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Social agenda for March 5

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Friday, March 5

Join the DC Front Runners for their First Friday Happy Hour from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Green Lantern, located at 1335 Green Court, N.W.

Participate in Gay District from 8:30-10:30 p.m. at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church. Gay District is a weekly, non-church affiliated discussion and social group for GBTQ men between 18 and 35. The group meets at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church (1820 Connecticut Ave., N.W., just north of Dupont Circle. For more information, e-mail [email protected]

Raw, held from 10 p.m.-3 a.m., returns to the Green Lantern, 1335 Green Court, N.W. Raw is an electro-disco party on the first Friday of each month at the Green Lantern, inspired by gay parties of the early 80s. Join your host, Karl Marks, and resident DJs, Shea and Bil, for some retro fun, fog, lasers, strobe lights and throbbing music. Free entry before 11 p.m., cover is just $3 after that.

Town Danceboutique, located at 2009 8th St., N.W., presents its “So, you think you’re a drag queen?” competition. Doors open at 10 p.m. with the drag show/contest at 10:30 p.m. Contestants must arrive at the club by 10 p.m. (no later than 10:15) and bring a CD with a song you want to perform. Makeup should be done before your arrival. The audience decides the winner with a grand prize of $250.

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, holds its March Post-Valentine Sweet & Sentimental Social. To participate, visit www.burgundycrescent.org.

Saturday, March 6

Join your hosts and DJs Richard Morel and Bob Mould for Blowoff at the 9:30 club, located at 815 V St., N.W. Doors open at 11:30 p.m. with a $12 cover.

DC Metro LGBT IT Professionals meets from 10-11 a.m. at SteamCafe, 17th & R streets. RSVP at meetup.com at: http://www.meetup.com/GayDigerati/

Thom Bierdz will create a painting to be auctioned off to support Out for Work on Saturday, March 6 from 6-9 p.m. at MOVA Lounge (formerly Halo) at 1435 P St., N.W. Bierdz is the first openly gay actor to play an openly gay character, Phillip Chancellor III, on CBS’ “The Young & the Restless.”

EFF Winter Dance Party is held from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar, 555 23rd St., South Arlington, Va. Party is 21+. There is a $5 cover, which benefits Capital Pride.

The March edition of the monthly gear/fetish party CODE at Motley Bar above EFN Lounge, 1318 9th St., N.W., 9 p.m.-3 a.m., will feature DJ Shea Van Horn. Admission is $10. Code is an 18+ event. Gear, rubber, skin, uniform or leather dress code will be strictly enforced.

JAM @ MOVA Lounge at 1435 P St., N.W., 9 p.m. – 3 a.m. Join B.O.I. and the ladies of Mixology as they take over MOVA Lounge. Come out and mingle, dance, drink or chill.

In recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Food & Friends will host a free community event 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Riggs LaSalle Community Center, 501 Riggs Rd., N.E. Free shuttle from the Fort Totten Metro Station (on the Red, Green-Yellow Lines). This free community event is open to all ages and includes free HIV testing and counseling, educational workshops and free food and entertainment.

DCist.com holds its fourth annual DCist Exposed Photography Show at Long View Gallery, March 6-21. Out of more than 1,000 entries submitted through Flickr.com, 47 winning images were selected by a panel to be included in this year’s DCist Exposed exhibit. This year’s opening reception will be Saturday, 6-10 p.m., $5 at the door. Long View Gallery is located at 1234 9th St., N.W., just a few blocks from the Mt. Vernon/Convention Center Metro.

A Night Out at Silo Point, a benefit for Moveable Feast. Built in 1923, the B&O Railroad grain terminal in Baltimore was the biggest and fastest grain elevator in the world. Today, it’s a contemporary 24-story condo tower rising above the Inner Harbor. Tour the building and help Moveable Feast while you’re at it — food and cocktails, dance to DJ D-Rizzo and tour six decorated models, 8 p.m.-12 a.m., 1200 Steuart St., Baltimore. Tickets are $45 per person or $75 per couple, purchase online at mfeast.org.

Sunday, March 7

Join the DC Center at Town Danceboutique, 2009 8th St., N.W., for the 5th Annual Oscar celebration, “Glamour, Glitter, & Gold.” Doors open at 7 p.m.; general admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. V.I.P. admission, $100. Purchase tickets at thedccenter.org or for more information e-mail [email protected]

AZÚCAR DC at EFN Lounge, 1318 9th St., N.W., 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Ginger Glamour joins the Queen of the House Alondra St. Cartier on the Azúcar stage and DJ Michael Brandon plays your favorite hits. Always 18 to dance, 21 to drink.

