First Cut is the Deepest
Earlier today I received an email from my father informing me that my dear old friend Roland Friggieri passed away last night after battling a long illness. Roland was a childhood hero for me; you could even say he was a role model of sorts. He was a cool cat before it was hip to be a cool cat in Malta.
I last saw him on Tower Road in Sliema in the summer of 2006. He was just about to retire from work and looked very content. The world was his oyster. Little did I know that he would soon be living the rest of his life of a cancer patient. Knowing him, I'm sure he had no regrets...not even for the perpetual nicotine stains on his fingers.
Of all the people I've met in my life, Roland was undoubtedly the most happy go lucky. Yet, he lived a beautifully paradoxical life, full of grace and a sensibility for some of the finer things this world has to offer. It is quite hard for me to picture him dead.
He was very much like an older brother to me, even though he was actually old enough to be my father. He was a regular patron at my parents' bar on Depiro Street in Sliema. He lived just a few doors up the road anyway, so it was more of a place to hang out than a watering hole for him. Throughout most of the 1970s he would help me out with my homework. His casual coaching had a huge influence on my handwriting and I'll also think of him whenever I do long division without an electronic calculator. My reward for doing all my homework was a regular game of darts or pool in the bar. Needless to say, he taught me how to play both games too.
The complexity of my childhood friendship with Roland came from the fact that while he was a regular fixture in my day-to-day life, providing me with gentle coaching session on my latest school chore, he also provided me with my first on-ramp into the world that his friend J.J. Tellus called "show business". That was a very fascinating world to me as a child. Seeing Roland play a part in the first local production of Jesus Christ Superstar or collaborating with J.J. on his Charlie Chaplin routine remain the earliest staged performance memories from my childhood.
We never really kept in touch when I grew older. Without the bar as a common ground we had no real reason to meet. I'd bump into him here and there from time to time, of course, and he was always incredibly warm towards me. I always felt that Roland's secret was to be satisfied with what he had and never want more than whatever was available.
Rest in peace old friend.