On November 30, 2020, the 24 Hour Fitness location in West Hollywood, which had been in the community for 25 years, closed down.
A neighborhood institution famous for being in poor repair and the site of lots of gay cruising, it’s shuttering was commemorated at 9pm by 30 members who gathered outside with fake candles to listen to poetry and spread whey protein like ashes, organized by West Hollywood Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace. Poet and longtime 24 Hour member Corey Saucier wrote the following piece about the place of the gym in his life and development as a gay, black, HIV+ person, which he performed as the keynote poet at the closing.
Saucier is a Lyrical Philosopher and a Black Queer Christian Poet, Author, and Playwright. He is a Los Angeles Native, a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBT Voices Fellow in Non-Fiction and Fiction as well as being awarded UCLA’s Writers Program Scholarship. In addition to being an active member of the performing arts community of weirdos, they have been a featured columnist in A&U Magazine and The Advocate. Corey is penning their first novel tentatively titled: “Clover” a dark speculative horror novel about Fairies, Homosexuals, and God… They are on Instagram@GreenEyedGrin where there are lots of pictures of his butt.
In Honor of the Steam By Corey Saucier
There is no name for the god of hot wet air.
But at nineteen when I was 100 pounds lighter – with no ink in my skin; and had all my teeth,
Before the diagnosis of HIV and AIDS
When we did not know that undetectable was safe…
I was introduced to him.
Black gay fem boys without fathers have no mirrors to compare length, and sinew, and the curve and fall of breath.
We have no daddies to teach us how to be men.
Let alone gay men.
But the Greeks and The Japanese have always honored the fraternity of the steam.
In 1999 the membership was $19.99
Back when West Hollywood was where the fags were.
There were two floors of blue eyes, and blond hair,
and me trying to find myself among all that white skin.
Most ignored me.
Some said a polite “I’m not interested” Hello.
But I found my salvation in the steam.
Some say that the god of steam is an unreliable shame:
That he is too fickle and teasing and unwilling to be caught.
But when the door was shut
And my towel fell wet to the floor,
He whispered it in my ear and said, “I am the god of becoming,
The god of stolen kisses, and the god of taking deep breaths.
So take a deep breath.”
He was Black and beautiful
He only revealed himself when the fever hit and the air was a touch too hot;
And you could barely see them grinding in the dark.
He put his hands on my shoulder, and hips, and gripped my limp wrists;
And for two minutes and two seconds he showed me that everyone is welcomed in the mist –
That all can cum inside this tribe –
And for two and just two more strokes,
He taught me, for the first time, how it could feel to be hot and Black and BEAUTIFUL…
And then they hired security.