Australians. Can’t live with ’em, can’t send ’em any further away.
One enterprising young bloke from “the ass end of the world” has used his time in America and his trip to Burning Man to achieve international notoriety.
From the BBC:
In August 2015, children in a sleepy suburban neighbourhood of the Californian city of Sacramento noticed a white, windowless van parked on their street.
Across the side of the vehicle, someone had painted the words “Free Candy” in a bloody shade of red. A cluster of handprints were smeared nearby, suggesting that some candy-seekers may have come to the wrong kind of sticky ending.
A 12-year-old named Lawrence Bellow uploaded a photo that began to spread around the internet. Soon local news stations were interviewing local parents about the “suspicious van” rolling through town.
“It just felt like they were trying to attract kids, and it just gave me a creepy feeling,” Lawrence’s mum told the local KOVR TV station.
The van’s driver was Australian Ron Jacobs, 28, who had stopped overnight on his way to Burning Man, the month-long music festival in the middle of the Nevada desert.
By the time he arrived his van had already gained internet fame.
“I was just living in the van and I was just hearing it explode all around me,” Jacobs said. “I woke up one morning, some guy just screams out, ‘I saw you on the internet, I love your van!'”
Since then the “Free Candy Van”, which does actually give out free candy, hasn’t stopped getting attention.
Jacobs said the idea for the van came after his life in Perth fell apart “in a whole bunch of ways”.
“Life. Work. Family. The whole shebang,” he said. “All at the same time … I ended up picking up my savings and chasing my dreams.”
Those dreams involved a “big international adventure”, so he left to travel the American southwest and camp out while skydiving, windsurfing and attending music festivals.
Rather than live in a tent, Jacobs decided it would be better to buy a second-hand van, but knew he was trading comfort for the stigma associated with being a strange man in a white, windowless van.
Instead of shying away from the image, he decided to play up to it by going over the top.
“I was just kind of thinking, like most things in life that you can’t change … what you can do is embrace it and celebrate it,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs, an engineer who spent a year studying at Penn State University, has since given out $1500 (£1500) of free candy.
He said most of his interactions with other people involved a “rollercoaster” of reactions, starting with horror before moving to a sense of relief, and even delight.
Jacobs has been stopped by police eight times while driving the van. A friend from Perth who borrowed the van for three weeks was stopped seven times.
“I consider this van a mirror of American society,” Mr Jacobs said. “The whole experience I’ve had has just been me, a tourist, living American everyday life as their… public enemy number one, and it’s just been such an experience.
“It’s all just the epitome of absurd.”
Once again, over-protective and nervous parents found something to be over-protective and nervous about:
Here’s the Free Candy whistleblower explaining how he saved the day:
And here’s the perpetrator’s apology – in which he says that American society itself created the Free Candy Van (and its registered trademark and website):
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the idea was original:
Parents, be sure to talk to your children about “stranger danger”.
This pundit cautions us to beware of all vans:
The story behind America’s suspicious free candy van
It might sound the epitome of a parent’s nightmare, yet the menacing van contains nothing more harmless than a few extra trips to the dentist. There are more important things to focus on, like fixing that grinding you hear from yuo kid’s rooms at night. Sollution: mouth guard for teeth grinding.
Perth hippy Ron Jacobs settled on the idea behind the van en-route to Burning Man festival this year; a stop before he headed off for three months of ‘wing suiting’, a sport where you fly wearing a suit that looks like an overgrown fruit bat.
Despite the media attention he received for the van, which wasn’t always positive, Ron assured sceptical onlookers that it was nothing more than a tribute to the Burning Man’s celebration of absurdism, and a product of his own unique humour.
“At the Burning Man it’s all about the giving, so what am I going to give?” he told ECU Daily.
“Oh and I’ve got to get to Burning Man. So I’ll need transport. I’ll also need somewhere to stay there … Okay, let’s connect all of these dots: FREE CANDY starts making a lot more sense.
“It’s just going to have to be completely over-the-top and really deliver on the promise of free candy at each and every opportunity.”
He said the joy and delight I received driving others around, while handing out free sweets, was amazing.
“I get as many of my friends and their friends’ friends to drive around in it and give out free candy too,” he said.
“It’s such a blast. The sensation of being able to take someone from immediate shock-horror all the way through to gratitude and hilarity with a drizzle of irony in less than a second is outrageous fun in my book.”
The van made American news headlines, with some of the bold statements including: ‘Free Candy van creeps out parents in Sacramento’, and ‘Free Candy van upsets Sacramento residents’.
Luckily, these weren’t the only responses.
“I only ever heard the story from other peoples’ mouths,” Jacobs said.
“One interesting example was when one morning I woke up to a man shouting out at the top of his lungs at the van: “I saw you on the internet! F*** love your van!”.
So what’s next for the wing-suited, parent-creeping-out world traveller?
Best to keep in the loop via his Facebook page: facebook.com/ron.jacobs.146.