For many gays who grew up in conservative religious households, going home for the holidays can be a tough notion.
Michael Amesquita was out among friends in college but having been raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in a small town in Illinois where he says he literally didn’t know one other gay person, coming out to everyone in his life was a tough prospect especially because until a few years ago, he was still active in his church.
“Well, they’ve quit asking if I’m seeing any girls,” the 38-year-old Sterling, Ill., native says of his family with a chuckle. “It’s kind of the big elephant in the closet but I’m sure that will change when I bring somebody home for Christmas.”
Amesquita is assistant director of the summer housing program at George Washington University, a year-round position that involves coordinating the schedules of about 19,000 people who stay on campus for varying lengths of time each summer. After many years in Las Vegas, Amesquita came to Washington in 2007 to look for graduate schools and stayed. He came out fully in 2009 and found support in Affirmation (a gay Mormon group) and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, which has its holiday show this weekend (details at gmcw.org).
Amesquita is single and lives in the Logan Circle area. He enjoys volleyball, kickball, singing, camping and biking in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have two “coming outs.” I came out to my fraternity brother and everyone at college back in 2003 but didn’t start coming out to my family and church till December 2009. The hardest person would be my father. He is very much an introvert and I knew it would be hard to gauge his reaction.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
There are so many wonderful people who champion our cause. I belong to two organizations that I care about deeply — Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Family and Friends and The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. Both have histories that go back more than 30 years. Thirty years of standing up for equality and paving the way so we can be where we are today.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
When I do go out I have always had a good time at Town but that could be the Vegas in me. Usually it is a karaoke bar with buddies or a game night with friends and drinks. Anywhere with friends.
Describe your dream wedding.
Either on the beach with the ocean next to us or in the Utah mountains with the cornucopia of colors of fall. In either case it would be with all my loved ones.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
What historical outcome would you change?
The assassination of Kennedy. I would really like to see what kind of impact he could have had in the long run.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
When I was in Vegas I worked at the MGM and was lucky enough to be able to check-in the VIPs for the ESPYs and Billboards for two years. I got to chat it up with Drew Breeze, R. Kelly, Avril Lavigne, etc. as they checked in. Most of them were really nice and Kathy Griffin was absolutely hysterical.
On what do you insist?
That people have integrity and be authentic. There just isn’t time to waste on people who spend time putting on an image or false facade. When I do find friends who are true to themselves and have good values I hold on tight.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
It was picture of my Holland America Tour Director vest with all these pins from the various cities in Alaska. So much flair!
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Pioneering My Own Faith: A Gay Mormon’s Story”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Stay the same. Changing people from LGBT to straight would be like taking all the color out of the world.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe we have a father in heaven that loves us all and wants us all to return back to him.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Keep moving forward on behalf of all LGBT people.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Definitely for my family and loved ones. Probably for being the sole winner of Mega Bucks!
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That LGBT people do not play sports.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“The Birdcage.” My straight fraternity brother actually told me about it in college.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Saying something after someone sneezes.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I just completed my master’s this year so I have my eye on a Ph.D. in the future.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That high school doesn’t really matter and life begins in college.
Came to check out graduate schools and I have stayed this long because of all that D.C. has to offer.
Investing in real estate: What you need to know
From REITs to flips, tips for getting started
In many cases, buying or selling a home is a very personal experience. Many people buy a home with the intention of living there – making memories, building a family, becoming part of a community. The same is true of sellers. Selling a home, in many cases, is simultaneously difficult and exciting – it means the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. While the majority of buying and selling experiences may be personal – increasingly, others in the market are interested in real estate not just to find a home, but also to make a great investment.
In our current market, it’s easy to see why real estate can often end up being quite a profitable investment. In 2021, sellers often saw huge profits on the sale of real estate – but even in years where profits aren’t quite as significant as this year, real estate has often proven to be a sound and reliable long-term investment strategy. Real estate investments can add diversification to your portfolio, and a very successful venture, particularly if you buy and sell when the circumstances are right.
Over the last several years, many gay neighborhoods around the country have shown steady appreciation, leading investors, and particularly LGBTQ investors, to consider whether the time is right to consider adding real estate to their investment portfolio. For those considering real estate as an investment strategy, here are a few helpful tips:
• Consider REITs: For those just getting started with real estate investment, Real Estate Investment Trusts, or “REITs” for short, might be a good option. These provide the opportunity to invest in real estate without owning the physical real estate yourself. They are often compared to mutual funds, and you invest in a company, a REIT, which owns commercial real estate like office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces. Generally, REITs pay high dividends, which make them a popular investment in retirement, as well as for investors not wanting to own one particular piece of property.
• Consider investing in rental properties: Rental income can often be a steady, reliable source of income if you do your due diligence researching the property itself, the surrounding neighborhood, and the potential community of renters. While maintaining a rental property will certainly require some investment of time and energy on your part, it can be a profitable long-term investment and one that is appealing to many people.
