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Queery: Alex Nicholson

The Servicemembers United director answers 20 gay questions

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Blade file photos by Michael Key

Alex Nicholson is an overachiever and self-described workaholic.

At just 29, he’s had an Army career, earned a college degree and master’s (he’s finishing up his political science Ph. D program now), learned four languages besides English, lived abroad and made enough money that he can donate his salary back to Servicemembers United, the organization for which he’s executive director.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Nicholson had been in the Army working as an interrogator at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona for just a year when he was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2002. He’d written a letter in Portuguese to his former boyfriend — a Brazilian he’d met while living in Miami — and a colleague in his unit discovered it. It was an intelligence unit and she also happened to know Portuguese.

“For years I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment about it,” Nicholson says. “I didn’t know nearly what I know now about the issue then so I’ve gradually been able to put that experience into a broader perspective … It’s not really something to be ashamed of more than I was just a player caught up in a political game.”

Veterans Day, coming up Thursday, brings mixed emotions. Nicholson says he likes to use the day to bring focus to non-LGBT vet issues that also affect discharged gays.

“I really try to step back and not politicize it,” he says.

The Columbia, S.C., native went back to school, spent a year learning Arabic in Egypt on a Defense Department fellowship, and eventually began his work on “Don’t Ask” repeal activism.

He enjoys his work so much he says it doesn’t feel like work.

“I probably don’t need as much leisure time as most people because work for me is exciting, fun and exhilarating. I get a thrill out of lobbying and I really enjoy the work I do.”

But he would eventually like to find a relationship, he says. For now, he’s content unwinding with his TV favorites like “Judge Judy” and “The Golden Girls.”

Nicholson lives in Rosslyn.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

Since age 16. Mother.

Who’s your gay hero?

She’s not gay, but Julia Sugarbaker.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

Tie between Nation (past) and Lizard Lounge (past). Now, ActiveDuty Thursdays at Nellie’s – DC’s gay military night.

What’s your dream gay wedding?

Never been turned on by the thought of a big gay wedding.

What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?

Reducing and deterring violent crime.

What historical outcome would you change?

The introduction of slavery to the U.S.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Besides my pilgrimage to the “Golden Girls” home at MGM Studios, probably partying with celebs every weekend in the VIP lounge at Crobar Miami. Good times. Glad they’re over.

On what do you insist?

Truth and accuracy.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“Was that a sonic boom over DC or Arlington at 7:35 this morning? Anyone else hear that? It woke me up from a dead sleep and scared the dickens out of me.” (Turned out to be the F-18 flyover for the Marine Corps Marathon.)

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“I Am Not An Activist!: One Activist’s Journey”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

At this stage in my life, I certainly wouldn’t change a thing.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

No comment.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

In civil rights activism, I’ve come to learn the higher the paycheck the lower the level of competence and effectiveness.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Ouch!

What gay stereotype annoys you most?

Show tunes

What’s your favorite gay movie?

“Pageant”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

No elbows on the table.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

The Nobel Prize for peace.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

What I really wanted to be doing at 28 so I could get a head start on it (note: what I’m doing now isn’t it).

Why Washington?

It’s a pleasant city with a reasonable climate, most people you meet here are doing something interesting and important, and it’s the power center of the globe.

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Real Estate

Renovations in the time of COVID

Clean and de-clutter your home before listing

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cleaning house, gay news, Washington Blade

What do I need to do to make my house pretty and ready to sell in the time of COVID?  Some people are telling me that I don’t have to do anything, that it is a sellers’ market. Well, maybe. Do you know your market? Do you know the idiosyncrasies of your market? In many places, homes are flying off the market “as-is.” But in many places a much more nuanced home is getting the attention.

I am seeing more movement in the single-family home market. So, a seller might get by with doing basic repairs and some sprucing up/de-cluttering to get their house ready for the market. Then again, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so when in doubt, clean it out. (Paint it out, stage it out, etc.)

If you want to do renovations, you might want to get estimates from multiple sources, and see who gets you the best deal. I am hearing some stories that there is a backlog in the supply chain for hardwood and some other materials. Also, many contractors are booked up right now, or have been scheduled to get work done for months now. If timing is going to be an important part of the puzzle, you might want to double check that the work can get done when you need it to be done, especially if you live in a building where you have to get permission to use elevators, do work between certain hours of the day, etc.

At the very least, find a good house cleaner to get in and do a good job on the type of cleaning that is not done on a normal basis. For many reasons. In the time of a pandemic, cleanliness is almost the number one thing people are looking at. Also, we all know that the carpets get vacuumed, the windows get cleaned, and the shelves get dusted. But what about deep in the corners and under the counters and in the air vents and filters?

That being said, there seems to be a shortage of homes on the market right now for the amount of buyers that are looking. A lucky seller right now might not have to do a total renovation and might want to leave some decisions to the next buyer, but I would still advise that they err on the side of cleaning, de-cluttering, and getting it photo ready to maximize their return on their investment.

 

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with The Rutstein Group at Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Real estate opportunity still knocking

Short- and long-term benefits for both sellers and buyers

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COVID-19 real estate market, gay news, Washington Blade

The last year has been challenging across the board, but one area that has continued to thrive is the real estate market.

Low interest rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted people to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. As of late, the housing market is chock full of opportunities for both sellers and buyers. Regardless of whether one is taking the leap into homeownership for the first time or prepping to downsize for retirement, this is a market anyone and everyone should consider tapping into.

