“These unusual photographs of real animals were made possible only by patient, unfailing kindness on the part of the photographer at all times. Speed is essential in securing these pictures, but very often it is impossible to be quick enough. Young animals cannot hold a pose any better than human babies, and the situation is complicated when they are called on to be precocious in situations naturally foreign to them.”
-Harry Whittier Frees, in the preface to Animal Land on the Air
Silly cat pictures. It didn’t take long after the internet really exploded onto the world scene for silly pictures of cats to come along and infect the entire thing, like a highly malicious, mind-controlling virus. Toxoplasmosis, perhaps. The primary culprits were “lolcats,” which were born somewhere in the bowels of the 4chan forums, one ominous Saturday, or “Caturday,” morning circa 2005, best anyone can tell.
But did you know that extremely silly cat pictures have been around for a very long time? The infamous lolcat memes, with their patented, silly, anthropomorphised pictures of cats aren’t nearly as new as you think. The man who really first nailed the nauseatingly cutesy formula as we now know it was a photographer named Harry Whittier Frees, an American photographer who lived from 1879-1953.
Frees dealt primarily in postcards and children’s books, wherein he dressed cats and other animals in human clothes, posed them in human situations with props, and captioned the photos with old timey versions of things that passed for hilarious back then. Although he dealt with various species, for Frees, it all began and ended with cats.
He was sitting around the dinner table with his family in Audobon, Pennsylvania, back in 1906, when one of the family members passed a paper hat around the table. Each family member took turns wearing the hat, until the hat reached the family cat, at which point Frees rapturously cried “Eureka!”, assembled his old timey camera, and it was thus that silly cat photos were born, for the masses.
And it was Good.
Frees worked hard at his newfound calling in life, and ended up making quite a good living off of his silly animals dressed as people photos. He borrowed his four legged subjects from friends and neighbors, and actually found them quite difficult to work with: for instance, flies were terribly distracting to cats, making for especially difficult photo shoots, and so he had to make sure there were no flies in his studio when doing his old timey shoots. He worked only 3 months out of the year. The rest of the year, he actually spent recuperating from his epic cutesy animal shoots, and meticulously planning the details for his next shoots. As you can see, some of them were, apparently, extraordinarily involved, to the point that they likely did require 9 months of post-shoot recuperation.
How long did it take to get that spot-on school teacher expression re: kitty on the left? Frees, you magnificent bastard.
His exposures were taken at 1/5th of a second, and two-thirds of the negatives had to be discarded. Over the course of his career, Frees became quite the expert in anthropomorphised animal photography. Noting that:
“Rabbits are the easiest to photograph in costume, but incapable ot taking many “human” parts. Puppies are tractable when rightly understood, but the kitten is the most versatile animal actor, and possesses the greatest variety of appeal.”
Two kittens on the left are clearly repulsed by the rabbit. One on the right wants a piece of that casserole. Bad.
“ The pig is the most difficult to deal with, but effective on occasion,” he once said.
(Note that the above caption is Frees’, not mine. Apparently, pigs really are extraordinarily difficult to work with, when it comes to playing dress up. A hard, cold fact that Frees, along with all my ex girlfriends, certainly came to find out.)
Yes, back in the olden days, a photo such as this one–
–-most likely had people laughing out loud, since back then all it took to elicit uproarious laughter from children and simple-minded adults was a picture of a cat dressed as a human asking an amusing question. These days, of course, humor has taken on a much more sophisticated nature and-
–-OK, actually, disregard that last part. Some things never change, it seems, and while Frees is commonly known as the first one to do the nauseating cutesy Lolcat thing in his own, very artistic…
–way, there was one man who was doing something very similar even before Frees. And in a much more profound, epically batshit insane manner. The Cat Master. The Godfather of Cutesy Cat Pictures…
Louis Wain- The Cat Guy
If Louis Wain were around today, he would probably be an internet meme superstar. Born in 1860, Wain was far ahead of his time in realizing one thing: people like absurd pictures of cats. At the age of 23, after dabbling in landscape and various animal-themed paintings, Wain kicked off his career in cats by marrying a cougar, Emily Richardson, a woman ten years his senior.
