The Devil Queen

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

My Photo
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!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Floater

We inadvertently invented the perfect mouse trap over the weekend. Step one, install new toilet. Step two, leave lid up. Step three, wait.

Kenny brought this little gem to my attention. Kenny had gone to the master bath to get some toilet paper to blow his nose, and saw this. Kenny is a bit skittish and the little bastard staring up at him scared him half to death. Hearing Kenny tell the story on himself is particularly amusing (I wish I had an audio recorder for it).

We’d known that we had a mouse for a while. Hot dog buns were violated. Toilet paper, paper towels, and scraps of insulation were gnawed to pieces and dragged off. Small poop pellets littered dark corners. Somehow the little fellow managed to avoid the king snake that took up residence under the hot tub. His downfall was he got lazy. Instead of venturing out of the Devil Queen to drink out of a puddle or the creek, he just had to drink out of the brand new toilet.

The photo is probably a bit over the top, but the longer this project has dragged on, the more I feel compelled to document, record, and photograph everything. And, I do mean everything. If weren’t so busy working on the Devil Queen, my job, moving, etc, I’d have already slipped into an obsessive compulsive disorder and psychosis. Maybe I already have?

Ever the optimist, I find great comfort in the fact that I have successfully resisted the urge to examine the seemingly random paint spatters on my work boots as the subconscious expression of my id in relation to the abstract expressionist paintings of Jackson Pollock. Once I completely slide into art-fag, pseudo-intellectual musings, all hope will be lost. Till then, I’ll continue to enjoy the great view the outer edge of lucid mental functioning affords.

Who You Know

It’s all about who you know. In our case, we lucked out. We know Kenny, and Kenny seems to know everyone we’ve been looking for. This week Burt, Kenny’s cousin, is on vacation in Texas. Instead of working on the Queen solo this week, Kenny had an ingenious idea. He asked if he could have a guy he knows come up and finish our sheet rock for the same pay as Burt. This way we get “extra,” specialized help without having to come up with a second pay check. Brilliant! I know this logic is a bit flawed, i.e. I’m getting less carpentry, but let me cling to my delusions. Here's is the master bath:

Since our original tile guy flaked out on us, Kenny had a guy named Jake come out and take a look at the Devil Queen. He said that he could have all our tile work finished in a week and he could start now. I called him Tuesday morning and told him to start on it whenever he could. He was at the Devil Queen about 45 minutes later. So far I’m really pleased with his work.

Since our moving travesty is behind us now, I can once again focus solely on the Queen. I didn’t finish much, but I did manage to finish priming the master bedroom ceiling. Tomorrow night (?) it’ll be time to caulk the bastard, and then we start in on the final coat of paint this weekend.

While Kenny is an extremely nice guy, his motives aren’t entirely altruistic (which is fine by me). He’s getting ready to wrap up work on the Queen in June (I know he has two jobs lined up after the Queen), and the tile & dry wall were going to become bottle necks to his progress before too much longer.

Here are a couple of pictures of the main hall's wainscotting. The new bead board isn't as thick as the original stuff. Kenny and Burt have had to shim it out to match the thickness. They have some 1/4 inch "bead board" plywood left from the master bathroom, and it is the perfect thickness for the shims. Here are some of the plywood spacers:

And, here is the new wainscotting:

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Incase you’re wondering how the Memorial Day Weekend went for us, it blew. Too much stuff, too few boxes, too little time, and, for the final act, it rained. On the upside, once the veritable shit-storm was over, things seemed to have settled down okay. Well, sort of. We’re in tenuous holding pattern until we can begin moving into the Devil Queen. God help us, I’m hoping to pull that off in one to two weeks.

Collectively, there were two nervous break downs, starvation, exhaustion, delusions, and dementia. Great weekend. Most of it was my fault, and the only thing saving me from my stupidity is that I’m a real hard worker. And, I have some very generous, hard working in-laws too (thanks Jack, you own me).


I own two houses, but I am currently homeless.

I am so exhausted that I no longer feel tired.

I have to use short sentences to make sense.

More later.

Friday, May 26, 2006

House Sloth and the Dream of Being Gainfully Unemployed

I was inspecting the Devil Queen Wednesday; I was looking at a door jamb that needs some trim when I caught myself thinking, “I’ll have to have Kenny take care of that.” Then, I thought, “what the hell, I can do it myself. I should be saving Kenny for the things that I can’t do. I’ve gotten lazy.”

And, I have. The sad part is that I hadn’t even noticed. After spending a long time looking at our budget, bills, and what not, I’m trying to figure out when the era of Kenny will finally come to an end. It’s time for us to wade back into the mess ourselves, and get it finished. Sure, there are some things that are still beyond or skill level that I want him to do, but there is a lot that we can do.

