On to Venezuela

Jan. 17, 2005 5:45 a.m.
JFK Airport

Back to work. En route to Venezuela. Sitting here in front of Starbucks thinking about getting a massive chocolate drink. Went through the metal detectors with a ring of keys on a pocketknife in my pants unnoticed.

Saw my family in Knoxville. Ordinarily when I turn the corner at McGhee Tyson Airport I see my father standing at the edge of the waiting area. He's tall and alone and easy to spot, but he's got emphysema now. I knew he would not be there, but when I turned the corner I looked up for a second, then looked down and kept walking.

I was there for a christening and to scout out martial arts schools for my niece Minnie, aged five. My father had listed schools from the yellow pages in order by distance from the house. It did not take long to eliminate a school. First I would stand outside and look at the school. Outside one, two men were peering in the window watching the fighting inside. Without looking over at them I could hear the plop of their tobacco spit hitting the ground. Teens were supervising one school. A man with a belly was teaching at one with no enthusiam. It was more like babysitting. T-shirts were spilled over the entryway floor in one. I smiled and thought maybe I was being too hard. Then I saw little sneakers scattered all over. It was a big school and probably a moneymaker. Two schools were closed but from looking in the window I had hope. It will have to wait until after Venezuela.

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I looked at the picture of your aunt Mary Ellen. It took me a bit to figure out who the guy was with her.

You should smile more often.

— Kemberlyn (Leander, TX)

I enjoy your articles. I'm from Maryville, TN. I left McGhee-Tyson in 1985 for the Air Force...haven't lived there since. It was real refreshing to read about your visit to Knoxville. Memories flooded my mind.

— Doug (Madisonville, KY)


What takes you to Venezuela? You from Knoxville? So is my family. Stay safe in Venezuela...it's not the same place it used to be anymore.

— Ed

As a martial artist it's very refreshing to see that type of insight in the news. These "schools" that claim to be the best are usually just money-making scams out to bilk unsuspecting parents and produce cookie-cutter belts that mean nothing because the child hasn't learned anything. Your comment about babysitting is particularly on target, as the parents, as well as the instructors, do in fact use it as a babysitting tool. I've seen this indifference from parents at my school. Anyway, thanks for writing what we were all thinking. Good luck in your search.

— Matt

Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.