Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Up until last Thursday, I was traveling with three dear friends.  We had a great time together, got along unbelievably well.  We called ourselves the Zuiderdam Dykes, after the HollandAmerica cruise ship we were on.  Here's Bobbi, Cecelia and Judy -- the ZuiderDykyes -- in a cafe in Venice.
Inline image 1

But they all went home last Thursday,so I've been on my own in Istanbul.  Emre, who manages the condo/hotel I'm staying in, just told me that the four of us were very "popular" on the block!  This is a tiny street where a lot of people hang out.  He says people were always asking him how the "omas" were doing.  I'm the only oma left.  It seems I've reached the point in my life where just being alive and moving around endears me to people.  

Last night I dreamed about all the ZuiderDykes. We were flying around together, like birds in the air -- the only medium we HAVEN'T traveled together on!  

Yesterday I spent hours in the pouring rain trying to track down the two lesbian places in Istanbul, a bar and a cafe.  It's not easy in these warrens of tiny streets, where there sometimes are no street signs and streets change their names every block.  Anyhow, I succeeded in finding both places. They're both out of business.  Oh well.  Today the weather is better.

Today I got a very late start.  Talked long with Emre, about the political situation here.  For those who don't follow the news, a peace demonstration in Ankara, the capital, was disrupted by two bombs that killed 100 people and injured 200 more.  The demonstrators were gathering to demand that the Turkish government stop bombing the Kurds.  The Turkish people are devastated and grieving, although it's not something I can observe unless I talk with people.

I've talked to several people besides Emre.  I try  to understand.  It's so complicated. One Kurdish man, who was our guide at Aya Sophia, said the current president of Turkey, Erdogan,who has chosen to bomb the Kurds, is the Kurd's FRIEND.  He said, "It's really the U.S. that's bombing the Kurds!"  Remember, Istanbul IS the former capital of the Byzantine empire, which gave its NAME to convoluted politics.  I see that confusion is very bad for democracy.  At least in the U.S., I have some understanding of what's going on.  The Republicans are evil and insane and the Democrats need quite a bit more backbone and we need more political voices on the left -- my brief analysis.   This understanding allows me to hope and engage in the political process.    

Liberals see the Ankara bombing, which is the worst terrorist act in Turkish history, as another excuse for President Erdogan to tighten his grip.  They've got an early election that Erdogan called on Nov. 1, and Erdogan is now calling everyone to rally around him, so Turkey can have solidarity against "the enemy."  But who IS the enemy?  Many think the greatest threat is Erdogan himself, and they don't put it past him to have arranged/encouraged the bombing.  In any case, he has created an atmosphere of division and hatred for the "other."   This is a country that shares borders with Russia and Syria, among others.  However difficult things are in the U.S., it is so much more difficult here.   Very shameful to think of our contributions to the current mess -- the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq -- which have such huge consequences for all the countries of the region, and a very indirect effect on us in our giant rich country surrounded by ocean and two friendly nations.

I have no sense of the politial turmoil here, just from walking around.  People are jolly, enjoying life.  Everything seems OK, and people are very friendly.  I've definitely fallen in love with Istanbul.   There was a demonstration here, which I only saw pictures of in the paper.  I don't think I'm brave enough to seek out any protests.  My friend Laura says I shouldn't feel guilty about being a good tourist.  She says that, too, is a contribution to the cause of Turkish democracy.  I can't quite remember her reasoning.  

The only visual sign of the political crisis I've seen is this mourning banner, black with red carnations (the national and native flower), hanging from a political party office on Istiklal Boulevard, the hip shopping, eating and cafe-sitting street:
Inline image 2

Today, I went on a Bosporus cruise -- 2 hours, which was plenty.  Very pleasant.  Saw some castles and fortresses and mosques.  
Inline image 3Inline image 4Inline image 5

Talked to a nice Danish woman on the boat.  She's the headmaster of a boarding school in the north of Denmark. There, the government pays for the education in private boarding schools, and the parents pay room and board. 

Then went to the spice market and the Suliemanye Mosque, which isn't so near the other big attractions.  I had to walk quite a way from the tram stop.  

