Thursday, January 16, 2014

What I Did for Love (and music) by Jody Casella

Sometimes people ask me why I write for teens.

So I threw together an answer and stuck it up on my website: Because there’s a floundery, confused, angry-at-the-world, cynical-yet-jokey 16-year-old still trapped inside me.

On the surface I may look like a forty-something suburban soccer mom, but plunk me down in front of my laptop and it doesn't take long before I am tapping into the 16-year-old self I once was.

The one who trudged around school yearning to disappear. Or appear.

The one who slammed the bedroom door. A lot.

The one who blared music on the stereo.

I was into music big time. And none of that bubblegum pop music. I liked hard rock and heavy metal. AC/DC. Black Sabbath. Led Zeppelin. But my favorite group was Van Halen.

I trace all of this to a boy, specifically my on again/off again but always in danger of drifting away from me boyfriend. I knew he liked Van Halen and I wanted to impress him by presenting him with their album for his birthday.

I was a naive 14-year-old Barry Manilow fan when I browsed around the record store. I didn't know Van Halen had several albums. I didn't even know they were a they. I thought Van Halen was some guy named Van. I studied the album cover. Four guys. Lots of big hair and biceps. I forked over the 12 bucks.

Turns out my boyfriend already had that album.

Whatever. I'd keep it. I'd show my unimpressible guy that I could like his music too. I bought the other albums. I played them over and over. I read the fan magazines and lusted after David Lee Roth, the wailing singer.

A few years later when I heard that Van Halen was coming to a city near me, I was dying to go. The problem was the tickets went on sale at 10 am the next day, a school day. People were lining up that night in front of the arena. There were rumors the concert would sell out in less than an hour.

My boyfriend said he'd go, but he couldn't risk skipping school again. "Hey," he said. "Maybe you could go?"

I knew it was crazy. It was January. There was a forecast of snow. I had no car. I roped in a friend of mine who did and the two of us made hasty plans to camp out. We had enough of a brain between us to attempt to dress for the weather. Long johns under our jeans. Double pairs of socks. Hats.

What we didn't have:

  • money
  • directions to the city. It was only 15 minutes away, but shockingly, neither of us had ever been there (Side note for teens: GPS and cell phones did not exist.)
  • brains (I was kidding before. We didn't have brains.)

I told my distracted mother I was going to buy tickets for a concert. She didn't ask for details so I didn't share them.

My friend and I got lost on the way there. Then we drove around downtown until we found a big building with a line of about 150 people snaking around it. We got into the line and quickly realized how underdressed we were.

Authority figures yelled at us to stay in line or we would lose our place forever. It snowed. Wind blasted in our faces. I lost feeling in my feet. My friend and I struck up a conversation with two boys standing behind us. We joked about how crazy we were. We discussed leaving, but each hour that passed we'd say, but how can we leave now when we've already been here so long?

At dawn whoever was in charge took pity and let us into the building to wait. One of the boys snuck off and bought me a hot chocolate. He took off my boots and he warmed up my frozen feet.

At 10 am I bought tickets for me and my ingrate of a boyfriend. The concert sold out fifteen minutes later.

My friend and I got lost on the way home.

It was my first time ever skipping a day of school. Luckily, my good student reputation protected me from being discovered; the school thought my mother had forgotten to phone it in. And God bless my mother. She never even realized I'd been out all night.

The concert was cool. David Lee Roth pranced around the stage in--I kid you not--black leather pants with the buttock area cut out.

My boyfriend and I broke up.

And then we got back together like we always did.

Life went on until I could escape to college.

But I will tell you this: every once in a while I like to throw on a little Van Halen. Just like that I am floundering and confused and angry at the world. I am slamming doors and shivering in the cold. I am whirling through unfamiliar streets in the middle of the night. I am blasting music. And sometimes a kind boy is warming up my feet and offering me hot chocolate.

Here's a snippet for your listening pleasure...


  1. I love this story--and I want to know what happened to the boy with the hot chocolate! Is there a novel in there?

    1. I wish I knew what happened to that boy too. But here's something that occurred to me when I was writing this post: he DID sort of make it into one of my books. In Thin Space the MC warms up a girl's icy feet and helps her put her boots back on. I never made the connection until the other day.

  2. This is adorable and makes me so uncool--I'm still a Fanillow. :o)

    1. Ok, I admit I still like to throw a little Manilow on every once in a while too. Lola does have a funky cool beat...

  3. You and I had the same tastes in first concert was Kiss! It. Was. Incredible. MY high school love made fun of my musical tastes, though. He preferred Elvis Costello.

    1. Kiss. They just don't make rock bands like they used to. (Or maybe they do and I just don't know it because I am old)

  4. Great post, Jody! I can't believe you got to see David Lee Roth -- LIVE -- in those infamous pants. My first concert was Rick Springfield. I can't type that without laughing.

    1. Ah, Rick Springfield : ) I forgot about him. Must say I was a big fan of him when he was Noah on General Hospital.

  5. Perfect answer to the why of reading and writing YA fiction.

  6. Thanks, Berek! I may have to change my website answer to this blog post...