A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis [Kindle Edition}

A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis [Kindle Edition}

by Irene Woodbury

ISBN: 9780744314977

Publisher SynergEbooks

Published in Literature & Fiction/Humor, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

This darkly funny novel describes Wendy Sinclair’s spin-crazy life in Las Vegas after she impulsively stays following a bizarre girls’ weekend.

The confused, unhappy 45-year-old newlywed soon rents a rundown apartment; wallows in a blur of spas, malls and buffets, and gets two wacky jobs. She hangs with showgirls and crushes on a playboy-pilot and a hot rock star. The phone fights with her workaholic husband waiting impatiently in Houston get louder and more raucous than a hot craps table at Caesar’s! Does Wendy go back to him, or does her midlife crisis become a midlife makeover?

Sample Chapter

Small, Inadvertent Incursions

Sometimes after dinner when everything was quiet, and the phone had finally stopped ringing, and there were no e-mails to answer, or sketches to revise, or fabric swatches to look at, I‘d stand at my kitchen window staring out at an empty, tumbleweed-filled lot and the distant Sierra Nevadas and think about Roger and our years together. I always missed him most after dinner because that‘s when he tended to get amorous.

I could remember the many cozy evenings with him in my Santa Monica condo. He‘d arrive around 7:30 or 8 with Chinese or Indian take-out, flowers, and a pint of my favorite ice cream. (Like I said, he was the man of my dreams.) And we‘d have these lovely, relaxing, casual dinners, discussing something funny Carol had said that day, or the celebrity who‘d rushed into the store that morning to buy a dozen sweaters, or how his latest project was going, or where we might take our next vacation. It was all very frivolous and delightful.

And after dinner, while I was standing at the sink rinsing plates, he‘d come up behind me, wrap his arms around me, and kiss my neck. At first, I‘d laugh, but eventually I‘d turn around and kiss him back. Then things would get more heated and more passionate, and we‘d end up in bed, making love. It was exciting and satisfying, the ultimate release from everything. Afterward, we‘d lie there, naked and content, bonded by the potent forces of food and sex. And then we‘d eat dessert in bed and watch a movie before falling asleep.

It was all so effortless and uncomplicated back then. Our lives were complementary. Everything flowed easily between us. There were no big challenges to face or compromises to make. No unreasonable demands or ugly disagreements. But that was before Houston and the chameleons. Before Magnolia Crescent, Dan, Clare, and Lisa. Before Petticoat Palace, Gary, and Kent.

The truth about Roger and me, the real truth, is that from the very beginning we were more than friends and lovers. We were family. A safe place to go, a place to belong, a cozy haven where you would always be accepted, understood, cherished.

When we met, he was forty-three, I was thirty-eight, and we were both alone – without spouses, parents, children, or siblings – at least any that we spoke to. We became close because, on some level, we realized we needed each other, as friends, as lovers, as family. Roger was essential to my life; I was essential to his. With everyone else, my parents, friends, ex- boyfriends, I was, ultimately, optional. But not with Roger. This is one reason, I suppose, that I was reluctant to give him up, even though I was a deadbeat wife at that point, a long-distance, nonfunctional wife in a marriage on autopilot.

So, yes, there were moments when I wondered if Roger would be better off with someone else. Someone more conventional and traditional. Someone like Lisa. Maybe I was all wrong for him? Maybe he was all wrong for me? Maybe Lisa had gotten it right at the Verandah when she said I was a bolter and I should let him go?

I couldn‘t answer these questions. I didn‘t want to. But I wasn‘t about to let go of the only family I had ever had. The only person I ever felt I belonged with. Call me selfish. God knows I am. But I wasn‘t about to let go of the only family I had ever known, even if it was basically a dysfunctional relationship at that point.

Roger and I had had seven idyllic years together in L.A. That had to count for something, didn‘t it? I loved looking back on the things we did, the places we went, our vacations in London, and the times he joined me in New York or Paris for fashion weeks. I also savored the memory of other trips that were far less glamorous, but sweeter and more spontaneous. Postcard-perfect weekends in Catalina, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Lake Arrowhead.

