He Took His Shoes Off 20 Years Ago. He Hasn’t Put Them Back On.

To hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, Download Audm for iPhone or Android.

NORWALK, Conn. — Several years ago, Joseph DeRuvo Jr. hastily stopped at a high-end supermarket to buy eggs and was stopped by the store manager in the aisle selling milk. “I don’t wear shoes,” he recalls the manager telling him.

He was right. Mr. DeRuvo doesn’t wear shoes. He almost never does.

Employees cite health codes; Mr. DeRuvo countered that he had violated. Employees make vague references to insurance policies; “More people break their necks because of high heels than going barefoot,” Mr. DeRuvo replied.

“A customer was complaining,” the manager finally said, as Mr. DeRuvo recalls. “We want you to leave.”

Mr DeRuvo initially decided to give up shoes because of pain in his big toe, but he went barefoot for reasons beyond physical comfort. By that time, he had become a test of people’s patience and willingness to endure a stranger’s unusual lifestyle and maybe even try to understand it.

There are questions he is frequently asked and he is always happy to answer. How does he manage snow and ice? Doesn’t he get sharp objects caught in his thick calluses? But those are the simple things. “Navigation of the terrain is easy,” Mr. DeRuvo said. “Navigation of people is difficult.”

When asked to leave a store or restaurant, which he usually does without objection, DeRuvo’s wife, Lini Ecker, a shoemaker who acts as a bridge between her husband and a casual world requires compliance.

She said: “Once someone has put on ‘I’m in charge’, once they get started, they can never change their mind.

At times, Mr. DeRuvo pushed back. “If I’m feeling short-tempered,” he said.

The egg excursion was one of those times. Mr. DeRuvo argued with the manager for a while then left and bought his own eggs.

For two decades, Mr. DeRuvo, 59, has lived a life almost entirely barefoot, a life he built, with the help of Ms Ecker, to limit or avoid confrontations so. After years of working as a photographer and photography teacher, he’s still self-employed, now working as a Pilates instructor, a profession that’s especially friendly to barefoot people. The couple lives near the house. When out, they are attracted to casual shops and restaurants where they can create a personal relationship with the owner and manager, and he can be seen as more than a dead guy. foot.

However, Ms. Ecker, 61, said, “we were thrown out a lot of places.”

It was an unusually warm February day when Mr. DeRuvo started a short run. The weather was a welcome respite from last week’s record cold winds. While hot days can be more difficult than cold ones, with sunburned pavement forcing him to run across the painted midline or in the shade of telephone poles, nothing hurts underfoot like salt. thawing is treated with chemicals. “That gives me a lot of sympathy for dogs,” he said.

Back home, Miss Ecker, the preschool teacher, prepares lunch, gently toasts bagels in a cast iron pan, cuts butter, mixes salads. Mr. DeRuvo grabbed a pair of chopsticks, his favorite cutlery. This is one of his “odds,” as he calls them. He needs reggae music to play in the background most of the time; the only numbers he can remember are those of the radio stations he uses for internet passwords.

“Obviously I have one foot on the spectrum,” he said earlier (though he clarified that he had never undergone an autism assessment).

Mr. DeRuvo’s lifestyle has given him reason to think a lot about bare feet, assessing their safety and hygiene and whether they pose a threat to polite society. He can come up with no health risks. What germs can his feet carry that the bottoms of someone’s shoes can’t? (Connecticut does not have a rule banning barefoot customers in stores or restaurants, said Christopher Boyle, a spokesman for the Department of Health, “but retail establishments can set their own rules. Surname.”)

Mr. DeRuvo bears all the risk of tripping his toe, or worse. He did some work with his bare feet and all was safe. He is a tinker and a producer, including his own Pilates device that he built in the elaborate workshop he built from the garage to the back of his house, sometimes wearing goggles but rarely shoes. (He will wear moccasins while welding.)

In case he steps on something sharp, he carries a sunglasses case filled with tweezers to remove debris, pulling his foot close to his face to detect metal and glass shards. He showered at night, scrubbing his feet clean before going to bed with his wife.

And he knows when to surrender, he said, keeping a pair of loose sandals in the car in case there’s an event that others would feel uncomfortable if he was denied entry, such as when they go out to dinner with friends.

But in general, Mr. DeRuvo chooses comfort for his feet over doing anything or going anywhere that forces him to tie them to a pair of shoes.

Bare feet outside on the beach, yoga studio or pedicure chair often attract attention. “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was infamous for conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series, but legend has it that playing a game barefoot because of blisters earned him his enduring nickname. Britney Spears’ visit to a gas station in 2004 became a global news event when the paparazzi captured her leaving the bathroom in an outdoor suit.

