While good old PA delivered the election to Biden November 7th, I’d imagine November 6th was a more monumental day for my coworkers. Why you ask? It’s the day they learned who Gritty was.
In a year full of awful, who could’ve predicted that Lou Dobbs telling Republicans to “surround Philadelphia” would’ve been a beacon of hope? As a native Pennsylvanian and someone who’s spent quite a bit of time in Philly, I could tell you first-hand tales about how delightfully warped the city of brotherly love is. However, I’ll let this word-art from The Atlantic article “So You Want to Go to War with Philadelphia? (Good Luck With That)” speak for me:
We’re talking about the city that booed Santa Claus and would do it again; where sports fans hurl batteries, snowballs, and vomit at the things they don’t like. Philadelphia! Home of the Broad Street bullies and the U.S. Constitution; where dismembered bodies and baby alligators turn up in the chemically polluted Schuylkill River; where people happily swim in garbage dumpsters when it gets hot; where they have to grease the lampposts to stop exultant drunks from climbing them. This is the city that beheaded a child-size talking robot. You want to find someone who’s up for anything at any time? Go to Philly. Troublemaking is in Philadelphia’s blood.
We’re talking about the city that throws a parade every New Year’s Day to celebrate free booze and getting rowdy; where a Muppet-like agent of chaos is an icon; where trash-talking is the purest display of affection there is; where Smokin’ Joe Frazier perfected the left hook that would take down Muhammad Ali; where the stadiums have jails and people pay good money to smash things.
This is the city whose mob bosses laugh when they get arrested; where you can get a tattoo of Benjamin Franklin eating a cheesesteak and flipping somebody off; where heroically catching a baby tossed from a burning building is an opportunity to diss an Eagles wide receiver. The city whose mayor once issued an official statement calling Trump a “fragile egomaniac … afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.”
I’ve talked about my complicated feelings for my home-state before. While I deeply love and cherish PA, it’s become deeply Trumpy, deeply afraid of change, and while I hate to be the one to paint with a broad brush, deeply racist in tone and rhetoric.
I woke up the Wednesday after election day legitimately saddened that at that time, it looked like PA was going to Trump again. By Friday though, it looked like not only did Biden have a fighting chance, but Pennsylvania, and Philly specifically, would metaphorically be delivering that win via an orange nightmare on ice skates.
I couldn’t help but feel a swell of Pennsylvania-pride as the memes and commentary started pouring in, including tons of fantastic Gritty content. This is when I had to explain to my coworkers who this “Muppet-like agent of chaos” is. As I said to them, “I’ve never been to a Flyer’s game, but I deeply cherish Gritty,” who really embodies Philly’s warped energy.
My friends Laura and Jackie were visiting the post-election weekend, and Friday night the three of us were essentially glued to our phones, waiting for PA to make a call and still finding great joy in all the beautiful Philly content flooding our feeds.
Saturday morning we drove the Blue Ridge parkway to Waterrock Knob and set out to hike to the plane crash that sits a little below its summit. Just before we arrived at the wreck, at approximately the same time Rudy Giuliana was completely obliterating his “America’s mayor” title in a parking lot between a sex shop and crematorium, Laura received a text that Biden won PA.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I tell you that had I been alone, I may have cried. I’d resigned myself to four more years of Trump, and while I like to think I could’ve survived that just fine, man is this a relief. To make it all the sweeter, the three of us are friends from our undergrad years at The University of Scranton; we all have a little “scrappy kid from Scranton” somewhere inside of us.
On our way back down the mountain, Laura blasted “Party in the USA” from her phone. We found the closest brewery (1.5 hours away thanks to my wonky GPS) and toasted this victory. Laura and Jackie were receiving a deluge of texts from people in New York celebrating in the streets. I got similar missives from Philly and Asheville. We probably celebrated a bit too hard once we got back to town later that night, but had an interesting experience when we made a pitstop at Bold Rock Cider in Mill’s River late Saturday afternoon.
The cidery didn’t have a celebratory atmosphere. It wasn’t somber per se, but we soon realized that we might be the only ones there legitimately happy about the day’s turn of events; this was a crowd in mourning. We heard a woman behind us ask her husband if she could “drink a little extra once they got home later” to deal with Trump’s loss. A man seemed genuinely stricken when he yelled to his friend “of course the media is screwing us over again.” The band, a 60’s cover band who opened with everyone’s favorite banger “Hang on Sloopy,” and their friends were all wearing MAGA red in solidarity with their fallen comrade, and behind us, a man in a “Trump 2020” baseball hat forlornly smoked a stogie.
I’m writing this initial draft from Pennsylvania now. I’m back home for the holiday, sitting in my childhood bedroom underneath a University of Scranton pennant. It’s not a celebratory atmosphere here either. Trump 2020 signs still decorate more yards then you’d hope 3 weeks after Biden’s win. My father and I passed two trucks whose hoods were emblazoned with MAGA imagery running errands yesterday. I overheard a group of people at Wegman’s telling each other they must “keep resisting.”
Writer’s like to throw around the phrase “two America’s,” but as cliche as it is, I think it’s true. It’s wild to think that as elated as I was when PA delivered Biden the presidency, there are just as many people who got the sinking feeling I experienced watching the country turn red on November 4th, 2016. I don’t know that I have the energy or bandwidth to attempt to begin to address this strange phenomenon, but I do feel like Biden’s win isn’t as monumental as I’d like it do be if it’s just making these two America’s become even more distinct.
But, because I’m writing this on Turkey Eve, I’m going to chose to focus on gratitude. Today I’m thankful that we’ll at least be starting 2021 with a president who doesn’t want to divide. I feel grateful and proud of the part Pennsylvania played in making that happen.
And I’ll always be thankful for the Gritty memes, particularly Lady Gritty Tyrell.