13 ways to earn yourself bad luck in Austin

Today is Friday the 13th. Whether you’re looking to slide through the day with as little misfortune as possible, or weirdly looking to maximize it, there are a few ways to earn yourself bad luck in this city.

The striking Goddess of Liberty, one of the most famous Texas statues on top of the Texas State Capitol is silhouetted against a full moon, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. 2016. A full moon at its perigee is called super moon. Monday's supermoon is the brightest since 1948. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The striking Goddess of Liberty, one of the most famous Texas statues on top of the Texas State Capitol is silhouetted against a full moon, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. 2016. A full moon at its perigee is called super moon. Monday’s supermoon is the brightest since 1948.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here are 13 surefire ways to find yourself in a less-than-lucky situation in Austin, Texas:

  1. Crossing the path of a grackle. It’s a lot like crossing the path of a black cat. Except slightly more terrifying and impossible to avoid if you’re in an HEB parking lot.
  2. Seeing a regular squirrel on test day. Everyone knows that if you see an albino squirrel on test day you get an A. But did you know if you see a regular squirrel, you’ve just blown your entire future?
  3. Not putting your horns up during “The Eyes of Texas.” You’re the reason for losing seasons. (And maybe that other guy.)
  4. Eating chili with beans in it. Not only bad luck, but just generally less enjoyable.
  5. Forgetting to bring your own bag to the store. You know the rules.
  6. Spilling barbecue sauce. Combat your imminent bad luck by squirting some over your left shoulder. Preferably onto a piece of brisket.
  7. Your phone ringing during Alamo’s “no talking zone” warning. The only thing worse than interrupting the movie, is interrupting the “no talking” clip.
  8. Littering. Did you read the sign? Don’t mess, y’all.
  9. Getting pooped on by a bat. You know how if a bird poops on you it’s good luck? Guano is different.
  10. Saying “alright” just two times. Don’t be facetious.
  11. Picking a bluebonnet. It’s not illegal, but it’s not chill, either.
  12. Wearing clothes at Hippie Hollow. All that stands between you and nudity (and bad luck) are those pants!
  13. Being normal. Just leave.

READ: Keeping Austin weird, keeps it prosperous

We Are Blood teams up with Franklin Barbecue for special contest

You know how after you donate blood they give you a cookie? Well this is kind of like that.

People wait in line for 4 to 5 hours to taste the food from Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Johnny Livesay cuts brisket inside the restaurant. Matthew Odam's Top 10 barbecue restaurants in Austin. 05.06 2014 LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 052314 xl cover
People wait in line for 4 to 5 hours to taste the food from Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Johnny Livesay cuts brisket inside the restaurant. Matthew Odam’s Top 10 barbecue restaurants in Austin.
05.06 2014 LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For the second year in a row We Are Blood, previously the Blood Center of Central Texas, will offer 30 blood donors a chance to enjoy Franklin Barbecue without the line. Or the threat of selling out. Or the early wake up call.

Those who donate blood during the month of January will be entered to win tickets to a private dinner at Franklin Barbecue on February 11. Donators who give blood within the first half of the month will receive two entries into the giveaway. Each winner, who will be announced Feb. 3, will be allowed to bring one guest to their special meaty feast.

To give blood you must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 115 pounds. There is no age or weight requirement to eat Franklin Barbecue.

READ: Gordon Ramsay cut in line at Franklin Barbecue, gave away his leftovers

A Houston list attacked Austin’s ‘weirdness.’ It got a lot wrong.

The hallmark of bullying is tearing someone down because you’re insecure about yourself. When it comes to Texas’ ever-swirling cross-metro rivalries, they perpetually hate us ’cause they ain’t us.

The Austin-San Antonio war of microaggressions has mostly run its course. Last week, a Houston Press listicle tried to start something. Depending on your loyalties, their attempt at shade seemed less like a solar eclipse and more like a puff of smoke.

