Category Archives: 7. Barefoot

I don’t own any shoes and always go barefoot, a special person in my life asked me to devote a blog to that, thinking that people might be interested in my philosophy on that… so, here it is!

How To Win: Barefoot

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(Barefoot alert: If you are not into the barefoot thing… bypass this post, this is for those liberated barefoot friends and fans)

One of the questions I am most often asked to address through my site (usually by other and often less experienced barefooters) is how I get away with going into restaurants and stores and such barefoot. The truth is, it’s rarely a problem, but when it is, there is no one single answer. Of course there are a lot of commonalities in how it is I pull it off, but each situation is different. I have even been asked very specifically how I deal with employees and managers who are confronting me and trying to kick me out or force me to submit and conform to their imaginary health code violations and imaginary liability issues (both of which are utterly bogus, even the liability stance is not an argument that holds any legal water, from the research I have seen it would be practically impossible for a barefoot customer to sue any establishment for an injury obtained through… what… cutting your foot on a paper cup or plastic spork?).

Today, for example was a day in which I had to deal with a manager at a Wendy’s. OK, I know, shame on me for eating corporate fast food, but sue me, I wanted a fish sandwich. The manager happened to be standing in the lobby, she interrupted her phone call while I was waiting on my order and told me that I had to “put on shoes.”

I looked her square in the eye and said: “It’s not a law, you need to look that up, and I don’t need to do that.”

Her jaw actually dropped and she stood there like a cow frozen in the headlights (I know, it’s supposed to be a deer in the headlights, but trust me, this particular Wendy’s manager was no doe).

I took my food, walked past her, sat down wherever the hell I wanted to and ate as she waddled off to the kitchen to take it out on her hapless employees.

And then I got back in my car grinning ear to ear, pumped my fist three times into the ceiling and drove away feeling pretty damn victorious! After all, in a life full of big losses, sometimes it’s the small victories that carry us through.

So, gang, that is one way to handle it! Good luck with this one. Hint: Be firm, calm and confident, after all, we are in the right 100%, and knowing that helps keep you calm.

Barefoot Justine At UF Holi!

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Hey group, last week I enjoyed UF’s Holi festival. For those of you who don’t know, Holi is one of Hinduism’s most beautiful, symbolic and vibrant Holy days. As is common with Hindu holy days and festivals, the event is a thing of beauty, a celebration of life, love and color… and that is why I am a Hindu by choice.

Unfortunately, some of “Lord Shiva’s Nectar” was not made available to the attendees of the UF celebration, it would be a better world by far if it had been.

Holi in a nutshell is a celebration of Spring and love, and is always the way with my beloved Hinduism, the event is celebratory and spectacularly beautiful. Those taking part throw colorful dust and colored water on each other, and everyone is encouraged to participate as one with no distinction being made between friends and strangers. I went alone (as fucking always), but my solo trip was made more beautiful when at the very end (while I was talking to Haley, who took these fine photos) an Indian boy with the most charming and ornery of smiles (I think I fell in love at first sight) ran up to me–just as I thought my hair was going go go unmolested–ripped off my hat and smeared red dust all over my hair and scalp. I thanked him for including me.

Happy Holi! Holi! Holi!

The pictures below are from that event.

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) enjoying Holi 2014 - pic by Haley Stracher

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) colorful at Holi 2014 – pic by Haley Stracher

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) enjoying Holi 2014 - pic by Haley Stracher)

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) enjoying Holi 2014 – pic by Haley Stracher)

Today

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Today I am sitting in my purple chair, feet propped up on my coffee table, watching it pour down rain. My palm tree (and I do mean “MY” palm tree) is waving in the wind, pelted with rain, the fronds dripping. In the background I am listening to the lovely soundtrack to “Sirens,” a film about artist and eroticist Norman Lindsay, a man I could and have learned a lot from. Norman was quite sure of himself, and I doubt he ever gave second thought to his unconventional ways, even in the face of a judgmental and conventional culture. Therein lies the rub, huh? The second guessing that goes on in my head is never in my own voice, it is in the voice of my mother, the culture as it is, it is the voicing of the expectations of others. These thoughts are impurities that dilute my vision, little demons that work to root out my dreams from the inside, pollutants that, if left unattended, can infect me from deep down inside. It doesn’t seem Norman Lindsay allowed such impurities or pollutants to knock him astray from his course. Sadly, I have often been knocked astray, blown too far by far from Ithaca.

