REALITY CHECK: Literature, wine, arm wrestling make for a miserable morning

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

One day, I will sit down to write this column and the sun will be shining. The birds will be singing. Pillowed, Care Bear clouds will punctuate a cerulean, Big Blue Marble sky. God will be in his heaven and all will be right with the world. I’ll spring from bed refreshed and happy, a smile on my face and a “go get-em” feeling in my heart.

But not today.

Today, the sky is gray. The birds are silent. They better be, if they know what’s good for them. God may well be in his heaven, but he’s not making a big show of it.

All because I stayed up too late last night. Not just a little too late, but a lot. I rolled into bed just after 5 a.m.

Why? Because I was having a fascinating conversation with Sweet Annie.

Now, I knew I had to be up this morning at 7 a.m. I’m no math genius, but even I should have been able to figure out a 5 a.m. bedtime leaves me only two hours sleep. I’m also no biology genius (or any kind of genius, if we want to set the record perfectly straight), but my guess — based on my current condition — is that two hours sleep is not enough.

But here I am, eyes propped open with toothpicks and 20,000 milliliters of caffeine trudging sluggishly through my bloodstream, trying desperately to get the day’s work in by deadline.

When I was younger, or at least less old, staying up until 5 a.m. or later was my usual schtick. Back in the ’80s, vampires saw more daylight than I did. I would hang out at the clubs until close, hit a house party until sunup, and then drive home to sleep until time to do it again. It never bothered me a bit.

And now? Well, now I can’t seem to sit at my own kitchen table until 5 a.m., sipping wine with my sweetie (she sips, I chug) while debating the literary merits of Alice McDermott vs. those of Wallace Stegner. I can’t, I mean, unless I want to feel like this, which, believe me, I do not.

I’m not sure why I felt obliged to defend Stegner’s writing prowess until the wee hours; I’m pretty sure he’s never defended mine. I suspect — based on my current, fuzzy-tongued condition — the wine played some small part in my decision.

I didn’t quaff any great quantity of the stuff, but I was sipping (OK, chugging) it fairly late into the evening.

Annie and I are both big readers, so our conversations frequently turn to books, especially when we have more than a few minutes together to chat. She’s educated, intelligent and comes from a family of similar quality. One of her brothers is head of the Germanic languages department at Duke University, by way of example.

She’s got a bigger brain than I do. But I can beat her arm wrestling, even when she cheats and uses both hands. So there.

The books Annie reads are generally of the McDermott/Stegner variety. I’m more a King/Koontz kinda guy. But occasionally, I’ll read one of her books, just to remind myself what good writing looks like.

Also, it gives us something to argue about when we’re sitting at the kitchen table drinking wine until 5 a.m.

Though after the way I feel this morning, I’ve made up my mind that from now on we’ll settle our literary debates by midnight, the old-fashioned way: arm wrestling.

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