Category: 1980’s

Graduation Day (Part One)

After thirty-five years of trying, and subsquently putting it off for various reasons, today I finally graduate from college. There are so many emotions I’m feeling right now. Not just about the achievement, but my life’s journey over these last three and a half decades and how a global pandemic became the spark that would ultimately bring me to this day.

Me graduating from high school on June 11, 1987

In order properly tell this abridged version of the story, I first need to go back to April of 1987, when I was a senior at Easton Area High School and met with my guidance counselor to discuss my future plans. Plans which, as far as I was concerned, only included world domination as a rock star.

By that point, I’d already been playing guitar for two years and knew that it wouldn’t be long before Atlantic Records would be knocking on my bedroom door at home with a six-figure recording contract. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen, and before graduating high school, I ultimately decided to pursue a degree in music education.

I started out at Penn State, going to classes and getting all the student loans they would give me. Back then, they pretty much wrote you blank checks, and I used the money for important things, like guitars, amps and taking my friends out to expensive dinners. Side note: It took me until 2010 to finally pay off all of my student loans.

I dropped out of Penn State halfway through the fall 1987 semester for a reason now that escapes me. Although I bet it had to do with wanting to be a rock star. A year later, I decided to give it the old college try again, this time enrolling at Northampton Community College, before transferring to West Chester University. I received all A’s at NCC and made the move south in the Fall of 1989, where I continued to rack up every loan they handed out.

In the Spring of 1990, with $1.37 left to my name, I bailed West Chester to start a job at Easton Hospital, and by bailed I mean I just left. Didn’t tell anyone and didn’t even officially drop out. I guess you know what my WCU transcript says about that. If not, keep reading.

In the mid-90’s I went back to NCC to take a few science and computer programming classes but, that too, eventually went no where. Although I passed those classes I didn’t continue, and I wouldn’t even think about college again for the next 25 years

Fast forward to the fall of 2020. The world is in the early stages of lockdown for Covid-19, a pandemic that was killing thousands of people every day. I’m sitting at my dining room table recalling all of the terrible things that had happened in my life recently – mostly, the loss of my mother in March and being let go from my job just a month later. There was a lot of uncertainty.

My daughter, herself a recent Easton High School graduate, was looking into taking a virtual course at Northampton Community College and I helped her go online and schedule. As I was browsing the college website a strange thought popped into my head. I wondered how many classes it would take for me to get a degree — any degree at all.

It took some work but I was able to gather transcripts from Penn State and West Chester, the latter one allowing me to see all the F’s I’d earned thirty years earlier. I took all of the information and forwarded it to NCC. A few days later an advisor contacted me and told me that if I took five classes: Environmental Science, Geography, English II, Developmental Psychology and Nature of Mathematics, I would be able to graduate with an Associates in Arts degree in the Spring of 2022.

“Spring of 2022?” I thought to myself. “Who the hell knows where any of us will be by then?” Then I thought about it some more and said, “You know what? Fuck it. Let’s go!”

I enrolled in the Winter of 2020 and, fortunately, was in a position where I wouldn’t need student loans. I’d take things one class at a time.

These last 18 months weren’t easy. I mean, how could they be, I’m a 50+ year old dude who hasn’t picked up a college textbook in 25 years, and also had to continue to navigate a full-time job, take care of a house and pay bills. Environmental Science and Geology were eye openers, Developmental Psychology was interesting and English II, which is right up my alley as a writer, was a piece of cake.

The last class though, Nature of Mathematics, nearly killed me. Believe it or not it was so hard that at one point I actually considered dropping out. But I’m so glad I was able to bury that give up attitude I had as a young adult because — well, today is the day I’m graduating from college.

Former ‘SNL’ bandleader and Stroudsburg native G.E. Smith joins Bad Company drummer for Sellersville show

G.E. Smith

Two legendary artists are set team up for an evening of guitar-driven blues and classic rock when guitarist G.E. Smith and British drummer Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company) bring their “We Rock U Roll” tour to the Sellersville Theater X p.m. Saturday

Smith, a Stroudsburg native and frequent performer at the theater, is no stranger to music fans. He served as guitarist for Daryl Hall and John Oates during their formative years in the 80s — performing on albums with monster hits like “Kiss on My List” and “Private Eyes.” He was with them in Philadelphia for the Live Aid festival in 1985 where he also played with Mick Jagger and Tina Turner.

