A morning out in Shah Alam…La Bodega and the UCLA Bruins
On what you don’t know you don’t know…
We went to La Bodega Tapas Bar and Bistro in the Empire Shopping Gallery for breakfast this past Saturday with the idea that we’d have a ‘western’ breakfast for old time’s sake, run a couple of errands there—pet shop and chemist—and then collect Christie as she alighted from her bus and was dropped off at the local Carrefour supermarket.
I’d been to La Bodega earlier in the week for a latte and noticed that they had a breakfast menu that would tempt any American or Brit who was hankering for a “full English” or “the big breakfast” or even Eggs Benedict.
It was a momentous morning in at least one respect: I drove both ways. This was a big deal because, to date, I have (a) resisted driving or (b) reluctantly agreed only to drive home from some places. In a word, I’ve been a chicken. So this was my first return trip.
I was glad I did though because there was a bonus: in the process, we discovered how to get into the premium parking spaces at the Empire Gallery.
Provision of a premium parking place had eluded us so far; there was a magical entrance somewhere which would deposit us in these coveted parking places and we simply had not found it. But then, usually it was Derek driving and me not having a clue how the parking lots and entrances and lanes were arranged. It’s entirely possible I never spotted it because my eyes were closed tight in stark terror at the way people crowd each other and somehow turn one lane into three, two lanes into five…and so on.
This is worth a digression. In truth, it’s a national travesty. There are complaints about it in the newspaper all the time. Nineteen people die every day on the roads of Malaysia. I’m quite certain they are either the people on scooters running red lights or the people who crowd into other lanes. There’s enough anger and frustration in the country to write sixteen blogs on that and I’m certain many Malaysian bloggers already do.
Suffice to say (easing out of the digression reluctantly) that there are things about driving here that have made me reticent to dip more than three toes into that angry sea of cars. I’ve been observing the bathers on previous trips as a visitor, but, like it or not, it’s time to dive in. Derek is an excellent coach and has been driving here for months. He commutes daily. I sit at home and think about driving—but then go lie down until I feel better. OK, I’m on board now. I drove both ways.
In spite of Derek’s whinging about the addition ‘ringgit’ or two that premium parking would cost us—that’s perhaps 20p or 30c more than the underground carpark—I thought it made sense since we were saving the 10 ringgits we would normally pay for Christie’s cab fare to the house because we were picking her up. OK, so it seemed like a really good idea to me and I was driving. Tah dah! And, since he had the luxury of surveying the surroundings, Derek was at last able to spot the mystical curtain in the parking space continuum through which we could leap into the universe of premium parkers.
To begin with, I am not a fan of the typical multi-storey carparks here. They may have three to six levels of ‘down under’ parking, many hundreds of spaces and may be the best thing since sliced bread—but they are stifling, close and, more importantly, I get lost in them. By the time I follow arrows around and around, down and around, down again and around some more, it’s unlikely I will have any sense of where I am in relation to anything else. I have little enough on the surface of this planet.
Don’t get me wrong. The underground carparks are ok if I am with Derek and he’s navigating them (and he is brilliant at this) and he can lead us back to the precise spot which we left the car (a feat I am unable to even closely approximate) but for me, on my own, an alternative is more than a ‘nice to have’. It’s an “Oh, yes please!”
But if someone says to me “You can pay a few pence or a quarter more and park on the street level, covered, with glossy painted and numbered spaces and be on your way in seconds when you’re finished with your shopping, and it’s mere steps from the restaurant you’re going to on an 85-degree morning, do you really think I am going to park anywhere else? No. I am not.
So, there I was, in space 28, which was a salmon coloured space on a field of grey painted concrete, bordered in shiny white. A concrete upper deck shaded it. This was a spot of parking heaven in a cosmos of unfriendly carpark death stars.
All that is to say that we went to La Bodega and had two lovely (turkey) ham, cheese and mushroom omelettes. They even had rye toast, which I consider a treat as it’s hard to find outside the US or Germany, it seems, and it was all very good. I mean really good.
We each had a latte and discovered that the “small” latte, which they call a “mini” latte, is actually larger than the regular latte, which costs more. The waiter was kind enough to point this out just as we were noticing that my latte (the small one) appeared larger than Derek’s latte (the regular). Why was that? we enquired. It turns out that the cost differential was because Derek’s latte was served in a fancy footed mug with a handle, whereas mine was in a foot-and-handle-less drinking glass.
Very curious but something worth noting, I thought. It probably cost about as much more as the difference between premium and regular parking. I shall have to check this. I’m sure the logic of premium parking will be clearer to my beloved when he realises that he can get a bigger latte for less money next time. One can hope.
Breakfast done, I went to the chemist across the way and Derek went to the lower level to the pet shop. As I emerged from the mall, between to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and O’Brien’s (the globalisation is indeed global here) there was Christie, just walking from her bus stop.
We went to the car—mere steps away—to wait for Derek. I noticed that Christie was wearing a pretty pink t-shirt that said, in large arched letters across the top, “UCLA BRUINS” and then had the University’s emblem and some other text about sports supremacy or something.
“Oh,” I said, “you’re wearing a UCLA t-shirt. Do you know someone in Los Angeles?” Of course, having grown up in Southern California, I assume that everyone on the planet knows about the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the school mascot, the Bruins (a bear).
She looked at me quizzically. I pointed at her chest, trying to be modest and careful where I pointed, where it said UCLA. “It says U-C-L-A,” I said.
“Oh, you mean “uck-lah,” she replied, “I don’t know what is.”
And so we had a lovely conversation about my home state (of course, she DID know California since pretty much the whole planet does know that, probably because of Hollywood), universities and whether or not I went to school there (I didn’t), where my parents lived (Southern California), how I’d come to know Filipinos while living in the US, and so on. It was very sweet.
Unfortunately, I didn’t fare too well when it came to explaining why universities have mascots or what they are, why they might be bears or not, or even why a bear is called a ‘bruin’. There are some things I’ve definitely forgotten along the way. So getting to the ‘bruins’ explanation really was a bridge too far for a bright Saturday morning and here came Derek, anyway, back from the pet shop so the conversation was finished. I really must look up “bruin” though all I can think of at the moment is that it has something to do with the word “brown” in some language.
There really is far more that I don’t known than I knew.