The Stub Project: Beck, Pavement and the Secret Abortion – 4.25.1997
Beck meet Pavement. Pavement, Beck. Possibly one of the greatest double-bills I have ever seen, although oddly, it is not presented as such on the ticket. Pavement opened this show and while notoriously an uneven live band, they were stellar that night. Beck followed with an incredibly dynamic performance, essentially channeling Bob Dylan, James Brown, Elvis Presley and perhaps a little Vanilla Ice into a whole that deliriously transcended the sum of its parts. It was truly a post-modern masterpiece, proving that Odelay was not just a studio construction, but a heartfelt and emotionally resonant blueprint for the new millennium. In 1997, Beck simply was where it’s at. It was a huge privilege to be there.
The show was quite intoxicating, but what I remember most about that night had nothing to do with the music. I was in the helplessly smitten phase of a long distance relationship and my new girlfriend (let’s call her Agnes) had come down to visit me in Los Angeles for the weekend. If ignorance is bliss, well, I couldn’t have been happier that day. Myopically, I thought the feeling was mutual. Agnes, though, I would learn later, was not doing quite so well. She had just had an abortion that morning, the product of a previous dalliance.
That abortion’s ghost would haunt the rest of our relationship. The thwarted fetus’s father would learn of his progeny’s demise many months after the fact and to Agnes’s surprise, he expressed sadness that she hadn’t carried the child to term. He would have loved to have been a dad. A veteran of several abortions, Agnes had never had a sperm owner express regret at her choice before and, naturally, it made her think she had made a huge mistake.
Despite her inner turmoil, Agnes would move into my L.A. apartment about eight months later. After three weeks together, she returned to San Francisco for a long weekend. She had “some loose ends” to clean up.
I have not seen her since. She never came back, abandoning everything she owned so she could reconcile with the father of her abortion. There are just some ties that are too strong to break and this was apparently one of them.
Naturally, I was heartbroken. Just as the beginning of love blinded me, so did its end. Only recently have I come around to seeing what an achievement Agnes’s actions were that day: having an abortion, hopping on a plane to L.A. and heading straight for an epic rock extravaganza. Considering that she simply walked out of my life without offering an explanation for about a year, I had thought Agnes was gutless and weak, but she clearly possessed a serious degree of fortitude that I have long failed to acknowledge.
So if ignorance is bliss, the truth is waiting in the weeds, poised to jump out like a rabid wild boar and bite you in the ass. I was better not knowing about Agnes’s abortion that day, just like I would have been better off not knowing about, say, Beck’s conversion to Scientology. While his so-called religion should be irrelevant to me, I haven’t really been able to enjoy his music since. Sometimes, it’s best just not to know. The father of Agnes’s abortion would have been better off knowing nothing and Agnes would have been better off not knowing that he would have liked to father her child. After all, from what I understand that relationship didn’t end up lasting very long.
Life gets messy fast. No wonder, in the end, all anyone really wants is a shady lane …