Off the Bench: A letter from Marco Island, Florida, where Stan's Roadhouse is the place

Thanks to a fortuitous connection, I’m spending much of the winter on Marco Island in Florida. After my wife died, I was fortunate enough to meet a lovely widow who just happens to own a home on the island, which is located on the west coast just below Naples and above the Everglades.

I never considered myself a Florida guy but have developed an appreciation for some of the things the sunshine state has to offer. If you can discount its politics, pretensions, gated communities, straight roads, flat terrain, summer heat, and hurricanes, it’s not that bad.

There’s a false rumor in Florida that the island was originally discovered by Marco Polo. It was discovered and named by Spanish explorers and rediscovered in the 1960s by the Mackle Brothers, who bought up most of the 24-square-mile island for development for $7 million. They designed an intricate network of waterways so that most homes would be on a canal or a bay. The island now has a year-round population of about 18,000, which jumps to over 40,000 during the winter with the arrival of the snowbirds.

The island is a bit too idyllic for my tastes. I like a little grit and grime to remind me I’m from New England. Fortunately, there’s a honky-tonk roadhouse in a corner of the island called Goodland, which offers refuge from the glamour of Marco proper by providing a welcome, robust dose of reality to those fleeing serenity.

Located on a bayou, “Stan’s” is a legend, having been in operation at the same open location for decades. On weekends, all gather to drink, listen to the music, and dance. In motorcycles, boats, and Bentleys, they come from all over southwest Florida to join in an old fashioned hootenanny. Differences evaporate as folks celebrate what they have in common.

On weekends, there’s a band called “Hot Damn” that keeps the joint hopping with some of its popular hits like “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore” and “When She Drinks Tequila, Her Clothes Fall Off.” You won’t find that kind of music at Symphony Hall. There’s just enough grit there to make you forget for a while that you’re in Florida.

STAN’S ROADHOUSE

On Marco Island Goodland stands,
Known for its culture and a place called Stan’s
Not part of the island, some folks say,
But all agree, a great get-a-away.
There on weekends, the place is alive.
The locals all love that it’s a short drive.
They gather for music, jokes, and a drink;
A varied selection but what is the link?

For bikers and misfits, the rich and the poor,
All come together of that I am sure.
Honky-tonk music and dancin’s the draw.
Enjoying a drink; no one uses a straw.

All sizes and shapes in outfits galore,
Things you won’t likely buy in a store.
Fancy it’s not: for that’s not its charm.
Like hanging out in a comfortable barn.

At Stan’s they’re just folks, no status, no airs,
No sofas, no cushions, just old wooden chairs.
Leave that baggage at home if you must.
For here is no place for the upper-crust.

All join in the merriment in the joint by the bay,
Where folks are just people for part of the day.
There’s a spirit of fun, frolic, and amity,
As patrons enjoy their shared humanity.

James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.