Quiet Desperation

Problem with heights is just medium high


Don’t look down.

I would rather not look down from high places. How about you? I don’t have it bad, and it’s not vertigo.

The misconception about Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Vertigo” is that vertigo is a fear of high places. It’s not. Jimmy Stewart’s character correctly identifies it as “acrophobia.”

“Vertigo” just looked better on the marquee.

The art building at UCLA has eight floors, and my studio was on the eighth. I could walk to the end of the hall and exit a door where there was an overlook to the ground.

It crossed my mind I might be able to fly from there to the first floor, instead of taking the elevator.

There’s an art museum in New York I will no longer attend, even if I were to have an exhibition (highly unlikely).

The Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright sits opposite Central Park.

Wright decided viewers should look at art by standing on a spiral incline. The spiral incline goes up and up, and there’s not much to prevent someone from trying to fly from the top level to the first level except a short and easy-to-climb-over wall.

Has anyone been to the Grand Canyon Skywalk?

How about the Royal Gorge Bridge?

I drove the “Million Dollar Highway” out of Ouray. Once. Nevermore. I looked over and didn’t see a guard rail. I imagined the valley below littered with Buicks.

Comedian Steven Wright said he isn’t afraid of heights. He’s afraid of widths.

I am not superstitious and I have very few allergies. I know I am allergic to Broadway musicals, which is a shame because I just heard that a film version of “Cats” is on its way.

Watching adults in kitty-cat suits would be a delight. Meow.

Unfortunately, Broadway musicals make me break out in mixed modifiers.

“Aunt Bee handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to all the kids in plastic bags.”


I am also allergic to flip-flops at the airport.

The most common allergies are milk, shellfish, soybeans, nuts, eggs, and Liza Minelli.

Here are some things to look for — and listen for — the next time you watch “Vertigo.”

Jimmy Stewart’s car is a 1956 DeSoto Firedome. I found one online for $4,500.

Kim Novak doesn’t speak until about a third of the way into the film.

The word “vertigo” is only spoken once. Listen for it near the beginning.

The film was poorly received when it was released in 1958. Many now think it is Hitchcock’s masterpiece.

Hitchcock thought Jimmy Stewart’s age, 49, was the reason for the film’s poor box office performance. Stewart was 25 years older than Novak.

Looking out of an airplane doesn’t bother. Until it takes off. But seriously.

Actually, I don’t mind the view from an airplane, but I never sit in a window seat. I always reserve an aisle seat. It’s not a superstition: I just need the option of stretching one leg out into the aisle.

Yes, I have tripped a few flight attendants in my day. But it gives me a chance to find out if they believe in forgiveness or retribution.

Either way, I can get a column out of it.

What do you call a bird that is afraid of heights?

A chicken.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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