The 2011 Austin Gorilla Run 5K race in front of the plaza at City Hall. (Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
The 2011 Austin Gorilla Run 5K race in front of the plaza at City Hall. (Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

“Austin has had a reputation for being Texas’s strangest city since at least the early ’70s, and has become a magnet drawing in a constant flood of visitors,” the article begins before the author explains that they’ve lived in our fair burg, which they love, “off and on since the early ’90s.”

That love doesn’t exactly pop off the screen. Behold:

• The most cherished of pastimes for Austin’s many enemies — and those who have fought us and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do — is trying to tear down our thriving dining world. It seems such a waste of jaw muscles to denigrate a city’s restaurant scene instead of tasting a taco, but the Houston Press article treads a tired tortilla-paved path: “Do you like black beans? A LOT? How about breakfast tacos? Does standing in line for hours to buy trendy barbecue sound like fun to you? If so, congrats, because you’ve found your culinary heaven in Austin.”

Yes. And?

The Houston Press article’s attempted dragging of our food scene tries to give some shine to our late-night eateries, at least. It also mangles the names of several restaurants: Magnolia Cafe becomes Magnolia Grill, Franklin Barbecue is rechristened Franklin’s BBQ and Hopdoddy Burger Bar enters the culinary protection program as Hopdaddy’s.

People wait in line for 4 to 5 hours to taste the food from Franklin Barbecue in Austin. (LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
People wait in line for 4 to 5 hours to taste the food from Franklin Barbecue in Austin. (LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Other than that, it’s the same exhausting spiel about breakfast taco invention and long lines. There’s a curious barb about Austin’s allegedly embarrassing Mexican food options, which seems like a rather broad swath to cut. Also, the author writes that “Hopdaddy’s” is a “gimmicky” burger place that might just be a marketing ploy, which is snicker-worthy since H-Town has its own locations of the Austin-based franchise. More side-eye fuel: Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland builds quite the meat queue, too.

RELATED: Austin360’s Top 25 restaurants of 2016

Besides those backfiring shots against Austin’s eats, Houston Press’ list rests it head on the sound-proof pillow of subjectivity. Because of course, “if a person if coming from a great food town like Houston, it’s a bit underwhelming.” Remember, a Via313 pie or a bowl of Torchy’s queso tastes much better than cognitive bias.

• Clutch your pearls, friends. Austin’s not weird anymore, according to this article. As you have now been scandalized to the point of repose upon your chaise lounge, take a moment to collect yourself.

Has Austin’s “Slacker” vibe of yore eroded? South by South-yes. Do the proud old-timers often mourn some nebulous concept of “old Austin”? As surely as they miss Liberty Lunch. No one is under the delusion that “Keep Austin Weird” isn’t a marketing slogan. There are T-shirts, for goodness’ sake.

“Houston is a much stranger place, its gritty landscape teeming with strange features that Austin lacks,” according to the list. But how’s that proverb go? Let those whose skylines aren’t a brutalist cemetery of huddled concrete monoliths; whose highway system doesn’t resemble a dystopian Chutes and Ladders game for giants; whose main industry isn’t a Jed Clampett fever dream; whose most plentiful attractions aren’t wealth-girded museums rejected from location scouting for Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” for being too opulent … well, let them cast the first stone.

Austin’s still got a guy in a thong who rides around on a bicycle. We’re doing OK. Remember that Arcade Fire wrote a whole album about the Houston suburbs, but they weren’t exactly love songs.

The four-item list has some fair points:

• Yes, our cedar pollen is trying to kill us. The Houston Press calls the “toxic mix” of allergens a more pernicious terror than Austin’s traffic, which we will concede is a torture reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. However, we would counter that living in Houston — itself a city so humid that walking down the street requires swimming lessons, that even alligators have bad hair days — is no less an environmental hazard.

• The steady march of development in Austin has indeed displaced minority communities on the east side, as investigated by the American-Statesman in 2015. The precarious state of Austin’s cultural arts scene, too, is the target of demonstrations and city initiatives alike.

