You know Halloween is coming when you see superstores sprouting up overnight all along the Post Road — not one or two but more than a half dozen — in abandoned Staples locations, in shuttered furniture stores and in closed supermarkets.

Polyethylene banners with pictures of vampires, skeletons and bats hang from the walls, flapping in the breeze and announcing a mega-store to fulfill all your ghoulish shopping needs, from costumes to masks and every other piece of seasonal schamatta imaginable. Who would have thought Halloween could rival Christmas and Mother's Day as one of the most commercial occasions of the year?

When you walk into Wal-Mart, the store has been turned upside down to make room for aisles of costumes, cards and huge bags of bite-sized candy from Skittles to Kit Kat and Butterfingers.

Because of my weak human nature, I can't get away without buying a few big bags of candy — not for the neighborhood kids but to stash under the passenger seat of my car where my wife won’t see it. Then, when I'm driving home from the train station, I’ll reach down and grab a Kit Kat or two or three.

Why “three”? Because nowadays the only thing you can legally buy are those so-called "fun size" mini-candies that you devour in just one bite. I calculate it takes at least four or five fun-size candies to equal the candy bars we got when I was a kid.

On the other hand, this may be a public-health measure to prevent cavities and obesity, concocted by the U.S. Surgeon General in the tradition of Big Gulp-slayer Michael Bloomberg. Actually, it’s probably a good idea even though the kids are getting gypped.

One thing I can't understand — and I'm sure it would take an economist like Paul Volker or Alan Greenspan to explain – is why when I was growing up in the 1960s in a lower middle-class family, wandering the trails of Pine Rock Park, Shelton, we got more and better candy bars than kids get today. Even after you adjust for inflation. Were people more generous? Was sugar cheaper? Did the laws of supply and demand change?

I can still remember hoarding my large Milky Ways, Snickers, Mallo Cups and Hershey Bars (without almonds please) so my mother wouldn't find them, and I could eat them at night after the lights went out. The only evidence of my gluttonous behavior was the dentist bill and the collection of empty wrappers she found under my bed in the morning, when she would yell her head off that I was a slob and always would be a slob, or more appropriately a slob with rotten teeth.

Even now, the Halloween candy, which goes on display five weeks ahead of schedule, causes me serious temptation because I have no self-control ... and never had any self-control. The unfortunate outcome is that before Thanksgiving arrives, I've already put on a few extra pounds from the indiscriminate consumption of candy. Too much processed sugar, as you know, is destroying America. Haven’t you seen the documentaries?

Nevertheless, this Halloween, but only if my wife agrees, I’m going to take out a home equity loan so I can afford to give real-sized candy bars to the trick-or-treaters, instead of the cheapskate fun-size.

So if you amble up to the front door, you may be blessed with a bona fide large Snickers bar, but beware of the Maltese wearing a Jack-o’-lantern costume.

For three years, she’s been dressed as a pumpkin and sits on the back of the couch, looking out the window in her orange cap and vest, surveying the neighborhood.

She’ll stay there all night, waiting for unsuspecting children to approach the front door, and when she spots someone, she emits a low foreboding growl that suddenly erupts into crazed howling and barking, which I imagine the Hound of the Baskervilles would have sounded like if it were a Chihuahua.

Even though she’s a small dog, she can scare the kids out of their wits.

"Mommy, I don't want to go there because that dog will bite meeee!"

"No, she won't, Sweetheart."


Well, isn’t that what Halloween is all about? (Maybe this is why the pranksters decorate the trees in my front yard with toilet paper every year.)

Contact Joe Pisani at