Fourth Avenue Carnival

A glut of carwashes along Fourth Avenue led some of the more Barnumesque entrepreneurs to pull out the stops—like the dancing inflatable thin man (known in the trade as an “airblown”). The dancing airblown signifies nothing except “look here.” What they really need is a character, like “Charlie Clean” or “Johnny Shine,” with the requisite “back story”: he came to Brooklyn from Detroit, to ensure that one and all who passed through his domain would have the cleanest car in the neighborhood. “A clean car makes for a clean conscience”—that could be a sign inside, the first thing you see when you walk into the waiting room. It’s a moral imperative: Filth implies impurity/sin . . . Airblown come-ons dot the skyline—once they were the skyline, the tallest structures for miles, but now that the high rises are going up . . .


  1. Ah! The "airblown" as you call it has a completely different significance in Australia.

    This is the reason why:

  2. That may be one of the best commercials I've ever seen, at any rate a stark contrast with the ragged, willy-nilly airblowns of 4th Ave.

  3. I saw one of those "airblowns" near where we live, on Route 45 in NJ, in front of a gas station. I was w/ my kids and we were all fascinated, but a few hours later when we saw it again, there'd been a fender bender in front. Someone had obviously been rearended while rubbernecking.

  4. Dear Poet Lauret of Brooklyn,

    While I appreciate the mood and tone that you set with your photos, one important element seems to be missing from your compositions: people.

    Whyn't yinz ever take pictures of actual PEOPLE? People are the essense of Brooklyn, and not deserted factories. I know it's easier to take pictures of static structures like garbage dumps, because they don't complain and you don't have to ask to take their pictures, but still...some people would be nice.

  5. People, people who need people/are the luckiest people.

    --Barbra Streisand

    Peo-ple make the world go 'round.

    --Dionne Warwick

    [and it's "Laureate"]

  6. Hell is other people.