How a Fix-It Guru Spends Her Sundays

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It was about seven years ago when Sandra Goldmark’s broken toaster started to keep her up at night. So did other people’s toasters. And uncooperative vacuums, wobbly tables and ripped jeans about to make their way to the landfill — all of the detritus of modern life, actually. So the longtime set designer chatted with some of her theater buddies and together they started a repair shop in 2013.

This led to an official business, Fixup, an appointment as the director of campus sustainability and climate action at Barnard College and, more recently, the book “Fixation,” which was published last month.

Although Ms. Goldmark halted official repair duties this year to promote her book, the pandemic has inspired her neighbors — many of whom are suddenly keenly aware of every object in their apartments — to seek her out on Sunday afternoons. They plop their tired armchairs, desk lamps and more in front of her apartment in Inwood, where she lives with her husband, Michael Banta, Barnard’s theater production manager, 47; and their sons, Luke, 12, and Eric, 7.

HIS AND HERS COFFEE We use a French press. A big one for Michael, a little decaf one for me. Eric likes to push the plungers down on Sundays. Mine needs to be fixed, actually. The gasket is torn and starting to spray coffee. We got a broken red Keurig in recently, and one of our theater fixers, Adam Dowis, said, “This coffee maker looks like a sports car on the outside, but you open it and it’s a Hyundai inside.”

STRANGE TIMES I read for a while and don’t get out of bed until I feel like it — sometime between 6:30 and 9:30. Sci-fi isn’t my usual fare, but these guys love it and I’m trying to join the club. So I’m reading something called the “Deed of Paksenarrion” trilogy. Frankly, for me now — at least this fall — life seems to be turning back to normal a bit. Fingers crossed. In April, Michael and I definitely had Covid-19, and the boys complained of headaches for five days. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t awful. Dodged a bullet, I guess.

NETHERLANDS Practically every morning, I jog alone through Inwood Hill Park and look at the ducks and just upload thoughts. After 30 minutes I come back, and Michael does his Dutch baby — a giant puffy pancake baked in the oven with a hunk of butter on the bottom so a nice crust gets burned on. Luke doesn’t love Dutch babies, but I’m a huge fan.

SOMETHING OLD By then it’s around noon because we’re slow. Even though Fixup isn’t technically open, we wind up fixing Inwood people’s stuff on Sunday afternoons, which often requires scavenging tools from the basement storage unit. Our project table has been overtaken over by Zoom screens, so we use the dining table I bought from my favorite, favorite New York business, AptDeco. You post a used couch or whatever, then — here’s the key — AptDeco arranges van pickup. Like Craigslist except not a huge pain.

THE HOOD I grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn and, up until 2005, lived in various New York neighborhoods where it felt like everyone was so talented and powerful and successful, which can be exhausting. Inwood feels agreeably unfashionable — just a little bit off the wheel. And I guess that’s why the pop-ups worked; part of the genesis was our neighborhood exchange of baby ExerSaucers. You see everybody at the farmer’s market on Isham Street, the neighborhood’s social nexus. Some of whom always ask, “When are you coming back?” We have a couple super fans, so I have to hide a little bit.

LITTLE BOXES Right before dinner, I’ll have to write up reflections on sets that my 12 scene design students fashioned inside shoe boxes they found in their apartments. You know, it kind of feels easy to never get dressed but, ultimately, I miss the transition of going to work and coming home. I’ve taught this fall-semester class for 15 years, typically via a series of Suzan-Lori Parks plays. It’s about the process of translating a text into a physical, three-dimensional response for the stage.

CLOSE QUARTERS After dinner, the four of us pile onto the queen-size bed for Netflix. We barely fit anymore, and sometimes I find a residual avocado or something from scavenger hunts Eric did for school that week. I have to make myself stay up till 10. Fairly recently, I rewatched all of “Friends” in an unhealthily short period of time. It was intense, and Eric would run away. So, sometimes animated, like “Boss Baby.” Or, the kids and I love “Queer Eye.” After which the boys go climb up onto their respective loft bunk beds Michael built. It’s like they each have their own little apartment up there.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Sandra Goldmark on Twitter @SandraGoldmark.

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