Part one: TAYLOR
Taylor Swift. Such a lovable creature. All legs and eyelashes and funny breakup songs. But what was really underneath the tiny purses and the cat instagrams and the seemingly concocted-overnight friendships with supermodels arranged as power plays?
She looked at herself in the mirror of the tiny bathroom belowdeck. Her reflection swaying back and forth before her, dimly lit. She was drunk, that much she was sure of. But she had a feeling it was in a good way. An adorable Taylor Swift drunk way she smiled to herself.
It was so nice to finally have a girlfriend, she thought. Not a Vogue-enforced friendship for a magazine sales push, but a real friend who isn’t famous and certainly isn’t only friends with her because she’s famous.
Well… to be honest, Daphne sort of thinks that SHE is famous. And she’s not entirely sure if Daphne follows popular music culture enough to really grasp that Taylor is an icon in her own right… but whatever, Daphne’s lack of interest in Taylor’s career was a welcome change.
She toppled out of the bathroom as the boat lurched and up the narrow stairs to up above deck to rejoin the merriment, feeling buoyant with happiness at the sight of these real friends.
Daphne was sabering champagne bottles off the side of the boat with the heel of her Valentino rock-stud pump while Gaston cheered her on.
Gaston had taken his name from his fascination with the strapping male lead in Beauty and the Beast who he was convinced he looked just like. His real name he wouldn’t tell to Taylor or Daphne - a point neither contested when the invitation to drink champagne on his speed boat was flashed in front of them as a distraction.
As the empty bottles piled up, Gaston had admitted to them that he hated his father and that he wanted to be a male ballerina, not a financier.
Taylor admitted that the tourism board of NYC had paid her 38 million dollars to recored “Welcome To New York” for taxi tv use, and she hated it, and Daphne admitted that she thought she needed a boob job, just to gauge their reactions.
(they all agreed Daphne’s natural state was perfect, and she shouldn't alter anything, much to her delight)
By the time the sun had disappeared and the moon was rising, they were swearing their undying alliances to one another as life long friends. They polished off the last of the champagne, and Daphne threw both of her rock stud pumps off the side of the boat in a fit of irrational ecstasy.
They set off a few leftover fireworks they found stashed below deck and lay watching the mirage of lights shower down around them into the ocean as they fell asleep beneath the stars without a care in the world and slept the sleep that only overindulged 20-somethings can truly master.
Morning came like a glass of cold water in her face. Taylor woke up to a wave of unmistakable nausea. As she vomited off the side of the boat, she could see through bleary eyes that Gaston and Daphne were piloting the ship toward shore… toward… was that a hotel?
Daphne pretended to be interested in helping Taylor long enough to make sure she was willing to stay with the boat while they popped up to the hotel bar for refreshments and then flitted away with Gaston. Some friend she was…
What felt like a year later, after Taylor assumed she’d been left to die, Gaston returned, suddenly infused with a renewed interest in her wellbeing.
Something had happened with Daphne, he explained. She had just had a fight with her best friend… and she was going to stay at the hotel for a bit, and wouldn't Taylor like to accompany him to a dinner in Sorento… Taylor couldn’t follow Gaston’s voice any more.
Daphne had another best friend? She felt so defeated.
Several days later, still at Le Sireneuse, Taylor continued to feel bitter about Daphne’s fair weather friendship. She was sitting at the bar and staring into a cocktail that Sandro, her favorite waiter had prepared for her, imagining what her life would be like if she were an assistant to a financial planner or a preschool teacher. Surely she’d have real friends in those scenarios.
An older woman sat down beside her and whispered softly, “Stop slouching”
Taylor whipped her pretty blond head around to find she was sitting side by side with Julienne Moore. Of course. Another famous person, prepared to be her friend for fifteen minutes.
But what happened next was most unexpected. Julienne turned out to be warm and fun and full of wisdom. Wisdom that Taylor desperately needed. They sat at the bar chatting all evening and over the course of the next few weeks the two became confidants and true friends.
They would take nightly walks through the hills, chatting about life and love and the hardships of being a woman in the entertainment industry. Each evening they’d pass the sweetest couple of young dachshund lovers, who would sit beneath a lemon tree looking out at the ocean.
They’d waive to the couple and then continue their walk, happily discussing what life was like for two innocent nobodies, falling in love with a long life of normalcy stretching out before them.
One afternoon they even spotted the two pups in the town square, decked out in wedding attire, surrounded by joyous children throwing rice and flowers into the air as church bells rang out to celebrate their union. Taylor cried softly on Julienne’s shoulder, awash with emotion. It was all so beautiful.
The dachshund wedding became something of a talisman of happiness that Taylor held on to when she felt blue about the lonely life of superstardom. She’d think of how much love and joy showed on their furry little faces and in their exuberantly wagging tails and remind herself that she deserved that too.
So when one morning she found the boy dachshund alone, sadly licking his paw on the front steps of Le Sirineuse she couldn’t help but stop and ask if he was alright. Imagine her dismay when he revealed to her that his sweet bride had been ripped away from him and taken back to America! Taylor was almost as heartbroken as Fabrizio himself.
Right then and there, Fabrizio, Julienne and Taylor realized that they had to make a plan. A plan to find Fabrizio’s Principessa….
Part two: DAPHNE
Daphne stood, swaying slightly, in a new pair of rock stud pumps, on Hortensia’s doorstep. Her right thumb instinctually scrolling through a feed of images on her phone while she waited for Elise to answer the door. But when the door did open, Elise wasn’t there, it was Hortensia herself. She beckoned for Daphne to come quickly and rushed her into the floor-to-ceiling ode to scalamandre that was the foyer powder room.
In hushed tones, Hortensia unleashed a torrent of information on Daphne. There was a girl here who was holding her hostage! In the next room! Threatening her with the most ridiculous accusations! Don’t believe a word of it, Daphne, just get her out of here before Doxie sees her! Doxie already wasn’t speaking to her, but if she saw Taylor, she’d really never let it go…
“Hortensia. What? Doxie and you aren’t speaking? And she’s here?” Daphne asked in alarm
“Yes, she’s been a sullen little brat for months ever since I brought her back”
“You did what?”