I could even recall a sex-saturated three days in Solvang after we had known each other only a few months, when we stayed at a bed and breakfast and managed to miss every single breakfast. We lay there instead, endlessly making love, and, afterward, tenderly entangled. My chin nestled snugly in the nook of his shoulder, his arm around me, mine draped languidly across his chest, my leg delicately, sinuously perched between both of his. Equal parts possessive, protective, like a mother lion with her cub. There was such intense intimacy between us. We were so in love, wrapped in our own little cocoon, that it was impossible to imagine the next five minutes, let alone the rest of our lives, without each other.

You can miss the idea of someone, which means you miss something they bring to your life, like wealth or social prestige or access to artistic or intellectual circles. Or you can miss the reality of someone, which means you miss the essence of that person, the way they make you feel, the way they behave when they‘re with you. With Roger, I missed both. I missed the idea of him, what he represented in terms of stability, security, and respectability, and I also missed the reality of him, snuggling with him in bed after making love, sharing a tub of popcorn at the movies, taking a weekend trip to Palm Springs, having dinner with him,

If I missed him so much, why didn‘t I just get on a plane and go back to Houston? Because I was enjoying my so-called life in wacky, tacky Las Vegas, especially my budding design career, and I realized that being with Roger in Houston would never be like being with him in L.A. It was a different environment, a different situation, another world. We could never recreate in Houston the life that we‘d had in L.A. Maybe it was because, in Houston, Roger was obsessed with Magnolia Crescent and winning the approval of Dan and Clare. Who did he think they were? Reincarnations of Mummy and Daddy? Maybe that‘s what he wanted. His parents all over again. Watching someone as brilliant and successful as he was pander to them annoyed and angered me. I lost respect for him when I saw that side of him, the approval-seeking side.

In L.A., Roger had also been a workaholic, but there were no Dans or Clares to worry about. Life somehow seemed purer and more simple. I knew I was Priority Number One to him, as he was to me. But In Houston, for the first time, that wasn‘t the case. I realized he was consumed with new, more important challenges, but I didn‘t want to adjust to being anything less than Number One in Roger‘s life, on a temporary or permanent basis.

I wanted to wait a while longer and see what happened before I made any hard decisions. I was afraid of going back to Houston because I thought it might turn into one long fight-fest and we‘d end up divorced. At least this way, although we were living in different cities, we were both happy career-wise. And neither one of us had made a move to formalize our separation. As far as I was concerned, there was still hope our marriage would survive.

My relationship with Roger might have been up in the air, but there was nothing uncertain about my design career. It was thriving. After drawing raves with the Petticoat uniforms, I scored two more big jobs. One came from Maxine, who asked me to create saloon-girl costumes for the lovely chanteuses who sang atop the pianos in Petticoat‘s saloon.

For each of the ten singers, I came up with four ruffly TaffeLuxe dresses in vibrant prints. It would be expensive, but I wanted matching shoes made. And I felt that fishnet stockings were the only way to go, but in multiple colors – brown, blue, pink, green – to complement thedresses. Encircling the saloon girls‘ shapely thighs would be black lace, silver-dollar garters, designed by moi.

The way I envisioned it, as the singers perched atop the pianos, the cascade of white petticoat ruffles lining their long, deeply slit skirts would be visible in the background. Flashing in the foreground would be plenty of shapely thigh enveloped in fishnet, silver-dollar garters, high heels, and major cleavage. A colorful, sexy, girly-girl look with lots of petticoats. Maxine loved the ideas I submitted in July and, before I knew it, we had budget approval from her bosses.

Then I landed another assignment to come up with new cocktail waitress get-ups for Vegas Versailles, a colossus of a hotel-casino on the center Strip. The drop-dead-gorgeous venue was a replica of Versailles, the magnificent palace on the outskirts of Paris that was home to a slew of French royals, including Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the French Revolution. The casino brass had been so impressed with my work at Petticoat that they offered me a generous fee to design new costumes for their two hundred-fifty cocktailers.

Moving from Petticoat to Versailles was a giant step up on the status ladder. Suddenly I was at the top of the food chain, working for the crème de la crème of casinos, with a budget that was virtually unlimited. What a heady feeling! I had arrived! Las Vegas, of course, wasn‘t a major fashion capital like Paris, Milan, or New York, but still, within the glitzy, scintillating world known as the Strip, I was in the big leagues.

