Friday, June 22, 2018

The Texas Seasons

Often you will hear travelers to The Great State mention how they couldn’t live here because they’d miss having the “seasons.”  They wax poetic about seeing the leaves change on trees and remember fondly building snowmen. 
Although they could do that here in Texas, the number of days a person could experience those memories is pretty short. Pining for the four seasons up North seems odd to us, because here in Texas, we have eight seasons.

According to your calendar, Summer has just begun.  In Texas, summer is a factor in just about all the seasons.  Ergo, we have many more seasons then the rest of the country.
Here are the seasons in Texas:
  • Summer
  • Real Summer
  • Summer Post Facto
  • Fading Summer
  • Faux Fall
  • Waning Winter
  • Spring-ish
  • Pre-summer
Now, with climate change the actual dates will fluctuate, but here’s a rough guide to when the seasons occur:

Summer---------------June 22-July 3

Real Summer---------July 4-September 1

Summer Post Facto---September 2-October 5

Fading Summer-------October 6-November 25

Faux Fall--------------November 26-December 23, 26-30

Waning Winter----December 24, 25, 31-January 10

Spring-ish-------------January 11-February 28

Presummer------------March 1-June 21
Most Texans are used to these seasons, and shudder when the temperature drops below 70°.  When that rare occasion happens (usually in Waning Winter), they grab their parkas, huddle in their houses and wonder if it’s the end of the world.
Yes, summer has begun according to your calendar, but here in Texas we all know that it is just a number on a piece of paper—and that piece of paper will probably catch fire when Real Summer gets here.   

So grab yourself a glass of sweetened ice tea, your little floaty device, a good straw cowboy hat and head to the nearest body of water because you’re going to want to keep cool for the next 11 or so months.

We at The Thurber Brigade wanted to enlighten visitors to Texas about the weather, and so hope you won't mind this little sidestep (we didn't have time to explain how in Waning Winter temps may be 100 one day and 32 the next).  We're furiously working on another blog that's sure to anger someone as we discuss aspects of the ongoing War Between Men and Women (um, relationships).  Keep cool until then. 


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Just the Facts Ma'am

A Thurber Brigade Satirical Sidestep

The “Flat Earth” disciples must surely be unapologetic satirists as how can they believe in such nonsense when overwhelming facts stand in their way?  Of course, that must also be the case for all those Trump supporters who just laugh off all the facts and (surely) pretend to believe the man's lies

Subconsciously they are winking at us.

For example, they are clearly pulling our leg when they try to convince us that The Donald actually won the popular vote.  This even though all evidence, including from countless Republican state Secretaries of State, that he lost by over three million votes.

Along those lines, they must have their fingers crossed when they say that thousands of non-citizens voted in the 2016 election even though there is absolutely no evidence.

And just as similar, they must secretly roll their eyes as they say that undocumented immigrants get to take advantage of all those American benefits even though everybody who runs those programs or works for them profess that it is not true nor possible.

You have to assume that these folks are pulling your leg when they say we don't need to regulate business/corporations because those businesses would never do anything that might harm citizens. No, those folks would never pollute our rivers, make toys that hurt children, inflate prices on necessary medicines, etc. Trust them.
These people are also laughing under their breath as they tell you that the Trump campaign had absolutely no connections to the Russians, even though many who worked on the campaign have admitted to having made contact with the Ruskies.

And speaking of Russians, those Trump supporters who say the Christopher Steele dossier is fake are surely trying to be sarcastic as they undoubtedly know that Steele was a trusted U.K. operative who specializes on Russian covert operations; is not a Democratic supporter but instead didn't want Trump elected due to his likely vulnerability to Russian pressure because of his business and, ahem, personal scandals with Putin's agents.
Yes, just like those Flat-Earthers there is no way that Trump supports are that gullible and naive. They don't believe the over 2,000 lies that Trump has said.

No, They just love satire and parody. What funny people.

 Ahhhh, James Thurber

Okay, The Thurber Brigade actually does believe Trump supporters are that stupid and gullible. However, if you are a fan of satire and parody, be sure and get a copy of SEX and the AMERICAN MALE, the hilarious satirical e-book about American culture. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Fat Shaming Blog

The United States has a big problem and it's not just the narcissist we have as president.  It's huge, really huge.  It's fat.  The US is the most obese/fat country in the world. The US may not just be the most obese but also the most overweight with over 70% of Americans in that category.
You can walk down any street in our country and in front of you will be a large group of people who are waddling off to buy a 1,000-calorie latte.  When you get on a plane to fly off on vacation, you know that secretly you’re praying that a fat guy doesn’t sit next to you and take over half of your seat as well as his own.  
Likewise, when you have a ticket to a football game, you attempt to get there first before that overly plump fan arrives to try and take your allotted few inches of hard metal bench (unless you have a pricey ticket which may have separate seats). 

I know you remember an earlier blog and are saying, “Coach Jay, you’re biased because you have a degree in Physical Education.”  What you don’t know though, is that I got that degree partially because it bothered me to run into PE coaches with bellies that looked like they had tucked a bowling ball under their belts.

Okay, I’ll be honest too, I could use shedding a few pounds.  I’ve gained more weight than I’d like lately, but I’m obsessed enough about the issue to want to do something about it.

It all began years ago after I read “Fit or Fat?” by Covert Bailey.  I was working as a study hall monitor as I attempted to break into the Austin ISD click as a PE teacher.  One of the biggest points I remembered about that book was Bailey explaining one big reason why we gain weight as we age.  It’s because we eat like we're still kids.  As a child, you probably ran around constantly, driving your parents wild but naturally burning off lots of calories.  

 As we age, we do less running around.  Unfortunately, most people don’t adjust how many calories they take in daily.  In other words, people are still eating the tons of food they could get away with as a child once they have passed college or high school and have joined the workforce.

Let me interject here that—as you can guess from above—it’s a myth that you naturally gain weight as you age.  No, it’s not part of the aging process.  Although your lean muscle mass declines with age (thereby not burning as many calories as in your younger years), the real problem is that it’s part of Americans' habit to eat too much and not exercise.

One of the things I did after reading that book is that I decided to just eat an apple for lunch.  Yeah, that’s a little extreme and I began to do a little more later in life (probably why I could use with losing a few pounds now), but that was the idea.  I no longer was as active as previously, so I cut back on a lot of calories. 
There are charts that give you estimates of how many calories you should consume (also Body Mass Index charts to see where you stand) and you’ll note that it’s less as you age, and also it’s less if you’re female. For example, an 18-year-old moderately active male should consume 2800 while a female 2000.  Once you hit 55, a male should take in 2400 cals, a female 1800. 

Of course, Americans don’t do this.  They do not cut back calories, instead preferring to amp them up.  Ergo, fat Americans.
I am often perplexed when driving home late at night and notice big crowds of people in fast food places.  I always wonder why people are eating supper so late, but subconsciously I know that they’re not eating supper—they’re eating a snack that has as many calories as supper!  That’s insane!  If you want a snack then eat an apple (50 calories) rather than that 1,000-calorie double-meat hamburger covered with cheese and sour cream and maybe an extra piece of bacon thrown on top.

Of course, that won’t happen.  Greasy food is too alluring, especially compared to an apple.  It’s also super cheap.  Plus, often it’s hard to find an apple because many cities have food deserts.  They don’t have a grocery store nearby, instead they have 20 fast-food joints. 

Fast food isn’t the only culprit in our national disgrace, we also have an easier life than previously.  Now people will drive to the corner fast food place instead of walk down the street to the Mom and Pop grocery store.  Obese children are a big problem in the US nowadays partially because they find it more fun to play games on the computer, rather than tag or hide-n-seek outdoors.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to make lifestyle changes once you’ve gotten into a well-worn and comfortable rut.  However, if you are tired of folks like me trying to shame you into changing, then maybe you should give it a shot.
There are a few simple things you can do to start the process.  One is to weigh yourself every morning.  Buy one of those cheap digital scales and hop on it when you get up.  No, it won’t take pounds off you, but it will begin to make you think about your weight more seriously.  If you weigh yourself and notice you gained a pound since yesterday, it may not stop you from grabbing that donut during a coffee break that morning, but you may begin to think twice.  And that’s a start.

