April 9: Noon.
"I thought he did a good job. I don't know anything about who he is-I only listen to talk radio-but I thought it was good," says a downtown taxi cab driver the day after Jason Mraz' performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the San Diego Padres' home opener at Petco Park.
April 8: 4 p.m.
Mraz emerges from the visiting clubhouse tunnel wearing a spanking-new Padres uniform and ball cap. "MRAZ" is stitched onto the back. He is No. 04, for the year. On the grass, professional athletes stretch and practice their swings; the media swarms on the sidelines, overdressed in black suits for the mid-afternoon heat.
"You know, at this point, I think the only way to be original with the national anthem is by doing it true," Mraz says about his preparation for the event.
A few teenage girls point and giggle. He waves, politely smiles.
"People try to hit all sorts of crazy notes and insert themselves into it, but the focus shouldn't be on me... it's not the Mraz Anthem. It's the National Anthem, and I wanna do it in a way that people can sing along to."
It's no small gig-by all accounts Petco Park's official opener is a historic moment for San Diego, love it or hate it or wish we had a new library. More than 41,000 celebrities, socialites, city officials and Padres nuts are on hand to watch Mraz sing our nation's patriotic torch song-the one rare moment, besides tragic injury, when fans of opposing loyalties unite.
That's not even counting the million or so folks watching at home on Cox Channel 4.
It was more nerve-racking the first time Mraz did it-at Detroit Stadium before a Lions football game. He had to walk out, alone, to a singular microphone placed at the 50-yard line. That time, he was disappointed with his first three notes. "I don't get nervous in front of big crowds until about a minute beforehand," he tells me. "But Detroit was cool. My dad's a big football fan, and I got to bring him along."
Unlike other professional singers, Mraz does the anthem live-no pre-recorded vocals.
April 8: 5 p.m.
After a short rehearsal, his entourage retires to the VIP party alongside Padres president Dick Freeman, owner Stephanie Moores and Junior Seau, among others.
Mraz orders a Diet Coke from the complimentary bar (he will imbibe one light beer before singing "Oh say..."). Chocolate fondue spills over three levels in a nearby fountain; finger foods are passed. Mraz introduces me to his friend, a Giants fan, who is successfully recovering from cancer. He's the one Mraz' big hit, "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)," is about. Super nice guy.
We talk about how Mraz' album title had to be switched from Waiting for My Rocket to Come to Waiting for My Rocket because of Janet Jackson's boob. Seems Best Buy doesn't like sexual innuendo on its shelves. But was it even sexual?
"Oh, hell yeah," Mraz confirms.
As we walk through the main concourse, Mraz' longtime friend and business partner remarks to manager Bill Silva: "You're right-no one recognizes him with those glasses on." Mraz is wearing outdated, unstylish bifocals. Still, a few more teenage girls point and swoon.
April 8: 6:50 p.m.
It's 10 minutes to game time. As a slaphappy President Jimmy Carter throws out the ceremonial first pitch (nearly taking a digger in the heave-ho), a Padres' front office liaison in a pin-striped suit advises Mraz: "Now, remember-when you're singing "the home of the brave...' the fighter jets are going to buzz the stadium. I just don't want you to be surprised."
Mraz nods, smiles, looks around at the massive spectacle, bemused.
The P.A. announcer begins his introduction: "Please welcome... from San Diego... Elektra recording artist... who has sold over 1 million copies of his new recording" (at the mention of record sales, Mraz' small-town mentality reappears in a humble grimace) "... Jason Mraz!"
He's about to start, when a portion of "The Remedy" streams over the P.A. It's out of place, self-promotional and Mraz' grimace develops into a full eye roll. It isn't smug-it's humility bordering on embarrassment.
He starts off, briskly continues... fighter jets buzz the stadium, he's not surprised... he finishes. Nicely done. Applause.
April 8: 11:03 p.m.
In the three-room suite at the gleaming-new Omni hotel, a clip of Mraz' hitting the apex of the national anthem-the part about the land of the free-runs on the evening news. He watches, along with his girlfriend, friends and business associates.
"I started off slow again," the singer laments, a what-the-fuck're-ya-gonna-do tone in his voice. "And I wish I would've held those important notes a little longer. Oh well."
On the windowsill are two-inch pure crystal baseballs given to Mraz and his girlfriend to commemorate the experience. A successful makeup artist from New York, she isn't so impressed with the jewel; she prefers the baby blue box it came in. I offer to take the memento off her hands, and she possibly thinks I'm a freeloader: "Oh, I guess I should keep it."
The hotel room is partly Japanese in design and gorgeous. A personalized note from Stephanie Moores lies on the pillow of the guest room, saying something like: "We are very honored to have you here..." and then lists her personal phone numbers. I copy them down, because you never know.
April 9: 9:30 a.m.
The hotel room isn't so beautiful. Even the architecture looks hungover.
Mraz shows me his (surprisingly good) "hotel window" photography series. He shows me the intro to the (surprisingly good) documentary he's filming about his band.
"People always focus on me, but we're a band. So I figured I'd just make a documentary about them," he says. In the documentary's intro, it simply says, "by jasonmraz"-all one word, all lower case.
"Oh god!" chides his good gay friend in a very gay way. "He's just one name now! Jasonmraz, not Jason... Mraz."
Jasonmraz flips him off.
April 9: 10:30 a.m.
The mini-bar has been plundered of every over-priced morsel and beverage. After room service breakfast (eggs benedict, half-eaten), jasonmraz is off with his girlfriend to look at houses. Turns out he'd like a permanent address on San Diego's outskirts.
I look over at three empty packs of cigarettes, some pocket trash-baseball tickets, gum wrappers, receipts, bar napkins-and a few empty wine glasses, cigarette butts soaking up the millimeters of unfinished cabernet. It looks rather rock star, though nothing is permanently damaged or broken. So not rock star.
We hug. jasonmraz tells me where he's playing a secret show at a small venue this week.
We leave five bucks on the bed for the maid. Poor maid.
April 9: Noon"I thought he did a good job."