28 October 2008

A conversation with D-: Balbo Drive isn't far off the mark

The following is a surreal conversation I recently had, apropos of nothing, with my 4-year-old son D- while driving through our suburb:

D-: Do you know why they call it "downtown"?

Me: Downtown Chicago?

D-: No, the word downtown.*

M- (because she loves to be involved): Why?

D- (adopting his Teacher Voice): Because a long time ago, there was a guy called Down. (very casually) He was that guy who shot his own self after that big war, where he killed so many people.**

Me: You mean Hitler?!?

D-: Yeah, Hitler. That was his name, but then his last name was... Down. So... (clearly realizing he's lost whatever was his original idea in a sea of rambling 4-year-old bulls***) they had a town, and they named it for him: Downtown.

Me: Oh. ... Wow.

Editor's Note: For anyone interested in this post title, here is a great article written on the subject by my former history teacher, and here's the good-old Wikipedia page on the namesake of this Chicago street.

* I have no idea where he could have learned the concept of breaking down words for the meanings and origins of their components...

** You might assume that, at best, I let The History Channel babysit him all day, but actually, the kid just asks a lot of probing questions, and sometimes I can't help myself in answering them. We walk by a Holocaust memorial at least three times a week on the way to the library.


Chris M. said...


You know why they call it Main Street? For reals?

There was this guy named Main...

Short for Mussolini...

*incoherent rambling*

...Main Street.

Your boy's a genius.

Weather Moose

PS - I bet he's one hell of an alarm clock, too. ;)

unmitigated me said...

Hmm. Hitler Down, eh? My nephew once asked me about Barth Vader. When I said I thought his name was Darth, he said, "That's his middle name." Barth Darth Vader. And his pal, Hitler Down.

Russ said...

I was wondering where you were going with that. Of course, we don't have a "downtown" here in Charlotte, we have an "Uptown".

thegirlof510 said...

This is hilarious. I wish you didn't live so far from me, because your kids would be awesome to babysit. :P

Kat said...

Sometimes I wish my oldest would ask probing questions but the best I have got so far is "Can I go out in the backyard and play?" You have a very astute child there Mr. Dan.

Cheryl Lage said...

Hitler's last name should have been "Down"...or maybe even worse...like "Hades" or something more sinister...but then who would want to go eat in "Helltown?"

We live in the Northside of Richmond, maybe a connection to the former star of "Dennis the Menace?"

Love your boy's way of thinking.

AJ said...

We were just in Chicago a few weeks ago. I totally wondered why they called it downtown. And now I know:)

miko564 said...

I find the long, intellectual, adult answer to the Monkeys questions serves two purposes:

1) She sometimes learns something.

2) She grows bored after a minute and stops asking questions.

Either way, yeah for me!

Jenny Grace said...

Hitler Down? And they named a town after him....

I like it!

Swirl Girl said...

Bright she may be , yes - is it any wonder with a literal dad like you?

Allison said...

Why is your 4-year old smarter than me?

Kori said...

All I can do is laugh.

Aracely said...

Why is your 4 year old smarter than me?

The Hussy Housewife said...

Great thinker. If you play your cards right, he may grow up to support your lifestyle of blogging in leasure!

Vodka Mom said...

Yes- The key is ENGAGING them in a conversation. You never know where it might lead!!!

Kirsten said...

Wow! I never knew that!
I guess you learn a new thing every day! :)

Anonymous said...

Heh. Kids really think up some cool stuff sometimes!

Andrea said...

Send him to Germany! I'm sure that we can find some Hitler info somewhre around here and I'll have him straightened out in no time.....

A Free Man said...

Brilliance. I'm pretty sure that the G.O.P. is working on an Obama-Hitler connection as I write!

LiteralDan said...

moose: Did you by any chance write the textbook he read? I can assure you that he is convinced he's a genius, but what he doesn't know is that legally there's only one know-it-all allowed per household, and I've got that covered going way back.

Middle Aged Woman: Maybe if he was named Barth Vader, he wouldn't have been so misunderstood?

Russ: Is that the Uptown named for Stalin Up, or some other worthy namesake?

thegirlof510: Not to blindly encourage any and all babysitting offers, but I promise they would be awesome. You might even learn something, and you'd definitely get into heaven and become very wealthy.*

* But definitely not directly from your wage.

Kat: You know, I can promise you that the smart kid who just takes things as they come and doesn't borrow trouble pondering things that don't really matter is a lot happier than the smart kid caught up in his own head and brooding about "deep" things all the time.

While you might feel intellectually stimulated by a few mature questions, you'd also soon feel at a loss for words from relentless interrogations on uncomfortable or trivial subjects.

And don't get me started on the disdain. Oh, the disdain! From a 4-year-old, it is usually pretty funny, but I bet it will bug the hell out of me in a few years.

Cheryl Lage: I think someone like Hitler is born with a mundane name and then earns a nickname like that. Think of how hateful the sound of his name itself is now, given that I'm sure it was pretty ordinary when he was growing up.

Is there by chance a rival town of Mathersfield somewhere nearby?

AJ: You should have had D- show you around while you were here. You could have learned the locations of each and every fire station, and all the places where the firefighters slayed dragons and then blew up buildings with waves of laser-wielding soldiers.

miko564: Amen, brother, amen. D- sometimes seems to be a bottomless cup, but when I'm really tired of it, I let him have it full blast until he asks if we can "be done talking about this now."

Miss Grace: I forewarn you, I have not completely fact-checked this account.

Swirl Girl: By "bright", did you mean irritating? Cause that's what most people seem to think about us literal folks ;-)

Allison and Threeboys1mommy: Why are you guys the same person? HaHA-- unmask yourself! Here, let me help you with that pathetic wig!

Oh... I'm... terribly sorry about the mix-up.

Kori: I tell you, I've already learned that's usually the best thing to do in most situations. Even funerals, sometimes.

The Hussy Housewife: If he finds a way to make money blogging, I'll have to assume he didn't learn it from me. Maybe I should send him out to Utah for an internship.

Vodka Mom: Yeah, I like to stoke that fire for my own amusement. And education, of course, and other important parenting stuff like that.

Kirsten: You should try D-'s two-step method of teaching yourself all kinds of things, and then berating people into agreeing that they're true. I think you'll like it!

manicmanicurist: What do you mean, "think up"? Are you suggesting this is not entirely accurate??

Andrea: I hear they managed to acquire a lot of Hitler-related artifacts out that way, somehow.

A Free Man: What do you mean, "working on"? The principles of "The Big Lie" dictate that Bush/McCain's neocon handlers had to circulate pictures of an 8-year-old Obama in an SS uniform from back in his days of Living in Foreign Countries.

But the story was rightfully pushed off the front page by the even better pictures of Obama throwing a gutterball. What an elitist, am I right?!?!