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Speaking Experience is a Great Asset in Any Industry

In 1993 I was asked by a well-known Los Angeles publicist to contribute my expertise as a news journalist for publicists attending an industry event held at UCLA. It was my first public speaking event and I was nervous but I knew my topic area very well, having served as a news journalist for nearly ten years for radio and print media. In fact, you could say I was at the “head of the pack” when it came to getting elusive or difficult people to give me an interview.

In 2019 with “Ask the Experts” host Eszylfie Taylor of Taylor Insurance & Financial Services

I laugh now when thinking about my first “real” interview while still a student at Emerson College in Boston. My professor had assigned the class to interview the person who most influenced us in our careers. I had chosen Hunter S. Thompson, known as “the Gonzo Journalist.” Hunter had written the controversial book on the Hells Angels motorcycle club, which I had read while in high school. He later went on to write “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and several other books which defined him as a rather edgy and (some would say “weird”) and always intoxicated journalist.

I managed to get a ticket to see Hunter, who happened to be speaking at U. Mass, Dorchester that month. I brought my trusty little tape recorder with me with its little plastic mike and I hung out backstage waiting for Mr. Thompson to arrive. He was late. Very late. And when he did show up, he had a fifth of Jack Daniels with him which he nipped off of behind the podium.

While I didn’t really have any journalist credentials, I did have to do this assignment and it was the last minute before it was due. When Hunter raced off the stage rather abruptly, I followed him down the hall. He jumped into an elevator – and I jumped in with him. I recall him saying, “Oh God. What do you want?”

I explained that I was a student trying to complete this assignment and I told him that I admired his style of journalism and wanted to get a few quotes from him. Honestly, he was trapped. He couldn’t avoid me so he mumbled something that I used in my paper and then he got out of the elevator.

After saying my goodbyes to his staff, who had been so kind to arrange my ticket, I realized that I couldn’t get back to campus because the MBTA had stopped running for the night. I was in kind of a quandry as I didn’t have the money for cab fare and this was not a good neighborhood to be walking at night. So I did what any young journalist would do – I asked his staff if I could catch a ride with them back to Boston.

Again, they took pity on me and said they would squeeze me in their car. What I didn’t know was that Hunter was also going to be riding in that car, and boy was he surprised when I jumped into the backseat right next to him – actually, almost on his lap! I remember what he said to me: “Oh God. Not YOU again!”

And that was my first interview, of which I was very, very proud!

I went on to become a news reporter for radio – a broadcast journalist – and later, a print journalist, as well, writing for Variety, the Los Angeles Business Journal, San Fernando Valley Business Journal, Boxoffice magazine, Pasadena Weekly, Insurance Journal and many other publications.

My career has given me access to some very interesting and successful people, among them: Jerry Rubin of “Yippie” fame, film actress Ginger Rogers, King Carl Gustav of Spain, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Rick Wakeman, keyboardist for Yes, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, bluesmen John Mayall, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, and the list goes on.

So getting back to my first panel as a journalist, I wrote a speech outline where I listed every tip I could think of as I went through the process I used to prepare for an interview. Some of it was common sense tips but it all derived from my, then, 15 years of experience in interviewing people for news stories.

The speech went well and after doing it I was excited to do it again. In 1997, I took an extensive course to become a Certified Seminar Speaker and with that added boost of confidence the floodgates opened up: I started giving workshops for the L.A. Community College System called “Jumpstart Your Business with Free Publicity.” At the same time, I hit the road, whenever I had some free time, to give a speech to business associations called “Self Promotion for the Self Employed” and “Do’s and Don’t for Media Success.”

Since that first little speech in 1993, 26 years ago, I’ve developed several more, very popular speeches such as “Utilizing LinkedIn to Maximize Your Business” which I have presented to high-level business associations, including: Vistage, Worldwide, ProVisors, NAWBO-LA, American Association of Daily Money Managers, Pasadena Bar Association, the San Gabriel Valley Financial Planners Association, Mid Valley Chamber of Commerce, Entertainment Publicists Professional Society, Bruin Professionals, Asian Business Association, German-American Chamber, Glendale Chamber, Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber, Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs all over Southern California.

Speaking to high school students on behalf of the YBA program
Speaking to high school students about the importance of getting a degree.

Since I believe in giving back to others, I also speak to high school and college students seeking journalism or business degrees. To date, I’ve presented at Loyola Marymount University, Pepperdine University, UCLA Extension, the University of Southern California and UC, Pomona as well as at 15 high schools in Los Angeles.

