Kline cover

Journey Through a Land of Minor Annoyances
Al Kline

Coming November 2020!
Synopsis:

 

After being diagnosed with three months to live, 20 year old misfit CHAZ CHASE decides a road trip will help him find the meaning of life. And apologize to certain people for being a jerk.    

     He adopts a dog as a traveling companion, but questions his own sanity when MAX suddenly talks, claiming to be the reincarnation of a famous Hollywood director.

     Chaz meets many colorful characters along the journey, including CLITTY, a pistol-packing femme fatale dreaming of Hollywood stardom. They fall in love and drive to Salton Sea where Max directs the final scene of Chaz's brief but quirky life.

 

 

 



ISBN 978-1-60489-264-2 $19.95

ISBN 978-1-60489-265-9, 27.95

  About the Author:

As a morning disc jockey for more than 30 years, Al Kline wrote comedy every morning at a handful of  radio stations all around the country. He's also written several stage plays, as well as a couple of dozen screenplays, several of which have been made into award winning short films. Al was also a commercial copywriter for a chain of radio stations and wrote a weekly humorous syndicated newspaper column for several years. Journey Through a Land of Minor Annoyances is his first book, and he hopes you have as much fun reading it as he had writing it. He recently completed a second book, a Young Adult fiction, and has begun work on a third. Al lives on the coast of Maine with his black lab Max, a very intelligent dog although Max doesn't talk.


 
Excerpt from Book:

 

                                                                         chapter 1

 

                                                 A good traveler has no fixed plans,

                                                         and is not intent on arriving.

                                                                        -- Lao Tzu --

 

                                                       Boiling heat, summer stench

                                              'Neath the black the sky looks dead.

                                              -- "Black Hole Sun" - Soundgarden --

 

            This is my life and by the time you read this, I'll be a distant shadow in the past, the present, and the future. A footnote in someone's fading memory.

            This is my journal, and what you're about to read is the Truth, pure and eternal and delicious. At least my Truth. Everybody has their own version of the Truth and this is mine.

            Max interrupts, "Not a very good beginning. Start over."

            Damn. I knew he'd criticize. I tap the delete key and start again:

            I'm a newly born snowflake, formed in the frozen womb of the night sky, fluttering down onto an unforgiving lake of ice, taking flight again as the winter wind eddies, sending me aloft toward the cold, apathetic stars.                                                                                                           

            Max rolls his eyes. "Are you writing Hallmark cards for the permanently stoned?" he barks. Goddamn, he's a grinder.

            Take three. I type again:

            My mind is different now and I'm not sure who or what I was am now or will be and although I may appear to be here I am not all there.

            "Chaz, don't be afraid to use a comma. Rest."

            "Max, I don't have time to rest."

            He chuckles. "'What can I tell you, kid? You're right. When you're right, you're right, and

 

you're right.'" He shoots me an inquisitive look, "You know where that line's from, don't you?"

           

            "Ah... Dog Day Afternoon?"

           

            "Chinatown."

 

            "Oh, yeah. The Nicholson character."

 

            "Jake Gittes. Did you see it?"

            "Well, ah..."

            "Put it in your bucket," he laments.

            My fingers return to the laptop:

            My Life has morphed into Lewis B. Carroll, Hugo Ball, and Luis Buñuel as it cascades into places and experiences that are esoteric, euphoric, abstract and liberating. My

existence is Dadist, free from conventional norms, now on an uncharted journey of self exploration.

 

This is my Reality, even though I question whether Max is real or anything I'm about to write is real. Both Max and I may be a product of my own imagination or psychosis or drugs. The following pages contain the grains of salt to help you understand. Take as many as you need. 

            Max exhales and with a patronizing smile says, "I'm so glad I could be here to help you live out your avoidance of reality. Your drug-induced fantasy."

            "Just shut up. You're real. I know you are," I snap.

            "Illusion."

             "Don't mess with me."

            "Chaz, you're an illusion too."

            "God, you're an annoying little mutt. Leave me alone and let me write this." Max snickers like a machine gun on helium HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE as I inhale a deep toke from my Northern Lights and continue:

            I am clear about one thing: In spite of the danger, there's no sense in worrying about Death: Been there and done that. It's where I am now. I do not fear having a near-death experience. My concern is that the last twenty years was only a near-life experience.

            Max feigns a yawn and closes his eyes. "Wake me when you're done taking this metaphysical crap."

            I ignore him. I'll begin this story soon before it ends. In August of 1999. I type:

            It's 168 degrees and the shimmering highway lies ahead, a glistening black serpent   coiled on the horizon of this Utah desert, or Arizona wasteland, or perhaps planet Mercury, maybe even "Planet Claire," but it's hot enough to make a dead man sweat. With the pavement a scalding ribbon of molasses my tires leave a puddle, my sandals are liquid and I'm feel like a Dali pocket watch as Hell pours into my 1959 Cadillac convertible, as all around tumbleweeds burst into flames, spontaneous combustion taking place both within me and without, a fire that's

hotter than anything I ever set, burning worse than the Death Valley conditions where Von Stroheim directed Greed, and this Inferno world is melting, melting, with buzzards circling overhead piercing the arid air with their Margaret Hamilton cacklelaughs, looking down at this poor bastard trying to find himself but in imminent danger of losing himself.

