It was one of those September afternoons where you could finally feel the spooky season vibes around Havre de Grace. It was partly cloudy and much cooler outside where I could comfortably open the windows of my art studio without sweltering in hot, humid air. I had been spending the past few weeks perfecting my upcoming second book, #RockStarLife SEASON TWO!!,when I looked up from my MacBook as something broke my concentration. I glanced outside my window and saw two neighbors starting to embellish their front porches with ghostly Halloween decorations. In that moment, I fully felt the autumn atmosphere that I love so much for the first time this year.
With the sudden rush of seasonal sensations breaking my proofreading focus, I got dressed to go for one of my walks around my hometown. I love having an art studio in downtown Havre de Grace for these meditative walks, as there is a uniquely small-town charm you can feel no matter the month. Plus, being a paranormally obsessed Drag Rockstar, Halloween is my favorite holiday of all, and residents were activating the supernatural celebration. I grabbed my camera, airpods, and sunglasses and out the door I went to begin my walk to the western entrance of the world-famous Havre de Grace Promenade at Tydings Park. I snapped some photos of the historic and allegedly haunted Bayou Condo building in full view of the live-streaming webcam overlooking the promenade and the top of the Chesapeake Bay.
When I walk like this, it is more of a vigorous urban hike than leisurely stroll. But no matter the intensity, season or location, these walks are something everyone should do as it is the best self-care, both physically and mentally, one can do. These walks continually contribute the greatest material for my various artistic outlets with artwork inspired by these walks found in my Punk Rock Photography Collection and Havre de Grace Rockstar Collection on my artist portfolio, Zenobia Darling Creative. Plus, my stand-up comedy sets are about the people watching I do on these strolls, whether walking on the Las Vegas strip or the Havre de Grace Promenade.
I always listen to music on these strolls. I had finished producing my performance set I have planned for the Costumes and Cocktails Halloween Bash performance art show I am hosting with the Harford Artists Association at the Bel Air Armory in October. Since I had it as a Spotify playlist titled “Halloween Tableaux Happening”, I figured this walk was a good time to proof my setlist. It is a mix of Halloween-themed dance pop and rock music and added to the already enigmatic vibes of my walk. As I neared the Concord Point Lighthouse, I photographed a drifting sailboat with a supermodelistic heron and surveillant geese, all adoring the Susquehanna Flats on this cloud-covered day.
As I continued my walk, I walked past the future home of the Harmer’s Town Art Center with the Graw Alley Artist Park. The Park is filled with uniquely intelligent world-class murals by local artist Ezra Berger and is a true gem in Harford County, showcasing the creative and clever talent in this area. These paintings are a stop on my tour of Havre de Grace I give to my out-of-town acquaintances when they first come to visit me at my art studio, as they are extremely cool and give a candid history exhibit of this legendary town through street art.
As I finished walking down Market Street where it meets North Washington Street, I saw an artist En Plein Air painting. I went right up to her, introducing myself, and asked if I could peek at what she was painting. She introduced herself as Marjorie Haley and showed me her in-progress painting of a scene looking up North Washington Street. She told me she was a nomadic artist from New Jersey and in town for the Harford County Plein Air Festival. We talked about the many hauntings of downtown Havre de Grace, en plein air painting, and the growing #VanLife movement while she created. I asked if I could take photos of her open-air oil painting and got her contact info. I wished her luck on her journey as I continued mine. I briefly ran into artist and musician, John Keaton, out running a midday errand, after refueling at Concord Point Coffee with an iced chai tea latte.
Near the Lock House Museum, I met up with fellow local artist, and close friend, Karen Hartline to walk the Joe-K Trail. The Joe-K Trail is another exceptional area in Havre de Grace that provides Karen and I both endless artistic inspirations. Walking along the remnants of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, I took editorialized snapshots of the picturesque surroundings. Several speeding passenger trains raced through town as they crossed the Susquehanna River on Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor. I love to take photography clients here for photoshoots, as the photographs are an amusing mix of natural and developed spectacle that lends itself to superb artistic photos.
We continued our artistic wandering in the sandy, urban park under the Hatem Bridge. This spot is very special to me as I have en plein air painted “Graffiti Express Happening” and “Havre de Grace Summer Still Life” at this location, as well as countless drag photoshoots in college. Karen and I continued on by following old railroad tracks into the swampy forest just north of the Hatem Bridge. Here the former industrial rail line turned footpath becomes an enchanted wetland forest that nature is gloriously repossessing, contrasting the well-preserved sites around the Lockhouse Museum and North Park. It felt like the perfect place we might run into a ghost or cryptid while hiking, given the paranormal vibe of the day. We unfortunately didn’t, but did ran into a few hikers, one who recognized me and previously lived on the same street as my grandparents. We rode the bus together to Meadowvale Elementary and hadn’t seen each other since then. We chatted for a few minutes, quickly becoming reacquainted again.
As we continued our trek up the Joe K Trail loop, we turned off the former railroad tracks towards the waterfront trail to loop back down to North Park. As we tracked the forested riverfront, we heard the horn and felt the rumble of a graffitied freight train about to cross the Susquehanna on the iron trestle bridge we were just below. We quickly left the treeline, stepping onto the rocky shoreline outcropping, and perched up on a fallen tree to take in the mechanized display and the train’s colorful graffiti. Graffiti, especially freight train graffiti, is the same human creative expression as renowned prehistoric cave art found worldwide. Karen and I both were blown away at some of the artistic work tattooed on the boxcars. We both snapped portraits of the passing art display on the eroded shore of the river. I finished my trek with Karen driving me back to my art studio on the other side of town.
The next day, I thought about the day’s stroll around my hometown while I worked on my upcoming pop-up art exhibition for my book launch celebration this November. Moments like that afternoon, where one can intensely feel the charm of this waterfront settlement, is why I maintain an art studio in Harford County and call myself a Havre de Grace Rockstar. A September mid-day walk turned into such a magical afternoon, filled with autumn charisma, stunning natural and industrial beauty, local culture and history, and the meeting of old and new friends. But the true magic is this charisma is here no matter the season, and why Harford County is such an amazing place this world-traveling Drag Rockstar loves to come home to, especially in the spooky Halloween season.