Smith would later become music director of “Saturday Night Live.” A position he held for 10 years before returning to touring as a sideman with such artists as Bob Dylan and Roger Waters.

Although they’ve occasionally worked together in the past, Smith and Kirke’s performance marks the first time the pair has taken their friendship and love of music out on the road.

I recently spoke to G.E. Smith about the upcoming “We Rock U Roll” performance in Sellersville (8 p.m. Saturday), his Stroudsburg upbringing, and much more in this exclusive new interview.

James Wood for The Morning Call: What do you like most about performing at The Sellersville Theater?

G.E. Smith: Well, one great thing is that I’ll get to stay at my brother’s house in Stroudsburg [laughs]. Sellersville is a good feeling theater. I like that town. There’s a nice hotel next door where we’ll have dinner, and a lot of people I know from the area will also come to the gig. These are people I grew up around.

Read the rest of my

Interview with G.E. Smith by Clicking Here.

Interview: 80s hitmaker Howard Jones, coming to Sellersville Theater, talks about songwriting, playing Live Aid, and touring with Ringo

Photo: David Conn

For three decades, electronic pioneer Howard Jones has been a regular presence on the international touring scene. He’s been performing his arsenal of hits and fan favorites, like “No One Is To Blame,” “New Song,” “Hide & Seek,” and “Things Can Only Get Better” in various band configurations, including his high-tech electronic setup.

But perhaps there is no better way to appreciate the foundational impact of Jones’ music than when it’s stripped down to its barest of bones. Jones will do just that when he brings his acclaimed Acoustic Trio Tour to The Sellersville Theater at 8 p.m. Feb. 20.

Joining Jones on stage that evening will be two of his longtime friends, Nick Beggs and Robin Boult, for an evening of musical fellowship.

Jones will certainly have no shortage of stories to tell. Since bursting onto the contemporary music scene in 1983, he’s sold more than 8 million albums. His monstrous 1985 album alone, Dream Into Action, went platinum in the US and featured four smash hits, including the aforementioned “No One Is To Blame” and “Things Can Only Get Better.”

A few of his other credits include performing solo at the piano at the Live Aid festival in 1985 and touring as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.

I recently spoke with Howard Jones about this and his upcoming performance in Sellersville.

James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from your upcoming performance in Sellersville?

Howard Jones: We had been halfway through an original run of the trio tour when COVID struck. Everything was being canceled and we had to get home pretty quick. These dates are fulfilling the ones we didn’t get to do. It’s the trio tour with Nick Beggs on the bass end (he plays an instrument called the Chapman Stick and double bass), Robin Boult plays guitar and I’m on piano and vocals. Nick and Rob are two of my best friends in the world. Touring with them is a total pleasure and I hope that gets reflected in the music that we present. It’ll be the three of us enjoying ourselves on stage.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Howard Jones by Clicking Here

A Letter To M

Being filled with emotion, I was having difficulty deciding what to say. I mean, how can you put into words the passing of a teacher who meant so much to you? So, what follows is the Facebook message I sent to Ed Milisits on November 10th, 2021. It was shortly after a group of about 75 singers, composed of several generations of students and friends, got together for a last minute flash mob in his back yard. It was our way of telling Ed how much we loved him.

For those who may not know, Ed Milisits played a huge role during my high school years. He was larger than life and, at times, almost felt like a celebrity to me. Blessed with perfect pitch and a love of choral music, Ed taught this fledgling rock guitarist the ins and outs of music theory and life lessons. Even though I’d find myself struggling, Ed was always there with encouragement or to answer any question. Often times we’d have deep conversations about the rules of part writing, and how that stuff didn’t jive with the music I wanted to play. But Ed said something that still sticks with me: “I know part-writing doesn’t line up with rock music, but you’ve got to first learn the rules before you learn how you can break them.”

I was fortunate to have connected with Ed again many years after high school was over. This was after he’d retired as a teacher and began conducting an adult choir which, to no one’s surprise, was comprised mostly of past students. My best memory of those days was requesting a piece for us to perform called “Os Justi.” It was one we’d done in choir my senior year and one that really resonated with me.

When I first made the suggestion to Ed, he said he’d put it up for consideration. Then, in the Spring of 2017, 30 years after last performing it, I received this message from Ed:

“Hey Jim…thought you’d be interested to know that Os Justi is ON THE WINTER PROGRAM LIST! We WIN…hahahahahahaha!”

