Words & Photos – BJ Panda Bear @bjpandabear
Editorial – Black Chalk Magazine @blackchalkmagazine
So I See You’re Still Partying
When you were young, you watched Sex and the City mesmerized. You thought life was going to be an endless journey of designer shoes. You imagined a perpetual stream of intriguing lovers who would give you stories to tell, and attending fabulous events in wondrous settings.
In reality, you hustle all your excess cash for a pair of ‘rent money’ boots per season. You meet assholes who clearly aren’t worth your time. The only constant truth in this city are those strangely endless openings of various types you find yourself at. As a native Angeleno, I grew up taking in every experience of the City, and trust me Los Angeles has an endless supply of low-brow luxuries and high-brow desolations.
I started off the other night by running late to a store opening in Beverly Hills. All the men were in pristine button-ups and the women simply too old and pilled out to care. I struggled hard to find my social footing. But eventually I ended up leaving early, just as the line of out of touch, real estate trust funders in pristine suede loafers spoke of the undying devotion to being someone’s bottle service daddy. The whole bizarre ‘Beverly Hills Self Congratulatory’ scene just didn’t sit right with me. A man dressed in a perfect suit never has to flaunt it.
I left by dashing into my Uber and ran to the next event of the night, a VIP preview of the new Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit at the LACMA. It was all there. From the photos of Patti, to the abstracted physiques of all his lovers and the erotic installations that spoke of a classic New York artist life. It is the story of a sketchy bohemianism, the long-lost relic of modern indie ballads. It is one that ended up in obscurity, drugs and AIDS. Yet it was all so inspiring, the pure artistic technique to the definitive lighting enveloped both my senses and my soul.
As my attention was captured by the jockstrap sculpture in front of me, out of the corner of my eye I saw an acquaintance, Gwen. It was quite the moment as I hadn’t seen her in years. Yet she looked just as pretty as I remembered. Her natural glow was only overshadowed by the giant rock on her hand.
She had come to LA, home for her, after a failed attempt at making it in the New York art world. Not surprisingly no one in our social circle had met her fiancé. The current rumor was that he was a Slovakian oligarch.
As she sauntered over, she had a glazed-over look in her eyes. A look that was born out of the experience of having originally come from money and losing it all. It seemed like her ring retained all the last gleaming sentiments of her soul.
She ran through normal LA script of the clearly fake, yet sincere “How are you, babes?” I was too drunk and too involved with the Mapplethorpe art pieces in front of me to really give honest answers, yet I politely obliged with a muttered “I’m fine.” After the initial cordial banter, the whole conversation shifted into a dark place. I felt confronted, as Gwen proceeded to comment ‘that she saw that I was still going out and partying’ all from what she saw on extremely flittering reality of social media. I wasn’t sure how to take it. Was it a kudos for holding it down, or was it an attack on my lifestyle? One that did not involve taking her own path, aka getting married out of desperation. I hurriedly excused myself from her presence, commenting that I might have had too many glasses of white wine.
Suddenly I found the whole crowd suffocating. Almost in a panic I found myself confused. The atmosphere was entirely made up random mix of donors joyful to participate in their societal rights, eccentrics who had been there in the 70s at Max’s Kansas City and survived all the excess of that age. Then there was me, standing with a few other individuals, whose nature only made sense at night.
I couldn’t tell if Gwen’s comment was nothing more than my own tortured manifestation of growing up, or the cry of a lost woman who had lost touch of herself to gain the artificial security of a significant other. I left soon after, overwhelmed and uncertain by that singular comment. I had a night, that was such a stark dichotomy of the uptown downtown persuasion, and in that very moment I came to the startling conclusion that I was ‘OK’. In reality I was no longer the binge-drinking mess that Gwen had known of in the past and had hinted at being the reality now. Yet I was no where near transforming myself into a socially accepted virgin for matrimony.
Instead I was right where I was supposed to be, taking a stroll down Wilshire Blvd, waiting for an Uber home.