Goodbye Maxwell Abbacowe   5 comments

As a teenage aspiring filmmaker, actor, writer, and musician, I was sure it was only a matter of time before I was world-famous, a household name. I sought and expected the kind of fame that would require one to have an assumed name, for the sake of traveling incognito. Moreover, I had already spent much of my young life explaining to people how to either spell or pronounce Pomerenk, my family name.

Those two things in combination led me, at about age 16, to create the name Maxwell Abbacowe as the name under which I would do all of my filmmaking and writing. And I’ve been using it ever since—despite the fact that I haven’t become a household name and no longer seek to, and the fact that Abbacowe turns out to give people just as many spelling and pronunciation problems as Pomerenk.

Abbacowe was in tribute to Elvis Costello, my musical hero as a teenager, and still one of my favorites—though it’s a tribute so obscure I doubt that Elvis himself would recognize it. It’s from the video for the mid-‘80s song “You Little Fool” in which Elvis, playing a disapproving schoolmaster, tracks a pair of his teenage students to their tryst at the Abbacowe Hotel, presumably somewhere in one of London’s more seedy areas. The hotel’s marquee appears in the corner of the screen, and my teenage self liked the look and sound of the word.

For a very brief time it was Johnny Abbacowe, and intended as a stage name for my career in Rock & Roll. But I could never convince any friends to join “Johnny Abbacowe And The Mockers,” and once I decided to use the name for filmmaking, “Johnny” just didn’t seem to fit. The choice of Max was inspired by the protagonist of my favorite childhood book, Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, and by my disappointment in the lack of a formal version of my given name, Scott (cf. Max/Maxwell).

And so ever since I was in high school, Maxwell Abbacowe has been the part of me that creates Surrealist films and writes on various subjects, and Scott Pomerenk has been my Clark Kent. And as much as I’ve always maintained that Maxwell Abbacowe is just as much my real name as Scott Pomerenk, and that both are totally authentic versions of me, there does seem to be a certain bifurcation.

A few years ago I wrote a feature screenplay in a much more accessible style than my normal work, and a good friend in my screenwriting group said, “There’s too much Scott Pomerenk here, not enough Maxwell Abbacowe.” I understood exactly what he meant, and since then, the dichotomy implied by his comment has haunted me.

And it has always been awkward to explain these two names to people: when I meet new people and they ask what I do and where they can see my films, I have to explain why the website and credits don’t bear the name they just learned.

Meanwhile, for the past few years I have been on a journey into religious life, moving from curious investigator to aspirant to postulant, and am now—God willing—a week away from being clothed a novice in the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory, a religious community in The Episcopal Church. Part of religious life is integrating one’s life, removing any bifurcation and inauthenticity. My friends, my wife, my Brothers, strangers on the street, and God should all experience the same version of me.

I asked up front about my alter ego before I joined BSG, and was told that pen names of that sort were not a problem. BSG leadership has never asked me to stop using that name, and still assures me that I may continue, “as long as you are the same, authentic person in every part of your life.” But my Gregorian spiritual director also wondered aloud, after seeing one of the entries on this blog site, if I was saying things in one voice that I wouldn’t say in the other. And I began to wonder the same.

Thinking and praying on this dialectic for a few years has led me to the conclusion that I should have one name and one name only. And entering the novitiate—when I will consecrate my given name as my name in religion and be called Brother Scott Michael—seems the right time to give up that alternate identity.

Many persons entering religious life take a new name—a declaration that they are a different person than they had been before. For me, entering religious life feels more of a natural continuation down a path I have long been traveling. Rather than taking a new name, I will give one up.

You will have noticed that I have already changed the name on the header of this blog, and am in the process of altering my film site and social media to reflect this change. Maxwell Abbacowe will always be part of me—a large part. But he will now answer to the name Scott Michael Pomerenk. From now on, the Episcopal religious, the Surrealist filmmaker, and the politics/religion/art blogger are all truly the same person.

Posted 7 August 2015 by Br. Scott Michael Pomerenk, BSG in Uncategorized

5 responses to “Goodbye Maxwell Abbacowe

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Very interesting! I, for one, welcome Scott back into the fold.

  2. Great explanation of your history of that name which I don’t believe I ever heard with this detail.

  3. Not only very well written (truly, one of the most integrated, seamless pieces of writing I have seen from you), but very insightful. I never knew the source of your name nor the rationale behind it. Nor did I know how the two identities share your person and impact your presentation of self.

    As one who has had 3 names (and now returned to fully embrace my formal given name), I understand how name influences identity as much as vice versa. Respect and love and honor to your journey Scott Michael, my dear brother in Christ.

  4. Thank you for the post, Scott. I just returned from a writing retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch, where I was surprised by how many people asked me if I publish under a different name. (And I am far from famous.) So this reflection struck a chord with what I’ve been thinking about. No, I’m not adapting a pen name, but I do think the idea of who (and how) we present to the world in our different roles as the same person is intriguing.

  5. A treat and a revelation to read this, Scott. And a sincere tip of the cap to the you who has always, in my eyes, run authentically through everything you have done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: