Wendy’s in the Texas Union building closing Thursday

Season those French fries with tears and don’t let your wails keep you from throwing back a chocolate Frosty. The Wendy’s in the Texas Union on the University of Texas at Austin campus is closing Thursday, according to the UT Unions social media accounts.

“We are sad to announce that today is the last day that Wendy’s will be open in the #TexasUnion,” read a tweet and an Instagram post both posted Thursday afternoon. “However, you can still visit Wendy’s at our Jester location. We apologize for the inconvenience. We are working to identify a new vendor as quickly as possible!”

Wendy’s is no longer listed as a dining option at the Texas Union on the University Unions website.

Junior (Ishmael Mohammed Jr.) strikes a familiar pose as he rings up a student in line at Wendy’s in the Student Union at UT in 2003. “This is my show, I’m the king.” Laura Skelding/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Wendy’s has been a longtime fixture in the university’s student union. The fast food spot gained some fame in the UT community and beyond from its most famous employee, Ishmael Mohammed Jr., aka “Junior the Wendy’s Guy,” who was known for his lightning-fast order-taking skills. He was “the Rachmaninoff of the register, holding the record for taking the most orders and sales within a 30-minute span, 246 orders for $1,035 — or one order every 7.3 seconds,” according to a 2014 American-Statesman story. Mohammed, who died in 2016, was also the subject of short documentary in 2006. Nikolas Ray Eller was sentenced last year to two years in jail for delivering a punch that killed the popular fast food cashier.

You won’t believe the new holiday spectacle coming to COTA in December

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A new holiday tradition is coming to town this December, and, if we’re being honest, it sounds pretty magical.

Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, best known for playing host to the Formula 1 racing series, will this holiday season swap race cars for Santa’s sleigh during the inaugural Winter Wonderland at the Circuit.

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A map of Winter Wonderland at the Circuit. credit: COTA

According to a press release, this “magical world of holiday amusement” will incorporate a million lights and will feature the following: a tunnel of lights, a walking light trail, a petting zoo, Santa’s workshop, a human snow globe, holiday movies on the lawn and more. A skating rink, train rides, carnival rides, a hot air balloon float, camel rides and souvenir photos with Santa will also be available for an additional cost.

“Winter Wonderland at the Circuit will be a wonderful family holiday experience for Central Texas,” Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein said in a statement. “The Circuit’s Grand Plaza and surrounding grounds will be transformed into an immersive experience of lights, music and fun.”

The event will also feature live entertainment, food trucks, hot cocoa stands and a Bavarian Village with local vendors.

Winter Wonderland at the Circuit will be held Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 8-30. Hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Admission is $16; children 5 and under are free.

Circuit of the Americas is located at 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. For more information, visit circuitoftheamericas.com/winter-wonderland.

 

 

Trail of Lights tickets are about to go on sale; here’s what you need to know

No holiday season in Austin is complete without a visit to the Trail of Lights, and if you’re eager to map out this year’s excursion, never fear — we’ve got the scoop on what to expect.

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No holiday season in Austin is complete without a visit to the Trail of Lights, and if you’re eager to map out this year’s excursion, never fear — we’ve got the scoop on what to expect.

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This is the 53rd year for the Trail of Lights celebreation. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The 53rd annual Austin Trail of Lights will be held Dec. 9-23 in Zilker Park. More than 400,000 guests are expected to visit the trail, which will feature more than 2 million lights, four light tunnels, a 90-foot Ferris wheel, 40 displays, more than 20 food trucks and two stages.

“The 2017 Trail of Lights celebrates the creativity, talents, accomplishments and generosity of Austinites,” Trail of Lights Foundation Board President Leah Davies said in a statement.

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Visiting the Trail of Lights is a holiday tradition for many Austinites. Ricardo B. Brazziell/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Just in time for the latest cold snap, here are four things to know about this year’s event.

  1. Music will take center stage. Confirmed performers include the Mother Falcon String Trio, Whiskey Shivers and DJ Mel at the Night Lights Preview Party Dec. 8 and Alan Haynes at the grand opening Dec. 9. The full music schedule will be announced in the coming weeks at austintrailoflights.org.
  2. There will be various specialty nights. They include the Zilker Tree lighting (Nov. 26); the Trail of Lights Fun Run (Dec. 2); the fifth annual UT night (Dec. 10); the annual HEROES night honoring first responders (Dec. 12); and Movie Night (Dec. 19).
  3. It’s possible to avoid the crowds. You can access the park early and receive other amenities if you purchase a Platinum Pass or a ZIP Fast Pass. Learn more here.
  4. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, Nov. 8. Buy them here.

