The Difference Between

Image Source: Untappd

March 2004: my wife and I are visiting her mom and step-dad in suburban Seattle and greatly enjoying a weekday on the town in the early-blooming Emerald City. We’ve spent the morning at the Seattle Art Museum and have just had lunch and a few rounds in Pioneer Square. On the way back, we start talking about stopping off for a round.

We head for Kelly’s, a long-gone dive in their suburban town. It’s exactly what you would picture a dive bar to be: neon, paneled walls, AC unit precariously wedged into a window, duct-tape on the padding around the bar. The special is Miller Genuine Draft, and we’re feeling special. My in-laws order up and we settle in for an early-afternoon toast.

My step-mom and I start playing pull-tabs, and as usual she is cleaning house. The juke is loaded with AM nostalgia: Seals & Crofts, Heart, Dan Fogelberg, et al. Everything is mellow in a Midnight Special kind of way, and I’m having the time of my life.

At the corner of the bar is a guy who looks like Hunter S. Thompson on a deer hunt: black & red plaid mackinaw, blaze-orange pork pie, prison issue glasses. He catches my eye because he looks like any of my relatives back in Maine, and because of his prodigious intake of MGD.

Eventually he makes his way to our table, and apparently – I don’t remember – introductions are made. It turns out he’s a casual acquaintance of my in-laws and conversation turns to the ins and outs of their worlds and mutual friends.

The conversation carries on, and it comes out that he used to work at the Kenwood plant painting trucks. It then comes out that he used to work at the Kenwood plant painting trucks alongside Gary Ridgeway.

The Green River Killer.

The final kicker comes when it is revealed – and I swear I don’t remember how it comes out, and how do you weave this into casual conversation? – that he used to pick up prostitutes with Gary Ridgeway. I remember thinking to myself, “this happens all the time, right? Drinking an early afternoon away with a guy that used to cruise for hookers with one of the most notorious serial killers in the history of American Justice?”

I must have asked him something about this unique claim to fame, because he then delivers the line of a lifetime. In a cloud of beer-spittle and fury, along with a pinch of mirth, he tells the table, “yeah, the diff’rence a’tween us is I done mine, an’ he kilt his!”

I don’t remember any follow-up questions. I don’t remember the rest of the afternoon. I sure as hell remember being told by a guy that used to cruise for hookers with The Green River Killer that the biggest point of distinction between them was merely in the finish.



  1. Wow, that’s something else. This isn’t anywhere close, but I lived in New Braunfels, Texas for a time and frequented a local “Oyster Bar”. This happen to be the favorite spot for Wally Welch. He ended up being a bit of a local celebrity, and a Sam Elliot look-a-like. I think his biggest claim to fame was the TV mini-series Comanche Moon. He filmed that while I was living there. We bought each other rounds pretty often.

    • Nice! Great story. Nothing like a little celebrity bonding. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Paula said:

    Ye Gods! This falls into the “you just can’t make this stuff up” category! Chilling…

  3. Definitely falls into the “can’t make this stuff up” category. Honestly, I laughed… As the Most Interesting Man in the World says, “If you don’t have a dark secret, it’s never too late to make one.”

    • Right?!? I mean, it was truly hilarious. Surreal. I remember thinking, “THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN!” several times.

      Great seeing you, thanks!

  4. Wow! As a person who has a history of being overly interested in serial killers, I love this story!

  5. Brian, next time I’d go with a local micro brew. Who knows who’ll you’ll meet then? Cheers!

      • Being a Northwesterner, I can tell you there happens to be a nice, full-bodied Beckens-Ale available on tap.

      • He’ll be here all week, folks…

      • Sorry, must be the MGD talking.

  6. Holy cow! What a bizarre experience – funny and creepy. Great story telling – I can just picture the bar.

    • ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhyeah! Love it! My first time in Seattle visiting my now wife, she was showing me around her old neighborhood. We’re driving around: nice trees and homes type neighborhood, with lots of forestland. And she points out the window and says, “y’know, Bundy dropped a few off over there.” That’s when I knew she was the one…

  7. Awesome. Since moving to Seattle four years ago, I’ve heard a few folks share stories about their back-in-the-day run-ins with Ridgway, Adding this gem to my list… 😉

  8. He must have that down to an art form. It is not easy (or so I’m assuming) to go from cordial introductions to frequenting hookers with a serial killer. That takes some finesse. Great tale, Brian.

  9. Great story! Love it when life imitates art. So who killed more MGD? You or him?

      • unpackedwriter said:

        Cheers! – Renee

  10. Oh, ya – and your title feels quite literary, too. Nice slight touch there!

      • unpackedwriter said:

        Absolutely! Keep on, writer!

  11. Jody Thompson said:

    Chilling story!

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