Cakes And Pains

There was birthday cake last weekend. Mountain Girl and the Bass Player presented me with this cake on Saturday night. I would tell you what “DF” stands for, but I am clinging to the last wispy threads of my dignity.

There weren’t pains. Not really. I mean, other than my normal old lady pains.

Sometimes, our conversations go down weirdly lit paths that aren’t always comfortable.

When Mountain Girl and I are together, no subject is left uncovered and all conversations usually devolve into butt jokes.

We were talking about lessons we learned when we were young. Lessons that taught us that the grown ups weren’t necessarily going to take care of us anymore and how jarring those lessons can be.

If there is something I know I can count on when we’re sitting in the mountains with our friends, it’s that I know I’m going to hear some good stories. Holy shit, you guys, Mountain Girl has the best stories ever.

She was on her own at a very young age, and by age 19, she was working for a recording studio.

The studio was near a large catholic church and the owner wanted to get a recording of the church bells in the bell tower.

The carillon was way beneath the bells. These bells were huge and it is imperative that no human be near the actual bells if someone is playing the carillon. If you are like me, then you would be interrupting this story right now to ask what the fuck a “carillon” is. It’s the device where you actually “play” the bells. 

The owner of this recording studio wanted a sample of this bell sound. He sent Mountain Girl up into the bell tower to place a microphone to get their sample.

She wasn’t crazy about going into the bell tower to hang up a microphone. It wasn’t like it was going to kill her. They wouldn’t send her up there if they didn’t know what to expect, right?

She had to wear earplugs and heavy headphones over the earplugs to protect her ears and she had to be careful to not even brush up against the bells as the resulting vibrations could permanently damage her hearing, even with the earplugs and headphones on.

Mountain girl lives and dies by the sounds she hears. Her jobs have always revolved around sound and how she hears sound. This is what she counts on.

She couldn’t hear with the soundproofing in her ears. Just the sound of her breath and her own heartbeat.

She was nervous about climbing into the tower having been warned over and over that any tap against the bells could harm her hearing and hearing paid for her food and shelter.

She went up the stairs and hoisted herself over a wall to get where she had to attach the microphone. She kept her eyes trained on the bells and lowered herself over the wall.

The first thing she noticed, was the floor beneath her was uneven. Padded, even. Like she was walking on a thick layer of leaves and sticks in a forest. She couldn’t hear the sticks snapping beneath her work boots, but she could feel them.

She took a few steps and felt unsteady. The only thing close enough to steady herself was a bell, and that wasn’t an option.

Then, she looked around.

Where are the trees? How is this filled with leaves?

She looked down.

Mountain girl was not standing on a bed of twigs and leaves. She was not feeling sticks snap under her feet.

Mountain girl was standing on generations and generations of dead pigeons.

The freshest were on top. The great great great great great grandparents of the recently deceased lined the floor of the bell tower.

The sound and vibration from the bells were powerful enough, that when pigeons are present at the time the bells toll, well, the bells toll for them.

First she had to fight panic. No running and falling. Face first into dead pigeons was not an option.

And she had a job to do.

She processed her situation and slowly made her way to the area where she had to string up the microphone.

Then she made her way out of the bell tower, feeling the crunch of both fresh and long dead birds beneath her feet.

She felt betrayed. Did they not know what she was literally walking in to? Did they know and not care?

That was one of her defining moments. She realized she was the grown up that would take care of her.

I’m sure I had similar lessons. Well, not similar, similar. I would have remembered standing in thousands and thousands of dead pigeons. I’m talking more the lessons that teach us we no longer in the cocoon of adolescence.

Personally, I’m still holding out that there is some grandmotherly figure out there who will be swooping in any day now to straighten up all my messes and perhaps make me soup. She will also laugh at my butt jokes.

While I wait for my fairy godmother to show up, I will appreciate having a friend to share experiences with. Shared experiences help me feel less alone. It’s always good to have a friend who will listen and share. It’s even better when they have amazing stories. There are so many good ones that I’ve forgotten. But that’s the great thing about Mountain Girl. She will tell me her stories as many times as I ask. I hate to brag, but I have my own Scheherazade.