 

Learn more about this year’s Trail of Lights at austintrailoflights.org.

Tom Hanks reads a story, talks typewriters and helps a couple in love during charming Texas Book Festival appearance

Tom Hanks points to his book, “Uncommon Type,” while discussing the 17 short stories it contains during a talk Saturday at  the Texas Book Festival. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

By Charles Ealy, Special to the American-Statesman

About 1,000 people packed the sanctuary Saturday at the First Baptist Church in downtown Austin to hear Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks talk about his debut collection of short stories, “Uncommon Type,” with Pulitzer Prize-winning Austin writer Lawrence Wright.

It was the highlight of a day of events at the Texas Book Festival, which was held at the state Capitol and surrounding grounds, with about 300 authors in attendance.

The day kicked off with Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager sharing stories about their new book, “Sisters First,” with book festival co-founder and former first lady Laura Bush on hand in the House Chamber. The day also included a session with Dan Rather, author of the new book “What Unites Us” and the recipient of this year’s Texas Writer Award.

But it’s safe to say that Hanks was the biggest, last event of a day jam-packed with cooking demonstrations, children’s events and multiple panel discussions on politics and other current events.

DAY TWO: 5 things to know about the Texas Book Festival on Sunday

Hanks was genial and gregarious during his talk, revealing that he owns about 140 typewriters. Yep, you read that right. He has a typewriter obsession, he says, and there’s a typewriter in each of the 17 stories in his new collection.

Tom Hanks discusses his book, “Uncommon Type,” with Austin writer Lawrence Wright during the Texas Book Festival on Saturday. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Why so much love for a rather technologically obsolete office machine? Hanks says he loves the idea of permanence – of putting ink on paper, and that most of his typewriters are from the 1930s to the 1960s. But he also says he loves the percussive sound of the keys hitting the paper, signifying that he’s headed for the end of something and helping him along the way.

Of his typewriter collection, he says with a laugh, “It’s easier than collecting player pianos.”

He talked about his love of the late Nora Ephron, the author and screenwriter of such Hanks hits as “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”

APPEARING SUNDAY: Mark Bittman looks at changing food scene before Texas Book Festival session

He says he complained about a scene between a father and son in “Sleepless in Seattle” and came up with new lines for his father character. Later, Ephron told him he was contributing to the movie as a writer.

And that started the idea that he might be a writer. But the writing didn’t come quickly. Instead, he thought about it for many years before attempting his first short story.

Hanks read a part of one of his short stories in the collection, “A Special Weekend,” which features Kenny Stahl, a thinly veiled autobiographical character based on himself. It deals with the 10-year-old who goes on a day trip with his mother in a sporty car, and his dad and his mother are divorced.

As Hanks dryly noted after reading part of the story, “Mom and Dad found the loves in their lives,” and he says his mother “found it on her third marriage.”

Wright noted that nostalgia played a prominent role in some of the stories, but Hanks said that of the 17 stories, 12 are contemporary. “I write from a lack of cynicism” rather than relying on nostalgia, he said, adding that he’s interested in “strange moments of serendipity where our lives change … with great connections that we don’t expect.”

“I’m a softie, without a doubt,” he said.

And in that regard, Hanks neared the end of the session by reading a note from a member of the audience, who proposed to his date. The proposal came from a man named Ryan McFarling, and the object of his affection was Nikki Young. Both came up on stage, with McFarling kneeling and Young crying in joy.

Yep, Hanks is a softie.

MORE TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL: See all our previews and live coverage

An audience member photographs Tom Hanks as he discusses his book, “Uncommon Type,” on Saturday at the Texas Book Festival. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

She used to wash dishes at an Austin Chipotle. Now she’s a fashion week model.

On Aug. 10, 19-year-old Remington Williams was washing dishes during her shift at a North Austin Chipotle when a modeling agency spotted her.

It’s a Cinderella story for the ages.

