People accuse me of being highly competitive, especially when the stakes are low. That's because I play a fierce game of trivia at local pubs where winnings are a few crumpled dollars or — better — unlimited bragging rights.
When I'm not at the top of my game, I sometimes look over at competitors' tables, where their French-press coffeemaker is primed to deliver another blast of brain-activating caffeine, and I wonder: Is wine turning my mind to mush?
Fortunately, I found a brain doctor to help me. John Taylor is Southern Oregon University's memory expert and, coincidentally, a fan of pub trivia nights. Buttonholing him, I beg him to agree with me that drinking red wine, laced with anti-aging resveratrol, is good for my noggin. He cautiously tells me to slow down.
"Resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes, ends up in red wine in trace amounts," he says carefully as if delivering bad news. "Potential benefits are not well-understood, thus likely do not outweigh any negative effects of the alcohol."
So, if I can't rely on the theory that wine is liquid brain food, how can I count on my gray matter as I chug into the silver years of life?
Dr. Smarty-Pants, who just happens to be in his 30s, shakes his head. His research shows that trivia players in his age group have the advantage of life experience and mental agility.
"They are not struggling with distractions and the need to multitask their working memory as older people do," John says, nodding at me as I wrestle to take notes.
In praising youngsters, he surely is talking about melodious, baby-faced DeLonde Bell, a musician and former Jefferson Public Radio morning announcer, who often foils my Tuesday-night chances of winning at Louie's Restaurant & Bar in Ashland.
Or those know-it-all, young actors from Oregon Shakespeare Festival, who sometimes drop into The Playwright Public House in Ashland for Wednesday trivia nights and nonchalantly walk away victorious, as if somehow accustomed to applause.
Sure, those kids are enjoying their brain-cells heyday, but they have other tricks, too. OSF team member John Tufts thinks that another secret to his trivia success is the useless information locked away in the depths of his brain that "a couple of beers can help unlock."
Did you hear that? John Tufts (aka Henry IV and Robin Hood) believes in the mind-alcohol connection.
I read that I'm not losing my memory; I'm just finding it harder to access facts.
"It is not a storage issue," writes author Barbara Strauch. "It's a retrieval issue." She recommends strategies such as reciting the alphabet until it triggers the name for which I'm now drawing a blank and that I tag new information by relating it to something that I already know.
Hmmm. I know wine.
Read the complete Eno Outings wine column in the Mail Tribune: www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130130/LIFE/301300314/-1/LIFE0702