While things have been terribly complicated lately, I’m hoping to start pushing things around in such a way that our lives will become simplified. Getting our renter in and moving into the Devil Queen will reduce our bills by about 10-15%. While there is the great Do-we-want-to-live-in-it-as-we-work debate, I think that the Queen is at a point where we can live there without too much bother. And, we can work on it whenever we want. Have 15 minutes to spare? Pull wallpaper tacks, plan the next project, caulk some trim, etc. And, no more 30 minute round trips to and from the Queen.

I much as I would things to calm down, I’m sure things will be in constant flux (i.e. an enormous fucking mess) until we get this old whore mortgaged. No more crippling interest payments, no more mountainous contractor bills, etc.

At that point, I would like to pursue my dream of being gainfully unemployed. I heard a brief piece called Choosing Life Over Career by Dana Goldman on NPR yesterday that got me thinking about this. She talks about how she quit her job and worked miscellaneous part-time jobs to make a living. She has enough money to pay her rent & medical insurance and spend the rest of her time doing whatever it is she wants. Sure there are trade offs, but, as one of her friends observed, “You’re so much happier now.” And, that is worth something to me.

So, ideally, I’ll find a way to pay off our college and remodeling debts, get a few rent houses, and “work” part-time at something I like. With the notable exception of one job, none of my other jobs have meant anything more than a pay check to me. Life is too short for bull shit like that.

On a different note, I’m worried about Kenny. He was AWOL for payday which I’ve never seen any contractor do. Clearly something was up, but I don’t know what. I certainly hope that everything is okay. The situation was further complicated by the fact our phone is now dead. In preparation for our move this weekend, my wife called the phone company to see what we needed to do to have our phone number and service transferred to the Devil Queen. Instead of just telling her, they went a head and did it. Who knew that efficiency could be so inconvenient? We called once from a payphone and once from my in-laws. No answer and no answering machine. Weird.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Picture Post Card of our Current Struggle

I should probably be doing something else, but here are some pictures I took last night.

First, here is the interior of my son’s closet. It was in pretty bad shape, so there wasn’t much to salvage or restore except the low beadboard ceiling which we’ve left. Kenny used some wood left over from all of our cabinets.

Second, we have photos of our nearly primed (two coat) master bedroom ceiling. Sadly, it just looks like a less flaky version of the original ceiling.

Third, we have the arched doorway from the kitchen to the back edition. Kenny finally trimmed it out which was a tricky job.

Fourth, we have the ever growing stack of cabinet doors for the living room built-ins. Once he’s finished with building them all, Kenny is going to take them to a cabinet factory in Pottsville (15 minutes away) to have them fit with "invisible" hinges.

And, that is pretty much it aside from the new thresholds for the front and back doors (sorry no pictures). Until we get moved out of our current house, the Devil Queen will be on our back burner for now.

I’ve scrounged up about 6 good sized boxes for our move which means I’ll only need 25-30 more. Guess what I’m doing tonight?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Procrastination and Rectal Fortitude

I’d love to say that we’ve been wildly productive this week, but, despite our best intentions, that has not been the case. Keeping odd hours (my wife didn’t make it home from work until 12:15 AM), malfunctioning cars, and intermittent phone service have slowed us down.

I had to laugh when I read about the Damn You Stickley Bungalow folk’s experience with buying new house hold appliances. Apparently, major appliances have cultivated some sort of evolutionary adaptation that makes you want to take them home no matter what the cost. In our case, the sales man offered us 5% off plus 0% interest for a year if we used our virginal Lowe’s card. Figuring this will save us about $100, we went a head and bought it. We’re just a couple of materialistic suckers. But, if we weren’t, the economy would collapse. Besides, we need them. Here are a couple of pictures of them.

I am intrigued to find that is getting even more press. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t think they are fabulous site (which they are), but I am astounded by how many folks are finding what I consider a small online niche so captivating. Maybe it is just an idea whose time has come?

I personally liked their description of the site:

Best way to steel yourself for a remodel
If you love watching Extreme Home Makeover but aren't sure you'd like to live it, get inspired at Run by a Chicago couple who are recording their bungalow's overhaul on, this site brings together a bunch of remodelers-cum-bloggers, all of whom chronicle the triumphs and tragedies of their undertakings online, complete with pictures. Once you're emotionally ready to begin your own renovation, consider joining the fray. Says founder Jeanne Olson: "This community can keep you motivated long after your offline friends think you've gone completely nuts."

I couldn’t agree more. It takes an immense amount of rectal fortitude to undertake and survive a major home renovation project. For those of you who still have doubts, I’d suggest you try one of these babies out.