Also, consciously think about those calories you consume.  We were supposed to have menus at restaurants and charts at food stores showing the calories available by now, but sadly, Trump in his anti-regulation craze has delayed (if not stopped) this from happening.  So you’ll have to either guess or look it up somewhere.  Do it though.  Find out how many calories are in that Big Mac before you buy/eat it.  Like the scale idea, it may not stop you from consuming, but again it may begin to change your perception of what you’re putting in your mouth. 
Another thing to try is to find snacks you might enjoy and that are low in calories.  For example, years ago I read an article about what are the best fruits and discovered that watermelon was #2 (guava #1).  I like watermelon.  So I decided to buy a seedless one and cut it up into small chunks and have it sitting around to snack on instead of something like calorie rich chips or M & Ms. Find one you really like and snack away.

And don't get me started on exercise. Of course you need to do this (as well as watch your calories).  Not just for weight, but because it will improve your health and mental well being.

Lastly, don’t give yourself or your friends a pass.  Don’t say “she’s naturally big-boned” or “he is too busy to exercise” or any of the hundreds of apologies/excuses you or your friends may use.  Sure, some people gain weight because of medications or other unavoidable occurrences—but those are the rare occasions. This epidemic won’t resolve itself until we all resolve to fix it. 
So next time your coworker invites you to lunch at some diner or fancy establishment, counter-offer that he/she join you on a walk to the park a few blocks away and present him/her with half of your apple.  Tell them Coach Jay insists. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Police Reform—Part I

The days when you could stroll down your neighborhood street and smile and wave to that friendly Sheriff Andy Taylor have long passed. Society has changed much from those simpler times. However, although society has adjusted to a changing world, most police departments still cling to the beliefs, ideals and policies more appropriate for the 1950s.

The result of this lack of change in police culture (their weapons have changed) has resulted in a growing trend of violence toward average citizens. Because of better methods of recording events it may seem like this behavior is new, but it has been going on for some time. In the 1990s, I began work on a book about police violence and corruption, but abandoned the project when I couldn’t find a publisher. To read the article the research generated visit Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Therefore, the following is Part I of how to enhance our police departments and make them not only more efficient, but also make them a welcome part of the community rather than a feared enforcement army.
Traffic Tower-1920 (source: National Museum of American History)
Part I—Remove traffic enforcement from police departments

Imagine you are a young inspired person who wants to help protect society from those who might wish to do it harm. You go through a month-long (or longer) regimen of training and hit the streets as a newly minted crime fighter. The first evil villain to cross your path? An elderly woman with a burned out tail light.

That’s right, you must spend the bulk of your time enforcing rules about cars. We don’t send the police out to arrest a person who has a tree in their yard that is about to fall on a neighbor's house; we don’t send police to nab a butcher who sells moldy hamburger; we don’t call out a swat team to track down an owner of a business that has a gas leak that fouls the drinking water. We do send police to fine someone who has a problem with his/her car and send other city agencies for those other offenders.

Historically, police got handed traffic enforcement because cities either didn’t know who to give the responsibility to or didn’t want to spend the money to make a department that handled only that part of the law.

Did you know that although New York began registering some cars as early as 1901, it wasn’t until around 1935 that a majority of the states required driver’s licenses?  Often, you could get a license without taking a test. For example, in California they required a license beginning in 1913, but didn’t require a test for it until 1927. Connecticut enacted first speed limit in 1901, but many states didn’t have a limit until the 1930s. In other words, traffic enforcement didn't become standardized until later.

No one really knew for sure what to do with this new problem that cropped up: increased car traffic. So they gave the job to the people with nightsticks who really only wanted to go after murderers, bank robbers or other violent types.

The problem with police traffic stops is that people perceive them as threatening. For example, recent television ads in Texas show people freaking out when they notice the police in the rear view mirror.

Sure, it's upsetting to get a ticket since it costs money, but when that ticket comes from someone who is wearing a Gestopo-style black uniform and armed to the teeth, well, it makes the situation very tense.

So the way to improve this situation is to establish a city department that handles only traffic enforcement and allow police departments to handle real crime (Police Reform—Part II)

The name of this department could be anything from “Traffic Enforcement” to “Department of Transportation Control.” Anything except something with the word “police” in the title. The idea would be to strongly differentiate the two and to make this department as non-threatening as possible. Although enforcing the rules will result in a cost to the person who violates them, the attitude citizens should have toward the people doing this work should be similar to a meter reader who can cause your electric bill to go up.

Below are some points of consideration about this new department.

