Menace in Venice
“We open in Venice…that heartless, tartless menace”
—apologies to Cole Porter.
Assuming that Amelia’s brother Nathaniel will travel with them from Rome to Milan, Mel reserves a room for three at the Frommer-recommended Locando Aschenbach in Venice. (they say the host is great). His confirmation reads as follows:
Your reservation details
Tuesday, May 3, 2011, check-in 10:30 am – 7:00 pm
Thursday, May 5, 2011, check-out before 11:00 am
Total room price
Then Amelia, talking to her sister, finds that Nathaniel is with her, at which point he gets on the line to tell her he’s decided not to go to Italy with her and Mel after all, but that he will of course pay for any expenses incurred due to his late cancellation of travel plans.
Mel receives this news with pain and unhappiness because he knows it all but confirms his sense of the decline of his twenty plus year friendship (or illusion thereof) with Nathaniel. It is especially painful for him because he knows it is somewhat his fault. Above all, what hurts is that Nathaniel didn’t tell him directly what he already suspected but hoped was not true, but waited till very late in the game when it was very difficult to make changes that earlier would have been simple. It is true that most of the changes were easy enough to make. But all the pain and trouble he experienced came to center on his reservation with the hotel in Venice.
First he writes the Italian booking agency he’s been working with, asking they change the room in Venice from a reservation for three to a reservation for two., writing as follows:
I need to modify this reservation, to reserve one for 2 not 3 persons, same 2 nites, non-smoking, with bath. is this possible?
Vorei cambiare la reservacione—camera doble, no triple, e posible??
A day later, he receives a response which goes like this:
Wednesday, April 06, 2011 5:19 AM
We have received your request to change your reservation. Please note that the rate booked for this reservation is non-refundable. This means that your booking cannot be modified or cancelled without penalty. These conditions were detailed during the reservation process and also appear in your confirmation email.
Please see below for the hotel’s policy regarding non-refundable reservations.
* Please note, if cancelled, modified or in case of no-show, the total price of the reservation will be charged.
Cancellation Cost in local hotel time:
* € 320
This reservation cannot be cancelled free of charge.
Despite these firm conditions, Booking.com has approached the hotel on your behalf to seek their approval to modify your booking and we are pleased to advise the hotel has agreed, in this specific instance, to allow you the flexibility to modify without penalty. However, the hotel has advised if we amend your booking to a Double Room for 2 guests it will be at the same rate as the Triple Room as you have booked a non-refundable rate.
If you accept the cost and wish to amend to a Double Room, please inform Booking.com at your earliest convenience.
Thank you again for contacting Booking.com. Please feel free to contact us with any additional questions.
Customer Service Team
Well, that steams Mel up. So he sends a brief reply:
We shall maintain the reservation as booked, although we consider the concession offered as absurd and worthy of an alert to other tourists on the internet. What do we gain by the concession? the privilege of a smaller room for the price of a larger? Absolutely nothing positive—the change offered here is tantamount to an insult.
In any event you may tell them thanks, but no thanks. You may also tell them we are not pleased by their lack of understanding. All our other bookings for 3 were quite willing to change to 2 without any penalty.
PS. For the record what was the initial price as a double rather than a triple, so I know what to charge my late-cancelling 3rd party?
So then he receives this answer from the agency
Thank you for contacting Booking.com again.
We apologize for any inconvenience caused as a result of this issue.
We are very sorry that the hotel has decided to adhere to the conditions of the reservation and were not willing to modify without penalty. Unfortunately, Booking.com is only in the position to request and strongly encourage that hotels accommodate guests in situations such as this.
Your reservation is confirmed as unmodified and remains for the original dates and room type booked.
Thank you again for contacting Booking.com. Again we apologize for any inconvenience.
We hope to be your choice for future online reservations.
To which he sweetly responds:
RE: Locanda Aschenbach (828721379)
I just wish to note that if you can’t get your hotels to act reasonably then maybe you should stop dealing with them or travelers like me should stop dealing with you.
Indeed, Mel went on to cancel some of his bookings with this agency and rebook elsewhere. But he did not change his Venice reservation, first because the penalty was immense, but also because he liked Frommer’s description of the place, the location was perfect, and Frommer’s words about the manager made him hope for a positive experience in spite of all—one that he and Amelia would enjoy in spite of Nathaniel’s decision and the complications it had wrought.