The Oscars at Black Fox Lounge. Black Fox is located two blocks north of Dupont Circle on Connecticut Avenue, between R and S Streets. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres, black tie optional. Prizes for Best Dressed Male and Best Dressed Female. 8-11:30 p.m. No cover.

Thom Bierdz will be signing copies of “Forgiving Troy,” at the Books-A-Million, Dupont Circle location from 3-5 p.m.

Monday, March 8

GLBT Youth Support Group will meet from 4:30-6 p.m. at the GW Center Clinic, 1922 F St., N.W., Suite 103.

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, has volunteer opportunities for Food & Friends and for the HRC phone banks. To participate, visit www.burgundycrescent.org.

Tuesday, March 9

Town Danceboutique, located at 2009 8th St., N.W., presents “Speakeasy.” The topic is “American Idol: Stories about brushes with fame.” Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. $10 cover, 21+. To sign up or for more info visit speakeasydc.com.

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, volunteers today for the Safer Sex Kit Packing Program. To participate, visit www.burgundycrescent.org.

Wednesday, March 10

Hollaback Transgender Support Group meets from 6:30-8 p.m. in the DC Center Activity Room. Hollaback is a program of the DC Community AIDS Network. The DC Center is located at 1810 14th St., N.W., convenient to the U Street/Cardozo Metro stop, and on the 14th Street bus lines.

Thursday, March 11

Whitman Walker: “Ready for Change” Harm Reduction Group, MRC, 2301 MLK Ave., S.E. from 3-5 p.m.

Dining Out for Life, an annual benefit for Food & Friends is held tonight at various restaurants around the city that donate a percentage of their take to charity. The Burgundy Crescent has related volunteer opportunities available. To participate, visit foodandfriends.org or burgundycrescent.org.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Superstar Drag Revue

Bombalicious Eklaver leads the show at Selina Rooftop

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Superstar Drag Review (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bombalicious Eklaver held a Superstar Drag Revue at the Selina Hotel Rooftop on Friday, Nov. 25. DJ Juba provided the music.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

Memoir reveals gay writer’s struggle with homelessness, rape

‘Place Called Home’ a powerful indictment of foster care system

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(Book cover image courtesy Legacy Lit/Hachette)

A Place Called Home: A Memoir
By David Ambroz
c. 2022, Legacy Lit/Hachette
$30/384 pages

For David Ambroz, 42, author of the stunning new memoir “A Place Called Home,” one of his childhood recollections is of himself and his siblings walking with Mary, their mother, on a freezing Christmas morning in New York City.

Today, Ambroz, who is gay and a foster parent, is a poverty and child welfare expert and the head of Community Engagement (West) for Amazon.

But, on that morning, Ambroz remembers, when he was five, he and his seven-year-old sister Jessica and six-year-old brother Alex were freezing. Mary, their mother was severely mentally ill. They were homeless.

Ambroz draws you into his searing memoir with his first sentence. “I’m hungry,” he writes in the simple, frightened, perceptive voice of a malnourished, shivering little boy.

As it got dark and colder, Ambroz recalls, he walked with his family, wearing “clownishly large” sneakers “plucked from the trash.” 

Five-year-old Ambroz remembers that the night before his family got lucky. They had dinner (mac and cheese) at a church “with a sermon on the side.”  

“We heard the story of the three kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus,” Ambroz writes.

But the next day they’re still homeless and hungry. Talk about no room at the inn.

Young Ambroz doesn’t know the word “death,” but he (literally) worries that he and his family will die. Frozen, hungry and invisible to uncaring passersby.

Ambroz’s mom, a nurse, is occasionally employed and able to house her family in dilapidated apartments. But she’s soon ensnared by her mental illness, unable to work. Then, her family is homeless again.

Until, he was 12, Ambroz and his siblings were abused and neglected by their mother.

Ambroz doesn’t know as a young boy that he’s gay. But, he can tell he’s different. Instead of playing street games with the other kids, Ambroz likes to play “doctor” with another boy in the neighborhood.

Mary tells him being gay is sinful and that you’ll die from AIDS if you’re queer.

His mother, having decided that he’s Jewish, makes Ambroz undergo a badly botched circumcision. At one point, she beats him so badly that he falls down a flight of stairs.

At 12, Ambroz reports this abuse to the authorities and he’s placed into the foster care system.

If you think this country’s foster care system is a safe haven for our nation’s 450,000 kids in foster care, Ambroz will swiftly cut through that misperception.

