Or, how a three-drink dimwit with a cause became Citizen of the Year
Yet another barrier between the town of Green Lake and all that is right and decent came crashing down last week, as Mayor W. Philip Evans named Darrell Zipper as our 2002 Citizen of the Year.
The ceremony was held on cable access TV- the mayor was reportedly tired of hearing loud groans from onlookers at town hall- but somehow groans were audible anyway as the announcement was made. â€œMr. Zipper, you da man,â€ said the mayor as he placed a large purple medal around Zipperâ€™s neck.
For those that donâ€™t know why Green Lake is less than thrilled with its Citizen of the Year, itâ€™s important to understand that Zipper did not win the award for his inspiring leadership, or his contributions to Green Lake, or even his personality, charm or popularity, but for an achievement so underwhelming that even the mayor, with his knack for giving medals to bottom-feeders, would have avoided Darrell Zipper under normal circumstances. But that accomplishment led to an idea- albeit a bad one- that, during two nightmarish and tumultuous weeks, brought Green Lake to its knees- and, somehow, back on its feet.
Oddly enough, the whole Darrell Zipper story begins with another award. On August 23rd, 2002, Zipper made his 2,633rd consecutive visit to the Watering Hole, a Green Lake bar known locally for its extremely clean bathrooms and known nationally for having the worst drink names in America. Bartender Wayne Leftson explains that â€œit was one more than Cal Ripkenâ€™s streak, so after Zipâ€™s third De-pantsed Canadian- thatâ€™s a gin with maple syrup and liquefied Fiddle Faddle, by the way- we declared the visit official, and we gave him a miniature bronze statue of Elizabeth Dole nude. Heâ€™s a fan, I guess.â€ Petey Freon, one of Zipperâ€™s regular drinking buddies, adds â€œ[Breaking Ripkenâ€™s record] was huge, like when I was nine and my brother beat up the kid that took my bike. Itâ€™s an official record now. One of the guys who comes here most nights, he watched that Cal Ripken game on TV in Baltimore, so we got an expert.â€
In the midst of the cheering and bottle-throwing one patron suggested that Zipper make a speech to mark the occasion. â€œBad idea,â€ says bartender Leftson. â€œZipâ€™s a real dreamer when heâ€™s drunk, the kind of guy who says â€˜Thingsâ€™d be a lot better if weâ€™d only do such and such,â€™ or â€˜If only people knew about this problem, we could get Elizabeth Dole out here and do something about it.â€™â€ â€œAnd heâ€™s usually right about things, too,â€ adds Petey Freon. â€œOne time he told me that credit card companies were owned by the cast of Green Acres, and sure enough when I checked the mail that night there was a credit card applicationâ€¦ it was green. Eerie, huh?â€
So when Zipper climbed the bar counter, Leftson says, â€œHe said heâ€™d been reading about how the worldâ€™s population of storks was going to go bankrupt and because of that we wouldnâ€™t have any more babies. And the place went quiet. Everybody got scared. Then they clapped for him.â€
Zipper urged the three dozen Watering Hole barflies to take to the streets in defense of the storks. â€œIt was hilarious, watching them try to march in a line,â€ Leftson says, â€œbut a little scary at the same time, since they were so amped up. Still, the Outer Space Neon bowlers were happy to have the place to themselves for once.â€
Zipper and his comrades began marching up and down 3rd Street, loudly slurring nonsensical slogans. One of the protesters got into his truck and began shouting â€œDonâ€™t fork the storksâ€ into his citizens band radio, which got the attention of radio enthusiast C.W. Mcgibbets of Appleton: â€œMy hobby is doing C.B. sex for truckers. I thought I could meet girls if I did it, but I work with mostly, uh, mostly male truckers. Anyway, I was talking with a guy with the handle â€˜Bacon Buddyâ€™- my handleâ€™s â€˜Corn Pone Betsy,â€™ if youâ€™re ever lonely on the road- and I get cut off by this â€˜Donâ€™t fork the storksâ€™ chant, which I thought was totally perverse and against the spirit of C.B., so I called the cops.â€
The police arrived on the scene in riot gear, but the protest had mysteriously subsided. Mayor Evans, who once told an interviewer that storks really do bring babies to their parents, had heard the ruckus on his own C.B. radio and showed up to pledge his support to Zipper and the storks. The next day, the mayor applied for $6 billion in federally-backed loans, claiming that â€œif the storks donâ€™t get this money, our town will melt like a big gooey chocolate bar.â€
Zipper was thrilled by the mayorâ€™s stand; the Internal Revenue Service wasnâ€™t. Claiming that Green Lake had been profiting off of an unreported delivery service using stork labor for years, they charged the town $150 billion in back taxes and fines, and gave only a week to deliver the money.
Panic set in immediately. Several families fled town overnight, and the mayor developed a plan to raise the money, where the town would hire mobsters to set â€œmysterious firesâ€ all over town so they could collect insurance money. Luckily, though, the federal loan board rejected the stork loan application, claiming that â€œas storks are not a business they canâ€™t be losing money and therefore donâ€™t need a government bailout.â€ With that, the IRS backed off, and the trouble was over.
All of this led to last weekâ€™s award ceremony, where Darrell Zipper was chosen as Citizen of the Year over a decorated veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and a businesswoman who donated her kidney to a hard-luck pig with diabetes. An English journalist named Walter Bagehot said that â€œone of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.â€ When that idea comes from Darrell Zipper, and the human nature resides in Green Lake, that great pain is amplified. And, sadly, it never, ever, goes away.