SHE MINCES ALONG M Street in a white eyelet cotton sundress and white cloth shoes embroidered with tiny pink flowers. Her bare back is ivory and her hair is twisted in a platinum knot behind her head. She carries the darnedest pink parasol trimmed in white lace, looking like a refugee from Renoir's "The Luncheon of the Boating Party." She turns and her face is flushed pink by the heat. She tries to speak but her mouth is dry. She minces her words; she talks the same way she walks. One thing, though: She is sweltering.
And so is everyone else. It's another Washington August, and it always seems hotter and more humid than the last one.
At work I ask my friend Joe Cool how he does it. A guy unimpressed by heat and humidity, he grins a devil's grin behind his Foster Grants. Dressed in white from head to foot, he's an expert in surviving the dog days. Joe Cool. He looks so - cool. "I don't sweat," he says, "Though I might wear a Panama hat and the temperature goes up when I walk into the room." Thanks, Joe. But I must've warmed his cold heart because later in the day he finds me draining the water-cooler and slips me this list of ways to keep my cool.
1 - Have a two-ton load of crushed ice dumped in the front year of an overheated friend, like a guy did in Miami a few years back.At Penguin Ice Company in Bethesda, it's $220 plus $11 tax and about $10 for delivery. They sell kegs of beer, too, (a half-barrel for about$36 plus tax), so you can be cool inside and out as you scramble in the ice. How long 'til it melts? "I've seen a piece the size of a baseball dropped in the driveway at 9 in the morning andat 2:30 there's still a little chip," says owner Alex McDonald. ("Yeah, it's spelled just like McDonald's. They've got the golden arches, I've got the fallen arches.")
2 - Hole up in a catacomb. The closest, copies of the Roman ones, are under the Franciscan Monastery at 14th and Quincy NE. You have to tour the church to see them. It's cool as a tomb there, clammy, in fact, but a guide says it's 78[*] . "Year-round, in accordance with Mr. Carter's wishes. It was that way before he said anything." Don't miss Purgatory Chapel.
3 - It's cool as a tome at the Library of Congress. "It's marble like a mausoleum.It's the next best thing to being buried," says Craig D'Ooge, an information specialist there. They keep the place cool for the books. If readers forget to bring a paperback there are 300 cards in the catalog filed under "Cold." D'Ooge's personal favorite? "The effect of cold and hibernation on the blood and spleen of the golden hamster."
4 - Take up ice sculpture. At the dinner table, pass around an ice pack and watch the centerpiece melt. Rive Gauche's chef and resident ice sculptor Michel Laudier attacks a 300-pound block of ice with a chain saw, and finishes the finer details with wood-working tools. "For New Year's I made a Happy New Year 1979. I put it outside of the building. It was a way to wish a Happy New Year for everybody. That one lasted for two days at least." Of course that was January. "But usually," he says, "it is not for the person to feel cool. It's more for the decoration."
One slip, carving a fish or a plane or swans, and the block of ice could crack like, well, ice.The less talented can cheat by getting molds, filling them with water, freezing them, and voila. Then, like Michel Laudier, they can "put a light in the back, some food, to give it life." Teddy bears, bunnies and castles are available at China Closet, $6.39. A grape-cluster mold ($16.29) freezes with a well in the middle for chilling champagne. Bloomingdale's sells a dolphin, a fish and an artichoke for $6; the grape cluster goes for $20. "Easy - just add water," the directions say. But you can jazz it up: Drop food coloring into the water, freeze a flower in the middle and dump it in a punch bowl.
5 - Talk a truck driver out of his tire's inner tubes and go tubing down a river: Groups of tubers can lash themselves together and float en masse. For want of a truck driver, try Market Tire, where new tubes 25" to 35" wide go for between $11 and $20.
And the next time hot-tempered bridge players get together they can cool off in Patapsco State Park, Maryland. Lash four innertubes to a central tube; lash a plywood "cardtable" in the middle and go bidding down the river. The folks at Patapsco say tubers sometimes leave a car at both the start and finish points. The rangers would sure appreciate it if you'd let them know when you're going in and when you plan to come out, so they don't worry about empty cars and missing people. Tubers who hate bridge can dunk a cooler of refreshments in the nole of the center tube. The really skilled can drift one by one in Gunpowder State Park and at Rock's State Park. Both are located in Maryland.
6 - Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Drag out the lights early and string them on the plants. Line the windowsills with cotton "snow"; glue cotton balls on windowpanes. Crowd the walls with posters of skiers schussing right at you. (Ski Chalet on Connecticut Avenue has posters in eight postures for $2.50 each, and two different Lake Placids at $3.) Dust off and play the record of Dylan Thomas reading "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Tear the pages off the calendar until it says December.
Those who need four more months to find last year's decorations can visit the Christmas Attic at Prince and Union in Alexandria, where there's a year-round holiday rush: trees gilt to the hilt with shiny balls and wooden toys, a choo-choo chugging overhead and icy bowers laden with blown-glass animals. If you're thinking of buying, there's a stuffed Rudolf for $75. Or reindeer antler hats ($8.75) to wear when cavorting in the park across the street.
