It wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate to title this interview, “The Talented Mr. Barnes”. With a career spanning thirty years of entertainment, art, and medicine, Mr. Barnes’s life truly defines the idea of the complete man. I’m honored to know him as a colleague, and dare I say, a friend.
Q: Mr. Barnes, welcome and thank you for this, our second interview.
GB: It is certainly good to see you again Quatro… Quarto… however you’ve styled yourself. And may I say, you’ve outdone yourself with this room-- your quaint reel to reel recorder and SM57’s. It’s perfect!
Barnes has correctly observed that this room is perfect. It’s a small meeting room on the mezzanine of a medieval castle themed hotel. The hotel, however, is never used for meetings of this kind, and the rental of this room, with its mosaic glass windows and Anglican stilt, has been occasioned only five times since the commencement of its business, and only by me. – Q
Q: I have to share this with you. Your first interview drew dozens of visitors to my website.
GB: Dozens, you said?
Q: Yes, 26, to be exact-- two dozen, dozens, two baker’s dozen?
GB: That’s a little overwhelming. Of course I’m flattered by the attention, 26, you said.
Barnes turns a contemplative eye toward a glint of light in a glass mosaic that crowns an arched window in the far corner of the room and smiles almost imperceptibly.
Q: I think that the Creative Medical Advisory Office at Our Lady of Rejected Saints is a fascinating project, but you’re currently on sabbatical from OLoRS. What prompted the change?
GB: There comes a point in every endeavor when I simply run out of ideas to keep the thing, whatever it is, moving. The key idea is movement. It’s a cornerstone of the perception of life—movement that is. When a thing can’t be quickened again, it’s dead. And dead things aren’t much fun.
Q: Do you consider resurrection?
GB: No, No, No… but I maintain the plasticity of death.
Q: If I told you that people say, “I don’t know how to act when I’m around Gedy Barnes”, what would your reaction be?
GB: I’m very glad you asked, because you’ve raised a point I’ve tried to demonstrate many times, and that’s this; if you presume to know how to act around a person, you’re doing just that—acting. I cannot abide an act. But I find people are true to themselves in those moments, when they don’t know how to act—caught off guard, as it were.
Q: I’d like to put a finer point on that. Do you make a distinction between?
Before I can finish my sentence, Barnes stands and commences a fierce attack on the stone hearth in the North corner of the room using a spare roll of audio tape that I’ve left adjacent to my recorder. He stops and returns to the table as if nothing unusual has occurred. I’m initially stunned, but a wave of understanding passes over me.
GB: How did you feel just then?
Q: Speechless, really. I didn’t know what to say or do. We were taking as we had, then you were, the next moment, attacking the fireplace.
GB: Precisely, Mr. Barto. All your affectations, the sycophantic presumptions of my dispositions, were obliterated in that very moment—thus fell the façade. But as the spinning slowed, the pieces were drawn back by the sinewy threads of expectation; and as the last chink was closed, you remembered how to act around Gedy Barnes.
Q: I do remember how to act around Gedy Barnes.
GB: [laughs] If you’d been lucky enough to slip into a coma during a routine medical procedure at OLoRS, you’d be remembering how to act around Gedy Barnes with a full set of porcelain veneers!
Q: I’m glad you brought us back to the CMAO. I had a few questions from readers about the project, which you mentioned is now closed, on the ethics of performing medical procedures in situations where patient consent would be impossible to obtain. The cosmetic dental work on dying or unconscious patients, Smiles for the Terminal Miles, it was called, raised a few eyebrows.
GB: That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. First, let me address the patient consent question in very simple terms; insurance pays, patient stays. Second, all these definitions, dying, dead, comatose, etcetera, are plastic to a point. I can remember a few cases where we were able to work double knee replacements into an embalming—saved a ton on surgical aftercare.
Take a look at the alternative, if we’d simply relied on the traditional definition of death, that patient would never have had the opportunity to walk without pain, the surgeon would missed out on a lucrative operation, surgical suite rental fees for the hospital—gone, and our staff mortician, Barry, he just never gets to talk to anybody during the day.
Q: Wouldn’t the patient be dead if he were being embalmed?
GB: Of course, I should clarify that point. We were pioneers in the field of pre-embalming. That’s what I was referring to—of course we couldn’t perform surgery on a completely dead patient, or embalm a live one for that matter. Remember though, death is a continuum.
Q: Some people might say that CMAO looked for ethical loopholes to allow unnecessary medical procedures, on the dead or dying, for the purpose of bilking patients and insurers.
GB: I have heard that criticism, but I think that’s the narrow view. I’ve heard some bizarre accusations, believe me! The toe nail incident comes to mind. I can assure you it was patently false. Some things were just misunderstood. Our cardiopulmonary sharing program that matched cardiac intensive care patients with a “lung buddy” from the coma ward, it was a huge success.
Q: It seems that you’re still piqued by the perceived ingratitude.
Barnes pauses and removes his glasses. He rubs his temples gently with the tips of his ring fingers.
GB: They’re your cleanest fingers, generally speaking; the ring fingers, I mean. They’re protected by the little finger medially, laterally by the middle ones, and insulated from vulgarity by the natural proclivity to prefer the index finger and thumb.
Q: I don’t even have the words.
GB: Well, what’s to say? A style for digital interaction? The manipulative fashion?
Q: Witty as ever! Should we break today? These interviews always run the risk of turning into conversations, meandering as they do.
Barnes chooses not respond, but stands and walks from the room. As he reaches the door, with its black iron hardware and thick coats of lacquer, he mutters a single word. It was almost inaudible and I believe it was intended only for my ears. As it was not intended to be transcribed, it shall remain unknown but to Gedy and me. I suspect they will not be the final words between us.