“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” - Mark Twain
All I had to do to come up with a branding theme for HDAudioPlus was ask my husband Tuvia. Besides being a gifted inventor, audio developer, entrepreneur, broadcaster and armchair historian, he’s also a fabulous storyteller. Of course, it helps when you’ve lived as many lives or been involved in as many surreal situations as he has. I’m sure if he decided to publish his life story one day, we could retire to Florida and go fishing.
It’s rare to find a person who isn’t fascinated by Tuvia’s tales…except our own kids, that is. If they happen to be stuck in the same room with Dad when he launches into a story, the eyes roll as somebody mutters under his breath, “Oh, sh**… another fish story.”
In a bizarre chain of events, one of the most famous “fish stories” ever written - “My Side of The Mountain”- found it’s way into my life unexpectedly, three years ago. First published in 1959, this classic survival tale about a city boy who runs away to the wild still captures the imagination of readers young and old. It’s a story that packs more power, wonder and beauty than “Lord of The Rings” set in a sleepy, completely unexceptional farm town in Upstate N.Y.
Until Fate decided the time was right for that book and me to meet in a Jerusalem hospital basement - nearly fifty years had gone by. At the time, I had no idea how an old children’s paperback would challenge everything Tuvia and I ever understood about reality; or our notions of what’s “possible” and “im-possible”.
In retrospect, if there’s one thing I now “know for sure”- it’s that our lives can never be the same again.
The summer of 1972 began like any other in Catskill N.Y. Seventeen year old Tuvia looked forward with relief to a few good weeks of chillin’ down by the lake with his buddies . After three consecutive summers of intensive officer’s training at Fort Bragg with other boys from his unit, it was good to be home. Unloading the bulging duffle-bag from his back, he flew down the stairs to grab something to eat before meeting the gang. On the cracked formica table by the door he saw a large white envelope from the Selective Service addressed to Todd Wertheim. Taking out the letter, his eyes opened wide in astonishment: Report to Fort Dix, N.J. in two days as part of an all expense-paid vacation to Southeast Asia. Love, Uncle Sam
No sooner did Richard Nixon announce the end of the Vietnam War the US dispatched. Special Forces units trained in covert operations to Hue for 5 key POWs still in captivity. Tuvia’s years of training were preparation for just this moment. Now it was time to step up to the plate. He hoped like heck he was ready…
Several weeks later, ragged from the long flight from Hawaii, the boy exited the giant Hercules aircraft near Hue. As his eyes adjusted to the blinding sun he was slammed with a massive turbo-blast of heat and humidity that took his breath away. The suffocating tropical climate seemed to envelop what looked like the remains of a military outpost. With a rising sense of panic, he struggled to make sense out of the smoldering campfires and the dozen dishevelled GIs stationed there. In reality, those filthy, stoned GIs staggering around in their underwear were just biding their time before evacuation. Everybody wanted to get out of Dodge before it was too late.
Trembling and fighting the urge to throw up, Tuvia silently hauled himself into a waiting jeep driven by a black officer. Noticing the shaky recruit, the driver flashed him a wide, toothy grin. Delivering a chummy, resounding ‘thwack” between the shoulder blades the man quipped, “Don’t worry kid-it don’t get ANY more real than this!”
The group unpacked and set out for the jungle; unaware that the bogus instructions they carried was a setup that lead them smack into the arms of Charley waiting at the next camp.
By nightfall, the unit lost their officer and 6 others in the ambush. Alone in the jungle blackness without communications, maps or supplies, the 5 survivors huddled together in a ditch reeling from shock and terror. It felt like eternity before an Aussie accent finally broke the silence; “What’s WITH you guys, eh? We ain’t DEAD yet! We still got this here scout, yeah? Instead of sittin’ round and cryin’ - I say we decide right now to make the kid our new leader and just get the hell outta here!”
The monsoons with their pounding torrential rains made movement hazardous and slow. Using the night as cover, Tuvia’s uncanny sense of direction and photographic memory guided the men as they pushed on at a snail’s pace through hundreds of miles of jungle and swamp towards the prisoner camp. At their scout’s signal, the men slipped into the camp, rescuing one wounded POW who Tuvia carried alone on his back for three more weeks before reaching Thailand and safety.
(Video is part of our demo channel on Vimeo called “The Greatest Show In The Universe”)
Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon (hdaudioplus.com)