I don’t normally share private email messages but this one seems fitting. It’s our last conversation, and Ed ended it with a heart/love emoji.

Godspeed, Ed. The best teacher / maestro I ever had. Save a spot for me in the bass section of the heavenly choir.

Ottawa, Canada May 1987

Hi Ed –

When they asked if I’d be interested in being part of a flash mob for you, I just couldn’t say no. You mean a lot to so many people, myself included. You may not know this but you played a big and important role during my formative years of high school. It took me a long time to “find myself,” but the choir and music theory classes meant everything to me.

Your teaching style and encouragement [“Talk to Me”] helped me to not only learn theory but also how to become a better person. Even the old lady smoke filled bingo nights we used to work for the concert choir were fun — ok, maybe that’s pushing it… lol.

You were the main reason I wanted to become a music teacher. I even remember you letting me shadow you one day while I was a student at West Chester. Sadly, I never wound up finishing college at all because I dropped out. Then last year, I finally decided to go back. I started taking classes at NCC and now have only one more class to take to obtain a degree in General Studies. It won’t do anything to help me get a better job but at least I can finally say I finished.

I’ve attached a photo from our choir trip to Ottawa back in 1987, one of the best times of my young life. I keep it in a large scrapbook along with programs and photos of my musical achievements and bands throughout the years. It’s my musical biography. Something very important to me all these years later, and it wouldn’t mean anything without you there.

I hope you enjoyed our little mini concert and wanted you to know that I think about you often and how much I love you.

Ed Milisits – December 31, 1953 – January 8, 2022

Birthday Reflections at 52

October 5th, 2021: My 52nd Birthday

This is my tenth entry in this series of birthday posts. Something I started shortly after I began my writing journey in the fall of 2011. 

To be honest, and especially with everything that’s happened over the course of the last eighteen months, I didn’t feel like posting anything at all, but instead of rehashing all the gloom and doom about viruses, failed leadership and elections, I’ll try to remain upbeat. After all, it IS the greatest day of the year:

Birthdays are the one day where we, collectively, celebrate the individual, and by that I mean we don’t use the day as a reason to inundate social media with over the hill jokes, pay for lavish lunches, or give someone a number of spankings equivalent to their new age, plus an extra one to grow on. Although I do remember that was the best part about attending birthday parties as a kid in the 1970s, so long as you weren’t the one on the receiving end.

No, the real reason people blow out candles, consume large quantities of cake, receive greeting cards (hopefully, with a few greenbacks in them) and open whimsical presents is to commemorate the day you arrived on Earth.

You’re alive, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.

For me, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was a youthful teenager; driving me and my buddies around in a beat-up, 1972 Toyota Corona (honest, there really was a car named “Corona”). Going to the mall on Friday nights after school, pouring my hard-earned, summer lawn mowing earnings into video game cabinets and drinking gallons of Orange Julius and wishing I could somehow muster up the courage to go over and talk to the cute girl who was standing with her friends outside of the Listening Booth record store. Ah, youth.

Wasn’t I the one who was able to go to rock concerts and stay up til the wee hours of the morning? Sitting in some dingy diner; smoking cigarettes and drinking gallons of coffee while talking to friends about what would happen when we took on the world and made all of our dreams came true? Now, I’m lucky if I can stay up til 10 p.m. most nights.

There’s an odd sense of immortality you have when you’re young that makes you believe time will always stand still, and that you’ll never be as old as your parents. But then, one day, you take a nap and wake up in their role. To give you some perspective, my father died at the age of 51. As of today, I’ve outlived him.

I promised I would keep things upbeat for this post so I won’t continue to rehash the past. Instead, I’ll talk about the future. In addition to continuing to do interviews for The Morning Call newspaper and Guitar World magazine, I’m also heavily in the writing process of several books. Something that has been put off for quite a while but something I am extremely excited about. I am thinking more of a collection of short stories — perhaps two novellas in one. More on that in the months ahead.

I’ve also been dabbling a lot in watercolor painting. Not only has it been a great stress reliever but it’s something you can do that doesn’t cost a lot of money and where you can literally see your progress every day:

I called this one “The Road Beyond 50.” If you visualize yourself in it, the painting is a metaphor for life. You can’t see where you’ve been (the past) or the scars that you carry. All you can see is where you’re standing now and the road to what lies ahead of you. As in life, there is beauty all around us and a brave new world just waiting to be explored. I plan on doing a lot of exploring in the days, weeks and months ahead.