"The Judas Chair: This was a large pyramid-shaped "seat." Accused heretics were placed on top of it, with the point inserted into their anuses or genitalia, then very, very slowly lowered onto the point with ropes. The effect was to gradually stretch out the opening of choice in an extremely painful manner."

You know it’s good when it has the Spanish Inquisition’s and OSHA’s stamp of approval. You don’t have to go all the way, but few hours of this will give you a good idea of what to expect. Just take the pain and discomfort and imagine it stretched out over a decade or until a swift, merciful death ends your suffering. And, to think, I’m the optimist in our little family.

I'm going up to the Queen tonight to see what Kenny has been up to. Maybe, just maybe there will be some photos.

Monday, May 22, 2006


I thought things were fairly messy the last time I posted, but it was merely foreshadowing of things to come.

Instead of moving out of our blue house on June 3-4, 2006, we are now planning to be moved out by May 29, 2006 (Jenny, if you are reading this before you hear from me, give me a call). That’s right, one week from today. Now, as Tarr mentioned in the comment section of the last post, my list of things-to-do for us to move into the Devil Queen was pretty unmanageable. And, what was a daunting undertaking in two weeks is utterly impossible in one week. After busting our asses all night Friday and all day Saturday, we’ve pretty much given up on finishing those rooms anytime in the next week or two. So, since we’re still planning to move out in a week, where does that leave us? We will probably be spending about two weeks (or more?!) with my in-laws. Fortunately, we all get along pretty well so that shouldn't be too bad.

At this point, I imagine most of you are thinking, “Wow, what a complete and total cluster-fuck. What are these retards thinking?!” And, it probably does merit some explaining.

First things first, why move out of the blue house on Memorial Day weekend? The short answer is we have a good renter lined up. He comes highly recommended by my wife’s father. He is a used car dealer who sold our renter a car. According to him, our renter always paid in full and on time. We’re probably going to have to rent the place sometime soon anyhow since we’ve never been able to consummate a sale on the property (buyers just keep flaking out or dying). We think he’s going to be a good renter, and we’re willing to inconvenience ourselves in the short term to get him. This will also free up a lot of money for us. His rent will pay the mortgage, insurance, and upkeep on the house. It will also allow us to get rid of our dual electricity and water bills.

Also, we originally planned to be moved into the Queen by now. We’ve fallen behind schedule, but our renter was counting on getting to move in at the end of May or beginning of June. He didn’t renew or extend his lease because we told him it would be ready by now. I hate lying to people, particularly if it’ll leave them homeless.

Second, we work better under pressure with firm deadlines. Sounds crazy, but I can nearly guarantee that (barring acts of God, etc) progress on the Devil Queen will probably increase by 100% once we move out and in with my in-laws.

Third, I’ve always wanted to be a slumlord. Why wait? I’m not getting any younger. I’ll be turning 30 this year, and, according to my wife, this means that I can join AARP. I’m really excited about this, so I figure that it is a good time to begin preparing for my retirement. I’d hoped to inherit, but it has become apparent that my parents aren’t going to come through for my sister and me. Baby Boomers, what a generation of slackers.

Now, as I mentioned, we worked our asses off this weekend. In fact, we worked so hard, we forgot to take pictures. We finally finished scraping all the old paint off of the master bedroom ceiling, and we’ve nearly finished priming it (about 75% finished). There is something really sad about spending so much time taking all the paint off of something and then cover it back up again within a few hours.

Sunday, we had our we-ain’t-going-to-make-it epiphany so we didn’t work on the Queen (though we seriously considered it). Instead, we went to Lowe’s to stock up on caulk and toilet tank feed lines, but ended up buying a stackable Whirlpool washer and dryer. I blame my wife for several reasons.

First, she isn’t here to contradict me, so I can pin it all on her.

Second, I don’t usually browse when I shop at Lowe’s. I try to make my visit a surgical strike. I make a list, ruthless stick to it, and flee as fast as I can. Not my wife though. She looks at everything. Sure, occasionally she finds a good deal on the bargain rack (like five light fixtures) or finds some new, yet-unknown gizmo that we could really use, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you end up leaving with a major appliance to two. Or, fruit trees.

Third, she thinks that just because she as a full-time job and a toddler that this somehow excuses her from hand-washing all our clothes. Just because the industrial revolution and rampant scientific development has provided us with and endless stream of household appliances and other time-saving devices doesn’t mean that you are entitled to them; it’s a privilege to own a washer and dryer. Apparently, the value of a good wife has depreciated since the 1800’s; I think hand washed clothing was standard issue back then.

Now, we wouldn’t have had to buy a new washer and dryer if the ones we have now would have fit in the mudroom. However, since the Jacuzzi tub ended up taking up more space than we had anticipated, our old behemoths just won’t fit, even if we greased them with a stick of butter and pushed real hard. Nothing short of trimming them down and welding them into a single unit would make them fit. Remember, measure twice, cut once. Measure once, and buy a new washer and dryer. On the upside, the new washer and dryer are more energy and water efficient, so we’ll save money if we don’t have to replace them until we’re 80.

