Filmmaker finds peace, inspiration in La Jolla: Documentary screening Oct. 12
At least one Native American still calls La Jolla home.
Adam Raby wasn’t born here. He moved from New Mexico in 2006. At the time, he was a raging alcoholic who was about to receive his seventh DUI. San Diego Police chased the 6-foot-3 man from his car into his house and pulled him off his couch. When they tested his blood alcohol level at the station, they thought the machine was broken. So they brought in another one and recalibrated it. It still read .40.
“You’re looking at a miracle,” says Raby, whose speech is soothing and considered. “I should not be alive.”
Raby, 54, sits at the table and two chairs in the front yard of his house on Rosemont Street. He calls this his office. Most days, when he’s not working, he can be found here, greeting and telling stories to the neighbors he’s come to know. At 4 p.m., he will usually take his head-clearing walk at Windansea Beach.
Raby, who has 12 years sober, said something happened to him in La Jolla that made him want to change himself. Living here, he says, brought him inner peace and made him discover who he really is. And that story served as part of the inspiration for his first documentary, “Sudden Change,” which he is screening for the public at The LOT on Oct. 12.
“There were places for healing my heart and my soul that were available in the place I grew up,” he says, “but they weren’t available to me.”
Raby grew up the youngest of six kids in a broken Albuquerque family deserted by his father when Raby was 2.
“New Mexico was never home for me,” he says. “I never felt at home in my own family or my own community.”
He says his first memories are nightmares in which he was killed every night.
“Not having the language or words or consciousness of what was happening, I couldn’t really communicate it to anybody,” he says.
Raby says he believes the dreams derived from his veins, which contain the blood of both the Native Americans and the people who raped and murdered them.
“The Conquistadors came to New Mexico looking for the seven cities of gold, but who was there was the 19 pueblos,” he says. “It’s indicative of a lot of people from places around the world where a native population was overtaken over by another population.”
When he had his first drink, Raby says, he noticed that the nightmares stopped. So he made it a nightly habit. He was 8 years old.
“It was magic to a little kid,” he says.
Raby moved to San Diego to accept a high-paying job supervising the installation of flooring in the University of California system.
“For a month, I drove around and didn’t know where to stay,” he says. “I was driving down La Jolla Boulevard and turned down this very street and a lady was putting a for-rent sign on this picket fence right there, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Raby gives credit for his sobriety to 7 a.m. daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at the La Jolla Methodist Church, and the lingering spirit of the Kumeyaay Tribe.
“La Jolla is very sacred ground for them,” he says, “and there’s a feeling here for me, that I hear from them — and I hear it from them in that place that I healed — that this is a place where anything is possible.”
After he was sober 18 months, Raby finally realized who he is — a storyteller. For five years, he wrote a book about his journey to sobriety while painting houses and working at Dick’s Liquor to support himself. He self-published “A Circus of One” in 2013.
Last year, a friend of Raby’s from New Mexico, Gina Prieskorn-Thomas, asked him to work on a short film about an indoor football team she had just purchased (the Duke City Gladiators). Raby produced the short but envisioned his own film about six of the most interesting people he encountered during the process. They include an opiate-addicted church pastor and a football player who overcame his height (5-foot-5) to become the most powerful player in his league.
Raby used money from the sale of his New Mexico home last year — “somehow, I don’t know how, I was able to hold onto it,” he says — to finance the first of what he envisions as a seven-part docu-series.
Raby inserted his own story into the documentary after he realized that returning to New Mexico was part of his own recovery.
“Here I am so many years later, I actually went back to the home I grew up in,” he says. “We were just going to do some B-roll. But while I’m standing there, the owner of the house comes out and invites me back into the house where the darkness all started for me. It was the first time I ever smiled in that house, ever.”
• IF YOU GO: The pilot for “A Sudden Change,” directed by Jose Valdez of Chula Vista, will be screened 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sat. Oct. 12 at The LOT, 7611 Fay Ave. www.suddenchangedocumentary.com
Get the La Jolla Light weekly in your inbox
News, features and sports about La Jolla, every Thursday for free
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the La Jolla Light.