Grand Theft El Cap

So, Grand Theft Auto (I believe the kids today call it GTA) 5 came with El Cap’s PlayStation 4, and today he decided to unwrap it and give it a shot.

It occurs to me that we are perhaps not the demographic Rockstar Games has in mind, but it’s their own fault for packaging the game for free with the PS4, especially when PS4 sells the really cool games, like Crimes and Punishments: Sherlock Holmes. Nevertheless, here we are, on our big comfy couch, me with my blog and El Cap with the controller.

The thing is, video games are still a new invention in El Cap’s world, and not less so in mine. I would be perfectly happy if I could have my Atari 5200 and Sega Genesis, and if any of you want to really make my Christmas, I would love an old table-top pizzeria Ms. Pac Man or an arcade Frogger. In fifth grade, my parents bought me an Atari and two things happened: My handwriting improved immeasurably (that’s a thing, y’all) and I fell in love with video games.

El Cap grew up before video games, and since adulthood has busied himself climbing various corporate ladders and doing really cool things he’ll almost never talk about with strangers (and so he’d be really pissed if I mentioned them here) instead of wasting precious hours on Sonic the Hedgehog and things like that. Now that he’s a boat captain with real days off, and now that our kitchen is almost done, he has time for things like kayaking and camping and video games.

I tell you all this so you can more full appreciate what is happening here right now.

After getting past the setup – PS4 controllers are a lot more complex than either Atari or Sega controllers – there’s the process of learning how to move around in the game.

Here’s a pro tip, Sony: The people with the money to buy your game systems? We all need glasses. Telling us what button to press in three-point type doesn’t help us. Seriously. We have a huge television and neither of us could read the instructions. We do, however, have Google, so as soon as we determine what the things are called (Hint: Not “joysticks” ) we then determine which buttons are which.

That’s when I realize you don’t really know someone until you put a video game in their hand. I fully expected El Cap would never open a game called “Grand Theft Auto”, much less want to play it after seeing the storyline. He enjoys shooting people (Cops! He’s shooting COPS, people! How is this the man I know?) way too much.

El Cap: *giggling*

Me: What?

El Cap: I wanted that guy to stay down, so I shot him a few more times.

Me: That guy – the one you shot in the balls – he’s a cop?

El Cap: *smiles* He kept moving.

Of course, there’s a learning curve. It took 20 minutes to make the first kill (much of which was me asking him to let me try and me killing my partner), and if you’d been walking by our window you would have heard things like:

El Cap: Can you read that? I can’t read that.


Me: Don’t worry, honey, you’ll get better at killing people.


El Cap: I didn’t fire! The gun just went off!

That one was my favorite.


We are officially The Olds.

Hard Candy – Conversations With El Cap: Joni Mitchell Songs in My Head

El Cap and I are in Hilton Head for a few days to see his parents. We do this periodically because he is a good sort of son who likes to see his parents, and also, well, Hilton Head rocks. Aside from it not being in Florida, it’s pretty great. It’s the best study in tourism planning I’ve seen: the place can be packed, and they’ve worked it out so that you don’t realize how crowded it is until you get past the last roundabout and you see droves of vaguely pink tourists heading back to their cars in the off-site parking lot.
And this is how the conversation started. For those of you who read my non-Gabber blog (shameless plug:, you know that El Cap and I have often-bizarre conversations, everything from road signs with anteaters on them to why he thinks Rhianna’s music is fine as long as Andy Williams sings it. 
Here’s what we talk about on road trips:

Me: Oh, hey, Gulfport’s going to pave the beach parking lot. I’m thinking of writing a column about it. I don’t want to see it paved.

El Cap: Why are they paving it?

Me: Er, I’m not sure. I guess because the old one isn’t working.

El Cap: It works. We parked there the other night. Are they using shell?

Me: No, they’re paving it with, you know, pavement. 

El Cap: So it’s going to be a black parking lot?

Me: Yup. 

El Cap: What about the runoff into the bay?

Me: They say the sand and shells are so hard packed now it doesn’t really matter, that it will be the same.

El Cap: Do they have a study that tells them that?

Me: Uh, no. I don’t think so.

El Cap: Why can’t they just grade and rake it?

Me: I don’t know.

El Cap: Has council voted on this yet?

Me: I’m not sure. I think they’ll have to, though, because of the cost.

El Cap: How much will it cost?

