Austin Democrats mark first day of early voting with Salma Hayek

Today is the first day of early voting in Texas, and a few Hillary Clinton volunteers in Austin celebrated with some star power.

Slama Hayek speaks to Hillary Clinton supporters Monday at the Clinton campaign headquarters in Austin. Photo by Peter Blackstock.
Salma Hayek speaks to Hillary Clinton supporters Monday at the Clinton campaign headquarters in Austin. (Photo by Peter Blackstock/Austin-American Statesman).

Actress and activist Salma Hayek was in town Sunday night for a Hillary Clinton fundraiser. She also stopped by the Clinton campaign’s headquarters in Austin Monday morning to rally support for the Democratic candidate.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin captured the moment on his Twitter profile.

Austin City Council Member Delia Garza was at the event, too.

Meanwhile, Central Texans Monday showed up to make their voices heard. In Williamson County alone, 5,519 people cast their ballots Monday, and about 10,000 Travis County residents did the same. So whether you’re like Hayek and you support Clinton, or you’re on a quest to Make America Great Again, be sure to go vote.

Early voting polls close Nov. 4. Stay informed with our Voters Guide.

Austin only second-best city in Texas, according to Forbes

Prepare yourselves. This one’s going to hurt, guys.

Looking for ways to entertain the kids during spring break? Head to San Antonio. credit: San Antonio CVB
The River Walk is a popular destination in San Antonio. credit: San Antonio CVB

You might think that living in Austin, where the sun’s always half a cloud away and people really care about recycling, is as good as Texas living can get.

However, one Forbes writer, who is researching for a book by living in 30 different U.S. cities for a month each, is convinced you’re better off in San Antonio. Yes, that San Antonio.

It gets worse. The reasoning behind Scott Beyer’s ranking hits Austin in some sensitive spots. Beyer says that a “good weekend party doesn’t equate to clear-headed leadership on Monday morning,” and that the city maintains a stubborn “slower-growth mentality” in its political dealings. The Forbes piece also calls Austin “a great monoculture if you’re a white college-educated 20 or 30-something hipster,” and claims it is “by far the whitest big Texas city.”

RELATED: Why we don’t need to start an Austin vs. San Antonio feud

And what does Beyer see in San Antonio? Mainly, that it’s well-liked by other Texas cities. The article says the other large cities in the state “flay each other for being pretentious, vapid, over-consumptive, or some combo of the three,” but not San Antonio. He also claims San Antonio’s slower economic growth has allowed it to “maintain its old-world charm.”

Although an outsider, we hope Beyer understands that the competitive nature between large Texas cities can be likened to a sibling rivalry: There are certain things you can say about Dallas (although “the anti-Austin” is pretty spot-on) that you wouldn’t appreciate someone from Missouri saying about Dallas, because it is, after all, a part of Texas. And at the end of the day, no matter which Texas city you call home, we all have to point at the same beautiful state when locating it on a map.

If you’re still riding that Austin hate-train, though, you might enjoy our “What do you hate about Austin?” blog. Or moving to San Antonio.

Online list says Texas is one of the best states for celebrating Halloween

If you’re a Texan who likes Halloween, you live in the right state, according to WalletHub.

Thirteen Texas cities made the finance website’s latest list of the “Best Cities for Halloween.” Nine of those cities were in the Top 50, with Austin coming in at No. 39.

dyc halloween 02

What makes Texas so great for the haunting holiday? According to WalletHub, the study measured 100 of the most populated cities in America across the following metrics:

  • Trick-or-treater friendliness
  • Halloween parties and activities
  • Halloween weather

Within those three categories, the study took a look at things like the number of costume stores per capita and the average cost of a Halloween party ticket.

Laredo took fifth place overall as the highest-ranking Texas city. Austin placed 39 overall, but landed the No. 17 spot in the “Halloween parties” category. Guess the social scene in local neighborhoods is doing something right.

Other Texas Halloween tidbits found in the results of the study:

  • Plano has the lowest crime rate of all Texas cities studied, making it an ideal place for young children to trick-or -treat
  • Fort Worth has the fifth-lowest average price of a Halloween party ticket
  • Irving scored near the bottom of the study in the “Halloween parties” category, die to the low number of candy stores in the area

WalletHub also released a Halloween infographic with the study results, which detailed some more broad facts about the holiday. For instance, Americans are reportedly prepared to spend a record $8.4 billion on Halloween costumes, parties, candy and decorations this year. That’s about $82 per person. The most depressing fact the study gleaned is that some animal shelters refuse to place black cats up for adoption during the entire month of October to protect them from Halloween-related abuse.

Take a look at the full findings here, and view the full infographic here.

 

Blood Center of Central Texas draws new blood with new name

The Blood Center of Central Texas has a new name, but it’s not as spooky as it sounds.

In a new blog post on its website titled “We’re Taking This Show On The Road,” the Blood Center explained the thinking behind its fitting new moniker: We Are Blood.

