Opinion: A Love Letter to Michael

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By the time you pick up this paper, Michael Minutoli may still be on his feet at the intersection of Brooks and Coast Highway, greeting inbound commuters at the dawn of day, signaling that they are entering somewhere funky. Or that at least used to be.

I didn’t stay up late enough to see if Michael completed his feat of waving, dancing, and spinning for the 24 hours promised to commemorate his 10-year anniversary as our unofficial greeter. What an Olympian achievement. Just stop and consider what kind of person spends a life standing on a street corner, replicating an anachronism of a disturbed individual who we somehow fondly recall with not one, but two statues. Eiler Lawson was his name, a lumbering freak that was known to mumble unintelligibly, drink, scare children, and hurl obscenities on unsuspecting rubes. If he were here today he’d already have been hauled off to the loony bin.

But Michael is a different breed, and he has elevated the art of Greeterliness. He’s is an order of magnitude better than that disheveled Larson. The man’s got style, funky dance moves, and limitless bonhomie. And he’s nice to children. Whatever happy pills he’s taking, I want some!

Yes, Michael has his detractors and we’ve seen the angry screeds on social media. Is he perfect? Not at all. Watch the two movies about him. You’ll learn about his lonely childhood, and his struggle to live a conventional life. You’ll also experience his perplexingly clever yet devious mind as America’s most brazen party crasher. Definitely a thrilling, if underpaid profession that sort of unraveled his life and ultimately left him homeless and estranged from his family.

Some would of course refer to Mike as on “the spectrum.” But really, who isn’t? Yes, he craves attention. Lacks filters. I’ve heard the stories of riding his bike recklessly on the sidewalk and endangering people. Well, in my book, until we put a dedicated bike lane on Coast Highway, the sidewalk is fair game.

Yet despite the very real horrors of a life on the street that would make anyone addled (you try it sometimes), Michael brings joy, joy, joy to the stifling experience of gridlock Laguna. Imagine battling your way in from Dana Point, smooth sailing until Woods Cove. Then just a miserable crawl and too many distractions. It’s stressful. Then you stop for some pedestrians at Brooks Street, and suddenly Sergeant Pepper is pointing at you, shouting something. “Who is this guy? A psychedelic crossing guard?” You roll down your window and he disarms you with a smile and says, “Have a great day.” Then he does a James Brown meets Funky Chicken 360. And you smile back. And remember to “Don’t worry, be happy.” He’s the best brand ambassador Laguna’s ever had.

Michael has one of the purest, most childlike hearts I’ve ever encountered. For me, he’s from another spirit realm, and he’s here come to show us something about ourselves – positivity, service, and letting go of material needs. He’s unfailingly gracious, and in gratitude for the life he was given. I think we are extremely lucky to have such a dedicated presence in our town. And it’s high time we officially recognize his outsized contributions. 

What’s with this “unofficial” greeter, anyway? Make it official, already. The man is a living freaking treasure and he deserves a place to live and a living wage. Plus health insurance. God knows this act of spinning on a metal slab has put some wear and tear on that body. What do we have to do, form a committee? Hire a consultant? Gather community input? Take it to Coastal? After 10 years entertaining us as the cheeriest guy in Laguna, can we not give him something in return? 

Billy hosts “Laguna Talks” at 8 p.m. on Thursdays on KXFM radio.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Saw Michael every day on my way to work out. Since I leave 2 times a year to go to Oklahoma oh, every time I would pass by he would say hello Oklahoma glad you’re back

  2. Billy

    You brought tears to my eyes. Michael is more iconic than most things in LAGUNA. After seeing his movie and meeting him afterwards and talking with him he becomes not only your friend but is in your heart forever. He never forgets a face. Every time I drive by and honk and way he smiles and waves and knows me or if I see him on his bike or in town he always has a kind word and stop to chat. He deserves everything you said and more. What is LAGUNA our city, the things, the people that make it amazing want to strip our town of it all and make us generic like every other town.

  3. Ted, never met the man and I’ll cop to a little hyperbole to enrich the contrast between one man who is lionized and the other who is often pilloried in our cancel culture. I know I offended many who held Larson in high esteem. But I’ve also heard that he was not universally liked, and that he sometimes drank and could be belligerent. Is that the whole picture of the man? Certainly not. So I apologize to anyone offended. I was simply taking some creative license to compare one – who is memorialized with two statues – and the other, who is homeless, marginalized, and whom a city council woman wants to neuter because he’s some kind of threat to public safety. My bad.

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