Tag Archives: barefoot girl

Days Like These

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A Justine-Eye view

A Justine-Eye view

Days like these mean a lot when you’ve had the blues. My little patio means a lot when I’ve had the blues. This breeze off the lake means everything. I’d go out on it in the blue kayak, but it’s just too windy to row against. It’d be fantastic, though, the waves on the lake rocking my little boat, spilling over around my heels.

Yeah, I’ve had the blues, mostly solitude, the loneliness of a divorced woman who had been married for a very long time and just can’t seem to find romance of any kind… (by the way, invitations to have anal sex do not constitute romance, guys). The man I really loved, months ago, decided to back off, and now my little “niece” (though in my heart she is more the baby sister I never had) is going away with mommy and daddy for a full month. I’m gonna miss little Molly’s smile, the heart-melting way she cries (like ice cream melting in mid July), and her warmth in those magical moments when she’s feeling shy or overwhelmed and she burrows into me to protect her. In those moments I become the lioness protecting her cubs, and there’s no room for anything else in my heart or mind but her needs. In those moments I know what clarity really means. Then of course there is the continuous chromatic drone of the exhausting battles and demons I fight day after day and year by year. I get worn down. But, as I drove into town today the big blue of the sky invited me to take stock of all I have. When the sky speaks to you, it’s best to listen, to answer, and follow the big blue wherever it needs to lead you.

I drove on under that very sky, past palm trees and Spanish moss, and knew I’d made it. I’m no longer in cloudy cold shithole Ohio, I’m in Florida, sunny Florida, exactly where I’ve always wanted to be. Nope, no California dreaming for me, no desire to go to Colorado or Washington to be in the mountains with all the other hippies, no, no thank you, I’ll take these swamps. You can have the mountain air, I’ll take the rich earthy air of the swamps and the deliciously fresh wet smell of the lake

I knew everything was going to be alright as I drove into the center of town, the taste of Indian food from Andaz on my mind, and the anticipation in knowing that I would be welcomed by my friends. Somehow it always seems a little easier with Indians, it seems to me they listen more, and are more comfortable with not only duality, but emotion–high emotion! Though, I know, I am generalizing. Of course, once I arrived the welcome was as sweet as ever, and the food spicy and everything I needed it to be, and the Masala Chai was perfect today, perfect for sipping and setting aside the noise in my head long enough to sigh and be grateful for each warm spice in the chai… oh, and for everything else. As I was paying my bill, one of the new guys came up and asked me if my fangs were original.

I said, “My fangs? These are just my teeth!” He smiled admiringly and told me I was lucky. I added that they make me look more like a tigress. I went to my car, sat and looked in the rearview mirror… I never really noticed, but sure enough, I do have fangs! I’ve always hated my teeth, crooked as hell, but I guess when perfectly normal canines are crooked enough to be turned ever so slightly outward they do indeed look like fangs. “Lucky?” I guess. This might explain the desire I have once in a while for certain people’s blood.

After admiring my fangs I went barefoot (of course) to one of my little weekly jobs, Badfinger blaring away in the background as I worked, rather like now.

The eagles have begun to speak. I can hear them in the trees. I live under the wings of bald eagles and walk the same ground dinosaurs (alligators) walk, and I just know if I sit here long enough the deer and wild turkeys will gingerly find their way across our lawn.

I had thought of going into town to my beautiful little studio to work, SAW, one more place I know that allows me to be my ever barefoot self, but the lake was calling me, and now that I am looking out over it, the eagles are calling me as well, inviting me to let go and fly. Though this silly pink body can’t fly, I don’t mind, I can let the wind and eagles do the flying for me, and the music, too.

In the background, my windows open, “Coppertone Blues” (from “7 Park Avenue”), the solo music of Pete Ham (of Badfinger) flies out my window on the wind, and I know what I am.

I am not my worries, not my loneliness, I am this… and this is me…

Justine's-Day

And I am home!

I am finally home.

And as I wind down, with little else to say, Pete Ham’s delicious “Dawn” fades down, and the wild psychedelia of “I’ve Been Waiting” reminds me that I need to take another hit and take a barefoot walk up the dirt road, after all, on a day like this, there’s only so much a computer has to offer.

Three Years Barefoot

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Barefoot Justine At Home

Barefoot Justine At Home

“You’re ill at ease. Adventurous people are always a little ill at ease. They’re shy. They aren’t bold the way people think they are. They go stumbling around breaking things, being scolded, always looking for a place where they feel they belong, they have that crooked look… of not really matching anything.”

Lilith (from the 1964 film, “Lilith”)

I haven’t been blogging much lately, to tell the truth, it started feeling rather pointless. Yeah, sure, guys come in droves to look at my pics, but I’ve realized how utterly hollow that is. Stared at and lonely, it’s not an inspiring state of affairs. But, all the same, each year I have marked the anniversary of my dedication to hardcore barefoot living, but this year, the anniversary (January 14th–my birthday) slipped past me, it’s nearly the end of February now. All the same, this blog entry has become something of a tradition with me, so I thought I oughta muster up the enthusiasm to keep it up, after all, I’m a believer in tradition.

“You can be barefoot and still have worries.”

Brigitte Bardot

Yep, a tradition is a tradition, but these exhibitionistic blog entries have begun to seem more and more like a spotlight on each lonely weekend. Men! Perhaps I’m too picky, but it seems every man I meet is prowling around looking for a plaything to shoehorn in around their more important activities. Guys, here’s a tip, maybe you should wait to ask a girl how she feels about anal sex until AFTER the first date. So where’s the enthusiasm, where’s that patented Barefoot Justine smile? Well, group, its in there, but it takes a while sometimes for it to grace my face, and part of coaxing up that smile is hard work, the hard personal work of celebrating the good things, of which there are plenty. The hard work I persist in doing. That’s what this blog entry really is, an attempt to purge the bile and look on the sunny side, to remind myself how good things are even when I am at my loneliest and most detached.

