When our family went to visit Willowbrook, we would take him to nearby Al Deppe’s, a souped-up hot dog stand, somewhere on Victory Boulevard. My brother Dave and I played Ski-Ball and marveled at the piano-violin machine that would play duets at the drop of a quarter. I was always wary because I never knew if Mike would have a bad day. I don’t remember particular incidents at Al Deppe’s but Mike would frequently steal food or slap his head and bite his hand, while yelling (in frustration, maybe?). It was bittersweet relief to leave. I often wondered what Mike’s life was like behind the closed doors of the ward.
Quite often, we would go from Willowbrook to visit my cousins, aunt and uncle, and grandmother in Brooklyn afterward. It was a lot more convenient to get to Brooklyn from Staten Island after they built the Verrazano Bridge.