Peacocks roaming the grounds of the Green Pastures restaurant in South Austin in 2015. (RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Peacocks roaming the grounds of the Green Pastures restaurant in South Austin in 2015. (RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

So, Austinites, despair not. Cities change. All of ’em. A city is only as weird as its residents. As long as you take a dip in a spring-fed pool smack in the middle of town; or watch a chicken poop on a bingo card and share the road with a flock of peacocks; or host a giant citywide musical festival each spring; or house an urban colony of bats; or bring hippies, college kids, yuppies, artists and Texas legislators side by side, you’re plenty weird.

Just make sure to protect it, or else you might end up looking a little more like other cities we could mention.

Keep Austin City Council Weird: The 5 strangest things from City Hall in 2016

At this point, “Keep Austin Weird” has become more of a callback to a bygone era than an actual lifestyle tip. But every now and then, something happens here that truly couldn’t happen anywhere else. And in 2016, a year that has proven to keep getting weirder by the day, Austin City Council provided us with some truly odd moments.

Whether it involved zombies, Satanists or salamander DNA testing, this year’s top 5 strangest moments from Austin City Council proved that if nothing else, we have some unique legislative matters in Austin.

5. With others away, Austin council’s conservative trio prevails for a day

zimmerman

In June, while Mayor Steve Alder and Council Members Delia Garza and Ann Kitchen were in Washington, D.C., campaigning for a $40 million federal transportation grant in the Smart City Challenge, the three conservative members left on the council (Don Zimmerman, Ellen Troxclair and Sheri Gallo) tried to block several items on that meeting’s agenda from passing. One of those items was a $210,000 grant to the Salvation Army to expand social services at the Austin Shelter for Women and Children (already included in the budget).

4. Austin Council Member Leslie Pool’s mistaken and loaded tweet

Twitter fingers turned to butter fingers for Council Member Leslie Pool back in January after she accidentally tweeted about Council Member Sheri Gallo in what was supposed to be a direct message.

pooltweet

Pool posted the tweet after she and Gallo split on a rule change for certain kinds of planned unit developments – including one known as The Grove at Shoal Creek, a controversial development that Pool opposed at the time while Gallo supported it.

“It was intended to be a private message, but I should never speak badly about my colleagues,” Pool told the Statesman at the time.

3. Zimmerman slams salamander DNA testing while Austin has rape kit backlog

zimmerman2

In September, amid a DNA rape kit backlog at Austin’s police crime lab (which would go on to create more problems for the department), a representative from the Watershed Protection Department went before the council to request $13,000 to do DNA sequencing on Barton Springs salamanders. Council Member Don Zimmerman asked why the funding wasn’t going to be used to test the rape kit backlog, despite the two departments drawing funds from different sources. The salamander funding passed 9-1-1, with Zimmerman opposed and Council Member Ellen Troxclair not present.

2. Austin leaders debate blocking zombies from city cemeteries

via GIPHY

Yeah, you read that right. During a September council meeting, the council members went down a rabbit hole that started with a question about a $1.2 million construction contract to rehabilitate an Oakwood cemetery chapel and ended with speculation about skeletons, zombies, parties and weddings at area burial grounds. The discussion arose after a cemetery advocate complained about people visiting cemeteries in zombie attire or taking selfies with prop skeletons.

“I’m not sure who the zombies are who come through there… but I’m not sure how we would manage keeping zombies out,” Council Member Ora Houston said.

1. Austin council member offers Satanic amendment to compassion measure

via GIPHY

Coming in at first place is another “How did we get here?” moment. In April, Council Member Ann Kitchen offered a resolution involving support for the Charter for Compassion, a 2009 document crafted by religious leaders worldwide that calls for compassion to be a “clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world.”

