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Delve into a mature love story

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Local gay author Wyatt O'Brian Evans will read from his new book March 20 at the DC Center. (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

In a truly distinctive genre of LGBT literature — dubbed here “the stroke love story” — the blow-by-blow steamy sex doesn’t begin until page 115. And by then it will blow the whitewalls off your tires. That’s the welcome character of the new novel, “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart” by gay African-American writer Wyatt O’Brian Evans, a native Washingtonian.

Spoiler alert! This is not a Harlequin romance of the sort where the lovers court and spark and sulk and simmer but then the action suddenly ceases when the tight, straining bodice is finally torn away from the heaving bosom, or the sleek six-pack abs.

Read this novel, yes by all means, for its steamy sex scenes, for they truly sizzle with sexy-cool and super-hot, get-it-on, hard-core action. But first, also get to know the two lead gay characters: fabulously wealthy black entertainment mogul and stand-up comic Wes Kelly, and his lover Antonio Rios, also his fabulously muscled bodyguard. Get to know them first, in other words, as real, three-dimensional, “manly men of color,” real men, facing challenges in the relationship as they are caught up in the undertow and cross-currents of a powerful romance, their lives etched sharply in an intensely erotic love story, not as mere erogenous images.

Get to know them also on Saturday, March 20 when the author — now a resident of Silver Spring, Md. — brings them fully alive as they were formed in his imagination when he gives a book reading at the DC Center.

In an interview exclusive to DC Agenda, Evans acknowledged how much his protagonist Wes embodies his own identity but also that he is no carbon-copy cutout. “Some of me is Wes, some of me is not, but the core of me is,” declared Evans.

“Wes is like me in that he has core values,” pointedly including a belief in God and Jesus Christ, true also for Evans, who puts it bluntly about his own life: “I wouldn’t be here today without a strong belief in God and Jesus Christ,” adding, “I’m very spiritual — I pray several times a day.”

“Wes is like me, very loyal, sometimes to a fault, and he is affectionate — manly affectionate — and not afraid to show it,” said Evans. “I want to blow away all the stereotypes in this novel.” But the author believes he is unlike his creation in key respects, for while “Wes is no fool for love, he can be just a tad needy, and I’m not like that, oh no no no!”

Wyatt points out that Wes “enjoys power.”

“I also enjoy power,” Evans concedes, “but I don’t enjoy it probably as much as Wes does, in other words I’m a softer version of him.” In person, however, “soft” is the very last adjective that would come to mind, for Evans is powerfully gym-built with a cocoa complexion and gleaming pate and laughing eyes exuding sensuality and command, from years spent on the stand-up comic circuit — a career he plans to reactivate later this year.

In addition, Evans has had a long career as a journalist. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from George Washington University — in journalism and in political science — after graduating from D.C.’s McKinley Tech High School. His career in journalism really began in boyhood when, he recalls, “I created my own comic book company, and I would write dialogue, draw and color the panels. … I love to write, and journalism has always fascinated me.”

The novel is a fascinating blend of mature love story, dogged by the real-life challenges of worry over being cheated on, and also questions of vying for who’s on top (literally), as well as a seductively sexy and slam-bam account of nights and days spent in the proverbial sack, when all inhibitions are cast aside in a tangle of naked abandon. So rest assured that the novel is replete with happy endings, even if the ultimate happy ending remains in doubt until the very end — will they wed or will the green-eyed devil drive them apart?

Wes is stalked by a crime-lord eager to exploit suspicions Wes and ‘Tonio have about their mutual fidelity. For issues of monogamy and also partner abuse are just as central to this tale as are real-life credible tensions within the LGBT community, as seen in the relationship between Wes and ‘Tonio in veiled disquiet and even sometimes outright hostility between Latino brown and African-American black in what Evans calls “racism” pure and simple.

The ultimate purpose of the ideology of white supremacy, Evans believes, is “to prevent white genetic annihilation on Earth, a planet on which the overwhelming majority of people are classified as non-white by white-skinned people.”

Evans’ book reading takes place 6-9 p.m., Saturday, March 20 at the DC Center, 1810 14th St., N.W., and copies of ‘Nothing Can Drive Us Apart’ can be purchased then at a $20 special discount price. Copies can also be obtained for $24.95 at wyattobrianevans.net or directly from www.lulu.com/content/833337.

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Autos

Cool compacts: Ford Maverick Lariat, Subaru Crosstrek Wildernes 

The summer fireworks continue with two bangin’ rides

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Ford Maverick Lariat

While the Fourth of July may be over, other fireworks continue with two bangin’ rides: the Ford Maverick pickup and Subaru Crosstrek SUV. Both are affordable compacts, though neither can be considered barebones and each vehicle offers some fresh surprises. 