7 - Eat your way through Soup'r Scoops, 32 flavors of Breyer's Ice Cream, one more than the popular spread, at 5534 Connecticut Avenue. Springing off with Rainbow Sherbet, you can slurp all the way down the counter, toying with Twin Strawberry, braving King Kong Krunch, seizing Tropical Treasure and waning in a virtuous Vanilla Yogurt. At 40 cents a scoop, the binge comes to $12.80, plus tax. Then go home and get sick.
Leave the Zoo on Connecticut Avenue to the pandas. You can have a zoo of your own at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour in Bethesda's Westwood Shopping Center, where "The Zoo" is glob on glob of flavors and toppings from butterscotch to blackberry. Everyone knows what you're ordering because the waiters and waitresses beat drums and ring bells while yelling that it's the world's largest sundae. It's $11.95 and serves one to ten, depending on your appetite for humiliation.
8 - To cool off, get to know what hot is. Fry an omelet on the hood of your car. Use hot chilis for seasoning, as they do in tropical countries. A proper chef's hat might be that souvenir sombrero with little balls dangling from the brim.
9 - Cool your heels. Go ice-skating at a rink with summer hours, such as Fort Dupont (581-0199); Fairfax (323-1132); Mount Vernon (768-3222) or Lake Forest (840-1215).
10 - Hair is hot. It hangs in our face and the last time we tried braids someone had to untangle our thumbs. But there's a new short and sassy look that will put you in the vanguard and cool you off at the same time: Hair Care Inc. in L'Enfant Plaza will shave your head for $6. Remember, most of the body's heat is lost through the head.
11 - Tour a cold-storage plant and get frosted. You don't have to rent a locker to enjoy Tyson's Frozen Food Locker and Cold Storage Plant, Routes 7 and 123. There's the locker room, 0[*] to -10[*] , the aging room (for beef) where the temperature's about 35[*] , the 45[*] meat-cutting room (they cut from 8 to 4 weekdays) and the blast-freeze room where -40[*] temperatures seal in the flavor and redden your nose. Visitors "don't stay in the blast freeze very long," says Sam Gadell, one of the owners of the 25-year-old family operation. As for heat-sufferers, "If they want to cool off, they can come by anytime."
12 - Italian water ice is nice to make from scratch. "It can be done," Cantina d'Italia's owner Josef Muran de Assereto says, "though I don't do it here. I can remember in the old country, in New York and in San Francisco," he says, the vendors carried blocks of ice on a push cart, they'd scrape off the ice and pack the shaved ice into a cup, and then pour in the flavor - "cherry, anise. And liqueurs, the real stuff. For the older men in the community they would throw a little anisette on it."
For something more substantial, he recommends the cold raw veal marinated in lemon juice and oil, sprinkled with parmesan, raw mushrooms, minced garlic and chopped nuts.
13 - For a change Dumbarton Oaks is open this summer. Picnics aren't allowed, but the mucisally inclined can play guitars and recorders and such, in cool places like the bamboo garden and by the pebble garden's fountain. (Daily, 2 to 5, on R Street NW near 32nd.)
14 - Take turns with the person upstairs bombarding each other with water balloons. Or the Danish cold plunge at European Health Spas ought to do it. The plunge is a small pool at a constant 58[*] . "Not everyone can take it," says manager Mike Luciebello at Tysons Corner. It's really for people without heart problems or bad backs; cold water tightens muscles. The spa's one-month membership rate of $19.95 is good in the sauna and steam room, and you know how much you'd love that.
15 - Be an ice cream man or woman at a family picnic. Bobby's Ice Cream Trucks on Howard Road SE rents them for $25 a day: They have refrigerators, open windows all the way around and "Bobby's" or "Fat Man" is painted on the side.
16 - It's too hot to hang around the office after work these days. Tame breezes waft through the Sky Terrace of Hotel Washington, where fresh-strawberry daiquiris are served to the after-work crowd watching the panorama from the rooftop porch.
17 - Stick with the masters - Renoir, Rousseau, Modigliani. The National Gallery keeps it cool for the art treasures. The humidity is a neat 50 percent, and the temperature holds around 72. Where to stand in the west building: Gallery 67, facing "Beacon Rock, Newport Harbor," or "Beach at Newport." Gallery 49, facing "A Scene on the Ice." Where to sit: facing a sundae in the Concourse Cafe, where a waterslide ripples behind the windows.
18 - Press nose to the glass of Gadsby's Tavern ice house at the corner of North Royal and Cameron in Alexandria, and think about how cool it is in there. John Gadsby used to sell ice from the river at 8 cents a pound. But that was 1805.For an accessible cool cave, there's always Luray Caversn.
