By Courtney McLean
Growing up in Southern California, my brother, Colin, and I were treated to trips to Disneyland. Our parents would take us after my father’s Rotary Club breakfasts because of the close proximity of the Happiest Place on Earth to the pancake house.
On this sunny and warm October day, Colin, and I, at 13 and 15 years old respectively, were going to Disneyland for the first time alone. Kind of. Mom and Dad decided to spend the day nearby at the Disneyland Hotel Resort, possibly as a sexy daycation, a redeux of the few days they spent there for their honeymoon. But I think they actually just wanted to be close by in case their only two babies got into trouble.
Joining my brother and I on our escapade was my boyfriend Jeff: a tall, lanky, dirty rebel I had met at the park a month earlier. I was in my second year as an annual-passholder, one of many teenaged “Locals,” as we liked to call ourselves, who hung out in Tomorrowland on the long, curvy bench just outside the Premier Shop. Our many Disneyland-security-annoying activities included being loud, dancing to the Space Age cover band in the Tomorrowland Terrace, and crank-calling what we honestly believed was Edward Furlong’s number from inside the glass cage phone booths. After two years of weekly Saturday visits, I knew Disneyland like I knew all the words to the band Nelson’s debut album.
We made our way to the hustle and bustle of Main Street. Jeff and I took Colin to all our favorite places of our weekend lives: the electric voltage machine in the Penny Arcade where you deposit a quarter, hold onto the metal prongs for dear life while 250 volts coursed through your arms till you felt like your bones would break; the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey where from a certain angle, Mickey’s nose stuck out just enough to make it look like Walt had a very low boner; we munched on soft Mickeyshaped pretzels from my favorite place in Critter Country just outside the Splash Mountain exit. On Big Thunder Mountain, we made Colin privy to all our ride-enhancing tricks like facing backwards during the loops in the dark and on Pirates of the Caribbean, we stood up on the downward slopes and were told to sit down via PA system by the ever-watchful Disney Big Brother. We toured the shops of New Orleans Square and tried on feathered hats, rode Peter Pan in Fantasyland, the rollercoaster in Toon Town, Star Tours and Space Mountain in Tomorrowland, ejected from each ride into its respective gift shop.
Sitting on the carpeted floor in the back of the Premier Shop later that afternoon, Jeff and Colin emptied their pockets to show me the small mountain of knickknacks they had been stealing throughout the day: little plastic figurines of the Disney character universe, keychains, buttons, candy, mini LED flashlights; anything that could be easily concealed by the lithe hand of a teenaged boy from the counter to his pocket. As the goody twoshoes older child, I was aghast. I knew that Jeff was trouble, but the fact that my brother had been swayed to follow his lead… But they didn’t stop and I didn’t try to stop them either. Obviously, they were able to steal this mound of useless items with me being none-the-wiser.
As the day wore on and the moon rose in the lavender Anaheim sky, the three of us visited a touristtrap shop in Adventureland across from the Jungle Cruise that specialized in Oriental trinkets and jewelry. A few weeks prior, Jeff had stolen for me an ornate silver ring emblazoned with a yinyang. It was from this very shop. So in order not to provoke any sort of suspicious lines of questioning from the employees and despite its mangled shape due to my having bent it to make it fit my small finger snugly, I took it off and put it in my pocket.
Ten minutes later, we left the shop a few ounces heavier with our new stolen booty. Even I took something: a little heart pendant made of some green-brown stone. We headed towards the bathrooms to get ready for our next heist when a voice came booming out from behind us: “Okay, guys, give me the rings.” We swiveled around to see a man towering over us in a hoodie and jeans holding up a badge. Jeff and Colin obediently turned over their new loot, but I just pulled out the misshapen ring: “I have this ring, but it’s from a few weeks ago.” The man examined it with his huge blue eyes magnified several times through his spectacles. “No, this is from tonight. Come with me.”
The three of us were escorted across the park. Colin and Jeff were solemn and silent: Colin was probably scared, but he didn’t show it, and I doubt Jeff gave a rat’s ass what was happening. I, however, was a blubbering mess. Our father had recently become a born-again Christian and I found myself chanting as a result of his influence, “I’m going to Hell, I’m going to Hell, I am going straight to Hell.” The only other time I had been caught stealing was at 6 years old when Mom discovered my shoebox full of Tidal Wave bubblegum from several sticky-finger incidents at the grocery store and that embarrassment was enough to quench my inner-klepto until this day. Yet despite my haze of guilt and fear, I managed to find the heart pendant in my pocket and inconspicuously toss it in a bush. Upon reaching the security offices, I had nothing on me.
Parents were called Jeff’s weren’t home, nor would they have been surprised by these events, and ours were, oh yeah! At the Disneyland Hotel next door. Colin and Jeff were each pulled into separate rooms (which is when I finally saw my little brother break down into tears) and our bug-eyed undercover cop brought me outside. He held up the ring I had given him. “Okay, this is clearly not from tonight,” indicating its bend and scratches. “Your parents are at the Disneyland Hotel?” I nodded, desperately trying not to sob. “Go find them.”
I scoured the grounds of the Hotel. This was in the days before the ubiquity of cell phones not recognizing at the time that it was extremely irresponsible for those security boneheads to allow a cute fifteen-year-old girl to be wandering around alone at night. It might be Disneyland, but the Hotel grounds were accessible without an the exorbitant admission price to all of Anaheim, CA, a town aptly nicknamed “Anaslime.” After an hour and no Mom and Dad, I returned to the Park’s security offices to find my brother emotionally scarred from a chastising phone conversation with our grandfather and Jeff casual about his crimes as per usual, suffering no recourse because his parents were on vacation, or so he claimed. The boys returned their pile of knick-knacks and with no guardians to take us off security’s hands, we were allowed back into the park with the warning, “If you so much as spit on our sidewalks, we’ll have you arrested.” We spent the remainder of the evening shaken and attempting to enjoy the rides at the park. Colin claimed we had been followed onto the People-Mover by our undercover friend.
Our family arrived home to the evidence of my brother’s and my bad news on the house answering machine. The punishment was huge in my young mind: grounded for a week including absolutely no Disneyland (which, as an annual-passholder in the summer, was such torture to have to stay home the following weekend). I was barred from seeing Jeff for a month (which ended up being several months because a few days later his parents had him whisked off to one of those juvenile boot camps out in the desert) and Colin and I were allowed to never again watch MTV, it being the root of all evil in my father’s eyes. I didn’t realize till years later that he’s actually right about that. Whether or not I’m going to Hell for stealing from Disneyland is to be determined.
Courtney McLean is a comedian, writer, storyteller, actress, and improviser originally hailing from Southern California. After 5 years living in New York City, she now happily calls the Twin Cities home. She is the bandleader of Courtney McClean & The Dirty Curls, pioneers of naughtybilly: dirty comedy bluegrassy music (doy).