Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"The Old House"



Once upon a time there was a house. A very pretty house. A handsome house. A house that was built with pride and skill. It cost a fortune back in those days. It was the talk of the town.
The family that had built that house appreciated the effort that went into owning such a house and took great pains to care for it. They loved their house. Many children and grandchildren grew up in that house.

Any structural problems were tended to quickly, the house got repainted on a regular cycle. The house was handed down from father to son and each son took reasonable care of it...afterall, they all knew the history of the house. It was a historical landmark in the town by now. Something to cherish.

My, it was a beautiful house! Ornate in the classical, over the top Victorian style. The kind they just don't build anymore. With proper care and maintence, it should last forever; as were most things built in those days were meant to.

But then one day after many many many years, the house began to have major problems. It began quite subtly. Just a small leak in the roof. The then current owner tacked a flattened tin can onto where he thought the leak was and called it good. Too many generations had passed and this guy didn't fully appreciate the history behind the house.
That worked for awhile.
But really what the house needed was a whole new roof. The current owner knew this full well, but didn't have the cash on hand.The tin can repair would have to do for now.

Since the house had many bedrooms, the current owner thought he'd rent those rooms out to supplement his income. And so he did. A lot of folks wanted to live in that classic old house...it was so beautiful and full of character. Although by now it was starting to get a wee bit shabby. Paint was peeling on the northside, but you couldn't see that from the street. A few more flattened tin cans had now joined the original one, speckling the roof. The wisteria vine on the side was needing pruning, badly, it had begun to root its vines under the siding, working its way into the frame.
Some of the doors upstairs stuck, because the foundation was starting to sag. A small colony of termites were entrenching themselves into the back porch timbers. The owner turned a blind eye, and just collected the rent from his tenants every month. He'd get around to doing all the maintence...someday.

Someday never came. As the owner grew older the troubles continued to grow and he never could get around to it. By now the house had become so seedy and run down, only the desperate and the destitute would seek shelter there. The owner dropped the rent to maintain at least some income. It became a flophouse of sorts. Rental by the week.

The owner died. The house was now abandoned. All manner of riff raff took up residence there.

They were squatters. Some had been there before the owner died, some came later-since there was no one to tell them not to. By now the once beautiful house was a hazard. Years of neglect made it unsafe.

The roof was ready to cave in. The back porch was gone along time ago. Windows, even the priceless stain glass ones were broken out. There was no power or water. The place soon became over run with filth, grafitti, vermin, termites and decay. Already half of the top floor had collasped, the staircase was missing whole steps. The neighbors began to complain. The community declared it condemned. The only thing to do was to tear it down. It was the best thing to do. The house had it's day and now it had to go, it was just too dangerous. An eyesore.

But then a man persuaded the community to let him buy the property. He had grown up near that house. He loved that house. He was so sentimental about it and his goal as a child was to own that house and fix it up. Reluctantly the town let him buy it...cheap.

He had structural experts come in and assess the building. All, to a man, said "Tear it down and rebuild."
But the new owner couldn't. He so loved that old house.He was blinded by the history, the romance, the potential of that house. He wanted to restore it to its former glory. But the house was in such bad shape you couldn't tell where to begin. It didn't matter to the new owner. He loved that house, even if it
was ready to fall in on itself. Squatters were still hanging out there and he couldn't get them to leave.
We were here first! They would tell him. When threatened with legal action, they would just laugh at him, disapear for a day or two and when the law left the property, they would crawl back in through the
busted windows or backdoors hanging open. This went on for months. The owner couldn't fix the house with these squatters in there. As time went on the house became even more squalid and desperate.

All the owners friends urged him to just bulldoze the place. Any attempt to restore the house would be throwing money down a rathole. It would never be restored. Far more cheaper and reasonable to tear it down and rebuild an even more wonderful house. Working from the original blueprints one could re-create that house, it would retain the charm and romance of the original, but would be modern, it would be up to code...it could be really cool and once again the talk of the town. Something the locals could point at with pride and say "Get a load of that place, wouldja? Ain't it grand?"

But the new owner just couldn't do it. He couldn't so much as bear to take one swing with a sledge to the rotten porch columns. Why, it would be like killing a friend. He just couldn't do it.

So, instead he did just as the previous owners had done. Cheap simple fixes and all the while telling the townfolk Just wait til I get done with it! It'll be beautiful again!
He spread blue tarp on the roof to stop the rain. He shoved some cinder blocks under the floor to stop the foundation from sagging. He tried to scrape the old paint off and give it a new coat. The squatters laughed from the inside. The owner plowed on with dogged determination. He would wince everytime he'd get the bill from Home Depot, but he would go ahead and pay it...after all, it was for a good cause.
Everyone knew he was throwing good money after bad. This thing was hopeless, but he was blind to the fact. In his minds eye he saw the house as it once had been,and that's all he could see. So determined he was to make these repairs, he finally just had to work around the squatters and put up with their taunts.

Then one day, as he was patching some lath on the second floor, the floor gave way. The owner fell through the floors all the way to the basement. The last thing he heard was the screams of the squatters as the entire house caved in upon him.

7 Comments:

Blogger Kathy said...

Wow. Not the ending I was expecting. Hmmm, something to think about today.

5/16/2006 1:11 PM  
Blogger Cookie..... said...

Hmmmm....I take it that this is a metaphor for our country and its immigration problems.....if so...good analogy and a good write Liz....I liked it...Cookie...

5/16/2006 5:24 PM  
Anonymous John Climacus said...

Great post.

5/16/2006 6:54 PM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Thanks, guys
I was in a rather cynical mood yesterday morning.
I so want that cautionary tale to have a different ending.

5/17/2006 7:05 AM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Kathy,
Some of that was inspired by the misadventures of a certain Charlie and the house on the hill in town. ; )

5/17/2006 7:09 AM  
Blogger Lemuel Calhoon said...

So the "old house" is the GOP?

5/17/2006 10:58 PM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Lem,
I had a response to your question, but when I hit 'preview' I got the "document contains no data" thing (which, I feel is simply blogger's own editorial opinion.) any how, tried again and it promptly DEVOURED the whole thing!!
DAMMIT!
So...I will try to redo it from memory, but I'm gonna post it on the main page.

5/18/2006 10:20 AM  

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