Paul Roach’s standard blue medical mask accents the blue-gray undertones of his weathered fedora. He’s scanning the shelves at Adobe Books & Arts Cooperative at 3130 24th St., specifically the tomes on ancient civilizations, religion and yoga. Here, Roach is encircled in stories. This is how he prefers things.
Roach, 70-something, says he’s an artist: an actor, director, painter, and playwright. In the ’70s, he would sell his paintings on Valencia Street. Watching the light ebb with the fog became a pastime.
“And you know, we know about Van Gogh and how Van Gogh was always looking for this perfect light, you know, in our nature. And so I would try to experience that,” he says.
He mimics his painting process with dramatic gestures (he’s taken off his backpack to give himself more range of mobility).
“And, and in training my eye for lighting itself … you — if you, you know, if you paint all day, then you will tune your eyes to colors, and light and subtleties and transitional phases of colors in one color going into another color and emanations,” he says.
Grand gesture as he finishes, and a flickering look to see if I’m following.
“I’m painting in the street during the day, and rehearsing at night. And so it’s ironic, you know, the daytime is all light and the theatre is black inside.”
Currently, he says, he’s working on a script for his own rendition of Cyrano de Bergerac; he asks me to read for Roxane.
I nod in assurance. Roach continues.
“But, but San Franciscans are still kind of held in with their lack of, I would say, expressing their own creative process.”
Roach sees himself as an exception. He says he has produced some smaller films and notes he is trying to make the jump to bigger budget movies. Finding financing has proved difficult.
“Hollywood, theoretically, from a solid investment, they really owe me some … a lot of favors. But there’s a lot of problems about them recognizing it … there’s a lot of issues,” says Roach.
As he has seen his industry change, or simply gotten to know it better, he’s also watched the streets around him shift. Roach remembers the Mission before it became “corporate-affected.” He misses the way the music, the “big music,” found its way into every nook of the neighborhood. Still, there is beauty.
“Valencia is kind of beautiful, because of this outdoor trip,” he says. “It has the potential to have this Renaissance feel to it, where it just opens up like a flower for all kinds of creativity, you know.”
A brief pause. He has some advice for all of us.
“One of the best ways to appreciate the city, I used to tell people this all the time. I’d take this incredibly long, crazy walk. I get up early in the morning, just … you can walk, walk, escape and go to the hills and get these wonderful overviews.”