FORD MAVERICK LARIAT

$35,000

MPG: 22 city/29 highway

0-to-60 mph: 5.9 seconds

Cargo capacity: 33.3 cu. ft.

PROS: Very low price. Peppy. Lotsa storage.

CONS: Spartan base model. Bumpy ride. Pricey options. 

IN A NUTSHELL: When I wrote a few years ago about the Ford Maverick, which was replacing the long-time Ranger, it was a pleasant surprise to learn this new pickup came standard as a hybrid. Such fuel efficiency—42 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway—is still impressive. But this year Ford switched the Maverick’s powertrain availability, which means the hybrid is now a $1,500 option and the more powerful turbo engine comes standard. That’s a downer for fuel-conscious buyers, but a plus for anyone seeking more oomph under the hood. 

Hybrid or no, the starting price of a base-model Maverick is still low: less than $25,000. This makes it the least expensive compact pickup out there. Available only as a four-door crew cab, there’s plenty of passenger and cargo room.The low-slung truck bed—which can carry cargo up to 1,500 pounds—makes loading and unloading easy. And despite its small size, this tough hauler can tow up to 4,000 pounds. Built on the same platform as two popular Ford SUVs—the Escape and Bronco Sport—the Maverick boasts handling more like a sedate sedan than a stiff truck. Well, at least that’s the case on the freeway. In town, the ride is bumpier than expected over potholes and such. 

Three trim levels available: XL, XLT and high-end Lariat, which is what I test drove for a week. The XL is basic—with 17-inch steel wheels, cloth seats and a six-speaker stereo—while the XLT adds alloy wheels, power-locking tailgate and a rear armrest with cupholders. But the Lariat offers unexpected amenities, such as keyless entry, push-button start, synthetic leather upholstery, power-sliding rear window, heated seats, heated steering wheel, wireless charging pad and eight-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo. 

All Mavericks come with forward collision warning that automatically applies braking when necessary. But the Lariat adds adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and evasive steering that kicks in to help avoid collisions. 

For all you alphas, there’s a Tremor Off-Road package, which adds rough-and-rugged features like elevated ground clearance, advanced four-wheel drive, skid plates, off-road suspension, locking rear differential, all-terrain tires, full-size spare, and more aggressive styling and badging. 

Alas, such options add up and can bump the sticker price close to $45,000.

SUBARU CROSSTREK WILDERNESS

$34,000

MPG: 25 city/29 highway

0-to-60 mph: 8.5 seconds 

Cargo capacity: 20 cu. ft.

PROS: Off-road capability. Roomy. Comfy seats.

CONS: Plasticky interior. Bit noisy cabin. No speed demon.

IN A NUTSHELL: Subaru has its own maverick in the showroom: the tiny-but-mighty Crosstrek. Redesigned for 2024, the Crosstrek retains much of its quirky styling and adept handling. That’s a good thing, considering how hot this SUV has been the past few years.  

There’s also a brand-new trim level: the Wilderness. While I was already a big fan of the Crosstrek, the Wilderness ratchets things up a lot. 

Except for the BRZ sports car, all Subarus come standard with all-wheel drive. Yet the off-road prowess of the Crosstrek Wilderness is enhanced by front skid plate, extra drive modes, a tighter suspension and higher ground clearance (9.3 inches versus 8.6 inches on other Crosstreks). No, this is not a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota Land Cruiser, but the Wilderness is no slouch when tackling rutty roads or sandy terrain. 

As for looks, the rugged styling includes hexagonal fog lights, 17-inch black alloy wheels with thick treads, black front and rear bumpers, and black cladding on the wheel arches to protect against scrapes. Faux copper accents—especially on the roof rack and steering wheel—signal that this is not your average Crosstrek. 

With the back seats down, cargo space in all Crosstreks is 55 cubic feet (an impressive two-and-a-half times the area when the seats are up). As for towing, standard Crosstrek models can haul an impressive 1,500 pounds. But the Wilderness can tow even more—a whopping 3,500 pounds. 

Inside, the high roofline makes the cabin feel surprisingly large. The gauges and displays—functional but not glitzy—are the same across the Crosstrek lineup. Notable options include power moonroof, 10-way power driver’s seat and 10-speaker Harmon Kardon audio. 

The main difference between the Wilderness and other Crosstrek trims are the comfortable, water-resistant seats (made of synthetic leather upholstery) and the rubber floor mats emblazoned with the Wilderness logo. 

All in all, this Crosstrek turned out to be a practical urban ride that also brought out my inner Paul Bunyan on weekends. 

Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
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Real Estate

Prepare your rental property for the back-to-school market

Strategic pricing is critical to standing out

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The rental market explodes in August and September as schools return to session.

As we approach August and September, the rental market in Washington, D.C. undergoes a significant transformation. The supercharged demand earlier in the year resulting from the influx of families wanting to move in before the new school year and higher ed students returning for their studies starts to wane. For landlords, this period is a crucial time to ensure their properties are appealing and priced competitively. A well-prepared rental property can make all the difference in securing a successful lease. Here are some tips to help you get your property ready for the back-to-school season.

Be Wise, Compromise: Navigating Pricing Strategies

The adage “Be Wise, Compromise” rings especially true as we head into August and September. It’s a period where strategic pricing becomes critical to stand out among a glut of rentals on the market and the tendency to “fire sale.” The rental market demand starts slowing down in August, but it is taking steep hits by September. If your property remains without a lease by the end of August, consider adjusting your rental price to attract tenants.

Lowering your price during August can be a smart move to avoid vacancies, but don’t wait too long. By September, you might face tougher competition as other landlords drop their prices too. Meeting the market demand head-on with a competitive price ensures you don’t miss out on securing a tenant before the academic year begins.

What Renters with School-Age Children Want

Families with school-age children have specific needs and preferences when searching for a rental property. Here are some key features to focus on:

  1. Proximity to Good Schools: If your property is within a highly regarded school district you are ahead of the game. Make sure the rental ad includes correct links and updated public information on school districts but be cautious from sounding like you are searching only for families with small children. That could run afoul of Fair Housing laws.  
  2. Functional Space: Families need ample space. If your rental property offers enough bedrooms, storage areas, and a functional layout that accommodates the needs of a family with children you might seriously consider that market segment as a desirable tenant.
  3. Outdoor Areas: An ample yard or nearby parks and play areas are big selling points. Outdoor spaces provide areas for children to play and families to enjoy.
  4. Community Amenities: Proximity to community centers, libraries, recreational facilities and splash parks can make your rental more attractive to families than others.

Timing is also critical. Families with school-aged children wish to move in before the school year starts, so aim to have your property ready and listed for rent early.  I recommend counting on 6-8 weeks before a move-in date.. This gives you a better chance of finding those tenants who are planning ahead and interested in signing a lease well before the targeted move-in date, settling in before the first school bell rings.

The D.C. Higher Education Hub

In addition to families with young children heading back to school on Aug. 26, the Washington, D.C., metro area boasts a remarkable concentration of higher education programs. According to a recent discussion on The1A.org, this region is home to an inordinately high number of prestigious educational institutions, including my alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, which has consolidated its graduate programs in D.C. into one location at the old Newseum location on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. All higher education institutions residing here bring a reliable and annual stream of new students in need of housing, particularly before the new academic year approaches.

Attracting Student Tenants: Essential Preparations

With a considerable student population in D.C., attracting this demographic requires understanding their unique needs.  Remember to refrain from sounding like you are searching only for students to avoid going against Fair Housing laws.  

  1. Affordability: Students are often budget-conscious. Offering flexible lease terms, such as 9-month leases that align with the academic year, can be very appealing.
  2. Proximity to Campuses: If the rental is located particularly close to a school, highlighting it in a list of what is nearby in the community can help those searching for rental housing off campus.  The convenience of a short commute is an important factor for students.
  3. Amenities and Furnishings: Students appreciate furnished or partially furnished rental homes, high-speed internet, and study-friendly environments. Ensuring your property has these amenities can give you a competitive edge, particularly if your rental is relatively close to a campus geographically.
  4. Roommate-Friendly Layouts: Properties with multiple bedrooms and shared common areas are ideal for student roommates. If the layout supports a co-living arrangement with a one bedroom to one bathroom ratio, all the better!
  5. Public Transportation Access: Easy access to public transportation is crucial for students who may not have their own vehicles. A short commute on public transportation or by using bike-friendly streets is also very desirable. 

Get Ready for Back to School

August is the perfect time to prepare your rental property for the back-to-school season. Here’s a checklist to ensure you’re ready:

  1. Conduct Maintenance Checks: Ensure all appliances, plumbing, and electrical systems are in top condition. Address any repairs or maintenance issues promptly.
  2. Enhance Curb Appeal: First impressions matter. Make sure the exterior of your property is well-maintained, with trimmed lawns, clean walkways, and fresh exterior paint if needed.
  3. Safety Upgrades: Install or upgrade smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and ensure a fire extinguisher is wall-mounted and readily accessible in the kitchen.
  4. Deep Cleaning: A thorough cleaning can make your property shine. Consider hiring professionals to ensure every corner is spotless including windows.
  5. Marketing and Listings: Update your property listings with attractive photos and detailed descriptions. 

