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!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Troubles and Respite (Part 1)

The last few weeks have been very busy.

First off, I sold off my VW Beetle. It had been in the shop for the last five or six weeks. Actually, it's been in two different shops during that time. I got it out of the first shop, and it ran for three days somewhere in the middle these six weeks. Then it broke down again. I dropped it off at another shop since shop number one obviously didn't fix the problem. During that short period that it ran, I decided to buy a new used-car. I was driving the VW to the dealer for a trade-in estimate when it crapped-out. Lovely. A definite deal-breaker. In hindsight, it is almost funny. Actually, if it was someone else's life, it would be.

The most recent update I had from shop number two was that they were still trying to figure out what was wrong with the car's electrical system. One of the car's fuse boxes had melted, so they had to replace it before they could start looking for the real problem. That's right, a melted fuse box was, "symptomatic and not the real problem with the car." Anything that causes your fuse box to melt is not good and most likely very expensive.

I don't know much of anything about cars, but I do know that every time the Beetle goes in for some work, I'm probably looking at $1000 shop bill. I was terrified as to what the "real problem" might be and how much that would cost.

Then, I received a miraculous phone call. A man called and said that he'd like to buy the car as-is and he'd pick up the shop bill. After several phone calls and talking to the mechanic, we came to an agreement. I sold the car and a great deal of worry. He got the title and a car that would have been shot and sent to the glue factory if it were a horse.

I'm still looking for a replacement car. My father-in-law has been kind enough to loan me one of his cars until I find something. Before I go any further, let me preface this by saying that I am in no way complaining about my loaner. It's free and it runs. I have no complaints. This is particularly true if you compare it to some of the other fine cars that I've borrowed from my father-in-law over the years. When you consider that no less than fifty-percent of them have exploded, the fact that it runs is fantastic. Okay, I have to admit, the whole exploding car thing is a bit of hyperbole. Only the engines did. And they didn't some much as explode as melt, lock-up, and squirt oil everywhere. And smoke.

My current ride is 2003 Cavalier. For those you who might not be familiar with this fine driving machine, it's Chevrolet's version of a compact-sedan something like a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic except that it's made out of plastic and pressed tin.

While the Cavalier is condom like in that it should be bought new, used once, and thrown away, it is not a car that will get you laid. In fact, if any of you have a teenage boy with a driver's license and you do not what to become a grandparent in the immediate future, buy them this car. With an engine that revs like a farting zipper and trails a cloud of noxious gray-white smoke, this car will impress the ladies.

This particular Cavalier leaks or burns (or both) roughly a quart of oil a day. With the correct combination of deceleration while in gear followed by aggressive acceleration, this car lays down an impressive smoke screen like one of those cute little World War Two destroyers trying to screen the aircraft carrier from a Kamikaze attack.

Gideon has named the car Stinky-Pete.

While I've never been too concerned about my car's appearance, it's been hard learning to live with Stinky-Pete. I feel guilty that every time I drive this car, a huge swath of the Amazon Rainforest dies and global temperatures creep up a degree or two. I find myself deliberately avoiding high traffic pedestrian areas because it's embarrassing to pull away from an intersection when you get a green light, and all the poor people collapse, writhe, and die in the crosswalk.

In addition to this car drama, we've been doing what we can to survive the recession. I know that technically this economic downturn has not been named a recession by very authoritative sounding bean-counters since we haven't had two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, but, if Warren Buffett says he thinks it's a recession, I'll believe him. He a lot smarter than me and more successful than the average bean-counter, so I figure he'd know.

The best thing that has happened in the last few weeks is that we've acquired two new renters both by the name of Anna. If we find one more, I think that it will officially qualify as a collection. We helped one Anna move in since she was an acquaintance of my wife. That went pretty well minus the fact she lived in a pseudo-ghetto and she nearly got us into a fight with someone who was probably a Latino drug-dealer and/or gang member on accident.

My other attempts to find extra money have not been nearly as successful. Selling artwork and miscellaneous junk on eBay used to be a great source of beer money in times past. Now, not much of anything is selling. I've gone so far as to look for a second job, but there isn't much out there. I'm hoping that my cost-of-living-adjustment for the next year, plus the two renters, plus cutting back on a bunch of crap will keep us afloat. I think it will, but I still don't feel good about things. I've been granted a respite but not a solution.

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Home Improvement Hibernation

My heart is willing but my wallet is empty.