• Put your skills to work: If you have a skill set that includes being able to renovate and upgrade homes – or if you know a trusted person or team of people who does, flipping a home that could use some renovation can be quite a profitable investment indeed. Getting a home that could use some extra TLC at a good price and updating it can result in a sales price that is significantly higher than the purchase price. This can certainly be a very good investment – and a fulfilling project too.
• Be willing to listen and learn: When trying something new, it is almost always helpful to talk to those with experience in that area. Investing in real estate is no different. Having a mentor who can give you some tips and advice from their own experience is invaluable.
• Get to know the neighborhood: When making any real estate decision, whether you’re going to live in a home yourself or purchase property for investment purposes, knowing the neighborhood and community you’re interested in is important. A key part of that will be finding a real estate agent who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in, and who understands the market in that area. This can make all the difference between a smooth and successful process, and a stressful one.
(At GayRealEstate.com, we are dedicated to our mission of connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers with talented, knowledgeable, and experienced real estate agents across the country who can help them to achieve their real estate goals. Whether you’re interested in buying or selling a home that you live in personally, or buying and selling for investment purposes, we can connect you with an agent who knows and loves the community, and who can help you achieve your goals. Contact us at any time. We look forward to helping you soon.)
Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at
303-378-5526 or [email protected].
Bistro du Jour transports you from Wharf to Seine
New casually sophisticated restaurant a welcoming, inclusive space
Delights run morning to night at The Wharf’s new Bistro du Jour, a casually sophisticated French outpost sliding into a prime waterfront space.
Courtesy of gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, this new restaurant flaunts a menu born from a Seine-side bistro, serving coffee in the morning hours to Champagne in the evening. Its all-day culinary oeuvre begins with coffee (from La Colombe) and omelettes, and ends with items like a towering and meaty bi-patty cheeseburger L’Americain.
Taking over the sweet spot vacated by Dolcezza, Bistro du Jour is a sister to Mi Vida and The Grill, KNEAD group’s two other Southwest waterfront locales. The group also runs several other formal and large-format restaurants they have populated across the city.
Why bring French to the Wharf?
“We have been here for almost four years and we knew what the area was missing and acted on it,” says one of the co-owners, Jason Berry. “We wanted something where people could come in at all hours of the day and find something they wanted, from coffee and pastry to a full-on sit down at night.”
The Bistro opens at 7:30 a.m. serving that local La Colombe coffee, plus flaky, buttery pastries from KNEAD’s partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Breakfast service starts at 8 a.m. with brioche doughnuts, quiches, a “massive” Belgian waffle, and French toast topped with a blueberry compote and sweetened whipped cream.
Executive Chef Treveen Dove – transferred after three years at another KNEAD spot, Succotash Prime) – oversees the offerings, a tour of the “greatest hits” of a typical Parisian bistro.
“Oeufs Sur Le Plat is to die for, with the griddled buttered bread topped with a sunny side up egg, sautéed mushrooms and a Mornay sauce… It’s so rich and delicious.”
By 11 a.m., the Bistro transitions to other traditional French fare, like French onion soup, tuna Niçoise salad, steak frites, mussels in a white wine and garlic butter, and a croque madame sandwich dripping with gruyere and creamy Bechamel. One unique offering is whipped brown butter with radishes and crostinis. There are also gougeres, warm cheese puffs shot through with gruyere.
Come 4 p.m., the dinner menu fills out even more, with additional dinner items confit de canard (duck leg with green lentils and red wine shallots); and a robust, earthy coq au vin (braised chicken with bacon, mushrooms and mashed potatoes); and a lamb shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes that would be at home on a French Alps farm.
Due to space limitations, the Bistro lacks a sit-down bar. Yet beverage director Darlin Kulla, who has been a part of the KNEAD family for more than four years, has put together a focused menu of six craft cocktails. You’ll find not only a French 75 (gin, lemon verbena, lemon, bubbles), but also a Manhattan and a “Champs Elysees” with cognac, chartreuse, lemon, and bitters.
The bar itself carries only one brand of each liquor: one gin, rum, and vodka. “ If you want vodka, you’re having Grey Goose,” notes Reg with a smile.
Given the cuisine, there is a considerable French wine list topping 60 bottles, leaning heavily on Champagne and sparkling wine. There are almost 20 red, white, rose, and Champagne options by the glass and carafe, as well. The bar rounds out its stock with French aperitifs and bottled beer.
Notably, the majority of the restaurant’s seating is situated on the building’s exterior, in a newly constructed all-season patio enclosure with almost 70 seats. The owners designed the space to maximize waterfront views, capacity, and flexibility. During warmer days, the Potomac breeze is welcome to flutter around coffee-sippers; in the colder months, the windows roll down for a fully enclosed and conditioned space. The patio’s banquettes arrived directly from France, and twinkling strung lights sway from the ceiling.
The interior is done up in Mediterranean greens, pinks, and creams. Big windows welcome in daytime natural light, but allow for a dim, mood-lit atmosphere in the evening. Traditional bentwood bistro chairs dot the space and antique-style tin tiles reflect a classic Parisian flair. Over at the bar, the glassware display was created from a single panel of antiqued brass. At the rear, a daytime counter offers coffee, pastries, and drinks.