19 - You could go diving for lobsters in old shipwrecks.Water temperatures off the Maryland-Delaware coast are upper 40s, lower 50s, according to Mike Sheen, owner of College Park's Dynamo Dive Shop. From Indian River, Delaware, the shop charters a boat to the wrecks. (It's $35 for the one-day trip.) For beginner divers, there's a training course to get certified ( $95, not including equipment). The divers dip into a flooded rock quarry in Pennsylvania that's spring-fed and cold. Underneath the surface they explore a sunken fish trawler, a steam shovel, railroad tracks and sheds, some of which were there when the quarry was flooded. Another trip explores a German U-boat off the North Caroline coast. Phone: 345-DIVE.
20 - Remember how you felt when you learned Greenland should've been named Iceland?
21 - Steal some kid's inflatable pool. Okay, if you get cold feet at the thought, Toys-R-Us can help out with a 51"-x-11" Ziggy ($5.97). Slightly larger, Woody Woodpecker goes for $7.92. And the giant 78"-x-18" at $13.96, has all different kinds of animals on it. If neighbors laugh, give them the cold shoulder and submerge except for the hand that holds the iced herbal tea (lemon grass or spearmint). You're cool.
22 - Sprinklers present all sorts of possibilities. Staying with the stationary kind costs about $ But for a dollar more, there's the circular, turning spray, and for $28, the sprayer oscillates. Dogs will go nuts. (Prices from Hechinger's.) Not splashy enough? Build a recirculating waterfall in the backyard. Water rushing out of a rock wall, cascading under a footbridge, down...It helps to have a swimming pool first. Waterfalls start at about $400 at Lewis Pools in Fairfax.
23. - Hammock-swinging is an almost-lost art that anyone with two trees can try. Pier I Imports has two sizes, for $49.99 and $59.99 in polysynthetic fiber that they say won't weather, discolor or rot. Pay your kids or the neighbor's kids a buck an hour to fan you with palm fronds.
24. - For cool words while swinging, there's Robert Frost. A lot more snow blows through "Snow Walker" by Farley Mowat, or "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London, not to mention "Discovery: The story of the Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition," by the admiral himself. For ice, there's Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradel." And there's Hans Christian Andersen's "Ice Maiden," Edna Ferber's "Ice Palace," and "The Iceman Cometh" by Eugene O'Neill, "Iceworld" by Hal Clement, "Ice Station Zebra" by Alistair MacLean, "Ice Is Also Great" by L. L. Smith and "Ice!" by Tristan Jones.
25 - Go whitewater rafting through downtown Richmond. A group called James River Experience guides a raftsful of otherwise cowardly beginners down the James. Guide Mike Harrelson says one in every 25 will fall out.But in a flatwater section, everyone gets a chance to swim. It's $17 weekdays and $20 weekends. Phone: 804/794-3493.
26 - Skinny-dip in your neighbor's pool. If you can't wait until dark to sneak in, you can suit up and take a quick dip after work at adults-only sessions at a local public pool. In the District, some week-night sessions may be near the office: Francis pool, at 25th and N Streets NW; Georgetown pool, 34th and Volta NW; Capital East Natatorium, 635 North Carolina Avenue SE; Woodson High pool; 55th and Eads NE; Wilson High pool, Nebraska and Chesapeake NW.
27 - Fan yourself, starting with a zephyr and crescendoing in a monsoon.Chinese paper fans on plastic ribbing range from about $4 for flower scenes to 99 cents for a scene of Peoples' Workers being trucked to a construction site (Hong Kong Company on H Street). Palmate silk fans are 85 cents at Wang's Company (Seventh and H NW). For summer breezes only, you can rent a faceful with a pedestal fan ( $45 a month, delivered, from A Total Rental Center in Wheaton). Smallest in the Bell catalogue is a rotating 12-incher for $39.90. Stock a block of ice in front ( $12 at Penguin, but you have to pick it up yourself). When you're settled in, start a George Gervin fan club.
28 - Hypnotize yourself with a snowstorm paperweight and relive the blizzard of Washington's Birthday with a blizzard-in-a-bottle: the Washington Monument goes for $1.29 at the Drug Fair. A bargain at any price, snow falls on all the monuments in a globe that rests on a calendar-bank, $1.69.
29 - The movie industry forgot to send a summer movie to cool us. Where are "Ice Castles" and "The Other Side of the Mountain" now that we need them? Ah, for the skates of Sonja Henie, pirouetting to the tune of: "It happened in Sun Valley, where you slipped and fell and so did I." If you have to settle for cold chills, maybe "Dracula" or "Aline" can do it.
30 - Have someone blow on your neck. If you're alone, slap a cold facecloth on the back of your neck. If you don't know who's blowing on your neck, slap them with a cold facecloth.
31 - Begin a life-long study of Siberian folk-dancing, or ethnic dances of the tundra.
32 - Walk like a penguin.
33 - If you get too cold, burn this list. CAPTION: Illustrations 1 through 23, no caption