Archive for December, 2013

Josh, Interrupted

JoshI've been watching Josh Kruger attempt to forge a new persona as a writer and HIV activist with some bemusement. If the former job title can be claimed by counting the sheer number of words that come from his fingers, then, yes, I suppose he can call himself a writer. Blogging for just a month and then moaning about not making a living at it is simply ridiculous.

It's time for me to be honest about this supposed flag-waving truth-seeker, since he seems unable to do it himself. He can rant and rave every day about Mark Segal's supposed ethical transgressions but responsibility for his own behavior is conveniently beyond his grasp.

I first encountered Josh in the Philly chat room in the mid-to-late 00s. He seemed bright, funny and articulate, especially for someone over 30 years younger than me. He had the weird, annoying habit of using antiquated words like "huzzah" and "popinjay" in conversation which he does to this day. I think it's the verbal equivalent of an ironic hipster mustache. There was never even a hint of anything sexual between us. We finally met "in real life" one afternoon at Local 44 in West Philly and we remained good friends.

Josh Kruger presents himself to the world as a Penn alumnus which is only technically true. He was evasive about this brief period of his life whenever I asked him about it. What I've gleaned is that he attended Penn for a year (less?) and his departure had something to do with his alcohol use. Whether he jumped or was pushed, I can't say and neither did he. His non-return to the bottom-rung of the Ivy League had something to do with financial aid. I was told these "facts" by Josh during the very short time that he went to AA. Since the 12-Steps encourage real introspection and some responsibility for one's past, it's no wonder to me that Josh didn't last long in the rooms. He's not, in my experience, capable of either.

Josh has claimed at different times to have contracted HIV from his partner, while in a "committed relationship," and because of a long-term case of gingivitis. Again, one of these claims is technically true but only if you count commitment in one direction only. His partner was faithful, Josh most certainly was not.

Josh dated and then lived with a good friend of mine who I'll call Tom. Tom was HIV positive, Josh was not. They lived in the suburbs and Josh worked as the Development Director of the William Way Center in Philly. He drank. A lot. He would tell Tom he was working late and/or sleeping over in his office. (He fancied himself a modern day Don Draper!) In truth, he was getting obliterated at Woody's and Uncles, "sleeping" at the baths and having unprotected sex with many partners. He told me later that he would occasionally run into some of them and figure by what they said or how they acted that that he had hooked up with them and he would have no memory of it.

(I'm absolutely not morally judging Josh's sexual behavior. I'm probably the last person in the world who would do that. I've certainly been no angel in my life. Josh's sexual escapades are important, though, in light of his later claims. They're not "wrong" in and of themselves.)

One night my partner and I were in West Philly, driving home from dinner when we got a text from Tom. He was frantic about Josh. He had spoken to him earlier from Uncle's and he was trashed. Now he couldn't get in touch with him. He begged us to find Josh and bring him home—his home, not ours—an hour away. Several bartenders at Center City gay bars told us they'd seen him earlier. We heard "Oh Josh from the William Way Center? We cut him off hours ago!" more than once. Finally, we talked the clerk at the baths into telling us that he was upstairs. We told Tom who was shocked. (He had no idea what everyone else already knew.) Anyway we figured it was best for everyone to just leave him there. We didn't bother going up to talk to him despite Tom's plea to "Please get him out of there!"

Josh's boss at the William Way Center warned him about his behavior because he was one of the few public faces of the Center. He wasn't talking about simple visits to the baths, either, since the Director frequented the Club Body Center himself and, being a Radical Faerie, is very sex positive. It was, at least, Josh's public drunkenness, if not more, that caused him concern. Imagine being told to tone it down by a Radical Faerie!

Anyway, Josh and Tom eventually split but they continued living together while Josh avoided looking for somewhere else to go. Josh found out he contracted HIV and, after a ridiculously protracted period, Josh moved back to the city. Tom had to finally give him a deadline. Josh hounded his friends with incessant texts and IMs. You can click here for a typical example.

He took anti-depressants and attended AA for a bit. My Facebook feed was en endless stream of his 12 Step-inspired epiphanies. He started drinking again. (He now considers AA attendance "nonsensical.") He obsessively called and texted Tom.

Then he did one of the worst things anyone I know has ever done.

Josh texted a group of Tom's straight friends and co-workers and told them that Tom gave him HIV! Before they read those texts, those people had no idea that Tom was positive. I'm not kidding. This actually happened. You can take a minute to let that sink in.

His logic? Tom's condom broke ONCE and, even though Tom didn't ejaculate, he managed to pass his HIV to Josh. Now, try to square this with Josh's current, quite factual claim that someone on HIV meds whose viral load is undetectable can't pass HIV to anyone. Tom was and is on HIV meds, he was and is undetectable. Make sense? No, of course it doesn't.

