Entre o aclamado e premiado Angela’s Ashes (relato da infância miserável na Irlanda onde a família regressou vinda dos Estados Unidos) e o comovente Teacher Man (relato dos seus anos de ensino) situa-se o ‘This onde McCourt, sempre com o humor prodigioso que o caracteriza, descreve o seu regresso à América, jovem adulto. É aí , nos primeiros dias em Nova Iorque, que encontra um bar invulgar e um barman de excepção. É ler:
“When you’re Irish and you don’t know a soul in New York and you’re walking along Third Avenue with trains rattling along on the El above, there’s great comfort in discovering there’s hardly a block without an Irish bar: Costello’s, the Blarney Stone, the Blarney Rose, P. J. Clarke’s, the Breffni, the Leitrim House, the Sligo House, Shannon’s, Ireland’s Thirty-Two, the All Ireland. I had my first pint in Limerick when I was sixteen and it made me sick, and my father nearly destroyed the family and himself with the drink, but I’m lonely in New York and I’m lured in by Bing Crosby on jukeboxes singing “Galway Bay” and blinking green shamrocks the likes of which you’d never see in Ireland.
There’s an angry-looking man behind the end of the bar in Costello’s (…)
(…) the angry man turns to me. And you, he says, are you eighteen?
I am, sir. I’m nineteen.
How do I know?
I have my passport, sir.
And what is an Irishman doing with an American passport?
I was born here, sir.
He allows me to have two fifteen-cent beers and tells me I’d be better off spending my time in the library than in bars like the rest of our miserable race. He tells me Dr. Johnson drank forty cups of tea a day and his mind was clear to the end. I ask him who Dr. Johnson was and he glares at me, takes my glass away, and tells me, Leave this bar. Walk west on Forty-second till you come to Fifth. You’ll see two great stone lions. Walk up the steps between those two lions, get yourself a library card, and don’t be an idiot like the rest of the bogtrotters getting off the boat and stupefying themselves with drink. Read your Johnson, read your Pope, and avoid the dreamy Micks. I want to ask him where he stands on Dostoyevsky, but he points at the door. Don’t come back here till you’ve read “The Lives of the Poets.” Go on. Get out.
It’s a warm October day and I have nothing else to do but what I’m told and what harm is there in wandering up to Fifth Avenue where the lions are. The librarians are friendly. Of course I can have a library card, and it’s so nice to see young immigrants using the library. I can borrow four books if I like as long as they’re back on the due date. I ask if they have a book called “The Lives of the Poets,” by Samuel Johnson, and they say, My, my, my, you’re reading Johnson. I want to tell them I never read Johnson before, but I don’t want them to stop admiring me. They tell me feel free to walk around, take a look at the Main Reading Room, on the third floor. They’re not a bit like the librarians in Ireland, who stood guard and protected the books against the likes of me.
The sight of the Main Reading Room, North and South, makes me go weak at the knees. I don’t know if it’s the two beers I had or the excitement of my second day in New York, but I’m near tears when I look at the miles of shelves and know I’ll never be able to read all those books if I live till the end of the century. There are acres of shiny tables where all sorts of people sit and read as long as they like, seven days a week, and no one bothers them unless they fall asleep and snore. There are sections with English, Irish, American books, literature, history, religion, and it makes me shiver to think I can come here anytime I like and read anything as long as I like if I don’t snore.
I stroll back to Costello’s with four books under my arm. I want to show the angry man I have “The Lives of the Poets,” but he’s not there. The barman says, That would be Mr. Tim Costello himself that was going on about Johnson, and as he’s talking the angry man comes out of the kitchen. He says, Are you back already?
I have “The Lives of the Poets,” Mr. Costello.
You may have “The Lives of the Poets” under your oxter, young fellow, but you don’t have them in your head, so go home and read.”