The mosque was closed for prayer and was going to open in an hour.  I decided to hang out on one of the rooftop cafe terraces I could see from  the Mosque courtyard that overlooks the whole city.  This area is NOT developed for tourism, to put it mildly.  I entered a dark dirty hall and climbed five flights of colorful and very funky  stairs.
  Inline image 6

But when I reached the roof, the VIEW was Four Stars, at LEAST… 
Inline image 7
And then, the muezzins started calling people to prayer.  I was above the city and I could hear them ALL.  It was the most amazing experience.  A glorious cacophony rising from the whole city -- and dominated by the Meuzzin closest to me in the Suliemanye Mosque.  Astonishing. 

Then back to the  beautiful Suliemanye, built by the greatest Ottoman architect, Sanan.  Just a tiny detail of the courtyard here:
Inline image 8

And then home, buying a big suitcase along the way for all my tons of stuff.  I'm going to pack tonight to see how much room I have.  Maybe I can BUY MORE STUFF tomorrow!  Shopping in Istanbul is the most fun ever!  I'm even learning how to bargain.  

Tomorrow's my last  day.   I'm having a great time but also can't wait to get back -- although I always have a hard time with re-entry.

Love, Terry

Monday, September 14, 2015


Went to the Hirschfield exhibit at the New York Historical Society, which happens to be the closest museum to where I'm staying.  Hirschfield is the  illustrator/caricaturist  who was a fixture in the New York theater scene with his lively and exaggerated line drawings of Broadway plays and stars.  He captured the ENERGY of the actor. 

 Below are drawings of the first production of THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Tennessee Williams, the Marx Brothers, and a production of a play at the Moscow Art Theater in the Soviet Union. If the Marx Bros. drawing looks like he copied it from someone else, that's because this BECAME the iconic image of the crazy M Brothers.  In fact, Groucho, upon seeing the artist's exaggeration of his hairdo, told the movie studio that he wanted his hair to look exactly like that in his next movie!

Hirschfield lived a happy, productive and LOOONG life.  He lived to 99, did his last published drawing --  of Tommy Tune for the NY Times --  six months before he died.

In an interview, he said, "I have absolutely no interest in landscapes, in drawing nature.  I want to sit in a cafe and observe PEOPLE, watch a play and capture the actors.  Nature doesn't interest me.  The Grand Canyon just looks like a decayed molar, magnified a million times.   PEOPLE -- that's what I love."

His favorite subjects where what he called "GLANDULAR actors -- with bulging eyes and thick lips, the ones who are bigger than life."  He bemoaned the more realistic "arid" style of of today's actors.  

It made me think about making Hick bigger, even bigger than life.  I've been going in that direction anyway.  After all, her STORY is bigger than life.  A secret yet not-so-secret romance with the First Lady in tumultuous times.  I have to keep reminding myself that the context of the story I'm telling is BIG!  I'd like to create a performance that Hirschfield would find inspiring to draw.  I ain't no decayed molar.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


This is the sixth page of a letter Hick wrote when she had her job traveling around the country reporting on economic conditions and New Deal programs to Harry Hopkins and FDR.  Most of the letter is telling ER about her job.  But on this page, obviously she’s written something  in an earlier letter to ER that she now regrets.  Hick was always apologizing to Eleanor.  She just wanted more than her lover could give her.  And the public attention she got when she was with Eleanor was unbearable to Hick.  Hick was used to be the observer, not the observed.   Hick was temperamentally unsuited to the situation she’d gotten herself into.  But she loved Eleanor too much to ever walk away from her.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

To those who worked to destroy the Michigan Women’s Music Festival and are now reveling in their victory:

I want to tell you about Dorothy.  She had a small tent right next to the path I had to go down to get anywhere.  She had a table outside her tent, a good chair.  Lots of food and cold drinks.  A nice set-up.  Clearly she was a veteran of Michigan.  She knew what she needed to be comfortable, and brought it.  

I think she was probably over 70.  Longish straight white hair.  Tanned face.  Sturdy.  Every time I went down the path, she was there, drinking a beer or sipping a cup of coffee, often reading a book.  We would make eye contact, give a little smile.  I didn’t feel drawn to her or motivated to make more contact than that.  I never saw anyone else talk to her either.

