Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sir, I am not looking for Jesus ....I am looking for Jimmy Snuka.

I remember hearing two addresses on T.V. in my childhood. One was for Maryland public T.V. Every week Wall Street Week host Louis Rukeyser would invite viewers to send letters to
"11767 Owings Mills Blvd. Owings Mills, Maryland 21117...Now before we me tonights special guest"

The other address was 8725 N Chautauqua.

As a sports fan I've been to some cool places and done some cool things.

When Portland had a pro football team in the USFL during the 80's I was able to sneak into civic stadium and frolic in the very end zone I had seen Hershel Walker dive into weeks before.

I have seen legends like Steve Largent, Reggie Jackson and Michael Jordan perform at the old Seattle Kingdome.

I've seen the Sonics and Blazers play at their respective coliseums.

I've gone to Boston's Fenway Park to see the Red Sox and I've been to Chavez Ravine
to see the LA Dodgers.

Yet, I never got to go to the greatest venue of them all.
The Portland Sports Arena.

Last weekend Dawn, Buddy the Poodle and myself spent the weekend in Portland Oregon(we originally thought we were going to Seattle, but that a story for a different time). Dawn had a conference that lasted all day on Sunday, while I new I was going to have to entertain myself and Buddy.

Right before we left for Portland something occurred to me. Dawn's conference was at the North Portland Veterinary hospital. I remembered something else being in North Portland. So the night before we left I went to Map Quest and typed in the clinics address 3000 N Lombard and 8725 N Chautauqua. To my glee they were less then a mile apart. Half a mile down Lombard, right turn, half a mile down Chautauqua and wallah your their.

While the wrestlers on Big Time wrestling captured my imagination like nothing else the arena was also a source of curiosity. They only used one camera that would show the interviews in the "crows nest" then swing around and show the matches. You would only see the bleachers immediately behind the ring and the first five rows on either side. What did the rest of the arena look like? Maybe, I was going to find out.

I woke up on Sunday morning with hopes that I would be able to conjure up the ghosts of Andre the Giant and Lou Thez, that I would be able to feel the aura of legends like Jack Briscoe, Harley Race, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka all of whom had performed at the Portland sports arena in the 70's and 80's.

I also new the reality that the promotion went out if business 15 years ago and the building was sold a couple years latter.

I dropped Dawn off at 9:00 at the vet hospital and headed down Lombard to Chautauqua.
Then I saw the huge Baptist church and a smaller building next to it.... 8725 N Chautauqua.

As I sat in the car I thought about all those Saturday afternoons watching wrestling with my grandfather. I also thought about the DVD's I purchased earlier this year. Almost all of the matches on the discs are out of chronological order, for me, this gives the arena a field of dreams quality as all these magical characters from my childhood appear out of the background like the ball player walking out of Ray Kinsella's wheat field.

I finally got out of the car and headed to the front door. It looked like they were having a meeting so I didn't go in. I walk around the exterior of the building and let my imagination wander. Then a man came up behind me.

unidentified man: "can I help you with something"

me: "no I am just looking"

I looked around some more and headed back to my car. I then realized the man was still glaring at me. I got in my car and droves up to where the man was.

"what can I help you with"

me: "Sir is this where they use to have the wrestling matches"

man: chuckling "your right this was the old Portland sports arena"

The man went on to explain the history of the Mount Olivet Baptist church and it's mission. I told the man I watched wrestling growing up and wanted to see the arena.
I asked whether I would be able to recognizes any of the interior? He said no, it had been completely remodeled

I thank him for is time, then Buddy and I drove off.

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