Versailles‘ general manager, a reed-thin, chain-smoking, chestnut-haired Parisian of a certain age, named Chloe Royant, gave me free rein to create anything that would excite customers. I came up with luxurious designs resonating with decadence: two suits for each waitress consisting of jackets in silver or gold metallic fabric and short, tight, black lace skirts with a four-inch slit in back. The girls would wear black or glittery-nude stockings, and their low- heeled pumps, replicas of 18th century French court shoes, would be handmade and covered in silver or gold fabric.

But the most over-the-top accessory of all would be the long, platinum-blonde Marie- Antoinette headdresses, called poufs, to be worn by each waitress. This nine-inch-tall flowing cascade of lush waves and curls would be kept in place with glittery hairpins embellished with gold dice and multi-colored chips. I just loved the idea! And I knew Desert Dolls could handle the technical stuff and manufacturing end. (In Marie Antoinette‘s day, 1770s France, outrageously big horsehair poufs were built on wire foundations and elaborately decorated with fruits, vegetables, ribbons, jewels, and miniature snakes, parrots, ships, cannons, windmills, and trees. Ours would be downsized versions of these 18th century Carmen Miranda-ish extravaganzas. But the upside was they wouldn‘t attract the vermin – disease-carrying flies, rats, lice, and weasels – that the French court ones did. Not that anyone needed to worry. When was the last time you saw a rat or weasel on the Strip? The cad who sneaked out of your room without leaving a note after that steamy one-nighter at Mirage, and those nasty teenyboppers who stiffed the waitress at Denny‘s the other morning don‘t count.)

Two weeks after I submitted sketches, Chloe called to say her bosses had green-lighted my design package! They were impressed with the glitzy suits, but even more excited about the poufs, an exotic, ultra-glam touch that would have customers pouring into Vegas Versailles. No other casino on the Strip had headdresses or wigs adorning its cocktailers. (As far as I knew, Caesar‘s was one of the few that had boasted them in the past. From the late 1960s to the seventies, its cocktail goddesses were crowned with coneheads. These bizarre, beehive-shaped devices, worn high on the back of the head, had long, voluminous ponytails spilling out of them.

A Star-Trek-meets-I-Dream-Of-Jeannie-in-Ancient-Rome kind of look. Striking, yes, but much more sparse and Spartan than the elaborate poufs.)

Before we hung up, Chloe paid me the ultimate compliment, whispering in her sultry voice, ―Your sketches make me feel like I‘m back home in the fashion district, gazing at the designer ateliers and boutiques on Avenue Montaigne and Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré.‖ A contract was soon drawn up for me, and a separate one for Desert Dolls, to cover the terms for manufacturing the uniforms and wigs.

It was easy to forget about the tensions in my marriage when I was caught up in such thrilling projects. My design career wasn‘t going to be a one-hit wonder! I was moving on up to newer and fresher challenges that would establish me as an innovative designer with versatility and range.

Work was my major focus, but not my sole one. My social life was rolling right along. Gary and I remained friends. He still did handyman stuff around the apartment, and a few times a week we worked out and had breakfast while his main squeeze, Keely, was sleeping in or at Crazy Girls rehearsals. We all seemed to coexist somehow. I got the feeling that neither Gary nor Keely knew where their relationship was headed, which is probably why it worked. She was as laid back and noncommittal as he was, and the two of us got along okay because she didn‘t consider me a threat.

Early on, Gary seemed jealous of my friendship with Kent, but eventually he got used to the idea and even helped things along. Because we were neighbors and saw each other all the time, he would pass along harmless little tidbits to Kent about what I was up to. Then Kent would call and mention things I‘d never told him. Like my visits to the Valley of Fire and Bonnie Springs with the girls, or the flat tire Gary fixed on my car, or the furniture delivery I‘d gotten from L.A. I never asked how he knew about these things. I thought it was cute that he was interested in the mundane details of my life, so I just played along.

Kent was still busy in New York, organizing his talent company‘s new office in Times Square. But he made it to Vegas once a month to watch Posse perform and spend time with me. It was done in the most innocent, subtle way. We would go on day-long trips with Gary and Keely, Brian and Paige, Serena and Daryl. On one outing, Gary took us all on a jaw-dropping trip to the Grand Canyon.

