Meet Nick Gray, Thrower of ‘Culturally Significant’ Williamsburg Parties

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Nick Gray, applauding the Freelance Whales. Photo: Doree Shafrir

There are ways, one discovers, that one makes friends in New York City. Some people just hang out with the people they went to college with and the various people their college friends went to high school with. Some people meet friends at work. Some people probably meet organically, the way you read about in the Times "Weddings" section, but which never sounds true.

Or some people just meet Nick Gray, who has styled himself as a sort of Lois Weisberg for the Tumblr age. Every month or so, Gray, who is 27 and lives in Williamsburg, has a party for a whole bunch of young people who are largely strangers. Some he's met on Facebook or through Tumblr. Some he meets at McCarren Park or Whole Foods or bowling; he hands them his card, which has his e-mail address on it, and adds them to his "Friends Newsletter," which gets sent out once a month and updates everyone on what his friends are doing.

These Newsletter Friends include people like CollegeHumor founders Ricky Van Veen and Jakob Lodwick (whom Gray met at Wake Forest), Abbeville Press editor Briana Green (whom he met at a bar), and a woman named Lauren Aguilar, who is getting a Ph.D. in social psychology at Columbia (whom he met — and kissed — on New Year's at a dinner hosted by Whisk and Ladle, the semi-secret supper club).

"He always had a real outgoing personality," said Sue Gray, Nick's mom, who was in attendance. "He wasn't shy about doing this type of thing. Our basement was always a gathering place."

Last night, Nick — whose day job is working for the family business, which manufactures entertainment equipment on jets — greeted everyone as they walked through the door. Even though everyone gets a name tag, he seemed to remember all the names, even those of people he'd only met once. In the kitchen, a young woman named Rachel Eakley had provided hors d'oeuvre like Parmesan polenta, Gruyère and thyme crackers, and pommes annettes.

"Nick's parties are all about togetherness — not about exclusivity," said Anthony Volodkin, the 23-year-old founder of mp3 blog aggregator the Hype Machine. "It's very un–New York."

"These parties are very culturally significant in Williamsburg," said David Karp, who is the founder of the blogging platform Tumblr and is also Eakley's boyfriend. He said this completely without irony.

In fact, being un-ironic and nice seemed a key qualification for attending a Nick Gray party. Also, doing things. There was a furniture-maker, the founder of a dance troupe, and two women who had just started an ice-cream company called "Milkmade." There was a band, the Freelance Whales, who performed on instruments like the banjo and the glockenspiel. With all this business, perhaps it stands to reason that a Nick Gray party has a schedule, which had been sent out in an e-mail the day before. The third item on the itinerary was "Juggling Lessons."