It wasn’t all cakes and pains last weekend. We didn’t just talk about heavy life defining moments. Mostly, we were silly. Sometimes incoherent.

In addition to my cake and a plethora of amazing gifts, Mountain Girl got all the daffodils to bloom in February just for my birthday.







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  • Not falling on dead pigeons while not touching a deafening bell sounds like Mountain Girl’s ‘hot lava and quick sand’ skills were well practiced when she was a girl, too 😀

    You’re right! Great stories and shared experiences make for the best friendships… and blog postings 🙂

    Mountain Girl is pretty good at making you feel better, daffodils and all, and I (we) could tell it was time.

    Happy for you that you got that 🙂
    Happy for me (us) we got the story 🙂
    Now to bide the time well while waiting for that Damn Fairy Godmother…
    I don’t suppose that is what DF stands for… 😉

  • What a great story, you are so lucky to have a good friend with great stories, butt jokes and all. This was a heart warming story dead pigeons and all for a shitty Monday. After I “ran away from home” I kept waiting for someone to tell me what to do next. Then I realized, it was me who was suppose to know. (Married at 20 and up until that time worked for my mom) My defining moment was when if I wanted a divorce, I was going to have to just do it. So at 58, I landed a great job, making enough I could support myself. So I divorced and reinvented myself in the same year. That was 6 years ago. I have never looked back. Kudos to those who figure it out sooner than later, I am glad Mountain Girl did.

  • I laughed and felt queasy at the same time when I came to the pigeon line. Jesus God. I would have lost it.

    I have always admired your writing – so easy to read and fall into – but now I admire your listening skills.


  • Your “DF” reminds me of the Neal Stephenson book “Snow Crash” as one of the major characters is only called YT through most of the book, and towards the end you find out that it stands for “Yours Truly” .
    It seems like she could have at least smelled that many dead birds on the way in, but maybe not because there would have to be “windows” built into the bell tower for the sound to get out.
    Anyway, I’m glad you had a good time, and I hope you’re feeling OK.

    • Thank you for asking! We did have a great time. I am okay. Not great, but maybe taking a few little steps in the right direction. I won’t complain. Well, I might complain. I just won’t complain right now.

  • Ok, first of all…daffodils? I am so jealous. I should have daffodils, but instead it snowed heavily all day yesterday. wtf?

    Second, I think DF means dear friend, or dorky friend, but either way your dignity is in tact.

    Thirdly – walking on dead pigeons? I am going to have nightmares for a week!

  • The amazing thing about Mountain Girl’s story is how it can influence other people’s perspectives. Specifically I will never look at a bell tower the same way again. I will think, that’s probably filled with dead pigeons.
    I mean, yeah, I will still look at one and think “kinda looks like a giant penis”. We can’t help getting older but we don’t have to grow up, right?

  • My husband came home from work at lunch today and told me of a random email he (and the whole of his work) received today just entitled “CAKE”. Apparently an employee had bought a birthday cake for a co-worker and left it in the community fridge….unlabeled….and someone ate the whole thing living only the bottom icing ring on the tray. That’s cold stuff there! That person should have to walk on dead pigeons!

    • The worst part of that is they didn’t eat the bottom icing ring. Seriously, who doesn’t eat the icing? The whole reason cake was invented was to be an icing delivery system.
      Or frosting. Some of us call it frosting, but I don’t want to risk restarting the dreaded Icing-Frosting Wars of the 1960’s.

  • That is a fantastic story. Just the right mix of realism and the surreal that I I love when I’m looking for stories to tell. I’m going to remember this one!

  • A hellish walk in the underworld, yet up in the ethers of a church bell tower- nightmares for life.
    And you are shitting me- we actually have to be adults and take responsibility for ourselves???????? No-one tells me anything…..

By Michelle


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