The New Yorker's always witty and often erudite TV critic Nancy Franklin gives an account of watching the Obama inauguration from the comfort of her living room, and by the time I'd got halfway through it, I was feeling as though I'd missed out by traveling to Washington to see what (very little) I could in person. In fact I've seriously considered buying one of those DVDs of the coverage that all the networks are hawking.
But even though I missed seeing the event from every angle, in constant replays, and with copious commentary, I'm still convinced that there was no substitute for being there. True, if I'd had more wits about me, I could most likely have wangled my way more into the thick of things, like, for example, budding rock star Matt Fame (né Matt Lame), who at the Neighborhood Ball found himself close enough to both the Prez and Beyoncé to be heard telling the latter "Good job!" as she left the stage following her performance. He wisely refrained from reinforcing the point with a pat to her passing derrière (and even more wisely refrained from giving the President a similar treatment), but you know, he could have.
Several other friends parlayed work or family connections into spots that were at the very least within sight and sound of the swearing-in ceremonies, while I had to be content with an out-of-sync Jumbotron at the backside of the Washington Monument. Still, the memories of being caught up in that wave of exuberant humanity, of seeing flags waving in hands where I never before would have pictured them, of patriotic songs rising from the throats of those who'd presumably never before had much to be patriotic about, of tears streaming unashamedly down faces of all ages, classes and colors, leave me in no doubt that I was right where I needed to be, and will likely treasure for the rest of my days the fact of having been there.
Or as Ms. Franklin somewhat poignantly put it: "I should have put the remote down and got myself to Washington and stood in the crowd, freezing and cheering, maybe even, for the first time, waving a flag. January 20th might have been the greatest day in my lifetime. By watching it on TV, I’d missed it."