On Aug. 10, 19-year-old Remington Williams was washing dishes during her shift at a North Austin Chipotle when a modeling agency spotted her.

Tanni Foreman of Foreman Management took this photo of Remington Williams on Aug. 10, the day she discovered Williams during her shift at an Austin Chipotle. credit: Tanni Foreman/Foreman Management

When they asked if she’d be interested in becoming a model, Williams, an ACC student studying graphic design who has no prior modeling experience, was shocked. And intrigued.

Now, barely a month later, she’s walked runways for the likes of Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs at New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week and, currently, Paris Fashion Week.

Tanni Foreman, who owns model scouting and placement agency Foreman Management, was out to dinner with her husband and daughter at the Chipotle at 1700 W. Parmer Lane on Aug. 10 when she saw Williams in the back of the restaurant, “lugging around huge trays and washing dishes.”

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Remington Williams walks as part of the Calvin Klein show during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 7. It was her first fashion show. credit: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

“She’s wearing this Chipotle uniform — T-shirt, hat, pants,” Foreman said. “With me, when I see a potential model, I can tell really quickly, I can see in their face if they’ve got what it takes.”

After a quick chat during Williams’ lunch break, they arranged to meet the next day at Foreman’s company, Foreman Management, a “mother agency” that scouts talent and helps place models all over the world. For the next few days, Foreman said she walked Williams through the ins and outs of modeling and sent her photos to a high-profile agency called DNA Models, which replied that they wanted Williams to walk in New York Fashion Week.

Soon, Williams, who could not be reached for comment due to her busy travel schedule, was on a plane to the Big Apple. She walked her first runway as part of Calvin Klein’s show on Sept. 7. She walked for Marc Jacobs on Sept. 13.

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Remington Williams walks the runway for Marc Jacobs SS18 fashion show during New York Fashion Week at Park Avenue Armory on Sept. 13 in New York City. credit: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs

“Normally the agencies have more time to develop the girls before Fashion Week and be gently introduced to the industry,” said Foreman, who spent time with Williams in both New York and London showing her the ropes. “She was kind of thrown into the madness of it.”

For now, Williams, who was dubbed by Vogue as “Fashion Week’s buzziest model,” seems to be embracing the madness. She posted a photo of herself on Instagram earlier this week with the Eiffel Tower in the background and the caption “Paris is the most magical place I’ve ever seen. I never want to leave!”

“She went from scrubbing pots at Chipotle to meeting designers at Fashion Week. Her work ethic is so strong, she’s grateful for everything,” Foreman said. “That’s my favorite part of this business. I love finding somebody and changing their life.”

Don’t open your eyes underwater at Barton Springs? Here’s what it looks like

Unless you snorkel or open your eyes underwater, you might not have seen what it looks like underwater at Barton Springs, where the water is a cool 70 to 74 degrees.

This is the color of Barton Springs in the middle of July. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

WATCH: Barton Springs isn’t really 68 degrees. How warm is it?

Well, have a look.

I took this video earlier today with my iPhone in an underwater case that was the best impulse buy of last summer.

RELATED: Former Barton Springs lifeguards recall life on the stand

PHOTOS: Barton Springs Pool way, way back when

As temperatures continues to rise, Barton Springs will fill up earlier each day.

Here are a few tips so you can enjoy your own visit:

  • Parking is already someone chaotic already, so be prepared to walk from one of the upper parking lots in Zilker Park.
  • Entry fee is $3 if you’re a resident of Austin, $8 if you’re not. Kids are $1 or $2, depending on their age.
  • You can pay with a card at one of the meters outside both the north and south entrances.
  • Bring a floatie, but leave the food and drinks behind. You can’t bring anything to eat or drink besides water into Barton Springs.
  • Entrance to the pool is free before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. The pool opens at 5 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m.
  • On full moon nights, where people flock to the pool to howl at the moon, the park can fill to capacity, so don’t wait until 9 p.m. if you really want to get in.

RELATED:
At Barton Springs, lifeguard job takes on sunscreen-slathered mystique
Need adventure? Swim naked at Barton Springs
Austin360 Summer Fun Guide

 

WATCH: Who knew baby skunks could be so cute?

