420 Recs: Brock Colyar, Nightlife Reporter
The writer known for New York Mag's "Are U Coming?" party column talks about writing sober but editing stoned.
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Photo by Zach Sokol
Cash Only’s 420 Recs is an ongoing series where interesting folks offer recommendations for all things 420 — what strains they like, what weed products are blowing their minds, and what they like to do once stoned.
Being a party reporter is one of the most daunting gigs in media, maybe only second to having a weekly column. Brock Colyar straddles both roles, and they’ve become one of the most exciting and downright funny culture writers over the past few years.
With their weekly nightlife dispatch “Are U Coming?” for New York Magazine, Colyar shadows a medley of socialites, niche micro-influencers, and undeniable legends (Candace Bushell, hello!) as they embark on a memorable night out in New York City. Brock then chronicles their misadventures in a diary-style format, with time-stamped blurbs/vignettes summarizing their activities (alongside some delicious commentary) from the first cocktail of the night through the wee hours.
Choice cuts include a Diplo DJ set at a Midtown megaclub, an Easter orgy, a Columbia frat party, an insanely cringe socialist literary party, plus an evening (or two) with Caroline Calloway. And don’t forget Brock’s cover story on partying during the pandemic, which will go down in history as one of the best time capsules of life in New York during the height of lockdown.
I’ve gotta give Brock some serious props — it takes a true mix of guts and self-discipline to helm a gig like this. It’s a tricky balance: being loose enough to talk to strangers, or riding the same chemical wave as one of your subjects, while remaining lucid and journalistically sharp. Further, a different writer might feel tempted to be overly fawning about certain events and gatekeepers, or be compelled to roast the more oblivious characters they cross paths with. Brock, however, doesn’t front. They are authentic about what they like and don’t like, bitchy when appropriate, and yet rarely punch below the belt.
Brock is also one of my favorite people to share a joint and shoot the shit with at an overstimulating social function. It’s always a treat when we hang, and the writer’s 420 Recs for Cash Only are just as delightful. In our interview below, Brock talks about writing sober but editing stoned, their ethics regarding consuming drugs with a subject, and how weed has recently infiltrated fashion parties. Big ups to NYC’s top party chronicler, we love ya!
Brock and Caroline Calloway, photo by Zach Sokol
Can you tell me about the first time you smoked weed?
Brock Colyar Oh my god, the first time I smoked was at the music festival Bonnaroo. There was a jam band playing and my cousin passed me a joint and that’s all I remember, besides the fact that I didn’t get high. It was one of those classic first time experiences where it doesn’t work and you don’t get high at all. I was 16, maybe? A late weed bloomer.
The first time I really remember getting high was my first week in college. I made a stoner writer smoker friend from Iowa and we went out to Lake Michigan together at night and got super high by the water. It was like two months before the 2016 elections, and I was such a neoliberal Hillary Clinton-supporting fuck at the time. We got stoned and then my new friend and I got into a fight about Bernie Sanders. But then we made up by going to get milkshakes.
How has your relationship with weed evolved since then? What’s your consumption like today?
Since I was maybe 19, I have smoked on a daily basis, but I’ve always been a nighttime smoker. Every night, maybe two hours before bed, I smoke a bowl because I can’t roll a joint and I’m a baby. It’s really sad because I’ve watched a million YouTube videos on how to roll, but I can’t do it, so you’ll have to teach me.
Anyway, I’ll smoke and, on a good night, I’ll use those two hours as my thinking time. I’ll write down ideas and I often edit my work when I’m high. I become more vicious as an editor, and I’ll cut things that aren’t funny or aren’t working. I also think I become slightly bitchier after smoking. So I edit my writing high, and then I joke that the next morning my desk is always littered in Post-It notes with things I scribbled while stoned — story ideas, little sentences I like, unfortunately there’s usually a few musings about the state of my dating life, etc. Nine out of ten of them are really, really, really bad, but then I usually feel that one out of ten ideas is good and makes it worth it. So yeah, I write completely sober, and then everything is edited while I’m stoned.
Lately, my relationship with weed has been changing, though. I recently went to this weed shop in the East Village that I really like, and I bought my first pen. I’ve never smoked out of a pen prior. I’m practicing becoming a more social smoker, so now I always have this pen with me. And I’m trying to use it when I’m out during the week more because I end up drinking less if I’m high.
I don’t know the name of the pen, and it shows that I’m such a n00b. I’ve smoked nearly every day for the last five years of my life, but I can’t tell you the difference between any strain. I just always smoke a sativa; I hate smoking indicas. Always sativa, even at night. I like my mind to be going. Indica can make me lethargic and I can’t move. I accidentally bought an indica a couple weeks ago, and when I smoke it, I just lay down in my bed and start watching shitty YouTube videos for hours without moving. And I’ll stay up way later than I wanted to.
What’s the weed shop in the East Village like?
It’s on East 10th near 1st Avenue, close to that crystal shop. My friend lives nearby, and it’s also near a bar that I like to go to for cheap martinis. The shop was selling weed before weed shops sprung up seemingly everywhere, so I became loyal to it. And I buy my flower from a delivery service called Hotline Green.
