A desire to climb compelled me to conquer my fear of heights. This is how I did it.
I remember the first time. It happened, of all places, at the La Brea Tar Pits, in Los Angeles. The Wilshire Boulevard site doesn’t sit on any particularly steep relief. But one of the buildings, set on a very small hill, is ringed with a cement sidewalk wide enough that, from my low perspective as a child, seemed to drop off into the air. With no railing to protect passers-by, from my “safe” location next to the building’s full-length glass walls I warned my father not to get too close to the edge. My dad, with his usual sense of humor, walked carefully up to the edge and “fell” off into the abyss. I remember feeling extremely distressed, but soon my mom’s laughter hinted that I had missed something. With her coaxing, I tentatively worked my way up to the edge, finding my father sitting on the hill, looking up at me. Relieved, the experience passed from my immediate memory as we continued our visit to the museum, but looking back, I’m pretty sure that was the first significant time I associated a perception of height with a sensation of danger.