Of course, it didn’t help when, upon reading the address, the vaporetto representative (was she not perhaps the Locanda’s agent as well?) sent the couple on a trip to the wrong landing, so they had to walk with three bags through crowds on the narrow embankment path till they finally found their way to the hotel. There was the Locanda, and there they entered and found the manager who greeted them with surprise.
“But, signori, I sent you an email last night telling you we were overbooked here and that we had moved you to another hotel we own.”
Mel looked at him in dismay. “I didn’t see your email,” he said, “and I checked my mail at about 11 p.m.”
“Ah, but I sent it later,” said the manager.
“Well I didn’t see it, and now we are here, where we’re supposed to have a room for three; and you tell me you’ve placed me in a hotel which I have not reserved.”
“I am sorry, but that’s our policy,” he said. “You are of course free to cancel your reservation, although I’m sure you understand that the money cannot be returned.”
“Well, I saw no such clause in anything I agreed to.”
“It is understood,” said the manager, smiling, “Some things are understood, especially here in Italy. And in Venice to be sure.”
Mel was about to continue the discussion, but Amelia stopped him. “Mel, what are going to do? Start looking for another hotel with all our luggage on top of us, and no guarantee we’ll get reimbursed for this one?”
“Your wife, if you’ll excuse me, is a very intelligent and reasonable woman,” said the manager. “So I’ll tell you what—I’ll see your luggage is moved to the new hotel, you follow this little map and you’ll get there soon enough and I meet you there. All this in the name of compromise and good Italian-American relations.”
“I’m from Puerto Rico,” Amelia parried.
“Ah but you belong to United States,” he answered with a silly smile that seemed like a smirk.
Now it was clear that it was Amelia who was most ready for a fight. But as angry at the manager as he was, Mel nevertheless agreed to his offer, though he could not resist the temptation to add something to the mix:
“You’re a very famous man, you know?”
“Frommers says you’re the top—the most charming and hospitable hotel manager in all of Venice.…And yet you know we’re quite upset to start with, because you wouldn’t change our room from a three to a two.”
“Ah,” said the hotel man, “that’s because you went through the agency. You should’ve called me directly. Now I think there’s nothing I can do.”
“Well, now you change our hotel to an area and hotel we have no knowledge of and we’re to take it on faith that the location is as desirable as the overpriced accommodation we contracted for, and all this on a late notification that we never received and we have no proof of your even trying to send. So I hope you can at least now guarantee you will see to it that we have a wonderful room, with excellent service and a wonderful stay.” “But that goes without saying,” said the manager. “As to the rest of it, as you yourself state, you have no proof that we didn’t notify you and we, as I say, have reserved the right to modify reservations according to the needs and circumstances of the management.”
With that, he came around the counter and concluded, “It is said that Venice is a labyrinth of problems—a comedy of errors, a place of masks and dangers, resentments, disguises and paybacks big and small—have you read the story by your wonderful Edgar Allen Poe?”
“Who has not?” Mel answered. “But have you read “Morte a Venezia?” he asked.
“Ha! I see you are an educated man. But remember above all your beloved Shakespeare.”
“I do,” Mel assured him.
“In this case, if I may say so, you are Shylock, even though you think it is I who demands the pound of flesh.”
Mel was torn between amusement and outrage at the literary game and of course the racial profiling. “I suppose that makes my wife Portia,” was all he could master.
“But no trouble, be happy,” answered the manager, “to quote a Caribbean song.” And with that, he gave them instructions of how to get to their new lodgings. “Don’t worry—not to worry at all,” he said, “You’ll be happy in our little hotel.”
Little was the right word. On arrival, Mel and Amelia inspected the room and realized it was barely adequate for two. So when the affable literary-minded manager arrived, and asked Mel how he liked the room, he answered by saying. “Well I ordered a room for three and this one’s barely fit for two.”
“Depends how you measure things. In Venice we have to squeeze a bit.”
“It seems to me you’re squeezing us.”
“Ah, but it’s not good for the green planet you should want excessive space.”
“To match the excessive price,” Mel said. “Look,” he added “the place is ok but not as good as the other one and the area’s less desirable.”
“A matter of view point again, my friend,” said the manager.
“Well, if you’re only giving us a room for two, you should only charge us for that.”
“But all our rooms here are for two,” said the manager smiling again.
“So why should we pay for three?” Mel asked, all but exasperated.