I’m curious about using weed while you’re out reporting for your party column. Does New York Magazine have a policy about smoking while on the job? When do you decide it’s ok to smoke with an interview subject?
So my general rule when I’m reporting is that I try not to do any substances that the people around me aren’t doing. I want the nightlife experience to be as authentic as possible to the people around me and the people I’m covering. So I usually don’t smoke unless I’m offered or the subject is smoking.
But then again, I recently started carrying around this pen. And I have to be loosened up to talk to people when I’m out party reporting. Drinking is a little more dangerous for me because I’ll end up going home too early, so I’ve been using the pen more to loosen the gears and force myself to talk to people.
So if a subject is consuming x, y, or z, you’ll mirror the behavior to get on the same wave?
Is that encouraged by your editors?
Not necessarily. I think that’s a tricky ethical question I’m always thinking about my own substance use while out on the job. Obviously, using substances while reporting can cause some problems. But I’ve also found that it can be, well, helpful. If I’m out with a subject who is drinking or smoking or whatever, and I do it too, I think it creates a mutual vulnerability between us. We’re both taking a risk. And I think by doing so I’m able to write about nightlife as authentically as possible. I approach it all on a case-by-case basis, though, and try to be as smart as possible. Of course, there have been times where I fucked up a little, meaning I drank or smoked too much and went home earlier than I should have. I like to see a party from beginning to end. I hate it when I take myself home before the end of the night (or, worse, let someone else lure me home…)
I have offered weed to a subject once. I offered it to Candace Bushnell because she was desperate for something other than a cosmo. I happened to have my pen on me, so we got super stoned together. She told me she couldn’t get high off THC, but then she got totally stoned [laughs].
Were there any other “Are U Coming?” subjects who smoked a lot?
I feel like weed has become more popular recently at fashion parties and fashion-adjacent parties. They’ll have free joints available. Like our friends from Medly were giving out weed at the Laquan Smith afterparty for the Met Gala, and also last year at a Pornhub party at Nublu during fashion week. The NSFW, which is a sex club in Soho I recently wrote about, advertises itself as a cannabis-friendly space. And when I wrote about the psychedelics scene, I smoked during the comedown. Oh, and when I wrote about some Euro sorority girls at Columbia going to a frat party! I think they could’ve outsmoked any of my subjects. And they rolled their joints in these beautiful pink and black papers, with gold filters. Very chic.
I love it when there are free joints at a party, though. Because my favorite thing to do at the end of the night is to get really stoned on my walk back to the train. If I smoke, I enjoy my train ride back — I’m playing music, I’m having a good time, and I won’t pay for an Uber.
Brock Colyar, photo by Zach Sokol
What activity do you like to do after you’ve gotten really stoned?
I like to watch a lot of reality TV. If I’m done brainstorming, then I’ll put on The Real Housewives. I crave two things when I’m high: drama and food. So I’ll watch a lot of reality TV and a lot of YouTube cooking videos. I don’t cook at all; I’m a Trader Joe’s frozen meal person, but me and Allison Roman spend time together every night. Oh, I also like to chainsmoke when I’m stoned. Love a cigarette, or five, after I’m high.
What sort of snacks do you like to eat while you’re high?
I like trail mix, Chex Mix, and the little sesame sticks from Trader Joe’s. I also love fruit — orange, grapefruit, really any type of citrus, oh my god! If I don’t have this stuff, I’m going to the 24-hour deli that just opened near my place and buying a pint of ice cream. That can mean trouble because I know there’s always a place I can get snacks at the end of a night.
What do you like to listen to when you’re stoned on that late night train back home?
It’s all Stevie Nicks. I’m a classic rock girl. ‘70s music. Stevie Nicks, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, maybe a little Joni Mitchell – music that makes me feel romantic and flirty and floaty. Music that makes me want to twirl around in a shawl.
Brock Colyar and Magda from Dirty Mag, photo by Zach Sokol
Can you recommend something to read once stoned?
I usually don’t read while I’m high, but if I do, I’m reading something I’ve read before, like my comfort literature. This sounds so cheesy, but I keep a book of Adrienne Rich poetry by my bed. If I’m high, I may pick it up and read a poem out loud. Or even an old Joan Didion book of essays that I’ve read a thousand times. That’s actually interesting: If I read while I’m high, I’m reading out loud and really focusing on the sentences and words. If I’m not doing that, I’m not taking any of it in. It’s an interesting literary exercise to read something out loud. I’m also working on becoming a better public speaker, so this helps with that.
Who’s in your dream blunt rotation?
OK, OK. Definitely Stevie Nicks. She’s my fairy godmother of everything. She doesn’t drink anymore, but I have a secret feeling that she still gets stoned. I’d want to listen to her music with her and just talk about everything. Talk all the shit. Do I get to have other guests? Might as well invite Joan and Eve Babitz too, as cliché as that is. Make it a whole LA party girl thing.