Then, on February 4, the House and Senate adopted resolution 1011, and the dream--the Gold Project--became a reality. For the record, this is a suggested means of flag disposal; if you really want to throw Old Azzy in the garbage, the flag police aren't going to be conducting midnight trash-can raids armed with flashlights and arrest warrants.
At this point, you're probably standing there with your shredded flag saying, "Okay, okay, so what do I do with this thing?"
Allow me to give a succinct breakdown from the resolution itself:
1. The ceremony begins with a welcome or an opening statement indicating that those in attendance have gathered to pay their last respects to the retiring Arizona state flag.
2. A prayer is optional, but the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag is mandatory. Don't forget about that.
3. A short history of the Arizona state flag is appropriate, followed by a song and a statement that indicates that proper respect for the worn flag dictates that it be burned with reverence.
4. Things pick up here. Two people hold the flag as a third person cuts off the stripes one at a time.
5. The cut stripes are placed on the fire one by one as the names of the 13 original colonies are called out. You know what they are, so I won't list them here.
6. The copper star is cut out and placed on the fire. Then the rest of the flag is placed on the fire.
7. Another song may be sung, followed by a benediction.
8. Then all of the participants remove their clothing and dance barefoot among the burning coals as the Decree of Ninharsag--commandments from the Sumerian mother-goddess of animal birth and all growing things--is read in a high-pitched whine by a predesignated member of the proceedings, preferably one who is chaste, and has at least a decent working knowledge of the Babylonian Tablets of Destiny.
I threw that last one in myself.
Which brings us to this question: What have Arizonans been doing with all those filthy, worn-out flags for the past 80 years?
Among other things, Nye had told me, "People give their flags to dry cleaners. There's a box of flags at some dry cleaners."
Could humble dry-cleaning establishments really be the secret resting place of hundreds of unwanted flags? I had to find out, so I called all the dry cleaners in the phone book with names that seemed to be somewhat patriotic.
Missy at Pride Cleaners: "We've never had any in here like that. We don't hardly get a lot of flags in at all."
Margie at Sparkle Town: "Unh, unh."
Marie at Celebrity Dry Cleaning: "We've never had a state flag."
Wanda at Classy Cleaners: "We get state flags from Tournament Players Club in Scottsdale. When the seams come out, our alteration lady redoes them."
Bill at Dry Clean USA: "Huh? Yeah, we do that, we get 'em off and on. Not much, though."
Someone with an Asian-sounding accent at Big Apple Cleaners: "Let me check." Pause. Then someone else: "Hello, do you clean state flags?" Me: "That's what I was asking you." Dial tone.
Then I spoke with Pamela Swift, owner/operator of Swift Flag Repair Service. Swift has been under contract with the State Capitol to care for all its flags since the mid-'70s. I asked her what she did with worn flags.
"The U.S. flags we give to Boy Scout troops 'cause they practice official burning on them. The other flags, we just put 'em in the trash."
Other flags? Like the state flag of Arizona, for God's sake?
"I don't see anything wrong with that," Swift clarified. "I'm more offended when I see flags that are ripped or faded. . . . You'd be surprised how many people don't want to keep a presentable-looking flag. Big companies, big hotels, fast-food chains. They just throw a flag up there and forget it.
"I just wish that there could be a law introduced that if you're going to fly that flag, it should be flown in a presentable manner. They never seem to get onto that. I mean, just drive around and look at some of the horror stories that are on flagpoles."
Swift had not heard of resolution 1011, so I read the procedure to her.
"And this is what they want done every time an Arizona flag needs to be destroyed?" she said, gasping.
"Well," I said, "it's not a law, it's just if you want to be a good citizen."