Last night my friend and I went for dinner at a Taiwanese restaurant called Bellagio. It's not an over-the-top place like its Las Vegas namesake, but sleek and modern with good food and desserts.
The one we went to was the one along Gongti Xi Lu, on the west side of Worker's Stadium, where several nightclubs are.
And so it's not surprising a number of the patrons at this eatery are young clubbers having dinner before dancing all night long.
Many were in their 20s, the women dressed in clingy outfits, heels, leather jackets and heavy makeup, the men showing off their muscles in T-shirts or wearing hoodies and sneakers.
Almost all of them were smoking up a storm. I couldn't help but cough from the concentration of cigarette smoke around us.
They would smoke before the meal, during and after. It was an opportunity for them to look cool. Also I hadn't seen so many female smokers in one place either.
I remarked that there would be a high chance many would contract cancer by the time they hit 40.
My friend said, "Do you feel like they're the 'lost' generation?"
These young people seemed completely unaware of the economic situation outside of their bubble. They only appeared to be focused on having a good time partying, wearing nice clothes and using the latest cellphones, while smoking to look cool.
Watching these poseurs before they hit the clubs reminded me of a recent Newsweek article tracing the life of Tang Yongming who killed an American at Beijing's Drum and Bell Tower just hours after the start of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The 47-year-old stabbed to death Todd Bachman, who was the father-in-law of the US Men's volleyball coach, while his wife Barbara survived, despite life-threatening injuries. Their tour guide was injured in the assault as well.
The story attempts to explain why Tang commited these heinous acts and then jumped to his death from the famous landmark.
Originally from a village outside of Hangzhou, Tang started off as a worker in a machine-gauge factory, met his wife in the same place and they had a son.
Like most parents who are only allowed to have one child, they indulged his son perhaps a bit too much, who ended up not finishing school.
And then due to economic reforms, Tang's factory closed, and he and his wife lost their jobs. After many bitter arguments, they divorced; he focused all his efforts on his son instead, by selling his apartment for about $28,000 and helping his son keep up a good lifestyle, despite doing odd jobs. That money was quickly spent.
Tang lost his appetite for work and turned to gambling as his money started wittling away. He then thought he could start again as a migrant worker in Sichuan -- but he got there just before the May 12 earthquake.
He returned home, packed up his things and told his son that if he could find a job he'd let him know, otherwise, he said, "don't bother looking for me". He then boarded a train for Beijing.
The sad thing is, when the police told Tang's son that his father was responsible for the death of the American and had committed suicide, the son was completely expressionless.
The harsh reality of life began to set in and his main source of money was gone.