Rest in Peace Greg Niclas

I took the picture below yesterday morning while driving to New Jersey with some choral friends to sing at the memorial service for one of our members. His name was Greg Niclas and he died on Christmas morning after a brief and sudden illness. He was only 33. Greg sang at our holiday concert and he sang when we caroled in front of Grace Church on December 18th. Oh God, I just saw that he wrote this on his Facebook page that very night:

“I can proudly cross drunken caroling in the east village off of my bucket list. In related news i have no bucket list, but drunken caroling is super fun!!”

I’m sure that took place later in the evening! He also wrote this to our conductor after our last performances:

“I wanted to send a quick note to say that this concert was definitely at the top of my ‘most enjoyable singing experiences’. For me, music is more about the moments than the overall and this lineup contained so many beautiful instances in several different pieces. At two(!) points yesterday, I too got choked up and subsequently made minor flubs due to a loss of focus (apologies for that). The fact that it was still able to get to me during the final performance after we’ve been singing these pieces for months is basically why I enjoy singing in general, and the Choral Society specifically.”

A few weeks later I was singing and choking up at his memorial. I don’t have a lot to say about it. Death is bad. Death of young people (33 is young to me) and children is horrible. I’ve been at a lot of memorial services, who hasn’t once you get to a certain age, and the memorial services of young people are always the most packed. But of all the well-attended memorials I’ve gone to, aside from celebrities, the memorial for Greg beat them all. His friends and family filled every seat in a large church, they stood in every available inch in the aisles on either side of the pews, the lobby in front of the sanctuary, and finally the area in front of the church itself.

The stories they told about him, and the memorials I’ve read online, made it very clear why there were so many people there. He was an incredible, breathtaking human being and I offer my deepest condolences to all who knew him.

The Barnes & Noble at 8th Street and 6th Avenue is Closed

Not a good sign of the books-times. I worked here years ago, although it was a terrible experience. At the time the place was being run by this truly unpleasant, humorless person. It always felt to me like she was playing the part of a being a manager, from something she’d observed in a business school class perhaps, but she had no real talent for it. She’d assume this go-get-’em attitude except she was not encouraging or inspiring, she was petty and punishing, making otherwise passionate, engaged employees the least productive group I’ve ever seen.

All day long she’d have us move whole sections of books to one floor or another, or to one side of the room or another, always thinking she’d find the perfect arrangement, the one layout that would magically increase sales, and unfortunately this was the only play she had. She had no other ideas and did not welcome any of ours. The whole time I worked there I moved books up and down stairs and across the floor. Over and over and over. I wonder if customers picked up on the vibe-of-misery whenever they shopped there?

This is not a comment on Barnes & Noble, by the way. It was one brief period in one store which I am very sad to see go. Ha! You can see me taking the shot. I don’t always to remember to make sure I’m not in the reflection.

The Liberties We Have Lost

Someone tweeted how Obama had just signed a five year extension of Bush-era warrantless wiretapping. It was not long after Instagram had announced they were going to sell people photographs without their permission. The tweeter noted how there was a huge uproar about selling photographs without permission, but warrantless wiretapping hadn’t raised a peep.

It was a very good point. It made me want to make a list of all the liberties we’ve lost since 9/11. It’s probably already out there. I just googled it. It’s out there all over the place and it’s not pretty. Here’s the NYCLU’s list. I’d post more but I have to run to the dentist. More about that another day! (Also not pretty.)

Update: Here’s an article about what Obama just signed. This part in particular freaked me out—how could anyone have a problem with this amendment: “By a vote of 52 to 43, the Senate on Friday rejected a proposal by Mr. Wyden to require the national intelligence director to tell Congress if the government had collected any domestic e-mail or telephone conversations under the surveillance law.”

The Empire State Building on New Year Eve. If you didn’t watch my movie of this you might want to, because it was a beautiful light show.

Empire State Building New Years Eve 2012