Josh now "blames" his HIV infection on a year-long bout of gingivitis which, oddly enough, he never mentioned to anyone at the time. Unprotected, barely-conscious sex at the baths couldn't possibly be the reason. No. In that case, he'd have to take some of the responsibility himself, something he finds impossible.

Josh says he ended up getting "sober" with cognitive behavioral therapy and blames his despicable texting episode on anti-depressants.

Unsurprisingly, most of the group were avoiding him. He whined about this endlessly. He just couldn't understand why he wasn't being invited to parties and bar nights. He'd forgotten his ridiculous demands that we all MUST choose between him and Tom. (When I reminded him, he claimed not to remember that demand. He must have been drunk. No apology, of course. It was the alcohol, not Josh who said it.) The choice was easy for most. I hung on like a fool. My partner and I would get bombarded with texts whenever we socialized with Tom. It was just ridiculous.

Eventually, he got fired for being drunk at work. It was a "policy disagreement."

My partner and I moved to Maine. Josh visited us on Labor Day Weekend 2011 along with several other friends of ours. He talked endlessly. My dear, departed friend Keith stayed a good quarter mile behind us when we walked around Peaks Island because he just couldn't take it anymore. (I'd mention that Josh spent 25% of the last 12 hours of his visit to Portland in our bathroom, preparing for and cleaning up after late-night and early-morning hookups, but that would just be gossip.) His loud chatter during Sunday morning breakfast at Cracker Barrel was humiliating. Yes, we were embarrassed even at Cracker Barrel. We could. not. wait. for him to leave.

The next week Josh posted, without any apparent irony, a story about a woman who was arrested for obsessively texting her ex-husband. Really. I commented sarcastically and was defriended immediately. Of course, he had to say more, so he texted, "It is literally physically painful for me to hear about the past the way I did today. As a result, we can't be friends anymore. It jeopardizes me to hear that shit. I'm sorry Frank." I was relieved.

Sometime in the spring, Josh wrote to me and apologized. I accepted but kept my distance. We briefly met with him on a trip back to Philly during the summer. He was quite late and obviously high on crystal meth. He was extremely irritating to be around. Once again, I couldn't wait for the visit to end.

In August of 2012 Josh seemed to vanish. His constant Facebook updates just stopped. No one I know saw him or heard from him for months. I admit that I put no effort into looking for him, either.

Then, just as suddenly, he reappeared on Facebook, claiming to have been "on assignment."

We went to Philly over New Year's weekend and heard from a friend (who heard from a friend) that Josh had become homeless and was incarcerated for dealing meth. I was not surprised but I waited for verification.

He started a blog.

Now, I certainly didn't expect him to come out on Facebook or in his blog and tell everyone the truth. Not only is honesty not Josh's "style," but it really wasn't anyone's business. He has since admitted to living in a shelter for a while and to being a crystal meth addict. Lots of people have hard times and drug issues. They get over them and move on or they die. Josh, in my opinion, is using stories of his his recent past to try to erase his real background as a privileged suburban white guy (if that's not triply redundant), gain some street cred, and start a new career as a professional "person with HIV."

After just over a month of overwritten, overlong diatribes, he's depressed that he's unable to make a living from writing.

He seems to have a serious problem with Mark Segal, publisher of the PGN (Philadelphia Gay News). Sadly, he's gotten some support from some prominent gay folks who have long-standing issues with Mr. Segal. (One, for instance, ran a rival gay business.) With wildly paranoid logic, he spins an everyday business practice into an evil conspiracy.

His main gripe about Segal, income from sheriff's sale classified ads, is so trivial that it's hardly worth mentioning here. You can read Josh's stultifying blog if you're really interested in that kind of minutia.

Josh wants to deny Mark Segal a vacation because some HIV positive people in the city have no health care. Josh's healthcare is apparently anyone's responsibility but his own. It has nothing to do with his own poor choices.

Mark Segal, for all of his faults, has been an advocate for the Philadelphia gay community since more than a decade before Josh was even conceived. While I haven't always agreed with his methods or his views, he's earned his place at the Philly political table.

That's a table to which Josh Kruger brings absolutely nothing. His born-again, HIV activism is a self-serving sham designed only to court some controversy which might further his theoretical career as a "journalist." His supposed insights are old news, as well as disrespectful, to those of us who've lived with HIV for decades.

As for the style of his writing and the accuracy of his "reporting," you can decide for yourself. "For the past thirty years, HIV/AIDS has systematically murdered an entire generation of good men and women." Really? In that case I'm either dead or not "good." Again, you can decide.

Josh expects scrupulous honesty from everyone except himself. The "facts" of his life change when he sees a personal advantage. He decries "identity politics" in others yet he defines himself almost solely as a person with HIV. Can we trust this kind of opportunist to be the beacon of moral outrage for Philly's gay folks? I don't think so.