The subject is bathroom, and Joe Kennedy, congressman, scion of America’s royal family, and inevitable gubernatorial candidate, has a question.
“Okay, I live in Brighton,” he says. “The poop goes in the toilet. Then what happens?”
It’s a valid inquiry as our bobbing motorboat gets closer to the odoriferous Deer Island, the one-stop shopping place of Boston waste disposal. Joe, two staffers, an unlucky writer, and a score of Massachusetts Water Resources Authority engineers are about to arrive at “Sewage Land,” Boston’s only remaining amusement-park ride. In a bit, we’ll all don yellow waders, slickers, and hats and descend into the bowels of the earth. Kennedy is here to inspect a tunnel that will take treated wastewater nine miles away from George Bush’s favorite polluted harbor. After a stultifying day of appearances, Joe—a garble of muscles, teeth, wiry blond hair, and blue eyes that conjures up his dad in good moments, and a better-looking Peter McNeeley in bad—perks up as a MWRA staffer begins to explain the process. He tells Joe that more than 90 percent of each flush is just water.
“Yeah, speak for yourself.”
Joe lets out a fratty, no-women-are-present guffaw. He then asks how long it takes to break down the “poop” before it can be shipped out. About 40 days, the staffer answers.
“Even Brian’s?” Joe gives his long-suffering press secretary, Brian O’Connor, a playful slug in the shoulder. If this were a locker room, there would be towel snapping.
Two hours later, Joe, his blue suit covered with grunge, has smelled the smell, posed for a couple dozen photos in his fisherman’s outfit, and told a laborer that he’s thinking about running for governor. As we head toward a waiting van and a pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, Kennedy remembers that he didn’t take a tour of the “cookers,” the gargantuan egg-shaped tanks that actually decompose fecal matter.
“Boy, I really wanted to see the cookers,” says a crestfallen Kennedy. When the MWRA staff tells him he’s welcome back anytime, Joe brightens up.
“I’m coming back to see the cookers,” Congressman Kennedy says with steely resolve.
Ladies and gentlemen, the next governor of the State of Massachusetts.