Raining death down on Disneyland


Each month, NewsWorks presents a story from a First Person Arts story slam. In this edition, Trevor Cassidy recalls a macabre childhood experience with his dead aunt at Disneyland.

As part of a monthly series of stories from the First Person Arts podcast, NewsWorks presents this hilarious and macabre tale from Trevor Cassidy.

Storytellers are challenged to tell a true five-minute story about their lives, based on a theme, in front of a live audience, and without notes. The theme of this story is “journeys.”

Click the audio button above to hear his story. A transcription follows. [Audio production by Kimberly Haas.]

I love Disneyland. And I welcome all judgment, but, like, I f—ing love it.

When I walk into Disneyland, this electric energy surges up through my body. And the only thing I can do to channel it out and away from me safely is to contract every muscle in my body. I live in genuine terror that I’m going to walk into Disneyland one day and have a happiness aneurism, and they’re going to have to do that thing where they keep me alive long enough to remove me from the park property before I die, because, you know, no one technically dies at Disneyland.

So, anyway, this love for Disneyland is not just my own; it’s my whole family. I’m an only child, but my mom, my dad, and my mom’s two sisters, Theresa and Karen, are all avid devotees.

We spent a lot of great times there, me and Karen. Karen and I were very close growing up. She was like a second mom to me. She also had this really horrific auto-immune disease called scleroderma, which is this just really dreadful, disabling disease that makes your skin really tight and waxy and painful. I remember she always had open sores on her hands. Eating anything really spicy was difficult for her. It just wreaks havoc on your digestive system. Her hands had sort of, like, solidified into claws. She couldn’t really move her fingers. When she would pick me up from school, kids would think that she was my grandma.

It was this wretched thing, but we still had our great times at Disneyland together. So when I was in seventh grade and she finally died from her disease, my family and I knew that we had to make a pilgrimage back to Disneyland to put her ashes there.

I don’t know why we thought this was OK, but apparently it’s an actual thing. Like, Disneyland has a cleanup crew that speciualizes in cleaning up human remains.

So the summer after she died, we showed up on Disneyland’s doorstep. And we’re standing outside the bag-checks. You know, we’re all nervous. We’re all very straight-edge, white-bread people. My mom’s standing there, and she does what any good American lady does when faced with a situation like this: She targets the male bag-checker and tucks what looks to be a pound of questionable-quality cocaine under a layer of tampons, and … we’re in. Perfect.

So, we immediately book it over to Karen’s favorite big-thrill attraction, Splash Mountain, which is, you know, tucked way back in the corner of the park in Critter Country. And we’re trying to, you know, get there as fast as we can to limit our interaction with the people, but it’s a very popular ride.

So we’re there, we’re at the front of the line. We’re loaded onto this flume log. Now, these are six-seaters. We asked to be sat toward the back, so there’s the four of us and these two poor ladies who got seated in front of us.

The thing about Splash Mountains is, as it’s name would indicate, it is, like, basically all water. We have two good shots right at the beginning of the ride to kind of, like, hurl her up onto some solid ground. My mom gets a little over-eager, and ends up accidentally underfunding right into the faces of some people who are waiting in line and looking down on us. And they’re waving their hands in front of their faces and coughing, because, like, my dead aunt is inside of them. And so we’re like: OK … 0 and 1.

But finally we round the corner and we see it: Yo, dude, that’s where Fox’s house — like, there’s the place. We each grab like a handful out of this Ziploc, and get a nice big arc. We all made our targets perfectly, and it was a moment of utter joy, and a little bit of guilt, as the ladies with the white powder — we, like, covered them, basically. But fortunately, their combined weight with my father — and my father is of a gentleman’s girth — the splash down was enough to like remove any trace.

And now I know that when I grow up and I have my own kids one day, I’ll take them on a pilgrimage to Disneyland, and I’ll tell them, “You know, the remains of your dead aunt are on top of that mountain. And she’s watching over you.”

What is it about Disneyland, anyway? Sure, it’s “the place where dreams come true,” but what accounts for Cassidy’s profound love of the place. We checked in with the storyteller to find out.

Are you an amusement park fan generally, or is there something special about Disneyland for you?

I definitely enjoy a good roller coaster, but Disneyland is the bougie step mom of your average amusement park. It’s huge, immaculately clean, and the park employees (known as “cast members”) are alarmingly polite. It’s an incredibly immersive experience, and their immense attention to detail makes it especially rewarding for Disney-philes. More than anything else, though, I think my affection for Disneyland just comes from having loved it as a kid. Revisiting a place tied to such great childhood memories makes you crazy with nostalgia, wherever it is.

Did your family get into any kind of trouble from the incident?

Those poor ladies were thankfully oblivious to everything. I remember one of the women taking notice and asking her friend, “What’s this white powder?” They tried to brush it off their shoulders but ended up kind of smearing it into their t-shirts. The colossal tidal wave at the splashdown was enough to deep clean the flume log and its occupants, and we walked away smug and scott-free. But I have since read that in some cases of in-park ash dispersal, the Anaheim county police become involved.

If you were to be cremated, where would you like to have your ashes scattered?

I would definitely ask to be dusted across the mountains of my home state Colorado when the aspens erupt into gold in the fall. But after this story slam, I suppose I would have to make the additional request of being tucked in some totally prohibited corner of the globe — maybe next to my aunt on Splash Mountain, or in the Coca-Cola recipe vault.


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