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One of the truest old saws about New York is that the city is a palimpsest, continually erasing and rewriting itself. Because the city is several islands, its expansion is delimited by geography, and so the old constantly bustles up against the new, until it is made new itself. The city reconfigures its infrastructure like a snake shedding skin, in ways uncommon and rote: warehouses become lofts, elevated train lines become public parks, factories become...
"How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?" Che Guevara, or at least the Gael Garcia Bernal incarnation, wonders when he visits Machu Picchu in The Motorcycle Diaries. "How can a civilization that built this"—the camera shows the ruins of the great mountain city—"be destroyed to build this?"—and it cuts to the urban sprawl of Lima. I've shared his dismay, or at least something similar, as I've pored over...

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