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A Little Friendly Competition

HOST INTRO: Spring break may possibly be the worst time in New York City…because it’s overrun with Midwestern tourists. Cassandra Basler remembers being one of those obnoxious middle school students racing her best friend, Erin, up the city sidewalks.


I met Erin in 6th grade. She was edgy with her pixie cut and neon-colored braces; I was preppy with my wire-rimmed glasses and glittery T-shirts. We ate lunch together a few times. Laughed at each other’s jokes. I thought things were going great. Then she told me that when we first met… she thought I was a huge bitch.

You just don’t hear that kind of honesty very often. Naturally, we became best friends.

The next spring, Erin invited me to visit her Grandpa in New York City.  She made it sound like that’s where real life happens. Like Erin, New York was blunt. Nothing like the buttoned-up Detroit suburb where we lived. As she told it, New York was full of giant rats, guitar-slinging buskers… and shops selling Converse in every color.

We sat on her Grandpa’s stoop in Astoria, ate bagels, people watched. We spent a whole day walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We went record shopping in the Village…for CDs. I even tried Thai food for the first time.

I could see why Erin couldn’t wait to move here. She was a dancer. I figured she’d be on Broadway by the time we graduated high school.  Plus, she was the adventurous one. I tagged along. Like  that summer Erin went to Belize to study Marine Biology. I stayed home and finished our readings for Honors English. She went to a national dance competition at Myrtle Beach. I went to a yearbook editor’s conference half hour away in Ypsilanti.

When we graduated, to my surprise, we both stayed in Michigan – not just for undergrad, but after, too. Neither of us knew our next move, so I couldn’t just follow Erin’s lead. I moved to Detroit, worked a bunch of part-time jobs. Erin settled into  a real, full-time position. She seemed on the fast-track to adulthood and I…needed to catch up. But not in Detroit. in New York City. I applied to Columbia.

I got in and suddenly it was ME plotting a grand adventure.

But even a decade after our first trip – New York was still Erin’s city to me. So when I needed to check out Columbia, she drove out with me. She talked me down when I locked myself out of the car at a rest stop in Pennsylvania. She helped me navigate from Astoria to the Upper West Side. Together, we walked past Low Library and we both felt how far we’d come.

I never thought I’d move here, let alone beat Erin to it. But she won’t be far behind.

Erin’s starting her Master’s in Environmental Science at Columbia in May.

So watch out New York. There’s gonna be some midwesterners racing up your sidewalks again.

BACK ANNOUNCE: Erin Quetell (quit-TELL) is moving to New York City just in time for Cassandra’s graduation dinner… but it won’t be Thai food.

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