Just outside of the thriving metropolis of Suamico, WI, at Exit 179 on US 41/141, right on the Brown/Oconto county line, there is a gas station called the Red Rocket. Now, I know that the name is awful, and believe me it is not eluding to what you wish it was. It is called the Red Rocket because it sells fireworks. It is a Shell station that includes an Arby's and a small store called the Mexican Mart. Which makes total sense because it is only 1350 or so miles from Mexico. The Mexican Mart is always open, 24/7, and has no cash register or employee inside, and it manages to always be cold. It could be 98 outside with 112% humidity, and it will be frigid inside the Mexican Mart. Which is exactly opposite of how it usually is most of the time in Mexico. Anyway, the Mexican Mart sells only three things: ceramic pots, ceramic statues, and a tiny bit of both Mexican and Suamico-themed clothing. And all of it is always at least half off. There is no other place like it on Earth, I assure you. Well, maybe one of the rooms of Neverland Ranch. The Mexican Mart had always intrigued us as we travelled by, stopping at the Red Rocket for gas, and fireworks, and roast beef and cheddar's. But we never had the courage to go in until I talked to Friend Steven. He was talking to me about how he had to go to the Red Rocket to get his father a replacement Native American Indian statue. Seeing as how Little Jeffy was living in a concrete teepee at the time, I thought that a three foot tall ceramic Indian statue would be the perfect addition to his home. So Egypt and I made the trek and a tradition began.
The rules of the Red Rocket gift are relatively simple.
1.) Two of the three originals (me, Egypt, and Little Jeffy) have to pick the gift out and purchase it for it to be a legitimate Red Rocket gift. Therefore the sombrero and poncho that the Dingo and I got for Duke, or the statue of a middle aged balding black man with a ring of gray hair sitting in a armchair reading a newspaper that's also a piggy bank that we got for Guy aren't real true Red Rocket gifts, even though they are sweet.
2.) The gift has to be appropriate to the person receiving it or their personality. I got a cow howling at the moon because I am from Wisconsin. Egypt got a genie's lamp because he is Egyptian, and that is right next to Arabia (never try to tell an Egyptian that Egypt is part of the Middle East). Little Jeffy got the Indian because he lived in a teepee. Mikey got an IGA bag full of ceramic fruit because he worked at an IGA for years. David Nathaniel got a hideous ceramic cat because he has 4 cats in his house. And so on and so forth. So what does it say that Bri Guy got a stature of two clowns riding each other?
3.) Once received, the gift must be prominently displayed in their home forever more. If I give you a statue of a ceramic dachshund from the Mexican Mart as a Red Rocket Gift, I should be able to walk into your apartment in 7 1/2 months and see it on the end table. My cows are on a shelf on the wall in my living room. Egypt's lamp is on his night table; apparently he is waiting for the genie to pop out. The Indian Chief stood guard next to Little Jeffy's wood stove until he moved out of the Teepee, then it stood proudly in his backyard until his roommates dog sawed it in half with his chain. It just has to be on display somewhere to embarrass and humiliate you in front of your friends and loved ones.
The Red Rocket Gift is an endearing tradition. But each time we go there it is harder and harder to find something for someone. We sometimes wander the 1000 or so square feet of the Mexican Mart for hours looking for the perfect gift for the next person on our list. But that's part of the fun I guess. So is the anticipation of what they will think. So is the hilarity when they get it. So is the super surprise unveiling. I love every bit of it. I wonder who I know that would fit with a ceramic skull with a Nazi helmet on it. I should call Egypt...
P.S. Happy Birthday Kleiner!