The two lived together in a cozy little home in Hampsted, north London. Sadly, Emily soon began to suffer from cancer, dying just three years after they had tied the knot. It was during this period that Wain discovered the subject that would define his career. During her illness, Emily was comforted by their pet cat, Peter. Wain taught him tricks such as wearing spectacles and pretending to read in order to amuse Emily. He began to draw extensive sketches of the large black and white cat. He later wrote of Peter:
“To him properly belongs the foundation of my career, the developments of my initial efforts, and the establishing of my work.” (Many of Wain’s early cat paintings are, in fact, portraits of Peter.)
By that point, it was all over. Wain had zeroed in on his forte, and that was it: he painted nothing but cats for the rest of his life, descending into a monomaniacal feline obsession.
Yes, Wain went on to paint cats, all kinds of cats: asshole bourgeois cats-
-everyman soldier-in-the-trenches-of-war cats-
-cats going Paginini on a violin-
-cats going Tiny Tim on a banjo-
cats smoking blunts-
Yes, it was just cats on top of cats for lil’ Wain, and his cat pictures were all the rage in Victorian England, often being used in prints, greeting cards and satirical illustrations.
Wain was a prolific with an easel and a cat, producing as many as several hundred drawings a year. He illustrated about one hundred children’s books, his pussies appearing in papers, journals, and magazines, including the Louis Wain Annual, which ran from 1901 to 1915. His work was also regularly reproduced on picture postcards which are highly sought after by collectors today.
In 1898 and 1911 he was chairman, not surprisingly, of the National Cat Club, and was also an active member of the Society For The Protection Of Cats. Towards the end of his life, he claimed that he had “helped to wipe out the contempt in which the cat has been held” in England. Indeed, Wain was quite the cat crusader, walking around England with kitty-tinted glasses. As Wain himself put it:
“I take a sketch-book to a restaurant, or other public place, and draw the people in their different positions as cats, getting as near to their human characteristics as possible. This gives me doubly nature, and these studies I think to be my best humorous work.”
Having obtained his doubly (emphasis his, not mine: yes, he was losing it) nature, as well as having established cat studies as an official humor category well over a century before lolcats was even an annoying twinkle in some asshole’s eye, Wain somehow managed to descend even further into cat-based insanity, by actually going insane himself and being admitted to a squalid mental institute in London. (Mental illness ran in his family; his sister had been admitted when Wain was 30).
Luckily for Wain, he had developed quite a high powered fanbase by that point, one which included H.G. Wells and the Prime Minister of England– he had developed Cat Powers that came with kitty strings– strings that no less than H.G. Wells and the Prime Minister of England pulled to bail him out of there (no, I’m not making this up .)
Wain’s high profile benefactors had him transferred to a much more pleasant crazy house, the Napsbury Hospital, just north of London, which came replete with -–you guessed it-– a colony of cats. It was there that Wain lived out the rest of his life, presumably in bliss, because really, what more can one ask for than a mental institute to call home, a paint brush and easel, and a colony of cats. Today, his paintings are actually used in psychology classes to illustrate an artist’s descent into schizophrenia.
Many modern day medical experts speculate that Wain’s schizophrenia may have been brought on by toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection often carried and transmitted by warm blooded animals, but most often by…must I even say it? (Cats.)
See his descent into madness, captured, oil on canvas, below…
“During the onset of his disease at 57, Wain continued to paint, draw and sketch cats, but the focus changed from fanciful situations, to focus on the cats themselves.”
Hearing voices at this point.
OK, who gave the cat acid?
“Characteristic changes in the art began to occur, changes common to schizophrenic artists. Jagged lines of bright color began emanating from his feline subjects. The outlines of the cats became sever and spiky, and their outlines persisted well throughout the sketches, as if they were throwing off energy.”
“Soon the cats became abstracted, seeming now to be made up of hundreds of small repetitive shapes, coming together in a clashing jangles of color that transform the cat into something resembling an Eastern diety.”
“The abstraction continued, the cats now being seen as made up by small repeating patterns, almost fractal in nature. Until finally they ceased to resemble cats at all, and became the ultimate abstraction, an indistinct form made up by near symmetrical repeating patterns.”
And finally, all together now, this is the official progression that many psychologists use in classes to illustrate an artist’s descent into schizophrenia:
And that, my friends, concludes this field trip.
Get an old timey cat shirt with a funny caption here. I’m the first to think of combining Frees’ photos with funny captions on shirts, can you believe it!? Well be among the first to rock this new genre of cat meme shirts here.
The occasional humorous (or serious) commentary beneath photos,italicized and in bold, isme, Jasontalking.Hi. MyTwitter. We both follow back.
