Yo Coglione! Be Happy He Only Cut Your Hair

It was just one week ago I was taking a seat at Mario’s barbershop in Maple Glen when I noticed a calendar hanging on the wall with a familiar image on the cover. I did not envision the picture as most would perceive, but as I had remembered it; peering over lemon trees, rosemary bushes, and olive groves while engulphed in floral perfume looking down onto coral-colored buildings whose reflection subtly fluttered in the flawless blue sea.

I was brought back to reality when the guy in the chair next to me, upon pinpointing where my eyes had landed, interjected, “That’s the worst place in Italy.” Rather than telling him he was wrong I told him another truth, “Beauty is subjective”, to which the man shrugged his shoulders and returned to staring into the mirror, perhaps wondering if people viewed his beauty as highly as he himself.

I was incredibly fortunate to study abroad in Italy (upon dad’s insistence) during my Junior year of college and crossed a few items off my bucket list in the process: skiing the Swiss Alps (in my Flyers jersey); admiring the Statue of David (every time a friend came to visit); fishing the south of Spain complemented by views of northern Africa; and, drinking beer with thousands of Germans outfitted in lederhosen. As memorable as those occasions were, there is one image engraved into my memory. No, it wasn’t the jagged snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, the ancient relics from Italy’s renaissance period, priceless works of art crafted by Van Gogh, or the exotic fish (and women) of Italy and Spain, but rather a small coastal region in Italy, roughly an hour and a half from my apartment in Florence. Yes, the coastal wonder the shortsighted man in the chair next to me, on a miserable rainy day in suburban Philadelphia, decided to call the worst place in Italy. . . .CINQUE TERRE.

Vernazza - Looking down over olive groves

Vernazza – 1 of 5 towns that make up the Cinque Terre region

Cinque Terre, which translates to “Five Lands”, is exactly that, five small coastal towns comprised of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso in the Italian region of Liguria. Cinque Terre is relatively inaccessible as the only way to enter the towns is via boat or train. Cars are not permitted in Cinque Terre so visitors are forced to decide whether they wish to hike from town to town or travel by train.

Narrow Path

One of the many narrow paths on ‘Sentiero Azzuro’

There are four hiking trails that connect the five lands. My friends and I walked “Sentiero Azzuro,” the Blue Trail, a popular cliff-side path that takes roughly four hours to navigate. The Blue Trail is the most aesthetically pleasing route beginning with “Via dell’ Amore”, an Italian Lover’s Lane, where you can’t help but notice the colorful love notes scrawled on trees, cliffside rocks and even the path itself. Via dell’ Amore is also a popular location for marriage proposals and I imagine it yields a high success rate. Please do not be fooled by Lover’s Lane as the difficulty level of the Blue Trail increases as you continue south. There are points along the trail, especially going from Vernazza to Monterosso, where the path becomes so narrow it results in a traffic jam of people analogous to a narrow bridge that can only permit one car to pass at a time. Similar to a bridge, if you fall from this portion of the trail you are likely to end up in the water, it is that steep. Appropriately, signs at the trails entrance urge you to wear suitable footwear.

Each town is registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List, a list of 962 properties forming part of the culture and heritage the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding value. Those who call Cinque Terre home radiate an old-world Italian style of living and slow pace while the visitors see a beach resort; neither is wrong. Again, no cars are permitted in Cinque Terre and many townspeople live off the surrounding land making nearly all of their products from scratch – green and sustainable long before the terms were popular. Monterosso, the final town, offers a sizeable beach outfitted with colorful umbrellas, beach-side shops and restaurants, and the Italian equivalent of the Wildwood boardwalk.

Repping the Flyers in the Swiss Alps

Repping the Flyers in the Swiss Alps

It is the totality of these cultural marvels that made me appreciate the beauty: Cinque Terre’s chameleon-like persona, the people, the architecture, the vegetation, the sea . . . and the food; my goodness the food. While catching our breath in Vernazza I refueled on red wine and Pesto, a native Ligurian sauce, while others enjoyed spiced octopus and stewed cuttlefish, each of which was likely caught just hundreds of feet from where we were seated. Did you really expect a Stampone to tell a story about Italy and not talk about the food?

