The Da Vinci De-Coder


Sometimes you gotta follow where your mistakes lead. Just to see how it will play out. Today I had that chance. And I seized it.


This all started last week when I saw an ad for a free trial of a new exercise class at the Winooski YMCA. This workout is called the DaVinci Body Board. The advertisement said this class offers 30 minutes of high-intensity resistance training.

Perfect, I thought. I can do 30 minutes, and I’ve got to do something besides lay in bed and write about murder all the time. Plus, it’s free. There was nothing to lose except my brain belly, which was acquired by laying in bed and writing about Alzheimer’s disease for two years.


Heck I’ll even invite some girl friends to try it with me! Oh, we’ll have so much fun! I imagined us as the living embodiments of Leonardo da Vinci’s famed anatomical study. (Without penises, of course.) The Renaissance of this new exercise appealed to the absurdist in me.

Even better, it’s in Winooski, not Burlington! No one will see us!

With a wry little Mona Lisa smile, I put the newspaper down and group texted four of my best pals. One texted back that she was off to NYC. Two of the others were totally game. The fourth, inexplicably, sent me this exact response:

yes. wud love to liv ng at my moms no avenue


WHAT? Deb is living with her mom on North Avenue? No one has mentioned this to me! Last I knew, Deb was living with her great husband and three children in the South End. Her mom and dad were happily ensconced in the Berkshires!

OMG! I’ve been so busy writing that I’ve missed out on some huge event in Deb’s life. I’m the worst friend ever. I hate myself. I have to call her immediately.

WAIT! Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. Did I text the wrong Deb? Do I even know any other Debs?


Oh yea.

I do.

Deb The Dog Sitter. We actually haven’t used her services since last summer. I don’t even know her last name. In fact, I know nothing about her. We’ve simply exchanged the dog, Kip, in the parking lot of Costco. I pay her and off we go. Very very little chit chat.


I checked the number. And yessiree. I had invited Deb The Dog Sitter, who may be in her 60s and who I don’t know from Adam, to meet me at the Winooski YMCA at 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 23, and join me in trying a new fitness craze called the DaVinci Body Board.

Jesus H. Christ. 

I mean what is she thinking about me? Why would I, out of the blue, send her this text? Yet, she seems unphased and totally game.

So, cut to this morning at 8 a.m. A week since I sent out the text invite. Maybe Deb The Dog Sitter wouldn’t actually come. Turns out that my pals wouldn’t be joining me (us?) because of various appointments, commitments and weather. I considered bagging the whole idea, but I couldn’t. Deb The Dog Sitter, who has moved in with her mother for some reason, might be counting on this event. On me.

photo-24I pull into the Winooski YMCA parking lot at 8:55 a.m. and I see Deb’s car. The car that has carried Kip for a grand total of two times and neither of them recently. Deb is in it, waving at me.

Okay, I say to myself, the time has come to do DaVinci Body Board with Deb The Dog Sitter.

Deb comes right up and hugs me. And this accidental moment is in actual motion.

Next thing I know, we’re jumping around with resistance bands listening to a Musak version of Fine Young Cannibals’ “Good Thing.” There are two other people in the class. The teacher and her pal. It’s hard ass work. I’m panting. Deb is panting. We have this in common.

Thirty grueling minutes later, Deb and I were red-faced. Exhausted. Overheated. But this wasn’t the Costco parking lot last summer. This is the Winooski YMCA today.

Deb had enough strength left to ask to the instructor when the next class is. The answer is Friday morning.

“Nancy, wanna do Friday’s class?” Deb asked me.

“Sure,” I told her. But I didn’t say that Friday was my 48th birthday.

What a perfect start to a new year. Ridiculous is the new normal. Besides, Deb is now my partner in crime. My ally in absurdity, even if she doesn’t know it.

Deb The DaVinci De-Coder.

It occurs to me now, some six hours later, that this wasn’t some kind of preposterous Eugene Ionesco play. It’s actually more like an O.Henry Christmas story.

I could have called the whole thing off right at the get-go, but something told me not to do so. Something told me to play it out. Go.  See. Be.

Maybe I’d ultimately be able to find or apply meaning to the morning’s odd little event. Maybe it wasn’t even odd. Maybe it was just right. Maybe it was the wake-up text, Deb and I both unknowingly needed.  Maybe it’s just meaningless.

One thing for certain, though, is that if I had been able to tell my dad this story, he would have laughed his huge crazy belly laugh. Tears would have fallen down his face while his whole body shook. Then, he might have pulled himself together long enough to say, “Gal, that actually was a good thing you did.” And maybe he’d hold back a tear or two in honor of the real value of sticking with my original invite, albeit inadvertent.

Indeed, I felt worth in sticking with the botched plan. Something about her text to me was also a plea.


Moments ago, I decided to check my email because my brain hurt from over-thinking.

There was a message waiting for me from the Director of Development at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine. An anonymous donor had sent him a check for $25,000 for the Dr. Beauregard Lee Bercaw Fellowship.

Oh, Henry.

Merry Christmas.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Allan says:

    I think life is the linking of one abstract moment to the next and how one deals with each scenario shapes their very being…always responding always reacting… hopefully with love but always with caring. To care is to live in the world and be alive in the world.

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