Art by Norman Lindsay

Art by Norman Lindsay

Abandon, purity of vision, sensuality, hedonism, liberation. Norman Lindsay, Brigitte Bardot, the Marquis de Sade, Rose O’Neill, Harry Nilsson, all saints and skewers of the standard moral compass, all rockers of boats. People like them cause trouble and get into trouble, or so it is believed. What they really do is choose to live as they please, choose to follow dangerous muses, choose to see their vision through, they choose to tell the truth about themselves before a world of people who have never bothered to look deep enough to see if there are deeper truths in them. They are people who chose to live their lives and damn the consequences, but there were consequences, there are always consequences. As it turns out, it would seem most of the trouble caused by them is rather caused in reaction to them. They muddy the waters, splash, make waves, without ever once meaning to shock or annoy. They do all this simply by having the courage to be honest about their true nature, they do all this merely by liberating themselves from the bondage of their times, they do this by transcending and by renouncing. They do this by dreaming their own dreams and daring to live them.

I believe in dreams and dreaming, and I believe in following dreams, perhaps to a fall and a fault. I’ve had a checklist of dreams, and it seems I have pursued them at the expense of all else. I have certainly pursued my dreams, my vision for my life, at the expense of security and stability, at the expense of acceptance, and most definitely under the threat of consequences, consequences which rain down and drip from my limbs like the rainwater dripping from the fronds.

I dreamt of being a comic book artist… check.
I dreamt of swimming with a dolphin… check.
I dreamt of SCUBA diving… check.
I dreamt of visiting the Philippines… check.
I dreamt of making erotic comics… check.
I dreamt of being a barefoot girl… check.
I dreamt of living a life of hedonism and sensuality… check.
I dreamt of being an exhibitionistic woman… check.
I dreamt of meeting my many heroes… check.
I dreamt of traveling and working Medieval Faires… check.
I dreamt of living in a place with palm trees… check.
I dreamt of running away to be a carnie… check.
I dreamt of being a musician… check.
I dreamt of publishing topless photos… check. http://barefootjustine.com/pics/barefoot-justine-4/

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen, photo by Haley Stracher

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen, photo by Haley Stracher

nilsson“It’s an artists prerogative to be indulgent to himself, he owes it to everyone else to be indulgent to himself, and if it’s at the cost of what he thinks is what the public might think it might result in, that’s tough luck.”
Harry Nilsson

I, we (my heroes), we are like sin-eaters, we do these things so others won’t have to. We take the leaps of faith, live the dreams, make dangerous decisions so that everyone else can sit back and watch, can shake their heads and cluck as we deal with the storm of dire consequences… or for many… they sit and wish with all their might that they had the courage to live their own dreams, to see their visions through and state their true opinions. I talk to these people all the time, and I encourage them to do it, to rise up from the mire of expectations and just go for it! But they don’t, they slide back down in their chairs and bring their favorite habits back up on the internet. I feel sorry for them, but I envy them, too, after all, it’s a lot easier to just shove ‘em down, those contrary opinions, those scary visions, those disruptive dreams… isn’t it?

Paul460x276“We can do what we want,
We can live as we choose.
You see there’s no guarantee,
We got nothing to lose.”
Paul McCartney

One thing I’ve learned… we’ve definitely got nothing to lose if we follow our dreams, state our unpopular opinions, our follow our unconventional visions for our lives through, not in this culture of disparity… the deck is stacked, my friends, and it is stacked in THEIR favor, in favor of the 1%. You’ve got nothing to lose, there’s no security, no retirement… just more time on their fucking treadmill. Besides, really, what good are unfulfilled dreams? What good is a life unchallenged? What good is it being accepted by THIS time and this culture? That, my friends is nothing at all. This time and this culture is shit. It’s full of shit art, shit music, shit news, shit TV, shit-gray movies, shitty derivative ideas, shitty cell phones, shitty texting, shitty products, shitty rules and shittier rulers. Shit.

But it still hurts, the consequences still seem as dire as ever. The real question is not, and ne’er should be, “why do I do the things I do?” nor, “why do I make the decisions I make?” no, the questions is, was, will be, and always damn well should have been and should be… why do I worry? Why do I suffer over the consequences? Why do I long to be accepted? Why do I have second thoughts?

That’s the real rub… why do I have second thoughts?

