OAKLAND — This, then, was the "other" inauguration, a sort of anti-swearing in of little pomp and everyday circumstance.
On this bright Monday afternoon, 69 miles from the Sacramento Big Top, the 34th governor of the Golden State became the 48th mayor of this hard-knock city.
Just before 1 p.m., Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. took the oath of office--after three city councilmen, three school board members and a choked-up city auditor, after a City Council meeting, a school board meeting, and a lengthy reading from First Corinthians.
Outside the historic Paramount Theater, home to the unwieldy, free-form ceremony, the marquee boasted movie classics. Inside, the Art Deco venue was studded with classics of another sort: Brown himself; sister Kathleen, a former state treasurer and onetime gubernatorial candidate; and Dolores Huerta, secretary-treasurer of the United Farm Workers, among others.
City Councilman Nate Miley perhaps best framed this generationally odd inauguration, with its oft-resurrected main act, after he was sworn in about an hour before Brown.
"In 1976, I was graduating from law school back in Maryland," Miley said, shaking his head, "and I never contemplated that I'd be on the City Council and Gov. Brown would be Mayor Brown."
A multiethnic youth choir heralded the former governor's new life with a soulful "Oh, dawn, just a little while longer, everything will be all right." Poet Ishmael Reed read. Jazz trumpets wailed.
So far, so good. Then came a lesson or two for the former presidential candidate turned mayor of California's No. 8 city, a first-day early warning signal that things don't always go as planned in the ground-level world of municipal government.
The festivities bled from one hour to two, stretched by long-winded City Council thank-yous, optimistic promises and the introduction of aunts, wives, nephews and grandchildren, staff members, friends, dead parents, live parents. Brown buddy Martin Sheen, actor turned activist and anticipated master of ceremonies, was a no-show, laid low with the flu.
And the 1,000 promised acorns--"seeds of change" in Jerry Speak--never materialized either, replaced instead by humble envelopes of anonymous seeds, which were disbursed to the crowd with the following instructions:
"Sow Native/Local Seeds for Change in Yards, Vacant Lots, Roadsides," the envelopes read, in a bit of advice for residents in a city amid a remake. "Scratch Into Soil--Watch Oakland Bloom."
All told, it took just 10 seconds Monday to turn a former seminarian--sober in semi-clerical charcoal gray suit and trademark white, band-collared shirt--into the chief executive of a medium-sized city.
"Do you solemnly swear that you will support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the state of California and the charter of the city of Oakland and will truly, and to the best of your ability, perform the duties of the office of mayor of the city of Oakland?" intoned City Clerk Ceda Floyd.
"I do," were the new mayor's first words, and they were followed by his first mayoral promise: "When I was inaugurated as governor, it only took seven minutes, and I don't expect to exceed that limit."
"We all know politics is not doing too well these days. But in Oakland . . . we're gonna break the mold," Brown said. "With a lot of struggle, I really see this place as a Renaissance, a revitalization, what it means to be in a democratic society."
Then the very varied audience, filled with elected officials and Gray Panthers, women in wheelchairs and constituents wearing "No Grapes" buttons, filed out into downtown Oakland, a neighborhood their new mayor wants to see bustling with an "elegant density" every day, every night, every weekend.
As the television cameras whirred and the traffic jammed, they followed Brown down Broadway past the boarded-up I. Magnin department store, around the damp offerings of the shiny police horses, to a quick rally on the steps of City Hall.
There they heard this major holder of minor office lay out his vision for the city they love, the city he described as burdened with "above-average crime, below-average schooling and a downtown struggling to recapture its glory."
This will be a government of the people, he promised, a place where Police Department vacancies will be filled, where bars on windows will come down, where schoolchildren will learn to read in charter schools designed by parents, where 10,000 new residents will live in the city center.
"Today marks the beginning of our journey together," Brown told the crowd, "one that should be undertaken with courage and the willingness to speak truth to one another. . . . This is not a time for denial."
But maybe Reed, in a work read on this special occasion, best described the challenges that face Jerry Brown when he wakes up this morning after a night of festivities to his first full day as the mayor of Oakland:
Let Oakland be a city of civility, in dealings no matter how small, Reed read as he described his home, a place of pit bulls and automatic weapons, where suburbanites work by day and flee by night.
Let us ratchet up our goals.
Let the blood in our veins be pumpin'.
Let our hearts be strong.
Let Oakland be a city of civility.
Let the good times roll.