The Morning File / Is it a trick or treat to dress up as a middle-aged man?

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Horrors -- woke up Wednesday morning only to realize I hadn't figured out what to be for Halloween this year.

One might think that after five decades, a man's appetite for trick-or-treating would have waned. But the allure of free candy is just too tempting, probably because during one childhood Nov. 1 an older brother stole and ate most of my candy -- been trying to make up for the psychological and sugar-depressed scars from it ever since.

I always like the reaction of people at the front door when confronted by a grown man carrying a pillow case, pushing his way past the little princesses and superheroes.

"Er, aren't you a little big and old for this?" some have asked.

"Yo, whatchoo mean? I'm just dressed as a middle-aged man this year, bro," I respond, "and from the reactions I'm getting, it's the most convincing costume any 13-year-old's put on all night. Now why don't you put the candy in the bag and chill so I's can get on with my business? And for what it's worth, yo, it's not nice to make fun of young people's overly large sizes and wrinkles. I've got a glandular problem, you know."

Usually, that draws some sympathy and an extra candy bar from the women-folk at the door. The men, well, they mostly just glare, though I could tell a few were envious. One old-timer asked if I'd wait for him to put a ghostly sheet over his head so he could join me on my rounds, but I was concerned he would slow me down.

"No dice, you old rascal," I yelled over a shoulder while skipping down his steps.

The annual charade is very educational geographically, in that I can't really go door-to-door in my own neighborhood and expect to get anything. So I've been from Crafton Heights to Brighton Heights and Aspinwall to Wall to get a fix for my Snickers addiction. I've become one of the few non-residents of the South Hills who can figure out the difference between Banksville, Beechview and Brookline.

Yes, that's right, I cross rivers and go through tunnels -- a regular Pittsburgh freak -- to get to candy. Whether the neighborhoods are rich or poor, black or white, under revitalization or long forgotten, I've traipsed their steep streets, muttering under my breath about the property-owners who had time enough to appeal their reassessments but won't take five minutes to clear leaves off their sidewalks so I can see where I'm going.

There's no trick I won't try if it might snare an extra Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, like the one where I pretend to be keenly observant of and interested in a homeowner's repair needs:

"Thank you for the candy, ma'am, and by the way, I see despite the darkness that you've got a few shingles loose up there on the roof and the chimney seems to need repointing. My father and uncle happen to be in the roofing business and could come over on their day off Saturday to take care of that for you, if you like."

"Why that's very nice of you, young man -- here, take an extra Hershey's bar."

"Uhhh, you got any with the almonds?"

"Oh, yes, down in the bottom of the bowl ... here, take five. And what a fine costume -- you look just like a bald, middle-aged man."

I whistle all the way back to the car after such swindles, knowing full well that no male in my family has ever set foot on a roof in their lives. It's a community service, though, because there's always a chance that woman's chimney actually needs repointing, and now she'll have it on her mind to get it checked out once no one shows up.

Because the idea that I'm wearing an "aging Caucasian" mask doesn't fly with everyone, I do like to make some effort at a timely costume, which was the reason for my anxiety Wednesday upon realizing I'd forgotten to prepare. I stopped in one of those just-popped-up-out-of-the-blue-for October Halloween stores to ask if they had an Invisible Mayor or Defeated Steeler costume.

"Anything that will speak to 2013 will do," I said.

They brought out some strange get-up resembling a broken-down computer and said I could go as "Obamacare," but it struck me as too subtle. Then a mass of yellow fabric in the corner caught my eye.

"How much for the giant rubber duck costume?" I asked.

It was $49.99, but I knew I'd more than make that up with Snickers bars out the wazoo tonight as the cutest 55-year-old trick-or-treater in the tri-state.

Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255.

First Published October 31, 2013 1:34 PM

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