“Because you told us that there were three of you and we always aim to comply with our guests, but not at the price of the planet or of Venice. Here we consider it uncivilized to exact a pound of flesh.”
At that point, Amelia suggested they move on or they would see nothing in the city but the manager.
“Well he’s certainly a piece of work,” said Mel, “And an anti-Semite to boot.”
“Welcome to Venice,” Amelia said as they left the hotel finally to explore once again one of humanity’s wildest urban concoctions.
The hotel was in the university area, and its locale was not unpleasant even though it was far from what they had hoped for. On their way toward the steep bridge they had to cross to take a vaporetto ride, they passed a sign with an image of Rickie Martin announcing his upcoming performance set for the following month. Mel could not resist taking Amelia’s picture in front of the sign and also, inevitably, buying tickets for a performance of The Four Seasons that evening. Then of course it was off to the Piazza San Marco once again, a tour of the cathedral, a walk over to the Rialto, lunch and a visit to a prime palazzo. They walked along the waterways, considered taking the gondola ride they had failed to take on their previous trip. But overcome by fatigue, they returned their hotel and rested until concert time. Trying to turn on the TV, they discovered it was not working. Mel called the lobby, and a workman appeared and played with the control and the set, but then had to admit the system was old and tricky and he was unable to get it going. He would look for some one to fix it, he said, but it was rather late already, and he doubted any one would come till the next day.
The concert was as mediocre as the couple expected—a repetition of their experience with Mel’s now diseased friend Martín some nine years before in Florence. And then the search for dinner and evening drinks afterwards was a virtual nightmare. So cursing their locale and their prospects for the evening, weary from their morning trip from Ferrara and their hotel troubles, they retreated to their room where indeed the television failed to function. They called the desk clerk, and he came to the room and tried and failed. They spent awhile reading Frommer and planning their next day, and then went to sleep without news of life and the world, without a play of fantasy or anything at all.
After breakfast they wandered out along the waterways trying to decide how to spend their day, when at last, seeing a sign advertising a performance of (what could it be but?) The Merchant of Venice, Mel bought them tickets for a play by Goldoni, and then said, “Let’s visit the Jewish quarter.”
They followed their guidebook instructions, taking a vaporetto to one place, and then asking people along their way until they finally found themselves in what had been touted as Europe’s oldest ghetto. Soon they were touring the synagogues you could tour, with a guide who described the Sephardic community, and then the coming of the Ashkenazi with the booming Adriatic economy, of how they were protected by the Doggi but held in check by their ghettoization. Going into one place of worship and then another, Mel was struck by the different plaques commemorating the deceased, or maybe, implicitly, the money paid for the commemorations. It seemed that all the wildly different names of the Jewish diaspora lay out before him, and among them he found a few that resonated in his limited knowledge of things Jewish in Italy and Venice itself. Of course there were the many Levis who reminded him of Carlo and of course Primo, two of Italy’s most famous twentieth century authors, the second one, whom he had studied and taught in recent years, being one of the most telling writers of the Holocaust. Finally he came upon the name of Finzi, as in De Sica’s film of upper class Italian Jews. He asked the tour guide if the film were based on the story of this family. No, she said, “there are many Jewish families named Finzi, and this family is not that, their story not that family’s. So again in Venice, nothing was what it seemed. Still, Mel remembered Primo Levi’s account of the rounding up of the Jews throughout Italy, and their transport to Auschwitz.
His image of Italy turned terribly grim and he sought to escape the daily round of pasta, pizza and anti-pasta by a Jewish meal at the famed restaurant on the main business street of the ghetto. There he and Amelia had a combination plate featuring Ashkenazi as well as Sephardic or Israeli seeming plates, while he spoke to her of the evacuation and slaughter of his fellow tribe members. “The Jewish fate in this town was quite dark long before our arrival,” he said.
In the afternoon, they took the varporetto to the Lido, where he had never gone in all his prior trips. They walked to the beach itself and saw flocks of birds on the shore where in a few months tourists would be roaming and polluting the area. Of course he thought of Death in Venice and Visconti’s ponderous adaptation, the sun, the cholera stricken bodies, and with all the menace that came with plague and contamination, he could almost hear Mahler’s overwhelming music. Then it was time to return and rest, prior to the play. They were happy to see that their literary host was nowhere to be seen as they entered their room only to find that their TV still did not work; and later he gave up trying to adjust it when it was time for them to leave for the theater.