I don’t have an answer, but the rain has moved on, nothing left of it but the gentle pitter patter of the last few drops on the metal roof above, and the winds and the gray left in the wake of the storm. It’s the gray, isn’t it, that’s what these people do, the dreamers, create gray in a world that prefers black and white. They show that there are no books or leaders with one-size-fits-all answers, they show us that for many of us, the answers come from within, not from without.

Perhaps I, too, succumb to black and white thinking, but it’s my black and white, it’s the clarity I have found from the inside out rather than from turning the outside in. The only clarity in my life comes from the inside, it comes from me, never from the logic of the world, never from a club or organization, laws or leaders, and especially not from fashionable cultural norms. My opinions are contrarian to say the least, but contrary to what, I ask? I’ll tell you what, contrary to this shit culture. My vision has led me at times through the dark forest, my dreams have led me down some dangerous paths. But in the end, I have to say, it’s all been worth it.

But sometimes… still, I can’t sleep. I wonder how many nights Norman Lindsay stayed up, fearing, worrying, second-guessing. My guess… not many, Justine, not many.

Sigh…

(This just in… I just saw an otter run across our backyard! Hell yeah!)

Being Bold Dillemma

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I’ve had mixed feelings about posting the topless pictures for a few years now. The thing was, for all the sensible reasons I could think of not to take them or post them, underneath it all was a burning want–if not need–pose and post those photos. (see photos here: http://barefootjustine.com/pics/barefoot-justine-4/) Deep down, I needed to document my body now while it still looks good, so I had them taken.

The photos are raw, totally honest, right out of the camera, no adjustments, no touch-ups, no Photoshop… they are simply pictures of me, in the real world, no tricks, no bullshit. Hot or not, they are all me. That’s my body, that’s my face… and I’m not doing so badly, after all. No, I’m not Bardot, I’m no Soledad Miranda, but I am Justine. I can accept this, at last. All of them were taken by another woman, Haley Stracher, who is doing a story about the way life changes for a cancer survivor… I am her subject. But cancer isn’t the point, I am, Haley is. I trust her implicitly, there is nothing tricky nor any artifice in the pictures, she just knows how to keep me and catch me at my very best… and she has captured on film what I always hoped might be the truth.

I don’t even care that the topless photos aren’t perfect, I don’t like the belly in this shot, I hate my face in those shots, what the hell face am I making? in that shot… and on and on and on. I’m no model… but those pictures, they are ALL ME! Totally honest, and yes, I could look at them and see the ugliness, the awkwardness, or I can look at them and see the beauty, the journey, the healing, the woman. That’s the thing, what you see, it’s a choice. As Nilsson’s Rock Man from “The Point” said, “You ever see a Pterodactyl… You ever want to see a Pterodactyl? That’s it man, you see what you want to see, you hear what you want to hear.” What a person sees in these pictures will say a lot more about them than it will about me. It’s about how you choose to see, it’s about whether or not a viewer has a shard of the Devil’s mirror in his eye or not. It’s about which of the wolves my viewers are feeding. It’s about which story you prefer, which I think we all learned from “Life Of Pi,” it’s about deciding whether or not to believe in God… which story do you prefer?

And me, which story do I prefer? Well, I’m forever plucking bits of the Devil’s mirror out of my eye, but now I know when they are in there, and I know it’s up to me whether or not I pluck the bits out, whether or not I feed that wolf. I prefer to pluck those bits out of my eye and side with the Romantics, the beautifiers, the dreamers. And now, I look at those photos, those terribly honest photos, and I see an amazing journey, a lot of healing, a hopeful smile, fresh skin, a woman with a ton of character, something to look back on with pride and a smile when I’m older, and a body that’s fucking good enough… and maybe even… dare I dream it… pretty hot! Well, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Daring New Pics By Haley…

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I have created a new gallery (http://barefootjustine.com/pics/barefoot-justine-4/), and you may want to just click that link and check it out now.

But, I do want to talk about these photos for a moment. Haley Stracher, who I trust to take caring and romantic pictures of me, has been doing a project on how cancer changes a person… I am that person, and anyone who knew me before cancer and my terrifying SCUBA diving experience in Thailand, knows just how much I have changed.

Well, here are two of the photos, for the rest check out my “photos” section, gallery 4.

And if you’re my grandma… uhm… yeah… love you, but cover your eyes and look away!