Ideas for the new Traffic Enforcement Department

• The uniforms should be non-threatening. No weapons; maybe polo shirts instead of starched, black button-downs; a color that stands out so it is easier for the public to find them in a crowd in case they are needed; equipment to carry includes an iPad or some handheld device to record violations and take pictures--but no weapons.

• They would log the violation into a database that would mail a notice to the violator. They could give a ticket to the actual person driving, but it’s only as a courtesy and only if it can be done in a non-threatening manner. The owner of the vehicle still gets a mail notice.
 Handheld device for tickets
• This brings up an important point too. The “ticket” is always assigned to the owner of the vehicle. In other words if Dad lets his favorite son drive the car to the prom, if the son runs a red light, Dad will have to pay for the violation. This will make reporting car thefts all the more important. If the traffic enforcer (TE) discovers the car has been reported stolen, then the TE calls the police to give the information. Because the ticket is given to the owner, the person does not need to present ID because the TE already knows the owner's name (it is called vehicle registration).

• No-chase policy for speeders. Ticket does not need to be given if the TE is worried about confrontation. If not given in person, the mail notice is still utilized. The violator would be logged in and a phone message would go to the speeder IMMEDIATELY warning them to stop as well as notice of violation. If driver is discovered still speeding at a further point (first contact would warn next TE further ahead) a second violation logged and the TE would go to the car owner's address and find out if there was a reason for this violation (needed to go to hospital, etc.). If not, the car will be “booted” until the traffic violation is paid. To help promote safety have a way for citizens to report speeders anonymously. This notice would alert a TE who would try to verify it (i.e. go to a spot ahead of speeder) and then log in violation. The payment for speeding violations is different than others (see below) as this violation may be a bigger threat to safety of other motorists. It should be noted that if police are chasing someone (bank robber, etc.) it should be reported so that the TE could assist in reporting locations (but not chasing).

• Traffic violations would be added on to the county tax bill for vehicle registration. In other words, the person doesn't have to pay right away, but can in order to keep future bill down.

• No warrant for nonpayment. Many cities have been resorting to a form of debtor's prison concept to get outstanding violations. This country was founded by people who wanted to get away from that odious concept, so we need to avoid it completely.

• The way around the above is this: when the tax bill is due, if the person involved can’t make any payment (there should be a way to have partial payments) the car is booted. If after a set time (two months, etc.) the car is impounded. After six months car is sold for payment. During this time the owner’s license is also suspended.

• Somehow, this bill should follow the person. i.e. if the person moves to another state that state will collect it. Maybe get a percentage.

• The only time police are called into action are cases where it is determined the driving might cause public harm. It should be a joint effort between TE and police to try and de-escalate situation. For example if they discover a drunk driver, car is booted until fine is paid, driver taken home, include mandatory AA-type class.

• Drivers may appeal a violation by going before a panel. The panel would be comprised of half city employees (traffic enforcement administrators, not TE who give out tickets) and half volunteer citizens. These citizens would have to meet certain standards such as be a city taxpayer, no outstanding tickets, etc.).

• Two biggest factors in all of this are that police are not involved and it needs to be a non-threatening service. This is a big change so there would need to be some form of transition plan, such as the police could ride along at beginning of this transition, sort of as backup, but would not approach vehicle.

• Too many cities see tickets as a revenue stream, but claim these tickets are all about public safety. Traffic enforcement needs to really be about safety and if city needs more revenue, they need to seek it other ways that are less threatening and punishing.


This part of Police Reform would be a major step and would not only change the structure of the department, but would also change the attitude and behavior of those involved. To many people—both police and civilians—traffic violations seem like a major offense. Because of this we see police pull speeders out of cars and beat them, we also see civilians attack police during a traffic stop. If we change the nature of traffic enforcement it would reduce and eventually eliminate these types of confrontations. Making this change would allow police to do the job they thought they were hired to do: fight real crime.

Part II will explore the next step in police reform, including whom we hire to police us as well as the way the police should function as a crime unit.
 Ahhh, James Thurber

This isn't a usual Thurber Brigade sidestep.  Although definitely not a relationship-related blog, this article is not included because of some big issue that loomed (ie another mass shooting).  This has been published because this article appeared as a HUB Page for years, but they decided it didn't have enough readers to keep active.  I thought it an important enough issue that it should still be floating around the internet.  Police Reform— PART II still shows up as a HUB page and I encourage you to read it as it's pretty controversial (disarm half the police? Yeah, it is).  Eventually, you may see it too at The Thurber Brigade.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Peace Talks

The Thurber Brigade sent a reporter to the recent peace talks in Paris and filed this report:

Not since 1973 and the notorious Paris Peace Accords have two such bitter rivals met in this city to try to resolve their differences. However, after eons of conflict in the War Between Men and Women, both combatants agreed to begin negotiations to end the acrimonious combat.

