I am now unemployed. Two weeks ago I ankled–as they say in Variety–my job as an editor at New York magazine, and I am having incipient fears that I will become one of those vestigial men Susan Faludi is profiling in those crisis-of-the-male-in-the-late-20th-century stories she’s writing these days. They had a nice send-off for me at a very happening bar called Orchard on the Lower East Side, a place I was told was at thatprecise moment the hippest single bar in New York City. It had been open for two weeks and, of course, nobody had ever heard of it, but hipness is a shadowy art. Which reminds me of the time I was able to secure a booth at Pravda after it had been open for only five days. It was at that very brief moment the hippest single bar in New York City, perhaps the world. I ran into the two most fabulous people I know and, the place having been open only since the previous Thursday, I thought it reasonable to ask whether this was their first time. “Of course not!” the husband said.
       I myself have been accused of this sort of flibbertigibbetiness. The ill-hidden subtheme of the send-off party at Orchard was that I was a (fond, I hope) figure of preposterous superficiality, a kind of off-the-rack Clay Felker with a febrile mind attuned only to lifestyle effluvia. “Polenta? Grits!” read a headline on one of the fake covers given to me by my erstwhile co-workers. Another headline–“Is Skeet Ulrich Ironic?”–probably takes too much effort to explain (he’s on the cover of this month’s Details), but it’s very funny. John, the New York editor who gave the toast, allowed that I was in fact a “complicated individual,” which prompted my wife, Elizabeth, to say a bit too loudly, “I didn’t know you were complicated, honey?”
       The worst part about being unemployed, I’m discovering, is the lack of free stuff. I used to get a two-foot-high pile of newspapers and magazines that I’d lug home importantly, leave around for a few days, and then toss on the recycling pile. And I could trot off to Michael’s restaurant on West 55th Street–the only place in town other than Papaya King where I’m greeted by a “Hey, big guy”–and have one of those $22.50 salads they do so nicely. Twenty-two-fifty is a ridiculous price to pay for a pile of greenery–albeit a singularly delicious pile of greenery with gorgeous niblets of neatly seared tuna and capers and, as the British say, bits–but the smart folk at Michael’s understand that is exactly the point: You pay $22.50 because you can. The place is packed. Magazine people are far more corrupt than politicians. I keep waiting for the populace to rise up and overthrow us all, but this continues not to happen.
       When not bemoaning the zeroing out of my perks, I’ve been addressing the whole superficiality issue by reading–magazines? books!and having some of those empowerment dialogues with myself over issues facing mankind as we near the millennium. I have come to a conclusion: Skeet Ulrich is deadly serious.