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen, photo by Haley Stracher

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen, photo by Haley Stracher

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen, photo by Haley Stracher

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen, photo by Haley Stracher

Plenty more of these in my photo gallery…

New Photo Gallery Announcement

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Hey group,

I’m delighted to say that Haley Stracher keeps taking lovely and amazing shots of me. I am THRILLED! Call me vain if you like, but I have waited FOREVER to have pictures like these taken of me… I am going to enjoy it!

I have created a new gallery under “Photos,” called “Barefoot Justine 3,” or you can find them here: http://barefootjustine.com/pics/barefoot-justine-3/

Below you will find my 3 favorite pics from that gallery as a preview…

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen "street fashion 6" (pic. Haley Stracher)

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen “street fashion 6″ (pic. Haley Stracher)

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen feet at work

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen subbing

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen "street fashion 11" (pic. Haley Stracher)

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen “street fashion 11″ (pic. Haley Stracher)

See more from Haley here: wix.com/haleys728/1

More Barefoot Justine Pics…

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Haley Stracher has been taking tons of lovely pictures of me for her assignment, and I plan to upload my favorites… she takes hundreds of photos, so there are plenty to choose from.

So, why all the pictures? Because I need a reminder that I’m OK; because I have waited a long time to see myself in this light; because some people want to see them. Of course, those of you who don’t need to see them… it’s pretty easy not to look, so as far as I’m concerned, this is harmless fun, so plenty more where these came from.

I plan to create a gallery featuring the very best of these once she is done shooting. Check Haley’s stuff out here: wix.com/haleys728/1 and note that I chose these ’cause I like myself in them, these pics are, again, unedited, never retouched, and totally raw from her camera, she may have picked photos that pleased her more as a photographer, these pics were solely my choice.

My altars are before me, Shiva, Durga, and Ganesh.

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen bowing before Lord Ganesh

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen bowing before Lord Ganesh

Meditative pose… and me looking like my Aunt Sharon!

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen meditating

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen meditating

Me at home…

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen always barefoot

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen always barefoot

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen happy at home

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen happy at home

Working at SAW (Sequential Artists Workshop), barefoot, of course (see other pics, too).

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen at SAW working

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen at SAW working


(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen barefoot at work

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen barefoot at work

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen at work teaching

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen at work teaching

And more climbing pics… again, my room below and behind me.

Treetop (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen

Treetop (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen

Treetop (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen 2

Treetop (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen 2

Treetop (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen 3

Treetop (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen 3

By and on Newnan’s Lake…

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen lakeside

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen lakeside

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen on the water

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen on the water

If you dig these… more to come, if not… a lot more to ignore!

Wonderful New Photos Of Barefoot Justine

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New pics of (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen by Haley Stracher!

Imagine any woman’s body issues times TEN! That, folks, is me… and I’m sure that those of you who know me will nod and understand… considering the circumstances. So, I have had this little fantasy that one of these days I would find someone to take pictures of me, pictures of me that would show me as I HOPE I look rather than pictures of me that spotlight how I fear I look. I had a feeling this could and would happen, and I am delighted that it has happened and has happened now. I got a call from Haley Stracher (wix.com/haleys728/1) who started taking kind and caring photos of me for a project she is doing in which she wanted to document the daily life of a cancer survivor. Some of these photos are playful and posed, but even those are pretty much an extension of the vain and self-conscious way I live.

The photos below are all raw and from her files, unedited, no retouches… just me and her taking lovely photos with available and natural light. The beauty is that since there are no filters and no Photoshop trickery, I know that this is actually what I look like… HOORAY!

The below photo is easily my very favorite!

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen at home

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen at home, pic by Haley Stracher

A nice close-up from the same session:

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen's bare feet

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen’s bare feet

The moment I dread most… that mirror view!

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen... mirror mirror on the wall, who's the grooviest chick of all?

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen… mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the grooviest chick of all?

That, directly behind and under me, by the way, is my room…

(Barefoot) Justine "monkey" Mara Andersen

(Barefoot) Justine “monkey” Mara Andersen

I absolutely LOVE Newnan’s Lake, and living on it is the BEST!

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen overlooking lake Newnan

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen overlooking lake Newnan

After checking out the lake (see above), I take part in my favorite pastime at my favorite place, kayaking on Newnan’s Lake…

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen on Newnan's Lake

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen on Newnan’s Lake

Hmmm… too many shots of me with eyes closed… here they are open!