There are two wolves at my door, the one snarls and bares its teeth, it is loneliness, fear and sometimes even jealousy. There is a second wolf, and that one is the source of my strength, my passion, and my joy and inspiration. You know the old saying, and it is true… the wolf that wins is the one you feed. Here I am, forever remembering to feed the right wolf, but often forgetting and fattening up the horrid one.

So what has 3 years barefoot meant, anyways?

Well, it’s meant a lot. For one, it means that it can be done. What do I mean by that? Well, what I mean is that it is possible to live wholly without shoes, socks, slippers, sandals, anything! Yep, even in the winter. And, nope, there’s not a single thing in my home that would cover, warm or protect my feet. It’s been skin on the ground for 3 solid years now (and pretty much the same for years before that as well, I just hadn’t had the courage to burn my shoes once and for all up until 3 years ago). It can all be done barefoot, every aspect of my life, from doctor visits, to shopping, from work to visits to the courthouse, and from restaurants to business meetings. What it really means, 3 years barefoot, is that a person can live the life they want to live… so long as they have the courage and determination to make it so.

So long as they are willing to make the sacrifices… and more importantly, capable of reminding themselves of of how grand it is to live a self-actualized life even in the muggy air of a culture that works very hard to strangle that free spirit out of us.

Barefoot Justine Mara Andersen, dirty leathery soles

Barefoot Justine Mara Andersen, dirty leathery soles

“‘Reality’ is neither the subject nor the object of true art which creaties its own special reality having nothing to do with the average ‘reality’ perceived by the communal eye.”

Kinbote (Pale Fire)

We can make lots of things so, but sadly many of us never figure out that we have that power. More to the point, most of us are not up to the challenges of conjuring our daydreams into realities, whatever “reality” is. “Reality,” as any good Hindu knows, is a construct, most usually kept in place by the average man, and it takes extraordinary people to step outside of that reality, extraordinary people who can turn their backs on the petty expectations of a world of people who aggressively believe in the big shared construct… but that’s all it is, a construct. Living barefoot for 3 years is essentially a rejection of that construct. And boy does it rub some people the wrong way. Those people will work to stop you, to brainwash you, to force you back into line with the accepted construct they all have silently and unwittingly agreed to call “reality.” You know, that ever so “real” world in which sports actually seem important, that world in which people actually watch all the crap that’s on TV, that world in which Americans actually believe that the solution to gun violence is more guns (like say in schools, for example). It’s madness, folks, look around you, it’s madness! Yes, Virginia, the lunatics have taken over the asylum, but there’s no need to stay in the asylum with them, it is, after all, only a house of cards.

“‘Reality,’ (one of the few words which mean nothing without quotes)…”

Nabakov

And I am seen as mad for being barefoot? Madness and sanity are not democratic states of being, whole societies can be mad, and their constructs are created to make those of us who see the madness for what it is seem like the mad ones. One thing history, myth and religion teaches us is that “they” crucify those “madmen” and burn those “madwomen” who challenge the constructs, the collective notions, of “reality.” Sometimes I think “reality” is nothing more than the sneakiest and most subtle and insidious of propagandas.

I walk barefoot for a number of reasons, and one reason is that I have renounced the madness, that construct, to create a life, construct and reality that is highly personal. I know, many may find all this hard to accept, but trust me, it can be accepted. Some of us have to experience real trauma to be able to find ourselves and make that painful break from the construct the average man mistakes for reality.

Yeah, I know, I show a picture of my dirty leathery soles and then get all existential on y’all. But that’s what it’s all about, this journey. You can choose which wolf to feed, but you can also choose between getting in line, boarding the bus and going where everyone else is going, or you can take off and explore your own life from the driver’s seat. Face it, most of the people out there have taken the passenger seat in their own lives. Simply put, you can either be who they want and tell you to be, or you can be who you want to be. Frankly, it’s easier to board the bus and sit in the passenger seats with everyone else.

“Campbell: …A dream is a personal experience of that deep dark ground that is the support of our conscious lives, and a myth is the society’s dream. The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got an adventure in the dark forest ahead of you.

Moyers: So if my private dreams are in accord with the public mythology, I’m more likely to live healthily in that society. But if my private dreams are out of step with the public–

Campbell: –you’ll be in trouble. If you’re forced to live in that system, you’ll be a neurotic.

Moyers: But aren’t many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge of neuroticism?

Campbell: Yes, they are.

Moyers: How do you explain that?

Campbell: They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it, or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience–that’s the hero’s deed.”

Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, (The Power Of Myth)

Either you can take it, or you can’t, honestly, sometimes I can take it, and sometimes I can’t.

“I will not conform and I will not submit,” that’s my motto regardless. I thought it always had been, but it wasn’t, not until after I’d faced my own mortality twice, after I had lost my home and gone bankrupt, not until I realized I had nothing to lose. It was then that I really had the courage to find out what it really means to not conform and to not submit. But here’s the funny part, group, back when I played the game and rode on that bus, I got nothing back in return for my forfeit, whereas now, when I have accepted my path and have individuated, now that I am stubbornly barefoot, living as an artist, and following my bliss, I am finding that things are working out a lot better. People give me more work, they respond better to me than they did before. I see no reason to get back on that bus. Actually, I’m rather superstitious about it all. Things are so much better for me now that I am afraid of any compromise when it comes to my vision of who I am, and I am barefoot. No, I won’t put shoes on just for this one thing… that, my friends, is a slippery slope.