As Bistro du Jour’s owners are both gay men, they note that, “Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics. We cater to everyone, which is the only way to lead a hospitality organization.”
“When you’re part of a minority group in society,” they say, “the only way to lead your restaurants is as inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable leaders.”
Though smaller than their other ventures, a French bistro right on the teeming, pedestrian-heavy Wharf “was the perfect fit,” they say.
Dining without a dining room
Today’s hosts are likely more casual than in the past
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be thinking about gathering your loved ones and kindred spirits to celebrate the positive things in your life, praise your higher power, pay homage to indigenous people, or just stuff your face and fall asleep in front of the television at the traditional Thanksgiving after-party: the football game.
Thinking back to my childhood, I remember the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. The elegant table in the formal dining room was adorned with a crisp, white tablecloth, “the good china,” sterling silver place settings, a variety of serving dishes for the forthcoming bounty, and a cornucopia centerpiece containing dried fruits and vegetables.
My dad, Ozzie, would carve the turkey and my mom, Harriet, would bring out the pecan and mincemeat pies for dessert…wait a minute…did I really grow up in a 1950s sitcom? Yup, I did, although Ozzie was Don and Harriet was Grayce.
Sometimes we would visit my maternal grandparents in Maine, whose formal dining room was less so – an extended part of the living room in the 1940s version of an open floor plan in their three-bedroom apartment over the general store and gas station that my grandfather owned.
On occasion, we would go to Massachusetts to spend a day or two with my paternal grandmother and her extended clan. There was nothing “formal” about the dining room there. Dinner took place on a litany of card tables set up on the jalousied porch off the kitchen.
When dinner was over, my grandmother would rise from the head of the table and declare, “I made the dinner. Now you do the dishes.” My father and his sisters would scurry like baby chicks to adhere to her demand.
As I grew older, I rarely lived near family. Every so often, I would be invited to dinner as the obligatory guest – the girlfriend of whatever young man I was seeing at the time. Later, I would become part of the restaurant holiday dining crowd.
For several years, I had a standing date with a good friend for dinner and a movie on Thanksgiving Day. We would choose restaurants that advertised dishes like Lobster Thermador, Champagne Ravioli, or Boeuf Bourguignon, but would invariably select the traditional turkey dinner with dressing and all the trimmings from the prix fixe menu.
Fast-forward to 2020 and we may not have gathered at all, content to have Whole Foods or Door Dash deliver Thanksgiving dinner to be eaten in front of the television while watching Hallmark movies.
Now here we are. The formal dining room has gone the way of the good china and the sterling silver. For most of us, they are simply not necessities in our lives any longer. So how do you host a dinner party when there is no room specifically designated for dining?
First, you don’t need to purchase things you have no room to store later. Although “rent” can be a four-letter word to a real estate agent, a party rental company’s website allows you to select items online and have them delivered and removed at a fraction of the cost.
Are you trying to seat a large group for dinner? Let’s start with the premise that all your guests do not need to be at a banquet table. Consider having several tables for two or four placed around the room. It will give you the ambiance of your favorite bistro and still allow for conversation among your guests.
You can also rent folding chairs, linens, place settings, and stemware. Once your order arrives, just set the tables and add candles or your favorite centerpieces to complete a festive look.
If you have no room for a seated event, you can order standing cocktail tables. Your breakfast bar or kitchen counter will make a perfect buffet line.
Better yet, have an open house, inviting guests at slightly different times so you see everyone without feeling like you’re in the middle of a crowded concert.
Is your style even more casual? Rather than worrying about recycling plastic cups and sporks, pick up a bunch of Oftast dinner or dessert plates for 79 cents each at Ikea. Add a 6-pack of Svalka wine glasses and cutlery service for four from the Mopsig collection for $5 each. Pull out some pillows and eat while sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by family and friends.
Some of us may have trouble getting back up, but we’ll be in perfect position to fall asleep during the football game.
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.
Studio House, Visual AIDS partner for educational program
Investing in real estate: What you need to know
‘Tick, tick… BOOM!’ explodes with the love of Broadway
James Ivory on movies, beauty — and a love of penises
Trend of banning books threatens our freedom
Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster
Thanksgiving is a time to share
Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries
Matrimonio igualitario a un paso de ser ley en Chile
Investing in real estate: What you need to know
Sign Up for Blade eBlasts
Local6 days ago
Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case
Obituary7 days ago
Scott Robbe dies at 66
Local6 days ago
Bowser says city looking into lawsuit filed by gay employee at D.C. jail
District of Columbia6 days ago
Casa Ruby expands LGBTQ mental health services
Virginia3 days ago
Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster
Local6 days ago
Gay-owned firm joins D.C. small business bond program
Music & Concerts7 days ago
BETTY returns to DC
Bars & Parties6 days ago
Disco Funk Brunch at Crazy Aunt Helen’s