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen eyes open

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen eyes open

I love the movie ‘Gator Bait starring Claudia Jennings, and sometimes I enjoy taking the kayak into the swamp and tromping around like “Desirae…”

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen starring as... 'Gator Bait

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen starring as… ‘Gator Bait

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen in the kayak

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen in the kayak

These photos are raw, and perhaps not the ones Haley would have picked for artistic reasons (sorry Haley), but I think they represent me well, and as far as I’m concerned, that is the really important issue… isn’t it?

There will be tons more of these to come, so keep checking in!

Why Did I Come To Gainesville?

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(This entry is a continuation of “Why Did I Leave Akron,” which you can read at: http://barefootjustine.com/2014/01/24/why-did-i-leave-akron/)

Lord-Ganesh-9I am often asked, “Why did you come to Gainesville?” or “Why did you choose Gainesville?” Of course I did, in the end, choose Gainesville, but it was not a destination… I didn’t even know there was a Gainesville. As I elaborated on earlier, my ambition was not to get anywhere in particular (though I’d always dreamed of living in a place with palm trees), my ambition was to escape the gravity of Akron.

Up to March of 2012 I had been continuing to live in a foreclosed home… waiting. It was not a home worth fighting for, beautiful as it was, it was situated in a place that was getting more and more dangerously “GHETTO” with every passing year. Still, it had been a home for a very long time, so losing it hurt. I knew, though, that I needed out of Akron, and not simply because of what my doctor had told me, but because the city had become dangerous for anyone, especially for a woman like me.

I had been mugged at gunpoint a mere few blocks from my home, and slowly the predators were learning where I lived. One day, after going out to find two of them leering at me from the corner, waiting for me to walk their way, which I often did (and you can see more of this in my web-comic “Why Justine Is So Scared,” under web-comics). I turned around when I saw them, got in my car and never again walked anywhere in my neighborhood.

I had been working as a cleaning girl, and scraping by… so long as I didn’t have to pay mortgage or rent. I had quit my job at ACME after starting my cleaning service. I was gathering clients, but never enough to make a living of any sort. One of my clients, a couple, had mentioned that they were moving to Florida. Up to that point those two were my favorite clients. I asked them, jokingly, if they needed a live-in cleaning girl. They said, sure, I could go along. We all laughed and I went home.

The next week I asked if they were serious about my going with them. They, as it turned out, had very real need of a third person. You see, he was sick and needed to move to a warmer climate, and she had to stay back in the Akron area until their home sold, primarily to hold down a job. I, of course, was going to be responsible for getting her husband around on errands and doctor appointments, for being around in case of emergencies, cleaning and painting their entire house, and to help get their dogs back and forth to the vet and stuff, and in return for all this I was given an empty room with a deflating inflatable bed in it–you can see what’s coming… right? We came to an agreement, talked out the major potential complications, and I walked away ready to take that leap of faith.

First thing you have to know is that we were not headed to Gainesville, but to Ocala (for Christ’s sake!) I had no connections in FLorida, no work prospects, nothing. I didn’t even have any money to speak of. This was going to be a major leap of faith. In fact, my faith played an important part in all this. I had just converted to Hinduism, and was wholly in love with the religion, the Hindus, and the Temple. before going I expressed my misgivings to one of the most dedicated devotees, who simply said to me, “So long as you have your faith, you will be fine.” Leap of faith indeed. I had the Temple Priest perform a blessing before Ganesh. I had brought in my art, art that I needed to find a publisher for (I never did, but I found something wholly unexpected, as it turned out) and a beautiful ceremony was performed over my work. I had also recently had my murti of Lord Ganesh blessed as well, and it remains one of my most holy objects. I carried that Ganesh with me as a passenger the whole trip.

Barefoot Justine's feet... pretty pink polish.

Barefoot Justine’s feet.

I started selling guitars, or whatever I could do to get some money. In the end I budgeted out what little money I had into envelopes, enough envelopes to help me get by in a bare minimum sort of way for 3 months while I tried to find some way to make a living in Ocala. I sold my car before leaving Akron and packed that money into an envelope so that I could buy a car in Florida. That was it, I packed my stuff in poor old Joe Blue Sky’s house and a storage unit. It was a total do-over on my life, no home, no spouse, no strings, no responsibilities, no prospects, nothing but a no-net reckless free fall towards (fucking)Ocala, and off we went! Oh… yes, indeed, I had gone off barefoot, no shoes! That at least was a divine liberation.