“I annulled the marriage after you called, of course! Try to keep up Darling. Now go think of some way to get that blond antelope out of my living room”
Daphne took a startled step back and sat down on the sink. Trying to process it all. She had called Hortensia, now she remembered. But only to vent, really. She had called to tell her about the wedding. She didn’t think Hortensia would actually do anything about Doxie’s surprise marriage. She had assumed Doxie was in Positano, with the boy she loved more than her. She could hardly believe all of this. And Taylor. Why was Taylor in Hortensia’s house…
She pushed past Hortensia and rushed to find Taylor seated near the Christmas tree. The two girls stared at each other for a tense pause when Daphne entered and then both began to speak at once.
“I’m so sorry” “No I’m sorry” “No, like, I am so incredibly sorry” "Like, you have no idea how sorry I am!"
They embraced each other with the intensity of couples reuniting after surviving the sinking of the Titanic. And then Taylor began to explain to Daphne, as quickly as she could before Hortensia reached, them all that had come to pass.
She had come on behalf of Fabrizio who needed to find Doxie. Hortensia had once loved a young pup too, the father of Fabrizio! The love of her life! Theirs had been a story much like Doxie and Fab’s - the two met on a holiday at Le Sireneuse many years earlier, except that Hortensia left in the fall of her own accord to marry well, back state-side. Hortensia was only trying to thwart Doxie and Fab because of her own baggage about the issue. Hortensia was trying to marry Doxie off to that dreadful Charles Turnbough!
Hortensia charged into the room at full speed, the fur on her neck bristling through layers of Van Cleef and Arpels, prepared to refute these claims and throw both of these little maniacs out of her house. The full power of her canine ferocity locked and loaded, she knew these two lightweights stood no chance against her. But she hadn’t anticipated Elise also being on their side.
The usually meek parlor maid had become possessed by the haunting strains of acoustic shake it off that Taylor had been softly crooning for her earlier, and with the words “And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…” echoing through her head, she threw aside her tray of teacups and pounced on Hortensia and pinned her to the ground.
Several minutes later, an Uber back car pulled up in front of the building and Taylor Swift, reunited with her best friend Daphne, emerged wielding their passports, and carrying an outraged and squirming Hortensia. Hortensia's front and back paws were tied in an elaborate straight jacket of Hermes scarves. She was going to Italy to find her daughter's husband whether she liked it or not.
They piled into the car, barking orders to head to JFK and sped off into the distance in the name of love.
Doxie stared out the windows of the Bergdorfs Cafe onto treetops of Central Park, sniffing back her tears. The view was beautiful - a view most people found inspiring and romantic. But Doxie barely saw it at all. It had been three months since she’d seen her love, Fabrizo. Everything was ruined!
Her mother Hortensia, who sat across from her, looked away in the opposite direction. She was apparently studying the bird and branch patterned walls with epic curiosity.
Neither dachshund could bring herself to make eye contact with the other. They continued like this, seated stiffly in their Whisper Chairs for quite a while, breaking their silence only to thank the waiter for their afternoon snack of lobster mac and cheese and truffle frites.
Doxie sniffed the food disinterestedly. Thinking to herself about all the delicious treats she’d shared with Fabrizio. Uno Spuntino, he would have called this mid day treat. And it wouldn’t have been these over-the-top typical New York menu items. It would have been something simple. A shared cup of gelato, or a focaccia, eaten while sitting on the rocks watching the ocean.
I’d rather eat the table cloth, she thought to herself as she nibbled on its hem pitifully.
Hortensia now was watching Doxie cautiously. She usually would never encourage her daughter to eat carbs, especially with deb season approaching. But all that was gone now…
Hortensia had felt as though she had been living an awful nightmarish version of her life ever since the marriage fiasco. The chance for Doxie to enter society. The chance for her to marry well. It was all gone up in flames.
How could she have raised her daughter to make such a stupid mistake!? Marriage? Before her debut? And to an Italian. And not an interesting Italian, but just the son of a fishmonger… not even listed in the Canine Social Register because they don’t have an American address to correspond to their international summer residence because - get this - that hovel on the Italian coast is their year-round home.
It was almost unthinkable. The day she’d gotten the international call from Daphne she’d hardly been able to process it. She'd known Daphne and Doxie were spending a late summer retreat at Le Sireneuse to rest up for the many obligations they'd have during New York Fashion Week. Hortensia assumed this meant the two would spend their entire stay by the pool on a liquid diet in order to maintain a woman's size 2 and a dachshund size ultra petite for NYFW outfits.
But it seams the plan had derailed significantly. Hortensia answered the call to hear Daphne breathless and furious. She had found Doxie in the town square surrounded by barefoot little beggars, throwing wildflowers at her while she and this fisherman’s son publicly celebrated their marriage that had seemingly been planned and arranged that very day by some errant hotel waiter and a fisherman who were lovers...? It was all too much to comprehend.
When Daphne had begun to describe the ring she fully grasped the dire state of affairs. A petite antique store piece that was not G.I.A. certified and appeared to contain very pronounced inclusions?
Not for her daughter. Not at all. She had immediately booked the next flight and had arrived the next morning to find Doxie, annul the marriage and bring her home to begin the painful process of rebuilding her daughter’s future.
Hortensia had raised her sweet, intelligent, sartorially gifted only daughter, Doxie, with the focus of a surgeon in the middle of a brain transplant since day one. Carefully sculpting and choreographing the perfect childhood at all the right schools and summer camps for elite born and bred manhattanite puppies.