Council Member Don Zimemrman objected, according to our report:  “Zimmerman [said] the language urged ‘idolatry’ of Earth rather than its creator and talked about compassion breaking down ideological boundaries when Jesus did that better than anyone. He also said the resolution was ‘marrying religion with politics.'”

Zimmerman eventually went on to add wording from the Satanic Temple website to Kitchen’s resolution in an effort to prove the resolution was a mix of religion with politics. “The three sentences that came from a religious, Satanist website were included without objection because they’re so very nearly the same as what the Charter for Compassion already has,” Zimmerman said. “So those are accepted under the excuse that they’re not religious, but they are religious. I think you would insult my Satanist constituents. They say their religion is a religion.”

Later, in November, a Satanist almost gave the invocation at a city council meeting, but had to back out because of a scheduling conflict.

Watch Austin grow up in Google Earth’s mesmerizing time-lapse photos

People in Austin complain all the time about how fast the city has grown and how much their favorite neighborhoods have changed, but you can get a satellite’s-eye view of just how much by using Google Earth Engine. The site collects aerial photography from 1984 to 2016, a period in Austin that includes the real estate boom and bust of the 1980s, the late 1990s tech boom and bust in the early 2000s, as well as the 2008 recession and subsequent economic recovery.

The view of Austin from a macro view can be a bit muddled but you can see lots of activity on the outskirts of town, like the emergence of the Texas 130 toll road on the far right.

austin
The city of Austin

But take a look at the neighborhoods and zoom in on certain high-growth areas and the changes are more impressive. For instance, between 1984 and 2016, the old Robert Mueller Municipal Airport was closed. Its runways were razed and replaced with a planned community of retailers and single-family homes.

mueller
Robert Mueller Airport, then Mueller development

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was simply Bergstrom Air Force Base three decades ago. The military abandoned the base but the city turned it into an international flying hub. In the time-lapse below, you can see how the city added another runway to the existing airfield and rebuilt the terminal and parking for civilian use. When a large road suddenly cuts across the map on the right, that’s the construction of the Texas 130 toll road.

airport
Bergstrom Air Force Base, then Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Also in southwest Travis County, you find lots of farmland and rural areas that haven’t changed much at all in the past 30 years. But in the space of a few years, the Texas 130 toll road appears – seen below on the left – and then, blossoming from the green space, the Circuit of the Americas racetrack.

cota
Circuit of the Americas emerges in Elroy

Another transformation becomes evident on the other side of the county in Steiner Ranch. Here, you can see how development spilled along roadways and how houses sprouted on hilltops throughout the area.

steiner-ranch
Steiner Ranch

Just a few miles north, on Lake Travis, the aerial photos show the effects of fluctuating drought conditions on the Highland Lakes. Over the past 30 years, the exposed shoreline of Lake Travis flashes like a neon sign as waters recede and return, depending on the season’s rainfall.

Lake Travis
Lake Travis

Try Google Earth Engine for yourself. I learned a lot just by looking up my own neighborhood in South Austin near the corner of West Slaughter and Brodie lanes:

neighborhood

 

White nationalist Richard Spencer to speak at Texas A&M next month

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist and a leading voice of the so-called alt-right movement, is scheduled to speak on the campus of Texas A&M University next month, the Battalion reported Wednesday.

But university officials sought to distance themselves from the appearance, saying in a statement on Wednesday that “private citizens are permitted to reserve space available to the public as we are a public university.”

Spencer, who heads a think tank called the National Policy Institute, has defined the alt-right – short for “alternative right” – as a set of ideologies with a core belief in white identity and a racially homogeneous society. Critics of the movement says its rhetoric is racist and advocates white supremacy.

The profile of the alt-right movement has been elevated ever since President-elect Donald Trump named former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon his chief strategist. Bannon has described Breitbart, a conservative news outlet, as “the platform for the alt-right.”

Spencer, who will be speaking at Rudder Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6, gained wider notoriety this week after video from a national alt-right conference showed supporters raising their arms in an apparent Nazi salute after Spencer told the crowd, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory.”

