In the original Star Trek show, observant viewers can discern distinct classifications based on uniform color (yet somehow overlook the papier mâché rocks). Command personnel wear gold; science and medical personnel wear blue; and "Redshirts" tend to work in the engine room or beam down to the planet with Kirk and Spock to get killed by murderous plants.
In San Francisco of late, Star Trek uniforms of a different sort have been popping up. Large numbers of homeless residents have been spotted wearing identical — and rather snazzy — black caps emblazoned with the Starfleet logo and the words "Star Trek: The Ride." Tricorder readings — and a few questions to the proud cap-wearers — led us to St. Anthony's Foundation on Golden Gate and Jones.
It turns out the Star Trek caps were the centerpiece of St. Anthony's Christmas packets. The charitable organization received some 3,000 of the hats from Live Nation in 2012, and held on to them to disperse en masse for the holidays.
"We've Star Trekerized the Tenderloin," says Allan Shapiro, manager of St. Anthony's free clothing program. Live Nation also gifted St. Anthony's with T-shirts bearing images of pop stars like Mariah Carey and Enrique Iglesias — but, naturally, the Trek cap remains among the most in-demand items the organization has ever handed out.
It is not, however, among the most unusual items handed out to the needy by St. Anthony's. The organization regularly receives surplus clothing from races and special events. When the Olympic Club hosted the U.S. Open golf tournament last year, uneaten food was sent St. Anthony's way — meaning, for a week, San Francisco's hardest-up dined on steaks and seafood per Tiger Woods and his cronies. And, in recent years, a Franciscan friar sorting a suit donated by a man's widow came across some $2,000 in rolled-up bills. It turns out the deceased gentleman was a gambler — and his widow opted to donate the money to the charity.
If you've got 3,000 caps or shirts — or even far fewer than that — St. Anthony's can be reached at stanthonysf.org.
Finally, Trekkies know the Star Trek ranks are based on the system incorporated by the American and British navies. So it was fitting that many of the Trek caps were distributed by members of the Navy football team, in town for December's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
To the best of anyone's knowledge, none of the Navy players were subsequently dispatched by murderous plants. The team, however, was killed by Arizona State, 62-28.