We had been hearing a lot about RedBridge Lisbon – an organization that creates a series of events and parties that connects San Francisco and Lisbon, so we decided to meet up with its brainchild – writer Jonathan Littman ahead of one of their gatherings.
The brainchild behind “RedBridge Lisbon” is the San Franciscan, Jonathan Littman.
We met Jonathan just before one of his RedBridge events at a palace venue near Chiado. It’s one of those endlessly stunning buildings in Lisbon that you might often walk by and wonder what goes on inside.
Jonathan greets us at the top of the staircase inside the large front door. “Great to meet you, welcome to RedBridge,” he says with a beaming smile and a sunny Californian accent.
Jonathan leads us into a room he calls The Fernando Pessoa Room. “Pessoa was actually here.” Doing what, we wonder. “He was doing astrology.”
But the Pessoa Room is “also the RedBridge Room,” says Jonathan. And indeed, there is a RedBridge illustration on the wall. “We connect these two magical cities, San Francisco and Lisboa. We connect entrepreneurs and changemakers who are Portuguese, Californians, and internationals.”
We ask Jonathan what brought him to Portugal in the first place. “I wrote two bestsellers, held seminars, met a company from here, and then they brought me to Lisbon.” This writer confesses to keeping that short, but what is entirely true is that Jonathan fell in love with the city. “The magic happened, and I kept coming back. I’m half Portuguese now.”
Jonathan is enthusiastic as he leads us through a doorway and down a hallway. “This is just the beginning.” We feel like the Willy Wonka kids following him. “I think we will have 100 people this evening,” he says positively.
We walk outside behind the palace to a pretty courtyard setting complete with a stunning view of the river. And with that, it’s time to talk about the bridges. RedBridge is after-all named and inspired by Lisbon and San Francisco’s strikingly similar structures. And the bridges are something Jonathan knows a lot about. More than us as it turns out.
“There is a whole mythology around the bridges,” claims Jonathan.
“Everyone says that the bridge here is the mirror bridge of the Golden Gate Bridge. And it is because of the color. It is the exact same red, which the technical name is International Orange.”
In his past, Jonatha has written for everyone from Playboy to Forbes, and he has also written 10 books on innovation and creativity. “Storytelling is my life,” reads Jonathan’s LinkedIn page. In fact, it was one article that brought him increased notoriety in Portugal and beyond. It was called ‘The New Californian Dream Is In Lisbon.’ The article published in LA Mag. “It went viral,” says Jonathan. “And now I have a lot more Portuguese friends.
People start filtering into RedBridge for the evening ahead. We notice Jonathan’s ability to speak Portuguese, and it is impressive. He is much better than your average expat. “I watched a lot of telenovelas to learn it. A lot of ridiculous telenovelas.” It’s a difficult language to learn, we claim. “Sure, but if you love it, it’s easy.” Ouch, that hurt.
Jonathan begins to oversee the evening. There is a kitchen in full flow, preparing delicious food for the guests. “I wanted to be a chef when I was young,” says Jonathan. “I can make a great omelet.”
What makes a great RedBridge? “It’s the people. We have had amazing speakers like the muralist Jaqueline Montagne. And Vasco Pedro, who is using AI to help ALS sufferers communicate. But there is more. I moderate, we have wine, beer, incredible food…and we even have our own DJ. We’re different. Not every club is connected to San Francisco. Not every club has its own home palace.”
That is about as much time as we are going to get alone with Jonathan as he must become master of ceremonies. We are now his guests, enjoying the evening, and mingling with other interesting people.
With the place still filling up, Jonathan prepares a raffle, where one guest can win a stay in a luxury hotel in the Algarve. Then as guests chatter, Jonathan prepares his notes for the interview he will conduct in front of the audience. When it does happen, the interview/talk on this particular night is thankfully not too long, as can sometimes be at such gatherings. After the interview the festivities kick in. The DJ starts to play, the raffle prize is drawn, and people get down to dancing. Jonathan is the first person on the dance floor.
The night goes dark, but the RedBridge glows.
And that is where we step out.
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