While I’ve been out doing speaking engagements, I’ve received my own fair share of publicity through interviews with hosts from KCKC AM, Bill Black’s Exit Coach Radio and Eszylfie Taylor’s “Ask the Experts” show as well as the Los Angeles Daily News, Crescenta Valley Weekly, Inland Empire Business Journal, and for my alma mater, Emerson College.

My newest speaking engagement takes me into the hearts of those living in retirement homes where I speak about “The Importance of Writing Your Memoirs.” I enjoy seeing the smiles on the faces of those who attend as they think about their own beloved memories.

If you are thinking about the virtues of speaking on a topic of your profession, I highly encourage it. You may find, like me, that you like it and it may lead you to even greater experiences in life.

CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS INITIATIVE ON NOVEMBER 2019 BALLOT WILL HURT THE MOST VULNERABLE COMMERCIAL PROPERTY OWNERS

On November 12, 2019, the State of California’s newest tax initiative aims to hit the most vulnerable commercial property owners, those who own properties worth $2 million or more, basically mom and pop businesses and property owners. The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act, which seeks to raise money for public schools, if passed, would remove the Prop 13 protection on commercial properties with an assessed value of $2 million or more.

The State of California, the sponsor of this initiative, justifies this new tax by claiming that there are a large number of commercial property owners who are not paying their fair share of taxes, and identify this group as the “largest corporations and wealthiest investors.”  However in today’s market, nearly all commercial properties would exceed the $2 million threshold very easily.

Who would be most harmed by this initiative?  Small business owners and investors of commercial income properties, i.e. retirees who are living off the income generated by properties they own. Primarily, those who bought properties, post – recession under the $2 million threshold will see a huge increase on their property taxes if this passes.

The Prop 13 protection has been in place since the mid 1970’s, setting property tax values based on the purchase price with only incremental increases, rather than the market assessed value. Without this protection, any commercial property owner whose property is worth $2 million or more will be taxed 1.26% every year on the market assessed value, rather than the purchase price they paid.

For example, a property purchased in 2012 for $1 million would now pay property taxes of roughly $12,000 a year. If this initiative passes in November, that same property, which is now worth well over the $2 million threshold, would be taxed at about $24,000 a year. At Triniti Partners, we refer to the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act as “the claw-back initiative,” since it is focused on taking away the longtime protection of Prop 13 on income properties and small businesses.

Looking ahead, not only would this new tax harm those who own commercial property, it would also hurt tenants in commercial properties.

In commercial leases, if the lease is drafted correctly, the landlord has the ability to raise the rent on tenants by the percentage increase of their property tax. (If you are a landlord and do not have this provision in your lease, you would not be able to ‘share the pain’ with your tenants, but rather, you would be forced to absorb this huge tax increase).

As a longtime commercial agent and the owner of commercial real estate, myself, my fear is many voters will think that this initiative is justified because “only the largest corporations and wealthiest property owners” – as it is worded – will have to pay. However, this is simply not true.

As a result, that increase would be passed on to tenants who are leasing space in a commercial building – and they, in turn – will pass on this increase to their customers. The Big Picture is that everyone will be paying more for products and services provided in the State of California if this initiative goes through.

Triniti Partners is working to create awareness of this very high cost initiative which would raise taxes at the expense of those who could least afford it. While the public schools in California are a worthy cause to support, The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act is the wrong way to fund them. We saw a similar measure aimed at raising taxes on residential properties with Measure EE last June.

It’s difficult enough to be in business in California, especially if you are a small businesses. We believe small businesses should be rewarded for trying to live the American Dream in today’s economy and every effort should be made to entice businesses to come to California – not to leave for other states or other countries.

If you are a commercial property owner or lease property for your business and you are concerned about how this tax would affect you, Triniti Partners may be able to help you.

Triniti Partners provides commercial real estate services to north Los Angeles’ landlords, sellers, tenants and buyers of commercial/industrial properties in the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, and southern Ventura County. We founded Triniti Partners with the objective of providing uncommon expertise and value-added service to our clients – and that’s what we are known for.

For more information, please contact Triniti Partners, Inc. at: 818 788-3800, email: George.stavaris@trinitipartners.com or visit: www.trinitipartners.com.

Pat Kramer Awarded 2019 Woman of the Year, 28th Congressional District, Sunland-Tujunga

When news happens, that’s when I tell my clients to issue a news release (also known as a press release or media release) to properly share news about themselves, their firm, or their company. As a press release writer, publicist and all-around PR and branding expert, it is absolutely essential that you take credit where credit is due. 0therwise, how will anyone know about your accomplishments?