There has never been a better time to sell your home than right now. Thanks largely to low interest rates, buyer demand continues to soar. At the same time, inventory is historically low as many would-be sellers have opted to stay put in the last year. According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house is now receiving 4.1 offers after just 20 days on the market. Buyers are clearly eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of inventory available, they’re often entering bidding wars. This is one of the factors keeping home prices strong and giving sellers leverage in the negotiation process.

Homeowners who are in a position to sell shouldn’t wait to make their move. As our world inches closer to normal, more inventory will be hitting the market soon. By listing this spring, you will get your house on the market when conditions are still most favorable. With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn a greater profit on their houses and sell them quickly in the fast-paced spring market. Not to mention the opportunity to get by with that older water heater and home systems at large. Many buyers in this area tend to waive contingencies on their offer, clearing the path to a smoother and quicker closing.

While the challenges for buyers are very real, there is one massive factor to keep buyers motivated: interest rates. We’re continuing to see historically low averages in interest rates, and those rates are only projected to tick back upwards in the coming years. Last year saw interest rates come significantly down, and we’re still seeing an average of 3% on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Compare that to just three years ago when we were a whole 1.5% higher with averages of 4.5%.

With low interest rates nationally and the D.C. area’s strong home value appreciation rates, the investment of homeownership is a real possibility for more people. Over the span of the next five years, homeowners in the District are presented with a great opportunity to grow their net worth by more than $100,000 based on the current average sales price of $699,732 and projected rates of appreciation over the next five years. These conditions won’t last forever though, so take advantage of the opportunity when you can.

After a year of shifting sands, the housing market has emerged stronger than ever – with some unusual quirks. Opportunity is lending itself to short- and long-term benefits for both sellers and buyers. If your situation allows, this market may provide uniquely profitable opportunities for your real estate transaction. For more information or to talk about buying or selling real estate, give me a call at 571-439-2515.

 

Zach Twigg is a licensed Realtor in D.C. and Virginia with Bediz Group, LLC at Keller Williams Capital Properties. Call or text him at 571-439-2515, email him at [email protected], or follow him on Instagram and Facebook

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Real Estate

How and why to build a raised garden bed

Accessibility, ideal soil conditions guarantee success

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Fairly easy to construct and even easier to maintain, raised garden beds are a great way to raise plants and vegetables in the comfort and convenience of your backyard.

In a recent episode of the Exmark Original Series, “Done-in-A-Weekend-Extreme,” landscape designer and show host, Doug Scott, spoke to organic gardener Joe Lamp’l of “Growing a Greener World” about the ins and outs of raised garden beds.

Here are some of the top insights and tips Lamp’l shared.

• Why use raised garden beds? A raised garden bed can help facilitate the ideal growing environment, as most people don’t have that perfect soil naturally in their yard. Their accessibility makes them easier to work in and maintain. Plus, they’re a nice architectural design element in any landscape.

• What’s the ideal size? The main rule of the thumb applies to width. The bed should be no wider than 4 feet, as you never want to compact the soil when working. Length however, is based on personal preference and needs. As far as height is concerned, you want the roots to be able to grow out and down as much as possible — 6-inches at minimum. While 12-inches is common, anything higher is a bonus.

• What materials work best? Treated lumber is the most readily available and economical material and will likely last the longest, however, being an organic gardener Lamp’l prefers untreated hardwood, as it lasts almost as long and doesn’t contain chemicals. Other materials you have around the home and yard, such as rocks, old tubs, etc., can work too.

• Where’s the best location? Build your raised garden bed on level ground, in full sun exposure near a water supply.
DIY Instructions:
To build a 10-foot x 4-foot x 18-inch raised bed, you’ll need:

• Nine 6-inch x 6-inch x 12-foot cedar timbers
• Tape measure, t-square and marking pencil
• A saw and extension cord
• One box of 10-inch heavy-duty exterior wood screws
• Ten 24-inch x 1/2-inch rebar stakes
• Twenty 10-inch galvanized timber spikes
• Sledgehammer
• Impact drill and long drill bit
• Level
• Hammer
• Shovels
• Hardware cloth, wire cutters and fence staples
• Work gloves, safety glasses and ear plugs
• Wheelbarrow (to transport soil)

1. Begin by cutting six, 6 x 6 timbers, each measuring 10-feet 6-inches in length. And six, 6 x 6 timbers, each measuring 4-feet 6-inches in length. Drill rebar holes in each timber.

2. Once the first layer of bed has been placed, leveled and squared in your desired location, fasten the corners using 10-inch wood screws. Secure the entire layer to the ground with 10 pieces of rebar.

3. Place the second layer of timbers, staggering the corners and fastening them with wood screws. Secure this layer to the first with ten 10-inch galvanized spikes.

4. Install galvanized cloth to prevent burrowing pests from eating earthworms and destroying plants.

5. Place the third layer of timbers (following above directions.)

6. Fill with soil and plants.

For more tips and complete build instructions, check out “How to Build Raised Garden Beds” by visiting Exmark.com/backyard. Exmark’s Backyard Life is part of a unique multimedia destination with a focus on helping homeowners make the most of their backyard. There you can also access other series, including “Prime Cuts” and “Dream Yards.”

For an amazing crop this season, take a cue from the professionals and build a raised garden bed for best results.

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