Trump, in an interview Tuesday with the New York Times, disavowed the alt-right group in the video.

According to the Battalion, white nationalist Preston Wiginton, who attended A&M briefly from 2006 to 2007 and has brought other white nationalist speakers to the university, organized the event.

A&M University spokesperson Amy B. Smith, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Texas A&M, provided a public statement that sought to clarify that Spencer was not invited by the university.

“To be clear, Texas A&M University – including faculty, staff, students and/or student groups – did not invite this speaker to our campus nor do we endorse his rhetoric in any way. In fact, our leadership finds his views as expressed to date in direct conflict with our core values,” the statement said.

WATCH: Video shows Capitol-climber scaling building

Video has been released showing the man who climbed, and was then arrested for climbing, the Texas State Capitol, broke into the building through a window and caused a reported $10,000 worth of damage to a portrait of former Gov. Fletcher Stockdale.

The Texas State Capitol on Thursday, July 28, 2016. Jessalyn Tamez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Texas State Capitol on Thursday, July 28, 2016. Jessalyn Tamez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As the American-Statesman reports, 22-year-old Tanner Christian Graeber was held at Travis County Jail and charged with burglary of a building and criminal mischief for the stunt.

In the video, taped by a bystander from the ground, Graeber can be seen scaling the scaffolding and throwing a ladder off the side of the building. The person filming the video asks Graeber for “a shoutout” to which he replies “Love you guys.”

Had the bystander known of Graeber’s plans, he could have questioned the Fort Worth’s resident governor-of-choice, as the American-Statesman reports, “DPS did not state why Graeber chose to throw Stockdale’s portrait.”

You can watch a clip of the video below, and a longer one at Deadspin, here.

This @StuckHouseATX parody account is sure to give you a laugh

It was only a matter of time.

For four days in a row, this house has been stuck in the middle of East Live Oak Street in South Austin, causing a traffic nightmare for nearby residents and an abundance of jokes, and now the house has its own Twitter account: @StuckHouseATX.

As evidenced by the famed Austin Cobra, the Jade Helm Cobra, the Austin Mongoose and of course, Evil MoPac, nothing is too sacred for Austin’s Twitter jokesters.

A house has been stuck in the middle of Live Oak Street in South Austin since the weekend after movers struggled to fit the wide load down the roadway. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A house has been stuck in the middle of Live Oak Street in South Austin since the weekend after movers struggled to fit the wide load down the roadway.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The house, which was being moved from Austin to Lockhart when it hit a utility pole and became stuck on Saturday, is proving to be a pain to move. The moving company responsible for the house obtained the necessary permit to relocate the temporary roadblock, but as of Tuesday afternoon, no work had been done on the house.

RELATED: Moving a house in Texas was never easy

If it isn’t removed by Tuesday night, National Night Out could be extremely interesting for Travis Heights residents.

The people who live in the neighborhood may not be laughing, but at least this whole thing has given the rest of the city a good chuckle. After all, we should count our blessings: At least the house didn’t get stuck on I-35.

RELATED: Songs to help you pass the time when you’re stuck on the road

New York Times asks why Texans are so obsessed with the shape of the state

It took awhile, but the New York Times is onto something. Set that Texas-shaped waffle aside, give your Texas-shaped tattoo a little scratch and listen up: Have you guys realized how people from Texas seem to really like Texas-shaped things?