On that note, today I issued a press release on my Woman of the Year award representing my community of Sunland-Tujunga in the 28th Congressional District. I am told that my award has been entered into the Congressional Record and will permanently be listed there for all to see – pretty nice for a little ‘ole PR person and news journalist like myself!

Should you have a question about whether or not you should issue a press release, I will take your call or respond to your email and validate whether it will help you or whether it’s best to hold off.

And now, my news story:
After a career of 40-years as a news journalist, PR writer for ad agencies and companies, and as a content and branding writer, it’s very nice to receive this honor from one of my personal mentors: 

Pat Kramer Receives Woman of the Year 2019 Award From Congressman Adam Schiff

LOS ANGELES, May 08, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Writer For Hire® Pat Kramer today announced that she was recently awarded Woman of the Year 2019, Sunland – Tujunga by Congressman Adam Schiff. Each year, Congressman Schiff names women in each of the communities in his district, to receive this lauded award in honor of Women’s History Month. Now serving as the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Representative Schiff is in his 10th term in the House of Representatives. Kramer, who operates Writer For Hire® in Los Angeles, is a ghostwriter, memoir writer, and a content marketing and PR branding specialist.

At a luncheon held on April 16, 2019, Representative Schiff honored each of the 13 inspiring women he chose stating, Today, I met with remarkable women from my district who have all worked tirelessly to make our communities a better place,” said Rep. Schiff. “It was an honor to recognize their outstanding work in the 28th District. These women have worked to found or support a myriad of charitable organizations and given so much of themselves to improve the common good. They are all pillars of our communities and I thank them for their invaluable service.”

In his tribute to Ms. Kramer, the Congressman talked about her contributions to her community of Sunland – Tujunga, located in the northeast corner of Los Angeles, saying, “I rise today in honor of Women’s History Month. Each year, we pay special tribute to the contributions and sacrifices made by our nation’s women. It is an honor to pay homage to outstanding women who are making a difference in my Congressional District. I would like to recognize a remarkable woman, Pat Kramer of Sunland-Tujunga, California.

“Pat Kramer is a communications expert who creates original content for business and corporate entities for their marketing, outreach and public relations efforts. For over thirty years, she has worked as a consultant to companies and as a freelance journalist for many prestigious newspapers, magazines and industry publication. 

“A dedicated volunteer in her community, Pat’s activities include over thirty years of participation in the Sierra Club, Angeles Chapter, where she has held leadership positions and advocates for issues affecting the quality of life in the foothills.

“Additionally, while serving two terms on the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, Pat has led many efforts on behalf of her community. These include: completing the decade-long creation of Oro Vista Park in Sunland, leading efforts to improve the safety of residents as the chairperson of the Safe Traffic & Transportation Committee, and creating and co-chairing the STNC’s Emergency Preparedness Day which included 15 vendors and City agencies.

“In addition to her outstanding work in the community, Ms. Kramer is passionate about animal rescue work, serving on the STNC Animal Issues committee and playing a leading role in promoting the City of L.A.’s Department of Animal Services’ Volunteer Animal Officer program.

“Born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, Pat credits her grandparents, immigrants from the Ukraine and her parents with teaching her good values, instilling in her the importance of hard work, and encouraging her to follow her dreams.

“I ask all Members to join me in honoring this exceptional, well-respected woman of California’s 28th Congressional District, Pat Kramer.”

Media Contact:
Pat Kramer
818 353-5699
pat@writerpatkramer.com 
https://www.writerpatkramer.com

Defining Specific Methods to Improve Branding: Writer For Hire Pat Kramer in “Ask the Experts”

“Ask the Experts” interview for Dash Talk X Radio, April 1, 2019.

As a writer of branding content for over 30 years now, my rule of thumb is “don’t try to write content that reaches everyone.” In other words, don’t be too generic; you will end up watering down your messaging and it won’t be as effective as if you fine-tune your message to a certain audience.

If you are a business owner or sales person for a company (and we are all sales people for the companies we represent), you might benefit from the information I shared in my recent interview with Eszylfie Taylor on “Ask the Experts.” In this interview, I discuss the tools that will be most effective in defining your brand. As a marketing, PR and branding expert, I always tell my clients to “have three balls in the air at all times,” similar to a juggler. If one isn’t reaching your audience, the other two have a chance at getting through as sometimes, one method is effective with a certain demographic but not with another.

In my interview, here, with Eszylfie Taylor, founder and owner of Taylor Insurance and Financial Services in Pasadena, CA, I explain ways you can set yourself, your company or your brand apart from your competition and do it on a shoe-string budget. This podcast is now being played on DashTalk X Radio.

