Just say ‘no’
While I tend to refrain from making public declarations of New Year’s resolutions, I do make a list that I keep on the down low. I figure that if I don’t speak it aloud, the inevitable failure to “stick to my guns” will be less humiliating. That said, number one on the list for 2019 was to “just say no.” Was. As in already past tense. I’m not referring to First Lady Nancy Reagan’s famous “War on Drugs” campaign of the 1980s but rather my apparent inability to turn others down in response to a myriad of requests. Oh, sure—I start out strong. When a friend called last week to ask if I’d watch his semi-psychotic, not-quite-house-trained dog for three weeks in the dead of winter while he cavorts through Europe, I held my ground. “I’m sorry,” I politely mewed into the phone. “I just don’t think that’s possible at this time.” Giving myself a pat on the back, I soldiered on. When asked to make dessert for a potluck last week, I declined with a dismissive wave of my hand. “Don’t you read The River Reporter?” I shouted in mock horror. “I still have cheesecake cream cheese on the ceiling!”
So when the phone rang a few days ago, I confidently answered, sure (IMHO) that I was perfectly capable of turning down whatever request awaited. “May I speak with Dharma?’ the caller asked, referring to my trained and certified seizure-alert dog. “It’s Wendy Stuart. I think she’s expecting my call.” Laughing at actress, author (“She’s the Last Model Standing”) and filmmaker Stuart’s allusion to actually speaking with my dog, I kept the joke going. “I’m sorry, she’s not available,” I responded. “May I take a message?” As it turned out, Stuart was serious about connecting with the pooch. “I think you might be interested, too,” she explained. “Alan and I are working on a new documentary about service animals, so naturally we thought about Dharma and the incredible connection that you two have.” Stuart and her husband, film director Alan Kaplan, have recently released a new documentary, called “Whisperers and Witnesses: Primate Rescue, A Visual Journey,” and I knew that she was serious. “We’re not going to Africa this year,” she said, referring to their annual sojourn that they take, documenting a variety of subjects. “We want to film service animals and their incredible abilities.”
After explaining that their plan was to follow us around and film my dog and me interacting with each other and the general public, I acquiesced. “After all, we don’t call her Dharma the Wonder Dog for nothing,” I said. It wasn’t long before I forgot the camera was there, so by the time I reached the Farmers Market in Callicoon, I was fairly blasé. “Don’t mind them,” I said to Beach Lake Bakery’s Rebekah Creshkoff, when she asked what the film crew was about. “I feel like the Kim Kardashian of the Catskills,” I joked. “But of course, it’s all about the dog.” I schmoozed with vendors and friends throughout the market, doing my best to ignore the filmmakers who zoomed in on her interaction with passersby. “This stuff is gold,” enthused director Kaplan. “Everyone loves your dog!” No argument here.
After a pit stop at the Callicoon Brewing Co., where the two shot additional footage during lunch, I explained that I was planning to attend a lecture next door at the Western Hotel, where attorney Dafna Tachover was scheduled to present evidence regarding what she claims are the negative effects of wireless technology. When asked if they wanted to come with, Kaplan and Stuart declined. “That sounds like an entirely different documentary,” Stuart said, and we parted ways.
Tachover is an attorney, formerly a communications and computer officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, as well as the commander of the computer center for their Operations Center and Headquarters. She now pushes back fiercely against the proliferation of Wi-Fi and 5G, the next generation of wireless tech that promises faster, better connections and the possibility of self-driving cars and smart appliances. Tachover said she bought a laptop in 2009 that caused a health condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, forcing her lose her job, marriage and, for a time, to live in her car. The condition is refuted by most doctors. Tachover founded the group “We Are the Evidence,” to advocate for people who have experienced health problems as a result of wireless tech. The crowd attending was standing room only and her presentation, (based on thousands of documents) seems to back up her assertions and covered sub-topics, addressing the potential dangers of cell phones and towers, Wi-Fi and “smart” devices and what can be done to reduce our exposure and protect ourselves from possibly harmful exposure. “If it’s ‘smart’, it’s dumb,” she said in conclusion, which gave me pause. One of my unspoken resolutions was (past tense) to go completely wireless in 2019, but now… I’m not so sure. If Tachover is right, and the danger is real, perhaps I should just say no.