Sun, half-naked bunnies and a second chance

His friends told him he was making "the dumbest mistake of my life, but it wasn't. . . . I'm happy that I chose this. I have a lot of respect for artists now, any kind of artist—whether it's someone who's a musician or an actor or a writer or a painter or anything. I think that's the ultimate way to express culture. To do that for a living? Everybody should aspire to do that."

When Tabatabaee talks about the new album, he mentions that certain songs are really special to him because he went through some shit in the past year and blah, blah, blah. You almost don't ask what kind of shit because you're sure it's the usual shit, but for some reason, you make yourself ask, and the answer is nothing like what you expected.

"Um, well, uh," Tabatabaee stammers. "Actually, I was really sick this past year. I found out I had cancer, so I went through six months of chemo and a month of radiation while we were writing, and, you know, that put a whole new perspective on things. I had Hodgkin's disease, and just dealing with that and dealing with everyday life—it was a real growing experience."

The Hodgkin's was discovered when Tabatabaee had X-rays taken of his back, which he injured on the Warped Tour. "I did the X-rays as a checkup," he recalls. "I got home, changed to go to the show—we were playing that night—and got a call from the doctor. He said, 'You need to cancel your tour. I think you have Hodgkin's disease.' And so, like, three weeks later, I started chemo, and just got done about two or three months ago. It was really, really hard, but I handled it well. They caught it early, and it has a pretty good cure rate. It's been in remission for about six-and-a-half months. It went into remission really fast, like, after two treatments."

You ask where it was located, fairly certain and a little embarrassed that what you thought was a hickey is something else. "It's a lymphoma, so it started out in my neck, and it went into the lymph node around my lungs. They caught it really early. It hadn't spread. I was really lucky."

He looks at you calmly, earnestly, patiently. You look down for a minute and then back up at him.

"It's nice here, huh?" he asks again.

In the car on the way home, you begin crying while listening to the song "Wasted," which you'd never really paid attention to before. "Feel how does it feel/ To crush the world in two/One last time/ And I/Am wasted. Feel how does it feel/ To scream without a sound/One more time/And I'm/Still wasted. . . . What I don't want to know/Is what I'm not going to see."

Hell, you don't even know what it's really about, but suddenly, through the prism of death, everything seems to mean more.

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