Elvis, also known as Bryon Borchers, made an appearance at the Rock 'n' Roll Blood Drive Thursday at the Dell Diamond parking lot. United Way of Williamson County, the YMCA and March of Dimes and other organizations participated in the drive for the Blood Center of Central Texas. The Round Rock branch of R Bank coordinated the event. Pictured with Borchers are Carrie Smith (sitting) and Kate, a blood center nurse. Photo by Mike Parker
Elvis, also known as Bryon Borchers, made an appearance at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Blood Drive Feb. 25, 2016 at the Dell Diamond parking lot. United Way of Williamson County, the YMCA and March of Dimes and other organizations participated in the drive for the Blood Center of Central Texas (now We Are Blood). The Round Rock branch of R Bank coordinated the event. Pictured with Borchers are Carrie Smith (sitting) and Kate, a blood center nurse. With all the events that We are Blood is holding this season, you might be able to donate in costume, like this man. (Photo by Mike Parker.)

“One of the primary reasons we decided to change our name was because we wanted to remind y’all that we’re really all family here in Central Texas: we are all blood,” the blog post reads.

And to remind people that we really are all connected (through blood, community, or what have you), We Are Blood is going on a tour of the region this fall and winter.

The group’s Gulf stream trailer, named The Bloodstream, will be making stops at various areas around Central Texas to host blood drives and give away prizes.

“As the community’s exclusive local blood supplier for over 65 years, we think you’re in good hands,” the blog post reads.

Upcoming events include stops at Live Oak Brewery’s Oaktoberfest, the Halloween screening of “Nosferatu” at The Alamo Drafthouse’s South Lamar location and Sound on Sound Fest.

At the end of the tour, We Are Blood will also give away lots of Yeti Cooler products.

But first, you have to approach the Bloodstream trailer in person.

List of world’s top 50 hotels includes an Austin landmark

The JW Marriott opened in February 2015. (Tom McCarthy Jr. photo / for American-Statesman)
The JW Marriott opened in February 2015. (Tom McCarthy Jr. photo / for American-Statesman)

Austin’s own JW Marriott has been named one of the top 50 hotels in the world by Conde Nast Traveler.

The 1,012-room hotel, which opened in February 2015, ranks No. 42 on the magazine’s list. It’s currently the city’s largest hotel.

Only one other Texas hotel – San Antonio’s Hotel Emma – made the cut. It ranked 19th.

Conde Nast Traveler cites multiple reasons for including the JW Marriott on its list: “There’s its prime location, of course, just minutes from the Blanton Museum of Art, Lady Bird Lake, and several hundred music venues – but what’s inside is also worth mentioning. Guestrooms are spacious and well-appointed, with dark, elegant wood furniture and super-comfortable, ‘Revive’ beds; and the rooftop pool bar offers an Instagram-worthy view of the city.”

The JW Marriott, at East Second Street and Congress Avenue, was built by Indiana-based White Lodging, Austin’s largest hotel operator.

This Yeti billboard takes the temperature of some Austin favorites

A new billboard on South Congress Ave. both really wants you to buy a Yeti cooler and remind you how much the company, you know, gets Austin.

The sign features an over-sized thermometer gauging the “temperature” of several different things, including a Yeti (the coldest) and “Friday Night Lights” bad-boy-running back Tim Riggins (the hottest).

fnl-leslie-knope

Other things ranked on the thermometer include “that one snow day,” which comes in as just a little colder than Barton Springs, and fire ants, which are hotter than Tacodeli‘s famed salsa Doña.

READ: This Yeti billboard knows the Austin struggle

You know what’s even hotter than Taylor Kitsch, though? (Yes, even before he cut his hair.) Today’s record-setting temperatures. If only there were some sort of insulated box to keep all of our beverages cool…

READ: From small start, Austin-based Yeti grows into industry powerhouse

Chirp, chirp: Here’s why it might feel like crickets have invaded

Is it just you or are there more crickets than usual this year?

This is a close up view of a cricket as seen on a stairway Thursday, July 26, 2007, in Austin, Texas.  Crickets have arrived in force annoying Texans earlier than usual, thanks to the year's wet weather in much of the state.  (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck) ORG XMIT: AT102
This is a close up view of a cricket as seen on a stairway Thursday, July 26, 2007, in Austin, Texas. Crickets have arrived in force annoying Texans earlier than usual, thanks to the year’s wet weather in much of the state. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck) ORG XMIT: AT102

KUT is on the case and according to several local exterminators, it’s just you. The number of cricket-complaint calls exterminators have received recently and in years prior has remained pretty steady. Although the video below, submitted to KUT by Kelly Gonzales, captures a shocking number of the chirping little insects outside of a Georgetown school, if you’ve lived in this part of Texas for more than a year, you probably aren’t surprised.

Much like the fireflies before them, crickets have a season. And we’re right in its midst. According to KUT, the insects usually make their appearance during the month of October for a “short” mating season that will “all be over very soon.”

READ: The year of the firefly: Why September is looking unusually bright

Here are a few fun cricket facts to get you through this loud, very loud time:

Has the presidential election divided your family and friends? Let us know.

