The day I got punched in the face

Ever failed at life? That's where Josh Kruger found himself last winter: broke, hungry and bunking with a violent stranger.

By Josh Kruger
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 17 | Posted Oct. 16, 2013

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For days at Fernwood—curiously situated on the same grounds as the Curran-Frumhold Correctional Facility, perhaps as a reminder of what not to do during times of extreme hunger—I would wander the halls inspecting what, apparently, was once a hospital or retirement home for old crooks. RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES, read the cracked enamel sign on a door in the central hall that led nowhere; in the courtyard, postmodern sculptures were the perfect cigarette butt receptacles.

Three fellow social rejects shared my dormitory-style sleeping area; we called these pods, and they were tiled areas, each housing four bunks cordoned off into “rooms.” One of mu podmates babbled incessantly about Mexicans, crackers, faggots and cops all night, every night. He took a particular hostility to my presence; after several days, I’d had enough and, on a whim, blew a snide kiss at him. This set him over the edge, leading inexorably to the moment when I got a fist in the face. Immediately, the man was ejected from the grounds. About an hour later, the cops showed up, and refused to do anything. After all, it was a fight between two bums.

A few weeks later, as things were getting better for me, I ran into the guy at St. John’s Hospice while eating lunch. Recognizing me, but seemingly not remembering the assault at all, he asked me how I was. My confusion notwithstanding, I still had enough focus to realize that he had wet himself in public.

At that point, and for the first time throughout this entire ordeal, I truly felt like a piece of shit.

Josh Kruger is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. His new
PW column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” will present stories and ideas that challenge our cultural understanding of what “normal” means in American life anymore.

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Comments 1 - 17 of 17
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1. Anonymous said... on Oct 16, 2013 at 02:41PM

“Please get rid of Josh Kruger. He has a certain punchability that has NOTHING to do with homelessness. He's simply a tool. A drug addicted tool. His character is questionable, his writing is forgettable. His experience with HIV is so self serving, it insults everyone who has gone before him. He likes to believe he's interesting. He isn't. He's a narcissistic whore.

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2. Anonymous said... on Oct 16, 2013 at 04:13PM

“As someone who is recently diagnosed as HIV and at several years younger, I'm insulted by Josh Kruger. I didn't have a breakdown or quit my job. I immediately asked the doctor how I can stay healthy. I anonymously informed all recent partners. I've had a few counseling sessions. I'm starting meds any day now. I keep asking the doctor, my counselors what else I can do, and they say "You're doing everything you can." And THIS is a person you choose to highlight? His actions are the last things anyone with an HIV diagnosis should do.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Oct 16, 2013 at 04:27PM

“Here here! Giving this loser a platform to "share his story" is ludicrous. He's in love with the sound of his own voice. People can't stomach him. The only bright spot is this self-admitted "smartass" will eventually "blow a snide kiss" at the wrong person, and get MUCH MORE than a punch in his permanently bemused puss. That is, if he doesn't overdose know, from the meth he slams!”

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4. April M said... on Oct 16, 2013 at 05:50PM

“It's so easy to verbally beat someone up when it's done anonymously , anonymity is the cowards way & holds no merit whatsoever, if you have something intelligent to add, do so & have the guts to use your real name, otherwise STFU”

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5. Anonymous said... on Oct 16, 2013 at 07:05PM

“That's simply stupid "April M."...What would be the point of that? Would it make Josh less of a jackass? You idiotic slit.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Oct 17, 2013 at 12:53AM

“A great number of those who enter shelter system have mental health problems, drug and alcohol issues. Poor decision making is always a key factor. Now, that mr. Kruger has "hit bottom", perhaps he will seek the help he so evidently needs. Fern wood is not located on any detention grounds,but near it .”

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7. Anonymous said... on Oct 17, 2013 at 10:10AM

“The negative attacks above are personal in nature and not about what Josh has written. So you do not like him personally, so do not read his articles. (BTW – Today is anti-bulling day assholes)

This is an insightful piece that can only be conveyed by someone with intellect truly living the harsh reality and circumstances of homelessness and addiction. Undercover journalists could not compare in the psychological impact of homelessness – they know they have a way out and this is short term. For many homeless this will be their permanent way of life. Many face mental health issues, or have a low IQ. This does not indicate that they are lazy. Some have recently fell on hard times under the current economic environment. Less than 5% of Americans have financial reserves to take care of themselves and their families for more than 6 months after losing income. Quite frankly, we are all just one massive heart attack, stroke, or major car accident from being there.

