Erin O'daniel is a writer, artist and gender expansive womxn living in Duluth, Minnesota

Ode to Gym

Oh! beloved Gym I’ve called home for 15+ years, you closed this week. Overlooking Lake Superior, home of Silver Sneakers who gifted the place with a calm senior vibe, your 1000s of square feet kept me sane during nearly 2 decades of Duluth Minnesota winters. How dare!!! the medical industrial complex  tear you down to turn a profit. 

Your space that’s clean, queer friendly, and cross generational is a solid part of who I am as a sexual being. So in Pussy Manifesto meets Sharon Olds fashion, this SiMC blog post is an ode to Gym (CPF). RIP

Thanks for helping me complete my stress cycle

and building muscle on thighmaster imitating machines

and pulling myself out of break-up funks post relationship

with guarded Minnesotan after guarded Minnesotan

all who lower their emotional garage doors and lock them from the inside.

You Gym were just the opposite- an endlessly open gift.

A place where I muscled up and monkey minded down. Where

I saw the same folx pumping iron and sipping (vs. pounding, So not your style)

protein shakes next to me three days a week. No matter…sun, snow, fog, sleet.


We humans, sacks of bone and flesh, made our way past the front desk,

got naked next to each other and committed to taking care of our bodies

in community. Sometimes I’d stop mid rep and smile

conscious of all the people in the room just like me.


Yes, we always found a better place on the other side of workout-

My strength was profoundly enhanced by you Gym- physically,

sexually, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, artistically

(from lit lectures to dharma talks to Janelle, Dolly and My Brightest Diamond).

Oh Gym, thank you for the countless moments of making me

a better person. For showing me the goodness in our small city,


of the people who I wouldn’t otherwise cross paths or make small

talk with. Thanks for introducing me to spin classes and yoga.

Thanks for reminding I’m part fish, part Michael Phelps.


Thanks for being an affordable accessible welcoming place for

folx on the margins. Thanks for offering views of the bigLake

that serve as weather reports for post workout dog walks.

Thanks for callusing my hands and melting my heart.


The early mornings I tuned into my body, stretching mind + muscle

on your machines and mats, was another way for this assigned female at birth,

gender expansive body to feel safe and cared for in the world.


Yes I’m a better queer, artist, womxn, writer, radical

community organizer, daughter, sister, friend

and lover. A stronger biker, kayaker, runner, snow shoe-er, paddle

boarder, roller blader, backpacker, swimmer and hiking enthusiast.


AND, as fall settles over us Gym, foggy and fat after harvest time,

I’m feeling deeper intimacies come my way, imagining grander, more

delicious pleasures and intellectually creative adventures. Alas, old Gym

I ask for your blessings as I shop/swim around for the new…


May I find someplace that’s even more pleasure inducing and

sustainable than you. May my athletic, sensual, intellect seeking,

soulful and sexual selves be taken to new heights. May the folx

I sweat and exhale and struggle through harsh seasons next to be even


kinder, queerer, more trans inclusive and more radically feminist.

May more heart melting sunrises meet me outside post

routine reminding me of the goodness in the day ahead of me.

May my work and dreams be supported even more by my next Gym.


May I continue to tackle huge ideas about creative writing,

collective liberation, sexual health and pleasure activism

in your space. May new Gym be constantly queering hxrself,


aesthetically pleasing, inclusive and aware of micro-agressions. May their be

all gendered bathrooms and diverse art ( yes visual, creative representation

of so much more than white faces, cis bodies, hetero love)

on the walls. May the music reflect all the ways music is made.

May more at next Gym be partners in crime-  calling out injustice

(oh CPF, thanks for giving me a dozen opportunities to call older

white dudes Out! on their mansplaining, racism, anti-Semitism,

sexual harassment bullshitery).Again, yes to queering spaces for well being


Yes to my new Gym calling in folx who haven’t always felt as safe

as I have to make a gym their own.

 I move forward. This Ode to Gym proof of gratitude, a question

of, “What Next?” and a call for more in my whole body experiences

especially wildly satisfying professional development, sexual++ health,

and emotional intimacy. It starts at the gym.

As Dolly says, "It's just a mountain, I can move it."

We find our strength and then we take it out out out into our worlds to share.

Yes to personal and collective and radical wellbeing.

Thank you Gym thank you for helping me lay such a sparkly,

solid foundation for physical and collective pleasure.

Yes Birthday Months! Yes Poems! Yes Love Bubbles!