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"It was my vision of hell!"
Interview with a Burning Man hater
by Adrian Roberts

Believe it or not, not everyone who comes out to Black Rock City ends up having the time of their life. In fact, some÷even those prepared and ready to discover the joys of Burning Man÷return home sullied and disappointed by the whole experience. Take Raquel Cion for instance.

Now Raquel is not exactly the sort of person one would expect to hate Burning Man. She isn't a right-wing conservative born-again Christian, or a mindless by-the-books corporate drone, or even a boring suburban housewife and mother. No, in fact, she's a vivacious, 29-year-old actress who performs experimental theatre and aschews having a day job. Seems like just the sort of person who would completely get off on Burning Man, no? Well... no.

Formerly of San Francisco (she now resides in Brooklyn, New York), Raquel came to Burning Man last year by way of a recommendation from her best friend. While her friend was busy preparing for Burning Man back in San Francisco, Raquel was performing Shakespeare summer stock in Lake Tahoe and eager for a break. Assuring Raquel that she would love Burning Man, her friend convinced her to come visit.

Arriving on Friday night, her first impression was not good. "The people at the gate were so rude and awful," she says. And finding her friend in the chaos of a Black Rock City evening proved to be daunting to say the least. Fortunately, a Black Rock Ranger who knew her friend managed to hook the two of them up. "People were very kind to me," admits Raquel. "That night was actually really nice. We wandered around all night, and then went to the hot springs for sunrise, which was very nice and quiet and beautiful."

But that wasn't to remain so. Soon after arriving, Raquel began to feel uncomfortable. "It was like an arty frat party," she says."Everybody was fucked up. There were a lot drugs happening, and it was off-puting. For the majority of the people I met÷from lots of places, from lots of camps÷Burning Man was just an excuse to be weird and get fucked up.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that," she clarifies. "It's just not what I wanted to be around. I mean, I didn't go to Burning Man to get fucked up. I went there to be with my friend, and to see creative stuff."

And while there was certainly creative stuff to be seen, not much of it impressed Raquel. "There was nothing really mind-blowing to me," she claims. Nothing? She thinks about it. "Well, I really liked the Bindlestiff Circus. But there was lot of really bad performance. I'm sorry, maybe I'm a snot, but I like skill."

Okay, admittedly, not every performance at Burning Man is brilliant, but what about the art? What about all the creative theme camps? "I appreciated the things that were there," she says. "But it felt very, 'Look at this cool thing that I did!' Everyone there was 'so cool.' It felt like a big clique, like being in high school again! It's geekiness to me, not coolness."

That said, it becomes obvious that Raquel was largely unimpressed by the denizens of Black Rock City. "Oh, the names!" she exclaims. "Like, 'Hi, I'm Cyber Satan,' and 'Oh, I'm Dr. Woo-Woo-Caca-Poo.' Whatever! I think a lot of these people spend most their time behind a computer, and then are like, 'I'm going to go to Burning Man to be wildly creative and kooky!'"

"It's just not my way of expressing myself," she says. "It kind of tripped me. There I was at Burning Man, where everyone is a participant, there's room for everyone... yet, there was no room for me. I felt like I did not fit in."

Raquel admits that the people she met were friendly÷just sometimes a bit too friendly. "I'd meet people, and it was like I'd been their best friend for years," she explains, incredulous. "I'm a very open person, especially with weird, physical, theatrical stuff. But I just don't give myself that easily."

"And it was such a sluttish scene," she continues. "At least the people I met. It felt like it was an opportunity for geeky people to watch other people get naked. It felt very heterosexual. That's why I loved seeing the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, because it was like, 'Yeah! People who live the life!' Not people who are, 'Yeah, I have this gillion-dollar-paying job, but now I'm fucking cool and freakish!'"

After this particular rant, Raquel becomes a bit self-conscious. "I feel so bourgeious or something!" she laughs. "But it just grossed me out being there! The whole place stank. It was drunken and dirty, with the piss and the poo, and there were so many people, and it was loud! I hated it! To me, it was kind of my vision of hell! And then I got sick..."

Despite drinking the copious amounts of water that the harsh desert climate requires, Raquel still ended up dehydrated. "It was bizarre," she says, "Because I drank more water there than anyone I knew. There I was, the only person not fucked up on drugs, and I got sick! I ended up spending a lot of time at the medical tent, in tears. Because I was like, 'What the hell is wrong with me that I'm not loving this?'"

Still, Raquel played along for a while. "I felt very, 'Okay, pretend you're into it.' And I wanted to respect the people that were into it. I totally understand why people love Burning Man. Like, there was this French film crew there that I loved! And they were like, 'It's really liberating to be here, something like this could never happen in Europe, it's wonderful to be a man and wear a skirt.' And all that stuff is really beautiful."

But for Raquel, is just wasn't enough. "I don't know," she shrugs. "I've lived in cities most of my life. I don't want to go to the desert to build a city. I want to go to the desert to be in the desert÷and to make art, yeah, cool. There's a lot of creativity, sure÷but it doesn't feel revolutionary. It feels a little contrived. Ultimately, it's just an excuse to party."

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