After tipping my barber I began to wonder if I would ever see the man in the chair next to me again.  As I exited the shop I received a wink and a smile from the proprietor, Mario, a native Italian and very talented barber, who coincidentally had just given the worst haircut of all time. I doubt Mario or I will ever see that coglione again.

“Monicker Mockers” or “Life in Tacony”

Over the years I have heard my grandfather  reminisce about his youth on innumerous occasions and no matter the theme of his story; whether it be tragedy or triumph, they always end the same way; with a good laugh. The common thread found in these recounted tales that leads to this unavoidable gut-busting conclusion is the humorous nicknames he uses to refer to guys from his old neighborhood, Tacony. Scummy, Chew-Tobacco, Double-Head, Slug, Scrappy, Long Balls, Shine-A-Mite, Tear-Ass – just to name a few. Who are these guys?

Tacony-Palmyra Bridge

William Brewster and the other Puritan travelers who came to the New World on the Mayflower would be shocked to hear such names being thrown around. The Puritans would name their children positive character traits such as Obedience in hopes the child would grow to embody their given name. They believed a good name would keep their children mindful of the errand they were put on this earth to serve. My grandfather, Pete Stampone (Railroad) and the Tacony crowd operated a little differently. The neighborhood guys would base their names off physical or mental attributes they already personified. Sorry Joe Salandro, maybe if you showered once a month you would be Joey-blank-blank instead of Skunk.

While I have heard my grandfather recount his youth countless times, I have yet to hear him mention a nickname one would strive to exemplify. Although I do suspect some of them have done their best to fulfill their nickname destiny – congratulations Joe Saltarelli a.k.a. Beer Belly. Brewster and his Puritan counterparts should consider themselves lucky they landed on Plymouth Rock and not near the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge where they would be forced to answer to, YO CUZ!

 

 

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it” – Yogi Berra

Congratulations to my nephew Kevin O’Brien on his graduation from Widener University School of Law and passing the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar exams. Kevin has proven to be an extraordinary asset in recent years at Stampone law and is on his way to becoming an accomplished litigator. Now it’s my son Danny’s turn. Read how he went from a Catholic University graduate with uncertain direction to being on the path he is today.

- Joe Stampone

Now what?

My cousin Kevin O’Brien recently graduated from Widener University School of Law and I could not be happier for him.  Kevin was born to be an attorney; he is equipped with the passion, professionalism, and the know-how (not to mention the wardrobe) to be a successful attorney.  While I am certainly envious he has scaled the mountain I have yet to begin, he has left in his wake a trail for me to follow.  I began working at Stampone Law this past September and already Kevin has been a great mentor.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let’s backtrack to May of 2011, the month I graduated from Catholic University in Washington DC.  Like many of my peers, I walked off campus diploma in hand, ready to tackle the world, and began to think; what now?

I had always been encouraged by friends, family and faculty alike that I should make a living doing what I truly love.  Although rudimentary in nature, this idea was difficult for me to grasp.  What am I passionate about?  Well, I love dogs, but only those over 30 lbs (If I can kick it across a room it might as well be a cat).   I love to eat, but after working in various positions within the restaurant business for four summers I learned it was not for me.  My brother Pete, now he belongs in the biz (Pete Stampone, remember that name Philadelphia foodies – currently Assistant GM at Assaggio del Forno in Boca Raton FL).

My last stint in the restaurant business was at Juan Pablo’s Margarita Bar in Wildwood, New Jersey.  It was one lonely night there when I came to the realization I needed to explore a little bit.  No, I don’t mean backpacking across Europe to find myself.  I needed to get out there and experience various career paths in order to truly find where my interests lay as I had with the restaurant business.   For inspiration and guidance I looked to my family, specifically my father and my uncle, Dave O’Brien.

