. Sure, maybe it was a stupid idea: move an old shit-heap of a house, fix it up, make some money on it, and have a cool place to live. As one of my in-laws said (sympathetically), "Jesus, talk about a big fucking mess." And, it definitely is one. But, for whatever stupid reason, I simply could not make myself quit. If I failed, it would not be for a lack of spine. I never, ever want to look back and wonder what would have happened if I'd just kept at it a little bit longer. If this whole adventure ends in ruin, so be it, but it won't be for a lack of trying.

The truth is that despite all the black omens I still secretly hope for success. More than that, I really want it to be a success. I need to finally achieve something for a change. If I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will reach the end.

For years I've watched old homes disappear. They fell in, burned down, or were torn down. Wasn't that a damn shame? What was wrong with people? Why didn't someone do something about it? Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I could do something. I didn't want to be another obnoxious, hypocritical whiner. If I wasn't going to do anything to change the situation, I ought to just shut the hell up.

So, I put my money where my month was, and three fourths of the time I wish I hadn't. As for the other fourth, I'm really glad that I did, and that is why I'm still at it.

I'm tired of playing the victim to the vagaries of life, and I am tired of my half-assed follow-through on everything. This project will be different. So, “once more into the breach,” and I shall return victorious or on my shield.


Blogger Becky said...

Well said!

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

"...Then, at some inauspicious hour, I am fire-inspired and set ablaze. I latch myself to the object of my obsession with a death grip. Prudence is not a consideration. Even if it's decidedly not in my best interests, it's too late...."

You have said it well...

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Brenda from Brookyn said...

Goddam, I feel like I could go and strip some more paint off the stained-glass windows after reading that post. We shall prevail...or if not, we shall not be moved!!!
blb (fueled with homemade sodabread and corned beef)

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Carol said...

The best ideas in hindsight are the ones that people think you are crazy to pursue. Its always that way. People told us we were nuts to want to renovate this 80 year old house, after moving from a brand new "perfect" house in the suburbs. But it will be sweet when its all over when its obvious that what we have is very cool and in a great neighborhood. It will take you WAY longer to finish than you expect. Try and spread out the flow of capital and get parts of it livable, then finish the rest as needed. Do not make decisions too fast. Try and live in it. You will succeed if you give yourself enough time.

6:59 AM  
Blogger allison said...

I had to laugh as you talked about people’s reactions to the house. When we bought our first fixer upper I walked my siblings through before we moved in and no one said a word, except for a few “interesting…uh hum….” I still have a picture of my mother in law in front of the house and the look on her face was total horror. That house turned out to be one of our best and 5 years later we sold it for a nice profit. So, don’t give up! It’s all worth it in the end!

8:18 PM  

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