Anyhow, here are some pictures from the previous week.

Here is our stack of cherry wood, tongue-in-groove flooring.

Here is the Devil Queen with her new, vented skirt.

And, here is our next-door neighbor’s home. They are selling their house, and I hope they make a killing on it. I want property values to be as high as possible by the time we get around to financing a mortgage for the Devil Queen.

Doesn’t look much like a Victorian does it? Can you see why half our neighbors hate us?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Super Nova

[Yeah, I know that isn’t a super nova; they all seemed too pretty so I went with a picture of their smaller, more violet looking little brother]

I think things are approaching critical mass. Silly me, I thought things might calm down some since I finished my online class and oil painting. I couldn’t be more wrong.

My wife got a message from Mr. Velcro (not his real name, but that is what it sounds like on the answering machine) today. Mr. Velcro is the prospective renter for our death-cursed, blue ranch house. He wanted to let us know that his current lease expires on the first of June, and would he be able to move in?

Wife: “Do you think we could pull it off?”

Me: “Uuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I need to think about it. Maybe?”

Wife: “Well, think about it. We’ll talk about it tonight.”

Now, my wife and I are expert movers. We’ve cleaned places out in less than 8 hours, so packing up isn’t the big issue. The problem is I don’t know what will happen once we’re packed.

Since the Devil Queen is a construction zone, nearly all of our belonging will have to find a temporary home in a storage unit.

Once (if) we find a storage unit and move our mountains of shit into said unit, then what? No matter how frothy of a home-improvement frenzy we work ourselves into, I don’t see us moving and finishing off the master bedroom, master bath, and my son’s room in two weeks. I’d be thrilled to mostly finish the master bed and bath. So, my son would probably have to stay with his grandparents for about a week if they’d take him for that long.

If we get that taken care of, we’ll need working utilities. That means we need to make sure that the plumbing and the hot water heaters work. We also need to have the telephone service connected. Having one working sink would be nice too.

To finish the master bedroom, we need to:

1) Spend 3-4 hours scraping the bedroom ceiling
2) Prime and paint the ceiling
3) Finish stripping the wallpaper
4) Mud and tape the walls
5) Prime and paint the walls
6) Sand, stain, and seal the floor
7) Replace on missing window pane
8) Install ceiling fan/lights

To move in, we need to finish 1-6. We can rough it until 7 & 8 get finished.

To finish the master bathroom, we need to:

1) Tape and mud the walls
2) Prime and paint the wall
3) Connect water feed to toilet tank
4) Install the sinks (well, at least one)
5) A door would be nice, but not essential

Our situation is further complicated by a few other considerations. First, I don’t think I have any vacation time left at work until after June 1st. I’m not sure if my wife has any time off, or, if she does, I don’t know if she’ll be allowed to take it. Worst case, we only have the weekends and whatever time after work we can fit in. If we worked at least 10 hours a day, every day for the two weekends and Memorial Day, that would give us 50 hours of work time. That just doesn’t seem like enough, but maybe . . .

Hell, I just don’t know. Thinking about it is giving me a headache.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Good and the Bad

Sorry. I don’t have too much time today. We have a mix of good and bad news today. Good news, my wife just bought 350 square feet of cherry, hardwood flooring today for less than $1000. According to her, it is beautiful. And, they deliver. It should be at the Devil Queen tomorrow.

Bad news, our tile guy didn’t show up. And, he didn’t call either. I won’t say anything bad about him for now since it is possible that something extraordinary kept him too busy to call, etc. On the other hand, our experience has taught us that if they don’t call and don’t show, they won’t. Ever. So, we’re looking for someone new.

We got my wife’s car out of the shop yesterday, but we didn’t work on the Queen since we were tired & it was late once we’d picked it up. We may or may not work on the Queen tonight. Slowly, we are falling behind schedule. Nothing that we can’t make up for over the weekend (yet), but it still sucks on a psychological level.

More later.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Fringe Benefits or Why You Need to Have a Party

The great thing about having a We-Almost-Have-Running-Water Party is you get to visit with folks you usually don’t get to see. And, after a few beers, they tell you stuff like, “Hey, I’m working at a lumber mill now, and I might be able to hook you up with some good prices.”

“Do you have flooring?”

“Yeah, we just got a [some sort of milling machine that does flooring].”

“What kind of flooring do y’all mill? Walnut, oak, pine?”

“No, no pine. Mostly we do high-end cabinets. Lots of red oak and cherry.”


“Give me a call sometime. I see if I can find something for you.”

