Tuned In

Skyrockets in Flight

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WARNING: Contains children, personal anecdotes, borderline insufferable cuteness

One perk of living in New York City is that, being in the nation’s capital of media, you regularly have the choice between seeing the mediated and the actual versions of events at the same time. If there’s a blizzard on the east coast, I can turn on my TV and see someone shoveling snow a block away from me. At my office, I can watch a man-in-the-street interview on Fox News, or I can look out a window and see that man in the street, being interviewed by a crew from the Fox headquarters just down Sixth Avenue. On Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, I could set my VCR, catch the subway and record myself at the parade or the ball drop. Most horribly, there was the morning I saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center on NBC, then went up and saw the towers disappear into clouds of smoke from my rooftop.

Then there are the annual Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks over the East River. This year, the eldest Tuned In Jr. was old enough to stay up for them, but not quite old enough to trek out to the river and back to see them. So we stayed in, my general belief that watching fireworks on TV is sad beyond words countered by the prospect of seeing them for the first time in HDTV.

It was a chance for Tuned In Jr. to learn one of the ritual disappointments of TV: that watching a fireworks show that starts at 9 p.m. does not mean that you get to see fireworks at 9 p.m., but that you first need to sit through Campbell Brown and Lester Holt’s awkward hosting, cheesy performances from Lionel Richie and Nick Lachey and various commercials for prescription medications. ("What does ‘depression’ mean?")

During one of the commercial breaks, we could hear faint booms from outside, so we went out on the deck, where–in the small sliver of sky visible to our west–we could see a few fireworks in the direction of New Jersey. We stood out there with the mosquitos, watching the tiny, pathetic faraway bursts pop and bloom, without music or narration, over the roof of a fluorescent-lit U-Haul depot.

When they finished, we went inside, where, about a minute after the TV fireworks finally started, Tuned In Jr. asked to go to bed. Actual reality 1, HDTV 0.