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For Labor Day, raise a glass and be happy

Seven reasons to toast the end of summer and look forward to fall

Labor Day got you down?  The air may have just an edge of chill on it (or, if you're in the lower latitudes, it's just becoming tolerable again) and school bells may be ringing soon, but don't despair.

You can psych yourself out with the knowledge that, yes, the autumnal equinox isn't due until the 22nd, but why bother? There's plenty of great reasons to be joyous about fall's arrival. Here are seven to consider as you celebrate official summer's last hurrah.

If nothing else, after the past week's trauma and destruction, raise a glass in thanks that you're safe and able to read this in relative peace.

1) Grilling season reaches its climax. OK, I already admitted that "grilling season" . The most recent Weber GrillWatch Survey bears this out: Nearly 60 percent of Americans say they fire up the grill year-round, a number that's steadily been rising for several years.

Yet Labor Day remains the third and final stop in each year's grilling parade.  Perhaps it signals not a halt to grill use, but an end to grilling-party season. Hot grill in summer = party.  Hot grill in winter = grab the food and dash back inside before you catch cold.

Now's your moment to enjoy one last backyard hurrah. Paper plates will soon be traded for ceramic. So don't skimp on the burgers and potato salad: It's now or never.

At least until next May.

Toast it with: A plastic cup full of . You'll be switching back to stemware before long, too.

2) The kids are back to school. Say all you like about that extra quality time, but let's face it: Those trips to soccer practice and music lessons didn't just dwindle away once June arrived.

Summer remains a busy time for parents. Even if you got a brief respite thanks to sleepaway camp, or sympathetic relatives willing to host your little ones for a few weeks in another state (better yet, another time zone), summer schedules aren't that relaxing — especially after the eighth or tenth time they ask to go to the beach. On a Wednesday.

So let's raise a glass to the nation's teachers, who'll soon be for many of us. Yes, you'll soon be back on homework patrol. But someone else will be there to help you out, at least for eight hours a day.

Toast it with: Domestic bubbly.  We'd suggest Champagne, but after what you're spending on new school clothes and supplies, you might want to save the expensive stuff for New Year's.

3) See ya, tourists. If you've been one of those folks out visiting some of America's officially designated Beautiful Places this summer, shuddering all the way at ever-rising gas prices, you can skip to No. 4.

If you happen to be a resident of , well, it's about time to break out the cheer, no?  Because Labor Day means the hoards go home, taking their loud kids and their curious requests (grilled cheese on pita??) and their money-dangling ways with 'em.

Quiet season is about to begin. While that's not always rosy (regional economies can take a hit when crowds depart) and Chambers of Commerce around the nation are cringing as I write this, summertime can be a huge pain if you're yoked to the tourist economy. All us visiting types show up at the nicest time of year, a posse of strangers packing the beaches and bars. 

If you've been coping with a resort job this summer, you certainly feel this pain. But end-of-season tips are starting to appear. The finish line is within sight.

Toast it with: Drain a few bottles of the good stuff you only buy because out-of-towners pay extra. You won't need it until next summer, anyway.

4) Summer beach season — the finale. The flip side of No. 3. If your summer was a recap of the first 10 minutes of "Grease," or perhaps a less PG-rated version of the same, now's the moment for fond good-byes and hugs that last just a beat or two longer than they should.

It's also the time for one last shred of guilt-free romance.

True, you're probably sad if your summer by the shore has been spent making new friends and no one at home would ever suspect you are. But between cell phones, IM, e-mail and smoke signals, you'll probably manage to keep in touch with your Coppertone-season pals.

At least until October, which is as long as that frenzy of text messaging usually lasts.  But that's what being bestest, bestest friends is all about, no?

Toast it with: Whatever you can share out of a can.

5) Fall leaf-viewing season.  There's no reason to freak out about the leaves starting to change color, if you're in a where that sort of thing happens.  Embrace the tranquil pleasures of a fall afternoon traveling the winding roads outside, say, Windsor, Vt., or Wenatchee, Wash.

Sure, you might need a sweater, but summer's end signals those precious few weeks when nature (in her deciduous form) reveals her proudest colors.  And of course, it means Halloween is coming soon.

Toast it with: A mug of hot cider.

6) Fall TV season is about to start. There's a chicken-or-egg premise to bad summer TV: Are network execs using the televised crudfest to surreptitiously encourage us to leave our sofas and frolic out in the hot summer night? Or are they relaxing their standards on the premise that we're not watching anyway? (I assume the latter.)

This season included such luminous moments as Tommy Lee's , a revival of a network battle , a of "American Idol" that replaced hammy singing with hammy dancing, and of course the TV debut of , who proved that not every Hilton should be a reality diva.

Movies are in the same boat. We launched the 2005 season with then steadily moved downhill. Rock bottom this year could be defined as the second installment of the , which if nothing else inspired Roger Ebert to sharpen his claws with a , and a rehash of mostly notable for a marketing strategy hinged entirely on .

None of this is to say the fall will bring any great wonders. But initial indications are that the TV folks are trying to ; on the movie front, we've got Joss Wheadon's "Serenity" and Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown" en route soon. And that's all before holiday movie season starts.  Cold weather means we're not just huddling in the cineplex for the free air conditioning.

Toast it with: A couple shots of tequila.  Just in case that fine summer viewing left you with a few brain cells intact.

7) That whole, uh, Labor Day thing. As with most second-string holidays, it's so easy to forget the original reason why most of us scored an extra day off.

It's been 111 years since Labor Day was first decreed a national holiday, and nowadays labor unions, whom we can thank for winning us this season-ending long weekend, . 

Back in 1894, AFL founder Samuel Gompers portrayed it as a moment to celebrate our common toil. Parades and speeches were more the order of the day than backyard barbecues and road trips, though it's been a reasonable point of debate ever since whether the renowned tradition of Labor Day loafing is, in fact, a more fitting form of celebration.

With less than 14 percent of Americans now represented by unions, you could feasibly argue that Big Labor's glory days are irrevocably past. But why not take a brief moment to recall a few items we now take largely for granted: minimum wages, child labor laws, two-day weekends.

That last one, especially, .  Consider the last time you spent a full two days without giving a thought to work, or perhaps checking a quick e-mail or two, or ... oh, shoot, might as well just drop by the office. An hour, tops. Honest.

Take your extra day and enjoy it. You won't be getting any more for a while.

Toast it with: A good bottle of domestic beer.  What better tribute to the working man? lifestyle editor Jon Bonné still isn't sure whether the 40-hour workweek is dead.