“People have problems with their feet,” admits Mr. DeRuvo. “Everybody is skewed.”

Mr. DeRuvo looks like it will hurt when walking inside a shoe: His big toes, with a large bump protruding at the base, protrude diagonally toward the little toes.

The bumps are bunions. About 20 years ago, they became painful – stinging from running for long periods in tight sneakers and getting in the way of his life. Mr. DeRuvo met with a doctor who suggested surgery. While waiting for the scheduled procedure, he did not wear shoes because the pain was so intense. In recent days, he learns that the screws that will be implanted in his leg contain a metal he is allergic to. He also found that he feels better since taking off his shoes.

It didn’t take long before he realized that going barefoot was enriching his life in ways he didn’t anticipate. There are physical benefits beyond pain relief for bunions: He finds comfort from land below him. He said: “The haptic feedback just makes everything else going on a little smoother.

DeRuvo, a devout man, says there are also spiritual benefits. “God said to Moses, ‘Take off your shoes, you know, this land is holy,’” he said. “Well, I want to take it as far as I can.”

Not wearing shoes also gives him a mindful life, not rooted in the past, future or iPhone. “I pay attention to my every move.”

For these reasons, he says, he considers his lifestyle a gift, and despite all the store managers questioning his choice, it’s a privilege. “A Negro walking around without shoes on,” he said, “I don’t think a Negro has that freedom. The police will be called.”

He explains all of this in a practical way. “When you always have to justify what you are doing, you find a context to put it in,” he said.

Mr. DeRuvo was born in New York. His mother is a nurse at Bellevue Hospital. His father worked in the printing press at B. Altman, a department store, eventually overseeing mail-order catalogs.

As a child, he struggled with language development and only his older sister could understand him. Alesa Cunningham, six years older, says: “My mother asked me to translate what Joseph said for her until he was five.

The family moved to Greenwich, Conn., where he received special education services for dyslexia and a variety of other learning problems. From an early age, he loved to disassemble and reassemble objects, like doorknobs and rotating phones. At the age of 16, his mother gave him a camera. “It combines the art of an image and the workings of a camera,” he says. “Everything was clicked.”

In the mid-1980s, he enrolled at the New England School of Photography in Boston. There he met Miss Ecker. They have been virtually inseparable ever since and married in 1987.

He doesn’t remember exactly when was the last time he took off his shoes. “That was about five years before the iPhone,” he says (which is about 2002).

However, Mr. DeRuvo was able to maintain his previous career of wedding photography for years, even after telling potential clients he wasn’t wearing shoes.

Kate Lindsay recalls her sister’s wedding in 2009, photographed by Mr DeRuvo and Mrs Ecker. At the backyard reception, she said, Mr. DeRuvo answered guests’ questions about his feet without becoming a sideshow.

Ms Lindsay, who hired him to photograph her own wedding reception in 2016, said: ‘He could have been on the right track, if you forgive the pun.

His children don’t remember a big announcement that their dad would abstain from wearing shoes, it’s just that their dad’s shoes are getting less and less. Nate De Ruvo, 33, a barista in Boston, said: ‘Somewhere along the way, something changed and he no longer believed in shoes.

As a child, Nate had a common perception that his father was always greeted with suspicion by strangers. “Obviously he violated a social contract, but somehow that particular contract is so ingrained in everyone,” he said.

He once asked his father why everyone was so upset. “People don’t like being reminded that they are animals,” he says his father told him. “They don’t want to admit that we’re not different from any other creature around.”

Opal DeRuvo, too, grew up witnessing frequent angry reactions to his father’s bare feet. Opal identified as a non-binary female transgender and experienced a lack of social acceptance. Opal, 31, an artist, said: “People get annoyed when someone tries to make the world easier to navigate for themselves.

When dressing, Opal wears heels, a shoe choice that provides an opportunity to reflect on their father’s experience. “When I cross a cobblestone street or a subway grating with holes in it,” Opal said, “I have to be as careful as my father.” (“I find it funny that a child chooses to wear high heels,” says Mr. DeRuvo.)

Ms Ecker was undeterred when asked how her husband’s lack of shoes had limited their lives. “You take the whole package when you marry someone,” she said with a shrug as she ate lunch with him at the restaurant. Norwalk Art Space cafe, her clogs nestled under the table by his feet.

As for Mr. DeRuvo, he said that living without shoes helped him become the person God wanted him to be. “Unless you see someone ‘different’ but still able to build a life together,” he says, “you wouldn’t know it was possible.”

Sound produced by Tally Abecassis.


News7F: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button