The play was A Servant of Two Masters, which he had seen with Eileen Cotrell in a version by the Giorgio Strehler’s Teatro Picolo di Milano, at the Geary Theatre in Chicago. It was the same magnificent play, though the production was lighter and less intelligible than Strehler’s efforts to bring forward the Commedia del arte roots of the play. Clearly Strehler’s influence was in every scene, but without the same Artaudian effect. Still the magic of this Italian Molière was there to be seen even if Mel and Amelia could understand only the simplest phrases. Indeed Mel had the deepest sense that they themselves were part of a commedia as harlequinesque buffoons constantly slipping on Caribbean banana peels on some slippery canal-drenched street.
Returning to the hotel, they found the manager there cranking out numbers on the computer. “You have a good time?” he asked, pleasantly enough, looking up at them from over the top rim of his glasses. “You enjoy your room after all?”
“Yes, fine Mel said, “But we can’t get the TV to work.”
“Ah no problem.” “You go to your room and turn it on. If you have problems, call me and I take care of it.”
Thus assured, the couple returned to their room, and, settling in, they once again tried the TV, but to no avail. Finally, reluctantly, Mel called the manager who came almost immediately, took the control and did a set of maneuvers that Mel tried to follow, but failed to grasp.
“There!” said the manager, self-satisfied. “Simple really,” he added. “You are Americani, you should know technology, no?”
“I’m from Puerto Rico,” Amelia reminded, the resentment toward his imperialism eating at her.
“Well, at least we have television, “Mel said, but when he tried to change the channel, the set went dead again. He tried to adjust it but again to no avail. He then tried to call the manager again but could not get through to the front desk. He then started to put on his pants to go down stairs. But Amelia stopped him.
“Forget about it,” she said, “it’s useless,” and she fell off to sleep.
Mel read a bit too and considered why he’d chosen Goldoni over Shakespeare and why he’d chosen to go to the ghetto that day, until he too fell asleep.
With the morning came the climax of their Venice hiatus. Quickly they prepared their bags and got ready to vacate their room. At breakfast, the worker who tried to help them with the TV asked if it worked last night. “No,” Mel explained, “The manager came to fix it but it stopped working right after he went away. But thanks for your help any way,” he said, giving him an ample tip.
When they returned to their room and brought the luggage down to the desk, Mel saw Amelia struggling with a small bag, and he realized she was not up for lugging heavy loads through the streets, especially over the high bridge they would have to cross and then lug on to a vaporetto still quite a distance from there. “You think I can get some help with the luggage?” he asked his favorite manager. “I’m quite willing to pay, if you can spare a worker.”
“No, we cannot do that,” he said. “We brought your luggage here and now my workers are busy. I am busy, we have done enough for you.” He seemed amazingly irate.
“Well if you can call a porter for me…”
“That is not possible.,” he said emphatically.
“Well can you tell me where I can find one?”
“Listen all you do is give me heartache since you come here,” he said. “You and yes your lady too. I hear you say this hotel is not as good as Locanda Aschenbach, that we rob you, cheat you. But it is you who are the robbers and cheaters who demand things no one else demands. You tell my employee I didn’t fix your TV right when you are incompetent to manage it and then mess it up. You mess it up, not me! I should charge you for the damage and insults I’ve had to tolerate.”
“Look, signore,” Mel said “you violated your contract from the start, and I’ve had enough.”
“Enough is right,” said the manager, “Get out of my hotel.”
“Frommer will hear about this,” Amelia said, as Mel moved her and the luggage out the door and toward the long and difficult walk that awaited them.
The couple struggled but finally succeeded in getting to the Hertz station where they rented a car and made it out of town, on their way to their visit in Padua, with their unrefundable reservations for three to see Giotto’s famous murals. Then it would be on to Vicenza, Verona, and countless places more until they reached their final destination on their whirlwind trip.
It was only some days after they returned to Chicago that Mel remembered to search for a note from the hotel manager changing the locale of his reservation. The effort was to no avail. But he did receive a surprising exchange of emails sent to him bcc:
From: Booking.com Customer Service [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2011 9:44 AM
Subject: Locanda Aschenbach (828721379)
Dear Hotel Partner,
Thank you for your assistance and response upon guest, reference 828721379 .