Her hard work paid off in the ultimate human adoption pairing when renowned fashion icon, Daphne had shown early interest in her when they crossed paths in the Madison Ave Celine boutique. Hortensia had immediately made sure that Daphne had all the right inroads with the agency to guarantee the two would be paired together. This adoption was the crowning glory for her as a parent.
Now all that was left was for Doxie to confirm that she was the cream of the crop was for Doxie debut this season and find a suitable husband. Both seemed like they were in the bag. Hortensia was tennis partners with Mrs. Gerald Mortimer De Wilder Turnbrough after all.
Tallulah Turnbrough, or Topper as she was known to her enviably elite circle of friends was notoriously backstabbing and generally terrible at valuing female friendships despite having so many. Yet she had taken a profound liking to Doxie - most likely due to Doxie’s petite figure and beautiful black and tan markings, only found in the purest of pure bred dachshunds.
Topper had made a point of making sure Doxie met her son, Charles. Charles was a disappointment on so many levels, but was worth billions as he was her eldest. Doxie was young enough and sweet enough, and Hortensia was determined enough that they just might be the perfect cocktail to finally get Charles married.
All was set for the two to become engaged in the spring and married in September and settled into a lifetime of reliable luxury in a classic six on the upper east….
She cleared her throat, a fresh wave of anger washing over her.
“Don’t chew the table cloth, Doxie, you’re not in the wife of an Italian fisherman any more, try not to act like one” she snarled under her breath.
Doxie retreated from what she thought was subtly chewing the table cloth and slumped back into the enormous chair. She couldn't believe her mother was still putting on the pretense of them enjoying their annual tradition of an afternoon snack at Bergdorfs Cafe after Christmas shopping given the situation.
“Honestly mother, this is delusional. Can we just go home now?” she asked.
“Not until you tell me what really happened. It’s been months of this horrible strain between us. And you and Daphne. Really Doxie, are you going to give up on these relationships all for some peasant…”
“He’s not a peasant mother! Not everyone has to inhabit the entire top floor of the Carlyle Hotel in order to feel successful, you know. And you’re the ones who made it this way! You’re no better than Daphne! Neither of you know what makes me happy! How many times do I have to tell you. I’m never going to be a debutante. I never wanted to be a debutante! I’m not going to marry that horrible portugese waterdog, Charles Debumpkin Turdface or whatever his name is”
“Charles De Wilder Turnbrough the the fourth, Doxie. And you most certainly aren’t going to marry him. Topper hasn’t spoken to me since I had to withdraw you from the ball.”
“Well isn’t that a tragedy”
“Don’t be sarcastic! You sound like a common mix breed chihuahua. You have no appreciation for anything that matters”
“Love. Love is all that matters to me!” Doxie shouted, slamming her paw on the white table cloth, sending truffle frites flying and upsetting baby Saint West who was eating oysters and wearing Dolce & Gabbana in her mother’s arms a few tables away.
Doxie hopped from her seat and tore out of the restaurant at top speed, shooting right through the legs of a gangly blonde who had just walked in, arms laden with lavender Bergdorfs bags.
Hortensia sat stunned, staring at the frites, trying to plan her next move while surreptitiously surmising whether or not the other diners had noticed her daughter’s outburst. Clearly that dreadful baby had noticed. And what on earth had the mother shoplifted and attempted to stash inside the back of her Herve Leger body-con dress. Surely that couldn’t be all her back there…
“Daughters,” she smiled at Kim and Saint, straightening her glasses with graceful ease while pretending she had planned the whole thing.
Just then the leggy blonde who had been storming through the restaurant apparently feverishly searching for someone slammed into Doxie’s empty chair across from Hortensia, dumping her armfuls of Bergdorfs merchandise at their feet.
“Thank God I found you!” she said by way of introducing herself as she began to dig into the lobster mac and cheese…
Late morning in Positano, Doxie and Fabrizio are lounging on a big turkish towel surrounded by their pranzo feast.
Pranzo, or lunch, is one of the new words Doxie learned this morning when Fab picked her up from her private suite at Le Sireneuse with a daisy in his mouth for her and an invitation: pranzare con lui
The past two weeks have been the most beautiful two weeks of Doxie’s young life. Fabrizio and Doxie have fallen in love. It started that day when Sandro introduced them near the fishing boats after the big fight with Doxie’s person, Daphne.
Fabrizio and Doxie walked through the town exploring together until sundown that day. It was as if they’d known each other all their lives, and yet had so much to tell one another. I suppose in some cosmic way, their souls had known each other always, or at least had known that the mirror of itself existed since the beginning of time. It was natural that the two halves should meet and should share a walk through the quaint Italian town together.
As they walked she told him how she’d grown up in New York City - a place Fab had never been. And how Daphne dressed her in Goyard puppy collars and took her to Paris at least twice a year. She told him about all the fashion shows and the “blogger brunches” and about how Anna Wintour always gives her Figi water in a Tiffany’s basketweave bowl when they visit the Vogue offices.
He told her how he’d grown up with his person, Pietro a fisherman who delivers fish to Le Sireneuse and the other local hotels, right here in Positano. He sleeps outside on a little porch of their house that looks out at the ocean, beneath a lemon tree and rides on the boat in the early mornings with Pietro and watches the sunrise.
The two could not have been from more different worlds. She, a manhattanite through and through with a passport bursting with stamps and a closet of expensive puppy sweaters and he, the rough and tumble son of a fisherman who had never attended puppy training school but knew exactly how to steal porchetta from the local market. And yet, they were somehow much the same. Their tails wagged to the same rhythm of universal truth.
The days that followed were much the same. They’d explore the town together, walking and talking and getting into mischief. Since the big fight on the morning they’d first met, Doxie had refused to return to Daphne’s room and had requested her own suite. Daphne didn’t seem to mind, it gave her more time for boat trips and night clubs.
And now they were sitting on a secluded cliff looking out at the ocean enjoying a spread of the loveliest focaccia and olio di oliva and lots and lots of proscuitto é meloné and a nice Ligurian white wine.
