Shortly before the cabin door closed on my VietNam Airlines flight to Saigon, the flight attendants, dressed in traditional ao dais, glided elegantly up the aisles fumigating the aircraft with insecticide. I covered my mouth and looked around bug-eyed at the rest of the passengers causally flipping through magazines and laughing with their children as clouds of DEET filled our lungs. It was alarming to say the least, but for those of you who haven’t seen Platoon or The Dear Hunter, Americans would do best to keep our mouths shut when it comes to reprimanding the VietNamese about the safety of chemical compounds. [Cough, cough.]
Once my eyes stopped watering, a curious surprise appeared: a chilled cloth napkin. Anyone who’s been to a Japanese restaurant has ahh-d with delight while wrapping their hands in the warm damp rag — and often men and hippies will wash their faces with it, which is something I’ve always envied, frankly.
This much-welcomed icy treat would continue to be offered in finer restaurants throughout all of former Indochine and when I returned to the U.S. I lead a feckless crusade to convince restaurants to chime in with this brilliant idea but you would have thought I was suggesting we fumigate the salad bar.
But there are so many other ways to keep cool — and just as I was thrilled to discover the wonders of cold cloths to the wrists — some of these tips may surprise you as well.
1. Corn Starch
Sprinkling a bit of corn starch in your shoes will make you feel like you have a new lease on life. Immediately you feel cooler, and your feet will no longer stick to you shoes and the powder will dry you out instantly. “What about talcum powder,” you ask? Certainly, but everyone has a box with this Indian woman on it in their baker’s pantry (after all it takes roughly two lifetimes to use the entire package) so put it good use.
2. Bitters-based Cocktails
Sweet drinks make you crave more sweet drinks, while bitters actually quench thirst. Summer does not exist without Campari. A Garibaldi (Campari with orange juice) at lunch on a veranda or a sidewalk café is the only way to go, and just as the sun starts to touch the horizon: an Americano cocktail (equal parts soda, sweet vermouth, and Campari served with a slice of orange). Make sure you write that second cocktail down; if you order an Americano you’ll more than likely be served a shot of espresso in a cup of hot water, which is the dumbest drink I have ever heard of in my life.
4. Boozy/Winey Ice Cubes
”To stay hydrated avoid alcohol because…” Who cares? Freezing rosé wine in your ice cube tray then adding the slushy cubes to your glass is the best way to keep your summery wines chilled without becoming diluted. For a Garibaldi freeze the orange juice, for an Americano freeze the vermouth — and for dessert, freeze a cup of Bailey’s and a cup of Frangelico and make a granita and you’ll be blacked out in no time.
4. Chanel Number 19
When the temperature rises above 100-dedgrees, it’s time to put aside your esoteric amber and leather fragrances and reach for this cool always-fresh classic. This is olfactory air conditioning. This is also terrific to spray on your air conditioner.
5. Hand Fans
It’s a no-brainer, but I am constantly amazed at the people who will turn to me on the subway platform and remark how “smart” I am for having a fan. I have a few of them — a Spanish one made of silk for evening, one from India made of sandalwood, but the one that casts the best breeze is my eleven-buck nylon “Kung-Fu” fan from Chinatown. I’ll be honest: They don’t normally last more than a summer or two before falling apart, but they’re the best. Order one online today and stop looking like an idiot fanning yourself with your iPad. (Kung-Fu Fan)
And if the above suggestions don’t do it for you, then you should grab a bottle of Perrier and pour it all over yourself like sultry burlesque star Dita von Teese does in this video — only you may need even more cooling down after that.