Freud argued that society is sick, and that deep within us we all secretly crave its destruction. Now, raving cokehead pervert Jewface or not, he certainly had a point if you consider the near universal affection for bandits. Ned Kelly, Billy the Kid, the Hamburglar – they all inspire us to some degree as they battle the authorities and dismantle the status quo of whatever real or fictionalized commercial universe they inhabit.
Yet for every horde of awestruck peasants admiring the exploits of Robin Hood, there is a crestfallen and slightly embarrassed Sheriff of Nottingham. The truth is, bandits’ daring actions have repercussions, and when you’re on the receiving end of their iconoclastic escapades, you feel like a dick. This is something we’ve learned in our many encounters with Stealy Dan.
It all started with a missing pair of sunglasses on the Rana farm outside Dharamsala. After a long day of mango-peeling, or onion-chopping, or some other menial, unmanly task, Devon was unable to locate his bright green pair of Boswell’s-purchased shades. I initially scoffed at him because of his habit of losing things earlier on the trip – mostly British bus passes – but my eye-rolling was soon cut short when we realized that we had been thrust into an enigma most sordid.
Priyanka, our host’s daughter, outlined to us the existence of a clandestine character who lurked the premises of her farm. A local laborer, he apparently worked with the cows every morning, and had a full set of very sticky fingers. He had stolen a pocket knife from a French girl staying on the farm, walked home with a WWOOFer’s mobile phone, and would often surreptitiously leave the farm holding bags heavily-laden with leechees. On one particular fearless day he walked into Priyanka’s room, his eyes roaming across her valuables for a few moments until he realized that she was in her bed reading, watching him. This man was definitely a bandit, and it appeared that he had just made us his latest quarry.
Because everything we knew about Stealy Dan was based on hearsay, and because it seemed as if several people a day were working with the cows (including Uncle Hungry) it was difficult to figure out exactly who he was. Nevertheless, we managed to narrow it down to three candidates:
- Man “stealing” storm-ravaged willow tree branch
- Man watching Devon saw bamboo, stealing his techniques
- Plough guy (stealing a glance at a cow dick)
As it turned out, Devon had actually just left his sunglasses in his other shirt, but that didn’t stop Stealy Dan from striking again. And again. And continuing to strike throughout the trip. For your enjoyment, here’s our official compilation of
Stealy Dan’s Greatest Hits:
- Devinder’s knife (found in “most unusual of places”)
- Steve’s water bottle (smelled like a toilet, didn’t know what Stealy Dan would want with it, it turned up right where he’d left it)
- Devon’s leatherman (from the cushions of the Conifer Cafe)
- Steve’s water bottle on bus to Shimla
- Steve’s knockoff leatherman (Aru)
- Devon’s jacket and sleeping bag (which had been craftily rolled up and hidden in the bedding Devon used in a Kashmiri villager’s home)
- Devon’s sock (Leh, turned out to be in a tarp)
- Devon’s bloody bronchitis effluvium-catching “spit cup” (recovered from a gutter near the wine and beer shop)
- Our dear Floridian friend Nate’s sandals from in front of the Golden Temple in Amritsar
- Steve’s water bottle (a very hot commodity) from the Golden Temple dorms
- An entire night of our lives in Bishkek
- Devon’s wallet (including $15 and the business cards of everyone we’d met in the past three months) on our trek to find a guesthouse in southern Bishkek. It was quickly replaced with a Spongebob Squarepants wallet
- The Cell Phone, on a night bus between Bangkok and Surat Thani
- Our dear travel companion Logan’s sunglasses and laundry detergent from his backpack on a night bus in Thailand
- A humorous red t-shirt owned by Steve, in Chiang Mai
And so, we do fear, as long as we’re in “Aja”,* shall the list go on…
*Steely Dan sucks!