Until I scrounge up some more money, work on the Devil Queen will be confined to lots of low-grade tinkering and puttering. You know, stuff like cleaning off the front porch and hanging up the two ferns we bought off of the Lowe's discount garden rack.

We just don't have the budget to do much more. As it is, I've been putting off buying two gallons of paint this week because this is my big home improvement purchase for the month. And, I even have a 10% off coupon thanks to a co-workers generosity. Funny how things change.

If anything substantial happens, I'll post it.

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Exhibit #1 - Idiot Glove of Doom (Part Two)

The glove in the previous post turned up in last weeks laundry. Scarlet and were folding the laundry when I came across it. "Is this yours," I asked.

"Oh no, that is yours. Remember? It was the glove you were wearing when you tried to tear your hand off with the grinder."

"Oh." Abashed, I pull on the glove. The glove looks really rough, but not nearly as bad as my hand did. That was what, two years ago? Three? Where had this glove been all this time? What in the hell was I thinking while I was grinding down that bath tub? Was I thinking?

Finally I ask, "Really, why did you marry me? I'm freaking idiot."

Scarlet gives me a crooked smile and a playful elbow jab to my ribs, "Sometimes I wonder too."

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Exhibit #1 - Idiot Glove of Doom (Part One)

An artifact from my home improvement past.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Crazy - And Too Tired To Tell

The last two weeks have been crazy busy: renters, repairing rentals, car repairs, and more.

I'll give the full update later. I'm hoping for semi-blissful Memorial Day weekend to recharge first. If anyone has a pre-1994 VW Fox, Cabrio, Beetle, or Rabbit in running condition for sale within a 8 hour drive of Russellville, please let me know. Thanks.

Have a great weekend.

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The Dao of My Father-In-Law

My father-in-law is incredibly vulgar. I rather like this. He is never boring. And, while it would easy to mistake him for some semi-crazy hooligan, he does slip up and occasionally make surprisingly lucid, insightful comments. Scarlet and I have joked about collected his sundry sayings in to book.

For example, his assessment of the current economy:

"If I were selling fresh pussy for a dollar and I was a buyer, I still wouldn't be making any fucking money. I'm not selling shit, it's the worst it's ever been."

On persistence:

"If you throw enough shit at a wall, some of it will stick."

On bad luck:

"If it was raining pussy, a dick would hit me in the face."

On moving a house:

"You're fucking nuts. You could build a nice, new house for that much money. Are you crazy?"

See, words of wisdom.


I'm Not the Only One

I stumbled across this article, "Flip this house. Please," as part of my morning read. I found this passage particularly funny:

"By our second spring, the neighbors had begun to notice that we were somewhat laissez-faire in our approach. We are blessed with very nice neighbors, by the way, all retirees, and it pleases them to landscape with ferocity. Such is the ornamental fervor of suburban culture.
My wife claims she understands this. Still, as she gazes upon their iridescent lawns and geometrically perfect flowerbeds, it is hard for her not to feel a twinge of shame.
"Our lawn is eroding," she informed me recently.
"I don't think that's the right word," I told her.
"What would you call it, then?"
I looked out at the scabs of browned sod and dandelions. "Eroding is when the soil disappears," I said, professorially.
This exchange is characteristic of my overall attitude when it comes to home improvement. I am both self-righteous and incompetent, a truly American combination. The result is a kind of flustered inaction familiar to those who have lived in tenements. Last month, for instance, my daughter dashed out of my office and nearly plummeted down the stairs. I managed to snatch her up, but in the process fell backward and knocked a crater into the flimsy wall of my wife's office.
I have refused to hire laborers to repair the crater, arguing (somewhat plausibly) that we don't have the money and (somewhat less plausibly) that I will do it myself. My stopgap solution has been to push an end table in front of the crater.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Importance of Age

I came across this while doing some art research:

"Ruskin had a deep respect for Gothic architecture and old buildings in general. To him, the building's age was the most important aspect of its preservation: 'For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, not in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity.'"

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Home Improvement Chiaroscuro

As I mentioned in my comment to the previous post, my obsession with the economy and personal finances has a lot to do with the Devil Queen. Once we signed a construction loan to cover what turned out to be the initial costs of moving and rebuilding the Queen, we surrendered most of our financial freedom as well. It is embarrassing to admit, but we actually thought that the initial costs would actually cover the whole project. We were just too green to know better.