The Rental Market Dynamics: August and September

Understanding the rental market dynamics during August and September can help you strategize effectively. August typically sees a slowdown, but September’s drop in demand means if rental properties have not yet closed the deal on a rental agreement, you will need a sense of urgency to price it right to rent.

Lowering your price slightly or with a stair-step approach every few weeks starting at the end of August can help attract those prospective tenants who are still looking and those making last-minute decisions on their housing needs. 

Preparing your rental property for the back-to-school season in Washington, D.C. involves a combination of strategic pricing, understanding tenant needs, and ensuring your property is in top condition. By focusing on strategic pricing you can navigate the market dynamics of August and September successfully. Remember, be wise and compromise where necessary to ensure your property stands out and attracts those tenants who reach the peak of their search in late summer, just in time for the academic year.

(This article was written with some assistance from AI.)

Scott Bloom is owner and Senior Property Manager, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, go to ColumbiaPM.com.

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Dining

Union Market’s Last Call Bar a welcoming oasis for all

Mixologist Britt Weaver expresses her pride and identity every day

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Britt Weaver is head mixologist at Last Call Bar.

Amid the development of the fast-growing Union Market district, spanning dozens of eateries (including a duo of Michelin stars), embracing and inclusive spaces are tough to come by. Last Call Bar is one of those — and head mixologist and proud member of the LGBTQ community Britt Weaver is making sure this divey spot stays that way.

While buzzy restaurants take the spotlight, Weaver and Last Call are embracing the different.

“I’ve made it a personal mission to ensure that the bar continues to be a place where everyone feels welcomed and accepted,” she says. “Being behind the bar, I see a lot of people — I try to make sure every guest feels safe, seen, and cared for when they visit.”

Last Call exudes a laid-back spirit, aiming to fill that neighborhood-style gap that might be missing among prix-fixe tasting menus and shiny boutiques. Eccentric décor that includes painted lockers, old posters hung from the ceiling, artfully peeling paint, and arcade games feeds into the homey spirit. Patrons are welcome to bring in stickers and slap them on the bar, adding even more personality to the space.

Launched in 2019 serving sub-$10 drinks and having survived the pandemic, Last Call still maintains an unconventional vibe that extends to the menu. It’s one of the few bars that serves flavor-changing Jello shots, with the option to add nostalgia-inducing pop rocks; as well as an hour-long “teeny tiny ‘tini hour” for those who want a taste but not an entire glassful of liquor. Keeping things cool: koozies are also for sale. The food menu’s grown since opening, with sandwiches in addition to bags of chips and shareable dips.

Last Call welcomed Weaver in 2023. While working as a bartender during grad school, Weaver was drawn to the excitement of the bar scene. After COVID, she says, she leaned into her career in the hospitality industry.

In the freewheeling, demanding bartending industry, Weaver has fought to be seen.

“Previous jobs and ownership teams have urged me to conceal my identity, but that is something I refuse to do. It is so incredibly important for me to be able to express my pride and identity every day,” she says.

Last Call has a pedigree from its ally owner Gina Chersevani, who also runs decade-old Buffalo and Bergen stall inside Union Market and a sister Buffalo and Bergen on Capitol Hill. Chersevani is deeply rooted in the D.C. hospitality industry, which Weaver says has a culture that celebrates creativity and expression.

Chersevani ensures that “I’ve been celebrated and encouraged to express my identity,” says Weaver. “She has given me the freedom to cultivate a space that is welcoming of the LGBTQ+ community while also still remaining true to the Last Call spirit.” This year, during Pride month, Chersevani launched a Pride punch card, in which patrons who visited all of her spots won free drinks.

Weaver further notes that being proud of her identity and committing to it behind the bar and in the fast-paced service industry “opens more space for other LGBTQ+ industry members to feel safe to express their own identities. Visibility is so critical in making safe spaces for the queer community.”

Looking forward, Weaver remains steadfast in her commitment to learning and growing in the space and in D.C. She promises that Last Call Bar has plenty of events and programming, new cocktail menus, and a welcoming community spirit.

To celebrate the summer, Weaver offered a cocktail recipe to have at home with friends: Strawberry Piña Colada.

Ingredients

· 2 ounces silver rum

· 1 ounce strawberry purée

· 1 ounce fresh pineapple juice

· 1 ounce coconut milk

· .5 ounce lime juice

Combine all ingredients, then shake. Serve in a Collins glass, over crushed ice, and

garnish as desired.

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