I hope my next trip around the sun, and walk down this path, brings all of us a sense of hope, peace and most of all, love. 

Foreigner Returns To The Road With 121-Date Tour Across 16 Countries

Foreigner – Photo credit: Bill Bernstein

Universally hailed as one of the most popular rock acts in the world, Foreigner‘s timeless anthems include ten multi-platinum albums and 16 US Billboard Top 30. With a formidable musical arsenal that includes monster hits like “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “Cold As Ice,” “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” “Hot Blooded,” “Juke Box Hero,” the band continues to propel sold-out tours and album sales, 

Foreigner is bringing these hits back to concert stages across the world with the recent announcement of a new, 121-date concert tour across sixteen countries.  

The US leg of FOREIGNER’s world tour will take the band to 71 cities in 42 states. Dates are listed below. For tickets and more information, visit www.foreigneronline.com

FOREIGNER is: Mick Jones (guitar), Kelly Hansen (lead vocals), Jeff Pilson (bass, vocals), Michael Bluestein (keyboards, vocals), Bruce Watson (guitar, vocals), Chris Frazier (drums) and Luis Carlos Maldonado (guitar, vocals). 

Thursday, June 24                     Ottumwa, IA – Bridge View Center

Friday, June 25                          Sioux Falls, SD – Washington Pavilion

Saturday, June 26                      Bismarck, ND – Bismarck Civic Center

Tuesday, June 29                      Casper, WY – Casper Events Center

Wednesday, June 30                 Billings, MT – MetraPark Arena

Friday, July 2                             Welch, MN – Treasure Island Great Lawn 

Sunday, July 4                           Fort Bragg, NC – Pope Army Airfield

Tuesday, July 27                        Fresno, CA – Saroyan Theatre

Wednesday, July 28                  Prescott Valley, AZ – Findlay Toyota Center

Friday, July 30                           West Valley, UT – Maverick Center

Saturday, July 31                       Grand Junction, CO – Los Colonias Park Amphitheater

Sunday, August 1                      Rio Rancho, NM – Rio Rancho Events Center

Wednesday, August 4                Lubbock, TX – Buddy Holly Hall

Thursday, August 5                   Enid, OK – Stride Bank Center

Saturday, August 7                    Park City, KS – Hartman Arena

Sunday, August 8                      North Little Rock, AR – Simmons Bank Arena

Tuesday, August 10                   West Allis, WI – Wisconsin State Fair

Wednesday, August 11              Cedar Rapids, IA – McGrath Amphitheatre

Friday, August 13                      Arcadia, WI – Ashley For The Arts

Saturday, August 14                  Interlochen, MI – Kresge Auditorium

Sunday, August 15                    Peoria, IL – Civic Center Arena

Tuesday, August 17                   Kettering, OH – Fraze Pavilion

Wednesday, August 18              Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium

Friday, August 20                      Doswell, VA – AfterHours at Meadow Event Park

Saturday, August 21                  Selbyville, DE – The Freeman Stage at Bayside

Monday, August 23                   Syracuse, NY – New York State Fair

Wednesday, August 25              Bridgeport, CT – Hartford Healthcare Amphitheatre 

Thursday, August 26                 Webster, MA – Indian Ranch

Friday, August 27                      Cohasset, MA – South Shore Music Circus

Saturday, August 28                  Hyannis, MA – Cape Cod Melody Tent

Thursday, September 9            Grand Forks, ND – Alerus Center

Friday, September 10                Rapid City, SD – Rushmore Plaza Civic Center

Saturday, September 11            Butte, MT – Civic Center

Tuesday, September 14            Everett, WA – Angel of the Winds Arena

Wednesday, September 15       Nampa, ID – Ford Idaho Event Center

Thursday, September 16           Airway Heights, WA – Northern Quest Resort & Casino

Saturday, September 18            Fort Hall, ID – Fort Hall Casino

Tuesday, September 21             Bend, OR – Les Schwab Amphitheater

Wednesday, September 22       Kennewick, WA – Toyota Center

Sunday, September 26              Reno, NV – Grand Theatre at Grand Sierra Resort

Wednesday, September 29       Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery (orchestral)

Friday, October 1                      Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre (orchestral)