It’s baby skunk season! I didn’t know that it was baby skunk season, of course, but when driving in Eastern Travis County yesterday for a story, I came upon a family of baby skunks crossing the road. As I was pulling up, their mom was scurrying off into the woods on the other side of the road, and the five or six babies were still on the road.

Several cars ended up stopping to wait as the skunks crossed the road. They were extremely curious about the cars and the drivers who got out to try to shoo them across the road.

This baby skunk was one of several trying to cross the road on Tuesday in Eastern Travis County. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

They made the cutest little noises and, though their tails were raised, they didn’t spray.

I think we can all agree that these guys are much cuter than the snake-puking-another-snake video that went viral earlier this week.

Here are some other cute baby animal videos to keep you busy this lunch hour.

WATCH: SeaWorld’s last baby orca born in Texas

Gallery of cute baby animal photos

WATCH: Rare twin horses born in Bastrop County

Manny The Frenchie: Texas Happiness

 

You can lead baby ducks to water, and you can make them swim

Baby ducklings check out the water dishes in Jonny Brashear’s backyard. Courtesy of Jonny Brashear

What to do when baby ducks are born in your yard and the water and food is over on the patio? Metroplex resident Jonny Brashear decided to serve as their surrogate escort:

Brashear is a University of Texas alum who works in the tech industry and occasionally writes about Longhorn sports and electronic dance music (including this 2014 piece for the American-Statesman). Last year, a duck laid eggs in a nest behind some bushes on his property. He tracked their progress from hatching to departure on social media.

This year, the same duck (his best guess, anyway) returned to build another nest. When the ducklings hatched this past weekend, Brashear had a food dispenser and saucers of water for drinking and swimming at the ready.

Usually, the mother leads them across the lawn to the food and water. Monday morning, though, mama duck was away briefly, so he stepped into service, with camera phone.

“She was comfortable enough to leave while I was in the backyard with them,” Brashear commented on Facebook. “She flew off to be with her man for a moment. They both landed shortly thereafter. He was not happy with me.”

Follow @bitterwhiteguy on Twitter and Instagram for more duck-cam updates as the spring saga continues.

Keri Russell hints at ‘Felicity’ reunion in Austin

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys speak onstage during the ‘The Americans’ panel discussion at the FX Networks portion of the Television Critics Association press tour in 2015. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

It was a moment that warmed my Ben Covington-loving heart: On a recent episode of “Watch What Happens Live” on Bravo, Keri Russell said the cast of “Felicity” might reunite next year in Austin.

Although she couldn’t remember the name of the event (she referred to it as not-South by Southwest but happening in Austin), she likely was referencing the ATX Television Fest, which is known for reuniting folks from beloved shows, including “The West Wing,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Designing Women.” (This year’s fest is June 8-11.)

The late-night and free-wheeling Bravo talk show featured Russell and her “The Americans” co-star Matthew Rhys in a rare joint interview for the real-life couple, who play married Russian spies on long-term assignment in the U.S. on their F/X show. Watch the full episode here.

Russell was responding to a viewer question about whether our curly-haired college heroine might be resurrected in a reboot. That seemed like a straight “nyet,” but she said the Austin fest has been trying to get the cast back together for a couple of years and it seems likely to happen in 2018.

TEAM BEN FOREVER!

Host Andy Cohen gave a second shoutout to Austin in the same episode when he called out the prostitution ring busted because of a condom-clogged pipe.

Check out this delightfully quirky antique shop, bed & breakfast for sale outside of Austin

Want to open your own antique shop? How about your own bed and breakfast? Want to live there, too?

Courtesy Twist Tours

This wonderfully quirky property for sale on Highway 290 in Paige (between Giddings and Elgin, about an hour’s drive east of Austin) can give you all of that and more.

PHOTOS: Quirky antique store, bed & breakfast for sale in Paige

It’s currently an antiques and salvage business, and the $560,000 price tag includes all the inventory inside the store front (except the inventory in the rented-out booths), which is quite a lot:

Courtesy Twist Tours

In addition to the storefront, there’s a recently remodeled private space that can be used as a bed and breakfast, living space or vacation home. According to Moxie Realty Group, the current owners will even consider selling the furnishings inside.

Courtesy Twist Tours

As if that’s not enough for you, there’s more than half an acre of land just waiting to be developed or used as parking.

You can find more information about the property at Moxie Realty Group.