The streets are alive with the sound of tourists. Braving the vicious summertime humidity that sends New Yorkers with money galloping to anywhere but here, they come from the four corners of the Earth to ride the Circle Line and ascend the Empire State Building. They clog the subway, they ask for directions, they don't wear black. They are anxious, ubiquitous and irritating, especially when the forecast for the day is sunny and hotter, which it almost always is.
Now comes the good news: You are not one of them. You will not stand in line in a futile attempt to get tickets for "The Producers." That way lies sunstroke and madness. Instead, you will skip work this Friday and travel to New York via train, cell phone welded in the "off" position, arriving at Penn Station in a relaxed and receptive frame of mind, prepared to partake of a tasting menu of classy experiences. Once here, you will do exactly as I say, and return to Washington wondering why most folks who come to New York in July vow never to do it again.
* Upon your arrival, go directly to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, bypassing the hordes of art-haters panting to see Jackie Kennedy's brassiere, and head straight for "Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, and Roussel, 1890-1930" (Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, 212-879-5500, through Sept. 9). Local reviews had yet to appear as this column went to press, but my guess is that this one won't be a blockbuster -- Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, the stars of the show, aren't matinee idols, and the no-nonsense title smells of the lecture room.
The likely absence of Vermeer-type crowds will permit you to revel in a thought-provoking exhibition that is also totally enjoyable. Bonnard and Vuillard were intrigued by the challenge of creating art specifically intended for display in private homes: folding screens, domestic scenes, wall panels, jumbo wall murals. Some of their efforts were deliberately spectacular, others breathtakingly intimate, all seductively beautiful.
* Proceed to the theater district, where Blossom Dearie, the hippest person in the world, is midway through an extended engagement at Danny's Skylight Room (346 W. 46th St., 212-265-8133, through July 29). Dearie is one of the last survivors of the Golden Age of New York Cabaret, and though she admits to being a full-fledged septuagenarian, her little-girl soprano remains untouched by time, while her delivery grows slier and slier. She offers a cunning mixture of blue-chip not-quite-standards ("The Ladies Who Lunch," "Peel Me a Grape") and quietly surprising original tunes, accompanied by a discreet rhythm section and her own pastel piano playing, and her patter is so dry that you're never quite sure when she's pulling your leg, though it's most of the time. The room is appropriately tiny and the music starts at 7, allowing you to dine at leisure after the tourists have trickled out of the restaurants and into the theaters.
* Sleep very late on Saturday morning. Do not try to do brunch, especially if you're staying on the Upper West Side -- everybody else in town is doing that. Instead, go to the Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center to catch the final Saturday matinee of Warren Leight's "Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine" (131 W. 55th St., 212-581-1212, closes July 8). Leight, in case you've forgotten, is the author of "Side Man," an uncommonly smart and moving play about jazz and its discontents, and "Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine" is cut from the same cloth. It's the story of two trumpet-playing, dope-shooting brothers who grew apart when one got married, got clean, got rich and stopped playing.
The plot is a little on the soap-opera side, but don't let it bother you: The dialogue snaps and crackles, and John Spencer is dead on target as Marty Glimmer, the ne'er-do-well brother who stayed faithful to the gospel of swing. This play is infinitely better than its inexplicably lukewarm reviews.
* On Saturday night, catch Pilobolus Dance Theatre at the Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St., 212-242-0800, through July 28). The troupe opens tomorrow, but its annual New York season has long been one of my personal must-see summer happenings, and the Joyce, like Danny's Skylight Room, is small enough to let you get really close to the dancers. So I'd call this one a safe bet, especially if you like modern dance with a sense of humor. Dine within a four-block radius of the theater, before or after: Chelsea is full of good places to eat, and appearances are rarely deceiving.
* Beat the rush -- come home first thing Sunday morning, secure in the knowledge that enough is enough. (Incredibly important footnote: Except for "Beyond the Easel," all these events require planning. Make reservations now and avoid frustration later.)
So much for the long runs. I also took in a couple of highly satisfactory one-shot events in June. Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette filled Carnegie Hall for their JVC Jazz Festival appearance last Tuesday. These three jazz masters have been playing together for the past couple of decades, and by now their rapport borders on the telepathic. Alas, they were beset by the swing-strangling effects of high humidity and maladroit amplification (Peacock's bass sounded as if it were strung with thick rubber bands that had been soaked in salt water), but that didn't stop them from making magic on a trio of super-slow ballads, "I'm Gonna Laugh You Out of My Life," "Yesterdays" and "What's New." Jarrett's unaccompanied, out-of-tempo coda on "What's New," a study in dark, oblique harmonies, was a fleeting miracle of spontaneous grace.
My other favorite jazz gig of the month was a lot less formal. Every spring, the John Pizzarelli Trio plays a benefit concert for P.S. 9, a public school one block from my front door, and this event, which takes place in the school auditorium and features one of Pizzarelli's children as master of ceremonies, is something I always try to see. Not only do you get to hear the witty Mr. Pizzarelli, his bass-playing brother Martin and pianist Ray Kennedy burn their way through a swinging evening of well-chosen songs, but the mothers of P.S. 9 put on a bake sale at intermission, complete with homemade Rice Krispies squares.
Does that sound like New York to you? It is, believe it or not. Manhattanites don't like to admit it, but this town is full of nice people, not a few of whom are famous jazz musicians who like to do nice things for their nice neighbors. Kindly keep it under your hat -- we wouldn't want to lose our bad reputation, see?