From ages 12 to 17, Ambroz is ricocheted through a series of abusive, homophobic foster placements.

One set of foster parents try to make him more “macho,” rent him out to work for free for their friends and withhold food from him. At another placement, a counselor watches and does nothing as other kids beat him while hurling gay slurs.

Thankfully, Ambroz meets Holly and Steve who become fabulous foster parents. Ambroz has been abused and hungry for so long he finds it hard to understand that he can eat whatever he wants at their home.

Through grit, hard work and his intelligence, Ambroz earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College, was an intern at the White House and graduated from the UCLA School of Law. Before obtaining his position at Amazon, he led Corporate Social Responsibility for Walt Disney Television.

But none of this came easily for him. Coming out was hard for many LGBTQ people in the 1990s. It was particularly difficult for Ambroz.

In college, Ambroz is deeply closeted. He’s ashamed to reveal anything about his past (growing up homeless and in foster care) and his sexuality. 

At one point, he’s watching TV, along with other appalled students, as the news comes on about Matthew Shepard being murdered because he was gay. Ambroz can see that everyone is enraged and terrified by this hate crime. Yet, he’s too ashamed to reveal anything of his sexuality.

Over Christmas vacation, Ambroz decides it’s time to explore his sexuality.

Telling no one, Ambroz takes a train to Miami. There, he goes home with a man (who he meets on a bus) who rapes him.

“I run in no particular direction just away from this monster,” he recalls. “When I get back to my hotel room, I’m bleeding…I order food delivered but can’t eat any of it.”

“A Place Called Home” has the power of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”

Ambroz’s writing becomes less powerful when he delves into the weeds of policy. But this is a minor quibble.

Ambroz is a superb storyteller. Unless you lack a heartbeat, you can’t read “A Place Called Home” without wanting to do something to change our foster care system. 

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Books

New book explores impact of family secrets

Her father was hiding his sexual orientation

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(Book cover image courtesy HarperOne)

The Family Outing: A Memoir
By Jessi Hempel
c. 2022, HarperOne
$27.99/320 pages

Don’t tell the children.

For most families in America in the last century, that was the maxim to live by: the kids are on a need-to-know basis and since they’re kids, they don’t need to know. And so what did you miss? Did you know about familial philanthropy, rebellion, embarrassment, poverty? As in the new memoir, “The Family Outing” by Jessi Hempel, did secrets between parent and child run both ways?

“What happened to me?”

That’s the big question Jessi Hampel had after many therapy sessions to rid herself of a recurring nightmare. She had plenty of good memories. Her recollection of growing up in a secure family with two siblings was sharp, wasn’t it?

She thought so – until she started what she called “The Project.”

With permission from her parents and siblings, Hempel set up Skype and Zoom sessions and did one-on-one interviews with her family, to try to understand why her parents divorced, why her brother kept mostly to himself, how the family dynamics went awry, why her sister kept her distance, and how secrets messed everything up.

Hempel’s father had an inkling as a young man that he was gay, but his own father counseled him to hide it. When he met the woman who would eventually be his wife, he was delighted to become a husband and father, as long as he could sustain it.

Years before, Hempel’s mother was your typical 1960s teenager with a job at a local store, a crush on a slightly older co-worker and, coincidentally, a serial killer loose near her Michigan neighborhood. Just after the killer was caught, she realized that the co-worker she’d innocently flirted with might’ve been the killer’s accomplice.

For nearly the rest of her life, she watched her back.

One secret, one we-don’t-discuss-it, and a young-adult Hempel was holding something close herself. What else didn’t she know? Why did she and her siblings feel the need for distance? She was trying to figure things out when the family imploded.

Ever had a dream that won’t stop visiting every night? That’s where author Jessi Hempel starts this memoir, and it’s the perfect launching point for “The Family Outing.”

Just prepare yourself. The next step has Hempel telling her mother’s tale for which, at the risk of being a spoiler, you’ll want to leave the lights on. This account will leave readers good and well hooked, and ready for the rest of what turns out to be quite a detective story.

And yet, it’s a ways away from the Sherlockian. Readers know what’s ahead, we know the score before we get there, but the entwining of five separate lives in a fact-finding mission makes this book feel as though it has a surprise at every turn.

Sometimes, it’s a good surprise. Sometimes, it’s a bad one.

A happily minimized amount of profanity and a total lack of overtness make “The Family Outing” a book you can share with almost anyone, adult, or ally. Read it, and you’ll be wanting to tell everyone.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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