Over the past several weeks, something has changed in Boston. Actually, a lot of things. Sailboats have appeared on the Charles River. Parking spots have started to open up. Teenagers have started buying tickets to matinee movies just for the air conditioning. Music is pouring out of open car windows. Like a molting harbor seal, the city is undergoing an annual ritual as invigorating as it is familiar.
Summer is special in every American city, as public swimming pools open for business, people switch to iced coffee, and festivals fill parking lots with the smell of delicious grilled meats. But in Boston, which is home to an astonishing 152,000 people who are enrolled in institutions of higher learning, summer is something else, too: an occasion for a metamorphosis that transforms how the city works and how it feels to live in it.