The Movie Diary

Take it from the top

By Dom Cioffi

When I was a kid, I never had an issue with heights. In fact, heights fascinated me.

I think I first became enamored with heights when I started climbing trees. My childhood home had several wonderful trees that offered a multitude of challenges for the daring climber. If no one was around, I’d scale them until I could not go any higher. And if friends were inclined, I was always game to build a tree fort.

I must admit, my parents were fairly calm about my tree climbing habit. I remember several occasions where my mother would stand at the foot of the tree encouraging me to come down. She always seemed concerned, but never so much that she didn’t ultimately leave me to my adventures.

Later, my interest in heights moved to the roof top. My bedroom window opened onto a fairly steep incline, that, when carefully navigated, led to an upper roof area that was somewhat flat. At night, I would sneak out onto the roof and shimmy my way to the top. Once there, I would lie back and soak up the night sky in all its grandeur.

Of course, I would do this during the day as well. I was always mesmerized by seeing the layout of my neighborhood from an elevated vantage point. And I got such a kick out of yelling to one of the neighborhood kids from up there, confusing them until they noticed me in such an unorthodox spot.

On the occasions when my father caught me, he always delivered a reprimand, claiming that my presence on the roof led to the early decline of the asphalt shingles. I always thought this claim was bogus since I was careful to never scuff the roof as I wandered about. It never occurred to me that this was simply his excuse for being nervous.

My curiosity with heights continued at the municipal pool where I became enamored with the high-dive board. I never had an issue launching myself into the air from this precarious platform. To me it was all fun.

Of course, there were other kids who were equally enticed by the high dive, and who combined this curiosity with athletic prowess by performing various dives. I, too, engaged, but my abilities peaked at the one-and-a-half dive and the back flip. Others pushed the boundaries with multiple rotation dives, but I lacked the true daredevil DNA to go any further.

Once I became mobile in high school, I found my way to various rocky outcroppings that overlooked popular swimming holes. Ego started to play a role at this point, since one was always with friends who pushed the limits.

I rarely backed down from a challenge and took great pride in being one of the kids who not only jumped from the rocks, but would also be willing to climb the tree at the top of the rocks to get to an even greater height.

I never antagonized any friends who didn’t share my allure for heights. I recognized that some people were simply afraid of being a great distance above the ground. However, I have to admit that internally, I did snicker a bit.

It just seemed weird to me that a person would let an unfounded fear dictate what they would do, and ultimately keep them from enjoying amazing experiences. I felt bad for anyone who shied away from safe, thrill-seeking activities like bungee jumping or skydiving, simply because of some internal hang-up. In my mind, fear of heights was a choice and a logical analysis should be able to assuage that fear.

And then my son was born.

From the minute my son arrived on this earth, he has been petrified of heights. I can’t get him to climb a tree, jump off a diving board or even look out the window while flying in a plane. He’s not proud of this fact and will go to great lengths to disguise it. But he also won’t face this fear no matter how much I coerce him with logic or safe challenges.

We recently went to an outdoor park that featured a ropes course through the tree canopy. I was immediately intoxicated by the thought of climbing at such heights, but he would not even entertain the possibility of trying it. “Dad, you go have your fun acting like a monkey,” he said. “I’m perfectly fine with the go-carts.” And with that he wandered away, leaving me to be the kid.

This week’s film, “Lights Out,” also features a popular childhood fear, but this one involves the darkness and what may or may not be hiding in it.

Set in a modern day suburb, “Lights Out” follows one family’s journey as they try to make sense of an unlikely visitor who ultimately reveals a dark, foreboding secret.

This film was designed to not only get under your skin, but also make you jump, and it does a very good job in this regard. Check this one out if you enjoy the thrills and chills associated with the supernatural. Just be careful not to eat a big meal prior to watching.

An anxiety-filled “B” for “Lights Out.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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