            The vultures are drowned out by Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" blasting from the rear right speaker that vibrates like a tuning fork. The left speaker died years ago when it was peed on by Max, my pitbull, my trusted traveling companion and a damn-fine unique canine with astonishing abilities and a brilliant mind. He prefers to be called a Staffordshire Bull Terrier but whatever his breed, he is a true Mensa dog. The only dog I ever met who quotes Kierkegaard and can expound at length about the hidden messages in Kubrick films. Max would read the Paris Review and smoke expensive Cuban cigars if he could, but his lack of opposable thumbs prevents him from doing so. Besides, I don't want him to damage his lungs. There's nothing more pathetic than a dog toting around a portable oxygen tank while rasping like Pat Welsh.

            The air conditioner died long ago, but playing holiday tunes as I plod through Hell makes me feel cooler, like trompe l'oeil, but this is more like tromper l'oreille. Max, with a heavy pant, barks, “Remove the fucking fedora and you'll feel even cooler.” But I need to wear my black fedora because I never know when I may be thrust into a film noir and I want to be ready. Paul Muni always kept a Tommy gun under his bed after filming Scarface. Ann Sheridan was never without the necklace she wore in Nora Prentiss. Bengt Ekerot kept the chess set he used to play Antonius Block. It's why I keep an old pack of Chesterfields in the glove compartment and practice blowing smoke rings from the corner of my mouth while talking about dangerous dames with nice gams who fire off a few rounds from a gat. I want to be prepared for any opportunity that may present itself on my doorstep.

            Max is so erudite he pronounces the 'G' in 'fucking' instead of dropping it and substituting an apostrophe. That canine has class they just don't bottle anymore. He makes Asta come across like a mangy street mongrel.

            I found Max at a shelter, or as the saying goes, perhaps he found me. We connected with an instant, metaphysical bond that transcended the ages, communicating as though we had known each other for centuries. Max may be four or five years old or maybe ageless, but he's accompanying me on this journey, just as he's accompanied me on countless journeys before.     Max kids me, saying he was so desperate to get of the shelter he would have gone home with a starving Vietnamese family. At least I think he's kidding. Owning Max has been both a blessing and a curse, all rolled into one big hairy package.                                                                   

             I take a final swig from the pisswarm Coors nestled in the crotch of my underwear. I stripped off my pants and stuffed them into a trash barrel at a highway rest area many miles and inhibitions ago somewhere outside of Ogden. My decision to go pantless was not impulsive. I thought about it since Idaho and finally decided to do things in life without regrets. I never want to limit myself because of fearing someone else's disapproval. Max tells me that's the way to write: Write from your heart, but edit from your brain. Write like you don't care who reads it. "Create with no inhibitions," Max says. It's become easier for me since everyone I may have worried about reading and judging my writings are now dead and gone.                           

            It's so freeing to not wear pants and I vow to never wear them again. How would Mormons react if they knew a man was driving through their state wearing only his underwear? I know Mormons have their own special underwear, magical shorts that ensure happiness on their own planet in the cosmos, but I'm wearing Hanes boxer-briefs and the exhilarating feeling cools my jewels. There can't be a law against driving around in your underwear. I never see road signs showing a stick figure removing their underwear with the international slash mark through it. I hope I'm not breaking the law because I don't want to be sent back to Ju-vee Hall. I drown out Brenda:

                                                "Let's be jolly, deck the halls

                                                with boughs of holly."

            In the rear view mirror Max shakes his head, "You sound like you're getting a root canal without anesthetic."                                                                                                            

            “You wouldn't know good singing if it bit your hairy little ass.” 

            “You sing as well as you write,” Max mumbles. The words sting. He may have a point. Inside one of the totes in the trunk are my thirteen screenplays, in written form but also stored on my laptop and burned onto CD's. All homeless, all unwanted, and all with no destination. Like me. Paraphrasing Capote's remark about Kerouac, maybe I don't write. Maybe I only type.

            Brenda wails:

                                                "Everyone's dancing merrily in the

                                                new old fashioned wwwaaaayyyyyyy."

            Max throws back his head to howl, drowning out both me and Brenda, which may be a good thing. The shadows from the blood-red mesas hang like deathheads in the torrid atmosphere as the Caddy darts through the desert air like a honeybee slicing through August sunshine. We're moving about 50 miles per hour in some deserted part of the universe, past sage brush, beer bottles, pieces of a shredded tire from a semi, and other people's unwanted memories. I open Final Draft on my laptop and catch Max in the rear view mirror cutting me with a stare. Just as he barks, "Keep your eyes on the road!" I'm rattled by the ear-splitting blast of a big rig horn as I swerve the Caddy back to my own lane with the semi thundering by, missing the car by inches. The laptop flies onto the floor and Max bounces around the back seat like he's on a trampoline. I'm shaking and I feel like Dennis Weaver hunted by an 18-wheeler.                                        "Okay! Okay! Everything's under control," I tell Max, my voice quivering like a katydid on speed. I take a deep breath and retrieve the laptop.