Each week, Eszylfie gives away an hour of his Taylor Insurance business time to highlight and promote someone who he believes is knowledgeable in their chosen profession. Besides being a highly-successful and knowledgeable insurance professional, Eszylfie is unmatched in his energy and efforts to provide resources to others: hiring and training young people for a career in insurance, creating a basketball camp for kids – and offering scholarships to underprivileged children; and supporting his children’s schools, his church and the business community as a whole through monthly networking mixers.

In short, Eszylfie is a gem of a man and I am very grateful to him for inviting me to participate on his “Ask the Experts” podcast which you can listen to by clicking on the hyperlink above.

For more information about writing content or branding your business, please visit: https://writerpatkramer.com or email: pat@writerpatkramer.com.

Pat is interviewed by Eszylfie Taylor on DashTalk X Radio

English is a Confusing Language

For my first blog of the year, I thought I would talk about common misuses of wording in the English language. This is something I see quite frequently as an editor and proofreader. For those who don’t speak English as their primary language, it can be very confusing, given that many words have alternate meanings.

Here are some words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have quite different meanings:

Take the case of Assure, Ensure, and Insure:

Assure means to promise; to give assurance.
Ensure and Insure both mean to make certain – to guarantee.
Insure is usually in reference to taking necessary measures, beforehand, as in an insurance policy.

Let’s look at another example: Beside or Besides.

Beside means next to. Besides means in addition to or other than.

Another example is Compare versus Contrast.

Compare means to examine the qualities of more than one item so you can discover similarities or differences. Contrast means to examine two or more items, specifically to differentiate them.

In one final example, let’s look at the differences in meaning between the words Council, Counsel and Consul:

A Council is an advisory or legislative body.

Counsel means to give advice, or when used to describe a person, it refers to an attorney.

A Consul is a foreign service agent, stationed abroad.

By learning the exact meanings of words, you can ensure that all your documents: i.e. blogs, web content, reports, etc., actually mean what you “think” they mean.

When in doubt, hire a writer or editor to review your work before you finalize it or post it on social media.

Writer For Hire provides editing and proofreading services in addition to writing fresh, unique and customized content for businesses. For more information, email: pat@writerpatkramer.com.

Road to Resilience Identifies Proper Levels of Emergency Preparedness for Business, Government and Non Profits Entities

On September 20, 2018, I attended the “Road to Resilience,” an emergency management conference sponsored by the Business Industry Council on Emergency Planning & Preparedness (BICEPP). The full day event was held at the AirTel Plaza hotel in Van Nuys and was well attended by private sector, government employees, and non-government organizations (NGOs). Given the information provided, I believe everyone came away with an upgraded level of knowledge about how to prepare for the next earthquake, fire, flood, or other natural disaster.

While sponsors Jeff Edelstein of SOS Products and Glen Granholm of Safe-T-Proof told us what every company and home should have in their emergency supply kits, informational presentations included Caltech’s Margaret Vinci on the science of studying earthquakes, Los Angeles City Emergency Management Department’s Jon Brown on the Ready Your LA Neighborhood program, Ventura County Emergency Preparedness Program’s Dan Wall on lessons learned from the Thomas Fire, and Dr. Dennis Mileti, Professor Emeritus from the University of Colorado on modernizing public warning messaging. BICEPP President Chris Wright gave opening remarks and kept the program moving at a fast pace and Ross Kocen of First on Scene Training explained how companies and organizations can get the most out of their EPP training.

Additionally, Les Borsay, Emergency Planning Specialist for The J. Paul Getty Trust spoke about how the December 6, 2017 fire in the Sepulveda Pass caused his facility to go into emergency procedures. We heard from Abby Browning, Chief of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services on how she manages Private Sector/NGO coordination for the State of California during a disaster. Nina Johnson from the Institute for Emergency Training explained what it takes to activate an Emergency Operations Center, and Michael Ripley, CEM, CBCP talked about the essentials of developing a corporate Emergency Operations Center, from design and budget to technology, supplies and resources.

The presentation by Dr. Dennis Mileti was particularly poignant. He stated, “It’s a myth that people immediately take protective action when they receive a warning message. In reality, people don’t change their mind without following up with others and checking other resources. Human nature delays protective action when warned.”

He suggested maximizing alerts that are ‘actionable’ and make sure your messaging is clear, direct, and no more than 360 characters in length. Craft messages that reduce milling and public action delay and be specific as to what you are telling the public to do. Also, use symbols that have universal understanding so those who do not speak English also get the message. For more information on what emergency messaging looks like, he suggested reviewing the Army Corp of Engineers Guidebook to Public Alerts.