Now let it begin.
It was only supposed to be five questions, and a few pics…
Seven Weeks Earlier
Thanks so much for this. You’re my first interviewee on this blog (I’ve been blogging for a decade. Humor’s me love) because I stumbled upon your blog, Toki Doki (Nomad), which is just mindblowing. It’s kind of a big deal, actually. It’s won at least two awards: #17 (update: she just reached #15 for 2023) out of the Top 50 Best Graffiti Blogs on the Planet, and #53 out of the Top 100 Travel Photography Blogs on the Planet (that’s what those two awards up there in the title read).
2014. Kobe, Japan. “Mirror in the Abandoned Maya Hotel.” Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).(Jason: This is how Japanese horror films start. Please tell me you didn’t sleep here.)
1. Jason: Have you really been, as it seems by merely looking at your site, to nearly every country in the world? And Emily Dickinson, poet who needs no introduction, was famously reclusive, rarely leaving her room. If there were a highly skilled photographer who rarely traveled farther than the edge of her city block, do you think such a hermit blog could be as expansive as Toki Doki, and just as beautiful?
1. Jackie: Hi Jason, thanks so much for your interest in my blog. LOL, no. I haven’t been to EVERY country, but definitely to many. I’m not living to ‘tick boxes,’ just for the adventure of it. I often get asked: “What’s your favorite country?” Always my reply: “It’s wherever I am at the moment.”
Back in 2013, I saw my first City Kitty piece in Long Island City. Instant fan. In 2018, at Art Basel, I was wearing a City Kitty T-shirt and took a mirror selfie. City Kitty took that selfie, made this piece and put it on St. Marks. I ended up collabing with the artist himself!”-Jackie Hadel.
Jackie (continued): One of my social media taglines is “traveling the world taking photos of beautiful things. And it’s ALL beautiful.” So, yes, I believe just as much importance and beauty can be found through the lens of someone who lives on a city block and doesn’t travel much further than that. Every day is a new day in a neighborhood. The faces of familiar people are expressing different emotions, the cats are lying in a different position on the sidewalk—
April 12, 2023. Tallinn, Estonia. “Wow,” by Multistab. Or,”Cat Lying in a Different Position.” Via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
—and it’s always fun to make a Top 10 favorite food list by experiencing it 10 different times at 10 different restaurants – the best kind of adventure! LOL.
December 19, 2o14. Kobe, Japan. “My favorite food— sushi—from my favorite, cheap sushi spot: Gontaro.”-Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
September 13, 2017. Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Jackie Hadel, Todi Doki (Nomad).”So Many Questions.” Jason: And I pray the police were asking a lot of them. This looks like the calling card of a serial killer. I hope this area was searched well.
2. Jason: Living here in Medellin, Colombia, I’ve met quite a few “tick the box” travelers. What were you doing before nomading and photography? What drew you to street art originally? And how do you fund this nonstop traveling? I did do some digging, and know you’re a CELTA trainer (a CELTA is the Mercedes Benz of Teaching English as a Foreign Language certifications).
2. Jackie: I left the USA for Japan and never looked back. I was born in Maryland and grew up in Pennsylvania and Florida. Happy childhood, lots of sunshine and riding bikes with friends.
September 2, 2014. Kobe, Japan. “I saw this man all by himself, just staring out of the train window, smiling. Inner peace is a wonderful thing to behold,” by Jackie Hadel, via Toki Doki (Nomad).
I first became interested in graffiti and street art when I was living in Bogotá, Colombia in 2012. And since it was already dangerous there just to be walking alone with a camera, I never really considered the alternative— that there were actually “safer environs.” LOL. I think I started this passion with a healthy dose of vigilance.
And yes, as a global CELTA teacher trainer, I am fortunate in the sense that mostprojects cover my flights and accommodation, so I am able to just keep moving from project to project.
I live in gratitude and humility and never take anything for granted. I thank the universe for all of it.
October 7, 2012. Bogotá, Colombia. “Good Girl Gone Tramp,” by Lesivo. “Notice the little girl intent on getting an education, in line with her parents’ dream (in the lightbulb), but who clearly fears the all-too-common sex worker destiny of Colombianas .” -Jackie Hadel. Toki Doki (Nomad).
October 7, 2012. Bogotá, Colombia. “Love Tattoo,” by TOXICOMANO, DjLU, and LESIVO. Toki Doki (Nomad).