I was sorry to learn about the inconvenience in the way the guest has acted.
I would like you to note, that it is difficult to track guests that might misconduct during their stay. We do however take your notes extremely serious, to avoid such issues in future.
In any case of a bad review from the guest, we will consider with our higher levels to delete it.
We appreciate your cooperation regarding this matter and if you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact our Customer Service Department.
Customer Service Team
As if to eliminate any doubt about what the Customer Service team was referring to, they were kind enough to leave the note to which they were responding—though it was in Italian only.
Ci scusiamo se Vi disturbiamo, ma questa volta siamo noi personale dell’albergo che facciamo delle lamentele nei confronti dei Signori Clienti. I Signori Clienti della prenotazione in oggetto si sono comportati molta male e con poca educazione nei riguardi del nostro personale, fin dall’arrivo si sono lamentati in quanto era variato il numero dei partecipanti e volevano un rimborso sull’importo ( cosa non possibile in quanto era una tipologia prepagata e non rimborsabile) poi hanno cominciato a contestare il fatto che non funzionasse la tv satellitare ( cosa non vera, La Signora non era capace ad utilizzare i telecomando, noi Le lo abbiamo spiegato, ma continuava ad asserire il contrario).
Questa mattina , alla partenza, “pretendevano” che portassimo Le loro valigie alla fermata del Vaporetto, ma abbiamo spiegato loro che non potevamo farlo in quanto esistono delle persone apposite a questo lavoro che vengono pagate, ma non hanno voluto e ci hanno risposto che con”tutti i soldi che ci avete rubato, potevate almeno portarci i bagagli”.
A questo punto, davanti a tanta ignoranza e maleducazione, abbiamo deciso di non accettare più altri insulti e Li abiamo invitati cortesemente ad andarsene.
Ora , sarà una decisione del proprietario, vedere se procedre legalmente nei confronti dei Sigg. Clienti, dato che il tutto si è svolto davanti ad alti Sigg. Ospiti, i quali sono rimasti indignati di tale comportamento nei nostri confronti e ci hanno sostenuto “cercando di far capire loro” che a tutto esiste un limite
Locanda Aschenbach First Class Inn
Mel showed Amelia the letter and he tried his best to translate it as best he could, but apparently not understanding it fully, thinking they were acused not only of rudeness but robbery. With great ire, he shot off his response to booking.com:
RE: Locanda Aschenbach (828721379)
Tuesday, June 07, 2011 12:37 PM
I cannot read Italian to perfection, but my sense is that the owner writing you has slandered me in his account of my stay at his hotel. The fact is he reassigned us to another hotel, by his own account giving us notice one night before we arrived and when we had no computer access (in fact I have found no note of his in my email account). This last minute change meant great inconvenience to me. He did indeed offer to bring our bags to the new room. but the room and the hotel were not what or where we wanted or had ordered. In addition, it had an old TV system that neither I nor his staff could deal with. So we were without TV the first night and only got TV the second briefly after he fixed it after telling us we were stupid for not being able to figure it out. A few minutes after he left, the TV went off, so so much for the second night. The next morning, my wife was not well, which meant the baggage moving fell to me. So I asked for help and he denied me. I know that other hotels call carriers or porters to help in such cases. When I offered to pay for help, he insulted me and I must say I found his actions and comments bizarre and outrageous. From what I can gather he seems to accuse me of theft. this is totally absurd and indeed libelous. I think he claims there were witnesses who agreed with his behavior, but there were none.
Mel never received a response to his response. But a few days after the manager’s legal threat, he received a letter and ticket for an alleged traffic violation from an office in Venice, with a bill totaling 90 euros that was set to go up to 150 euros if not paid right away. First he wrote to the issuing office as follows:
Comune di Atrani (SA)
C/o Openspftware Service-verbali esteri CMP Venezia
I am writing to appeal a traffic violation allegedly committed by me on 18/04/11, as per citiation CN 07/BB.—Z/838 12/2011—RA17414496811. The fact is I rented the car in question from 04-16 to 04-23. But I was no where near Via dei Dogi, Venezia on those dates. In fact my credit card and hotel billings indicate that I never went further north than Roma on those days and was indeed between Napoli and the Costa Amalfi. I have been traveling and have only received your ticket notification some days ago. I have recently written Hertz about this case. Please accept this appeal and cancel the traffic ticket.