Saturday, October 2                  Santa Barbara, CA – Santa Barbara Bowl (orchestral)

Monday, October 11                 Detroit, MI – Fox Theatre (orchestral)

Tuesday, October 12                 Youngstown, OH – Foundation Amphitheater (orchestral)

Wednesday, October 13            Grand Rapids, MI – Van Andel Arena (orchestral)

Friday, October 15                    Johnson City, TN – Freedom Hall Civic Center

Sunday, October 17                   Knoxville, TN – Civic Auditorium

Monday, October 18                 Columbus, OH – Palace Theatre

Tuesday, October 19                 Charleston, WV – Municipal Auditorium

Thursday, October 21                Reading, PA – Santander Performing Arts Center

Friday, October 22                    Wilkes Barre, PA – F.M. Kirby Center

Saturday, October 23                Baltimore, MD – MECU Pavilion

Monday, October 25                 Providence, RI – Performing Arts Center

Wednesday, October 27            Port Chester, NY – Capitol Theatre

Thursday, October 28                Hampton Beach, NH – Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

Friday, October 29                    New Brunswick, NJ – State Theatre

Saturday, October 30                Atlantic City, NJ – Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena

Thursday, November 4              Corbin, KY – Corbin Arena

Friday, November 5                   Springfield, IL – UIS Sangamon Auditorium

Saturday, November 6               Southaven, MS – Landers Center

Monday, November 8               Savannah, GA – John Mercer Theatre

Tuesday, November 9               Augusta, GA – Bell Auditorium

Wednesday, November 10        Greenville, SC – Bon Secours Wellness Arena

Friday, November 12                 Macon, GA – Macon City Auditorium

Saturday, November 13             Tupelo, MS – Bancorp South Arena

Sunday, November 14               Brandon, MS – Brandon Amphitheater

Tuesday, November 16              Huntsville, AL – Mark C. Smith Concert Hall

Wednesday, November 17        Birmingham, AL – BJCC Concert Hall

Friday, November 19                 Biloxi, MS – IP Casino Resort & Spa

Saturday, November 20             Pensacola, FL – Saenger Theater

Interview: Guitar legend Steve Howe Discusses Asia’s New Box Set – ‘The Reunion Albums: 2007-2012’

Left to Right: Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer & John Wetton

Multi-platinum selling supergroup Asia are celebrating their 40th anniversary with new 5-CD boxset, The Reunion Albums: 2007-2012. The package includes the three albums (PhoenixOmega and XXX) that reunited original members John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes. The reunion albums are presented together in a collector’s boxset designed by Roger Dean, who produced all of the artwork on the original albums.

A dual-CD live recording, Fantasia: Live in Tokyo rounds out the package and features many of the tracks from the band’s first two albums, Asia (1982) and Alpha (1983) as well as heritage tracks from each band member’s musical history. The live concert also includes an acoustic version of Ride Easy, a B-side from the band’s debut single, Heat of the Moment, performed for the first time.

We spoke with guitarist Steve Howe about the new boxset, 50 years of Yes’s landmark single Roundabout, and his undying love for Martin guitars…

How did The Reunion Albums: 2007-2012 boxset come about?

“Because there hasn’t been much touring, there were discussions with management about the idea of taking a look at those three albums which had recently returned to our ownership.

“When I listened back to PhoenixOmega and XXX, it was a delight to put them in perspective. It was a very productive period for the band. Phoenix has a bit more intricacies and proggy bits and the other albums are a development from that starting point. So we decided to put together a boxset with Roger Dean and everyone else who’s worked with us. It’s marvelous.”

The set includes the 2CD live concert Fantasia, Live in Tokyo from 2007. Did the idea to do a full-on reunion album build out of that tour?

“When we met in 2006, Geoff said he and John were starting to write together and that there was enthusiasm from Japan, America and England. At the time, Yes had taken a hiatus and I thought, ‘Great! I hadn’t played this music in years.’ My only pre-condition was that we would play the songs more meticulously than we did in the old days.

You can read the rest of my

with Steve Howe by Clicking Here.

‘The Best Is Yet To Come’: Indomitable Songstress Bonnie Tyler Discusses Her Uplifting New Album

Photo: Tina Korhonen

Read the rest of my
Interview with Bonnie Tyler by Clicking Here.