October 7, 2012. Bogotá, Colombia. “Disillusioned Girl, Probably a Drug Addict,” by Toxicomano. Toki Doki (Nomad).
October 7, 2012. Bogotá, Colombia. “Black Man Screaming for Justice While White Man Remains Silent,” by Toxicomano and Lesivo. Toki Doki (Nomad).Jason: I’ve often asked Colombians, playing naive: “Is there racism here?” and they’ve often replied—in front of rooms full of strangers(yet fellow non-Afro-Colombians)— “No, not at all. We’re not like YOUR country, with racist police always killing blacks on TV. But personally, I hate black people. They’re all lazy, violent thieves.”They simply CANNOT seetheironyof such self-refuting statements, coming from otherwise intelligent people. The ensuing arguments were always unbearably frustrating.And they’ll say this to me knowing full well I’M half black.
October 7, 2012. Bogotá, Colombia. “Man Covers his Mouth in the Face of Injustice,”by Lesivo. Toki Doki (Nomad).
3. Jason: Yet again, someone who started in Colombia in some way and fell in love with it! Despite its share of problems, like any country, everyone should visit Colombia at least once in their lives. Whatever you do, just stay away from the drugs. Haha. Sigh. So, it seems that the rest of your blog is generally split into two main categories: graffiti art, and architecture. (So many breathtaking church photos among your many pages!) Is that right?
3. Jackie: Well, to me, EVERYTHING IS ART: architecture, food, life, events, like, a couple Lady Gaga concerts— one actually in Bogotá. I do love architecture because it’s a combination of art and history. I will stand in front of a structure built in the 1800s and just try to imagine what it was like living at that time, how the building was used, etc.
September 10, 2016. Lille, France. From the “Take me to Church” collection by Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
When I visit an old cathedral in Europe, I can’t help thinking about Tom the Builder from “The Pillars of the Earth” trilogy. It’s fascinating.
August 31, 2016. Cologne Cathedral. Cologne, Germany. Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).Jason:Finished in 1248AD.Holy shit, look—really look—at how massive this fucking church is. Note the people standing at the base.And finished in 1248? I call Ancient Aliens.
Fall, 2o12. Bogota, Colombia. “Lady Gaga in Concert.”Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
February, 2011. Madison Square Garden, NYC. “Lady Gaga in Concert.” Click to enlarge, unless you’re just being a perv about it. Well actually, it’s OK if you are, as long as you don’t drain all your “energy” here and stop reading the rest, if you catch my drift. Photos by Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
Jackie: Like this photo. Not street art-related, but it’s one of my favorites. It was early morning in Islamabad, Pakistan, and I was walking around alone, and saw this man through an open wall in an outdoor kitchen, preparing breakfast. I never went any closer, I just observed from afar.
Circa 2015. Detroit, USA. “One of my favorite Detroit photos.” -Jackie Hadel. Toki Doki (Nomad).
4. Jason: So, to my shock, along with Detroit and some rough-looking areas of Bogota, I saw you’ve also done the infamously dangerous Venezuela. What are some of the riskiest things you’ve done to get photos, and where were they?
4. Jackie: Caracas did have a few dangerous moments, because at the time it was notorious for having an above average weekly unsolved murder rate, and the country was in turmoil with inflation as Chavez was in Cuba getting surgery. Not a stable time, and I had been told not to be outside after 7 p.m. There was a dark, narrow alleyway with no exit, but with some murals on the walls that I just had to get, and there were four guys in there hanging out—eyes glazed, dead—talking and looking at me, and I just kept my eyes on the walls, overemphasizing my camera’s aim to be on the murals and not them, and just backed out as soon as I could.
January, 2013. Caracas, Venezuela.“A woman praying and lighting candles in front of a mural of Chavez. It was something to see that day as Chavez was in Cuba getting cancer treatment.” Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
January, 2013. Caracas, Venezuela. Mural by Artist Unknown, via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
Risky— definitely my first Beirut trip.Unbeknownst to me, I wandered into a Hezbollah neighborhood. As I was walking, I noticed it becoming quieter and quieter. I looked around, then up, and saw men just staring down at me from their balconies. A woman approached me, asked what I was doing, and then explained that a Western woman walking through their neighborhood with a camera doesn’t bode well with its inhabitants. I was like “Of course, of course, I understand, and thank you for coming out to tell me. I will leave now.”
