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Jim Rogan was born to a single mother—a cocktail waitress who was later convicted of welfare fraud; his bartender-father abandoned them both before he was born. After a rough-and-tumble childhood in San Francisco's hardscrabble Mission District—where he was raised by his colorful extended family—he became a political junkie at the age of nine, and once received help with his homework from Harry Truman. But Rogan traveled with a tough circle of friends; after years of borderline delinquency he was expelled from ...
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Jim Rogan was born to a single mother—a cocktail waitress who was later convicted of welfare fraud; his bartender-father abandoned them both before he was born. After a rough-and-tumble childhood in San Francisco's hardscrabble Mission District—where he was raised by his colorful extended family—he became a political junkie at the age of nine, and once received help with his homework from Harry Truman. But Rogan traveled with a tough circle of friends; after years of borderline delinquency he was expelled from high school, became a porn theater bouncer, and then a bartender at a strip joint and a Hell's Angels bar. Along the way, a young Arkansas politician advised him to study law and become a member of a different kind of bar.
In time Rogan scrapped his way through college and law school. He was appointed a Los Angeles County DA, prosecuting members of the notorious Crips and Bloods gangs; then became a judge, a state legislator, and finally a congressman from Southern California. And in 1998, as a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, he found himself prosecuting the impeachment of the President of the United States—Bill Clinton, the same Arkansas politician who advised him to go into law and politics two decades earlier.
Rough Edges is a rarity among Washington tales: full of outrageous stories, wild humor, pull-no-punches candor, and downright fun. Replete with character and characters, and told in Rogan's engaging and unswervingly frank voice, Rogan's story is certainly the most freewheeling—and perhaps the most honest—political memoir ever written.
Nobody called Grandpa deaf.
Jimmy Kleupfer was just "hard of hearing," and if he didn't like you, then his problem was all your fault. "Get the goddamn mush out of your mouth and stop mumbling at me!" Grandpa liked to bark at some intruder trying to make small talk with him. The unwanted visitor would raise his voice in a vain effort to help an increasingly irritated Grandpa understand. Of course, Grandpa never understood.
The origin of Grandpa's deafness was a matter of family dispute and legend. Some said he had suffered a blow during a prizefight, when as a young man he boxed under the scrappy name of Jimmy West. Others said it came from a cop's billy club during the violent San Francisco wharf strikes of the 1920s, or in a brawl with a bar full of Chinamen in some murky port-of-call. However it happened, deafness suited Grandpa because it intimidated those he wanted kept at bay. With him, it wasn't a disability—it was an art.
Not that Grandpa needed deafness to ward off annoyances: on the natural, he scared the hell out of most people. Grandpa was gruff, bald, tattooed, and forever scowling. A veteran longshoreman on the rugged waterfront, Grandpa spent his entire life in San Francisco's Mission District, the city's oldest neighborhood. The Mission took its name from Mission Dolores, an adobe church built by Father Junipero Serra in 1776. Now, tightly packed flats, cocktail lounges, and Spanish movie theaters encircled Father Serra's ancient church. The Mission became home to a hodgepodge of low-income, blue-collar immigrants:Mexican, Irish, Italian, Chinese, and African-American. It was a tough place, with little room for fanciness or airs. Neighborhood kids settled disputes with their fists; tired women bore too many children, and tired men bore too many calluses.
Grandpa and the Mission were a good fit. The neighborhood was so much like him: colorful, hardscrabble, struggling, and no-nonsense. In Grandpa's day, longshoremen earned their paychecks by sheer brawn: Things like automation, gender diversity, and worker's compensation were nonexistent.A day of missed workmeant a day your family didn't eat, so in over forty years on the piers Grandpa almost never missed a day of work.
My grandmother, Helen Glover, was born in a tent in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.A few months earlier, the city's devastating 1906 earthquake and fire had destroyed their modest family home. Her father, John Glover, was a trolley car driver before his Twin Peaks route was shattered by the catastrophe.When police let survivors return to their homes to salvage, John found only rubble. Holding his four-year-old daughter Della's hand, he wept as he picked through the ruins. My great-aunt Della remembered letting go of him just once that day, when in the debris she spied a 1903 nickel burnt black by the fire. She slid into her apron pocket all that remained of their home. (More than sixty years later, Aunt Della pressed that nickel into my youthful hand; it sits on my desk today, still as black as the day Aunt Della spied it in the wreckage.)
John Glover returned to work after the maintenance crews repaired the trolley lines. His family remained in San Francisco where Grandma grew up, finished high school, then met and married her longshoreman. If Grandpa ever promised his young bride future wealth and comfort, the promise went unfulfilled. Grandma lived her entire adult life on a dockworker's salary.
Grandpa and Grandma's eldest child, my Uncle Jack, was in many ways very much like his father: a bald, unsmiling, husky man who commanded his listener's attention with an intimidating voice and perpetual frown. Uncle Jack left home in his teens for a twenty-five-year stint in the army, seeing action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. To the children, Uncle Jack was a mythical figure.His furloughs home were few, but when he did show up with duffel bags in hand, we were in for a season of enthrallment and fear. I could have made a mint if I'd charged admission to all my friends who wanted to come and see Uncle Jack limp across the room. According to Uncle Jack, an ankle-to-hip machine gun blast from a North Korean tree sniper had caused that limp—but it was no big deal, he said: The head of the soldier seated next to him in the jeep got shot off and it fell into his lap. Tales like that made Uncle Jack and his limp an almost supernatural phenomenon every kid wanted to see.
We stared unendingly at the top of Uncle Jack's head, looking for some trace of the steel plate surgically implanted there after an enemy grenade supposedly blew off part of his skull.When little Tommy Eversole dared to doubt the existence of the steel plate, I felt obliged to defend the family honor.While Uncle Jack napped in a chair after devouring a hearty lunch, I tiptoed quietly past him and gotmy oversized, horseshoe-shaped magnet. I approached the snoring hulk nervously, then ran the magnet across Uncle Jack's bumpy head, seeking the gentle "pull" that would prove Tommy wrong.Whenmy initial cranial sweep came up empty, I began another pass using firmer pressure. Suddenly, Uncle Jack's eyes poppedwide open. I froze in terror as he jumped up and shouted undecipherable gibberish while the neighbor kids scattered like roaches in the sunlight.My response, although lacking in dignity, was appropriate under the circumstances: I wet my pants as Uncle Jack chased me out the door.
"It sounded German," Tommy said later of Uncle Jack's unintelligible rant. He was probably right; Uncle Jack always yelled at us in German when we ticked him off.He claimed to have learned German while a Nazi prisoner of war, which made his German yelling all the more menacing. Besides, we didn't need a Berlitz course to know all of Uncle Jack's German meant the very same thing: "Get your ass moving... Rough Edges
My Unlikely Road from Welfare to Washington. Copyright © by James Rogan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted February 1, 2005
Posted July 21, 2004
This book is great! It is hilarious, made me laugh at some of his bumbles but gave me great joy at reading about his life...gives me hope that anyone can do anything and that they can do it in a good way...Jim Rogan did, so can you! This is the first book that I actually read the appendix:)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2004
I bought sweets and this book one afternoon. I finished reading the book without ever taking a bite of the candies. THIS IS A TRULY ENGAGING BOOK. I am also reminded of how precious young minds are, and how important it is to share your time with kids early on. The memories go along way.The impact is usually so far reaching than the credit we usually give it. Here was a kid putting it into words... A REAL TREAT.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2004
Posted February 20, 2010
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