We landed in Ocala, and though I tried to establish myself there over the first two months, nothing there was working. For a start things between me and the couple I had traveled with were uncomfortable. I won’t go into those details, but let’s just say that I began to feel a certain kinship with Cinderella as my inflatable bed began deflating and I realized that I was supposed to be their grateful barefoot maid of all work in exchange for this empty room and leaky inner-tube of a bed. I soon found myself down to one month’s worth of money and absolutely no prospects for work or clients or anything. It was a depserate time, as I also knew that come the end of our agreement in a few months… I was also going to have nowhere to live. Things were looking grim. But at least I wasn’t in Akron!

I was trying all manner of things to get word out and find work. I was trying to find a place to have classes, was trying to find clients for cleaning, was trying to find students for private lessons, was trying all I could think of. At one point I was passing around little portfolios at the local college in an attempt to get a show of my work, an opportunity to lecture or teach… anything. I walked into the gallery at the college and this lovely dark-haired girl jumped up with a huge livewire smile and said, “Where the hell did you come from? RUN!” Meaning, Ocala is not up to you, girl. I had come to realize this, but this girl, this signpost, this Avatar of God, was telling me something very real behind her hip and energetic hotness. I was going on to the copy shop in Ocala after my brief encounter with this tattooed savior. I didn’t know anyone in town, not a soul, but I had talked to this guy at the copy shop a couple of times as he was a fan of the sort of illustration that I do and did. I told him I was getting no play in Ocala, and he said that he loved Ocala, but it wasn’t going to work for me, that I needed to go to Orlando or Gainesville. Well, I knew I didn’t want to be a guppy in the Orlando land of sharks, so I asked him about Gainesville. Basically he told me it was known to be very hip and progressive and that I would do well to look to Gainesville as a better fit for me.

I had nothing else to go by, so I took the copy guy’s advice (I don’t recall his name, but he was wearing a blue vest and an orange name tag, so I figured he was qualified to give far-reaching advice in regards to my future), and I planned a trip to Gainesville.

And that was exactly when the uncomfortable crap between me and the couple I had travelled with started to turn way weird. Things had been deteriorating, but soon they were working together via the phone, creating this paranoiac cabal, planning the strangest passive-aggresive attacks I’ve ever endured. Again, I won’t go into details, but I will tell one classic story. SHE Who Must Be Obeyed had come down from on high (Akron) for a visit and invited me to have dinner with them. I agreed, eating only veggie kabobs, as I was vegetarian at the time. Me, thinking this was some sort of reconciliation or peace treaty, thought nothing of it. The next day around the pool they asked when I was going to pay for the share of vegetable I had eaten during dinner! I think with that little story told, there is no need to go into further details. This was a pettiness of titanic proportions… which ironically matched the titanic proportions of her fat ass. Oh my… I think I just got a tad catty!

I went to Gainesville for the Spring Arts Festival, took one look around and thought, “I could live here!” Of course I had no idea how to make that happen. I had tried to work my way into a similar community in New Hope Pennsylvania, but that had not worked at all. I was wondering how I could possibly find a way to get by in Gainesville before I ran out of the 4 to 6 weeks worth of money I had left before I quite literally was hopelessly penniless. I had researched Gainesville a little and had discovered SAW (The Sequential Artists Workshop) and thought that a place that taught comics might be a good fit for me, the problem was, the comics biz never thought I was much of a fit for them, so my hopes were rather timid. I walked into SAW unannounced off the streets that very day, doing all I could to hold down the stink of desperation that must have been oozing from every pore. Tom Hart (SAW founder and fearless leader) was a bit taken aback at what he later described as “this crazy barefoot woman coming into my school looking for work,” and began working up the right words to tell me that he was running a small school and didn’t really need me. Fortunately, Tom is an insightful guy, and when he looked at my (frankly stunning if not staggering) portfolio–the same portfolio blessed by Lord Ganesh–he saw something in it that most other people have routinely failed to see. Tom saw that I had not only talent, but a very disciplined and professional variety of talent–something rather rare these days in the anything-goes world of contemporary comics. His eye saw not merely an artist, but a professional who could actually function in a classroom setting. Add to this that I had quite a teaching pedigree as well.

Tom said to me, “Let’s get you a class and get some money back in your envelopes.” Which, of course he did. Tom may remember it differently, but he took my class, and after the first session sent me an email that literally said “I am begging you to commit to teaching our first one-year drawing program.” Poor Tom, I don’t think he realized what he was getting himself into. Handful that I may be, at least I deliver!

