Murray left the hospital around 9 p.m. after visiting his grandmother, who was in stable condition after suffering a substantial electric shock earlier in the day.
He felt a bit guilty, as it was Murray who ordered her to plug the last power-strip in a line of seven into the wall that sent many jarring volts through her aged and frail body. The wall caught fire and Nanna collapsed in her nightie from a rather severe heart palpitation.
At the time, he was adorning the house with Christmas lights. Murray calls it a hobby, but those around him diagnose it as a problematic obsession that leaves havoc and injury in its path.
Lilly, Murray’s wife, has pleaded that he go halfway on the light show, but Murray refused. In the past five years he’s gone from a few strings of white lights along the gutters to 35,000 bulbs with a light statue of Santa and Jesus soul-shaking in the front lawn.
His neighbors, on both sides, have complained that his work has caused “white nights” and they can’t get any sleep.
“It’s like Russia around here,” one was over-heard griping.
But after almost killing Nanna, Murray was certain that he’d gone too far and Lilly was going to make a stand. She was boiling noodles as he walked through the door and when she didn’t look up he knew it meant trouble.
“It’s over, Murray,” she said in a reasonable, yet stern tone. “You’ve hung your last flamboyant colored Christmas light.”
“I get it,” he said. “I’ll quit.”
However, as he spoke the words he realized something profound. The Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade was coming and he could focus his light-hanging skills on the 34-foot trawler they owned. Lilly rarely went down to the boat and he could make it all up to her by winning the trip to Japan that went to the overall winner.
“That’s it,” Murray grinned. “For God’s sake, I might even get to meet Garth Kemp.” Local TV weatherman Kemp would be the presiding grand marshal of the event.
The next day he made it down to C basin, unloaded five generators, nine boxes of lights, the soul-shaking Santa/Jesus and his toolbox. He used the last of his personal days at work and began to transform his simple Grand Mariner into a floating spectacle that would be his ticket back into his family’s good graces and exotic Asia — not to mention the respect of local TV weatherman Kemp.
On the morning of December 8th it was complete. He had the lights simulating dancing little elves holding hands circling around the soul-shaking Santa and Jesus with an elevated moon that doubled as a spotlight that shone on the lead singer of a band that he had hired.
The foredeck acted as a stage for the oldies band that boasted an entire horn section with back-up singers. The singers even had choreographed dance steps, so he was told.
“This is almost unfair,” Murray said proudly of his creation.
When his family arrived on that day, they had no idea that he had shifted the unhealthy obsession to the boat, and a recuperating Nanna began to shudder and recoil like an abused dog at the strings of lights wrapped around the boat.
“No Murray, you didn’t,” said an ashamed and reluctant Lilly. “What have you done?”
“Easy, Hon,” Murray reassured. “It’s going to be so much fun.”
In the evening, Murray and his extravagant floating light show/band powered into the main channel, fired up the generators and began the first of an uncountable number of revolutions around the parade route.
He told the bandleader he’d throw them an extra hundred if he had the singers save the complicated flashy choreography for when they went by the judge’s boat.
The three singers were heavy, nearly 300 pounds each and when they spun in unison Murray could feel it at the helm.
He would look up, smile — and then crane his neck to see if he could spot Kemp. He was pretty sure it was him in the turtleneck.
Murray was feeling pretty good about his chances until about revolution 37, when one of the singers wobbled on her heels during a spin and began to go down. She grasped for support and got her hands around a string of lights that was connected to Santa and Jesus. He knew he wasn’t going to win the contest when he heard a splash and saw Santa and JC go black.
The singer had gone overboard and was now swimming wildly to get out of the way of the tall ship that was bearing down on her.
The drummer and trombonist jumped in to save her as Murray turned the boat around. The sudden upset in the circular order caused total chaos and boats were slamming into each other, all over the Marina.
The Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol pulled out of line and helped put things to rights, but not before someone had run into the judge’s boat and it began to sink.
It was sheer cacophony. Everyone from the boat was evacuating into Burton Chace Park, the 300-pound singer was being hauled onto the dock, and the sound of crackling fiberglass was everywhere. But through the mayhem Murray noticed a spiky-haired man passing by in the crowd of judge-boat refugees and indeed he was wearing a turtleneck sweater.
“Look, Lilly,” Murray called out above the sounds of sirens and people screaming. “It’s him – Garth Kemp, from Channel 7!”