Barefoot Justine Mara Andersen's bejeweled feet

Barefoot Justine Mara Andersen’s bejeweled feet

Yep, another year barefoot, and I have done it all, gone shopping, gone out to eat, gone to the doctor, travelled, you know, I’ve done all those things barefoot that everyone thinks is impossible. How many times I have heard people lament that they’d go barefoot all the time if only they could get into restaurants and grocery stores… well… you can get into restaurants and grocery stores barefoot, the catch is, you actually have to want it enough to see it through. Oh yes, there are excuses, cop-outs, but that’s all they are. I wanted it, I won’t cop-out, and here’s how I do it:

Smile, look people in the eye, wear bell bottoms or a skirt, be discreet, and go about your business as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for you to be barefoot. Sure, there will always be busy-bodies who think it’s their job (which it isn’t) to make sure all the rules of their fragile little construct are obeyed… but those boneheads are surprisingly few and far between. Wanna go barefoot all the time?… be charming! Charm them, they’ll leave you alone… except for the real bitches and assholes… some people you just can’t work with, they are too far gone, too deep in the tar of the average man’s construct. Some of them you can defeat, but many of them have rooted their concrete so deep into the illusion that they just won’t budge. I should feel sorry for those people, but I don’t, fuck ’em! Fuck ’em!

Let me say this, if you don’t go barefoot, and you wish you could, it’s not THEM, it’s not the stores, the restaurants or the social pressures that are stopping you… it is YOU that is stopping you. If you want something, you have to get off that damn bus.

Yep, 3 years uncompromisingly barefoot, and my feet are fine! I’m fine! My soles are leathery, I have no callouses (those just crack and hurt–sorry foot-community, callouses are NOT good, buff ’em off!) My feet are no longer deformed by those little bacteria incubators everyone calls shoes. My toes have a healthy spread, they’re not all cramped together like the lotus feet of some victim of Chinese foot-binding. Shoes are a cultural aberration.

“So, Justine, where’s the fun? This blog entry seems rather dark,” you might be thinking, well, the fun is coming. In the words of the Pythons… “Wait for it!”

What does 3 years barefoot really prove? For a start it means that I’ve proven I’m not fooling around. It proves not only that it can be done, but that it can be done well. Sure, it’s risky at times, but so is bicycling, playing soccer, and sitting around too long in front of a computer. Nope, what I am doing is no more dangerous than skiing, texting and driving, or bags of Cheetos, things most people don’t consider all that unthinkable. Ever notice how people will celebrate boxers but look at a barefoot person like they’re nuts? Ever notice how we celebrate skatboarding and mountain biking, but find going barefoot entirely too risky? See… y’all see what I mean by the construct and how fragile it is? For example, you can break your neck skiing… yet people are horrified at the possibility of getting a sliver of glass in their foot. My brother got a compound fracture in his leg from playing soccer, his bones punctured the skin of his leg… yet my parent’s forbade me from going barefoot because I might catch a cold! Crazy, right? And by the way, you can’t catch a cold by going barefoot.

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen's feet with concert ticket and souvenir...

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen’s feet with concert ticket and souvenir…

What were the highlights of my barefoot adventures this year? Well, quite readily, my outing to the Cheap Trick concert (which I wrote about at length in this same blog) was spectacular. It was thrilling, and took me back to those wild-child days. I mean what could be more perfect than being stoned, barefoot, and clad skimpily in bleached cut-off shorts at a Cheap Trick concert? Not much. The grass was lush and moist as I danced and danced until the grass and dirt had compacted into a delicious green clay-soft pad under my soles. I had left the house lamenting that I was single and going alone, but as soon as the band took the stage, as soon as they started playing I was reduced to tears and trembles, and realized that this was a moment I needed to indulge in, a moment where my solitude was a blessing.

Of course there were my many adventures with my dear friend Joseph Blue Sky (see pic below taken by Joe during his last visit–no feet, but it’s a cute shot!). We have such fun together. And we have adventures, plenty of stumbling about laughing and, on my end, wishing we could live like that every day. He lives in Ohio, by far too far from my swampy home. But earlier this year I traversed (alone) from Florida to Ohio in a rental car to see him as well. And again encountered snow under my feet in West Virginia!

Barefoot Justine in the forest with Joe B. Sky (taking pic)

Barefoot Justine in the forest with Joe B. Sky (taking pic)

Of course I went to numerous meetings and met with clients barefoot, something that throws them off until they start working with me and realize just how dedicated and inspired an illustrator I am. Still, there’s something ticklishly subversive about standing around barefoot in a room full of people with ties and business casual clothing on. I mean, really, who goes to meetings barefoot? Yep, it is very possible to live a professional life barefoot. The trick is that you have to be damn good at what you do (in my case, illustrating and even animating), and you have to be committed without apology to the decision to live barefoot. If you mean it, they’ll go along with it, and usually with a genuinely interested smile, yep, I’m forever answering questions about my feet, especially in winter (which in North Central Florida can still be cold enough to be annoying).

Mostly, there’s the simply pleasure of living in a town where people are more open to eccentricity and individuality. There is support here, for my self actualization. They dig that here, where I live. Mostly there’s the rich life I lead at home, surrounded by growling alligators, soaring eagles, deer, armadillos, and even the occasional otter. I have forest land to explore in my savage state of half-nakedness.