After a one-hour flight that turned bumpy over Lake Mead, we landed at Grand Canyon Village Airport. Our first stop was El Tovar, a ruggedly handsome hotel modeled after a European hunting lodge. Between forkfuls of big, puffy Duke Wayne omelets (one or two of his movies were filmed nearby) in the rustic dining room, we ventured out to the deck to gaze a mile deep into the stunningly beautiful Grand Canyon. Stretching before us for hundreds of miles were seventeen million years‘ worth of layered limestone, sandstone, granite, and shale, compressed into red-brown or grayish-green canyons, pyramids, plateaus, and peaks. Overwhelming! No neon signs or slot machines tarting up the place. Afterward, the eight of us hiked down Bright Angel Trail to the very bottom of the Canyon. We only got partway, but the views in every direction were spectacular.

On the return flight to Vegas, Kent and I sat quietly in back, drinking in the grandeur of the rugged desert-mountain landscape below. When the plane suddenly lurched over Boulder City, I gasped and grabbed his arm. After a minute or two, he gently took my hand (the one with the wedding ring on it), squeezed it in both of his, and kissed it. My heart melted like a lump of butter in a hot cast iron skillet. I couldn‘t look at him, so I just stared straight ahead, feeling exhilarated but sad. I didn‘t want to hurt him. I didn‘t want to have an affair with him. I didn‘t

want to get too close to him. I didn‘t want him to go away. I didn‘t know what I wanted from him, and I tried to not think about it too much. I just took it day by day and told myself it was all in the name of friendship. But I don‘t really know how he saw it.

One weekend, for a change of pace, Kent and I flew to Reno with Gary and Keely to see the Dave Matthews Band, gamble a bit, and eat incredible Chinese. It was relaxing, more blue jeans and tees than sequins and lace. Back in Sin City, the four of us slipped into one of Gary‘s favorite haunts, the retro-seventies Peppermill Fireside Lounge, over by the Sahara, for drinks. As we shuffled in, I noticed framed stills on the wall of Robert DeNiro (―Ace‖) cozying up to Sharon Stone (―Ginger‖) in scenes from the 1995 movie, Casino, that were shot here. Right beside them were plaques proclaiming this the most romantic bar on the Strip.

I didn‘t think anything of it till we got inside. So dark and intimate, with pink fluorescent tube lights (remember those?), purple carpets, floor-to-ceiling mirrors everywhere, and fake bougainvillea sprawling all over the place. A few guys were playing video poker at terminals lodged in the black-and-white marble bar, while sipping Mai-Tais adorned with little pink umbrellas. Tapes of Whitney Houston‘s pashy ―Saving All My Love for You‖ blared from multiple TV screens mounted around the pint-size 24/7 joint. A retro-seventies scene right out of The Deer Hunter. And I wasn‘t too crazy about the seventies – were you?

As we sank into a circular, rose-colored banquette, pink-marshmellowy pillows engulfed us on all sides. Kent and I got squished together, couple-like, on a double cushion, while Gary and Keely squeezed onto another. Before us was a round pool of bubbling water with fiery flames shooting out of its center. It was a hypnotic, romantic sight, conjuring up all sorts of volcanic, carnal-orgasmic images. Very honeymoon-in-Hawaii-like.


Excerpted from "A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis [Kindle Edition}" by Irene Woodbury. Copyright © 2011 by Irene Woodbury. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Irene Woodbury

Irene Woodbury

Irene Woodbury’s third novel, POP-OUT GIRL (2017), pushes a lot of buttons. It’s a gripping look at the tumultuous life of a 23-year-old showgirl-wannabe named Jen Conover who pops out of cakes at special events in Las Vegas for a living. The novel offers riveting glimpses into the loves, lives, triumphs, and tragedies of Jen’s family and friends as well. Irene grew up in Pittsburgh, and has lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Denver. The University of Houston 1993 graduate also called Texas home for seven years. Her writing career began In 2000. After five years as a successful travel writer, she switched to fiction. Irene’s first novel, the humorous A SLOT MACHINE ATE MY MIDLIFE CRISIS, was published in 2011. The darkly dramatic A DEAD END IN VEGAS followed in 2014. POP-OUT GIRL is another dramatic effort. With her husband, Richard, editing, Irene completed the novel in eighteen months. She hopes audiences will enjoy reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it.

View full Profile of Irene Woodbury

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