Burned Out

Houston artist Bert Long returned home from Spain, only to find he had no home

Bert examined the windows, most of them broken. "Connie!" he yelled suddenly. "There's a bullet hole! Connie, come here." She came, examined the hole in the glass without comment, and left.

Halfheartedly, he snapped a few photos. From the mounds of paper, he retrieved souvenirs from his past: old ArtScenes, "people bags" from Big Bert's restaurant, an old car registration. He found an invitation to a long-gone show at Lawndale Art and Performance Center. He read the title aloud: "Art: a healing force." He snorted, "Is it?"

Outside, among the refuse dumped in the yard -- an abandoned toilet, mysterious mounds of dirt, around 30 empty motor-oil bottles -- Bert found a hubcap emblazoned "Special Edition." He picked it up, examined it and put it in the rental car's trunk. Later, he said, he might incorporate it in one of his sculptures. The hubcap seemed to mean something to him. In the devastation, he'd found something he could use.

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