Apr 27, 2020

Tim Comstock’s “Shout-Out to Shut-ins” Is Must Reading (But You Need to Get on His List)

Rants from Retirement Land find a growing audience

By Ed Goldman
T o give you an instant impression of Tim Comstock—who, in his early 70s, is writing one of the most youthfully anarchic, frequently distributed screeds about this prolonged period of sheltering at home—here’s what he says when I ask him if he considers his “Shout-Out to Shut-ins” a column or a blog:

“Oh, hell, I don’t know what the crap it is! You decide! Now I also gotta name this damn thing? Jesus!”

Don’t conclude that this means Comstock is personally angry with me (no, we’re very fond pals), the demands of the pandemic (you’re getting warmer) or human folly in general (bingo!).

Tim Comstock when not aggravated

Here are some excerpts from the monographs he says he “began publishing, literally, on the Ides of March.”

-“Random Thought:  Mandatory masking for all members of Congress once all medical professionals have an adequate supply. If and when that day comes we’ve got to ask for double-masking for Devin Nunes—whatever it takes to stifle anything that beyond-stupid dumbshit says. His thoughts alone are a health threat to anyone who might heed his advice.” 

-“Sure nice to wake up to no rain after two crappy days in a row of feeling like a shut-in. Nance and the idiot poodle Maisie got out for a walk. It’s good for her, she needs it. So does Maisie.”

-“How can little kids have even a quick in-house Easter egg hunt when there aren’t any goddamned eggs around?!”

-“Add to the list of heroes (doctors, nurses, first responders, cops, etc.) the brave men and women who make house calls to repair icemakers. Bravo!”

When he gets away from his yellow legal pad or computer—I have this image of him writing his tracts with a quill pen he dips in lye—he’s a kind, loving husband of 50 years to his wife Nancy, father of two grown sons (Tim, 46, and Will, 41) and grandpa of 11- and 8-year-old girls. He has lifelong friends and deep community ties: he wrote the 100-year anniversary books of The Sutter Club, Grandfathers Club and Del Paso Country Club, in all of which he is or was an active member.

He also wrote, which is what first brought us together years ago, an absolutely terrific novel called “Reunion in Carmel,” which I called in a two-part column for the Sacramento Business Journal in 2012, “a gripping, violent-but-sensitive noir whose style, for me, is a combination of Elmore Leonard (‘Pulp Fiction’) and John D. MacDonald (the Travis McGee series).”

More on that from me:  “’Reunion in Carmel’ is about a serial killer who, through circumstances that would require me to issue several spoiler alerts, shows up in lovely Carmel-By-The-Sea on a mission of revenge. In the book’s marvelously deceptive introduction, Comstock writes that the events depicted in the book ‘occurred nearly 15 years ago,’ which becomes part of the book’s charm for me. The events never occurred anywhere but in Comstock’s imagination.”

Along the way, Comstock also had some serious big-boy jobs. 

He was deputy director of consumer affairs under then-Governor Ronald Reagan; on former Sacramento County supervisor Sandy Smoley’s staff when she was the state’s secretary of health and human services; and served as dean of students for 19 years at California State University, Sacramento, where he chaired the Commission on the Regional University, which gathered some of the state’s best minds to figure out how to position Sac State as THE academic institution of the 13-county area.  

“Yeah, they’re just doing things now we recommended more than 25 years ago,” he says, praising current CSU president Robert Nelson for “his vision and also for being what seems to be a helluva nice man.”

Tim spent the latter part of his career as the executive director of the California Dental Association, from which he retired “when I was 57 or 58, who the hell remembers?” In “Shout-Out for Shut-Ins,” he still recalls the experience of his two last jobs:  

“As most of you know two big parts of my ‘career’ were spent in the halls of academia [referenced above] and running an organization with 20,000 dentists as members. The spectrum of utter clowns and fools in faculties and dentistry is long, broad and stunning. Be very thankful if you’ve never had to spend considerable amounts of time with large members of either group—it can be stroke inducing.”

Two more excerpts:

-“Our latest shopping adventure with SaveMart found a few potholes yesterday. Everything went fine insofar as the cottage cheese was concerned (there’s never a run on that stuff). Problems arose during the messaging back and forth between me and my shopper person (Angelika this time). Somehow my chickenshit little phone got switched to and stuck on its photo mode. Nance was out for a walk and I had no idea how to fix the sonofabitch so I could communicate with Angelika. The little ding kept sounding so I know she was trying to ask me questions about substitutions, etc. All she got in response were pictures of my desk, my thumb and a full –face one of me raging at the goddamned phone with fury in my eyes and white foam at the corners of my mouth.”

-“I noticed there wasn’t even a photo of TP in the Sunday special sections distributed by Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreen’s. I am beginning to worry about myself. Culling through the ad sheets looking for pictures of TP doesn’t sound entirely healthy. Jesus, I gotta take a Cheetos break.”

The readership for Tim’s column is currently limited to 40 or more of his closest friends and relatives. But that doesn’t mean he and his wife, whom many of us refer to as Saint Nancy, wouldn’t consider adding your email address to the party.

Tim doesn’t have a website, natch—my Victorian prudishness prevents me from saying the word he used before “no” when I asked him if he had one or had ever considered creating one—but you can contact Tim or Nancy by email at tfcomstock@yahoo.com. You’ll be @!$*&^%*ing glad you did.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).