PORTLAND, OR—Terrible father Peter Nesmith is the absolute coolest, neighborhood children reported Monday.
"Tommy's dad is so awesome," said David York, 9, a friend of Nesmith's 7-year-old son Thomas. "He's not like the other dads who yell at you all the time. Everyone brings their fireworks to blow them off in his backyard. If we run out of matches, he lets us use his cigarette to light them off."
Added York: "He's the only dad that treats us like adults and not like little babies who can't be trusted with an electric sander."
Nesmith, who married Karen Reynolds in 1990, is the father of three children besides Thomas: Evan, 10; Kevin, 13; and Julia, 15. Soon after moving into the quiet North Portland neighborhood, Nesmith cemented his cool-dad reputation by buying a 1974 Camaro, the costly upkeep of which forced the Nesmith family to cancel its dental insurance earlier this year.
"Before the Super Bowl, Mr. Nesmith let me ride in his Camaro to go to the gas station and help him carry bags of ice,"
York said. "Mrs. Nesmith doesn't want us riding in it, because it has a gas leak, but Mr. Nesmith said if he listened to Mrs. Nesmith, he wouldn't even have the awesome car in the first place."
"When Mrs. Nesmith went to visit her sister last summer, Tommy got to eat Burger King every single night for the whole two weeks," York said. "He got to order whatever he wanted. He even got to ride his bike all the way over to Cortland Avenue to pick it up one night."
Neighborhood parents are less complimentary. Several have complained about the beer parties that Nesmith allows his eldest son Kevin to host in his basement.
"Boys are gonna drink," Nesmith said when asked about the keg parties. "At least I know they're safe if they're right there in the basement."
Neighbors have said they suspect that Nesmith purchases alcohol for the boys.
"I don't buy Kevin and his friends beer, but I do usually have a tapped keg set up in the basement fridge," Nesmith said. "I don't see what people get so worked up about. If the kids get sick, they can spend the night here. I'm the one who has to deal with a bunch of hungover 13-year-olds."
Added Nesmith: "It's not like it's on a school night, usually."
Kevin's friend Tony Shadid said his parents are among those who complain about Nesmith.
"Mom's always yelling at us to do better in school so we don't turn out like Kevin's dad," Shadid said. "I don't know why. He doesn't look so bad to me. He's got a super-huge stereo and his own room in the basement with posters on the wall and a leather couch."
According to his children, Nesmith leaves the role of disciplinarian to his wife.
"Dad always says he didn't do good in school and he turned out fine," Kevin said. "He said he never really did homework and only went to class half the time. That's because it's way more important to get out in the world and get life experience. Dad mostly talks about all the drinking he did back then, but I think he also worked part-time at a machine shop or something."
Nesmith said he believes it's important to prepare his children for the "real world." In accordance with that belief, he gave his daughter Julia a condom Saturday before her date with a boy who was too scared to hold her hand. That same night, he let Evan watch the sexually explicit Monster's Ball while Kevin browsed his father's pornography stash in the garage.
"Kids need to learn about sex sometime," Nesmith said. "Otherwise, they'll just learn a bunch of fucked-up information about it on the street."
"Don't worry," he added. "I keep the real rough stuff hidden."
Neighbor and father of two Jerry Helms said he thinks Nesmith is an "all-right guy," but said he was mystified by the adoration the neighborhood children heap on the terrible father.
"Whenever my son Jeff comes back from playing with Tommy, he's always saying, 'Mr. Nesmith let us do this, Mr. Nesmith let us do that,'" Helms said. "He loves the guy, but sometimes I wonder. I always think of the time Tommy cut himself on a rusty nail and Pete sent him back to playing without doing anything about it."
Helms said he asked Nesmith if he was worried about Tommy getting an infection or even lockjaw, but Nesmith just laughed.
"Pete said that lockjaw would toughen Tommy up," Helms said. "He said he doesn't like to baby his kids."
Added Helms: "I didn't argue with him about it. I didn't want him to think I was some sort of wuss."