From that point I began to sleep and see my obligations through in Ocala, but lived for Gainesville. This was when things in Ocala began to get weirder and weirder by extremes.For some strange reason I felt the need to see this agreement I had made with this strange couple through to the end, I think my anger at being in this abusive situation was being overwhelmed by my sense of decency in regards to the responsibility I felt towards this sickly pathetic man and the dogs (who I loved dearly). I also knew that there was nothing in this situation for me. They tried to change their game plan and their passive aggressive bullshit became less harsh, as they realized that at this point they needed me more than I needed them.

I wanted out of their house and into a place in Gainesville, so I began hunting around for a cheap place to live until I could get on my feet. Over the next month or two I was shuttling back and forth between Gainesville and Ocala. Things between the man in Ocala and I were getting very hot and contentious, we were fighting like a couple on the verge of a messy divorce. We were having the kinds of marital battles that I remember seeing on seventies cop shows, problem was… we weren’t married. Unmarried or not, I wanted a fucking divorce! I had just gone through the end of a marriage to someone I loved, so this just plain sucked… sucked like a Yoko Ono record.

By this time I had met Joe Courter through Tom and worked out a deal where I could rent a room in his house super cheap (thank God for Joe!), the problem was, I was still obligated to this Ocala situation for seemingly ever. They had not yet even come close to selling their home, and the deal was that I was to stay with them and care for him until they sold their home.

During one of our laundry outing I had gone to a little spiritual shop outside of Ocala and bought a lovely statue of Ganesh–remover of obstacles, as I had obstacles that needed removed. By now I had scored my room in Gainesville at Joe’s and had started to stay there a couple nights a week, but I was itching to get loose from this Ocala situation, problem was, they had to sell their damn house. The day after I bought that Ganesh I started to notice that the murti was chipped and broken, and intended to take it back the next day. This Ganesh was of profound importance to me, considering what I was up against, and I did not want a chipped and broken Ganesh. This Ganesh had work to do. I had a major obstacle in my life, and it was this awful situation in Ocala, this long and interminable wait for them to sell that damn house in Ohio. How terribly profound and auspicious that on that same day I was to return that Ganesh, I was pulled aside and told that they had sold the house! I was free to go!

And that, is how I cam to be in Gainesville. And by the way, that chipped and broken Ganesh I placed high and in a place of prominence in my room. He stands back there like a sentinel watching all who pass through my door, standing watch over my life, my room, and my dreams.

Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha!

(And remember to read the first half of this saga at: “Why Did I Leave Akron,” which you can read at: http://barefootjustine.com/2014/01/24/why-did-i-leave-akron/)

Shawn’s Poem About Me… Justine!

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Sweet Justine
by Shawn Allen (shawnallen50.wordpress.com)

Oh my sweet Justine,
always chasing a dream
and trying to put it to paper.
Hey, barefoot Justine,
these streets can be hot and mean.
Oh, sweet Justine.

Sitting alone in the park,
trying to leave just a mark
on the virgin-white page,
to escape from the cage,
and the dogs as they angrily bark.
Don’t they know you can see in the dark?

And the stupid ones point, and they laugh.
Can’t see the whole, just one half
of the things that you are.
Always chasing that star,
and you go where there isn’t a path
and you’ve laid down that dark, heavy staff.

Oh my sweet Justine,
tell me, what’s it all mean?
Don’t you know that they won’t understand?
Hey, barefoot Justine,
kick up your heels, girl, and dance.
Oh, sweet Justine.

And when they close their doors to you,
it’s because you’re already inside.
It’s just envy, you see -
the Justine they won‘t be.
The divine fool they once knew,
that dream they long ago slew,
the truth from which they still hide.

So just smile when they whistle and jeer,
ignore them, turn a deaf ear.
You know what is real,
and the things they can’t feel -
they’re so worried about looking queer.
You are always much more than you appear.

Oh my sweet Justine,
just keep on living the dream
and show them that it can be real.
Hey, barefoot Justine,
just keep on living the dream.
Oh, sweet Justine.

1-20-2014

(I hadn’t known that this poem by Shawn had been written about me until Joe Blue Sky alerted me to it. I found it quite moving, and was tickled to read it. Shawn is one of our mutual friends from Akron.)