The Devil Queen is a cautionary tale. In an exercise of home improvement chiaroscuro, I thought that I might give you a fine example of what you ought to do with an old home. I think the deep, hope-killing darkness that is the Devil Queen only makes this bright example shine even more.

In particular, consider this:

"Below is the short list of what I’ve done in the last 6 years. All work needing it, is done with permits, inspected, and meets code.

Remodeled 2 apartments over the garage, and I have great tenants
Removed 3 bathrooms and 3 kitchens (rentals)
Removed 2 story addition
Rebuilt 2 porches
All new wiring from the poll on, with new sub-panels and main disconnect
All new copper water lines from the curb on and several new drains
All new phone lines, CATV, and coaxial from the poles on (work in progress)
Restored kitchen and bathrooms, including building my own cabinets
Stripped off asbestos siding and restored exterior detail
Had all of the missing interior and exterior trim remilled out of salvaged old-growth redwood.
Stripped exterior to bare wood and repainted
Built a laundry room
Stripped all of the wallpaper and old flooring back to bare plaster and original floors
Stripped all of the paint out of 4 rooms – all with LOTS of woodwork
Removed all of the 1920s partitions and rebuilt walls
Cleaned a “shooting gallery” out of the attic
Purchased antique lighting for the entire house (mostly rewired and installed)
Purchased antique tile for the 2 fireplace hearths
Purchased antique doorknobs, mortise locks, and hinges for all of the doors
Purchased antique Eastlake doors for the entire house
Plus 1.4 zillion other little things

The last 6 years have been a blur, but really a lot of fun. To date my total debt is $9,000 on a $20,000 home equity line of credit. Four thousand of the $9,000 debt went for dental work and taxes 2 years ago. My 2 credit cards carry a zero balance. There are a lot of things about my life that I’m not proud of, but boy, this is not one of those."

I'm impressed. In any case, congratulations for a job very well done Greg.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It’s The Economy Stupid

I came across an article in Der Spiegel today which caught my interest. It was written by Bob Herbert with the NY Times regarding the U.S. presidential elections. The election wasn't nearly as interesting to me as the underlying demographics. I'm not sure how it ended up in Der Spiegel, but here are some excerpts:

"The youngest of these voters, those ranging in age from roughly the late teens to the early 30s, are part of the so-called millennial generation.

This is a generation that is in danger of being left out of the American dream -- the first American generation to do less well economically than their parents. And that economic uncertainty appears to have played a big role in shaping their views of government and politics . . .

A number of studies, including new ones by the Center for American Progress in Washington and by Demos, a progressive think tank in New York, have shown that Americans in this age group are faced with a variety of challenges that are tougher than those faced by young adults over the past few decades. Among the challenges are worsening job prospects, lower rates of health insurance coverage and higher levels of debt.

We know that the generation immediately preceding the Millennials is struggling. Men who are now in their 30s, the prime age for raising a family, earn less money than members of their fathers’ generation did at the same age. In 1974, the median income for men in their 30s (using today’s inflation-adjusted dollars) was about $40,000. The figure for men in their 30s now is $35,000.

The landscape is changing before our eyes. Younger voters struggling with the enormous costs of a college education, or trying to raise families in a bleak employment environment, or using their credit cards to cover everyday expenses like food or energy costs are not much interested in hearing that the government to which they pay taxes can do little or nothing to help them."

If you're interested in the full article, click here.

So, what do you think? Based on your own experiences, do think Mr. Herbert has got it right?
I'm 34 years old or younger - yes, I agree.
I'm 35 years old or older - yes, I agree
I'm 34 years old or younger - maybe? I don't know.
I'm 35 years old or older - maybe? I don't know.
I'm 34 years old or younger - no, I disagree.
I'm 35 years old or older - no, I disagree
Free polls from

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Beast Lives Forever More

Well, after only four years, we have a fully functional plumbing system, or so I thought.

We'd been having trouble with our clawfoot tub drain. It really wasn't too big of a problem if you didn't use the tub. Since we now have two working sinks in the master bathroom, we no longer had to wash our hands in the tub, so this wasn't a problem for me. However, my wife has this obscene fetish for soaking in a hot bath with gobs of girly, good smelling herbs and oils. While our jet-tub is fully operational, something about pumping a milk bath with essential oils through the self-heating jet system just didn't sound like a good idea.

So, she demanded that the clawfoot tub be fixed. Otherwise, she proposed tearing the whole master bathroom off the house since it "never seemed to fucking work." I am not kidding. And, I think that she was serious.