My wife talked with our friend last night.

He said, “Well, I think that I have about 400 square feet of flooring. It’s all remnants, but you probably won’t want it, it’s cherry.” Apparently he thought we had our desperate little hearts set on red oak. Little did he know that if the price was right, we’d take nearly anything (our roof is case and point).

Anyhow, since he is technically an “underling” my wife has to call and talk to The Man today so we can get the official price. Wish us luck.

Last night, we continued our marathon of pain and worked on the Devil Queen. My wife cleaned the kitchen up so everything will be ready for the tile guy if he comes today. I continued scraping the ceiling and finally succeeded in rubbing my knuckles raw. It made me wonder how much blood is shed during the construction or renovation of a home (not including the occasional, gory freak accident). I suspect that all the small blood-lettings really add up.

The two vessel sinks we ordered off of eBay came last night. They look just as good in person as they did online (always a concern). My wife did a little happy-dance around them, so they’re a success as far as I’m concerned.

If we have enough energy and time, we’ll be back at the Queen tonight. My wife’s car crapped out yesterday, and we’ll probably have to pick it up after work tonight. That may cut into our work time. She took it in yesterday to get a new battery (it’s really hard to find a battery for a 1998 VW Beetle in Russellville) only to discover that the front end was ready to fall off (slight exaggeration). It was bad enough that the mechanic basically said, “Don’t pick the car up tonight, please let us work on it some more so you don’t die on the way home.” Sounds good to me.

My wife was a bit distraught about this additional expense, but she felt better about it after I broke it down like this:

New tires, rods, battery, and other vital parts that keep the wheels on: $400.

NOT having your wife and son dying in a car wreck because of a mechanical failure: priceless.

I mean, you’d feel better too if your significant-other told you that you were worth at least $400, right?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Kiddy Gloves

Our time-schedule for the weekend was thrown off by a couple of things. First, as dutiful children, we spent some time with our mothers, and, second, Pickle Fest.

For those of you who aren’t up on your Atkins, Arkansas, history, I’ll give you some background. Atkins used to be known as Pickle City USA. Why? They use to make Atkins pickles (1946 till around 2004). Then, the pickle factory shut down. Now Atkins’ two big businesses are ConAgra and a chicken processing plant (chicken guts, eat them up, yum).

Back in the late 1980’s (?), Atkins started having an annual festival called Pickle Fest (I believe my wife’s grandparents were somehow instrumental in organizing the original festivals). This got to be quite the affair for a town 3000 folks. Pony rides, crafts booths, live music, funnel cakes & lemonade, 5K runs, parades, etc. After the pickle plant closed, the local civic leaders where terribly distraught. Could you have a real Pickle Fest without pickles? They decided that it just wasn’t right, and they voted to change festivals name from Pickle Fest to Atkins’ Spring Time Jubilee.

No one liked the new name. It couldn’t have been any worse than naming it, “Old Folks Waiting to Die Fest.” It also didn’t have the “brand name” pull of Pickle Fest and attendance by vendors and festival goers plummeted. So, this year, the city leaders changed the festival’s name back to Pickle Fest and imported thousands of pickles (commercial grade in 50 gallon drums) from somewhere in Missouri.

The highlight of Pickle Fest is the pickle brine drinking contest. According to my wife, the person who drank the most won $40.00. This is a particularly exciting event since most of the contestants puke after competing. If you don’t believe me, try chugging half a gallon of pickle brine and see what happens. My wife covered Pickle Fest for her newspaper, and, if they have any good, unused pictures left, I’ll post some. I’m very disappointed though; she didn’t catch anyone in the act of puking (though she has a good one of the champ hanging her head over the puke bucket afterwards).

Predictably, we are behind schedule on the master bedroom. I probably have about 3 hours of paint scrapping left. My wife is following behind me at a respectable distance and priming the ceiling. It is thirsty, old wood, and it’ll take at least two coats of Bull’s Eye to prime it. We’re hoping that it won’t take a third coat. [Picture below is the ceiling at the end of the day Saturday]

We also tackled the bathtub plumbing. Apparently, our leaking drain pipe was the direct result of me being too nice with it. I had hand-tightened all the joints because I didn’t want to tear the brass finish up with the pipe wrench, and it wasn’t good enough. The whole drain connection was basically falling apart because I put it together with kiddy gloves.

So, we disassembled the whole contraption, reseated & sealed everything with a pipe wrench, doubled the amount of plumber’s compound under the drain face, and wrapped the drain threads with plumber’s tape.

I know I did a good job with it because I bled all over it. I somehow nicked myself with a sharp metal edge, so now the whole thing has been christened in blood. That, and we tested it afterwards and it didn’t leak. Now, hopefully it will hold.

