Saturday, June 08, 2024

Chapter Two

Sally lived in a nice rented duplex of red brick in Tulsa with her roommate Alice. Alice was this earthy, holistic medicine, sense your aura, kinda person and she welcomed me into their home without hesitation. The early days of my "visit" to Tulsa were pretty low key. Sally was working as the night manager for a local restaurant chain called the Country Kettle in the evenings. During the day she would sleep, and we might do a little something together in the late afternoon or early evening. I was just happy to be somewhere new.

In the hopes that she might give me something to do, Alice introduced me to a friend of hers named, Bill Turley. Alice thought that Bill and I might get along because, like me, Bill had cerebral palsy. Let that sink in for a moment. Alice meant well, but in her short time of knowing me, she grabbed onto the one thing that she knew. I point this out, because it was and has been a fact of my life. For many people, even the kindest and most well intentioned, my cerebral palsy defines me. It is who I am to them, until I teach them something else.

It turns out, introducing me to Bill Turley was the best thing that Alice could have done. Bill was a great person and a good friend in those early days. He, like me, was able to get around and function in the "normal" able-bodied world. His speech was not as clear as mine (for those who have never met me, I am well spoken and my speech is flawless) but he spoke plainly and understandably enough. 

He also drove. He drove a standard, and I am not going to lie, as a person who has learned to be a good passenger and pretty much ignore everything that happens during the journey except polite conversation, riding with Bill was terrifying. Bill had a perfect driving record, it proves that good judgment overrides manual dexterity and reflexes. (Drive responsibly, people.) That's not a lesson that I ever learned, which is why I don't drive. (Perhaps, a story for another time.)

Bill and I went out. We had a meal. We talked. He told me about this theater troupe that he was a part of. He was going to be performing soon, and he asked me if I would like to come see the show. This sounded like fun to me. I really didn't have that much on my schedule. So, I said yes. The production company was called the Center Stage Players. They were a theater troupe for a recreation center called, The Center for the Physically Limited. 


I went to see Bill (he picked me up and drove me) in the Center Stage production of Chapter Two by Neil Simon. I don't remember much about the production, except that it featured disabled actors, blindly cast in traditional roles. Disability wasn't a factor. The actors were the characters. In this play those characters were mainly the male lead played by Bill and the female lead played by a young woman (who just happened to be in an electric wheelchair) Robin Davis.

The show was good. It was sharp, tight, well acted. (I have since seen my share of community theater, and in retrospect I can say with some authority, that this show was really good.) Bill and I went out and grabbed a bite after the show and we talked about the performance. I had a genuinely good time and I told him so.

I didn't know it at the time, but the Center Stage Players would become a changing influence in my life every bit as powerful as D&D.

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