What I want to know is, how do you make a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume? Word on the street has it that it's the hottest outfit around this year, and that Mutants are going to be out in force tonight, and I'm going to have to reckon with them.

I love Halloween as much as the next 5-year-old, and I enjoy getting dressed up and answering the door for the kids.

Once upon a time, there were no Teenage Ninja Turtle Mutants, or whatever. There were hobos, clowns, cowboys, skeletons and Frankensteins. Any of these are not only respectable getups for a dapper suburbanite, but easy enough costumes for door-answering treaters to make as well. I was particularly fond of the hobo outfit, which looked pretty much like me on any given weekend. Only I showered on Halloween so as not to offend the trick or treaters.

The clown wasn't as big a hit with me, and in fact only lasted one year, because, after getting all dressed up I realized that clowns don't wear penny loafers. I then made the mistake of asking my wife if I could borrow a pair of her "funny-looking gunboats."

She didn't buy the argument that jokes are a clown's life.

But I don't know about these Ninja Mutants.

A few years ago it was He Man, Universal Master, or some such thing. He was this muscular guy, as I recall, and as I recall my wife wouldn't let me go to the door without a shirt on, which I thought would be as much of a treat for the trickers' mothers as for the little ones themselves. Apparently not. That year my wife answered the door, along with Lumpy and Booboo, He-Dogs of the Universe. They were a big hit.

In fact, Lumpy and Booboo are increasingly taking charge of the traditional Halloween door-answering, leaving me to mostly sit around and watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," on television.

(Which is probably just as well, since we don't seem to get as many trick-or-treaters any more. I think this has something to do with the American Dental Association. Don't ask me how, but I think they cooked up Halloween in the first place. If you think about it, it was a great way to build lifetime customers. After all, a whole generation hooked on M&Ms and Three Musketeers is nothing to sneeze at, cavity-wise. But once the government put fluoride in the water, the bottom fell out of the cavity market, and Halloween kind of died out.

(But we're not off the hook with these guys yet, because now everyone has gum disease. I had gum disease, and the treatment consisted of some guy prying my gums off my teeth, scraping the bejabbers out of them and telling me to floss. Two thousand years of science and it all comes down to a sharp stick and a piece of string. Harumph. Personally, if all these guys want is a trip to the Bahamas every winter, why don't they just ask me for the money and save me the pain? The cost is about the same. In fact, have you ever had a dental appointment in February? No. No one does. They're all in the Bahamas, laughing themselves silly.

(But, hey, enough about gums, it's Halloween.)

Last year, since my wife had taken charge of the treat dispensing, I decided to liven up the neighborhood and do a little trick-or-treating of my own. But it seems that other suburbanites don't appreciate a guy in a televangelist getup with two masked golden retrievers ringing their doorbells. Maybe they'd go for Zorro and His Arthritic Obese Ninja Dogs. It's worth a try.

On second thought, there are too many dentists in my neighborhood. Maybe I should just hide out until I write about lawyers and Thanksgiving.

Halloween Alert Trick-or-treaters take note: Chocolate is toxic -- and can be fatal -- to dogs, even in seemingly small amounts. Do your pup a favor and don't leave loot containing chocolate bars within its reach.