Supposedly, the tile guy will be at the Queen tomorrow. For all of those interested in marble tile counters, stay tuned. If he shows, there will be some serious marble tile action.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Any Day Could Be Your Last

Last night Kenny came over to get paid for the week. It wasn’t a good week for Kenny and Burt (Kenny's cousin and co-worker). Monday Burt’s brother-in-law died. He found out while he was eating breakfast at a restaurant. Someone came over to give their condolences and he had no idea what they were talking about. Kenny and Burt both went to school with him, but Kenny said that he just couldn’t go to another funeral this year. He’d already been to four since January.

And, two days later Burt’s wife’s grandfather died.

Kenny said that there are four girls in the sixth grade at his sons’ school that lost their fathers this year. All of them were in the 30’s and died unexpectedly from heart attacks or aneurisms. Kenny looked pretty freaked out about it, and I can’t say that I blame him.

I must admit that I typically assume that I’ll live forever. Well, not really, but at least until I’m crotchety, evil, and impotent in my mid-to-late 80’s. Genetically, this is probable – living till I’m 80 something. My grandparents were all pretty nice folks, the evil and everything else is all me and my itchy fears. That gives me another 50 years or so to really screw my life up, and I’m looking forward to at least three hours of it.

Seriously though, the truth is there are no guarantees. So, have a good weekend, do something nice for someone (like your mom), and don’t take unimportant things too seriously (like my first two years of college), it could be your last day (not so sound like too much of a hypocrite, I’ll admit that I probably need to remember this more than most).

Even though it was a turbulent week and he was working solo for most of it, Kenny got a lot finished. Here are some pictures:

This is Gideon's room sans the 100 years of moldy, old wallpaper.

Yeah, I know. You're thinking, "Okay, it's a door. So what?" Well, if you tried closing it two days ago, there would have been a 2 inch gap between the door and the left side of the jamb. The was is really messed up from age, abuse, and the move. Now, the door and its trim look good and function like they should.

Kenny has started laying 1/4" plywood in preparation for the yet-to-materialize, new wood floor for the main hall. We want to run the new floor length-wise like the original floor, so we need the plywood to shore it up.

We're chasing two leads on flooring. We're hoping to get 300 square feet for less than $1,000. Wish us luck.

Skinning The Man

I spent about an hour and fifteen minutes scraping the master bedroom ceiling last night. I made a lot more progress than Tuesday night. I think the higher productivity can be attributed to my musical selection. Tuesday night I listened to morose, angry Germans (Die Toten Hosen). While they have some up beat, angry songs (“Die Zehn Gebote” and “Bonnie und Clyde”), a lot of it is just depressing, lonely, angst-driven stuff (“Luegen”). Last night I listened to fast, angry, irreverent punk. It makes you take that scraper to the paint like you’re skinning The Man.

The real question is whether we can stay on schedule. At a bare minimum, we need the ceiling to be scraped & painted by the end of this weekend. If we could finish striping the wallpaper too that would help a lot. Then, we can start mudding & painting after work during next week. Then, if lucky, we can sand the master bedroom floor that weekend and start staining & sealing it.

All we can do is work like hell, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. If anyone out there is bored this weekend, let me know. I have another room that needs to be washed with TSP and painted.

Light Her Up

Julian Electric is still at work. I’m glad we went with the 200 AMP service for the Queen. She’s 100% electric and you can tell. We only have four slots left and I think there are one or two more circuits that need to be tied in to it.
And, here is our new, over-the-sink light. Not a period piece, but I still like it. We found this on the clearance rack at Lowe’s several months ago. The colors even match the kitchen (hard to tell in the photo - it's white with purple and sand colored swirls).

Here are the salvaged sconces in the foyer.

They still haven’t finished everything, but it is getting very close. Very exciting.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Project Deferred

It’s no secret that I’m a procrastinator with more projects than I can finish. The Devil Queen is a greedy old whore, and, since we acquired her, about 90% of my pet projects have been put on indefinite hold.

Last Friday (May 5th), I had an itching in the back of my mind that there was something significant about that date. While it was Cinco de Mayo (Kill Frenchie Day at our house), that wasn’t what was doing the brain tickling. It didn’t occur to me until Monday of this week which was V-E (Victory in Europe) Day.

May 5, 1945 was the last day of combat my grandfather’s unit saw in the Second World War. Before the Devil Queen elbowed her way into my life, I had started researching my grandfather’s unit, the 808 Tank Destroyer Battalion. It started as a genealogy project, but soon grew into a potential book project. I was in the process of ordering copies of all the official documents kept in the National Archives when the Queen took over my life. I haven’t ordered the last two-thirds of the documents since it would cost about $1,200. Insulation or military records? Plumbing or military records? I think you know which won those contests.

