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Shirtless at Danny’s in Coronado

A chance to go tribal with the legendary top guns of special forces

Some nights, this place is bulging with shirtless seals.
Some nights, this place is bulging with shirtless seals.

“Attention!”

It’s midnight on Friday. A shirtless, tattooed guy jumps up onto the counter at Danny’s, the Coronado bar in which Navy Seals and other special ops types like to gather to let off steam. “Tops off! Two minutes! You’ve got two minutes! All who don’t are pussies!” Owner Mae Sue and her assistant Rachel nod approval. And the guys need her approval, because she just may be the toughest bar owner of them all. She can stare you down or bark at you or get you ejected like none other. So if she gives the nod to something, it’s Let’s Go! 

Place

Danny's Palm Bar

965 Orange Avenue, Coronado

Now this unofficial Shore Patrol is moving among the male imbibers. “Shirt off, pussy! 

“No way,” says my buddy Frank. He’s tough, but has a beer belly (like me) that he’s suddenly aware of. “Among these hardbodies? I don’t think so.”

Me too. It’s amazing how naked you feel when you have to go shirt-off in front of a scrum of super-fit guys. But also kinda liberating, I’m sure, once you’ve done it.  

“Off! Off! Off!” 

It strikes me: this is the ultimate in male bonding — along with the drinking and doing stressful activities like combat or base-jumping, of which these alpha types are the prime practitioners. Still, I’m a little reticent. I blame that hippy skinny-dipping episode when I was 20. By the time I actually got to do it, everybody else was in, out, dried, and dressed. Suddenly, I was the odd man out. Or the time when I went swimming in a crater lake and was so frozen when I got out I could hardly shake my UPs back on afterwards. Everyone had left. It was a lonely trip down that mountain. 

“Off! Off! Shirts off if you’re man enough!” The voice snaps me back to now, to Danny’s, to tonight. Already, dozens of guys are milling around bare-chested, exposing wild tattoos with skulls, wings, and words you’ve gotta be tough to carry off, specially when they’re inked on your chest. They’re knocking back shots, bumping biceps, doing lots of “Oorahs!” and belly laughs, cheering when someone tries to chug a pint down in one. 

“Think I’ll pass, too,” I tell Erik. Then I immediately regret it. A chance to go tribal with the legendary top guns of special forces? Damn! Especially when this portly 50-something-year-old guy takes his shirt off and looks just fine chatting and sipping his beer. NBD! No Big Deal! 

But too late now. Bunch of guys standing at the bar with some of their girlfriends belt out with Toby Keith on the juke box, “I love this bar!” Then a couple of them look up and lift their glasses. Above them, the photo gallery of their buddies who didn’t make it back from wars in places like Afghanistan look down. You suddenly feel like stopping everything out of respect.

And then you feel like: no, this is what they would want. These guys bonding are doing it for them. I look up again. In some weird way, they look as though they approve.

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Some nights, this place is bulging with shirtless seals.
Some nights, this place is bulging with shirtless seals.

“Attention!”

It’s midnight on Friday. A shirtless, tattooed guy jumps up onto the counter at Danny’s, the Coronado bar in which Navy Seals and other special ops types like to gather to let off steam. “Tops off! Two minutes! You’ve got two minutes! All who don’t are pussies!” Owner Mae Sue and her assistant Rachel nod approval. And the guys need her approval, because she just may be the toughest bar owner of them all. She can stare you down or bark at you or get you ejected like none other. So if she gives the nod to something, it’s Let’s Go! 

Place

Danny's Palm Bar

965 Orange Avenue, Coronado

Now this unofficial Shore Patrol is moving among the male imbibers. “Shirt off, pussy! 

“No way,” says my buddy Frank. He’s tough, but has a beer belly (like me) that he’s suddenly aware of. “Among these hardbodies? I don’t think so.”

Me too. It’s amazing how naked you feel when you have to go shirt-off in front of a scrum of super-fit guys. But also kinda liberating, I’m sure, once you’ve done it.  

“Off! Off! Off!” 

It strikes me: this is the ultimate in male bonding — along with the drinking and doing stressful activities like combat or base-jumping, of which these alpha types are the prime practitioners. Still, I’m a little reticent. I blame that hippy skinny-dipping episode when I was 20. By the time I actually got to do it, everybody else was in, out, dried, and dressed. Suddenly, I was the odd man out. Or the time when I went swimming in a crater lake and was so frozen when I got out I could hardly shake my UPs back on afterwards. Everyone had left. It was a lonely trip down that mountain. 

“Off! Off! Shirts off if you’re man enough!” The voice snaps me back to now, to Danny’s, to tonight. Already, dozens of guys are milling around bare-chested, exposing wild tattoos with skulls, wings, and words you’ve gotta be tough to carry off, specially when they’re inked on your chest. They’re knocking back shots, bumping biceps, doing lots of “Oorahs!” and belly laughs, cheering when someone tries to chug a pint down in one. 

“Think I’ll pass, too,” I tell Erik. Then I immediately regret it. A chance to go tribal with the legendary top guns of special forces? Damn! Especially when this portly 50-something-year-old guy takes his shirt off and looks just fine chatting and sipping his beer. NBD! No Big Deal! 

But too late now. Bunch of guys standing at the bar with some of their girlfriends belt out with Toby Keith on the juke box, “I love this bar!” Then a couple of them look up and lift their glasses. Above them, the photo gallery of their buddies who didn’t make it back from wars in places like Afghanistan look down. You suddenly feel like stopping everything out of respect.

And then you feel like: no, this is what they would want. These guys bonding are doing it for them. I look up again. In some weird way, they look as though they approve.

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