Doxie thought to herself how very far away New York felt. How she never wanted to go back. She thought she could be happy forever, here, being with Fabrizio, even if it meant no more Celine puppy carrier or cashmere monogrammed puppy sweaters in the fall. If only they could stay on like this forever with long slow lazy days exploring together she knew she’d always be happy and never miss all that. But she knew this couldn’t be...
At that very moment Fabrizio seemed to be having the same thought. He asked in his adorable halting english, “When do you go away, mi amore?”
Her eyes welled up with tears as she admitted to him that Doxie and Daphne’s return flight would leave in only one day. New York Fashion Week began later that week and Daphne always returned just in time for the many social obligations she would have as soon as they landed.
Fabrizio couldn’t believe it. He was crushed. He too began to cry softly and their wet little noses touched softly as they wept over the olio di oliva, now too sad to finish their feast.
He looked out at the sea and then back at her with a new determined look in his eye. “”follow me princepessa” he ordered, scrambling to his paws and scampering off up the cliff. Doxie followed, sniffing back her tears. He led her up and up through winding streets with hairpin turns to a new part of town she’d never seen. Vespas buzzed past at lightning speeds, scaring Doxie half to death as she skittered along, tail between her legs in terror.
Up and up they climbed, past crumbling stone walls and groves of olive trees, darting between the legs of little old ladies who were tottering along with their baskets from the market and running side by side with a gang of wild barefoot children until they reached a little house tucked into a cliff.
Was this Fabrizio’s house!? Was he taking her to meet Pietro!? Doxie could hardly believe it, she was so excited to see the porch with the lemon tree that looked out at the ocean and to ask Pietro about all his fish and to truly know the good person who raised the pup she loved.
Just then, the door swung open and out popped... Sandro? Sandro lives here?
And then another man, almost as tall as Sandro, but tanner and strapping with more muscles, popped forth from the house as well and knelt down to let Fabrizio jump into his arms and pepper him with puppy kisses, while exclaiming in a big happy voice “Ciao mi ragazzo! Ciao ciao!”
Doxie watched, wagging her tail cautiously. Doxie began to wonder about Sandro and why he was there too... Sandro, the most handsome waiter in all of the staff at Le Sireneuse, was never spotted flirting with any of the female guests. This was part of the reason he was the longest standing member of the hotel restaurant staff, actually.
And what kind of Italian fisherman has a miniature dachshund? Aren’t Italian Fishermen rugged, tough, outdoorsmen who would surely prefer a larger dog breed? Unless...
Fabrizio has not one.... but two dads.
Suddenly it all made sense! How else would Sandro have known Fabrizio would be down in the little cover that morning waiting in the fishing boat?!
Doxie began wagging her tail wildly and ran to join the happy family. “We a wondered when you would a find out, principessa!” boomed Sandro, scooping her up and letting her climb up onto his strong shoulders to lick his cheeks. “This is a my boyfriend, Pietro! And this is our piccolo ragazzo, Fabrizio!”
Pietro and Sandro welcomed the puppies into their charming little house where they too had just finished a light lunch of proscuitto é meloné. The four settled down out on the porch by the lemon tree to admire the ocean while Fab and Doxie told the two about all the adventures they’d been on over the past two weeks. The men laughed heartily at their stories of sneaking into the market to steal porchetta.
Pietro and Sandro listened patiently, smiling to one another. And once the pups had finished regaling the couple about their adventures, Pietro clapped his hands together, his eyes filling with tears, and announced “Fabri you have a found your principessa!
Just then a cloud crossed over Fabrizio’s face as he remembered the reason for his visit. “But principessa, she leaves. Tomorrow, to New York...” he trailed off as Doxie burried her nose in his neck and wept quietly.
Pietro and Sandro began speaking to one another in rapid Italian. Finally Pietro threw up his hands and turned to Doxie and Fab. “There is a way... for the principessa to stay. It is the marriage. Fabrizio, do you love this principessa?” Sandro nodded seriously, “Si, principessa, it is the only way. By law of a the marriage, you and Fabrizio can stay toegether forever here”
Doxie’s heart lept into her mouth and her tail began wagging wildly. Fabrizio looked at her and then looked around at their tiny home, filled with drift wood and other things Pietro found at sea. He saw the tiny sofa with the lace doilies draped over the seat backs and the cross hanging above the kitchen door and Sandro’s nonna’s dusty cookbooks and copper pots stacked atop the stove that had boiled five generations of pasta water for Sandro’s family.
Surely Doxie would grow tired of this quaint lifestyle. Her Goyard collar was all wrong in this humble place. But she looked so happy, so sure. Her tail was practically about to rocket off the back of her body it was wagging so fast... she certainly seemed to love him and this place.
He gulped unsurely and looked up at Pietro and Sandro. They nodded their approval. Fabrizio turned back to Doxie who was standing expectantly before him.
He sat down on his hind legs, and then lowered his front legs too. Essentially kneeling before her as much as a pup can kneel. Looking up at her he said, “Ti amo, principessa, mi vuoi sposare?”
Doxie could hardly believe it. She hadn’t learned the verb sposare yet but she had a feeling she knew what it meant.
“Yes! Yes yes yes!” she yipped joyfully chasing her tail in a quick excited circle and then leaping into Fabrizio’s arms and kissing his snout as Pietro and Sandro simultaneously scooped up both pups into a family embrace.
Down below, walking along the cliffs, a middle-aged red haired woman was walking with a sobbing blonde girl with thin wild limbs like a baby horse. The girl was waving her arms as she told the red headed woman her plight.
As they passed below the little house with the lemon tree, they looked up to see the two men laughing and embracing with their squirming pups. It was a charming sight. A rare glimpse into the unguarded heart of the world. The woman pointed up to them and then patted the blonde girl on the arm.
“You’ll find that someday, Taylor” Julianne Moore said to the blonde gently. And then the two continued their stroll in silent reflection.
