Home, Hearth and Hershey's

We're easing back to normal but the jumpy feeling doesn't go away. We squirm a lot, can't sit still. Sometimes it's hard to breathe. Probably because the air is thick with the anthrax. The freaking walls are closing in. Gotta get out of here.

Where? We don't really want to go out. Aren't we supposed to be cocooning, isn't this some kind of cocooning phase? But man, cocooning sucks. Also, the stagnation has got to be bleeding the bling-bling out of the economy. So what now?

Maybe we're not quite ready to book that Paris holiday or Caribbean cruise or even the tour of whittling museums through the Carolinas but the need to escape is overpowering. Desperate to break the cycle of jittery grief we just want a quick getaway, to snatch a few hours, even a few minutes for ourselves.

Which means it's time to get reacquainted with our dearest friend from childhood. Shake hands with candy. Now more than ever, candy.

We need candy in our lives.

Nothing delivers the potent one-two punch of taste and comfort like candy. In times of trouble or uncertainty, candy never misleads. It is as honest as it is delicious. It is a beacon, glazed and shimmering atop a caramel hill, slashing through the confusion. It is the hormonal recharge we need in a crisis, the creamy/crunchy/nougaty embrace that bolsters sagging spirits. It hot wires our heart and makes our teeth flutter. It is a lap dance for the taste buds.

Less mood swingy than booze, candy may not solve problems but it lowers our angst level and helps us regain an emotional footing. It transports us back to a time when life seemed sharp and sure and worry-free, pre-terrorism, pre-puberty even pre-school. Better than food of the gods, candy is the food of toddlers. Mother's milk may have weaned us but candy gave us a reason to drag our Underoo-wearing asses out of bed every morning.

And here's the beauty part: stores are currently loaded with the sweet swag. All kinds. From Almond Joy to Zotz, old faves to new fads, the classics to the has-beens. Stores may be running lean on gas masks, jug water and camouflage cargo pants but they are geeked to the gills with Halloween booty.

Thus we find ourselves on the cusp of one of those win-win scenarios Americans claim to be so fond of. Here's what to do: swoop in and strip the shelves. This is not about estimating the number of trick or treaters you might get, then rounding up by a bag so there's a fistful of fun-size bars left over like you've done on previous Halloweens. It's time to double down, daddy-o.

What ever amount of candy you normally buy for Halloween, double it. What's that going to set you back, 20 bucks tops? That won't send you spiraling into Chapter 11 and if we all do it, suddenly the retailers aren't laying awake at night bathed in cold sweat, choking on bile marinated in panic. Everybody skates into the crucial holiday gift buying season feeling jake.

But keep your wits about you during the splurge. This isn't mindless hurricane hoarding. Don't run through the store aisles snagging anything with an overamped sugar content. If you spot candy corn or their evil spawn -- the pumpkins, black cats or witches hats concocted from the repugnant candy corn recipe -- keep walking. Might as well snack on crayons dipped in furniture polish. Likewise, shun circus peanuts. Those foamy orange turds are packing material. Buy a big bag if you're planning to move, otherwise latch onto something with genuine flava.

Other candy gaffes to avoid: Necco Wafers. You're doling out treats not communion, Father Jerk. Razzles, it's a candy, it's a gum! Newsflash, it's not much of either. Zagnut bars. Clark bars with fur. Chick-O-Sticks. Zagnut's tasteless bastard child. Boston Baked Beans. The name says it all. Why not ladle up some clam chowder for the trick or treaters? Dots. Better known as Sucks.

Also, steer clear of anything to do with peeps. Those freaky little Easter refugees, those soft wads of marshmallow blandness, neon colored chicks and bunnies with flat dead eyes are trying to gain a toehold in the Halloween market. Don't let it happen.

Halloween is a special season. It is the perfect time to run wild and free, to soar kid-like again. This year more than ever, treat yourself. Really treat yourself. You deserve it.

We all do.

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