The University of Texas at Austin's open house, Explore UT, culminated in the "class photo 2009" in the shape of the state of Texas. An estimated 50,000 people, including 330 buses of K-12 school children, came from 200 schools and 80 school districts throughout Texas, from as far away from El Paso in West Texas, Donna in the Valley and Plano in the north. Explore UT consists of over 400 events, performances, exhibits, lectures and hands-on activities led by faculty, staff and students. CREDIT: Marsha Miller/ UT Austin. Received 03/09/09.
The University of Texas at Austin’s open house, Explore UT, culminated in the “class photo 2009” in the shape of the state of Texas. An estimated 50,000 people, including 330 buses of K-12 school children, came from 200 schools and 80 school districts throughout Texas, from as far away from El Paso in West Texas, Donna in the Valley and Plano in the north. Explore UT consists of over 400 events, performances, exhibits, lectures and hands-on activities led by faculty, staff and students. CREDIT: Marsha Miller/ UT Austin. Received 03/09/09.

That’s right. Just as it did with the Franklin Barbecue line and the bats under Congress Avenue Bridge, the New York Times has tackled another Texas institution: Its obsession with its own shape.

“Indeed, the shape of Texas shapes Texas,” the piece reads. Although aside from literally that doesn’t seem to mean much, the piece is right in that, “A few states identify with their shapes, but not many.”

But the assertion that Texas’ “obsession with its shape is one of many age-old ways that Texas likes to separate itself from the rest of the states,” hits a little off.

Texas’ uniquely jagged borders, off-centered curves and, you know, the fact that it clocks in at about twice as large as many of the other 49 states surrounding it, serves to differentiate it without the help of its residents. Or their penchant for self-branding with tattoos in the shape of its likeness.

READ: New York Times’ ‘36 Hours in Austin’ guide totals nearly $2,000; here’s your alternative

That is all to say — did we have a choice? You try looking at Texas and not wanting to own a throw pillow in the exact same shape!

Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy said it all when he told the New York Times, “It’s not some boring box-shape,” and, “There’s a lot of homespun sense of place in Iowa, but there was no place where people served me waffles the shape of Iowa.” That’s because (sorry, Iowa) a regular square waffle is pretty close.

READ: 180 things we love about Texas

In the same way that Coca Cola need only print its name on a billboard, the shape of Texas, with all its ups, downs and strange buzz cuts (a.k.a the panhandle), serves as the perfect representation of all the good stuff you can find there and the people who really, really love it.

It’s not your fault that you live in less distinctly-shaped state, everyone else. But it’s also not our fault that we don’t.

Big Tex, mildly terrifying friend to all state fair guests, lives yet again

Imagine this in a booming, robotic drawl: “HOWDY.” Now, return that greeting to Big Tex, who has officially returned for this year’s State Fair of Texas.

OCTOBER 10, 2015 - Texas fans, Mark Jacobs, Jennifer Bowland, Billy Jacobs, behind, and Ryan Jacobs, left to right, enjoy a famous Fletcher's corndog in front "Big Texas" at the State Fair of Texas before the start of the Big 12 conference game between Texas and Oklahoma held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Tx., on Saturday, October 10, 2015. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
OCTOBER 10, 2015 – Texas fans, Mark Jacobs, Jennifer Bowland, Billy Jacobs, behind, and Ryan Jacobs, left to right, enjoy a famous Fletcher’s corndog in front “Big Texas” at the State Fair of Texas before the start of the Big 12 conference game between Texas and Oklahoma held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Tx., on Saturday, October 10, 2015. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Crews erected the titanic cow-puncher at the center of Fair Park in Dallas on Friday, according to the Dallas Morning News. And, to be honest, we mostly wanted you to see their tweet about the annual rebirth.

The Morning News reports that Big Tex’s new duds have a special meaning this year: honoring fallen police officers.

“The revered mascot wears a new outfit this year — in addition to his signature Dickies western wear, Big Tex sports a blue ribbon and badge on his shirtto honor the local officers that lost their lives during the July 7 ambush.”

You’ve got plenty of time to visit, because the State Fair of Texas runs Sept. 30 until Oct. 30. Be honest, you’re already looking forward to your Red River Rivalry selfie with the big guy.

This is certainly happy news for fans of Big Tex, but it might be a good time to remember that time he caught on fire in 2012, and also consider that remains an excellent Halloween costume idea.

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