Outdoor Self

Rama Sobhani

Yes, it’s finally hot, like it’s supposed to be. And I’ll start this column off right now with a disclaimer about it — I won’t tolerate any of this malarkey about “Where’s winter?” Anyone who seems to harbor the delusion that arctic weather is preferable to hot can go live in Canada. I’ve said my piece on that.

Now, yes, it’s hot and some of us like it that way, including me, likely because I grew up with severe summer temperatures being routine. In the San Fernando Valley, if it didn’t get over 100 degrees for a good stretch of summer, the denizens would think something was seriously wrong. There was great envy among children whose families did not have a house with a pool towards those that did. And living in what’s essentially a desert, we valley boys and girls didn’t have the sparkling waters of the Wabash River to jump into. I don’t think the Tujunga wash would have been good for that, even when it had water running through it after heavy rains — the only time it did.

But we learned how to cope with the heat and I even came to enjoy it, up to a point, of course. I remember a visit many decades ago to some family, who lived in Las Vegas at the time. Now, you think you know hot weather in the Midwest? Then you haven’t been to Las Vegas in the summer. My mom’s cousin, who lived there, saw I was about to go do something outside and warned me about how hot it was. I said, “the heat doesn’t bother me,” to which she responded, “Yeah, it doesn’t bother me either.”

So, being a lover of nice, hot weather, I figured I would share my favorite tips for hot weather, along with some of my favorite anecdotes related to them. Armed with the sheer brilliance that I’m about to lay on you, I’m sure that if you hold an unfavorable view of hot weather, after implementing these can’t-fail methods, you will once and for all eschew the notion that there’s any reason to lust for the speedy return of frigid hell.

Well, maybe that won’t happen, but, hey, I’ve got to fill this column space with something, right?

First off, let me in no uncertain terms expound on my zero-tolerance policy for artificial fabrics, especially in summer. There’s only one acceptable material for feeling human in 100-plus-degree, high humidity heat indexes: cotton. Okay, honorable mention for linen, but King Cotton reigns yet. Cotton has several qualities that make it better than everything else. First, it’s breathable, which means your body won’t become as much of the swamp it would with man-made cloths, like the abominable polyester. Second, it’s absorbent, which translates to you being able to douse yourself in cold water and the cotton will hold the moisture better than artificial fibers, and you’ll stay cooler longer. This is a great trick if you’re outdoors and one that we motorcyclists have used to great effect on blistering days: douse a bandanna with cold water, tie it around your neck and the air around it will cool as you ride, cooling the blood going into your brain, making you feel better. Otherwise, the hot air can feel like a blast furnace as you go down the highway.

I would, however, avoid the extreme measure of urinating on your bandanna and then tying it around your head as the venerable Bear Grylls, of “Man vs. Wild” fame, did once while demonstrating survival in desert environments.

Speaking of water, drinking is next on my list. With sweat readily pouring out of everyone in this hot weather, it is paramount to remain hydrated. If in the outdoors when it’s over 100 degrees, the rate of water lost from the body can be as high as one liter per hour. If you don’t keep up with that, dehydration and heat stroke, the Gemini twins of hot weather death, will threaten.

Drinking water, especially cool water, on hot days should be thought of as prophylactic. Drink often enough to stay ahead of dehydration. If you feel thirsty, you’re already somewhat dehydrated. The color of urine is an indicator of how well-hydrated the body is. I remember a safety briefing before a game of paintball on a hot day, given by the facility proprietor: if it’s clear, you’re in the clear, if it’s yellow, keep mellow. If it’s brown, you’re going down. Colorful talk that has a ring of truth to it.

A story I’ve never forgotten is one out of a book on pirates I read long ago. In an account of a pirate crew that lost its ship and got stranded in one of the deserts near the Barbary coast in Africa, it was said that the men went for days without water and were so desperate for any liquid that upon coming on a nomad camp (if I remember right), they poured upon the corpse of a freshly butchered camel to get what liquid they could out of its entrails. Now, that’s desperate. Getting thirsty yet?

Related to water consumption, there are drinks that should most definitely be avoided when exposed to hot weather because they will speed up water loss from the body. Sugary drinks and any kind of diuretic, like things that contain caffeine and, yes, alcohol, are unfit for days like these. I don’t buy into the advertising pictures that show supermodels lounging in a pool on a scorching day, sucking down wine coolers one after another. That’s just an expressway to dehydration.

However, for a real 1980’s advertising kitsch treat, look up the Sun Country wine cooler ad on YouTube. “Give me the heat, give me the treat,” the jingle goes. No, thanks. Stick to something like seltzer water and a slice of lime.

My number-one hot weather tip, though, is the one I think will be most well-received of all so far: air conditioning. That’s right, I’m no fool when it comes to enjoying the trappings of civilization. Stay cool and stay healthy.

Rama Sobhani's column appears every other Sunday. He can be reached at ramasobhani@gmail.com.

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