Live Long and Proffer

THE FIRST SOLO BAY AREA excursion I made after my mom and I moved to Walnut Creek in August 1977 was a trip to the aptly named Federation Trading Post, a Berkeley specialty store selling all sorts of Star Trek merchandise.

It was my second brush with official fandom of any sort. When I still lived back East, I had attended the 1975 Boston Star Trek convention, where my 13-year-old mind was blown by a hotel full of people who all suffered from the same obsession I did. Oh, I had it bad. I owned all the available Trek stuff I could find and afford: models of the ships (Starfleet, Klingon and Romulan) and basic equipment (phaser, communicator and tricorder); all of James Blish’s “Original Series” novelizations; a copy of the Star Fleet Technical Manual, U. S. S. Enterprise Blueprints, and the Star Trek Concordance (an encyclopedic reference to both the live-action and animated series, lavishly illustrated with fan art); a short-sleeved blue shirt with the Sciences insignia patch; and a precious collection of audio tapes I had painstakingly recorded of each episode (even third-season clinkers like “Spock’s Brain” and “Spectre of the Gun”).

But back to the Federation Trading Post. Walking down Telegraph Avenue, my heart leapt and pace quickened as I spied the sign above the entrance from a block away (click on photo to enlarge). I half-floated through an open set of double doors and into a ramshackle building housing a rough dozen or so small shops fronting on a cavernous interior. The ‘Post was halfway up (and reachable by a staircase ascending) the left-hand wall. I entered, my pulse racing, and suppressed a gasp.

There were blueprints. Tribbles. Models. Scripts. Stills and publicity pictures. Zines galore. Space-opera role-playing campaigns. And the first actual video game I ever saw (Computer Space, recognizable by fen as the same one Leigh Taylor-Young played in Soylent Green). I seem to recall another computer game played with a keyboard and dot-matrix or earlier printer, but I could be mistaken). I was on Risa with rapture.

After selecting a handful of swag, I chatted a bit with the friendly staff (a man and a woman in their early twenties; the man’s last name was the same as my great-grandfather’s, so we spent a few minutes vainly trying to establish a familial connection). I can’t remember exactly what I bought on that first of many trips, but some of my eventual purchases included a tribble, a set of Romulan ship blueprints, and an odd little zine called Neurolog (a sort of poor man’s Fringes of Reason, and probably the genesis of Obscure Research Labs). I became a steady (if sporadic) customer, and shed an unashamed tear when it closed a few years later.

The Portuguese have a word for melancholic nostalgia: “saudade.” We all have places and situations we’d give almost anything to visit once more were we and they not subject to the inexorable devouring of Time. And near the top of my saudade list (which also includes Grateful Dead shows, the Nortonville coal- and sand-mines, New York’s Museum of Natural History, and my first experience with D&D) will always be the Federation Trading Post.

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