Sometimes (more often than not lately) I’d really like to be doing just about anything than thinking/working on the Queen. Lately, I’ve been suffering from debilitating daydreams about spending entire days in my pajamas, taking naps, and pissing all my time away. Compared to the dull, bleak reality of day to day life, it easy to see how this could be distracting. On the upside, the worst day with the Queen has to be better than fighting German panzers in Linz, Austria, right?

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Sorry, if you are looking for inspiring tales of adversity overcome, cunning do-it-yourself genius, and uplifting, character building tales, this probably isn’t the place to come today. I’m in a bit of funk (and you’re wondering, how is that any different than the usual bad attitude that I display?), and I can’t seem to shake it. I caught up on some sleep last night, but that hasn’t proved to be my much desired cure-all.

As much as I love having Kenny & Julian Electric at work, I will be more than a little relieved when they finally finish up. The constant strain and worry of finding money to pay them is starting to wear me down. Even with all the progress they’ve made, the whole process has become fairly demoralizing.

In an attempt to hurry things along with hired help, we have had to resort to robbing Peter to pay Paul. Mainly, we’ve had to pay for a lot of our day-to-day needs with credit cards to save the cash for the workers. It sucks. We’re not a dire situation (we still owe 30% less on credit cards than this time last year), but it bothers me a lot because debt = slavery.

Once Kenny and Casey finish, most of what we need to do is grunt work. Unfortunately, there just aren’t any easy ways to scrape old paint off the ceiling. Having tried a number of different techniques, I can safely say that they all suck. If we can ever finish the ceiling, I think things will speed up. I’m dying to use some of the 20+ gallons of paint and primer we’ve stockpiled.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

State of Perpetual Exhaustion

Age: 29
Weight: 183 lbs.
Hours of sleep: 4
Digestion: Good
Nervous Tics: Intermittent
Attitude: Irritable, itchy

God hates me. Or, someone does. Why, why can I not get a good night’s sleep?!

Last night we were on the receiving end of two lines of violent thunder storms. The first one hit sometime around midnight. We’d been asleep for nearly an hour and a half when my wife and I were awakened by a cacophony. It was hard to figure out what it was at first. The thunder and driving rain were pretty easy to identify. Then, there was the terrified, crying baby. And, then . . .

“What the hell is that? Is that the cat?” I asked.

My wife rolled out of bed and went to the back room.

We keep our cat in the laundry/storage room at night. He has food, water, and a liter box, so it keeps him quiet and out of our bed at night. Since it’s been so hot the last few days, my wife opened the window for him. It was still open when we went to bed last night. It’s a small window too. There is maybe a square foot worth of screen when it’s open. The storm was so fierce that the rain was coming in sideways, and the entire 8’ x 10’ room was soaked as was the cat. Between the cat’s yowling, the thunder, and the roaring wind my son woke up scared. Somehow, my wife managed to pacify everyone in short order and came back to bed. Then the power went out. Tired, we went back to sleep.

I woke to a pitch black, hushed house. It was kind of creepy. In the far distance, the thunder grumbled. The rain had stopped, but the clouds were too thick to tell what time of night it was. I crawled out of bed, put on my shoes, and went out to the car to see what time it was.

3:00 AM. I still had two more hours to sleep. I went back to bed.

Sometime around 4:30 AM the power came back on. The sound of the fans, answering machine, refrigerator, and everything else kicking-in woke me up.

At around 5:00 AM I got up and did my normal morning routine and got in my car to go to work. I was barely half a mile down the road when I happened to look at the car’s clock. It read 4:55 AM.

What the hell?

I’d forgotten that our battery-backup alarm clock has some issues. For instance, when the power goes off, the display dies but the internal clock keeps track of the time. However, for reasons only known to the crafty Chinese bastards who built it for Walmart, the internal clock speeds up when the power is out. For every minute the power is off, the clock speeds up about 30+ seconds.

I turned back around and went home. About five to ten minutes after I dozed off in an armchair, second line of storms moved in. I didn’t get much sleep. I can only imagine that it was roughly the equivalent of trying to sleep through an artillery barrage.

As usual, I’m trying to function in thoroughly sleep deprived state. I read somewhere that someone my age functioning on this little sleep has the mental agility and alertness of a 75 year old. It’s no wonder I act like a crotchety old man, I am an old man.

So, what the hell does all this matter? Or, what does it have to do with the Devil Queen? As lay awake in the dark, I’m thinking, “I hope Kenny starts installing all the vents for the crawl space this week,” and “We need to lay the vapor barrier as soon as the plumbing is 100% finished,” and “We need to install the gutters.”