Barefoot Justine Mara Andersen wild in the forest

Barefoot Justine Mara Andersen wild in the forest

Yep, that’s me up there in that pic, running around topless and barefoot in the woods. Fortunately I’ve never been busted for it, though I’ve had to turn tail a number of times. Being something of a hermit, it’s lovely to have all this land to play on. Getting back to nature, that’s one of the biggest pleasures of my life. The ground here is unfortunately challenging, we have ticks, chiggers, and horrid little spiny things and thorns everywhere, but that’s all just part of the fun, isn’t it? There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

Basically what 3 years barefoot mean is that I’ve done it! I made a decision, a challenging decision (to never wear shoes), and as afraid as I was that it wouldn’t work out… I’ve made it work! Of course I have had to live and accept a different life. Instead of enslaving myself to the American Delusion (or “American Dream” as it is generally known), I chose to leave that illusion to mom and dad. My ambition was to live barefoot, and as part of that to live a sustainable life. For years and years I dreamt of the day I would shed not only my shoes and socks, but my mortgage, cable bill, and all the expectations of “THEIR” reality. I wanted to live cheaply out in the woods, a smaller and simpler life with a view, and here I am 3 years later living in my little cottage-room in the woods, barefoot and low-budget. Sometimes all it takes to live the life you daydream about is a drastic change in expectations. Maybe, after all, some of our dreams may not be so unattainable, maybe it’s our expectations that are holding us back. Maybe before we even try living our dreams we have to let go of everyone else’s.

“Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Dr. Timothy Leary

‘Gator Bait & Me 2

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To read “‘Gator Bait & Me 1” follow this link: https://barefootjustine.com/2013/01/23/gator-bait-me/

gatorbaitThe story of my dinner with ‘Gator Bait creators Ferd and Beverly Sebastian. I hope that my students and fellow artists will see this and find the courage to find mentors by seeking out their heroes.

I have been a fan of Ferd and Beverly Sebastian’s drive-in Exploitation classic… ‘Gator Bait for a very long time. The video (as in VHS) release poster I scored from a video store has been on my wall since as far back as the eighties; though the movie itself was released in 1973. For me, ‘Gator Bait was the perfect movie, it was love at first sight, right from the establishing shots and fabulously moody tone set by the opening song. First impressions aren’t always enough, the movie has not only held up through multiple viewings, but I have continued to notice little things about it that have continued to endear it to me. ‘Gator Bait is one in a million, and so are its creators.

‘Gator Bait is, at its simplest, a classic example of the (rape) revenge genre, yet it stands wholly apart and reveals its genre-subverting secrets slowly. One of its greatest strengths is its complete lack of cynicism and its warm and beating heart, which it always keeps in the right place… dead center. There is a depth of observation about the characters that always revealed a woman’s touch to me, after all, Claudia Jennings suggested the most rudimentary concept for the film to her friend Beverly Sebastian, who wrote the exceptional script. Beyond all of its obvious qualities ‘Gator Bait appeals to me for very personal reasons as well.

Firstly, Claudia Jennings as Desirae is not merely sexy, but strong and barefoot throughout, apart from a few shod minutes in the beginning. And she is not only barefoot, but a barefoot wild woman. Movies that fall under the “wild woman” category have long been favorites of mine–for I can relate to them. The problem with most wild woman movies and stories is that they more often than not reveal a deepset puritanical streak. More often than not the wild women in the movies must either be tamed and forced into shoes and submission, or worse… they must die for their wild “pagan” wickedness. See the otherwise wonderful Gone To Earth for just one example of the wild woman formula in action. In Gone To Earth, Hazel, the wild woman, is severely chastised (frankly, killed off) for her “wicked ways,” while the men (of course) all walk away healthy and happy. ‘Gator Bait is a rare exception in that the wild woman survives with her wonderful wildness wholly intact–if not hardened a little through the course of her adventure. Two of the most important factors that make ‘Gator Bait such a shining example of Exploitation at its best are its insightful and compassionate portraits of both the heroine and the villains. The writing reveals a woman’s touch at every turn, and a strong and passionate woman’s touch no less, and that woman, Beverly Sebastian, is a powerhouse. The villains, five men who have set out into the swamp to hunt, try, judge and kill Jenning’s character Desirae, all have their own motives and are bound together through the intertwining of their sins, ignorance and mistakes. Along the same lines, Desirae is brilliantly portrayed as a strong Cajun woman who falls into none of the traps of what filmmakers today errantly consider to be strong women.

Claudia Jennings Gator BaitStrong women do not abandon femininity to become men. Modern films take a grotesque shortcut when trying to create a strong female character, they rob them of every ounce of their femininity and turn them into characters as shallow, flat and uninteresting as their male counterparts. Strong women in modern films walk like men, chew gum like men, sling big stupid guns over their shoulders like men, and act every bit the asshole the men do… but they have ever buoyant breasts. ‘Gator Bait takes a much more enlightened approach. Rather than dismissing or degrading the truly feminine, ‘Gator Bait goes against the grain, celebrates it and reveals the sublime strength of primal feminine power. Desirae is no doubt strong and courageous (and a damn good shot, too), but she is cunning, sly, quick and quiet, and most importantly, she largely plays a distinctly feminine cat and mouse game with the men who sexually abused and murdered her sister and are now pursuing her through the swamps for a murder she did not commit. She plays these testosterone addled men like fools and leads them to self destruction. As the film plays out we slowly watch the men become more and more unhinged and frightened not merely of her and her swamp, but of each other. Such subtleties are rarely seen in Exploitation films… and I have seen and loved tons of them. Setting all that aside, and perhaps every bit as important as such subtleties, ‘Gator Bait does not make any promises it doesn’t fulfill, in the words of we Exploitation fans… it pays off!