Interview: Carol Lewis Discusses Tony Lewis’ Posthumous EP, ‘More Than I Dared’, The Outfield

Photo: Carol Lewis

Following his unexpected death last October, the family of Tony Lewis, lead singer and bassist of the 1980s rock band The Outfield, as well as accomplished solo artist, posthumously released his sublime new EP, More Than I Dared.

The EP follows Lewis’ acclaimed debut solo album, 2018’s Out Of The Darkness, and is rich with the spirit of The Outfield; particularly on songs like the hook-laden “Gonna Make You Love Me,” and “I Feel Alive.” Other highlights from More Than I Dared include the guitar-driven “One By One,” and the colorful “Then There Was You.” The latter of which an intriguing departure from Lewis’ signature style.

There’s a magical element to More Than I Dared that’s undeniable. A showcase of elements in Lewis’ musical arsenal as songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. With music by Lewis and lyrics contributed by his wife, Carol, More That I Dared is a welcome treat for fans and a fitting honor to the legacy of a man who’s music will live on for generations to come.

100% of net proceeds from the initial release of More Than I Dared will be donated to MusiCares, an organization Lewis was very fond of.

The Outfield [which also featured Lewis’ friend and longtime collaborator, John Spinks, who passed in 2014] took the 80s by storm with their 1985 debut, Play Deep, and songs like “Your Love,” “All The Love,” and “Say It Isn’t So.” More than thirty-five years later, “Your Love” and Lewis’ signature vocal opener: “Josie’s on a vacation far away…” continues to be featured in compilation albums and commercials as well as streamed nearly a million times a week.

I recently spoke with Carol Lewis about More Than I Dared, Tony, The Outfield and more in this exclusive new interview.

What inspired the new EP?

Carol Lewis: The EP was inspired by Tony’s newfound solo career. He wanted to show that he had grown in confidence as a composer and producer and was keen to show another side to his talent.

How would you describe More Than I Dared in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of Tony’s previous solo work or with The Outfield?

Carol Lewis: A lot of people thought Tony just sung the songs but he was so much more than just a vocalist. He was a very accomplished musician who could play lots of instruments. He had a vision of how he wanted to sound, and although there would always be Outfield influences he wanted to add a different dimension to show where his own personal influences and style came through.

What was the songwriting process like for the two of you?

CL: Tony was always producing backing tracks and working on new ideas. He would sometimes spend all day in his studio and then play them for me. Then I would ask him what he was trying to say, and he’d say something like: “I have no idea, but it should go something like this….” Then he’d sing me something that made no sense. So I’d sit and think about scenarios from life and words would generally follow. The best time for me was while I was out running. It gave me clarity to make sense of things and what he wanted to say.

Read the rest of my
With Carol Lewis by Clicking Here

Back To School

Me, June 11, 1987

Thirty years ago I had an epiphany. It was March of 1990 and I was in the middle of my second semester at West Chester University. My goal at the time was to major in education and, eventually, go on to teach young, impressionable minds about the only subjects I truly cared about: guitar and music.

Before we go any further, allow me to give you a little back story:

I had already graduated high school three years prior to this revelation but things didn’t turn out the way that I planned. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved music, but back then all I wanted to do was be the next Eddie Van-Halen. I knew that was something that wasn’t going to hapen overnight, so I decided to enroll at Penn State University in the Fall of 1987 as a music major.

I had no money set aside for school and my parents, who’d recently divorced, had no means of helping to fund my education either. So I applied for grants and took out loans. Quite a few loans if you really want to know. I was told at the time I wouldn’t have to worry about paying them back, at least not until six months after I’d finished school. It was almost too good to be true. I’d be rich and famous by then.

Most of my tuition for that first semester was covered by loans, and the people at the bank were kind enough to give me plenty of extra money as well. Checks made out to James Wood rolled into the bursar’s office faster than cars at a Chik-fil-A drive-thru, and every day I’d sneak down to the office in between classes to see if another one had arrived. Ones that were supposed to be set aside for schooling but instead I used to buy important things, like guitars and amps and treating my friends to coffee and cheese french fries at the local Perkins. I went to school three times a week, didn’t have to work and the money continued to roll in. I was living the life, or so I thought. Don’t believe me? Here’s an entry from a journal I kept back in 1987:

Journal Entry: Sept 2, 1987 while sitting in Psychology class.

By November, I was getting pretty tired of going to school. I just wanted to rock, and there was no one who could tell me otherwise or point me in the right direction. I dropped out of Penn State and spent most of 1988 working odd jobs while trying and failing, often miserably, at starting a band.

