A pale light shines in the land of golden gods

Santo Caruso

Let me start by stating the obvious: the farthest I went for spring break this year was the kitchen, and if my refrigerator were on wheels, I wouldn’t have even gotten up for that.

No, there was no Dominican Republic, Cancun, South Beach or Puerto Rico for Santo.

Last year, Spain for fall break and Santo Domingo in the spring. This year Palmyra, N.J. in October and West Conshohocken, Pa. in March.

The transition into the last 16th of my college career was not filled with booze and babes, but rather early morning trips to the gym and afternoons bussing tables in Philadelphia.

Some flew hundreds of miles. I ran half a dozen on the treadmill.

Some spent days laying on sun soaked beaches. I slept on the floor of my sister’s apartment in University City.

Imagine the travel brochure: Come to Philadelphia — gray skies, greasy food and a city full of depressed souls, anxiously awaiting the return of a sun which has been gone so long it seems like a myth.

I am not nearly as bitter as these introductory paragraphs would have me seem (actually, I’m about ten times more jaded, but that is besides the point).

In fact, I really hope you sorority girls and beer-can-on-the-head-crushing guys had a great time on your cruise.

I’m glad to hear the Dramamine worked like a charm, and none of the buffet shell fish made you sick. And that the liner didn’t break in half like the Titanic leaving you to choose whether to kick your roommate or your little off of the lifeboat so there will be enough room for you.

There is really only one thing that upsets me, besides the beginning of spring coinciding with all of your arrivals (which allowed you to gently slip back into the cold, rainy hell that is Pennsylvania in March).

No, what really got to me is when, in my first class on Monday, I looked around and noticed a trend amongst you: you are all tan.

Ranging from skin the color of the light brown of the sand in Miami to roasted red like the setting sun in Maui, you all have changed shades.

You’ve all revved up the melanin engine early, and now you reap the results of increasing your chances of skin cancer by cooking yourself like a Thanksgiving turkey, basted with tanning oil and stuffed with margaritas.

And I couldn’t be more jealous.

So now I stand out like the one healthy thumb surrounded by swollen, red fingers. I look around and I feel like I have fallen into the O.C. and all of the pastel polos and still sandy flip-flops don’t make me feel any more included.

It isn’t enough to hear the stories of buckets filled with Corona and Red Stripe, so cold you stop sweating after the first sip, and of bikinis held together by dental floss against the collective will of entire beaches filled with men. I need an hour and fifteen minutes of reminding.

I have to feel the heat radiating off your skin. I need to smell the aloe vera you apply so carefully to the sensitive spots on your lower back and nose. I need to look down and see my arm next to yours on a desk, like brown gravy on a skinny pile of mashed potatoes. Vanilla-nova is now Mocha-Nova, and I didn’t get the memo.

So as your early season tans fade under the slab gray sky of the MainLine, SPF 1000, don’t mourn the loss.

Join me in jealousy of those that go the whole year with olive skin, and count the days till Memorial Day weekend. 69, 68, 67…