What happened next was a true Italian wedding frenzy. Sandro grabbed Doxie and whisked her away into the bathroom where he began washing her with lavender soap, brushing her coat and clipping her toe nails and whiskers. He washed each paw with a balm of olive oil and eucalyptus, perfectly polishing her nails until they shone like tiny black diamonds. While he worked he sang loudly the classic Dean Martin song “Volaaareeeee oh oh, Cantaaarreeee oh oh oh oh... nel blu, dipinto di blu...”
Meanwhile Pietro grabbed Fabrizio and said they were headed to see his cousin who was a jeweler. As they rushed out the door Pietro was yelling to a neighbor to go collect flowers and to prepare a wedding feast. Several children came rushing into the house followed by Sandro’s mamma and nonna who had apparently all been eves dropping the whole time.
All the relatives began talking at once with much wild gesticulation. Opinions were flying around and bouncing off the walls like the room was a pinball machine. A pot of espresso was burning on the stove and the nonna was calling everyone “stronzo”. Someone removed the goyard collar and tossed it aside and replaced it with a lace veil that fitted neatly onto Doxie’s little head and covered her now-lavender scented ears with delicate, antique lace.
And the frenzy came to a sudden hushed halt. They all stopped their wedding preparations to behold the tiny, quivering dachshund bride in the middle of the mêlée. She was so beautiful, so innocent, and so confused!
Nonna left the burnt espresso pot and came over to Doxie, wiping her hands on her apron as she approached. She knelt down before her and took Doxie’s snout in her warm hands and wispered into her ear, “perfetto!” And the room broke out again into joyful confused chatter as they all exclaimed over how lovely the young bride looked.
And then it was time. Time to go. Sandro offered Doxie his arm and she gingerly climbed up and onto his shoulders and off they went. He lept onto his vespa with doxie on the seat behind him and together they shot off down the winding road, back past the crumbling walls and the olive groves, zooming around other vespas, and nearly missing little old ladies walking with baskets of vegetables as Doxie’s veil fluttered on the breeze.
They arrived at the church in dramatic fashion as the vespa skidded to a halt, sending up a cloud of disgruntled pigeons flapping around the square. The barefoot little girls had followed the vespa to town after nonna had given them flower crowns to wear and one for Doxie too.
They gingerly placed the flowers atop her veil, and with stoic determination, filed into a line behind her, each taking a bit of her veil hem in their little fingers, prepared to be her ladies in waiting. She looked up at them nervously and then down the imposing aisle of the beautiful old church. Sandro took his place beside her, and they began to walk toward Fabrizio and Pietro.
The couple was united in holy matrimony in Chiesa Santa Maria Assunta that very day at high noon. The bride wore Sandro’s great great grandmother’s veil of Venetian lace and a floral crown of poppies, sprigs of lavendar and rosemary. The groom presented her with a diamond ring, a small estate piece in Pietro’s cousin’s store, which he had strung onto a smooth collar of italian leather for Doxie to wear around her neck.
As they trotted down the aisle and out of the church, all the children had gathered to toss rice on the couple as the bells rang out above the square and love was all around.
Christmas eve in new york city. all is calm all is quiet. the city that never sleeps seems to finally have settled in for a long winters nap. High above the highest building, up, up in the clouds water is shooting through frozen air and forming tiny particles. The first to crystalize, becoming a tiny six-sided perfectly symmetrical true snowflake bursts forth from the churning white mist as if to announce “Let it snow!” and then suddenly becomes bashful when it realizes no other flakes have emerged yet.
It is now suspended alone high above the world in a sea of blackness. It waivers in the atmosphere shyly and then drifts and loops through the crisp night, tumbling headlong towards the glittering city below. It floats over central park, past the big department stores, past deserted mid town, past the small shops of the village and finally flutters to earth and lands on the nose of a boy who stands alone beneath the arch in Washington Square Park just as a church in the distance chimes the hour, twelve o’clock.
But before we get to all that, we must begin.
This story started months before. Let us travel back to that fateful day when the it all begins… a beautiful morning on a late summer day on the Amalfi coast. The guests at the charming Le Sireneuse are sauntering out to breakfast on the terrace overlooking the ocean, welcomed by the scent of cappuccinos mingling with sea spray and distant lemon trees.
A young girl sits alone at a table near the balcony, a look of fierce anger clouding her otherwise pretty features. She stares off at the distance. One glance at her and you would realize her thoughts are far far away, churning fast, mean, unforgiving and relentless like the ocean stretching out before her.
“Buongiorno Principessa!” booms a waiter who has just walked up to her table to set down a caffe and brioche before her. She stares up at him clearly unprepared to match his level of enthusiasm.
“What you doing Principessa? I bring you the favorites!” he announces in his quintessential italian waiter accent as he flourishes his hand over the plate of brioche. She sniffs it forlornly and looks away.
The waiter is surprised. Usually the girl devours her breakfast with gusto. He's never seen food rest on her plate unchallenged for this long after it is placed before her. He senses her need to be alone and backs away discretely. He stops near the flowering vines growing up a pillar and plucks a bloom and timidly tiptoes back to the girls table and places the flower on top of her pastry.
With this universal gesture of empathy, he wins her over. She looks up at him as her eyes fill with tears and he knows he is welcome to kneel beside her and comfort her. She leaps from her chair and nuzzles into his arms and buries her face in his neck.
Now - it is important that we pause here.
You’ve taken in my words and they’re swirling around in your mind now and beginning to take form of the girl you imagine me to be writing about. But I am afraid that your vision may need course correction. If we go any further, the girl you’ll imagine and the girl I am writing about will become too dissimilar to continue and you’ll end up bewildered and confused in the end.
You see, it is at this point that I must tell you that the girl is in fact a petite black and tan dachshund.
The waiter comforts the girl, stroking her glistening black fur as he settles into her seat at the table, her still in his arms. She licks his name badge tentatively, her tongue touching the etched letters “Sandro”
“Please principessa, do not be a sad!” he coaxes as he tears off a bit of pastry for her which she still refuses, making him worry even more.
