Erin Ward and Dylan Shelton are half siblings, but don't remind them of that fact. At the mere mention that they had different fathers, they will threaten to break your pinky. Though wild in their mannerisms and unkempt in their grooming, both have a nobility of spirit that belies their lineage; their mother is a direct descendant of president James K. Polk.
I'm riding in an RV with the siblings on a trip to find Erin's estranged father. Erin is wearing overalls and a yellow Care Bears t-shirt underneath. She looks like Emily Blunt if Emily Blunt was strung out on methamphetamines. She is perpetually shuffling cards, a habit she picked up from her boyfriend Ivan, a magician in the Circus of Siberia. I notice that one of Erin's arms is dischordant with the other. I don't dare ask her about it.
Dylan on the other hand, looks like a cross between Paul Rudd and Chuck Woolery. It should be no surprise that Dylan is wearing capri pants and a coral colored camisole; he is notorious for sharing a wardrobe with his sister. Dylan bops his head in rhythym to the beat of "Aaron Burr, sir" from the Hamilton soundtrack. "My father is descended from that dude," he says proudly and with no hint of dishonesty. I can't hep but wince as he drives through another red light.
These two misfits are as unconventional as you can get. There is something adorable about their matching smurf tattoos inscribed with the ironic statement "Blue Lives Matter". I tell Erin that her tattoo is hilarious. "Fuck Gargamel!" she spits back at me. I literally swallow my tongue out of fear.
We finally meet Erin's father at the prearranged location, a Waffle House in Rowan County. Glenn Ward is every bit the oddball that you would hope with his handlebar mustache and biker gang swagger. Erin hasn't seen him since the days her and Dylan were trapeze artists in a Russian circus. The topics are wide-ranging but fascinating. He wastes no time reminiscing about Olga, the third sibling who died on the trapeze. He surprises us all by declaring that he too is descended from a founding father, Alexander Hamilton. Finally, as we are finishing our covered and smothered hash browns, he goes into a tall tale about Dylan receiving an arm transplant from Michael Jackson and Andre the Giant. With this family, I am unable to discern between fact and fiction, and to be honest, I don't really care.
We hop back into the RV. It's a long ride back to my hotel room. I start to drift off as I hear the familiar sound of a shuffling deck of cards and the same Hamilton soundtrack on repeat, only this time they are both singing along. Not too many people understand Erin and Dylan, but after spending a day in their shoes, I don't want to take them off. Just leave me in this RV and let me travel the world as a modern day gypsy.
Nope. I don't get to be so lucky. I have a wife and a boss and deadlines. We all can't be free-spirits like Erin and Dylan, but we can dream. We can dream.