When I married and moved north, I left behind my career, my family, and the Sunbelt. I've had many nightmares about going back to my old workplace on a big university campus or returning to the neighborhood where I had purchased a new home. They are nightmares rather than merely dreams because the people in my former home make me uncomfortable and I am lost and secretly trying to move back in, unnoticed. The house looks strange; nothing is right. My workplace is foreign,too, and I wander the halls in search of an empty desk and, when I find one, I realize I no longer know how to do the work. It's a nightmare because it's true; the digital revolution proceeded after I moved away and spent five years fighting for my life after the hemochromatosis/cirrhosis diagnosis.
In 2014, for the first time in ten years, we went to my parents' home for the holidays. We drove well over a thousand miles without difficulty, but I got lost on the way to their house because the area where they live has been transformed beyond recognition. Like the nightclubs and tattoo parlors that transformed Bedford Falls into Pottersville, the area where I grew up now hosts commercial infrastructure on every square foot. The trees are gone, the traffic is stockstill at midday, and, like George Bailey, I desperately wanted a guardian angel to pluck me from that stifling environment and deposit me back home—in my quiet little Bedford Falls doppelganger.
But the feel-good Capra classic doesn't address the economic reality of Bedford Falls and the Rust Belt towns like it: they are dying, while the real Pottersville down South lives on, like a cancer that won't be slowed until it has killed the host.