I expect to see bellhops

I come into my apartment building laden with the fruits of my shopping, heavy bags of groceries weighting down each arm. I stop in the lobby for a moment, sitting on the leather armchair, admiring the rubber plants and the intricately-patterned carpeting. It looks like the entrance to a small but lovely hotel.

Seattle is full of these places, apartment buildings christened with fancy monikers. They remind me of the beach homes I see in North Carolina. These seaside retreats sport names like Pirate’s Landing, Our Paradise, or Sailor’s Cove. Here we have The Franconia, The Aloha House, The Tiki. I used to live in an apartment building with a man’s name. For the sake of alias, I’ll call it The Fred Williams. I wondered who Fred Williams was, even as I lived within the doors of his eponymous fiefdom.

I find these old apartment houses fascinating, and I admire their architectural details. Many have leaded glass windows, carved stone porticoes. Fancy tiles and fountains decorate the outside of one with a Moroccan theme. Some have small entries while others have cavernous lobbies with large groupings of stuffed armchairs and even fireplaces. I think they may have been grand hotels at one time. These lobbies are usually empty, perhaps waiting for travelers from the past to arrive with their bags. I wonder.

Other apartment buildings in Seattle were obviously motels that have now been converted into living spaces. I am curious to see inside one, to see how a tiny room meant for temporary shelter has become a home. How does its compactness shape the person who lives there? The studio I lived in had a closet that used to hold a Murphy bed. It was the perfect place for one of my huge bookcases. I made this leftover space my own, and I wonder how others fare in their converted living arrangements. Do they have a lobby somewhere that serves stale donuts and bad coffee, in deference to the past? Is there an ice machine? The city tells me stories as I sit at its feet, and I am the child asking questions. Your hometown can talk to you, too. Walk around and listen.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

42. Does the place where you live have a name? If not, what name would best describe it? Or, if you’re not yet in the ideal location, what would be the best name for the place you’d like to live?

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