Monday, December 20, 2010

Secrets and Fries: A Tribute

This is a story about the Esquire Grill, the restaurant my father owned  in Timmins, Ontario. I am sharing this to honour the 25th Anniversary of his death. 

The Esquire Grill. It was a family restaurant, coffee shop, a hub of activity in downtown Timmins, Ontario for over forty years, closing in the early 1980s.  The Esquire was an institution, a community, a joint with great fries and gravy. The regulars ordered a clubhouse sandwich and the resto even had a baseball and bowling team. The restaurant really was a  place where everyone knew your name. For many of  those years, the Esquire Grill had the same cook, Mme Cecile Levesque. In its shiny red booths, and on its counter stools sat the bums of students and politicians, bankers and cashiers, musicians and miners and secretaries, and anyone else who happened by. If you had a coffee in there any time from the 1940s on, you would probably have met one of my parents. They owned and ran the place.

I left Timmins over twenty-five years ago, but for me, The Esquire Grill is mythical and legendary. There aren’t many of these kinds of family-run enterprises around anymore, given the increase of the big box store and star branding of coffee. I grew up in that place and was introduced to the morning muffin ritual.

The restaurant has a long history. 

My uncle Luke Couture started in the business with the White Fort on Third Avenue. Later, he opened the Rainbow Bar on Cedar. When my dad came back from his service in World War II, they joined forces to open the Esquire Grill in the mid 1940s. In the first few years of the Korean War, my dad left my uncle in charge, electing to perform in the Canadian Army Show overseas. My mom eventually became his business partner, until my dad sold the restaurant without her signature, still an unresolved issue. My memories of the Esquire Grill are a snapshot of me as a person too young to know that adults have complicated lives.

My dad, A.G. (Ed) Couture, was not only a successful restaurateur, though this might be an inaccurate interpretation. He was also a city councillor in Timmins between the years 1957 and 1975. In the early 1960s, he ran as a Liberal candidate for MP, losing magnificently, I’m told. In fact, he served as an alderman in the City of Timmins’ first amalgamated council in 1973, one of Canada’s first “megacities.” 

My dad is the first man on the left, above the coat of arms on this commemorative Timmins Dollar which has been on my fridge for 25 years. Anyway, much of that stuff happened before my conscious time. I remember playing waitress and making “root beer” from the soda fountain while a cast of municipal politicians and personalities played poker behind the papered up windows of the “closed” restaurant. It was common for local celebs to have coffee and shoot the breeze at the Esquire. As a family, we ate, hung out, fought and ran around that place everyday. God knows what the customers thought, but as I remember it, everything important to us happened within earshot of The Esquire Grill. 

Forty years later, I still remember the phone number. All of the surviving siblings do. For a short time, when I was in grade one, our family lived above the restaurant. I was even fired at one point (maybe twice) – a dishwasher’s wage of $2.15 per hour wasn’t much of an incentive to miss a summer’s day at the beach in Timmins. Up to the age of sixteen or so, I dragged all of my friends there. But things change, and old buildings gradually serve new purposes. Over the years, my family has made a sport out of keeping track of what occupies that location on Cedar Street South. After my dad sold, nothing in there has had quite the success that he had with his unlicensed, family restaurant. He and my mom raised six kids (I’m number five), and many grandchildren in that place, not a bad living for a town of 45,000.

In December 1985, I had just turned 22.  Trying to fill in details about my father’s life has exposed the only truth that I know about him. I love him still and miss him extraordinarily, especially today.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A darn test

My post course afternoon. Okay, so it's not writing the Great Canadian Novel, but come on.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iTouch.

Friday, December 10, 2010


This is currently on display in front of Vancouver's downtown public library:

As I took this photo, a man asked me, "...but do you know what it means?"

I replied, "No, but then who does?"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Truth

...without putting too fine a point on it:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iTouch.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All Highschools Smell the Same

New Westminster Highschool.

Gym Activity.

The memories of being bullied surfaced immediately.

I am an adult now.

With trophy:

Take that!

Posted using BlogPress from my iTouch.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

To Do List

This is the whiteboard in a friend's apartment. This week it features her chores and what a homeless guy said to her...heartbreaking.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iTouch.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Digital Smoking?

This is a message I sent to a vile marketing campaign, targeting
folks who have quit smoking. I had to lie 
to make my point. But still.

