About 18 months ago I was in the “green room” for the Charlie Rose show. I was in NYC working on a friend’s book launch. While he was out there taping with Charlie, I was backstage with the famous folks who were about to be interviewed, including James Fallows.
After a few minutes of excitedly chatting with James, I noticed a guy sitting alone, off to the side. He had a mop of curly hair and a quiet, unassuming presence. I went over and introduced myself.
Turned out that unassuming guy, Alex Calderwood, had started the world-famous ACE hotel chain. He had been at a party w/Charlie and had mentioned it’d be cool to see the show being taped/sit in the green room. Charlie Rose, apparently, being great, made it reality.
We talked for a good 3o minutes. About how he started Rudy’s, the ACE, other projects. We talked about my run for Congress, working in tech, being on The Apprentice, and other randomness. It was a great easy, natural conversation. We exchanged cards.
I just searched my gMail and saw that we had seven emails chains since. He was looking at some potential deals in San Francisco, I was in town, and so we were able to get together for a drink (I had a drink. He apparently had given up alcohol some years earlier). Afterwards, he introduced me to someone who was doing cool things in education reform, so I could help, etc. We met up a second time, when he had me join a business dinner with a wealthy Asian investor, just because. Both times he was a positive, inquisitive, and awesome presence.
In the course of our few conversations, my love of tea and interest in possibly turning that passion into a business came up. This past summer, I got a ping from Alex because he remembered that and wanted to see if I was interested in working together on a tea store in a location he had, etc. My heart wasn’t in it then — I wanted to go back into tech — and so nothing came of it.
I sent Alex a quick note in July when I was in NYC interviewing for my current job. It was my first note to him that I didn’t get a response on. We obviously didn’t connect. As I’ve passed by or been at the ACE since, I kept meaning to drop Alex a quick note letting him know I was here, so we could catch up.
30m ago, while feeding my Twitter addiction, I saw the tweet pop up “Sad news: Alex Calderwood, the founder/owner of the Ace Hotel has passed away at the age of 45 according to the Ace Hotel blog.”
I’m not exactly in shock – I mean, I barely knew him – but I am sad and really, really thrown. I’ve been lucky enough to not have to deal with a lot of death (yet). Less than a handful of times in my life. That hangs over me a bit: it’s coming. Death visits us all. Death is the reminder of the impermanence of all things, most notably, our lives.
I might not get tomorrow. Next week. You might not either. Act accordingly.
Live your life. Treat others as you will wish, in retrospect, that you had. Act accordingly.
To Alex, wherever you are: I’m really glad I got to meet you. I hope you’re in a better place, at peace.