o_the-hitchhikers-1972-dvd-misty-rowe-5e1fOf course Ferd and Beverly have shot many tremendous and memorable films, even a second huge favorite, The Hitchhikers, another movie that made quite an impression on me. For a start, the lead is played by a woman, again, and she runs away from home barefoot. When I moved away from Ohio to Florida, I did so barefoot, and with nothing but the courage to take a leap of faith and the small envelope of cash I had acquired by selling off guitars, my car, and other stuff. As I walked out the door of my house in Ohio for the last time I could hear the music from The Hitchhikers playing over in my head. As you can imagine, the thought that I would one day meet the writer/producer/director team who created two such personally influential films was always a little faint daydream of mine. I have a longtime habit of seeking, finding, meeting and befriending my heroes, from the great artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones to French director Jean Rollin, whenever possible I have found my heroes and gotten to know them, thereby getting to know not only their work better, but myself as well. Those are the people I learn from. As an artist I haven’t spent much time with my contemporaries, not once I discovered I could shoot over their heads and aim for Masters and personal heroes–even in high school I was closer to my art teachers than the fellow students. For some time I had been trying to find Ferd and Beverly Sebastian, but they were elusive to say the least–read the attached and linked blog entry above for more on that.

Needless to say, having dinner with Ferd and Beverly several days ago was an unlikely and hard-won dream come true. And more than anything, that is really what this is about. I don’t care to review ‘Gator Bait, so many people have done that so badly already that I dare not cast my bait into those waters. Waters muddied by men (mostly) who would rather look down on the things they claim to love and laugh at them by using words like “Cheesy” or “Schlocky.” As for me, I would rather take the higher road and look up with respect and admire the things I love. If I am going to love something, why bother loving something I feel or see as being beneath me? I was never one to get together with people, drink, and laugh at movies, what a lowly and derisive pastime. The other thing such weak-minded reviews do is demonstrate that people do not know how to approach low budget, independent or “Exploitation” films. Most people come to them with eyes, ears and minds that have been brainwashed into only being able to view movies from a limited singular mainstream Hollywood-centric perspective. There are many ways to make, view, and consider movies, and in order to get all one can out of alternative, independent or low-budget film culture one must empty their cup before viewing a film like ‘Gator Bait. What I care to do here, rather than review ‘Gator Bait, is write about my evening with its creators and talk about how much it meant to me.

When I first contacted the Sebastians I had talked to Ferd on the phone, something their son Ben (who was also in ‘Gator Bait) had set up for me. Merely talking to Ferd on the phone flooded me with tremorous joy. As I hung up the phone, having set up a time and place to meet them, the anxieties crept in, the questions… will this be awkward, cordial, friendly, stiff, distant… or will there be a connection between us? When we (“The Beard and the Barefoot Girl”, i.e. me and my dearest friend and a fine artist, Joe Blue Sky) pulled up to the restaurant, within a few moments Ferd and Beverly happened to pull up right beside us. Shit! What are these people going to be like? I was set at ease by the warm and welcoming openness of our initial greetings. Ferd had looked at my artwork on this very site and was already impressed. That has been essential to breaking the ice for me. When I meet a hero I want to establish up front that I am not merely a fan, I am one of them, perhaps an equal. When one artist of skill and dedication meets another of the same skill and dedication the ice is instantly melted and a bond is easy to establish. This is never a manipulation on my part, nor is it boastful, it is merely my way of establishing that we are cut from the same cloth, that we can open up and communicate as equals. We must be at eye level, I cannot stand to be talked down to. Of course, Ferd and Beverly never once talked down to me, having seen my work made that impossible.

Once we all sat down together at the restaurant, Ferd and Beverly and Joe and I, I was astounded. ‘Gator Bait was now real in the sense that I had at long last connected not only to the movie, but now the man and woman who had created it 40 plus years ago were sitting with me and my very best friend over dinner! This movie was no longer something “other,” it was no longer some ethereal dream from the past that I would be forever at a distance from, it would now and forever be an actual part of “me,” of my life, it would be in my gravity and became ever so much more real. I like to get as close as possible to the things I love. It is a funny thing to think about, that until that dinner, ‘Gator Bait was always something distant, something I could watch but could never truly touch or take hold of, something I could never know intimately, it existed in shadows, like a dream. Now and forevermore, ‘Gator Bait will be something I have personally connected with. Moreso, it would now be something Joe and I had connected with together… this is a powerful bonding between friends and fellow artists.

mlc-607x335-sebastianFor a while at first we talked about their (primarily Beverly’s, I think) newer project, her greyhound rescue foundation–for more on that go here and make a donation: http://www.4greyhounds.org. Additionally, Ferd has been running a sincere healing ministry after a profound and mystical healing experience. Joe and I naturally assumed they would be more inclined to talk about their present rather than their past, but soon into the conversation about their greyhound foundation, Beverly became emotional and said, “Enough about greyhounds, let’s talk about movies.” God bless her for that, now we were off and running!

For the next 3 and a half hours, after a meal and cups of coffee, we talked with ease and openness, like (dare I say it) old friends. I realized that these people were both (up around 80 years old) very present in the now, still as vibrant and passionate as ever, so I figured they would not want to talk about their films much past this conversation, so I wanted to ask all I had ever wanted to ask so I could leave them alone about it forevermore. From that dinner forward, it would be easier for me to see them in the future and only talk about their films with them when they wanted to do so. I don’t know if they are always like this or not, but the floodgates opened up and I learned far more about not only ‘Gator Bait and The Hitchhikers, but about their other films and the Exploitation film business in general, their methods, and Claudia Jennings than I ever could have thought possible. The next 3 and a half hours were staggering, even mind-blowing. But the most important lesson I learned was that just because you’re 80 doesn’t mean you have to accept the trappings of old age, no, they were as vibrant and passionate as ever, and both of them sharp as tacks, and this was so because they made it so. I need no longer fear old age… it’s all in the mind, you know! I want to grow old like Ferd and Beverly Sebastian.