Re: Enjoy smoking again-test the Prado E-Cig for free!
merrianne couture
To:Trial e-cigarette(from Prado)


Does CANCER SURVIVOR mean anything to YOU!!!

From: Trial e-cigarette(from Prado) <>
To: merriannecouture@xxx
Sent: Fri, September 10, 2010 6:06:13 AM
Subject: Enjoy smoking again-test the Prado E-Cig for free!

Enjoy smoking again-test the Prado E-Cig for free!

Enjoy smoking again-test the Prado E-Cig for free!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Escher Effect

 I was so happy to put this very simple Ikea thing together in our new apartment in Vancouver.

The results shocked me.

In my universe, up is north and down is south. What more could the shoe rack say?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crow's Point of View

Vancouver: Bute @ Pendrell July 2010

I nearly cried when I saw this crow last week. Signs and symbols.

Overheard at Sunset Beach:
I'm just so bitter; he overdosed on heroin. There's been so much drama around this.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Changing Directions

Mile End Corner (Bernard and Waverly -- Summer 2010)

This is an excerpt from a letter I sent to colleagues in the North South Program at Montreal's Dawson College. For the last five years, I have collaborated with them to prepare students for a one month field trip to Nicaragua. One week ago, my boyfriend of many years and I moved to Vancouver:

Hi Everyone,

I want to take a little time to express my deepest gratitude to all of you. I have been truly so very fortunate these last few years to have been able to work with you in North South and to get to know you on the trip, on the 8th Floor, at Ovide's cottage, at various potlucks, on trails, at restaurants, in bank lineups, Canadian Tire, in airline check ins, clinics, outdoor toilets, poolside resorts(!), on various ferry rides, and even beaches. 

We've shared our lives and hearts at open houses and talking circles, during heated street arguments, on cramped school buses, in dingy hotel rooms, sharing cigarettes (history now of course) and in meetings, tons of meetings. You've heard me mutter and swear on volcano walks, motorcycles, and while walking for hours, sitting next to pigs, eating rotten oranges, grading student notebooks, figuring out who goes where, translating inadvertently dirty jokes, and elsewhere I'm sure. Paul and I have been deeply and permanently moved by all of these experiences. Professionally and personally, I have been absolutely stunned by your commitment to students and North South and to each other. Our involvement with North South and Dawson and all of you has been utterly awesome.

We all know how profoundly formative and important the trip has been for our students, and how the responsibility of getting them ready can be both inspiring and frustrating. I thank you for all of your support and the laughs and tears we've shared. This has been one of the most authentic and truly enriching experiences of my life. Paul and I are so fortunate and so very grateful.

Special note:  This was one of several heart wrenching goodbyes. We are in Vancouver now and I will continue with this cut and paste blog from the new location. BUT look for Coasted...more writing and stuff. 

Au revoir.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Feline Farewell

This is my cat Clyve. I rescued him almost twelve years ago. Back then he was feral, dirty and anti-social. For better or worse, he lost his natural instincts with me and became the dog of cats. He had all the bad kittie ailments and then some. He liked to scratch and bite, especially me. He also ate furniture. I loved him so much and he was such great company for all of those years.  Below is the stream of facebook condolences that appeared earlier this week. 

Rest in Peace Clyve.

he surely will, with so much love to buoy his spirit on its journey. my condolences.
Thursday at 19:14 ·
Thursday at 19:19 ·
Now he can play with sad
Thursday at 19:22 ·
Oh I'm so sorry to hear this sad news. Sending warm hugs xo
Thursday at 19:36 ·
very sad.
Thursday at 20:30 ·
I'm sorry, I know how hard it is losing a little buddy. He was such a sweetheart. xox
Thursday at 20:45 ·  
Clyve was a very special cat - I can still see him looking in your window before you adopted him or was it that he adopted you!
Thursday at 20:46 ·
Im so sorry to hear :(
Thursday at 20:52 ·
Oh dear! this is sad news. Clyve was a giant among cats. We really enjoyed getting to know him 2+ years ago. Condolences from the (...)s.
Thursday at 21:16 ·
sorry to hear this.
Thursday at 23:02 ·
ol' ming-manger, gonna miss him, was such a cool cat, sorry to hear that.
Thursday at 23:09 ·
Well this pretty much thoughts are with you cause he was many years in your life!
Thursday at 23:41 ·
so sorry Merri. you gave him a good life. sweet Clyve. he was such an awesome guy.
Friday at 01:06 ·