The two sides are a diverse group. Bob Blevins is one of the male negotiators, while on the other side sits Shiela Blevins, his wife of 30 years.  Another female diplomat is Sandra Canton the famous Hollywood actress and sitting opposite of her is Howard Eisenthal the mega-blockbuster director.  Also from the arts field is Stan Boles the music producer, opposite of Elly Withers the pop singer/fem fatale. Completing the contingent is politician Richard Tork from Texas who sits opposite the international diplomat Fran Cleaver.
The discussion got off to a rocky start as the two sides could not decide on a table.  The women objected to the long rectangle suggested by the males as they contended it represented a phallic symbol, while the oval advocated by the females was likewise rejected for its female genital similarity. They eventually settled on a series of small desks that each could sit behind separately and set up opposite each other. 

“He constantly watches football games and drinks beer,” Shiela Blevins stated early in the talks.

“She's completely exaggerating,” Bob interjected.  “Plus, all day she watches nothing but soap operas while I slave away putting food on the table.”

The Hollywood pair also got in some early jabs:

“Eisnethal will no longer cast me in parts because he thinks I’m too old Ms. Canton exclaimed.

“Age is a factor for male actors as well as female,” the director countered.  “Audiences want younger actors for younger parts. I just  cast for what will sell tickets. Gender is not a factor.”
“I have the same problem with my music,” Withers chimed in. “This so called music producer won't work on my albums because I gained a little weight,” she said, nodding at Boles.

“Ha! What she doesn't say is that it was her thin body tucked into those revealing Daisy Dukes that sold the million albums.  If her voice had sold them, I’d work with her without hesitation. But now she wants to change the way consumers view her without any effort or change, such as losing the weight she gained due to her success.”

“Tork uses the guns on the military’s tanks as a symbol of his masculinity and to prove how macho he is when confronting problems,” Cleaver chimed in to the fray.

“Well, this so called diplomat believes that for every situation you should sit down with your opponent and talk about your feelings,” Tork fumed, nodding at Cleaver.

The arguing continued for days and just like the Vietnam talks, often would end with no peace treaty only to begin again weeks later.  After the most recent gathering, the two sides gave up again when neither could decide what was appropriate clothing to wear on a date as well as whether women should make an effort to make first contact or whether men should be more willing to discuss feelings.

As of this writing the war continues unabated and just as acrimonious as before.  Inside sources indicate the two sides may meet again in Geneva if they can decide on who should cater the gathering.

 Ahh, Thurber

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


A Thurber Brigade Short Story
Eating ice cream.  Drinking beer.  Shooting hoops.  Watching baseball.  All of these things would be a lot more fun than going to MiddleTown to visit his brother and sister-in-law. 
Sam Unis assured himself that he would be doing all of them this weekend if he hadn’t been talked into making this trip.  But nooooo, he was too softhearted to tell Ronald and Hillary he couldn’t make it and so now he sat on this train heading to sure misery. 

Oh, make no mistake, he loved both of them as well as their kids, Libby and Justin.  In fact, having all of them at his place enjoying the aforementioned activities would please him to no end.  However, going to MiddleTown, which he preferred to call “Plainville,” did not please him.  Especially now.
Ronnie and Hill were one fight away from filing for divorce.

