Pho Viet Huong’s yellow curry shrimp with string bean and coconut milk.
So I recently was called to perform my civic duty at Manhattan’s criminal courthouse at 110 Centre Street.
I suppose most people aren’t filled with bittersweet nostalgia when entering the criminal courts building, but I certainly am. From 1999 to 2004, as a reporter for Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, I covered numerous financial fraud trials here, plus classic press conferences with Robert Morgenthau at the nearby Manhattan DA’s office. My actual office, for five years, was in the press room at the federal courthouse across the street, where I covered everything from corporate lawsuits and indictments to high-profile, insanity-laden cases like the Martha Stewart trial.
All of which means being called to jury duty is a lot like coming home for me. During those years at the courts, I ate lunch nearly every day in Chinatown…where I discovered first-hand how delicious, filling and intriguing curry meals could be. A press room favorite was always Pho Viet Huong on Mulberry Street. So after spending a recent morning as a potential juror, as soon as we broke for lunch, I headed straight there.
“Long time, no see!” the older Vietnamese lady who runs the place said, in heavily accented English, as soon as I walked in. I was instantly transported back to 2003 — around the time I was covering the fraud trial of Tyco’s former executives — and ordered one of my favorite meals from that time period: Yellow curry shrimp with coconut milk.
The waiter brought the most recent iteration of that dish, which now comes with string beans (pictured above) and tasted as delicious as ever. As I ate my lunch, I saw the usual suspects file in and out of the restaurant — lawyers (the ones dressed in suits), civil servants, tourists and a few other potential jurors. Tomorrow, I thought, on my second day of jury duty, perhaps I’ll try another old haunt, Pongsri Thai on Bayard. “Goodbye,” I said to the Vietnamese lady, who enthusiastically nodded and repeated again. “Long time, no see!”
Alas, I headed back to jury duty but wasn’t picked for a trial. By mid-afternoon, I had been dismissed. “You won’t be called for another six years,” the clerk said. Six years!?!
Of course, I don’t need to be on jury duty to go to Pho for lunch….but when you work in midtown, like I do now, Chinatown is a long ways away.
Before jumping on the train, I decided to indulge in one last favorite pastime from my days in the courts: I stopped by the press room and hauled an old Bloomberg colleague away from his work to get a drink with me.
If only jury duty happened more often!