The Hustler

Same hustle. New prop.

Jonathan Pacheco Bell
2 min readNov 28, 2021


[Photo by Ali Abdul Rahman on Unsplash]

A hustler approached me on Spring Street as I walked up to Clayton’s.

“Eyy man,” I heard over my right shoulder. “Eyyyy . . .”.

I had work to do, and I usually don’t respond to “Hey.” But the homie caught up to me. “Eyy man!” He looked like every Montebello veterano who’d lived a hard life.

I nodded at him and said, “Wassup.”

He showed me a black, dusty iPhone with a blank, cracked screen.

“Eyy, look man, you dropped your cell.”

Same hustle, new prop. He was about to ask me for reward feria. We conduct our lives through these fuckin things, so why not?

Glancing at the battered cell in his hand, and feeling my actual iPhone safely ensconced in my front right pocket, I asked, “Does that ever work on tourists?”

There was an awkward pause.

“Sometimes,” he said sheepishly.

Then we both let out big, arrogant, bellowing belly laughs. It was a warm and sunny afternoon in Downtown LA.

I wished him well — “Stay up, homie” — and walked into the bar.

“Thanks, ese, you too.”

Walker & Williams by @vodka.collins [Photo by author]
Clayton’s Public House interior [Photo by author]

An early version of this story appeared on my Instagram on October 18, 2018, shortly after I met the hustler. Clayton’s Public House has since permanently closed.



Jonathan Pacheco Bell

Creator of Embedded Planning praxis 💡 Writing about urban planning and cities 🏙 Support my writing: ✍️ Find me at