Inevitably, he’d have to pick a side.  Most people assumed he’d side with Ronnie because, after all, he was a blood relation.  The majority of the time though Sam preferred hanging with Hill.  She always seemed pleasant.  She liked the outdoors, liked helping people whether they were dirt poor or standard middle-class, liked loud rock music and hitting dive bars.  Ronnie preferred going to military museums, always told the homeless guy on the corner to “get a job,” and usually insisted on going to some high-class formal dinner where he knew half the crowd when Sam just wanted to go grab a beer at a diner.  Ronnie also seemed to always be angry or upset.
How they had managed to stay together this long really puzzled Sam.  They argued all the time.  They would argue about what TV show to watch.  They would argue about which TV to buy.  They’d disagree about the meaning of a movie.  They’d disagree about how much to tip a waitress.  One time Sam even caught them arguing about how to pronounce “potato.”  They didn’t ever argue in front of the children, and Sam guessed that maybe their love of those kids kept them together.  Or maybe they just had great sex together.  Sam never asked them about the latter.
The train slowly rolled into MiddleTown.  What a funny place, Sam thought.  The city capitalized the “T” because they wanted to set themselves apart from other towns with the same name. Sam hadn’t been to any other “Middletowns,” but he imagined they were no different.  They all probably had the same boring suburban neighborhoods, the same small, unglamorous downtowns, same small parks with pre-measured dimensions and set number of trees and playground equipment, same national chain restaurants, same cookie cutout shopping malls, same bowling alleys, theaters and bakeries.  They all had the same.  They were an actual “Middle” town. 
Sam groaned softly to himself.  “Same.”

“Sam, Sam!”  Ronnie yelled, waving from the back of the train platform.

Sam stepped down from the train and headed toward his brother and the smiling Hill.  “Hey, great to see you guys.”

“We are so glad to see you,” Hill said as she gave Sam a friendly hug.

“You do not know how glad,” Ronnie added.

“Well, it’s good to be here,” Sam lied.

“We have so much to catch up on,” Hill said.

Ronnie slapped his younger brother on the back.  “So, I see you still haven’t got your driver’s license back.”

Sam looked askance at his brother.  Was this a start of the usual goading routine they engaged in each time they met?  “Yeah, still not driving.”
A judge took Sam’s license away several years ago because he had accumulated too many tickets.  In passing the sentence, the judge stated that he didn’t want the city to waste any more resources.  Apparently, having a cop write a ticket every now and then was a resource.  Sam didn’t protest the illogic.  After all, the city wasted resources in so many other ways.  However, he knew no one could win against the law.  People in power could interpret the law anyway they chose and those interpretations always seemed to change depending on who held power.  The “little guy” didn’t get to express an opinion.  At least, not and have it affect anything.

The three made small talk as they walked to the car.  It included the usual updates of their various jobs; music concerts or movies they may have hit; the vacations that they forgot to send pictures of; and Sam even managed to get in a dig or two about MiddleTown.  At the car, Sam found the button that began the real conversation.

“So where are the kids?  he asked.

Hill and Ronnie glanced at each other then both gave Sam a half smile.
“Oh, you know kids," Hill said.  "They thought picking up an uncle would be similar to having several teeth removed."

“Even a favorite uncle," Ronnie chimed in.

This last response seemed a little odd to Sam.  Admittedly, in most families this would be an off-hand compliment to a relative.  However, that wasn’t Ronnie's style.

“Okay, what's the real reason?”  Sam asked.  "Did you finally go psycho and turn them into barbecue or something?"

“Oh, funny," Ronnie said, shoving Sam in the shoulder.  "No, they really did say it would be boring..."

"However, um, we wanted to ask a big favor," Hill broke in.  "And it concerns them."

Sam didn't like the sound of this, but ventured forward.  "Big favor?"

“Oh, nothing bad," Ronnie assured.

“Yeah, we would just like you to take them out for the afternoon, early evening.  Maybe take them to the zoo and then for burgers afterwards," Hill added.

Sam looked askance at them as he climbed into the back of their car.  "You want me to babysit them?"

“Um, well..." the two possible combatants said in unison.

“So you asked me to come all the way here to be a babysitter?”  Sam reiterated. 
“No.  We DO want your help in our situation.  Maybe act as a sounding board for ideas.  Right now though we also need your help in a different way.  Which means getting the kids away while we talk this out a bit,” Hill explained.

Sam frowned as the two stared hopefully from the front seat.  "Wouldn't it be better for you to get a real babysitter and the three of us go somewhere to talk?"

“For this united family to go forward, we have to reach some consensus.  We have to work together to make it work.  So a little alone time would help us,” Ronnie said.
Sam sighed, but knew his fate was cast.  He agreed he'd take the kids out for a while and let his brother and sister-in-law meet in conference to hash out their differences.  Of course, this may not have been the difficult part.  Getting two preteens to leave the comfort zone of their panic rooms—also known as private, messy bedrooms—would be a challenge.  