Just then a motorboat, the kind you might see in a James Bond big hollywood movie pulls into the cove below the hotel. Sandro and the girl watch as the engine cuts off and it docks. Several people are mulling about on the boat wearing what looks like slightly bedraggled back tie attire, all staggering a bit more than they should be given how still the ocean is this morning.
The first off the boat is a handsome man wearing only tuxedo pants and gold rimmed aviator sunglasses. “Daphne, just leave her, she’s fine” he shouts to the two women still on board the boat. Daphne looks up at him over the top of her similar gold rimmed aviators, shooting him a mischievous look and bounces up from where she had been kneeling, helping her gangly blond girlfriend vomit off the side of the speed boat. “Don’t worry, Taylor, you’ll feel better after some champagne! Come join us ok?” she chirps to the seasick blonde as she lets the tuxedo-panted man help her up out of the boat.
Sandro strokes the girls fur again and whispers under his breath, “Ayyy, my principessa! Now I see. Signorina Daphne. She did not come back last night?!” The girl looks up at him and just sniffles sadly and shakes her furry little head.
A few minutes later the boat couple emerge on the balcony laughing behind their sunglasses, out of breath from the climb up from the dock. Upon closer inspection, they’re definitely quite bedraggled, flecked with glitter and seaweed. Daphne’s Mara Hoffman maxi dress is torn along the hem and she’s lost one of her Oscar de la Renta ombre tassle earrings and both appear to be barefoot.
When they spot Sandro seated with the girl in the corner, Daphne stops in her tracks, and several painful moments pass punctuated only by the distant echo of Taylor vomiting below as the waiter and pup stare down the party couple.
“Doxieeeeee!” Daphne coos, finally deciding to pretend nothing is wrong as she rushes forth towards her dog. Sandro stands up defensively, almost knocking the table off the balcony in the process, sending pastries flying across the marble floor like a strange game of bakers’ shuffle board. He holds Doxie aloft, so that the still half-drunk Daphne cannot reach her.
“Signorina” he admonishes. “Principessa she worries! Why you no come home!? Principessa she is a not a speaking to you!”
Doxie cowers on Sandro’s shoulders, indeed not speaking to Daphne but giving her the best sad puppy eyes she’s ever mustered up.
“Doxie my sweet, mommy is here!!! Come to mommy! Don’t you want to have champagne with mommy? I was…. I was uh… i was in Capri! Yes, In Capri at the most beautiful pet store getting you beautiful new presents! Lots of presents! And prosciutto!” Daphne spews anxiously as she grasps for the pup high up on Sandro’s towering shoulders.
“Doxieeeeeeee” Daphne tries again, practically climbing Sandro’s torso to get a hold of the quivering puppy. “Doxie I’m serious, come here!” she shouts as she looses her balance and tumbles into a table where Julianne Moore is quietly eating fruit beneath a large hat.
“Let’s a see it then! Prego! Where is ze prosciutto?” challenges Sandro “Where is Principessa’s a present? Every time-a you go away you say my principessa you bring her the prosciutto! She is a tired of this!”
“It’s, it’s on the boat… I’ll get it, I think it’s in my bag…” Daphne trails off, looking back to her friend for support, but he’s disappeared to find Taylor and nurse her back to health with a champagne breakfast.
“I… I’ll just take her to get the presents. Thank you Sandro for watching her. Doxie come with mommy!” Daphne tries again, making one more grab for Doxie as the sounds of the speedboat’s engine coming back to life waft up from below. Daphne is momentarily distracted by this and rushes to the edge of the balcony to see her friend back on the boat, his arm draped around Taylor who has indeed recovered. The two are smiling and uncorking their champagne as the boat maneuvers back out into the fresh morning surf. Daphne reaches into the folds of her ruined Mara Hoffman and fishes out an iPhone and begins furiously texting the boat people while Sandro and Doxie watch and judge.
“I am a guess the prosciutto is a leaving signoirna?” Sandro asks. Daphne realizes she’s caught in a lie at the same time she realizes the boat is pulling away with her Aquazurra Wild Thing heels and one of her ombre earrings.
“Oh Doxie, get over it. It was just one night” she sighs in frustration as she continues texting. Sandro has had enough at this point. He deftly places Doxie on his empty tray and lifts her high above his head.
“Princiepssa is a leaving!” he announces and with that he maneuvers past Daphne and through the maze of white table clothed tables and disappears into the kitchen. Julienne Moore watches in confusion as a dachshund just passed her table on a cocktail servers tray and a girl is standing nearby wearing one huge earring and no shoes and beginning to cry.
Back in the kitchen, Sandro begins speaking rapid italian to a line cook. The two confer seriously and with much gesticulation - Sandro, who is still holding doxie on his tray, is waiving her around wildly while he describes Signorina Daphne’s latest antics to the growing crowd of cooks. She skitters from one edge of the tray to the other, literally surfing the emotional waves of the conversation.
The cooks respond in similar fashion, brandishing their raised knives and spatulas - and in one’s case - a leg of lamb - in agreement with Sandro’s opinion of Daphne’s puppy-parenting skills.
Doxie tries to follow along but her italian is rusty and she is distracted by the proximity of the raw lamb leg. Suddenly Sandro has scooped her off the tray and is headed out a back door out into the sunshine.
“We are escaped Principessa!” he announces to her as he places her on his shoulder and begins descending a narrow flight of stone stairs carved into the cliffs. “We are a going to have a great a day! Princepessa, I want you to be a meeting my nephew, Fabrizio!”
Sandro weaves deflty down the narrow stairs and leads Doxie to a fishing boat tied up in a small harbor she has never seen before. He sets her down on the warm stone and strides ahead of her shouting “Fab! Fabrizio! Dove Siete Fabrizio?”
