dajiban racing
an ungainly elegance
that speaks of passion

A wide and unstoppable grin spread across my face. It stayed for not only the duration of the video I was watching, but for the rest of the day. And whenever I think about this video I smile.


What is this word? It is a word for passion, or at least one sort of passion. A quite specific one actually: The Japanese passion for racing Dodge vans. Mm-hm. Racing. Dodge. Vans.

It’s pretty spectacular.

Watching the video (courtesy of my awesome bosses) is to catch the coattail of something wonderful. It might not be your idea of wonderful. I can tell you it certainly wasn’t mine. And yet, there it is, passion, in living, breathing, V8-powered, gorgeous, human color.

The video is about 11 minutes. It might be worth your while.

When I interned at the Conservation Lab at Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in my final year of grad school, I was sent to help process artifacts in the Archaeology Department for a week. That’s fancy wording for bagging rocks. At least, that was my impression after the first day.

But then something magical happened. The guy I was working for started to talk about these rocks I was bagging. His entire countenance changed and he lit up as he talked about the lithics and what he could see and read in the rock. Each had a story, and he loved each one of those stories. Through his love of lithics a whole world opened up to me. It wasn’t my world or even a world I wanted to hang out in really, but there was something utterly compelling about this guy’s enthusiasm for rocks.

It is really uplifting to be in the presence of someone who loves what they’re doing. Not only that, but it’s infectious. Every time I have basked in the presence of someone who loves something, however quirky that thing might be, I walk away more resolute to follow my own passion.

It was a number of years after grad school, midway through my museum career, that I met The Washing Machine Man of Colorado. (His real name is Lee Maxwell.) I’d heard about him from another colleague. His collection was open to the public but only by appointment. I scheduled a time for a small group of museum professionals to visit.

I had preconceived ideas. I admit it. I expected some grungy dust-covered collection in a dingy barn with a heavy air of half-finished thoughts and meandering oddity that accompanies someone who is not only muttering to himself but… well, a bit crazy. I mean, who in his right mind collects washing machines?

Next to a very tidy turn-of-the-last-century house, were two prefab metal buildings inside of which were housed his vast collection. It went from washboards and wringers to more modern and identifiable machines. The earlier models are the ones he had so lovingly restored. It was inspiring to be among all these things he had worked on – for that attention is a form of love. And to visit, is to bask in love. Yes. It seems kooky. But there was an ineffable quality to being in the presence of that focused attention.

It was magnificent.

When I watched the DAJIBAN! (I just have to write it with an exclamation point! And ALL CAPS because it is that exciting to me.) video – I was reminded of The Washing Machine Man and the Lithics Guy and it made me want to grab the world by its shoulders and shout, “See? There IS great beauty in this crazy world! Go out there and find your quirky thing! Dive in! Get excited! Be a little kooky! In doing so, you might just inspire someone else.”

Go forth and DAJIBAN!