            With cautious furtive glances from the road to the screen and back again, I type the scene as if I were handing it to John Ford to shoot:

 

                        EXT. DESERT – DAY

                        LONG SHOT -  Pan left to right. A lone car on a dusty road is dwarfed by                                   towering sandstone buttes.

                        MEDIUM SHOT - Through windshield.

                        A man and a dog look distraught and sweaty as they anticipate death.

 

            Max looks over my shoulder to read it. A blast from another big rig's horn and I hiss "Fuck!" as I swerve the Caddy back into my lane with tires screeching. Max screams, "Oh, that's just brilliant. Multi-tasking while driving. Just hasten your death and just get it over with. Spare yourself any insight as to why you're on this journey."

            I gulp hard, "I can't let the writing muscle atrophy. When I got the itch, I have to scratch it. Gotta write something, even if it's a last will and testament." I throw Pam Grier into neutral, turn off the key, and coast to a halt in a dirt clearing off the road, kicking up a cloud of dust. I leave the ignition on to continue playing the holiday tunes.

            I grab a Blue Dream from inside the brim of my fedora, light it up and take a long drag. It's as welcome as another tomorrow. Blue Dreams are usually good for priming the creative pump even though I suspect the well has been running dry.

            "Max, I wanna tell you something. Even though you probably don't care."

            "You're right. I don't care."

            “My face is gonna melt like The House of Wax. Ever see it?”

            “The 1953 version was the best,” he says. “In 3D. Directed by Andre de Toth.”

            "Wasn't that Charles Bronson's first movie?"

            "No. He had a bit part in a 1951 movie you probably never saw. The Mob."

            “Damn! You're an encyclopedia of film.” Max retained his cinematic knowledge from his previous life when he was a Hollywood director. He claims to be Samuel Fuller reincarnated as a dog and who am I to doubt that? Reality has proven to be too painful the last two months so with much exuberance and weed I've embraced fantasy which is much easier to grasp in one hand. I don't know what Mr. Fuller did during his life to warrant the Big Wheel of Karma

returning him to Earth as a dog. Especially my dog. I never thought to ask but I think I know the answer. It's probably because Fuller made Shark, a film so bad he asked the director's guild to remove his name from the directing credits. Perhaps being yoked to me is his cosmic punishment for making that film. Guess everyone has at least one door locked tight to keep any embarrassing incidents from flying out and being exposed to the light of day.

            I ask, "You wanna talk about Shark?" just to poke him with a stick.

            Max lifts his leg and hisses, "Listen pinhead, you mention that movie again and I'll  obliterate your right speaker."

            He's a hoot when the fur stands up on his back and he flashes his canines to appear so intimidating. Trying so hard to resemble that genetically engineered dog in Man's Best Friend.

            Next up is Burl Ives and I singyell:                                

                                                "...oh by golly have holly jolly

                                                Christmas this year..."

            "He'll always be Big Daddy Pollitt,” Max says, staring at me for several beats like Alex Trebeck eyeing some dumbass contestant who goes the entire show without ever buzzing in. I know this is a test and Max waits for an answer.

            "Ah... East of Eden?" I blurt out.

            Max makes a buzzer sound BBBBZZZZZZ and sighs, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

                                                                                                             

            "I'll put it on my list," I say and Max snorts. I return to my attempt at singing, which Max says sounds like Ethel Merman on crack:

                                                "Oh, ho the mistletoe hung where you can                                 

                                                see. Somebody waits for you, kiss her once                               

                                                for me."

            Max joins in:

                                                "Have a holly, jolly Christmas and in case

                                                you didn't hear, Oh by golly have a holly

                                                jolly Christmas this yeeeeeeeaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrr."

            I step out of the Caddy, look both ways down the road, and inhale. My windpipe and lungs are singed like a newbie circus performer attempting to eat fire for the very first time. No one approaches from either end of the serpent. I could be the last man on Earth. I envision being on a David Lean set and seeing T. E. Lawrence riding his steed over a dune. Without the car's muffler growl, the desert is still. The quiet of a cemetery after a snowstorm in January. The only noise is the sun sizzling in the liquid sky.

            I pop the trunk to grab Max's bowl and a bottle of water from the cooler. The ice cubes melted miles ago, but I pour the water bottle into the bowl and place it on the back seat. Max takes a few laps and winces. “My own piss would be cooler,” he spits.

            The trunk contains empty Subway wrappers, Jack Daniels bottles, beer cans, books about writing screenplays, dirty socks and underwear, a sleeping bag, my cello case, and novels. When I was about ten I remember seeing a list of the top 100 greatest works of literature and I was determined to read them all. By the time I was 15, I had.