This story originally aired on November 10, 2018.
If you’ve spent any time walking around Seattle neighborhoods, you’ve probably spotted a “Fantasy A” poster bearing the name and image of a young African-American man.
His handmade fliers promote performances at local clubs and bars where he shares details about his life through rap music. He spends about six hours each day putting up posters.
“I’m a musician with autism and I write songs about my personal struggles,” Fantasy A said.
People who recognize him out in public while he’s doing this usually experience Fantasy A’s signature dose of positivity.
“I want y'all to have a ‘Fantasy-astic’ day and my motto to give everyone is to be yourself, be inspired and be respectful,” Fantasy said.
One Tuesday afternoon in July, Fantasy A and I walked through the lunch hour rush of Amazonia in South Lake Union. We paused about every 50 steps so that he could tape a flier to a pole promoting an upcoming show at the Blue Moon Tavern in the University District.
Fantasy A is 25 years old. He’s on the autism spectrum. The “Fantasy” comes from his love of science fiction and magic.The “A” stands for his real name: Alex -- Alex Hubbard.
At the Blue Moon Tavern he took to the low stage in dark wide pants, a dark button down shirt and his usual dark painter's cap. He started his short set with his song "Can't Stand Anxiety." In this song, Alex talks about the house in Skyway, just south of Seattle, that he shares with his mother “... is tearing down apart and that it got me too much stress I have a painful heart.”
We’ll get back to this. But first, let’s meet one of Alex’s biggest fans. His name is Noah Zoltan Sofian and he’s 26 years old.
“He’s almost like Buddha, and he sort of emits a green, calming energy,” Noah said of Alex.
Noah directed Alex in a short film called “Fantasy A Gets Jacked.” The 25-minute story focuses on when Alex got robbed on his birthday. While the film was being shot, people would recognize Alex and get excited.
“When we made the movie and we set the camera up and we’re just filming him walking, and this car screeches to a halt. ‘Oh my god it's Fantasy A! I can’t believe it’s you!’’ Noah recalled.
Noah met Alex two years ago through his friend David Lewis. David went to high school with Alex. David and Noah co-directed the short film.
After shooting for the film was done for each day, their cameraman would drive everyone home. Usually, Noah got dropped off before Alex, but one day the conversation going on in the car was so good, that Noah decided to stay for the duration. It was on this day when Noah saw Alex’s home in Skyway.
Noah described what he saw that day as a small tract home overgrown with plant life. He said the roof is caving in and is covered with a tarp. Noah said the house looks like it’s in a "constant brown out."
Noah and David want to find Alex a new place to live. These two novice filmmakers not only genuinely like Alex, but Noah says they are really indebted to him.
“We owe it to him because he’s helped us so much," Noah said. "We wouldn’t have any filmmaking experience if it weren’t for him.”
Noah would be happy to live with Alex, but Noah is still living at home with his parents in Madrona. Noah has tried a few times to connect Alex with possible roommates. One promising place was a large apartment in Seattle’s International District. Even though the roommates needed more people to fill the space, Noah said they didn’t want Alex.
Noah didn’t think Alex was turned down because he is black.
“They have some image in their mind of what he’ll do as a roommate and they don’t like it. I think it’s ableist and it makes them feel uncomfortable," Noah said. "Like, I don’t think they feel they could hold a conversation with him, even though it’s easy to talk with him.”
At the house in Skyway, Alex lives with his mom, Linda Hubbard. A few years ago Linda suffered a stroke. She gets around okay with a cane. On the day we met, we sat in the sunshine, on the lawn outside of the Rainier Branch of the Seattle Public Library. We met there because Linda was too embarrassed by the state of her house.
“It leaks every time it rains and there are critters coming into the house because of holes,” Linda said.
Linda says she owns the home with her ex-husband, who is now in a nursing home. She would be happy to sell the property and split things down the middle, but she said her ex-husband’s side of the family isn’t interested in selling.
So, Linda and Alex are stuck right now. She struggles to make the mortgage payment each month. Her main source of income is disability, which she’s been on since her stroke, and Alex’s disability check, which he receives because of his autism.
Alex is able to hold a part-time job. He also works for Seattle Public Utilities sweeping floors, filing papers and doing some data entry. When Alex is not at work, he’s taking the bus and walking around Seattle putting up posters.
“He gets up early in the morning and doesn’t come back till nightfall. I think he tries to stay away as long as he can just to feel like the wall is not crumbling down on him," Linda said, with a heavy sigh. She added that Alex seeks stability — a stable environment helps him feel safe.
One of the things Alex thinks about as he walks and puts up posters is where he will move once he saves enough money. Wherever he ends up, Alex plans to bring his mom along.
“I don’t want her to be on the streets," he said. "So that’s why I want her to be with me so that I can take care of her. That’s seriously why I have to keep going harder and harder and harder."
Even though Alex is extremely independent, his mom thinks he is just vulnerable enough due to his autism to require a bit of extra help with things like meals and laundry. These needs could be met in an adult group home.
Linda says so far, the right fit for Alex hasn’t been found. She said that because he functions at such a high level, he qualifies for less money from the state for housing.
Examples of Alex’s love for his mom are displayed in written words in various places. One of the first posters I ever noticed — one Alex put up a few years ago — didn't ask people to come to one of his performances; it asked for money to help his mom right after her stroke.
Linda wants to take care of her son as much as he wants to take care of her. If they can't move out together right now, she would at least like to get Alex into a cleaner, safer place before winter sets in.
Along with writing raps and starring in short films, Alex is a self-published author. He wrote a book called "Life in The Eyes Of An Autistic Person." When I met up with Linda, she handed me a copy. The dedication page says this:
For my mother Linda Hubbard, that takes care of me as I take care of her.