At the time, I was working for U.S. Senator Donald W. Riegle (D-Mich.). For some reason a few standee tickets for the Inaugural happened to become available on the morning of January 20, so a few of my co-workers and I were able to snag them for ourselves. At the appointed time, we walked across the street and worked our way through the crowd to our section, which was near the Grant Memorial in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. We were only about a fifth of a mile from the platform, but we really couldn't see anything, and I don't remember there being any large video screens nearby. There were plenty of loudspeakers, though, so we heard everything perfectly clearly. The weather was pretty nice, 40 degrees F and sunny if the National Weather Service is to believed, but even though I'm of hearty midwestern stock I don't necessarily like standing around outside in 40-degree weather. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool to be in the midst of such a wildly enthusiastic crowd.
Later in the day, my sister Jenni, who had come up from Chapel Hill to be my date for the State of Michigan Inaugural Gala later that evening, and I dropped in at an inaugural party being held in a suite overlooking the Inaugural Parade route. A nice location, to be sure, but we couldn't hear much of anything, and the building wasn't set very far back from the street, so our viewing angle wasn't very good, so we didn't stay long.
That evening, we donned our formal wear and went to the aforementioned Gala, which was held at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The Michigan Gala was not one of the official inaugural balls, so the Clintons weren't there. In fact, aside from the members of the Michigan delegation and some automobile executives, I don't think there was anyone of interest there, though I recall a rumor going around that Secretary of Education-designate Richard Riley stopped by. So as an opportunity for celebrity-spotting, it was a big failure. And the food and drink was widely scattered and not particularly plentiful. However, we didn't have to wait in line for 30 minutes just to go down the escalator, like the people at the Illinois gala did, and no one in my party wore coats, allowing us to avoid a coat riot, so in that sense it was a roaring success. Also, I thought it was pretty cool to have free reign of the American History Museum after hours, and I did have fun hanging out with Jenni and my friends from work, though perhaps not more so than I would have hanging out with them anywhere. (On the other hand, there was a general sense of euphoria among Democrats in Washington at the time -- remember, this was the first time in sixteen years a Democrat had been elected President -- which maybe made the evening that much more fun. Hard to say.) Oh, and since I worked for Sen. Riegle, my tickets were free. Hard to beat that!
Could I top or at least match that experience this year? No way. And you probably couldn't either, so if you're feeling bad about not being able to attend the Inauguration, don't. If you were here, you'd probably be standing in the cold at least a mile away from the Capitol, watching it on TV, and if you were able to get into a Inaugural Ball, you'd pay dearly for it. My experience was, if not unique, hard to duplicate. Watch it with friends, or at a local event, and I think you'll still find it plenty exciting.