That Was Then, This is Now

That Was Then, This is Now Summary and Analysis of Chapter 8


Mark and Bryon go to a hippie house to look for M&M after Bryon recovers from his hangover, the next day. It is clear that Mark has been here multiple times and is familiar with the house. Many of the hippies inside are smoking weed or on other drugs, and Bryon is very on edge. Mark reminds Bryon not to judge; he reminds Bryon of how they once beat up a hippie kid for fun, just like the Socs (the rich kids) did to the poor kids, like them, once. They do not find M&M there.
Bryon picks Cathy up, and as a part of the usual routine, they keep an eye out for M&M. Bryon and Cathy start going steady; this is something Bryon is very unused to. After dropping Cathy off, Bryon heads to their friend Terry Jones’s place to pick Mark up, but nobody is back yet. While sitting on the steps, Angela Shepard’s brothers pull up, seeking revenge for her cut hair. They beat up Bryon badly. When Bryon comes to, on a bed in the Joneses’, Mark promises he will find the Shepards and get back at them. Bryon tells Mark that he would rather not have this back-and-forth fighting continue. Mark sits with the injured Bryon all night.


Bryon’s responsible personality is further established by the way he treats his job diligently, even while he is hung-over from drinking too much rum the night before. He is also concerned that he will be fired, especially given his family’s situation.
Visiting the hippie house with Mark is a hair-raising experience for Bryon, who makes judgments about almost everything he sees. He is able to make these judgments, and make readers feel the same discomfort, because of his first-person narration. For example, he mocks, internally, the girl staring at the ceiling, and checks to see if “the answer to the universe wasn’t written across [the ceiling]” (pg. 122). He makes note of the “stringless” guitar, and the dirty painted steps, and the “kid…lying on a bed watching his fingernails” (pg. 122). Seeing the hippies makes Bryon question what freedom is. As he grows up, he has been experiencing more and more constrictions—more and more burdening responsibilities. When one hippie tells him that they are all free, Bryon “thinks about that for a long time. I am the first to admit I’ve got hang ups. I don’t think I’d ever consider myself really free. But I’m not sure I’d consider them free, either” (pg. 124). The hippies are held captive by the same drug addictions that they believe liberate their minds and souls.
But speaking of liberation, Mark interrogates the law—Bryon says he would rather be drunk then high, because of the legal troubles that surround drugs. Mark says that “law ain’t necessarily right” (pg. 124)—that is, law can be arbitrary. Bryon experiences a moment of contradiction when he says, “It’s the way things are” (pg. 124)—a departure from his self-purported antagonism for authority. This shows that even though Bryon believes himself to be changing quickly and maturing rapidly—rightly so—he is still more mature and stable than Mark. He still has principles and follows legal systems. Also, after having met Mike earlier, he has grown more mature about the “war of attrition” attitude which accompanies gang fighting—he convinces Mark not to get back at the Shepards, which would only lead to more senseless revenge.