Monday, October 12, 2009

Duck tales

Today was a day set aside for one of the cheesier touristy things to be done around Boston. Normally you'd have to kill me and put a "smile on my face" ala the Joker before I'd participate in those done-to-death visitor activities in the nature of clicking pictures of lifting the Taj Mahal by the tip of its spire. But with my parents around, I had to give them the famous Duck Tour of Boston. Our con'duck'tor (Yeah yeah really really witty pun) was a guy plucked out of the jazzy 70s with an Afro hairdo, flashy white suit, mega sized shades and zebra striped shoes who had christened himself Danny Disco. Whenever he'd give the command "Let's hear it for Danny Disco" over his frequently used microphone, the 36 odd tourists he was carrying went "Quack! Quack!" in unison. Corny as it sounds, it caught on even amongst cynics like me like a viral infection.

Ducks for the uninitiated are a nickname for DUKWs, amphibious vehicles of World War 2 vintage which had seen their glory days carrying American troops onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and in various other campaigns that ultimately led to an Allied victory. These days they are driven by costumed comics who ferry bemused tourists around the rude but proud city of Boston (Even NYC has borrowed the idea now). The idea is to run around the city in this weird contraption garnering the maximum possible attention before plunging into the Charles and miraculously stay afloat as it chugs noisily in between the sleek speedboats and classy sailboats that strut their stuff on the Charles normally. I even got a chance to drive this boat on wheels once we were on the water for about 10 minutes. Apparently you don't even need a license to drive a boat in Massachusetts just as long as the boat itself is registered with the state. This meant that I was all smiles at this unique prospect but it also meant that I steered clear of all other boats on the river by at least 50 feet. Licensed drivers in Boston are bad enough, who knows what kind of demolition derby fanatics were at the wheels of the boats that were all around me!

All things considered, Danny Disco did manage to keep us entertained throughout the 80 minute duration of our trip and that this Sunday was a bright and sunny one helped matters a lot. Boston is a city with a soul and always a joy to amble about in. The "quacking" orders had been taken to heart and the old lady sitting behind me kept quacking in defiance as we drove through posh Newbury street past classic Porsches and Roll Royces. There was an official gag on the Duck driver to initiate quacks on the super exclusive Newbury street, a shopping area lined with designer boutiques for the most well heeled denizens of Boston but his passengers had no such restriction. They exercised their "quacking" rights fully in a re-affirmation of the freedom of speech. There were a few smiles from the street below and some frowns but the Duck riders couldn't care less. The Allied forces may have sold out their faithful armoury to commercial interests but the "Old Gloria" (That was our Duck's name) was now engaged in a new kind of battle.

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