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The Central District, with Lake Washington and Bellevue in the distance.

Image: Joe Wolf

Cardboard everywhere. Cardboard up the stairs and down the hall. Cardboard atop the kitchen counter and crowding every inch. Each box a riotous display of open flaps and tangled packing tape, disgorging the detritus of a life uprooted from one part of town and springing anew in another.

Every home move has two sides, right? The lofty, dreamy side—the side we explore this month in “Live Here Now,” picturing yourself relishing the new neighborhood’s manifold charms. And the all-sweat, no-glory side—the side with the boxes and the requisite missing can opener.

I’d been living the latter for days, somehow existing in both places—the new house and the old—all possessions encased in squares, when I crept out from the quadrangular forest of cardboard cubes to do some of that dreaming. 

It was going to be a hard sell. I’d lived on Capitol Hill for six years, every amenity at my doorstep. I didn’t have a go-to coffee shop, I had four. Ditto decent cocktail bars. I treated QFC like a pantry, it was so close. And my commute to work, thanks to light rail, was basically an act of teleportation—door to door in seven minutes.

I’ve always wanted to live in the Central District, though, and last month I took the plunge, knowing full well the conveniences on which I’d long relied would be in short supply: The new place is nearly two miles from a grocery store. And light rail in the neighborhood is but a dream reserved for the future grandchildren of the thirtysomethings moving into the new svelte townhouses. 

Yet a short walk revealed, in exact order: a cocktail bar, a coffee shop, and, mother of god, a barbecue joint. The waft of smoked meat lured me as if it had sprouted fingers and yoked me in by the nose. 

Days later I’d discover the brewery across the street, and the multiple bus routes capable of conveying me downtown, if not in a flash, before the first Blue Apron ad interrupts my morning podcast ritual. 

For now I walked into the barbecue place and froze, not knowing what to do—to sit or wait to be seated—when a staffer at the counter waved me forward with a smile and shouted. “You’re new here, aren’t you?”

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