When I started Off-Ramp four years ago, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted it to be, but I knew what I didn't want on the show. I didn't want snark. I didn't want NPR-style featurization* of Los Angeles. I didn't want self-conscious edginess. And I didn't want insecurity about my new home. I didn't need to waste time saying things like, "Like New York, Los Angeles also has world class (museums, orchestras, tattoo parlors... fill in the blank)." Instead of explaining why somebody should go see or do something in SoCal, I figured it was a lot better to go there and tell them about the thing in question.
And this is what I like about Slake, the new literary quarterly from Laurie Ochoa and Joe Donnelly, the former mainstays of the LA Weekly. The new "slow lit" magazine has pieces about surfing and punk music that don't include any of the cliches about either of those things, and don't include any of the annoying scene-setting ("Surfing is to California what euchre is to Michigan...") you find in too many other places.
The magazine's tone is just one of the things I talked about with Ochoa, Donnelly, and a raft of Slake writers a few weeks ago at The Verdugo, one of my neighborhood hangouts. I've just put out a lightly edited (and long) version of that conversation as a special Off-Ramp podcast. It includes readings from several of the first edition's contributors, including Jamie Brisick's heartbreaking piece about becoming a competitive surfer while his brother was succumbing to heroin addiction, and Jervey Tervalon's eye-opening memoir about being a "poot butt" in South LA in the 1970s. Jonathan Gold tells us about his Slake piece, Fallen Fruit, because he can't read it on the radio -- at least not the ending; John Albert tells us about living with Hep-C; and, among other things, John Powers extolls the virtues and value of bad writing, like The Hardy Boys.
*I'll give you a dollar if you can find an NPR piece about the NYPD that includes the theme song or clips from "NYPD Blue."