I found out it was Hezbollah the following week. I had to essentially remind myself “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore, so don’t be stupid. This is real world shit.”
“This is that moment– right when I realized I wasn’t in Lebanon, Kansas.” Beirut, Lebanon. Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
Lebanon. “Worn-out apartment building in a Beirut suburb. Soldiers had to grant me permission to take this photo. This is a Hezbollah area (I took a wrong turn). ” Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
Jackie: I guess, looking back, there were a couple times that I “took a wrong turn.”
Beirut, Lebanon. “Graffiti writer. This is what it’s all about. Must have been a sensitive area because this is the day I was questioned by soldiers and sent packing.” —Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
Lahore, Pakistan was another one. One Sunday, I was stopped by soldiers with BIG GUNS, demanding my papers. I really shouldn’t have been in that area at that time, walking alone in search of murals, but that’s why I do what I do: to get the pieces no one else can. It’s such places that usually have graffiti in their language, expressing local injustices—which I feel I should share—said injustices being, of course, exactly what officials don’t want me to share. My only hope is that authorities believe I’m just seeking out pretty pictures, with no politicial angle. I play dumb as best I can.
Chicago also had some tense moments, with a tinted-out Rolls Royce stalking me at dawn (I like to get up early to start getting photos).And of course, getting out of these entanglements makes for great “survival stories.” There IS a strategy, though. I walk like I own the streets, because if you look like you don’t belong somewhere, you’re inviting trouble.
June 8, 2015. Chicago, USA. “Hat’s Off!” by Ador & Semor. Via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
5. Jason: Ha. I LOVE how Chicago, my hometown, made the list with Venezuela, Pakistan, and Beirut. Chiraq it is.
Maybe I should have started with this: it was hard even to contact you! No email on your blog, or anywhere, really. First: care to go into how you nailed a closer connection to Banksy than the vast majority of the world will ever hope to, and what the experience was like? Second: am I right in feeling that you’re similarly low-key, even a bit guarded about your personal life, like Banksy?
2013. Ramallah, Palestine. Separation Wall. Iconic “Flying Balloon Girl,” by Banky. Via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
2013. Ramallah, Palestine. Separation Wall. “Cut it Out,” by Banky. Via Jackie Hadel, (Toki Doki Nomad).
5. Jackie: First, BANKSY. I’ve never met him/them (theories abound that it’s Robin Gunningham from Bristol, UK, to Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack, to a global art collective). My book ,”My Month with Banksy,” documents Banksy’s 2013 project “Better Outside Than In,” which took place in the five boroughs of NYC, with the goal of putting out a new piece of street art every day for the 31 days of October. I was one of the fans chasing the pieces. It was chaotic and exciting: we were all in a race to find the piece he posted on his Instagram every morning because there were just as many haters who were trying to destroy the artwork. We all wanted to get it before anything happened.
October, 2013. “This is My New York Accent,” by Banksy. Classic Banksy humor. He’s now in NYC, and it’s on. Via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
My ‘connection’ to Banksy was through his management team “Pest Control.” On the 7th of October in Brooklyn, I snapped a shot of an NYPD police officer “fanboying” on the band-aided heart balloon piece. He was taking a pic of it and I caught him, as well as the Banksy image on his phone. Just good timing. It was a big deal to Pest Control because the New York papers were chock-full of headlines about how Mayor Bloomberg was on the hunt to catch Banksy. So, to have a police officer doing that was funny. Pest Control emailed me requesting to use my photo on their official “Better Outside Than In” website and asked how best to credit me.
October 7, 2013.Red Hook, Brooklyn. NYC. NYPD caught fanboying by Jackie on a pieceby Banksy,“Bandaged Heart Balloon,” via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki Nomad.
October 18, 2013. NYC, USA. “Geisha Silhouttes,” by Banky. Via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
October 20, 2013. Upper West Side, NYC. “Hammering it Home,” by Banksy, via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
October 24, 2013. Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. Crowds gather around a just-announced Bansky piece outside of Larry Flynt’s famed Hustler Club.
“Hopeless Romantic,” by Banksy. This was the piece that drew a crowd, placed brilliantly outside of the Hustler Club, above— for all those who naively buy the illusion that sex workers sell.Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
October 9, 2013. Another Banksy-drawn crowd, earlier in the “Better Outside Than In” street art chase. Lower East Side, NYC. Via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
Jackie (continued): That’s the addiction to photography for me, I think. Always on a quest for that perfect shot. I got it that time, and it was Banksy, so yeah, it was pretty special. My DMs lit up after that from people all over the world who wrongly assumed I had to be on the Banksy team for him to use my photo. He rarely does that. And the number of people writing to ask if I would tell Banksy about a wall they knew of for one of his pieces…my inbox became unmanageable.