Margaret Vinci, manager of Caltech’s Office of Earthquake Programs had some strong warnings for California businesses noting, “There are over 30 earthquakes per day in Southern California and 300 known earthquake faults. The 1971 Sylmar earthquake registered 6.6 on the Richter scale while the Northridge earthquake registered 6.7.

Because earthquakes cannot be predicted, it’s essential to have a good early warning system that can kick into action sending out alerts once the vibrations begin. Caltech, presently, can only give us a five to ten second early warning. With that type of warning, immediate action is required to avoid injury or possible death. Vinci said Caltech is now looking for people to build better earthquake warning mechanisms to make the public ready. In the meantime, she suggested that individuals and businesses run regular warning drills to enhance their earthquake readiness capabilities and attend any public Shake Alerts that serve your business locations and residences.

Dan Wall, Ventura County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Manager, gave us a grim but vivid overview of the terrible destruction that occurred during the December 4, 2017 Thomas Fire that burned 281,893 acres – and advanced through 96,000 of them in just two days with the 65 mph Santa Ana winds. Of the population of 854,223, seventy thousand people were evacuated. Due to dangerous levels of smoke and particulates, the air became extremely toxic, requiring distribution of N95 and P95 face masks to virtually every person living there. Ralphs and Von’s markets helped distribute the masks from their cashier stands which greatly assisted in protective measures.

In all, the Thomas Fire destroyed 1,063 structures, and damaged another 280. It burned through 440 square miles in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and caused over $2.2 billion dollars in damages. There were two fatalities in this fire: 70-year old Virginia Rae Pesola died from a traffic incident while trying to flee the fire in Santa Paula, and 32-year old Fire Apparatus Engineer Cory Iverson of the CAL FIRE San Diego/San Diego County Fire Authority died while trying to put out a flare up.

The Thomas Fire was the largest wildfire in modern California history with over 8,500 firefighters involved. Over 500 residences were destroyed in one night in Ventura, alone. As a consequence of the fire, mudflows caused by flash floods in January later killed 21 people and destroyed 100 homes in the area of Montecito, with a portion of the 101 freeway, buried, which caused closure of the roadway for weeks.

With climate change and rising sea levels caused by increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, ‘super storms’ are now taking place around the globe and early warning systems may not be enough. If this conference taught us anything, it was that we all need to take measures to prepare for disasters, in our personal residences, at our offices, and in our communities.

Take a CERT class, learn emergency First Aid, and at the very least, set up an emergency plan for your own family that includes pets. The more prepared all ages of the family are, the greater your chances of survival.

For more information on emergency preparedness supplies & restoration, visit:

Think Trauma Kits:  www.thinktraumakids.com

SOS Survival Products: SOSproducts.com

Simpson Strong-Tie: www.strongtie.com

Blue Can H2O: www.bluecanh2o.com

SAFE-T-PROOF:  https://www.safe-t-proof.com

HARBRO Emergency Services & Restoration: Harbro.com

WorkSafe Technologies: https://worksafetech.com/

Pacific Protection Services: http://www.pacific-protection.com/

Belfor Property Restoration: https://www.belfor.com/en/us

Kinmetrics: https://kinemetrics.com/

 

Pat Kramer is a freelance writer and longtime board member of the STNC neighborhood council in the City of Los Angeles. For more information, go to: www.writerpatkramer.com.

A Gift to Me: Finding & Losing My 15-Year Old Akita, Niko

I have always been a “dog person” and sometimes my love for animals extends to helping them out of bad situations. Although I have a full house already, if I am able to help rescue a dog, I will do so. Sometimes this translates to donating money to worthwhile animal rescue   groups; other times it involves hands-on rescue work, such as with Niko, who I write this for to preserve his memory.

I Spot Niko in the Middle of a Busy Street

I first saw Niko when I was traveling down a busy street near my home on a Saturday morning in October 2010. He was limping across tne roadway during mid-morning traffic, tagging along behind two other loose dogs.  He appeared to be quite old and frazzled with his ribcage showing through his coat.

Initially, I wasn’t going to stop as I was on my way to meet some friends but my love for the Akita breed, with its loyalty and intelligence, made me decide to turn around and go back. When I got out of my car, he stepped forward to check me out, making full eye contact in a curious but non-aggressive way. He was awesome to behold with beautiful markings on his tan, black, and gray body with long legs, a large head and soulful eyes.

The Rescue Begins

I held out my hand for him to sniff it and I asked him if he wanted to come with me. As soon as I opened my car door, he jumped right in followed by the two others who were with him. With them now safely in my car and off the street, I drove to my home and opened the gate to my front yard as I assessed the situation. All three were thin but Niko was in the worst shape. He seemed very neglected with a filthy, flea – infested coat and green ooze dripping from his eyes.

The female was a beautiful younger Akita who appeared to be in heat. That’s when I realized that both males were intact (unaltered) and it wasn’t long before a fight broke out in my front yard between the two. The other dog, a Yellow Lab, jumped on Niko’s back and grabbed him by the neck but Niko was too weak to fight back. So I jumped in and grabbed the Lab by his collar. When I did that, he swung his head around and bit down hard on my wrist causing blood to start spurting.

Fortunately, a neighbor was walking by and I yelled for her to help me. She ran into my garage and grabbed a rag which I tied around my wrist.  I then lured the “biter” out of my yard and locked the gate behind me. I drove myself to the nearest hospital where I needed several stitches to close the wound. Later, I reported the bite to Animal Services and they came and took the dog back to the shelter to impound him while they tried to locate his owner.

For the next three days, I fed and cared for the two Akitas who were very well behaved and friendly. I made up flyers to post and also posted them on social media. A few days later, having received no input from my flyers, I reluctantly brought the two to the Animal Services shelter to see if they could find the owner. I also put in a request to have Animal Services contact me after the waiting period was over so I could try to find them a home.

Within a few days, the owner of the two Akitas came for them and they were released to him. (Despite the older dog’s poor condition, I was told that the dogs were better off with their owner than at the shelter). When I called and was told the dogs had been released, I was very upset. Who would treat dogs this way and why would Animal Services let them go back to a home where they had been abused?

Fortunately, I was able to find out the name and phone number of the owner and I called him to ask if he needed help with his dogs. He told me that he had no money to feed them and was out of work. I said that I would help out by bringing him some dog food.

When I went to the owner’s home, I saw that he was keeping Niko in a locked outdoor enclosure, not much bigger than a cage where the dog was exposed to cold, rainy weather. The female was not on the premises. (He told me that he was using the dogs to “make babies” so he could sell them – aka: a backyard breeder). In this case, he never took the dog to a vet and had no plans to in the future, even though he was obviously very sick).  Also, I noticed a small food bowl in his cage but no water.  Depending on what the family was eating that day, that would be what Niko would get –  a very poor diet for a canine.

The pen in which he was kept was filthy and infested with bugs. Niko’s coat was also filthy and he smelled really bad. I knew I had to get this dog out of  these hellish conditions or I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

For   the next three weeks, I continued to keep in touch with “Oscar.” I offered to take the dog – he said no. I asked if he needed any food. He said no. I asked if I could bring the dog to the vet. A week or so after I made that offer, the man agreed, as long as I would   pay for it. That was one of the happiest days of my life!  The following day, November 8, 2010, I drove to his house and removed Niko from his kennel to take him to my vet.  As I sped away, I knew I would not be able to part with him if he survived.

Malnutrition Was the Diagnosis, photo below of what he looked like

My vet diagnosed Niko as suffering from severe malnutrition with a bronchial infection. He was also anemic from the flea infestation.  While a healthy male Akita can weigh 120 – 130 lbs, this poor guy only weighed 90 lbs. at that time; you could place your finger in the space between his ribs.

When I spoke with “Oscar” again, I told him about the vet’s diagnosis and how much money it has cost (nearly $1000) for veterinary care. Since he had already been neutered, this dog had no value to him anymore.

Over the next few days, I received calls from his sister in law, who, again, tried to convinced me to give some money to Oscar – in addition to paying the vet bill.  I told her that my expenses more than paid for what I would have given him.

The following day, I got a call from Oscar’s neice who said I could have Niko. I asked for his papers and medical records and she agreed to give them to me. When I met her, I told her that I would make sure Niko was well cared for and loved. She asked if I would let her kids visit him in the future. I said that would be fine – however, I never heard from her again.

Now What Do I Do?

I hadn’t really planned on having a third dog – two was enough, but I had to help Niko out of this bad situation so I fixed a bed for him in the back of my car. It was cool in my garage and it sure was better than being in his filthy kennel. During the day, he had the run of my yard, although I had to keep a watch on him and as my other male – a Chow/Retriever mix – who was trying to start fights when they were in the same room. Over the first few months, I had to break up a few and I got bit a few times – no big deal.  Eventually, I was able to teach the two males that they had to share the space inside my home and that everything was going to be okay.