Though I loved Ferd, as a woman with few real role models, Beverly soon became my hero, the one I most wanted to talk to and learn from. As a producer, I learned, she was terribly serious, did her research and the innovative and hard thinking it took to market her films, right down to her marking all of the area drive-ins on a map and figuring out which ones would be best for her films, as at that time they only had 20 prints of ‘Gator Bait struck. Their ad campaign involved taking out teaser ads in the classifieds sections in the places they thought would be most likely to be spotted by their potential viewers… keep in mind this was all done before the main ads were ever seen. This sort of ingenuity and classic ballyhoo had been essential to the Exploitation film biz, a beautiful holdover from the carnival, circus and Vaudeville days. Sadly, in this time and in this culture, that sort of thing is dead, and they are among the very last practitioners of this lost way of thinking. I for one am rather romantic about such things, so am delighted to hear stories from those who lived such grand adventures.

Beyond that they were patient with question after question about ‘Gator Bait, and not merely patient, they often went far deeper than I had been ready to ask. As a barefoot girl myself, and a big fan of other barefoot women, I of course wanted to know if Claudia Jennings and Misty Rowe were barefoot in their films because that was how the actresses were, or if they were barefoot because that was how Ferd and Beverly wanted them to be. Ferd clearly stated that that was their doing as the creators. Funny, I don’t know if this was disappointing or satisfying… I’m gonna go with satisfying.

I had heard that Beverly had written ‘Gator Bait in a weekend after Claudia Jennings had asked her to write a film where she could do a lot of action but wouldn’t have to speak much. Beverly confirmed that she had written the script in a weekend, but it was in no way tossed off by her, it became very clear as she talked about it that the script was positively inspired. She referred to ‘Gator Bait as “autobiographical,” so she understood those characters and their lives quite intimately. This film was easier than others for her, as she did not have to do so much research. She talked about the importance of research in regards to her other films, especially in learning how the people she wrote about talked. Beverly said if she made a film about prostitutes, she spent time with prostitutes. I, being a classicist and a big fan of research and disciplined approaches, was delighted to learn that we shared this thoroughness. This also explained why the characters in ‘Gator Bait all had such intense personal histories and motives… she was writing these characters from the inside out. And the closer I got to understanding how heartfelt and thorough their methods were, the more I understood why we were all getting on so well… we all created our works in the same spirit of dedication and sacrifice.

ferd2Of course Ferd had exciting stories about directing, especially about directing the actor who played the demented and tormented Leroy in ‘Gator Bait. Evidently, as convincing as the actor was, when they met him he looked like a little frail English professor. He had to prove to Beverly that he could frighten her, so he took a moment at the audition, mussed up his hair, grabbed a ruler and came at her as if it were a knife and he were Leroy. Hired! But our Leroy’s problems didn’t end at the audition, Claudia’s first day on the set involved shooting the scene where Leroy comes at her to finish her off, but Claudia had told Beverly that she just couldn’t be frightened of this guy, so Ferd gave the actor a brilliant bit of direction. He told him that as he stalked and approached her, to pretend he had a metal plate in the center of his skull, and a small metal ball bearing was rolling around on it, and if it touched the sides, it would blow his head off. The brilliant part is, when you watch that scene in the end when Desirae has set a trap for him, that he easily foils, as he comes down through the brush you can see in his eyes and posture that the threat of that ball bearing rolling too far to the side was ever present in his mind. And, of course, you could see the fear in Claudia’s eyes!

I learned a lot about Claudia Jennings, who I have always been fond of, too. What their stories about her did was wholly humanize her for me. In my mind, up to meeting with Ferd and Beverly, Claudia was something of a creature created by the media. What I learned from the Sebastians was that far from the vulgar and truly exploitive way Claudia Jennings was portrayed as a drug-hazed party girl on E True Hollywood Stories, Claudia was quite an innocent, another dedicated professional, and a very dear friend to the Sebastians. Far more than a friend, I think they were family to her. Of course I learned lots of other things and we talked about how misunderstood she and her tragic and untimely death were, but the Sebastians are still loyal and protective of Claudia Jennings, so I will honor that and talk about little beyond her professionalism. Besides, all we really need to know, and all that really matters, is that Claudia Jennings was wholly serious about her work, research and training, innocent, kind, and loving. And for the Sebastians to pass that along is an act of great love, after all, what greater gift can one do for a departed loved one than make other people love them as well?

Claudia’s dedication ran deep, she spent a couple weeks learning to drive that boat in ‘Gator Bait. They said she even wanted to do her own jumps over the logs and such (which they absolutely forbade), but she did do her other stunts all by herself, even going so far as to steer with her foot in the scene where she stands in the boat and shoots at the men. Similarly I learned that in Truck Stop Women Claudia demonstrated the same dedication in that she took the time to learn to drive a truck. These people, none of them, from the actor who played Leroy to Claudia and the Sebastians, were half-assing hacks… they were devoted and disciplined in their approaches, and any review of ‘Gator Bait that uses words like “cheesy” or “schlock” are to be treated with dismissal and contempt. It was important for me to learn that their working methods and philosophies were so disciplined and sincere, primarily because I had always hoped that was so, and it would have broken my heart to find out otherwise. Simply put, these are my kind of people, which explains why I have always been so drawn to ‘Gator Bait, The Hitchhikers, and will no doubt feel the same as I become more familiar with their other films.