The piecethat drew crowds, above. Banksy’s “Night Vision War Horses,” perhaps the most ambitious piece of his NYC residency. Instead of a wall, he cleverly painted thisonan abandoned truck and car, which provided striking depth. It included a 1-800 number for viewers to call, which played a 39-minute WikiLeaks recording of a 2007 Baghdad airstrike. Photo by Jackie Hadel.
About my low-key nature: I just believe the art should be the focus of my social media, not me.
“Sometime in Paris,” Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).The flat earth-minded will definitely look at this and see Jackie shooting JFK.
6. Jason: Do you ever have dark, depressed moments as a nomad? Recovering from opioid addiction as I am, completely alone in Colombia, I know I get dragged and drowned by terror tsunamis almost every day, as I remember— often in bed, ripped from sleep by the morning wakeup call of cart-pushing street vendors shouting in Spanish— just how far from home I really am. Ever consider just settling down somewhere? If so, what are some places in which you would choose to settle down?
6. Jackie:Yes, sure there’s a healthy, sometimes unhealthy, dose of existential dread as a nomad, but I push those thoughts out of my head because the benefits of this lifestyle far outweigh the negatives.
Vancouver. “Immediately after my Israel/Palestine experience.” -Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
2019. Costa Rica. Logically, I know this thing is a bird. But I just feel it’s a floating demon-thing. I’ve been having trouble sleeping since I first saw this. Photo by Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
IF I were ever to do the USA thing full-time, I’d love to have a 9-month appointment in an ESL department at a university in a city or town with massive creative vibes, and still have the three months for global adventures.
7. Jason: Austin just popped in my head, for what it’s worth. Did you have any formal training as a photographer?
7. Jackie:I’m not a trained photographer in any sense of the word. I see what I see, how I see it, and I shoot it. End of story. The device doesn’t matter. I mean, was your pot roast delicious because of the oven it was roasted in, or because you knew how to season it just right and prepare it in the perfect way? When the camera is at my eye I just have a compulsion to communicate through the images I capture. Want to know who I am and what I’m about? Look at my photographs.
8. When and how did your blog, Toki Doki, start? (And what does Toki Doki mean?) Was it after you started traveling the world?
8. Jackie: It sounds sappy, but I started my blog in order to share the world with whomever, for whatever reason they may not be able to experience it themselves. I had been traveling already for almost a decade before my 2012 trip to Cuba, but since Cuba was still an almost impossible trip for most Americans, I started my blog solely to show people what it looked like on the inside. And keep in mind, at that time I was living in Colombia and already immersed in Bogota’s street art, so the true impetus for the blog was my upcoming Cuba trip.
2012. Havana, Cuba. Daily Cubano life. Again, this is a photo from 2012. I don’t think that can be emphasized enough. God I could have gone to Cuba but I had to stick to Puerto-fucking-Rico because my super-ghetto Chicago best friend is scared to leave the country/order a passport. It’s like time traveling, look at this shit. Fuck fuck fuck. Ok roll the goddamn interview. Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
*TOKIDOKI (all one word) is just one of my favorite Japanese words and one of the first that I could read in hiragana. 🙂 It means ‘sometimes’ in Japanese. Which, I know, doesn’t really fit, as I am much more than sometimes a nomad—I’m just about always one— but the Japanese word for ‘always’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. So I went with TOKIDOKI NOMAD. Instead of taking the meaning of ‘tokidoki’ literally, I see it as an homage to Japan, land of my humble nomadic beginnings.
June 16, 2016. Tokyo, Japan. Around the Imperial Palace. Photo by Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
9. Don’t you sometimes hate just the…generally uncomfortable and chaotic nature of airline travel, or long bus or train trips (although train sleeper compartments are fucking amazing). That’s one huge reason I could never be a true nomad.
Airport in Osaka.
9. Jackie: Exactly right! It takes energy for sure. I prefer train travel WHENEVER I can get it (I LOVE trains). As for the other aspects of travel, I just grin and bear it, knowing that there’s a cool destination at the end of it. 🙂
“Anywhere and everywhere all at once.” -Jackie Hadel. Photo by Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
“Why Choo Choos are the Best and How I Came to Know It.” From a stuffy grad school writing exercise, gleefullyclowned on by Jason. February, 2013.Via awkward transitional blog.