Then at some point I realized that every time I walked that path, she was ALWAYS there, in her chair, sipping and reading or just looking.  She wasn’t going to any of the concerts or the workshops or visiting friends in other tents.  She was just SITTING OUTSIDE HER TENT ON THE SIDE OF THE PATH BY HERSELF!  What was THAT about??!?

So I stopped to talk to her.  She was very pleasant and open to chatting.  Dorothy was from Chicago.  She was a dyke.  For whatever reasons, her life had led her to isolation from her fellow humans.  She was a hermit.  She lived in her apartment in Chicago without contact with other people.

She said what saved her sanity was her week at Michigan sitting in front of her tent next to the path.  Surrounded by thousands of women, feeling their energy.  She didn’t need concerts or conversation.  The only place she felt safe around others of her species was in those scrubby woods, alternately dusty and muddy, with the endless sounds of music playing, and women laughing and singing far into the night.

“It recharges my batteries,” she said about her one week a year at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.  She said that one week made it possible to survive the 51 weeks of solitude that followed.  And then, by golly, she’d be there next to the path again, with her sweet little set-up.

Dorothy was an extreme example, but there are thousands of lesbians at Michigan who go back to lives where they can never be themselves in public, where they feel they must stay in the closet.  For these women, Michigan has been a very special place, a lifesaver, a battery recharger, a sanctuary, a week of pure, joyous freedom. 

And now, after 40 years, it’s ending.  Yes, all cultural institutions wither and die eventually.  But this is not a natural death.  Sophisticated people organized to kill Michigan before its time, because it outraged them that women had created a safe space for themselves. 

Dear self-righteous people:  What do you suggest Dorothy do next year?

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Saw the documentary “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” last night.  It’s focused on the enormous explosion of what I would call The Women’s Movement – I think that’s how the women I knew named it at the time – in the late 1960s, early 70s.  The Women’s Movement. 

It was a very exciting time, and the documentary is pretty damn thrilling to watch.  Consciousness-raising groups.  “Take Back the Night” marches.  Actually getting laws changed.  The Lavender Menace taking over a feminist conference to demand that the women’s movement embrace lesbians.  A group of women called “The Janes” in Chicago who actually learned to PERFORM illegal abortions.  Now, that definitely deserves its OWN documentary. 

My favorite picket sign from the demonstrations shown in the film was “Stop Human Slavery – Don’t Get Married!”  I happened to see “She’s Beautiful…” with a friend who has recently come to the realization that she is just OVER caring for and feeding her sweet husband.  So the sign seemed very apropos. 

I was there, in New York, in the middle of it, in 1969. I went to a meeting of the New York Radical Feminists.  Only one meeting, but it changed my life.  They handed out a mimeographed sheet – just one piece of paper.  It might have been titled “The Light Bulb Moment” or something like that.  Just one page of statements to help me understand how sexist our world was/still is, and how this strangles every woman’s life.  The Light Bulb concept was that at a certain point, if you saw the sexism that was all around you -- you would have an instantaneous revelation that would illuminate your life.  It would be like turning on a light in a dark room.  That sheet of paper turned the light bulb on for me. 

My whole life (I was 23 and still straight) I had felt vaguely uncomfortable, that there was something wrong with me, something …off.  I understood in a flash, while reading that page, that my discomfort was caused by the fact that I JUST DID NOT FIT INTO WHAT A WOMAN WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!  I was too loud, I talked too much, I had too many opinions, I was too funny, I didn’t act deferential enough to others.  I was not what society was looking for – and it WASN'T because there was SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME!  No!  SOCIETY WAS WRONG to have such a strangling definition of me! 

Wow.  That was it.  I wasn’t wrong anymore.  What a great big gigantic fucking relief.  Vague discomfort gone.  I was supposed to be WHO I WAS!  There was no turning back from that liberation.  Light bulb still on. 

I was in graduate school studying directing for the theater.  Once I became a feminist, I could no longer find any plays I was interested in directing.  I realized I had to write them myself. 

So my deep deep gratitude to all the amazing and courageous women activists who went before me.  I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for you.

Go see “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.”

Below:  A photo of Lilith Women’s Theater on our 1979 European tour and a poster from the tour.