The other issue I had was in teaching Niko to walk on a leash. I don’t think he had ever been walked before. After several injuries to my shoulder and knee, I took him to a pet trainer and got him some behavior modification, which he did very well with. He was a quick learner and had a good attitude.

Over the first year or two, things settled down. He began sleeping on my bed and the problems with my other male subsided as they learned to respect one another’s space. This was good because I liked to take all three of my dogs out in the car when I ran errands and they loved the outings. Niko would stick his whole big head out of the window and sniff the air. That always got a lot of smiles from the people we passed in my car. Everyone loved Niko – some even thought he was a polar bear!

Niko lived to be almost 15 years old, which is amazing for an Akita. He was an excellent watchdog , always waiting in my front yard for me to return home. He patrolled the yard and kept my home safe. No one dared to trespass into my yard. In addition to being an excellent crime deterrent, he was compassionate, loving, and caring. He let me know every day that he appreciated the home I gave him. He frequently looked me in the eyes and gave me his paw and a big wet kiss.

Losing Niko was inevitable. He was having trouble walking and this affected his ability to get outside when he needed to pee and poop. For me, that was something that I was willing to put up with – not a reason to put him down. I just got doggie diapers for him and he seemed fine with wearing them when he was in the house.

Finally the day came when he had a medical emergency and I knew it was the end. Making that decision was very hard but I knew I didn’t want Niko to be in pain any longer. I also knew it would be one of the greatest losses in my life, and it is.

Losing a friend, someone who depends on you, someone who loves you more than life itself, leaves an imprint that can’t be easily erased. You have to grieve that loss and that’s what I am doing as I write this. Niko passed on September 10, 2018 and my home feels empty without him, even with my other two 13-year olds, Mojo and Lily (and Aggie, my roommate’s 3 year old).  I have no regrets. It was all worth it for the love I had from that beautiful dog.

So if you ever see a stray in the road, don’t just drive by and hope that it doesn’t get hit by the next car. Pull over and help it if you can. That animal will love you unconditionally and your life may become more fulfilling – as mine most definitely did.

Memoirs: Lifelong Stories

My grandmother at age 16, 1917

Everyone has a story to tell – and for that reason, Writer For Hire Pat Kramer has created the Lifelong Stories memoir writing service to capture the valuable memories our elders hold that we don’t want to lose.

Over the years, Pat has written memoirs for business professionals – about them and their businesses, families, and senior members of a family. In addition to preserving their legacies, these memoirs often bring family members together as they share in the reading of mutual memories.

Memoirs written by Writer For Hire include:

“The Rebel and the Rabbi’s Son,” Izzy Eichenstein’s memoirs of growing up in a Jewish Hassidic dynasty and choosing to leave the fold,

“Born in Basra,” by Bushra Rothstein, a memoir of her early years as a Jewish child during a time of turmoil in Iraq and her subsequent journey and life in America, where she now leads her own practice as a psychotherapist.

“My Life in Retrospect,” by Los Angeles investment banking founder Lawrence Hurwitz. Raised by a father who was Austin, Texas’ first Jewish motorcycle cop, and a mother, who had the distinction of being the first woman to attend business school at Boston University, his memoir is both a tribute to his parents and a legacy of his own life.

Senior Memoirs:

Memoirs of Julia Vera Keys, Catalina Island’s first woman pioneer, as related by her granddaughter Susan Keys;

Dorothy Wing, who spent four years of her childhood in a Japanese internment camp with her family;

Shirley Friedlander, a runway model in the 1930’s and the daughter of a New Jersey bootlegger;

Janette McCormack, raised in Glasgow, Scotland in a dirt poor family, she moved to America and started a family and later, earned her teaching credential to work with Special Needs adults;

Vito D’Erasmo, born on Long Island to a working class Italian family, Vito recognized his potential, early on, earning a college degree before becoming a banking official in Los Angeles;

Virginia Walker who, as a young woman, was raised on a 40-acre farm in Indiana before marrying her late husband, who would become an oil industry executive in California. Virginia’s memoirs describe her early life on the prairie, coming to California, raising her family, her life with and loss of her first husband and finally, a second marriage and the loss of her second husband. Throughout it all, there is a message of optimism and hope.

Family Memoir:  Additionally, Pat has written the Morochnick Family Memoir – a story that remembers each of her extended family members from four generations and their connections to the world.

 Business Memoir:  Finally, Pat has written business memoirs, such as Ward Service History in Monrovia, California, depicting the evolution of its 90-year history. Ward Service is the 2nd oldest, family run auto business in California having survived economic ups and downs, changes in technology, the gasoline wars, and multiple relocations. This history was distributed to the media and to the 350+ people who attended its 90-year anniversary party in 2013.

