The Observer

The cure for Halloween hangover

There’s a foolproof solution to all those candy leftovers, but the kids won’t like it

By Sam Allis
Globe Columnist / November 1, 2009

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Rise and shine, campers. Welcome to The Day After Halloween, the second ugliest day of the year behind hangover central on New Year’s Day.

Today, parents confront piles of unspeakables like melted candy corn, smudged Snickers, and warped Almond Joys, the gift of the gods. This concoction compares unfavorably to nuclear waste.

What to do? You can’t put Halloween detritus in a compost heap. You can’t burn it. What you can do is put it out with the garbage, but only if you’ve signed a Halloween pre-nup with your children before the big day. If not, we’re talking DEFCON I on the home front.

The Halloween pre-nup is critical to the survival of the American family. It is a negotiated agreement between parents and children that determines the amount of candy offspring can consume over what period of time. These pre-nups come in all stripes. Some allow offspring one piece of candy a night after they’ve cleaned their plates at dinner. Others include a more generous daily consumption. Still others create free-fire zones where candy can be consumed any time, any place. This is called the mayhem pre-nup.

I say the mere presence of candy around the house for any length of time invites antisocial behavior like stealing and cheating, among other romper room no-nos. So the candy must go, pronto.

The Observer, as always, has a superior plan. It allows the little tykes to eat as much candy as they want on Halloween night, and what’s left gets thrown out the next day. Period. Let’s not go wobbly here. Let them eat until they throw up. Or perhaps until they finish off an entire bag of candy and race around the ceilings of the house on a sugar high like the protagonists in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.’’

But they know they will come down for breakfast the next morning to witness the ceremonial Dumping of The Candy. Misty-eyed, they will eyeball the kitchen garbage can as a parent pours the candy into it. For security reasons, said garbage bag must be monitored until it goes into the garbage can outside, and even there, devilish things can happen.

There’s other trouble brewing this morning too. What do you do with the mountain of candy left in the bowl by the front door from all the little nightmares who did not show up last night? (My wife always buys enough to sate the combined starting lineups of the Pats and Sox.) Plus, the hordes have thinned over the past few years in my neighborhood. Why I don’t know, but we continue to provide a premium assortment of sweets with the express purpose of ruining their tiny teeth.

The leftover issue is a particular problem if your kids are grown and out of the house, as is the case with us. I smell leftover candy as a police dog does dope. If it is here, I will eat it. If my wife hides it, I will find it. She has devised an intriguing approach this year that might mitigate the problem - a couple of big bags of stuff we both detest - Skittles and Starbursts, Dots and Junior Mints. Gag me with a spoon. Included as well, though, are dangerous items like Tootsie Roll Mini Chews, but I’ll toss them too, less out of fear of another cavity than the prospect of a new crown.

I can’t resist. My colleague Chris Muther wrote a fabulous piece last week about the decision by L.L. Bean to become stylish. That’s like a Ford F-150 deciding to become a Lancia. Bean is offering a new line of clothing for young hipsters called L.L. Bean Signature that will appear next March. The company has hired a designer named Alex Carleton to create it. Judging by the main photo of his work that accompanied the article, I suggest he enroll in air conditioner repair school.

This new look, as best I can tell, ranges from urban edge to J.Crew wannabe. It has no identity.

The photo shows a young man in a shrunken blazer - the dumbest fashion idea since skirts for men - one jacket cuff rolled up, and a checked shirt hanging out beneath a striped sweater. Also: dark blue jeans for urban dandies with the bottoms rolled up and what look suspiciously like blue sneakers on balloon tires. Hey, see you on the trail, Appalachian Mountain boy.

Bean was never meant to be stylish. It was meant to make well-made, homely apparel that has always carried a reverse chic all its own. Bean is as hopeless at style as Brooks Brothers, whose efforts toward style have been tragic. There’s nothing wrong with bringing to Bean a whiff of the 21st century, but its record has been underwhelming thus far.

If the company wants more style, it should first improve its core outdoor apparel line against more stylish competitors rather than dreaming up a new line for ding-a-lings wandering around the Ladder District. Bean could never compete for style with Patagonia, for example. Patagonia’s fleece was and is more stylish than Bean fleece. Its colors were and are better than Bean colors. Besides, you can’t out-J.Crew J.Crew. They are the design and marketing masters in their arena.

The creation of L.L.Bean Signature is an act of desperation. The company is losing customers and appears willing to try anything. I fear Bean will become a laughing stock with its new line, but then my taste is sui generis. If Signature does catch on, there will be two tribes of Beanies: the ancien regime and all the young dudes. Which reminds me of the old labor anthem, “Which Side Are You On?’’ At issue is the integrity of a great American name.

Sam Allis can be reached at