Me: I don’t know. More than $10,000, probably.

El Cap: When are they doing this?

Me: Ah, I’m not sure. Probably this coming budget year. I should probably call the city manager and ask.

El Cap: They’re going to have to take it down a foot or so to put in new basalt or put a new foundation in, right, to put in the blacktop? Why can’t they just turn it over – take what’s there, mix it all up, lay it down again, and make it semi-permeable again? They could put in drains. 

Me: Er, I don’t know.

El Cap: Once you pave it, you can’t put a bike path in, you can’t plant it. I don’t think they should do anything until they have a plan. Have businesses been complaining about people tracking in shells?

Me: I don’t think so. 

El Cap: Well, these are questions that would need to be answered before they pave it.

Me: I’m sure they know the answers.

El Cap: Who’s “they”?

Me: City staff. What would you do instead?

El Cap: I don’t know. It’s a beach parking lot; let’s stay beachy. Everybody likes our quaint alleys because they’re not paved. I think that should hold true for the parking. That’s me talking with no knowledge whatsoever, but it seems easier to get it re-graded every year or two instead of the maintenance blacktop requires.

Me: Well, look at me, I have no knowledge of anything here, and I’m more than happy to talk about it.

El Cap: Who knows? It might be a nice spot for a carousel.
El Cap’s snarky references aside about my rabid support for a carousel on the beach, he did inspire me to do my job. I called our city manager and asked him about the project, and the bottom line? The city’s open to other solutions, but no one’s presented anything better. This isn’t an approved project, and the lot does need work: those shells are so packed down the automotive runoff doesn’t go anywhere but on our beach and into our bay. 
I know we’re not Hilton Head. We don’t have the resources for off-site parking. That ship has sailed, and that’s OK: We’re our own town, with our own character, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
But that doesn’t keep me from hearing Joni Mitchell in my head.

This originally appeared in print and online in the June 26 edition of the Gabber Newspaper.

Sometimes I Take Too Long to Get Ready

Me: Do I look OK?
El Cap: You look great. 
Me: Do my boobs look weird?
El Cap: What?
Me: Would I look better in a different bra?
El Cap: Honey, it’s O’Maddys. 
Me: I don’t care. It’s not about where we go or who I see. I want to look good for you. 
El Cap: (sighs) Honey, you would look good naked. 
Me: Wow. You are really hungry. 
El Cap: No. I’m not. You asked, you were looking for an answer, I answered. If all you really care about is me, take off the clothes and let’s go. 

Organ Recitals (Conversations With El Cap)

Me: So, you know, Shelly and I used to talk about going out and getting drinks, or how we were going to write the not-so-great Great American Novel, or hanging out.

El Cap: Yes?

Me: Yeah, today I called her and was all, “So, did your doctor ever tell you to take more than one Prilosec OTC a day?” and she was all, “My doctor told me to take Zantac three times a day.” When did we get old? How did this happen? Is it all downhill from here?

El Cap: Yes. It happens faster than you think. Also, remember, that’s called an “organ recital“.

We’re all just one alleged ulcer away from an organ recital…

Mascara and Taxes

Don’t ask me how, but tonight our conversation went from the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) to makeup budgets. Specifically, El Cap’s makeup budget. Well, his former makeup budget.

Now, before you get ahead of yourself, El Cap once worked at a locally-based shopping network. We started talking about how people wouldn’t need to stay at a job for health insurance anymore, and that progressed to talking about 1099 employees (yeah, I know, we know how to tear it up over here), and he talked about his former job changing the models from full-time employees to 1099 contractors.

Me: Well, then they didn’t have to pay health insurance or taxes or unemployment.

El Cap: Or makeup.

Me: Makeup?

El Cap: I had a $250,000 makeup budget.

Me: A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS? I felt bad paying $15 for that tube of mascara.

This is why we need Obamacare, people. Because we need to level the playing field between those who have $250,000 for makeup and those of us who don’t. Like me. I am the 99%.

I Want My Junior Mints!

Conversation with El Cap at Pasadena Produce when I open my wallet to pay for bananas and such and a Junior Mint fell out. For a moment, we both gazed down at the Junior Mint on the floor between our feet.

El Cap: (very quietly) What the hell was that?

Me: Er, that was a Junior Mint. I had some at the movie last night, and I put the box in my purse. I had that and M&Ms. I guess one got away.

El Cap: And you were worried about whether the apples are organic?