A couple watches the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton through windows in Times Square in New York, Sept. 26, 2016. As the run for president veered to Donald J. Trump’s treatment of women, and whether Bill Clinton’s was worse, Americans collectively shook their heads. (George Etheredge/The New York Times)
A couple watches the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton through windows in Times Square in New York, Sept. 26, 2016. (George Etheredge/The New York Times)

It’s been a heated election season, and the Austin American-Statesman would like to hear stories from Central Texans who think the presidential elections have put a strain on their friendships, marriages or other relationships.

If your relatives and friends are divided over Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, let us know how you’ve been navigating the tricky situation.

Send an email to reporter Nancy Flores at nflores@statesman.com. We’ll be writing a story about how Central Texans are coping with a divisive election season in an upcoming issue. Please send emails now through Oct. 21.

Gas station from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ turned into barbecue restaurant in Bastrop

If the clowns weren’t enough to spook you this Halloween…

The iconic gas station from 1974's "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is set to open as a motel and barbecue restaurant this summer. MARY HUBER/BASTOP ADVERTISER
The iconic gas station from 1974’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is set to open as a motel and barbecue restaurant this summer. MARY HUBER/BASTOP ADVERTISER

Just some 30 miles outside of Austin, off of State Highway 304, is the original and infamous gas station made eternally-spooky by its appearance in cult horror flick “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Except now it has reopened as the barbecue stop it always claimed to be, which you might have noticed since the San Antonio Express News reported it Thursday. The Bastrop Advertiser reported the plans back in April.

But they don’t just make barbecue at the new Bastrop joint. They make scary barbecue. The Gas Station, as it is called, dove head-first into the “Massacre” fandom, calling itself “Texas’ ultimate horror destination” on its website. Not only can visitors enjoy some questionable barbecue (really what kind of meat is that?), but they can also book a frightening stay on-location in one of the establishment’s cabins and buy all kinds of merchandise inspired by the movie.

READ: Gunnar Hansen, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ killer Leatherface, dead at 68

The Gas Station celebrated its grand opening last week and is now promoting a Halloween Eve meet-and-greet with Ed Neil and Caroline Williams, who both made appearances in the original film.

We made it: Austin is worth your time, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop guide says

Austin has now joined the ranks of Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Aspen, Barcelona, Charleston, Cabo and Chicago as cities graced by Gwyneth Paltrow’s stamp of approval.

Gwyneth Paltrow and her daughter Apple were backstage before the start of The Arcade Fire on the Cingular Stage during the third and final day of the Austin City Limits festival at Zilker Park in 2005. (Kelly West/American-Statesman)
Gwyneth Paltrow and her daughter Apple were backstage before the start of The Arcade Fire on the Cingular Stage during the third and final day of the Austin City Limits festival at Zilker Park in 2005. (Kelly West/American-Statesman)

Paltrow’s lifestyle blog, Goop, added Austin to its collection of city guides, complete with suggestions of things to do, bars to visit and restaurants to sample, which assumably means everything Gwyneth Paltrow would do and buy here. (Remember when she included $956 toilet paper in her holiday gift guide?)

Goop also praised Austin for its music and food, along with its “well programmed airport with live performances and surprisingly good barbecue spots.” While we agree with Gwyneth and her staff, equating our “unique personality” with our airport and Austin City Limits Music Festival is a somewhat superficial way to appreciate this great city, especially when you remember what ACL and SXSW can be like as a resident of Austin. As you click through the guide, it might seem increasingly detached from everyday life here to some.

Paltrow’s guide lists trendy spots on the food guide, including Wu ChowClark’s Oyster Bar and Uchi, but confusingly absent on this Austin dining guide are city classics like Torchy’s Tacos (where President Obama visited!) or any kind of barbecue. Instead, Franklin Barbecue and Torchy’s are both listed under “specialty,” along with Whole Foods Market and other less ritzy eateries. What?

President Barack Obama orders lunch from Aaron Sego at Torchy?s Tacos in Austin, Texas, March 11, 2016. Obama was in town to visit the South by Southwest festival with a message that technology must be used to improve American civic life and the functioning of democracy. (Zach Gibson/The New York Times)
President Barack Obama orders lunch from Aaron Sego at Torchy?s Tacos in Austin, Texas, March 11, 2016. Obama was in town to visit the South by Southwest festival with a message that technology must be used to improve American civic life and the functioning of democracy. (Zach Gibson/The New York Times)

The guide lauds the outdoor activities and fitness opportunities that are uniquely Austin, which we don’t dispute. But it also explains that the Colorado River breezes away stereotypes of a hot and humid climate (which is just flat-out wrong). Goop praises the shopping in Austin, too: “At the same time, some gorgeous boutiques (plus the only permanent brick-and-mortar of goop favorite Outdoor Voices) offer a nice balance to old-school vintage and music shops, making this a second-to-none shopping destination.”

In case you haven’t visited Outdoor Voices before, leggings range from $80 to $95 a pair, which would fit into the price point of many Paltrow recommendations. There are also zero music shops listed in this guide; not even Waterloo Records gets an honorable mention.

Gwyneth has out-Gooped herself with her Austin guide. Goop readers, if you see this, please don’t limit your Austin experience. Most importantly, please take a taco tour before ending your journey in this great city.