Fearful, I called Russ at All Plumbing and asked him to come back to house and fix the drain. He said he'd be out in a couple weekends at 9 AM. He never showed. I called and left a message. He called back and left a message. And, so it went. Normally, I wouldn't have put that much effort into it, but he'd done such a professional job on two previous occasions that I figured missing the appointment was a fluke. Finally, Scarlet talked to him, and he came out and fixed the drain. And, he didn't charge us since "you already paid me to fix it once, so it ought to have been fixed." Great! There was much rejoicing and a hecatomb was sacrificed to the plumbing devil.

Scarlet goes to take her long anticipated soak after a truly suck-ass week at work. She complained that the water wasn't hot enough, and, after a empirical test to prove to me that the hot water heater at the rear of the house made hotter water than the master bathroom system, I went under the house and turned up the thermostat on the offending heater. And, defying all expectations, the water actually got colder. It went from sort of hot to lukewarm. No, I didn't accidentally turn the thermostat down either. I checked.

So, what's the problem? I do not know. I think the heater may need a higher amp breaker. My dad also suggested that due to the length of the run from the breaker box to the heater that we may need to replace the line with a higher gauge wire. Scarlet thinks it might be a bum water heater.

Any suggestions from you clever DIY types? If you have some, let me know.

Plumbing is the Devil.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Thought for the day: When life gives you wormwood, make absinthe.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dreaming of a Water Garden

I found this article on how to create a self-sustaining garden pond online earlier this week. It's a pretty interesting article if you're into water gardens and self-sufficent ecological systems.

We have a natural depression near the Devil Queen's front walk. When we get heavy rains, water tend to pool up there, so, instead of fighting nature, we're thinking about adding a goldfish pond with water lilies. If we can build one without all of the filters, pumps, et cetera, we can do it on a very small budget. The biggest cost will be the water proof liner which I estimate will cost around $50 for the small size pond we're considering. Then there are the gold fish, snails, plants and pea gravel (approximately $30).

If you actual bought a filter/pump system, it would cost over $100 by itself. Then you have to bother with supplying the pond with electricity and all that jazz. Thanks, but no thanks.

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Monday, May 05, 2008


Chaos, murder, mayhem, raging infernos of insanity, ugly babies, plagues, pestilence, and woe unto all.

Okay, nothing that bad has been going on here. Really. But, we have had some problems we've been working through. Pretty much everything goes back to the joys of stagflation and the dubious pleasure of clinging to the lower rungs of the middle class ladder. We have fixed rate mortgages (yes, plural) so a balloning mortgage payment isn't an issue for us. However, when the price of gasoline, groceries, and electricity increase by roughly 25% and your income doesn't, you have a big, expensive problem on your hands. Add your car breaking down (again), and you now have a very big, interesting, expensive problem.

We have some possible solutions in the works, but things are still up in the air. I should have something to actually post about it later in the week. Wish me luck.

And, we have actually completed some landscaping and plumbing for a change. Pictures and more to come.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

You Know You Want It

Here is most of what I've got. Make me an offer. I've suggested some prices, but mostly I want it gone.

Item 1) 10 "strong tie" metal tie ins for hanging joists. The inside "cup" is roughly 1 5/8 " wide and 3 3/16" deep. All 10 for $5.00.

Item 2) one 1 1/2" pvc "T." $1.00.

Item 3) Four 3/4" to 3/4" to 1/2 " T's. Two 1/2" T's. One 1/2" female treaded coupling/adaptor; one 1/2" coupling, one 3/4" (treaded) to 1" coupling; and one 1/2" to 1/2" female threaded adaptor/coupling. All PVC. $5.00.

Item 4) Two CPVC 3/4" to 3/4" cut-off valves, rated for 150 PSI. $7.00.

Item 5) Misc brass L coupling, 3/4" (threaded) to 1/2" (?).

Item 6) One Craftsman portable table saw guide (roughly 14" x 5 1/4" x 4 3/4"). The silver portion which fits in the saw's groove is 5/8" wide. $5.00.

Item 7) Eight 3/4" PVC couplings.

Item 8) CPVC Mixed Lot: 18 1/2" T's; one 1/2" cap; four 1/2" L's; five 1/2" treaded couplings (used to attach to sink cut-off valves, etc). $5.00.

Let me know what you want at thedevilqueen(AT)hotmail(DOT)com, and I can figure out the shipping. Paypal or checks are good. If you have any questions, please let me know.

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