Barefoot on the Hilltop

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Barefoot on the Hilltop

Alex Robertson

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Skin and velvet. Mark Spinks’ bare toes hover inches above the blood-orange velvet couch in Jo’s. Although February has never seen such perfect barefootin’ weather, it’s not just because there’s no snow or rain that he’s footloose and sock-free today.

A junior interactive games studies major, Spinks is an Ohio native. He’s tall, graceful when he moves and his brown eyes seem to only see the good in people; but none of these qualities would likely catch your immediate attention if you saw him walking down the street.

For 21-year-old Mark, this is his third year going barefoot. I met up with St. Edward’s proudest ‘nelipot’ to ask him a few questions about it:

A.R.: “Some people go barefoot to make it easier on their joints when they run, or because they simply like the way it feels. Why did you start going barefoot, and when?”

M.S.: “I had a herniated disk, and some lower back problems. I started the summer before freshman year. At that point, it was just every now and then, but after I got on campus, I started doing it more often.”

A.R.: “So going barefoot…it’s pretty unique. Have you had any extreme reactions to it?”

M.S.: “It makes me laugh more than anything. People like to stare at their feet when they walk, and inevitably, they’ll see my feet, and look me in the eyes, or do a double take. It’s always funny to see their expressions.”

A.R.: “When was the last time you wore shoes?”

M.S.: “I don’t like going into public bathrooms barefoot, so I carry around sandals with me for that. Otherwise though, I’d say last week, when I went out for dinner.”

A.R.: “Everyone has quirks, but most of them aren’t this visual; for instance, some people dance and sing with a fist microphone, or scream into a pillow, but it’s usually in the privacy of their homes. How has having such a visual quirk affected your confidence? Do you feel more prepared to take on daunting situations?”

M.S.: “Oh, absolutely. It takes a certain kind of confidence to do something that goes against the cultural grain. When I first started doing it, I was worried about the reactions people would have, but it’s liberating, really. I go out and actually jump in puddles when it rains. Not everyone has that freedom.”

A.R.: “Have you noticed other students ‘nelipotting’ on campus?”

M.S.: “Yeah, there’s a few others I see now and then.”

A.R.: “Has it had an affect on your overall outlook?”

M.S.: “Philosophically, it’s helped me see pain in a different way. It’s sort of a system of conditioning because you can ‘walk over’ your pain. It’s also been an eye-opener environmentally too, since you notice how much litter (especially cigarette butts) people leave on the ground. I’d definitely encourage everyone to try it at least once; you’ve got nothing to lose but weird glances.”