The Terrace View in CityGarden
The cloud of existential funk that hangs over the jury-duty holding pen on a Monday morning is like a thick, black fog. Not one person wants to be in that room, least of all the people who work there. The sighing. The grumbling. The bitter, blank staring. The announcements over the p.a. followed by a slow, morose death march to the door by those who have the chosen numbers. At noon a stern voice announces, "You are now released for lunch -- you must be back in this room by 1:15."
The Civil Courts building is at 10 North Tucker Boulevard. I quickly index my options: One place is eight blocks away, too far; another is closed on Mondays. As I walk toward the exit, I hear a security guard direct someone to a nearby hot-dog stand. By God, if I'm going to spend the day locked in an airless room, I'm sure as hell gonna eat good
for lunch. As I emerge out the east side of the building, it shimmers and glistens like a mirage just one block away: the brand new Citygarden
The sun was rising on my way downtown this morning, hanging low and shining uncomfortably in my eyes. It was colder than I expected, and I hadn't worn a coat. Nor had I anticipated the frigid temperature they keep bureaucratic buildings, so I spent the whole morning clutching my thin sweater across my chest. The day is a different thing entirely, a wide open expanse of blue, the temperature having climbed into the low seventies, with a soft breeze -- a perfect fall day, a glorious last gasp before the cold really sets in.
I wander through the sculptures looking for the Terrace View
, the recently opened restaurant overlooking the garden. A friendly hostess guides me to a table on the bright patio. My waitress approaches and greets me with, "So, I hear you've got jury duty today." So addled was I by my stint on the world's most boring episode of Law & Order
that I just blurt out, "You're allowed to serve me wine, right?"
She smiles and informs me that they get lots of jurors there and plenty of them drink with lunch. She returns with the wine list and asks what I'm looking for, and I helpfully reply, "Something white." She points to the Farnese
2007 Trebbiano, saying its only $5 a glass. "But it's really good." Sold. As I pull off my sweater, I realize that they made me not because of my sour expression and slumped shoulders, but because I was still wearing a yellow juror badge.
The Civil Courts building, as seen from Citygarden
The wine is as sunny and crisp as the weather, with notes of lemon and juicy pear. It complements the light Mediterranean-influenced lunch I am enjoying. Everyone around me is smiling. Couples are strolling hand-in-hand through the garden. A man in business dress has kicked off his shoes and is squeezing his toes in the grass. A young lady has laid her textbook across her lap, closed her eyes and turned her face up to the sun. When the check comes, I have plenty of time to spare, and with the reasonably-priced glass of wine, I even manage to keep the bill pretty close to my $12 stipend from the city of St. Louis.
On my way to the restroom before I head back, I notice two of my fellow potential jurors (badges blazing) at the bar enjoying a couple of Schlafly APAs. I take my time on the short walk back, enjoying being downtown, all the bustling activity, the great buildings. I hadn't noticed this morning but the Civil Courts building is really cool, like a Gotham skyscraper out of an old Batman comic book. A friend of mine had been summoned for today as well, but she was excused first thing this morning because she provided proof that she doesn't live in the city anymore. I was jealous that she got out of it, but now I remind myself she doesn't get to live in the city.
Alicia Lohmar is a south-city dweller and accomplished drinker, to which she credits her German ancestry and Catholic upbringing.