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line, or challenge themselves on the high ropes obstacle course. They can ride a camel, paddle a swan boat and even touch a stingray or shark. The Zoo is also home to more exotic animals, like a troop of seven chimpanzees, three lions and a flock of penguins. A brand new bobcat is taking up residence and the Children’s Zoo was completely renovated. And don’t miss the biggest beast of them all, Nessie floating in the park’s “pond.” The zoo re-opens for the season on March 1.

Feeling peckish, I stopped at EL GRANJERO MEXICAN GRILL (950 Bridge St.). It has the best Mexican food in town. Not Dutch wet burrito Mexican. It’s Mexico City, Mexico Mexican food. You may know it as El Ganadero, or even Grand Opening after the sign on display for years. New owners Mercedes and Paola Lopez bought it in 2007 and updated the interior and expanded the menu. The mother-daughter team is proud of their authentic recipes and ingredients, such as Mexican sausage, beef tongue and tripe as well as chicken and ground beef. I began my meal with a Tlacoyo, a moist cornmeal base covered in refried beans and fresh cactus salsa. Green and summery. Then I ordered the Chicken Enchilada smothered in fragrant green salsa. I’ll be back for lunch and dinner.

Time to recharge with a latte. FERRIS COFFEE & NUT COMPANY (227 Winter Ave.) has been delighting West Siders for 80 years. While Ferris serves restaurants and corporate accounts, they also have a cute retail store that sells classic items at good prices. Emily VanStee and Christina Mrozik helped me shop for freshly roasted cof- fee and nuts as well as luscious chocolates. Unlike their pretentious brethren downtown, these freckle-faced baristas don’t make you wait while your coffee steeps through a civet bladder. Grab a cup of Java to go along with popular treats like the Cherry Berry Mix, Colossal Cashews, or Dark Chocolate Grizzlies. Foodies will like that Ferris can fill special requests. You can get green coffee cherries to roast at home in a popcorn popper. They sell raw almonds as well as bulk chocolate so you can make your own candy. Sweet.

I stepped out of the shop and was struck by the PIERCED VEIL. James H. Devries, a retired businessman and “artist,” made this monumental metal sculpture. Located on Winter Avenue across from Ferris Coffee, where it sits under the watchful eye of Ms. Mrozik, the two-story sculpture tells how God’s love is thrust mercilessly into the souls of believ- ers. You will see the two legs of the piece pointed to the sky, spread willingly by a massive, rigid phallus-like tube. From the cylinder’s O-shaped orifice, the juice of God’s love pours on the ground. Viewing the sculpture while holding a handful of this reporter’s warm, salty nuts is a magical experience. It also makes one have to go pee.


Work off that latte at the DAVID D. HUNTING YMCA HUMAN PERFORMANCE LAB (475 Lake Michigan Dr). Previously restricted to elite athletes, the Lab uses pro-style sports science techniques to determine metabolic profiles, nutritional needs and individualized workout plans. Sound hard? Specially trained YMCA personnel make it simple. The Lab establishes baseline, peak and optimal readings. As you progress, reassessments are used to tweak your routines for maximal success. Bring a training buddy and the Lab is around $30 a session. Whether you’re a busy mom with a belly bulge or a hardcore athlete training for

YMCA’s Indoor Triathlon, the Human Performance Lab will help you finally reach those fitness goals.

Riding the abandoned streets, like a lone wolf, I started to feel lost. So I went to the COMMUNITY MEDIA CENTER (711 Bridge St.). “The CMC collects technology, tools, expertise and community venues and deploys them to strengthen public conversations,” said Executive Director Laurie Cirivello. It holds awesome classes throughout the year that can teach you how to record, edit and broadcast your own program. Learn how to use FinalCut Pro, the Mobile Production Studio and the Sony VX-2000 video camera. With the proper training, you can produce shows for Cable Channel 25, WYCE public radio, or even stage productions at Wealthy Theatre.

Knowing that I needed to write this column on my MacBook, I ended up at COMPUCRAFT (620 Stocking Ave. NW). Owner Bill Smith has been serving the Apple community for almost 25 years. How do they compete with the Justin Biebers in the Apple Stores with their skinny t-shirts and doe-like eyes? Provide high-touch service and the same computers you’d find online at the same price along with other specialized equipment. While they like walk-ins, CompuCraft focuses on serving professionals who make cash money with their shiny Macs. In fact, customers and their dollars come from Cadillac to Kalamazoo to the former woodworking shop. Even City Hall knows to buy their Macs from CompuCraft.

I woke up the next day with Miss Polish Festival 1997 at my side and a tramp stamp on my back. So what did I learn? West Siders will put Rumple Minze on anything? Yes. The liver is an endangered species on the West Side? Of course. n

Send your West Side tales to PHOTOS // Steven de Polo; Holiday Bar: David Carson



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