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The true "work" of a touring comedian isn't what's done on stage—it's what it takes to get there. And I don't mean that in the "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!" sense, either. I'm talking about plain old crappy travel. Yet although I've had to deal with my share of cancelled flights, flooded highways, and rental car employees wearing actual buttons that say "I'm new...but at least I'm trying!" sometimes one painful, long-ass scheduled drive can out-suck any potential surprise.
Spending nearly all of your waking hours in a car with another man for multiple days in a row will force you to develop methods of breaking the monotony together: Tune into NPR. Talk about life goals. Listen to music (on headphones, when you can't agree about Taylor Swift's latest single).
Inevitably, around the three hour mark, things start to get weird. You begin to create fake characters and conduct interviews. You talk in nonsensical languages. You list everything about the other person which you don't like. You decide what animals your loogies most closely resemble in an ashtray. Or (if your name is Dave), you let loose an ear-shattering primal scream, and your friend (if his name is Ethan) retaliates with a violent punch to the neck.
The point is, you're gonna need a break after three hours.
So you can imagine how warmly I welcomed Dave's brilliant suggestion—about halfway through a dreaded seven-hour drive from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania—to make a pit stop at our favorite Hartford, Connecticut establishment, City Steam Brewery. Our history with City Steam goes way back, having celebrated with a beer there after contracting the first of many college shows at a nearby talent booking conference over four years ago. I even bought a pint glass from the brewery to commemorate the event, which bears the logo for their best-selling English bitter, the Naughty Nurse. I use it for sipping beers at home all the time.
When we got to City Steam, I was pumped about trying their Careless Love, an oak aged local cult favorite inspired by the farmhouse ales of Northern France. I'd read all about it. Sadly, only moments before our arrival, the last keg of Careless Love had been kicked. Go figure. But I wasn't going to let this news ruin our "coffee break." Without hesitation, I ordered up a round of the old standby, and was visited moments later by a Naughty Nurse.
She smelled and tasted the same as ever, with scents of clean caramel malt offering prelude to a smooth, creamy texture. Thirst-quenching and easy to drink, but not without a snappy bite, the Naughty Nurse is an English bitter that won't knock you out, but will never let you down. Battling a cold at the time, I indulged in the fantasy of this faintly medicinal-tasting tonic treating what ailed me. Science be damned, I felt much better by the time we had to get back in the car.
Seeking out the weirdest, rarest, or even best beer isn't always advantageous while slogging it out on the road. Such a diversion might seem worth investing in, but can cause even more stress for an obsessed libationist with a beer fridge that already looks like it belongs in an episode of Hoarders. Instead, when things get especially rough while traveling, you've got to give in in once in awhile and seek out those small comforts. There's nothing like rediscovering a treat that makes you feel at home even when you're hundreds of miles from it.
About the Author: Ethan Fixell is a writer and comedian from New York City best known as one half of comic "dating coach" duo Dave and Ethan. He is also the creator and editor of ActualConversation.com. Follow him on Twitter: @EthanFixell.