I had by every stretch of the imagination a tremendous childhood.  Many factors went into that but it always boiled down to one thing,

Capo and I at the Crooked Palm

opportunity created by my father.  My father was able to provide for myself and my siblings more than I could have ever asked for; Provide a great home in a nice neighborhood, a great education and even a vacation house in Wildwood Crest.  Despite all that, his most important contribution undoubtedly was his time and support.  My athletic career, cut short by a serious knee injury, was always a top priority of dad’s.  He attended nearly every soccer, basketball, and baseball game I ever played (not to mention every one of my four siblings games too). I think he enjoyed the outdoor sports where he was able to smoke a Montecristo No.2 with Capo, our Doberman.  He never brought orange slices for halftime and didn’t enjoy conversing with the team mom, but hey, I didn’t care.  He was there for me and I could not be more grateful.

In addition to my father I could always count on my Uncle for support.  The O’Brien’s moved to Philadelphia from California where Uncle Dave was the athletic director (AD) at Long Beach State.  The move was sparked by an offer to become the AD at Temple University.  From that day forward, the Stampone’s became die hard Temple basketball fans.  Pepe Sanchez, Quincy Wadley and Kevin Lyde became household names.  We attended every game we could and sat courtside, thanks to Uncle Dave.  Stampone Law even became a proud sponsor of the Owls.  I will never forget thinking how cool my uncle’s job was.  You get to hang out with John Chaney and watch basketball for a living!  That’s something I would be interested in.

If you were to visit my elementary school yearbook you will see that 5th grade Dan Stampone wanted to be a professional soccer player and noted “attorney” as a fallback occupation.  While I have never attended the open tryouts annually held by the Philadelphia Union, I did see a career in collegiate athletics as a possibility.

Labor Day came as quick as usual this past year and I needed a job.  Interest in pursuing a career in law had always been in the back of my mind.  What kid doesn’t want to follow in their dad’s footsteps?  So I decided to go to work for my dad.  Fortunately for me, at that time I did not have enough experience to be working fulltime.  I needed to round out my week somehow and what better way to do so than athletics, another potential career path.  Through the help of my Uncle I landed a job with the Philadelphia Big 5.  For those of you who don’t know of the Big 5, it’s an athletic association formed in 1954 primarily focused around basketball, consisting of 5 prestigious Philadelphia universities: La Salle, Temple, Villanova, St. Joe’s and Penn.

Class of 2015

On a daily basis I was communicating with the Sports Information Directors from these universities as well as our sponsors. Among my duties was to select the men’s and women’s Big 5 Basketball Player of the Week.  Furthermore, I was involved in game-day coverage and drafting recaps of the games for the Big 5 website as well as helping coordinate special events such as the Big 5 Golf Outing and the Hall of Fame Banquet.  I was hired by Brett Burchette, the Director of the Big 5 and a professor in the School of Technology and Professional Studies at Drexel University.

Brett is a well traveled man who has worked in several athletic programs throughout the country.  Brett’s well-rounded experience in the athletic sector made him well qualified to give me insight concerning my career choices.  Based on my interests, Brett suggested I apply for a position at several sports management firms.  I walked out of each interview with a smile on my face thinking I would be selected for the job.  I knew I was qualified, interviewed well and had the right people in my corner supporting me. However I didn’t receive any of the job offers.  Brett did some investigating and discovered that unknowingly in every interview I mentioned I wanted one day to attend law school.  It was not until that moment I truly realized what I had been hoping to do by exploring my options.  I wanted to become a lawyer.

I start school this coming August at Widener University School of Law and embark on what is sure to be a grueling process.  I will be working at Stampone Law by day and going to school by night, just like my cousin Kevin has done for the previous 4 years.  I am so grateful to be able to gain the experience of working in a law firm while attending school and what better resources to have than Kevin and the rest of the team at Stampone Law.  While I plan on making Stampone Law my place of business for many years to come, I am not ready to discount the possibility of combining my passions for law and athletics…I’ll eat and walk Capo in my spare time.