. T . ____ _
Serving Ann Arbor
Emilye Bangham and
her Hippie Hash
By Kate Schmier / Daily Staff Writer
f people-watching is your secret
pleasure, forget the Diag and
.. head over to the legendary Fleet-
wood Diner on Ashley Street. Open 24
iours a day, seven days a week, this
little greasy spoon is a true microcosm
of Ann Arbor life. On a typical eve-
niig, you might find a white-collared
businessman returning from the office,
a nurse grabbing a quick bite before
her night shift, a disgruntled student
in Gothic garb writing angsty poetry
and even the occasional bum devour-
ing a good, cheap meal. If you go on
a Wednesday night you'll also run into
waitress Emilye Bangham, a 26-year-
old free spirit.
"I like the flexibility of the code
of conduct here," Bangham says,
"The customer doesn't always have
to be right."
According to Bangham, waitresses
are entitled to mirror their customer's
attitudes. "Certain people are encour-
aged to stay a long time," she explains,
"but someone who comes in and acts
like a jerk has fewer privileges."
As Bangham - the only waitress
during her shift - easily handles six
orders while joking with the diner's
regulars at the counter, the job seems
second nature to her. In reality, she's
only worked there for about a year and
a half. "But, I've been eating here for
over 10," she says.
Bangham's career at the Fleetwood
began when she returned to her native
Ann Arbor after her travels in Asia.
"My boyfriend was going to India, so
I followed him and we lived in New
Delhi for six months," she recalls.
Soon after coming back to the States,
she felt the desire to journey again, but
this time, to Bangkok.
"I had an interest in Thai massage,
so we found a school," explains Bang-
ham. Unable to speak Thai, she learned
by watching and imitating her instruc-
tors. Eventually, she mastered the art
and began teaching it herself in Thai
schools and juvenile centers. "It was
'Daily wonderful to be able to give something
back," she comments.
Bangham describes the differences
between Bangkok and New Delhi as
dramatic. "Thailand is very idyllic,
with white sand, bamboo huts and thick
forests, so you have to pay extra for
adventure," she laughs. "But in India,
just getting food is an adventure. It's a
place that represents everything gor-
geous and horrible jumbled together."
Although she found life in New
Delhi more challenging, she was fasci-
nated by the people's mentality. "There
could be a cow in the middle of a six-
lane highway and people won't get
upset; They would just drive around
it. They don't think of things as they
should be, but as they are."
Now working at the Fleetwood,
she too attempts to be at peace
with things as they are. "You have
to breathe. There is a precious, full
spectrum of people who come here,
so you shouldn't think that everyone
will behave a certain way."
Although Bangham enjoys her work,
she's beginning to feel the itch to move
on. "As a waitress at the diner, I frame
my interactions with a certain amount
of game-playing and conflict. You can't
be totally honest all the time."
Understandably, for someone as out-
spoken and self-assured as Bangham,
this lack of sincerity would be stifling.
But, there's a deeper reason for her
desire to alter her path.
"I want to start an artists' collec-
tive called I.N.D.I.Y., which stands for
Independent Network Do-It-Yourself,"
she explains. "I'd like to have a store
in Kerrytown or near the Fleetwood
where local artists could sell their work
Currently, Bangham is working on
an I.N.D.I.Y. website. After presenting
it online for a year, she hopes to have
enough support to put her idea into
While she recognizes the amount
of effort this project will involve, she's
committed to the cause: "I want to re-
instill people's faith in this place as an
Bangham also sees I.N.D.I.Y. as a
possible venue for her own artwork. A
self-taught graphic designer, Bangham
uses a scanner and Photoshop to "make
flat maps of people's faces," the goal of
which is to "create a single image por-
traying a period of time."
With the help of friend and art-show
organizer Connie McKinney, Bang-
ham had her work displayed at Leopold
Brothers a Main Street brewery.
Although she has others plans for
the future, for the moment, Bangham
is proud to be an employee at the Fleet-
wood. Her favorite dish is the "Hippie
Hash" - a concoction of fried pota-
toes, feta cheese, tomatoes, onions and
broccoli - which she calls a "marvel
of diet creation."
"The story behind the 'Hippie
Hash' is that one day a bum came in
and described what he wanted," she
recalls. "Then, Karen, another wait-
ress here, named it."
Besides the food, Bangham loves the
fact that there are "80-year-old U of M
grads who remember eating at the Dag-
wood," the Fleetwood's former name
- from 1949 until it switched owners
in 1971. For this reason, she's opposed
to development of the block, which is
now for sale. According to Bangham,
the Fleetwood would never close, but it
could be housed in a new building and
lose its "historic value."
"I think there would be a real upris-
ing," she comments. "You can make
Ann Arbor a carbon copy of other cit-
ies, but that's not what it truly is. At the
Fleetwood, you're not trying to turn
Ann Arbor into something cosmetic."
To emphasize her point, she describes
one wall of the Fleetwood, on which,
over the years, diners have left a col-
lage of stickers with such sayings as
"You have no mind of your own" and
"Killer Coke can't hide its crimes."
"Sure, I can spruce up that wall every
so often, but it's a canvas that will
always be there." Returning to her les-
son in India, she adds, "The Fleetwood
is a place that represents the soul of
this town - its true face, regardless of
what it should be."
Bangham relaxes between running coffee and food to tables.
12B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 2, 2006