PHILADELPHIA—The most unlikely star of the 2020 campaign’s endgame is a nondescript gardening business located on a run-down street in northeast Philadelphia, a few steps from an adult bookstore and across from a crematorium. If you’ve been on the internet in the past 24 hours, you already know that refers to Four Seasons Total Landscaping, where Rudy Giuliani called a hastily assembled press conference to allege, once again and without evidence, widespread voter fraud—only to be informed midbriefing that every major news organization had called the election for Joe Biden.
With Donald Trump still refusing to concede or admit defeat as of Sunday evening, Democrats hungry to indulge in schadenfreude have largely had to make do with reading despondency into distant photographs of the least reflective man on earth. But the sight of the president’s lawyer, his credibility having expired long before the latest Borat movie, holding court in front of a garage door hastily plastered with Trump-Pence signs, was a balm to those wanting to savor the president’s public humiliation. Making it sweeter was the notion, irresistible if a tad far-fetched, that the campaign had actually meant to book the city’s Four Seasons Hotel, downtown some 10 miles away, and mixed up the locations. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the truth may be slightly less poetic: The location, a red corner of a deeply blue city, may have been chosen because it has a large outdoor space away from the street and is near a highway exit. Even so, it’s clear that Trump at first thought it would be at the hotel.
The juxtaposition between Trump’s gilded entry into the 2016 campaign and his ignominious exit from this one gave birth to dozens of “How it started/How it’s going” memes. Comedian Christine Nangle’s impression of the landscaping employee who booked the event—“No, we don’t have a podium, we have a rototiller”—went viral (as a bonus, Nangle, a Philly native, actually knows how to do a Philadelphia accent), and one enterprising artist mocked up Four Seasons T-shirts featuring the city’s unofficial mascot, Gritty, on a riding mower, with proceeds going to helping Democrats win Georgia’s Senate runoffs. (The store will capitalize on its moment in the spotlight by reportedly selling its own “Lawn and Order” tees.)
On a desolate industrial street in northeast Philadelphia on Sunday, a steady stream of people turned up to take pictures in front of the suddenly infamous storefront. They snapped selfies in front of Four Seasons’ awning, and often the neighboring adult bookstore and crematorium as well. (You wouldn’t go to New York and just see the Empire State Building.) Most were hipster types in their 20s, but an older couple came in from neighboring Bucks County, where Biden substantially increased Hillary Clinton’s narrow 2016 edge. Those I spoke to were mostly locals, but some were tourists from up and down the East Coast, sampling a city that has gotten an unusual amount of national attention the past week. “We were going down to Philadelphia, we saw the most hilarious thing known to man, and we knew we had to swing by the legendary Four Seasons,” said Kevin, a Jersey City resident who declined to give his last name.
Mahwah, New Jersey, residents Kevin and Chelsee Roenbeck had come down to celebrate Chelsea’s birthday and happened to be staying in the actual Four Seasons when the news broke. “A friend of mine texted me Trump’s tweet,” Kevin said, “and I was like, ‘There is no press conference about to happen here.’ ” At Total Landscaping they snapped pictures in front of the side fence as Chelsee expressed disappointment that the actual location of Giuliani’s now-iconic press conference was off-limits around the back somewhere.
Angela Gentile and T.J. Hool had come up from outside D.C. to get Hool a birthday cheesesteak, and on the way up, Hool said, “We were like, ‘Let’s check out this place and take some dumb photos.’ It’s truly remarkable. Everything about it was perfect. Even Veep wouldn’t do that.”
Gus Stadler, in from the Main Line suburbs: said, “It felt important to mark this occasion. It’s such a fitting ending to four years of the Trump administration, a satisfyingly humiliating ending.”
“We didn’t think it was real,” said the Kevin who only gave his first name. “But we realized, oh, my God, this isn’t a joke, and all the details just kept getting better and better. I think this will provide eternal happiness for me when I think about it.”
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