So here it’s been almost a week since I met the Sebastians, and they invited me to call them again to come to their house in a couple weeks, and I am certainly hoping this happens. They are good people, and I need friends like them, but then again, don’t we all? Claudia Jennings certainly did.

gator-bait

To read “‘Gator Bait & Me 1” follow this link: https://barefootjustine.com/2013/01/23/gator-bait-me/

My Birthday: 2 Years Barefoot! (with a splash of Paul)

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(This entry is a rant, a birthday barefoot McCartney rant with a certain random quality to it… but in my Maya it all makes perfect sense)

My birthday is upon me, January 14th. I am now 4; or in normally gendered years… 36; and in secret years…. well that secret is for God (and a few people who “know to much”) to know. That date also happens to coincide (roughly) with the day I stubbornly and absolutely abandoned “my” shoes, not that I had been wearing them anyhow. So, why is “my” in quotes? because shoes are never mine, they are THEIRS! Shoes are not of my spirit, they are something that had been forced upon me up to that point, rather like a prison sentence. Shoes are a part of their, or your, society, don’t try and convince me I need to stuff my feet into those culturally abhorrent suffocating torturous bacteria incubators. Two years ago this January 14th (yep, that’s 2 human years wholly committed to being barefoot) I decided to liberate myself from even the pragmatic arguments that persuade lesser barefooters to submit. Two years ago I said no, I will not submit. I will not conform. I will not be bullied, coerced, guilted or given “common sense” lectures. I am barefoot.

I had always loved being barefoot, had always done it, but had never committed to it. At this point I don’t even own shoes, nor socks, nor sandals, nor hose, nor slippers, nor even a Christmas stocking. I’ve saved a lot of money. Anklets and toerings outlast shoes big time! Funny, but poor as I am, I often feel guilty for “blowing my money” on anklets… but considering what I would have blown on shoes, from now on I’m just gonna shrug it off and buy whatever anklet I want. Take that Nike! Just do it, huh? Well, I done did it. Or as Ghoulardi said, “If you’re gonna do something… do it!”

I imagine there are a lot of questions… like… WHY? Why is it so important that I stay barefoot all the time? And here’s the thing, if you are asking the question at all, then I doubt any answer I could give would make sense to you, but I’ll go ahead and give a few.

Firstmost I suppose the answer is… ’cause I want to. This is my manifestation in Maya, you wear shoes through yours if you please.

But for a longer and more in depth firstmost: as far as I’m concerned, there’s not much difference between wearing shoes and going out every day with gloves on, or a blindfold on, or earplugs in. Being barefoot offers me a world of sensation, and I do not want such delicious sensations muted by shoes any more than I want my hearing muted by earplugs or my sight dulled by shades. Of course some might then ask, “aren’t you afraid of cutting your feet?” No more than I worry about something flying in my eye because I’m not wearing a blindfold; no more than I am worried about going deaf if there’s a loud noise ’cause I don’t have my earplugs in. I ironically, do have hearing damage, permanent, from when some bonehead at a Ren Faire set off a cannon… damn, shoulda been wearing my earplugs. Think on that, yes, indeed, I could hurt my feet, but is that a reason to wear shoes anymore than that single cannon blast that gave me permanent hearing damage is a reason to wear earplugs day in and day out? Nope. Seems like simple math to me. I do realize that if a corporation came along, say like the Nike or Purell people, and found a way to make billions on earplugs… everyone would be running about with earplugs in… and looking at me as if I were nuts for not wearing them. Shoes, like earplugs and shades, are a choice, not a necessity.

So, what’s the payoff for being barefoot? There are many, but it’s primarily a hedonistic if not fetishistic thing, as well as a spiritual exercise. Being barefoot demands that at every moment I be alive in the NOW and fully engaged and aware of where I am at every moment. It’s a way of shutting down the noise in my ears, the bullshit that drags me down. Being barefoot is a pure and simple pleasure that overrides bad moments. I can endure a lot of drudgery if I can do it barefoot. Quite simply, life is more fun barefoot! Look deep down… you know that to be true… no no… look deeper…. see it! Ah… there it is, the way the truth and the light: life is more fun barefoot.

Why did I choose to just do it? Why did I choose not to listen to that sensible self that would have me encased (against my will) in shoes? Blame some of that (like a whole lotta stuff in my life) on cancer in Korea and nearly drowning in Thailand. There came a time after that, after I had confronted my mortality in a very real way, when I thought to myself… fuck this! After all, isn’t “fuck this!” a major motivator… had Edison not said “fuck this working in the dark shit,” we wouldn’t have track lighting. There are things I want to do in this life, and I’m damn well going to do them! If I love being barefoot, then barefoot I will be. Nothing like facing your mortality–DEATH–twice in 6 months to set a person straight. That combined with the inspiring whiskey drenched misery of the period that followed the cancer and near drowning. I had worked as an illegal immigrant in Chile and had to spend all the money I’d made escaping the country. I came home to suffer through a divorce, foreclosure and bankruptcy. I was bitter, broken, and a whiskey drinking alcoholic. Why did I decide to commit to going barefoot 24/7? Because I had nothing to lose! I still have nothing to lose. Let me hip you to the real rub… none of us have anything to lose… there is NO security out there.

“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, New

When seeking truth I always turn to the sages.