He decided to use the old tried-and-true method used for generations: bribery.  
The children really did like the company of their favorite uncle (only one, but one prone to showering them with gifts). However, the offer to secretly feed them the food and drinks their folks would never agree to added to the incentive.  So after the usual greetings, banter and friendly teasing on his arrival to the house, Sam, Justin and Libby headed out for the wild.  In this case, the MiddleTown Zoo and local pizzeria.
Of course, since Sam couldn't drive them it meant taking public transportation.  They hiked three blocks to one of MiddleTown's light rail stations.  This was the Congress Avenue Station, one of the larger stations in the city.  It had a few little kiosks selling everything from road maps to toy cars, had clean waiting areas and even piped-in music over the loud speakers.  Sam didn't really notice the music, but almost subconsciously began to hum along with what played.

“What’s that you’re humming?”  Libby asked.
“Oh, I’m just humming along with the Muzak coming from the speaker.  It’s an old Styx song.”

“Who is Styx?” they asked, simultaneously wrinkling their noses at the music.

Sam rolled his eyes.  “Never mind.”

He knew that this was just the usual generational differences, but didn't realize that a much bigger problem loomed ahead:  MiddleTown had only two rail lines, The Red and the Blue.
Sam studied the transit map that hung on the wall separating the two lines.  It looked like a painting of red and blue spaghetti.  Where most cities had maps that showed rail lines going in straight lines to distant destinations, the Red and Blue lines seemed to crisscross repeatedly with a few sections going in far different directions, only to cross once again.  Such as at this station.  The names of each station didn’t indicate city destinations, so he decided the best bet would be to ask for directions. 

As he bought three tickets, he asked the seller how to get to the zoo.  The man didn’t look up at all.  “Take the Blue line to Willow,” he said, continuing to count the coins in front of him.

“And that will get me to the zoo?”  Sam asked.

“Sure,” the ticket agent said unemotionally.

“Oh, boy, we’re going to the zoo!” the kids yelled excitedly as they all clamored aboard the Blue line.
When they got to the Willow station, they left the station only to discover they had wound up at a demonstration in support of stronger environmental laws.  Sam asked one of the protestors on the edge of the mob which way to go for the zoo.

“Oh, you’re nowhere near the zoo,” he said helpfully.  “You shouldn’t go there with children anyway.  Caging wild animals is no way to treat our fellow creatures.”

Sam frowned and herded Libby and Justin back down to the Willow station.  Once there, he saw a policeman who he was sure would know the directions needed.

“Yes, you need to take the Red Line to Lincoln Station.  You can get to the zoo easily from there.”

So the three hopped on the Red Line train, which not surprisingly intersected here with the Blue Line, and headed out once more.  At Lincoln Station, they climbed the stairs out only to discover they had stumbled upon another demonstration.  This one apparently demanding the city government stop excessive spending and reduce property taxes. Again, they were told they were nowhere near the zoo.

The trio retreated back to Lincoln Station dejected that they had yet to encounter any wildlife other then angry citizens of MiddleTown.  As usual, both the Red and Blue lines met at Lincoln.  Sam felt irritated at the situation, but also perplexed.  Why did he keep getting misguided directions?  He was hesitant, but walked up to two transit officials who stood on the platform separating the two lines. 

“Um, do you guys know which train to take to get to the zoo,” Sam asked apprehensively.
The man on the left smiled and nodded.  “Sure, you hop on the Blue Line there,” he said pointing.  “And take it to Dedicated Station.  There you change to the Red Line and head to Livermore Station.  The zoo’s right there.”

“No, no, not that way,” the other man broke in.  “You take the Red line over there to Giddings Station, then take the Blue Line to Musgrove Station.  The zoo’s just blocks away.”

The two officials walked away from Sam and the kids, arguing directions as they went.

Almost in tears, Libby and Justin looked up at Sam.  “Uncle Sam, which way do we go?”
Sam let out a deep sigh, frowned and shrugged at his doting niece and nephew who relied on him for guidance.  “I am completely and utterly lost.”

The Thurber Brigade decided that instead of a sidestep, to try a different tack and present a short satirical story (On politics. Did you get that?).  Of course, it also stems from that this story wasn’t accepted at several contests and publications and we got too lazy to keep trying.  However, we hope you enjoy this interlude and we promise to get back to the War between Men and women next time. Maybe.