My wife and I had talked about working on the Devil Queen tonight after work. Screw that. I’m going home, eating dinner, playing with the baby, and going to bed. Maybe I’ll even get to sleep.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Slackers, Plumbing, Psychotics, and Crown

I’m not sure what to think of last week. I spent an insane amount of time finishing my web design project (this includes spending five hours of my Saturday trying to get it uploaded with a frigging retarded FTP program). I also finished an oil painting for an art show in Russellville. That was a little disappointing. I’ve gotten much better at rendering good flesh tones, but, once I finished, I decided that I didn’t like it much anyhow. That was fairly disappointing.

We didn’t do anything on the Queen this weekend. Saturday, as mentioned, was devoted to my own personal HTML hell. Sunday, we stayed home and cleaned house. It really needed it, so it’s hard to feel bad about it.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend before:

Our newly plumbed tub (the black-gray stuff is dirt-gunk, not scratches).

Me trying it out and looking like a certifiable psychopath.

Here’s me and our friend from Springdale installing the much acclaimed toilet.

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I met in Russellville. I had to take off work to visit the bank to sign the extension papers for our fourth or fifth construction loan extension. Nice. As part of my crowd-stopping performance, I climbed onto the loan officer’s desk, dropped my pants, and pulled two-grand out of my ass. Feel the burn.

Then, since we hadn’t suffered enough at that point, we went to Lowe’s and charged several hundred dollars worth of tiles, tiling supplies, and six gallons of paint. While spending three hours at Lowe’s and sentencing my great-grandchildren up for a debtor’s prison hurt, it didn’t hurt has much as loading and unloading all of that crap.

While we were hauling 20 loads of tile into the Queen, we took some pictures of Kenny’s & Julian Electric’s work.

Crown on the living room built-ins.

Crown molding in the foyer and main hall.

Transom & door jamb for the master bathroom.

Wiring for the foyer’s sconces.

It also seems that we have a renter lined up for our current (Blue) house. That means we have about four weeks to move out & move into the Queen. Just thinking about it makes me feel very tired. And, my eye twitches too.

So, to pay for the sin of weekend-sloth, I’m heading up to the Devil Queen to scrape/sand the master bedroom ceiling. Lucky me.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gaining Momentum

Things are starting to move so fast on the Devil Queen that I am half afraid I’ll be run over if I’m not careful. Kenny & Burt are hard at work as usual. As of last night, they have nearly finished the crown molding in the main hall. Considering all the work that still needs to be done, crown molding may sound a little frivolous but it’s really essential. It will be the only thing keeping the blown attic insulation (when we get it later this year) from filling the house’s interior. It’s hard to caulk a 1-2 inch gap all the way around a room’s ceiling.

Julian Electric, the electricians that I hired back in fall 2005, suddenly reappeared. They hadn’t worked too much since then but I didn’t push the issue. I didn’t have the money to pay them (spent it all on Kenny), and, since the work wasn’t finished, even if they had asked for the money I wouldn’t have paid them anyhow. Then, last week they came and finished off everything I’d asked them to do and gave me a call. They apologized for taking so long to finish. Apparently, Grandpa Julian had a long struggle with cancer, so they were preoccupied. I can’t begrudge them that.

They’d done great work, so I asked them to finish the Queen’s electrical system. They’ve been coming out for a few hours a day ever since. The AC/heat system, the hot water heaters, and dozen’s of outlets & switches are now fully functional.

And, our tile-guy should be out on the 16th of May to do the kitchen counter top. Depending how far along we are he may also start on the tile surround for the Jacuzzi-bath and the tile shower too.

All of our babysitters are taking vacations this weekend so, my wife has informed me that I will be working solo on the master bedroom this weekend. Really, it won’t be so bad. I’ll probably sleep in, make a huge breakfast, and wander up to the Queen about 1 PM. Then, I will scrape and sand the hell out of the master bedroom ceiling. If I manage to finish that, I will try to finish off all the pinko-commie wallpaper too. And, if I’m feeling frisky, maybe I’ll try my hand at cutting a replacement piece of glass for the broken window.

I’m still waiting to get the camera back from my wife, so no pictures for now. Sorry. Maybe Friday?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rejuvenation Porn

One of the many tasks my wife has given me is finding new shades for the brass chandelier in our master bathroom. Inevitably, my search led me to Rejuvenation. They have some beautiful stuff. Here are two shades that I particularly like.

So, how much do these babies cost? Since I need five matching shades, it would only cost $1000 plus shipping for outfit our chandelier with either of these.

My third choice was this.

Not quite as exciting as the first two, but I could afford the $150 these would cost (I think). What I really want to know is, what do the folks at Rejuvenation do to their glass to make it worth $200 a shade? I need to know so I can start making them at home and selling them to the hopelessly wealthy.

Since the chandelier isn’t refinished yet, the time for a decision hasn’t come. Until then, the search continues.

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