And suddenly, a dachshund boy pops his head over the side of the boat. Fabrizio the nephew is a dachshund just like her!
Doxie stares at him. He is so handsome! His dark nose is smudged with fish guts but she can tell he has excellent bone structure. He hops up out of the boat and onto the cliff easily, showing off his strong legs and exuberantly wagging tail and gallops toward Sandro and then toward Doxie exclaiming “Ciao Belllaaaa” with great admiration.
Sandro watches as the two become acquainted, smiling to himself at the first moments of new love and without sound he backs up the stone stairs and disappears off to the kitchen again.
If you haven't noticed by now, my 2015 calendar was subtly inspired by New York City. It was produced by one of the oldest stationers in the city, Dempsey & Carroll, and was painted in my old Christie Street studio on the Lower East Side, while I looked out over the sweeping views north toward bustling mid town and the Empire State Building.
New York is practically perfect in all seasons. It's radiant and renewed in Spring with it's residents finally stepping forth for brunch outside, it's jubilant in summer with long weekends stretching temptingly around every corner, it's majestic in fall erupting with foliage in bright reds and yellow and in December, New York just might be the merriest place on the planet.
Forget the North Pole. It always sounded a little cold and like I'd have jet lag by the time I got there. New York is my North Pole. A real life Santa's Workshop. Each December the entire city erupts with an economy fueled by millions of elves all eager to bring forth the best, the brightest, the shiniest, the most magical sugar plums that could ever dance through your pretty little head.
Every store window puts on a show. An evening walk in December through dressed up New York City is really more of a waltz through the pages of a glossy magazine filled with gift guides. And of course...
All roads lead to Bergdorfs.
Whether you've lived here for twenty years or you've just come to manhattan for Christmas, you may have to see the big tree on the plaza, or ice skate in central park. But if you're anything like me, all of that can wait. You've come for the big show. The Bergdorfs Christmas Windows.
And it's not just the windows. Once you've soaked in their majesty, and felt swept away on the stories they tell, it's time to go inside. And you head straight for the elevator to rise through corridors of enticing sea foam green mirrors, past floor after floor of couture, as you levitate higher and higher riding the faint scent of truffled mac and cheese until you're there on the top floor, weaving your way through the $1500 childrens' cashmere and diamond cardigans, twisting through rooms of estate silver and John Derian decoupapge trays until you've found the hallway that leads to the land of the Whisper Chairs.
I swear the Bergdorf's Cafe is the place I meditate on when my yoga teacher tells us to "think of a place you feel most at peace" while we're in a headstand. There's something about that place that turns me into an 8 year old again who believes in all there is to believe in.
I always feel sentimental when painting the final piece of the calendar each year. So it was fitting to close this year's calendar, which was a love letter to the women of New York, with a sketch of two friends decked out in winter white and luxuriant furs, surrounded by their Bergdorfs haul nestled cozily in the Whisper Chairs in the cafe at Christmastime.
So without further ado, I give you Christmastime in the City! The elves are waiting for you! Happy December!
Hello! Are you a bride? And are you wondering how it works if you want to work with me?
Well, here is the whole process spelled out for you through the story of this lovely couple...
Meet Kelly of Winifred Paper's and my imaginary friends Caroline and Andrew! They got engaged last year on a sustainable organic Christmas Tree farm on Christmas Eve, which happens to also be both their birthdays. So naturally, they wanted to have a Christmas Eve wedding. And because they devoted a year to volunteer in disaster relief areas in the third world they just now got around to setting their date for 2016 and asked Kelly and me to come to their aid for all things paper.
We began with the above commissioned illustration. Caroline wrote into my site to inquire about working together approximately 4 to 6 weeks before she needed to send the artwork into production. We talked about how Andrew proposed. She told me all the beautiful little sentimental details and together we arrived at this concept for the composition.
Because Andrew is super supportive and understanding, he agreed to pose with Caroline for a picture posed like the sketch above, recreating the moment for me to work from. Caroline then emailed me this shot with directions to "dress them" in something bridal instead of the outerwear they were actually wearing on the tree farm to add to the romance of the moment, as imagined through the magic of illustration.
Within our four week agreed upon window of time I worked on Caroline's piece and then sent it back over for approval. She loved it so I popped this original painting in the mail to her to frame for Andrew as a surprise on their engagement anniversary.
Next step - we looped in talented designer and paper magician Kelly to begin the design process. Kelly took the high resolution file of my art and worked her magic on a beautiful digital suite of Save The Date proof options for Caroline and Andrew to choose from.
They elected to go with a soft gray for their text and cranberry red painted edges on cotton stock - a theme they then carried throughout all the paper for their wedding.
And for the Save The Date, they added that little extra touch of brilliance with some gold foiled "snowflakes" floating down around the artwork and a custom envelope liner done in some of my seasonally appropriate botanical watercolors - the amaryllis.
Kelly got to work producing the Save The Date's while Caroline and Andrew compiled their list/argued with their parents about whether or not Mrs. Caldwell could invite her ENTIRE tennis team to the rehearsal dinner and wedding.
Nine months before the wedding date, Caroline and Andrew sent out these beautiful cards to give their guests plenty of time to plan to travel to the big event.
Next step, they met with Kelly for a second planning session to design the formal wedding suite. For those of you who do not know yet about the nuances and complexities of the Wedding Suite, let me just say this - it is a concept that is as complicated and open ended as any printed correspondence can possibly be.
If you're wondering why you've met with several different printers or wedding planners or designers and they've all sighed and given you vague explanations about the wedding suite, it is because there is no one right answer to how you should proceed.
The Wedding Suite is riddled with a minefield of opportunities for faux pas as you make decisions like double thick flat card with a beveled painted edge vs. a soft cotton with a fold and deckled edge or to emboss or to engrave, or to emboss AND engrave.
Like I said, it essentially IS rocket science. So, here's what I recommend. Take a cue from Caroline and Andrew and schedule a meeting with us and we'll set you on the path to Wedding Suite Winning.