June 17, 2015. On train, Chicago to Detroit. Ah, look at that relaxed, shoes off, choo choo chillin’ vibe. God, choo choos really are the best. Photo by Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
Jackie snapping photos out of the train window.
10. Name some street artists on your all-time greats list—artists you think are absolutely brilliant, but of whom not enough people have heard.
Circa 2o15. Brussels, Belgium. “Peace,” by HMI CNN, via Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).Note the dope hip-hop shirt and the boombox.I learned Jackie loves conscious hip-hop, among many other genres. For younger readers, I’ll break it down: a ‘boombox’ was that thing in the above photo.
10. It’s BANKSY, actually. His work is my favorite.
Others: Findac, Conor Harrington, Kashink, Anthony Lister…
Berlin, Germany street art. “Cat Lady,” by Fin DAC. Photo by Jackie Hadel.
OK, which one of us was supposed to issue the jump scare warning at the top of this section?(No, I love sphynxes.)
Belfast, Northern Ireland Street Art: “The Duel of Belfast, Dance by Candlelight,” by Conor Harrington (no relation), photo by Jackie Hadel.
December 7, 2o13. Wynwood, Miami Beach. Florida. “Lister Adjust,” by Anthony Lister. Via Jackie Hadel.
11. So would it be safe to assert, as the kids say these days, that you fangirl hardon Banksy? Perhaps even that you fell for his work?
See what I did there?
11. Jackie:You got me.
London. January 18, 2015. “Woman Falling with Shopping Cart.” by Banksy. Via Jackie Hadel. It is, of course, well known how street artists manage to paint in the center of walls, and at such high altitudes: they can fly. As well as hover for extended periods of time. Trust me, I’m like, really good at knowing things.
January 17, 2015. London. “Hoodie Guy Haring Dog,” by Banksy. Via Jackie Hadel.
January 16, 2015. London.“I Love Londonrobbo,” by Banksy. Via Jackie Hadel.
12. Jason: What other languages can you speak?
September 16, 2015.Weston Super Mare, UK. “Your Dreams Are My Nightmares,” part of Banksy’s “Dismaland” exhibition, described by Banksy as a “family theme park unsuitable for children.” Via Jackie Hadel.
12. Jackie: I practice Spanish, Japanese, German, and French every day, so a bit above basic in those four. Basic conversational level of many others languages. I strongly believe in learning your host country’s language. It’s a huge sign of respect.
September 8, 2016. Lille, France. Sticker on a…huge. Sign. Of respect. I said GOTdamn, did it again. Photo by Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
13. Jason: When was the last time you went, I guess, home? How often do you stop back “home,” if you do?
Sykesville, Maryland. “My childhood home. Actually, my maternal grandmother’s home, but she essentially raised me and I lived a majority of my young life in this house. My soul is in that house. My grandmother’s soul is in that house. Unfortunately, it is no longer in the family, but it will forever be in my heart.” –Jackie Hadel. Photo by stepmother, edited by Jackie. Toki Doki (Nomad).
13. Jackie: I’m the traveler of the family. Last time in the States most recently, was two years ago before I accepted the language fellowship and came to Estonia.
“Me getting lost in a gargantuan Os Gemeos Mural, in Boston. I don’t think it’s there anymore.” -Jackie Hadel, Toki Doki (Nomad).
14. Jason: What was one of your most memorable meet-ups with a street artist?
March 26, 2023. Telliskivi-Tallinn, Estonia. BOLD, artist from Paris. “One of my most recent meet-ups with an artist.” -Jackie Hadel, via Toi Doki (Nomad).
14. French artist, Kashink! She contacted me when she saw in my IG that I was in Paris again, and I met her at a wall, and got to watch her paint (without permission from the city.) I am fortunate, because if an area artist happens to catch wind of the street art and graffiti pics I’m taking of their hometown on my IG or blog, they will reach out.
This is like watching a WAY cooler version of Bob Ross.
Paris, France. Street Art. “Let’s Bounce” by Kashink! From beginning to end, full session with Jackie on ride-along. Photo from Toki Doki (Nomad) by Jackie Hadel.