Nothing to lose, so I do as I choose, and I choose to live without shoes. And it’s my right, the right to shoes, the right to choose, I choose barefoot! I choose to be free and brave in a land that promised I would be allowed to do so… it hasn’t worked out that way. Just like with the Native Americans, America breaks its grandest promises… ask ANY intelligent foreigner what they think of the myth of American freedom and bravery. Go ahead, ask ’em. One thing you learn when you are barefoot… we are not truly free. Our basic and simplest personal liberties are not granted to us under the great American God… the ONE TRUE God in America, and it ain’t greed… it’s FEAR! Sorry folks, not a lot of freedom and bravery here amongst the purple mountains majesty, but plenty of fear. We’re afraid of lawsuits, we’re afraid of germs, terrorists, glass, gays, gun control, socialism, and bare feet! Ever try going barefoot in restaurants? Here’s the deal… ain’t no health codes nowhere no-how, but everyone is so afraid that there is that they forbid it. Can’t go barefoot to the Top here in Gainesville, can’t go to Chopsticks Cafe, so you know where I can go? Foreign restaurants. See, the Vietnamese, Mexicans and Indians aren’t as uptight as we are, and evidently are far more educated in regards to healthcodes than their American counterparts. I love you Saigon Legend!

“There is a fine line, between recklessness and courage
It’s about time, you understood which road to take
It’s a fine line, your decision makes a difference
Get it wrong, you’ll be making a big mistake

Whatever’s more important to you
You’ve got to change what you wanna do
Whatever’s more important to be
That’s the view that you’ve gotta see”

Paul McCartney, Fine Line

Paul McCartney singing out, again, about being genuine, fearless, true to self. McCartney has been utterly true to his nature… hey folks, believe it or not, those poppy and old fashioned songs… he does them because he loves them and is fearless enough to mix them in with his darker and more experimental work. The man’s work gives me courage to stick to my convictions. The courage to be barefoot. The courage to, like Paul, be grossly misunderstood. Oh well, it’s not McCartney’s job to be understood by cynics, just as it’s not my job to be understood by the thoughtlessly shod.

How long do I plan on staying barefoot? Forever if I have my say. I guess this means I won’t be getting on any planes anytime soon, thank God. Airports, the one place Americans can go to have it rubbed in their faces that the terrorists won… who needs it! The things I can’t do barefoot don’t bother me much. The things I can do barefoot thrill me. It’s worth it. So I don’t get to go to an airport and have some flunkie tell me to take off my shoes and then put them on again… how fucking random is that anyway? OK… so explain to me why it’s OK to stand around barefoot in the airport when they want to rummage through your stuff… but not before or after then? What the hell is that? Random brothers and sisters, that’s what it is… random! I don’t do random. Well, I do MY random; your random, their random, not my bag.

Yep, 2 years barefoot, imagine that?

I imagined it, now I’m doing it. If you’re gonna dream it, you might as well do it. And THAT, my friends brings me to another point. I used to dream, I dreamt big, real stinking big. It turned out that the dreams I had been dreaming depended on others. Did you get that? That’s the trouble with a lot of dreams, they depend on others to be properly fulfilled, on others to judge you worthy, on others to buy your stuff, give you the job, choose you, make you famous and popular… those are not practical dreams. Any dream that requires another person, or many people, in order for it to be brought to fruition is not a dream I am willing to dream anymore. I am finished with dreams that are beyond my control. I dreamt of living barefoot… I am living barefoot, and no one, not the Top, not Chopsticks Cafe, not CFOP is going to control my dream, nor make me submit, nor make me conform. I dream things I can accomplish on my own now. Being barefoot, that is under my control, that is a dream that is self contained. I can choose to live that dream. If you’re gonna dream, learn the difference between dreams that leave you at the mercy of others and dreams that depend solely on you. It’s on you! It’s all on you. It always was and it always will be.

“There were rules you never told me
Never came up with a plan
All the stories that you sold me
Didn’t help me understand

But I had to get it worked out
Had nobody who could help
So then in the end it turned out
That I had to do it
By myself…

Lief’s a game rags from riches
Dogs and bitches hunt for fame
Difficult to know which way to turn

Lay the blame on the snitches
Wicked witches fan the flame
Careful what you touch in case you burn”

Paul McCartney, Queenie Eye

Thanks Paul, as for me, I won’t be touching anymore dreams that depend on others for their fulfillment. And that lesson the dogs, the bitches and I have learned through being burned. Barefoot… that is a dream I can fulfill, and no one is going to stop me.

Peace, Love and Bare Feet, (and a couple kisses if you want ’em…)
Justine

Addendum: Speaking of the whole barefoot birthday McCartney thing… I just got back from seeing the Beatle tribute band Rain with Miriam. Of course I went barefoot. It amused me that more than once people in the crowd responded enthusiastically over the seemingly apparent fact that I had dressed up for this thing. Funny thing is, as Miriam pointed out, these are just my clothes. I hadn’t dressed up for Rain at all… I dressed for Tuesday! I wore BIG bell bottoms with holes in the knees, plenty of toe rings, a beaded belt thingie, a dyed lace frilled blouse with breezy open sleeves, a denim vest, bangles and bare feet, a bindi, silver feather earrings, and my Ganesh medallion and Shiva choker; and over it all my fluffy freaking frizz-mop hair, a long purple knit duster (which is cool ’cause the sleeves of my blouse hang out the ends of it like something from Sade’s time), a denim purse, and well… isn’t that enough? I think people expect far too little of themselves when they get dressed. So, no, this wasn’t a costume, it was simply Tuesday.

Good thing this show wasn’t on Wednesday… they’d have gotten an eyeful then.