Unsurprisingly, park patrons and neighbors are apoplectic about the plan for amphibious vehicles to travel west on city streets and along the Parkway, a projected 60 trips daily, then plop onto the relatively serene river, all accompanied by the unrelenting bleating of kazoos.
The ducks incite severe NIMBY, class, and tourist-vs.-resident resentment, no matter what river they travel.
But my biggest problem with the whole gambit is that the ducks are generic and unoriginal. They have nothing to do with Philadelphia, a sui generis city. They're the Chuck E. Cheese of tourism.
The ducks are a division of Herschend Family Entertainment of Norcross, Ga., owner of Dollywood and other amusement parks. Ride the Ducks operates in San Francisco, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Branson, Mo.
I don't want Philadelphia ever to be confused with Branson. Philadelphia is the exact opposite of Branson.
Philadelphia has plenty of attractions that bridge the gulf between residents and tourists: Reading Terminal, the Italian Market, a vital Center City, museums, restaurants, performing arts, great sports teams and venues, glorious squares and parks, including Schuylkill Banks.
It's unclear why there's some unstated rule that whatever appeals to tourists must equally repel residents, but Philadelphia has a history of inferior guides offering inaccurate information to unwitting visitors.
Guides have referred to the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps as the "Rocky stairs" without mention of the venerable institution itself. The truth is Rocky Balboa and Thomas Eakins can coexist. Indeed, Philadelphia's greatest artist created magnificent paintings of boxers, including the Art Museum's Between Rounds.
"River boats don't have to be ugly ducklings. Look to Paris and the Bateaux Mouches on the Seine," Philadelphian Emily Steinberg wrote in a letter to The Inquirer. "Mayor Nutter, don't allow Ride the Ducks on the Schuylkill. Allow Philadelphia her dignity."
Schuylkill Banks already offers seasonal boat and kayak tours. But, really, the issue isn't just taste, inconvenience, and safety. It's specificity.
The ducks are loud and obnoxious, but they're not our loud and obnoxious.
Not to brag, but we can do loud and obnoxious better than anyone.
We can do cheese. We can do Cheez Whiz.
I once attended a Phillies-Red Sox dustup, a cacophony of chauvinism, and learned that our sports fans can give Boston diehards a run for their larynxes. We're a 700-level sort of city, a place where fans retch on other fans, get Tasered on the field, throw snow at Santa.
If we're going to offer some loud and obnoxious tour, it should be unique. We should own it.
You think I am joking. I am not.
There has long been something about Ride the Ducks that smells fishy. I don't know what pull the Herschend family has but, as my colleague Inga Saffron has reported, a ducks official offered to script Mayor Nutter's praise for putting them on the Schuylkill.
Instead, Nutter said, "I believe this route will offer an interesting tour experience for Philadelphia visitors and residents."
Hmmm, interesting - always a suspect note of praise.
The whole enterprise appears to be full of quack.
The city has a golden opportunity to scrap this deal before it's formally hatched. We don't need to make way for ducklings.
We need a tour that is solely ours, led by a guide packing addytood and an undiluted accent. The tour might address our region's pressing issues. Which tastes superior: the cheesesteak or roast pork Italian? Do pretzels constitute a full breakfast? Will Andy Reid ever master clock management?
Know what's unique to Philadelphia? Mummers. Imagine a string-band serenade on a moonlit cruise.
Philadelphians would take that ride. Tourists would flock to that ride. Such an experience could be a boon for proposals and weddings, the Schuylkill becoming our own Seine.
You think I am kidding. I am not.
Imagine, instead of Bateaux Mouches, the infinite possibility of Bateaux Mummers.
Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or email@example.com.