15. Jason: So you have five books on Amazon, including “LA Street Art,” “Japan Street Art” and of course, “My Month with Banksy.” How has self-publishing been treating you?
“My Month with Banksy,” by Jacqueline Hadel. Available on Amazon.I bought a copy.All around fun and of course, visually stunning experience.I truly recommend.
15. Jackie: With “Bogota Street Art,” being my first, self-publishing has been fine, I was just trying it out as the quickest way to get published— the Banksy book sells most because it serves as a ‘small souvenir’ of that special project and of course, Banksy has fans all over the world, so I think their friends and families buy it for them. I hope to expand in the future with an actual publisher, but not sure of angle yet or anything.
January 18, 2015. London.“If Graffiti Changed Anything,” by Banksy. Via Jackie Hadel.
Jason: Well, hopefully a publisher will read this and you’ll get the major book deal you deserve. Well, I’m fresh out of questions, so let’s call this a wrap. Thanks Jackie.
Phew!Without DOUBT the most work I’ve ever put into a single blog post.Check out Jackie’s Amazon author page for her other, Non-Banksy-In-NYC books, with many more beautiful photos, from myriad artists, in myriad cities.
Follow this blog if you dig what you see. (And Jackie JUST inspired me to take my adorable/embarrassing first Insta baby steps.)
I was supposed to leave Colombia 3 years ago, but the pandemic stopped me. I became trapped in Colombia, which, as you can imagine, was fine by me. Medellin has the nicest people, perfect weather all year round, currency that makes a meager US income a person of wealth, and, honestly, some of the most beautiful women in the world.
Now I am going to type something I have been despairing over, in terms of whether or not I should do it. While we were locked down, I became addicted to codeine, little by little, at first as a way to help me power through my boring job, then as a sort of replacement for beer. I would have a six pack of codeine in the fridge everyday, the same way one would have a sixer of beer. Little did I know, the beginning of the end of my life, as I had known it, was upon me.
In addition to this, I had attained, several years prior, a book deal with Random House, for an autobiography. I failed to deliver it, and simply stopped all communication with them. I still owe them a sizeable advance, which I burned through during 2 years of self demolishing Medellin super models and cocaine partying. I ruined my chance to be an author, for many complex reasons I am writing about in my current, and likely, final autobiography.
The liquid codeine ended up hurting my body so badly that I could only pee sitting down, and had to do so every 20 minutes all night long. I took to peeing in empty detergent bottles bedside. I had to scream, so hard did I need to strain to get what would turn out to be only a trickle of urine, which seemed to relieve me, until 20 minutes later, when I was awoken again by the pressing need to urinate, and had to do it all over again.
This could not go on, or I would off myself within a few months of this nonstop hell. I also soon came to find out what happened if I went a night without codeine: the worst imaginable withdrawal. So terrible, heart racingly, suicide-inducing, that I will leave any attempt at a full description of how bad the hellfire, I had dubbed it, was. I went to a toxicolologist here, desperate and crying. She prescribed me methadone, in this nonstop, fatal, comedy of errors which, it turned out, I could get from any of the pharmacies on my block here, under the counter, or delivered to my front door. Every prescription drug on earth, every opiate, benzo– anything you can imagine, vicodin, morphine, methadone, oxycontin– can be easily delivered to your front door by a corrupt pharmacist.
So now, I am addicted to methadone– what is supposed to be the drug that helps opiate abusers– essentially, I am hooked on synthetic heroin. It is harder than heroin to quit, due to its long half life. Every morning is hell, a dark swirl of suicidal thoughts and regrets and the certainty that nothing remains me for, now that I have ruined everything, here at the age of 41. I will stop typing for now. Getting this out and pressing publish was hard enough. For more backstory on me, to get an idea as to how the book deal happened and what I was before all this, read my Wikipedia page (no, I didn’t make it. I was shocked to discover it myself). I will continue to document my struggles, which I am sure wil not end well, almost certain, if there is an audience for it. I am living in hell, I do not feel ready to go back to the U.S., largely because I have almost no family or friends to go to, and although methadone is bad, I fear the most what would happen if, in a state of devastating withdrawal/hellfire, I bought fentanyl off the streets of Chicago, or even heroin, along with a needle. I am living in hell, surrounded by paradise. I would amputate my right arm to go back in time…how I would…
And yes, I’m sure the job offers will come pounding on my door, now. I have given up the button-up writer for hire thing, as you can tell, and am giving you the real. Now…publish…god help me…