The attacks on the authors HIV status in the comments above have little bearing on what he is describing. In not being linked to medical care and HIV medications, he is at more of a risk of spreading HIV – and not just sexually. We can assume that the bash he took too the face had blood splatters down the hall. HIV is a sexual disease. It does not make someone who has HIV less human than non HIV individuals.

Internalized stigma for substance use, depression, illness, mental illness, and homelessness takes a hard toll. I ask all of us to consider that the next time you pass someone who needs a helping hand. My only argument is that Josh uses the term “bum.” This would indicate that people are there by choice, yet few are. It’s as negative and disingenuous as “welfare queen.”

Well done – I look forward to reading the next installment.

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8. cn2004 said... on Oct 17, 2013 at 01:21PM

“Lets see, he has unprotected sex and gets HIV, gets kicked out of college because he'd rather drink, and can't hold a job because of his attitude. Typical loser who wants to do whatever he wants but doesn't like the consequences. Fuck him.”

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9. TRUTH TELLER said... on Oct 17, 2013 at 02:08PM

“cn2004 should be given the Pulitzer Prize!! Josh Kruger is and always will be a monolithic pantload. Word on the street is Josh has now become a sexual muse, and perverted plaything for two elderly, decrepit queens. I guess you could say it's the journalistic equivalent of the casting couch...but in this case, just add Meth and stir! Josh thrives on any form of attention or drama, so this whole thread is like Manna from heaven to him...YOU'VE ARRIVED MARY!! Now please do something about your eyebrow singeing halitosis. Your mouth smells like an open sewer.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Oct 22, 2013 at 05:57PM

“You can always tell you're reading from someone who's dying to arrive but can't seem to when they sling nasty comments and put others down for absolutely no reason other than to make themselves feel superior. Also, it's funny reading someone talk to themselves, pretending to be talking to someone else.
Anyway, I enjoyed this. I think we typically have this idea of what a homeless person is,and this article reminds us that frequently our preconceptions are incorrect. Also, the idea that someone deserves HIV because they had unprotected sex is horrendous. Shitty things happen, and sure, sometimes we do things that make us more susceptible to those shitty things, but to blow someone off who is admitting to addiction issues as though they're a 'typical loser' is turns my stomach. I read this as someone who is accepting the consequences of his actions and trying to move past them.”

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11. Michael J Devine II said... on Oct 29, 2013 at 05:13PM

“Truth be told, ALL of your problems have stemmed from the one decision in your life you've chosen to not be truthful about and here it is you piece of s**t:

YOU quit your job, your really good job I might add, to be a damn drug dealer!

All your issues, all your bitching, all that has happened to you, has happened because you wanted to be fierce! Lol, don't forget, just like Alan T says, "Fierceness is always welcome!" So, I'm sorry your life isn't where you wanted it to be, but honey you signed up for it so get into it!!!”

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12. Emma said... on Oct 31, 2013 at 11:55AM

“Congrats Josh, you've drawn out the trolls. Enjoyed the piece. Keep em coming.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Oct 31, 2013 at 08:31PM

“Philadelphia Weekly's employment of Mr. Kruger speaks more to the lack of integrity of the publication than anything. Besides his lack of legitimate talent, Mr. Kruger's positioning and reputation within the community is so laughable and absurd that by giving him a venue to publish his rhetoric, it makes one seriously question the professional nature of the editorial staff of Philadelphia Weekly.”

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14. Anonymous said... on Nov 5, 2013 at 01:36AM

“I liked you”

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15. Scott said... on Dec 24, 2013 at 04:36PM

“I think his writing is riveting. He is far from a "tool." He is simply sharing his story as it affected him. What happen to our community? When did we become so harsh and judgmental. This man's story may save someone's life.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Feb 25, 2014 at 09:59AM

“Simply put, Josh Kruger scares the hell out of me. He lies about himself, he spreads life-damaging rumors about others, and he needs help desperately for his untreated methamphetamine addiction, which I believe is the source of his inability to think truthfully before he writes and speaks. All of that adds up to a plausible inability to believe fully in any of his tales of woe. Journalistically, he's inaccurate and egotistical. He should not be writing for any publication until he gets honest. Good luck Mr. Kruger. I hope that you make it. Everyone deserves happiness.”

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17. Jessica said... on Aug 6, 2015 at 06:33PM

“Wow, I am year late on this, because I just stumbled upon the article today, but if you are going to trash a man, at least be brave enough to attach your name to the attack. Anonymous=coward. Mr. Kruger's brutal honesty and bravery is astounding. Dickens, and Hunter S. Thompson would applaud Mr. Kruger, if they still could.”


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