The distance between my front door to the Big Bamboo Lounge in Kissimmee, Florida, is 1,104 miles, or 17 hours 29 minutes driving. Why is this being posted on a blog about New York City?
If you’ve been reading this site, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not so much about scouting for movies as it is about paying attention to one’s surroundings. For as long as I’ve been meaning to put this site together, I’ve wanted to make a sister blog called “Leaving NY,” about the interesting things I notice on my travels outside of the city. I’ve decided that, for the moment, I’ll occasionally post a Leaving NY entry when I feel like a change of pace is needed.
Two years ago, I took my first ever trip down to Disney World and had a much better time than I ever expected to. On a non-parks day, a friend took me around Orlando to a few interesting sites off the beaten path. Among them was the then-closed/now-demolished Big Bamboo Lounge, a dive bar pictured above.
I wish I had gotten the chance to have a drink here. The Bamboo was set back off the highway, tucked in amongst the trees. A watchtower was set closer to the road (of COURSE you had to get drunk and try to climb it; it’s Kissimmee law).
An antique ambulance used to be parked in front:
The Bamboo was frequented by Disney cast members after the costumes had been removed and the park had closed. They’d gather here to pound drinks and trade war stories about their experiences that day at work (I would kill to have sat in on some of those conversations). The walls were covered in Disney memorabilia donated by former employees, including hundreds of nametags, t-shirts, hats, and business cards. There was no food (you were welcome to bring your own), no electronic gambling machines, no air-conditioning – just alcohol, some tunes, and conversation.
The bar was heavily damaged during the hurricane season of 2004 and closed. It later suffered a fire (possibly due to homeless people living inside), sealing its fate. It was torn down a year or so ago. When we went to visit, the bamboo was still hanging:
The Orlando area is well known for being a pretty desolate sprawl of strip malls and highway, which makes a local cultural institution like the Bamboo all the more invaluable. A bar was recently opened up in the back of an area motel called the Nu Bamboo, but I doubt it’ll be anything more than a shadow of its predecessor. It’s important to remember great places long gone, and as unexpected a choice as it might be, rest in peace, Bamboo.
More history, pictures, and info about the Bamboo can be found at www.bigbambooloung.com.