BBQ with Dad | Tim Cornett

One Fourth of July a few years back, my dad invited me over to his friend Jean Anderson’s house for her party. I guess I could’ve said no, but I probably would have felt bad, so I went. I knew it would most likely be lame. Actually, I knew it would be lame. There was zero chance it wouldn’t suck.

To understand my dad a little better, you should know that he was born in the Appalachian region of Kentucky in the 1940s, and was raised there until he moved to Ohio for a job at Ford Motor Co. He and my mom moved north, but they never really let go of their mountain ways. Suffice it to say, my parents were always a little different. On top of this, dad worked from 3pm to 2am every day for 30 years, further separating him from the rest of humanity.

So anyway, we arrived at the party. I immediately realized this wasn’t just a party, but an opportunity for Jean Anderson to announce her candidacy for mayor of Vermilion, Ohio. Jean Anderson makes me uneasy. She acts like she doesn’t pee in the shower, even though Vermillion was a pee-in-the-shower town. The party was on a lakefront property, one of the few nice areas in Vermilion that stuck out among the strippers and rednecks raising latchkey kids. It must have been about 90 degrees out and nobody was in the pool, except some 12-year-old kid. I couldn’t very well just jump in the pool with a 12-year-old–as a grown man that was out of the question. So I stood there and surveyed my surroundings. The only food was a cooler full of Hershee’s (an insidious company treading on the good name of Hershey with a y) half-melted fudgecicles. It was the kind of off-brand ice cream I imagined you’d find in a Hong Kong marketplace.

The party was populated by old boat people, a bunch of old people who only liked to talk about one thing: boats. Good boating, bad boating, boating memories, boating dreams…it was endless. The star of the whole thing was a man everyone called Old Cappy, a man who was so old he belonged in a jar. If he’d lived another two weeks, he would have become entirely liquid. I guess Old Cappy was a captain of a freightliner or something at one point. I don’t know if he had a heroic career or just stood behind a steering wheel for 45 years.

The only other person my age was a really good-looking blonde woman who I think was Jean Anderson’s daughter. She too had realized everyone here was old. We started making small talk, and were chatting for a while. Then Dad came up and just started talking her ear off, very enthusiastically, about the ins and outs of life on the Ford sealer line. He seemed completely convinced she was really interested in this information, and would find it useful if she were ever in the Ford plant, caulking gun in her hand.

At some point, a man who I think was Jean Anderson’s husband walked up. He was dressed like Ted Knight from Caddy Shack: khakis, a white shirt, a blue sport jacket, and a captain’s hat —he was actually wearing that. I wondered if the boat people saw him as a boat poser, with his ridiculous getup. Dad roped him into the conversation, too. Good-looking Blonde gave me a look saying, “How do I get out of this politely?” I gave her a look back that said, “I don’t know. If I knew I’d be a much different man than I am today.”

The conversation then focused on a woman named Wilhelmina, a well put together old blond lady. You could tell she was amused by my Dad. Some people are just drawn to oddballs. Dad was describing the process of making grits; he got to soaking the husks in lye before she got too horrified. “You have to do what you can when you’re poor,” he said.

“Oh, I know,” she responded, “I ate beets every day for four years during the war.” She started telling us about her life in a school for girls in some Nordic country (Sweden? Norway? I can’t remember) during World War II, where they ate beets so much that she couldn’t touch beets afterward. She went on to say it was funny because when she moved to America, she married a Japanese man who had spent years in the Japanese internment camps during World War II, and he had a similar aversion to sweet potatoes. Because they weren’t available to her in Europe and her husband couldn’t stand the sight of them, she’d never eaten sweet potatoes. Things got a little sad for a minute as she told us that her husband was gone now. Dad thought this would be a good time to ask, “Have you tried those sweet potato fries?”

“Yah! They’re good!” she answered without a beat. They then got into a spirited conversation about the different types of sweet potato fries.

Sometime around sunset, Jean Anderson started her speech. She started thanking everyone for coming, and laying out her plans for a better Vermilion. Before she could finish her speech, however, she was interrupted by the city’s firework display behind her. This is just another example of how much Jean Anderson sucks. If she’d only started her speech three minutes earlier, she could have had a firework display at the end. I could see it in my mind’s eye: “Jean Anderson for mayor, Jean Anderson for Vermilion, Jean Anderson for America!” (BOOM, POW, BLAM) It could have been great.

The entire time, there was an incredibly fun redneck party going on across the street. You could see the Bud Light cans piling up. It was the kind of party where teenagers get pregnant. As soon as the city fireworks started, they decided to have their own display–the kind of fireworks you have to go down to West Virginia for. They were rednecks, though, and didn’t have any eye towards regulation: whereas the city was setting their fireworks off in the distance, these fireworks were going off directly over our party. All the boat people had all been traumatized by some sort of explosions in the past —Vietnam, Korea, World War II— and immediately scattered.

Twelve or thirteen Bud-soaked rednecks cheered “Woooooooo!” The international sound of a good time.

I plugged my ears, saying, “Wow these are really close.” Eventually the explosions stopped and the smoke cleared. As I looked around, I saw everyone was gone. The only person left was Old Cappy. They’d left him behind. I guess It’s all well and good in peacetime, but when the shit starts you’re deadweight. Cappy understood.




timcornett_origTim is a storyteller. His heartfelt humor engages audiences with a hilarious blend of characterizations and spot-on observations to which everyone can relate. Even the hardcore “I usually don’t laugh at comedian” types, cannot help but surrender to his energy and visual antics targeted directly at tickling their funny bones. It also doesn’t hurt that Tim is more eye candy than everyone else.

Tim is a force of nature. Funny is funny and Tim is funny. Tim shows people themselves. He holds up a mirror to each of us and helps us not to take ourselves so seriously. Tim is the kind of guy you’d love to have as your friend, the guy you’d want to have on your team because you know Tim would “cover your back.” He’s equally at home standing in the Rose Garden at the White House, golfing with Joe Montana and other NFL greats, shooting an impromptu episode of Airline while traveling on Southwest and kibbutzing with the tellers at the bank.

Not everyone has charisma. Not everyone leaves you better off than they found you. Tim has “it” and gives “it” to you.

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