For this particular suite, Kelly used a single card of heavy stock with the painted edge, which carried over from the Save The Date design, and brought in the same text and ink color. She did a gold foil press of the calligraphed names of the couple, created by the same calligrapher who will ultimately hand-address each guest's envelope.
The main envelope which will contain all the suite components has the sweetest little tiding of joy letter pressed on the exterior "From wedding bells to jingle bells" above their return address. This is the kind of creative genius that you need Kelly for. I mean, come on. How good is that?!
Inside this envelope the guests will find all the components of the suite*
*Some brides elect to have a second Inner Envelope that follows this exterior envelope and contains the remainder of the elements, this adds a level of formality and tradition. But Caroline and Andrew feel strongly about sustainable Tree use and did not want to compromise any more leafy friends in the act of creating their suite.
The interior elements include:
The formal invitation which we just discussed above, the reply card, and the invitation to the wedding reception.
Notice how adorable their reply card is, requesting a reply by Thanksgiving. This couple is all about holidays!
And how beautiful is the petite reception invitation in it's own botanical illustrated envelope.
True to form, this super organized couple popped these bad boys in the mail eight weeks before the big day, giving their guests plenty of time to receive and respond to these elegant invitations.
They walked down the aisle after saying their vows in St. John's Episcopal Church into the soft newly fallen snow as the December dusk settled over a quiet city and embraced one another, their hearts filled with great joy and lived happily ever after, always with a stack of perfectly designed correspondence paper nearby to write notes to their family and friends.
Want to embark upon your wedding journey with the same grace and ease that Caroline and Andrew enjoyed? Here is a list of things you can do to emulate their amazingness by employing Kelly and me:
Well, there you have it you fancy engaged little thing! Now you should be very well educated in the process of our impending collaboration on the most magnificent day of your life. We can't wait to work with you!
PS. Buy the new issue of BRIDES and you can see this project featured!
Inslee By Design: You made it this far, you know who I am.
Society Social: My studio mate, Roxy is the founder of Society Social - a whimsical line of home goods and furniture. Roxy enjoys drinking wine with me while we complain about how hard our lives are. She's just one of those people who is always there for you (or in this case, for me). So if you have some emotional baggage you've been carrying around, I invite you to stop by #73SPRINGSHOP and take a load off while road testing one of her beautiful pieces of furniture and tell Roxy all about that job you're thinking of going out for, or that date that didn't go as planned, or those five pounds you just cannot lose.
Persifor: Alex, designer behind the perky and fresh clothing & accessories line, Persifor, will be joining us for the Pop Up shop again this year. Alex enjoys running the world with one hand tied behind her back. If there's anything I learned from #73SPRINGSHOP last year, it's that Alex is one cool, calm, collected cucumber that you totally want to emulate and grow up to become. But you can't, because you're a mess. It's ok, I'm a mess too. We can just lurk near Alex and try to absorb some of her powers together while telling Roxy all our problems.
Loren Hope: Omg yes, that Loren! Yes, her stuff is EVERYWHERE. AND IT IS SO CUTE. Loren is taking the world by storm, one piece of hand-crafted-in-Rhode-Island beautiful jewelry at a time. Loren is also a second time vendor at #73SPRINGSHOP and if you weren't her biggest shopper last year, I think i might have been. You know the classic story: Girl gets job at retail shop, girl gets pay check, girl spends pay check in same retail shop...? Yes. That was me and Loren's inventory last year.
Ashley Brooke Designs: Now THIS is a wild card. I have to admit, I don't know ABD and her sassy hand lettered accessories all that well yet. She's a first time vendor, new to the shop this year! Hurray for a newbie! My initial read is this: Ashely is essentially Buddy the Elf dressed in heels and a cardigan. Or in other words, we're going to get along very well. I anticipate we'll fall in love and maybe choreograph several synchronized dances together about the meaning of Christmas.
If you missed it last year, let me fill you in: #73SPRINGSHOP is a hashtag, but it is also so much more. It is a call-to-action to be said loud, and fast, and all as one word: SEVENTYTHREESPRINGSHOP!!! and to be emphasized by doing jazz hands while you say it. Try it and see if you don't feel suddenly energized by the need to buy adorable gifts.
#73SPRINGSHOP is a curated shopping experience featuring a selection of each of our products in a boutique-like atmosphere. We've worked together to design a beautiful space that amplifies each of our unique businesses and makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you step through the door.
There will be Christmas music. There will be puppies. There may also be face painting (TBD... have not asked the others about this yet, but who doesn't want to have their face painted like a sexy reindeer?)
Last year, #73SPRINGSHOP was a raging success. We opened the doors of our merry little studio for a week to the general public and met so many wonderful new friends and clients and sold lots and lots of beautiful gifts.
So this year, we decided to take it a step further and invite you in not just for one week but for the whole darn MONTH. Why not? The longer the merrier!
Yes, that is right. Starting December 3rd, we'll be open daily during the week from 4-8pm and on Saturdays from 12-6pm and on Sundays from 1-5pm. We'll ring the closing bell on December 20th. And really, if you haven't finished shopping by then, then shame on you GRINCH.
Now this is the tricky part...
The studio is in an office building, it's not exactly a traditional retail storefront experience. So put on your adventure pants, and get ready to do some hunting to find us up on the fourth floor of 73 Spring Street. It will be worth it.
If you arrive in the evening or on the weekend, you'll need to buzz #16 to be granted access to the magical party that is raging upstairs in our lair.
Once you're in the door, you'll be faced with a big decision: to opt for the ease and speed of the elevator to floor 4 or taking the stairs, because we know that Fitbit is always watching. Always judging.
Once you make it to floor 4, just follow the sounds of the cacophony of joy that will undoubtedly be spilling forth from Room 401, potentially getting us in trouble with our neighbors. And the rest will be pretty self explanatory... HAVE FUN!
We cannot wait to see you!