If you want your memoir or that of someone else in your family written, please contact Writer For Hire Pat Kramer.

Should Eric Clapton Pay Rita Coolidge for Writing the Piano Coda for “Layla?”

Rita Coolidge performing in Pasadena on July 14, 2018 at The Rose.

Back in 1970, singer/songwriter Rita Coolidge wrote a song with a very memorable piano riff and played it for guitarist Eric Clapton, with whom she had sung background vocals while the two performed as part of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Coolidge was then dating drummer Jim Gordon, who played in Clapton’s band Derek and the Dominos. After showing the song to Gordon, who added his own touch to Coolidge’s song, the two took it to Clapton with the expectation that he might cover it. The song was called “Time (Don’t Let the World Get in Our Way)” and was later recorded by Rita’s sister, Priscilla Coolidge.

After not hearing back from Clapton about her song, Coolidge was surprised when Clapton released “Layla,” a year later and used her music as the memorable and haunting piano coda. While Clapton gave drummer Gordon songwriting credit, Coolidge’s name was blatantly absent. Layla would rise on to #1 on the charts and make many millions of dollars for Clapton, taking his recording career to new heights.

Back in the early ‘70s, artists were not as well represented as they are now. At that time, Coolidge was in her 20s and had not yet established herself as a recording artist. When she realized that her song had been released by Clapton, she contacted his manager Robert Stigwood, who reportedly said to her, “What are you going to do about it?  Are you going to go up against Stiggy?”  This is documented in her memoir, Delta Lady.

“I was at A&M one afternoon in 1971 after I’d finished my first album, getting promotional photos taken,” says Coolidge. “The photographer had turned on the radio while he worked. Suddenly, it dawned on me: the song on the radio was my song – except that I’d never recorded it. I cried, “That’s my music! That’s my music!”  It was “Time,” the song Jim and I had written at the Garfield house and played for Eric at Olympic Studios. The song was “Layla” and “Time” had been appropriated as-the-soon-to-be famous “piano coda” that gives Eric’s greatest song its bittersweet denouement…What they’d clearly done was take the song Jim and I had written, jettisoned the lyrics, and tacked it on to the end of Eric’s song. It was almost the same arrangement.”

Jeremy Smith is a Los Angeles-based intellectual property attorney who works with songwriters helping them protect their trademarks and copyrights. He says, “You’re never going to hear Eric comment on this; he’s never going to acknowledge that a huge part of one of the most successful songs recorded came from her, or didn’t come from her, because he doesn’t have any motivation to address it.  This is a story that happens on a daily basis in the music business. We won’t ever hear Eric’s version, which may be quite different, as is often the case.”

So what could Coolidge have done differently to have protected herself, and is there a statute of limitations for her to contact him now?

Smith states, “She could have registered the copyright, which isn’t done by most writers but would have been the best evidence of the date of creation and also would have created some much stronger enforcement provisions and potential damages for her to recover.  Many writers do what’s called a “poor man’s copyright” – they put the material – lyrics, music, recording – in an envelope and mail it to themselves, never to open it again until necessary to prove up the date the material was created.  Unfortunately for Rita, the statute of limitations has probably expired.  Under federal law, you have three years to bring the claim.  There is some divide as to when that clock starts ticking – whether at the time of discovery or the time of “injury” – but either way based on the timeline it has long passed.”

For Coolidge, who is still recording and performing 48 years later, it was disappointing.

“I deserved credit for my work. I never wanted the money. I just wanted my name on it.” She adds, “If I sound bitter, I’m not. Layla has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in songwriting royalties – maybe millions – over the years for Eric. But I know that part of Jim’s share actually went to his daughter, Amy. And that, finally, was how I was able to deal with it, just knowing that she had something from her dad.”

(Jim Gordon was later convicted of brutally murdering his mother in a schizophrenic episode and remains incarcerated).

Coolidge acknowledges the other songwriters who contributed to “Layla” saying, “Layla has a lot of fathers. Duane Allman may have adapted part of the song’s guitar riff from Albert King’s vocal on “As the Years Go Passing By,” but I think it’s time everyone knew that it also has a ‘mother.’”

Is it time for Clapton to come clean and do what’s right?  Or will he hide behind the law and say, “It’s too late.”   

Since he has become known as a philanthropist, making a nice gesture of support on Coolidge’s behalf – and giving her a long-delayed songwriting credit – would go a long way toward making amends.