Receiving no response he faxed materials to Hertz which answered as follows:
Thank you for your inquiry regarding your rental in Italy. We sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding regarding the charges billed for the traffic violation. According to our records, Hertz has not charged you for a traffic violation administrative fee. Therefore, you will need to contact the local authorities in Italy to dispute the traffic violation received.
Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this matter.
OKC Customer Services
The Hertz Corporation
Oklahoma City, OK 73134
Mel then wrote back: How is it that after all I paid you, you refuse to help me with respect to a traffic violation I never committed?
“Don’t you see?” Amelia told him, “the manager has connections with the police. He’s terrified you’re going to write Frommer and damage his reputation. He knows he can’t prove his case of us doing something to his hotel, so he goes after you with a traffic ticket. “What Mel would have normally considered madness tantamount to the revenge meted out in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,”he now came to consider the norm.
“These Venetians were vindictive and deceitful always wearing masks, always making a carnivalesque nightmare of everything.” No wonder they had put his people in a ghetto, vilified them in literature and then were among those Italians who collaborated in their shipment to Auschwitz to be gassed.
He surprised himself by so thinking, even if only for a moment. He knew that the Jewish arrests in Venice were relatively few, and it was the police not the people who followed Fascist government orders in the arrests. But he knew too that most of his most negative thoughts came not so much because of the war, nor even because of the racial profiling hotel manager but because of Nathaniel—Nathaniel above all.
In the months which followed, Mel received a seemingly endless number of traffic tickets which he gathered in a file on his desk. Then, not paying any of them, he received second notices—among them a repeat of the one he had received from Venice. Only the obsessive malevolence of the hotel manager could explain all these tickets, he reasoned. Then too, he received no note from Nathaniel asking about any additional costs that might have been incurred due to his cancellation.
Mel swore never to go back to Venice, but still the city moved him in ways difficult for him to say; and he wasn’t sure if, given the opportunity, he might in fact, be unable to resist returning. But if he did return, it occurred to him, they might not let him in because of the unpaid-for tickets. And even if they let him in, he would certainly never go to the Locanda Aschenbach. Of that he was all but sure. And he was also sure that as soon the Italian version of his Venice story appeared, he would send it to Frommers and to Boking.com. He would also practice his feeble Italian above all to read this story naming names and hotels wherever Italians or Italian bookstores might invite him to speak, all but daring those he named to sue him. He was happy as he imagined the process, thinking himself safe in the knowledge that any charges of slander in a text labeled fiction would have a difficult go in an Italian court (was he right?); and he was sadly sure that his fiction would have so small an audience that it was doubtful that the hotel or its owner would ever suffer to any considerable degree from appearing in print.
Of course one could always hope for a larger readership, but perhaps hope was the greatest fiction of all.
 Here is a fairly accurate if somewhat copy-edited google translation: Dear Partners, Sorry if we disturb you, but this time it is the staff of the hotel who complain about our customers and not the opposite.. The guests on the reservation in question have behaved very badly and with little education with respect to our staff, Since their arrival they complained as the numbers had changed and wanted a refund on the amount—which wasnot possible as it was a prepaid and non-refundable type then they did began to dispute the fact that the TV did not work. It was not true, they were not able to use it because they did not follow instructions. We showed them that the remote controls worked, but they continued to assert the opposite. This morning, at the start, they insisted we bring their suitcases at the vaporetto stop, but we explained to them that we could not do it because there are special people you pay to do this work. But they did not want to pay and replied that “with all the money you stole, from us, you could at least bring us the luggage. At this point, faced with so much ignorance and rudeness, we decided not to accept any more insults and we abandoned them Kindly leave, we told them. Now, it will be a decision of the owner, if he wishes to proceed legally against the these customers, since the whole thing was played out in front of several guests, who were outraged with this behavior towards us and supported us in our effort to make them understand that there is a limit to everything Best regards
Marc Zimmerman. Professor Emeritus of the University of Houston and the University of Illinois at Chicago, has written and edited over thirty books on Latin American, Latino and other themes. Director of LACASA Chicago and the Chicago Latino Artists Project (CLAS), he is currently publishing research on Chicago Latino art and literature in El BeiSMan, and has recently published his third and fourth books of fiction, La penisola non trovata (a version to appear in English as The Italian Daze and Lines on the Border). Moorpark, CA. Floricanto Press 2017.