A back-seat view of my father’s arrest
In this five-part series, veteran National Post reporter Peter Kuitenbrouwer digs into his remarkable childhood and the life of his father, whose Bob Dylan hairstyle and On the Road lifestyle embodied the drug-fuelled freedom dance of the ‘60s. He travelled along the California coast, where his father built a hippie commune in the redwoods and became a wanted man after plotting to blow up a lumber company’s model home. This is the story of a generation which is just now coming to terms with the dark side of their peace-and-love upbringing. In part 3, Peter writes from San Francisco:
On the afternoon of August 9, 1969, three towheaded children, aged 10, nine and seven, tumbled out of the Arrivals area at San Francisco Airport and into the arms of a tall, thin man. The man’s eyes glowed electric blue; topping his head was a wiry mass of brown curls worthy of Bob Dylan on the cover of Blonde on Blonde. My two elder sisters and I were arriving in California for a summer vacation with the man we called Papa.
My father wore a serape, a kind of poncho from Mexico, multicoloured pants and leather Mexican sandals called huaraches. Showing his huge teeth in a grin behind the impressive forest of his beard, he greeted us with warm hugs; from his clothes and hair rose a pungent smell of cannabis. Paul Kuitenbrouwer loves theatrics, and for him, August 9 proved a show-stopper. We walked to his latest boat of an automobile, a white 1961 Ford Galaxie, and saw it already contained three children. Two were our old playmates from La Jolla, California: Lareine and Rachel.
The third, a boy named Sean, is someone that my father’s later correspondence mentions, but whose identity, otherwise, is lost in time. My eldest sister believes there may have been a dog, too. After we piled in (who had heard of a seat belt?) my father steered us across the Golden Gate Bridge and swung the car onto California Highway 101, heading north. This crazy car trip seemed normal; the only constant of our childhood was chaos.
Part I: Growing up with a father on the run
Part II: Eviction and retribution