As I just mentioned, Beijing is huge and tiny. There are hordes, but the people that matter are a tiny minority. In other cities like New York, people say the same thing, but I don’t think it is nearly as true there. New Yorkers have an attitude and a very evident life-force and they often use it to wallop passersby. They want you to know how special and incredible they are. The vast majority of New Yorkers are economic, social, cultural, and even political actors. They buy lattes and crave Prada, have love affairs, go to see bands perform, and vote or at least have impassioned stances on the issues of the day. They have discretionary income; on them, advertising dollars are not wasted. Their parents probably already own a house somewhere.
The recession may have changed this a bit and clearly there are many in New York who do not fit into this happy meritocratic elite. A huge number of the faces one sees remain still bold and distinctive. In Beijing, this group is small, as it is in other US cities. Most people remain part of the support crew. The people actually drinking the wine (and not just to seal a business relationship) are a small percentage of the population.
All this to say that I constantly run into familiar faces within this small group. Yesterday, I ran into journalist and editor, Edward, first on Nanluoguxiang and then at Mesh, in Sanlitun, around nine. He was looking cute in his fancy the bow-tie.