Of allergies, taxes and free lunches

marriage.jpgMarch is usually the month that causes me to cough and sneeze as if it is the end of the world. I am allergic to almost anything natural around here. So, when springtime shows up, my whole body becomes an anti-body to anything that touches it. I have been sneezing constantly. Medication helps, but makes me behave like an alien from planet tomorrow.

March is also the month when I start preparing all the information to do my duty as a law abiding taxpayer. This year is the first year when both my domestic partner and I have to report California income taxes as if we were actually married. Of course, my other half ignores my advice and goes ahead and files his California taxes with the wrong tax status, as a single taxpayer. So, we have to amend his tax forms. It is kind of strange filling amended tax returns when I have not actually filed mine yet.

It is a strange world where I live. The United States is basically a huge country where different parts may have totally different customs. Although there is a whole set of federal laws that binds us together, local and state statutes separate us. This is exemplified by the current tax laws. California decided that registered domestic partners will be treated as married couples for California income tax purposes. As everyone knows, the federal government does not recognize registered domestic partners. So, we now end up with this strange hybrid situation: We have to continue filing as single taxpayers, for federal income tax purposes, while for California purposes we are required to file as married.

Previously, I did not pay much attention to the legal benefits and liabilities of being a married couple, because California domestic partnership statutes mainly dealt with family law issues. But now that California basically states that registered domestic partners are married couples for tax purposes, the whole mantra of community property issues kick in. From my own perspective, that is a step forward. If we want the benefits of marriage, we should also take on the liabilities. I doubt whether a lot of gay couples thought this through before signing the domestic partnership registry. For all practical purposes, everything earned during the partnership is now considered community property. Maybe I should specialize in family law – I can see now messy court fights when domestic partners separate.

Oh, and who said that there is no free lunch? I discovered that I am saving more taxes by filing this hybrid way.

What to do when one is bored?

latin1.jpgI found a good way to pass the time when bored. Visit one of those porn webcam sites. In the beginning, it was out of curiosity after a friend showed me the website. After a few ins and outs, I found that some of the performers are actually quite friendly and there was nothing of all that sleazy sex talk. It is as if I arrived at a cyber geisha place.

There is no denying that the guys are working guys and they will try hard to get money from you. On the other hand, it is like watching and participating on a soap opera. I felt like I was in a normal chat room, with the exception that the guy in front of me was semi-naked. Weird, but it seems to be the norm. Some of the better-at-socializing guys have a harem following them everyday. In a sense, it is better than the usual chat room. There is actually less expectation of sex.

…and if I am still bored

There is also that general political soap opera called the U.S. presidential elections. For awhile, I thought my favorite candidate was done, finish, caput. But never underestimate a Clinton. A lot of people may not like the way that Hillary plays hard politics. I, on the other hand, find it a perfect antidote to that screaming mad AM right-wing talk show hosts (and hostess). Nothing better than have a cup in the morning and hear Rush almost getting a heart attack. How about it? Hillary is like a cat with 20 lives. And not only that, she is an attack cat. My prediction? The Democratic Party’s chairman will eat his own words and announce new primary election dates for Michigan and Florida. That will be the only way to beat the deadlock without going to deal and wheeling ways of a brokered convention.

To my friends around the world: It is the economy, stupid. Forget about changes. Jejejejejeje.

Back home and feeling lazy

lydia-sum.jpgIt has been 10 days since returning back from Peru. Somehow, I have been feeling extremely tired after this trip. Unlike my normal trips, this one was more of an adventure. Lots of walking and trekking. I lost four pounds. Huh, a new campaign for travel agencies: Want to lose weight? Go hiking up the Andes of Peru.

Like each time that I travel, I am glad to be back home. There is nothing better than seeing your loved one waiting for you at the arrival terminal. There is nothing better than sleeping in your own bed, without all the foreign noises permeating through the wall.

This trip made me realize how small this world has become. For instance, I was enjoying a morning sip of coffee and reading a local Lima newspaper, el Comercio. Guess what news was in its entertainment section? It was reporting the death of Lydia Sum (aka as Fei Fei), an extremely popular Hong Kong comedian. It felt surreal reading about her death via an article written in Spanish. I still fondly remember my high school years in Hong Kong, when Lydia Shum was a fixture of the evening TVB entertainment hour. Nobody went to bed before watching her comedy skits.

Ok, some notes of my trip. Right now, Peru is in one of its most stable periods, politically speaking. However, anyone can sense an undercurrent of discontent. Privatization has created a fa├žade of stability. If you are member of the group that is making money, you are extremely happy. The issue is that there is still a huge mass of people who are not improving economically. For them, the last election was stolen from Ollanta Humala, the charismatic former army general. There is also a belief that the whole country was sold to foreign corporations, primarily to Chilean companies, without any safeguards to Peru’s own wellbeing. Personally, I am not surprised. Peru has always swung between extremes. Its main failure, like in a lot of third world country, is the inability to move the majority of the population up the economic ladder.

As for visiting the country, I would definitely stay a few days in Lima and savor the air of a Spanish colonial past. Lima has become a city of extremes. Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco are the main districts where the mestizo middle class is hiding. The center of Lima being given, basically, to the Peruvians arriving from the provinces. It is quite a contrast. I have spoken to guys who have not touched the center of Lima for ages. They just stay in the suburbs.

If you are going to Machu Picchu, then I suggest sidestepping Cusco and heading directly to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. I had Ollantaytambo as the base and it worked perfectly. The lower altitude and green scenery lifted one’s spirits. Cusco is gray and greedy. Talking about greediness, a trip to Machu Picchu is almost beyond the economic scope of most Peruvians. The entrance fee is $40. There is a $12 bus trip, and the train itself (from Ollantaytambo) cost $120 round trip. You can reach Machu Picchu via cheaper route (see here) but it is for the young and foolish. At least everything seems to work on time.