Author: Campbell, Bruce

Secret Slob...or Secret Neatnik?

In the classic novel “Catcher in the Rye”, Holden Caulfield described one of his classmates as a “secret slob”. What he meant was, the classmate kept up a neat appearance to the outside world, but behind the scenes, he wasn’t as fastidious. In fact, he grossed ol’ Holden out (dirty razor, hair on the soap – eeww!).

I think Holden was being naïve – very few of us are neat freaks in all aspects of our lives. It’s an axiomatic cliché’, for example, that a man’s house is messy, but his car is neat, while a woman’s home is neat but her car’s a mess. Argue if you want – of course there are exceptions, but it’s generally true.

Each of us chooses the aspects of life where we want to project an impressive image, or create an environment in which we feel comfortable, and sometimes, there’s just no reason not to let some unseen areas slip. Some of us are not so much Secret Slobs as Secret Neatniks.

For instance, I am anything but fastidious in my public “look”. Oh, I’m hygienic - no need to spread unhealthy germs! – but details like matching colors of various parts of mywardrobe don’t really capture my attention. Truth be told, I never had a body style that made clothes look very good, so I never saw a need to polish up that particular horse apple (metaphorically speaking).

But if Holden’s roommate was a “secret slob”, then I am indeed a secret neat freak. When I store my speaker and microphone cables, I am compulsive in making sure they’re neatly (but loosely) coiled along with the cord’s natural bias. Similarly, microphones are all neatly stored in a foam lined microphone bag. I’m not so much compulsive as cheap – gear stored carefully and neatly lasts longer and disappears less often. I have $20 cables that are almost 10 years old.

On my stringed instruments, I have some neat freak rituals, too. I don’t mind a worn-out look to instruments – on the contrary, I am thinking of loaning out my D28 to some hard strummers that can impart the requisite scratches and wear marks that make a Martin look “lived in”. But when it comes to strings, I’m a nut. I can’t stand string ends that are sticking out all over the place or even coiled up. I NEED my string ends to be clipped within a ¼” or so from the post, and a neat 90 degree bend in it to prevent getting jabbed.

I like neat stages too. I like it when the mic stands are all a uniform color, and the cables are all neatly wound down from the microphone to the next connection (PA head or snake). I have a picture of my hero Duane Allman onstage and his microphone cord has a little loop in it on its way down from the mic to the floor, and it drives me crazy. If I encountered that onstage, I would have to fix that or I couldn’t even play!

There’s a selfish method to my madness there, too: a neat stage is less likely to trip up musicians, and tracing a troublesome signal path is easier when the cable routing is neat and consistent. I don’t know if any of these quirks or rituals would impress Holden Caulfield, but collectively, they seem to slow my own descent into madness.

Posted:  9/12/2012

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