Saturday, June 30, 2012

Making Faces

The parents of Mabel Watson Payne went out for dinner in the Mission with a group of friends Friday night, giving me the welcome opportunity to babysit. Daddy made up the dinner-plate before leaving – tofu-sticks, cheese-sticks, fresh raspberries and butterfly-shaped whole-wheat crackers – plus Mabel's long-time absolute favorite dessert of organic tapioca-pudding (known as ta-ta-yo-yo). I confined most of my picture-taking to this meal, with Mabel pulled straight up to the table but still anchored to her high chair. Depending on circumstances, I tend to feel uneasy dividing my attention between the baby and the camera when there are no other adults around – unless this small, active and unpredictable person is also securely strapped down and fully occupied. On the plus side, the camera is such an accustomed fixture that I don't believe it inhibits the liveliness of our exchanges at all. Or the spontaneity of Mabel's constantly morphing facial expressions.What a life of drama she leads! How vivid the narration!


Bedtime gets delayed when I babysit for Mabel Watson Payne. I sincerely aim to have her sleeping by 8 p.m. the way her parents do, but it seems that just having me around as a substitute creates enough novelty and stimulation that true, deep sleep generally arrives closer to 9:00. This last Friday night all the rituals were completed on schedule. And then we spent the hour between 8 and 9 rocking and singing (on my part) and wriggling around and coming up with ideas and suggestions (on Mabel's part).

Finally it became obvious that she was getting drowsy, head against my shoulder and arms limp as we continued to rock, while I hummed some low-pitched meaningless tune. All at once Mabel raised her head and told me what she wanted me to sing instead.

It was a song she had just made up –

You're ... the Ba-by
 And ... I Love You
 All ... The ... Time    

Friday, June 29, 2012


Mabel Watson Payne dropped the pushing-the-stroller game  when her mother arrived, as planned. The new game involved chasing the baby all the way across Union Square.

Pale Aura

Even though these photos of Mabel Watson Payne turned out to be over-exposed, I decided not to meddle with the colors. At first sight I assumed these would be too pale for use – but then gradually their summery, translucent aura grew on me. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Union Square

Mabel Watson Payne found novelties without number and balmy weather in Union Square on Wednesday evening, waiting for a rendezvous with dinner companions.

Afternoon Snack

The food skills of Mabel Watson Payne have continued to improve daily, though unintentionally big and unwieldy bites still tend to offer occasional challenges. Dipping came suddenly into favor recently. Above, a piece of fruit-studded bread dipped quite deftly into apple sauce before proceeding toward its destination.  I also noticed the novel absence of the plastic eating tray. Instead, the high chair inhabited Mabel's own spot at the big-people table (recently covered in a vivid, easy-wipe oilcloth).  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Advance Sample

There will be more pictures of Mabel Watson Payne tomorrow, the result of today's happy visit, but this one will serve as advance sample. Seen here in the midst of patiently having her face washed after afternoon snack, while simultaneously fooling around with her milk container.

Richmond Close-ups

I don't know anything much about the East Bay city of Richmond, California, but nonetheless found myself there on a recent morning of extreme brightness – in circumstances that permitted wandering one downtown neighborhood for a couple of hours looking at things. Much of this area seemed to have been recently "renewed" in a naked suburban style and I could not imagine any way to photograph any of that. But I kept looking and looking until I found things that did seem imaginable as photographs. These are some of those.

Richmond Architecture

My favorite surviving building in downtown Richmond (vacant, decaying, and still awaiting the civic improvement that has vaporized most of its semi-historical neighbors) was a small Classical temple probably built just about a century ago for THE MECHANICS BANK (as the gilded Roman lettering carved into the lintel calmly proclaimed). This chain of small, conservative East Bay banks remains in existence, but it must have off-loaded this particular piece of real estate a long time ago. Another casualty of shifting economic geography, as we have seen elsewhere. 

The wall of the warehouse-like utilitarian brick building below – roughly of the same vintage as the nearby derelict bank – faced onto a vacant lot. It had a shocked and vacant look itself, as if still wondering what had happened to the torn-down building that evidently abutted it until fairly recently. 

The carved-stone plaque above (set low into a stucco wall) commemorated the building of the local Post Office in 1938 under Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau. This structure must once have abounded in Art Deco detail, judging by surviving fragments, but the price of active survival here has been continuous "improvements" that have effectively erased the original style-statement.

How horrible to be an architect, I often think. In almost every case, the fate of your work is degradation followed by obliteration.