ME: He was a great cat and very talkative. Along with the ming manging, he also used to say Merle Haggard and once, Paul and I swear, he called me by name. I loved him so much.
Friday at 06:35 ·

ME: Plus, he was a three-boyfriend cat.
Friday at 06:38 ·
hey.. our cats outlive our loves often enough, eh? Sol was my buddy through not only a few lovers/relationships but also several significant moves and career changes. 18 years, he was with me. Heck, he knew more about me than many friends ever did! LOL
Yes indeed, Rest In Peace Dear Clyve!
Friday at 10:08 ·
oh, that is sad news! i'm very sorry!!
Friday at 13:27 ·
you guys gave him a great home and lifestyle. we should all be so lucky. seriously.
Friday at 13:43 ·
Very sorry, El esta ahora en El cielo de los gatitos
Yesterday at 06:16 ·

ME: Thank you everyone. It's been a difficult time, but we are celebrating Clyve and all the joy he gave to us.
Yesterday at 07:40

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fairy Tales and Other Stories

 San Diego Waterfront April 2010

Manifest your dreams with integrity and you won't lose your glass slipper.

I had a student actually request to be failed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ways of Knowing

Winter stairs: Montreal 2010.

"The mystery of things, their how and why, conduces to silence." Camara Laye

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Non sequitur

12:45 PM 
 Midway in an exchange between me and my friend Gian about passive aggression and life's cruelty:   Me:Which I have a lot of fucking experience with. What a sentence. Don't show it to Dave.
  Yes. dog-eat-fucking-dog.
And, that is an insult to the dog.
  I love dogs.
 Gian: chien-mange-chien
 me: Yes. I love dogs.
 Gian: I don't see it.
12:46 PM Cats, I see.
 me: Really. Oh. I really love them.
  I love all animals.
  Especially cats and dogs.
 Gian: You can speak to them
 me: Oh. Yes I can.
 Gian: And they can speak to you.
Another example of animals saving the day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Toronto Life

Queen St. West Toronto Winter: 2010

Gabriel: "Lions don't have diapers. They just have bums."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Window Dressing

 (Toronto Queen St. West: February 2010)  me: This gmail chat has voice chat you want to try it?
  It's like a phone fercrissakes...we
  are mixing up all the communication tools and think we're reinventing the wheel.
 Sarah: I don't think I have a mic on this computer.
 me: Oh.
6:16 PM Oh well.
  Let me try and see what happens at your end...oh weird. It's ringing like a phone.
  Except, of course, you can't pick up because you can't hear
  I'll end the voice attempt...
  Funny as hell.
6:17 PM Sarah: Yup can't hear.
 me: Oh well. Maybe I'll call you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Numbers and Hope

 St. Viateur and Jeanne Mance (Montreal: February 2010)  me: 45 is old.
 Gian: Bah.
 me: Bah yourself.
 Gian: 45 is the new 30.
4:15 PM
 me: 45 is the new and my high blood pressure and cholesterol and imminent colonoscopy say so. Plus, I'm not 45.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Winter Despair

 (Gmail Chat: Midwinter Montreal to Canada West Coast) me: Dude. I am operating in negative numbers here with regard to Do you guys have grass yet?
I saw Victoria in the news the other day, and the city had frikken green grass.
 Gian: Grass is always here...???
 me: Really?
 Gian: There is no snow... hasn't been any at all.
1:08 PM me: EFFF me. I'm living in the wrong climate.
 Gian: Seriously...
  It's drizzly, however.
 me: Shit. For real?
  Drizzly. Is that okay?
 Gian: Yup.
 me: Frig.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Attention Deficit

En media res of a recent gmail chat:
meThis tea is so good.Paul and I went to the movies last night and saw Up in the Air. Liked it.
4:28 PMWhy are you off Facebook?
4:29 PM Anonymous: I was getting frustrated with people's status updates.
 me: Why?
4:30 PM Anonymous: When the news about Haiti broke... most of my friends were too busy bragging about expensive vacations, or letting everyone know what bra colour they were wearing. Only a couple mentioned Haiti.
4:31 PM It was really bugging me. ***OFFLINE Help 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Small Things

Today's chore list in random order:

1) prepare classes
2) help Haiti
3) pay off student loan
4) celebrate life
5) appreciate every frikken thing
6) drink clean water out of a tap

(Photo: Ometepe Island 2010)