One day I received a letter in the mail informing me that, since I was no longer enrolled in college, the funds from my student loans would have to be repaid. The bill had come due. Not just for all the classes I dropped, but for all those guitars, amps and five-star meals I’d consumed. I needed a way out and fast.

I decided to attend the local community college with an emphasis on music education and an eventual transfer to West Chester University. This worked out well for me in two ways: First, it put the money I already owed on the back burner again. Second, and even more importantly, it allowed me to continue to take out more loans for tuition while pocketing the rest. By August of 1999 and my first semester at West Chester, I was already looking at some serious debt, and I was not even twenty-years-old.

“This is going to be worth it,” I assured myself.

Which leads me back to the ephipany of 1990 and to when I’d once again pretty much given up on college. Sure, I was going through the motions, but I wasn’t paying attention in class and was driving home almost every weekend. One day two of my roomates who, unlike me, had just finished studying, asked if I wanted to join them for a night out. When I reached into my pocket to see what funds were available, I fished out a single dollar bill and thirty-seven cents worth of loose change. It was all the money I had to my name. I reluctanly told them I’d have to pass.

That’s when I had the epiphany. Even though I’d given it the old college try, school just wasn’t going to be for me. I had to face the inevitable and do the one thing I hated most in life….. find and keep a job.

I decided to drop out of West Chester. Well, let me rephrase that, I didn’t actually drop out of school. I abandonded it. Yep, I packed my things, drove home and never went back. Eventually received the report card stating I had received all “F’s,” save for an English II course where the instructor was kind enough to put down a WP (withdrawl passing) for me. I would wind up spending the next ten years slowly making payments on my loan while working as a garbage man and pharmacy technician. I did try going back to community college in the mid-nineties and, although grateful my loan payments were again put on hiatus, once again never finished more than just a few courses.

Around the turn of the century (still blows my mind to say that) I decided to change careers and enrolled at the now defunct Allentown Business School where I received a quick diploma in Information Technology and have spent the better part of the last twenty years resetting passwords. Yes, I do a LOT more than that but don’t want to bore you with tech stuff. It took more than a dozen years but I even managed to pay back every penny I owed in student loans.

Journal Entry: September 1987

Recently, I had another epiphany. My daughter, now a high school graduate herself, enrolled at the same community college I attended. As I looked over her schedule it got me thinking about all the classes I’d taken over the years and how much I’d left on the table. All the money I spent on education, guitars and meals that went absolutely nowhere. Having not thought about such things for the longest time, I decided to find out what classes I had.

I started by logging onto the community college’s website and viewed my transcript. I was suprised to find that I had accumulated 51 credits in subjects ranging in everything from psychology and music to French and philosophy. This led me to check West Chester’s website where I discovered more than a dozen more I’d earned.

Hmmmmm…..

With newfound curiosity I decided to reach out to an advisor at the community college to see what this hodgepodge of classes might get me in terms of a degree… any degree… and how fast it could get me there. After reviewing everything I’d given her, the woman I spoke with told me that if I took an environmental science course over the winter and four other courses in Spring (English II, Developmental Psychology, Environmental Sustainability and Nature of Mathematics) I would earn an Associate in Arts Degree in General Studies and graduate in May of 2021. What’s more, all of the required courses could be taken completely online at my convenience, so it wouldn’t interfere with my current job.

So, guess what I’m doing after more than thirty years? …. I’m going back to school. It is an idea as frightening as it is thrilling.

What do I intend to do with this degree? I’m so glad you asked. Because that was the same thing the advisor wanted to know when I told her I wanted one as quickly as possible.

Initially, she asked me what prompted a 51-year-old man to consider a career change, noting that my answer would be crucial in determining which courses I should enroll in.

“If your goal is to move on to a four-year college and become a teacher,” she said, “you’ll definitely want to make sure you cover your education requirements.”

“I have no intention of becoming a teacher or even changing careers,” I told her. “I enjoy what I do.”

“Then why would you want to get a degree at this stage of your life?” she asked, curiously.

I thought about high school and the three colleges I attended. The classes I took, the guitars I bought, the meals I ate and the loans that were now long paid off. I was grateful to finally be in a position where I wouldn’t have to worry about taking out any more of them. Then I smiled.

“I want it for me,” I said.