The view from George Allen's study is a stunning panorama of the Pacific. So high is the dream house he and Etty designed, in a long-ago football life, that restless clouds never intrude above the veranda or the fruit trees being brought along as carefully as young linebackers.
"Now you know why we've never given it up," she was saying.
For George Allen, another scene was drifting into focus. This one brought a wry smile and reflection about how circumstances surely have changed for him:
He was jogging with Roger Staubach a few weeks back.
A decade ago, you could have bet the mortgage that oil and water would be stirred and served at White House dinners before those two exchanged a civil word.
Allen admitted as much.
"I asked Roger if he would give me something for the motivational book I'm doing," he said, "and he shot back: 'Any time we played the Redskins was enough for me.' "
They had done a couple of miles at a brisk pace in the interest of keeping America's waistline trim, Allen being unofficial secretary of fitness and Staubach as close to hero as sport offers.
The former Redskins coach and Cowboys quarterback as buddies was spicy irony. Allen pointed toward another.
On a shelf was a key.
A key to a city.
The city of Dallas.
So all the old wounds have mended?
"If the right thing came along," he had said earlier, "I'd like to coach again."
In the NFL?
He turned serious and all but whispered: "What do you think?"
That he'd made too many enemies during as tumultuous a coaching career as any in NFL history; that he'd burned too many bridges; that the friction he thought was needed to beat, say, the Giants was a major reason the Giants never hired him when he might well have been ideally suited to lead their march back to glory.
"They say I'm too hard to get along with," Allen admitted. "No question I made enemies. But a lot of coaches who didn't make enemies didn't win, either. I always did things my own way."
His study is cozier than you might imagine, and cluttered only because his duties as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness have been hectic lately and he is leaving for a vacation in China the next day.
Lest he forget even one, Allen has organized his memories.
In closets are stacks of playbooks going back to his early college jobs and game balls with a surprising amount of air still in them. Each is indexed on a paper tacked nearby.
Once, as a young coach, Allen made a bad investment. To remind him of that, he kept a piece of wood he had cut that day. That's tucked away near the furnace. A two-foot twig that triggers happier thoughts rests directly behind his desk.
"I picked it up going from the dorm to the chow hall (during the Redskins' training camp) in Carlisle (Pa.)," he said. "I kept it to remind me what a warm little town that is."
The grandfather clock near the main entrance to the house is a more stylish memento. It was made and sent by Allen's barber in Carlisle, Percy Raudabaugh.
On a wall is a framed copy of the first freelance check he earned from football. It was from This Week, the Sunday supplement, and for $500, a heady sum for a man making only $4,800 the rest of 1951 as head coach at Whittier College.
"I'd titled the article, 'Why I Coach Football.' It must have been rejected by 30 publications. See, I've always tried to do a little bit more than was required with each job."
Like all writers, Allen quickly realized that editors were put on earth to spike great ideas and mangle flawless prose. For some reason, the thinkers at This Week decided "Why I Coach Football" was more than a bit presumptuous for the tenderfoot at an obscure college.
They changed it to: "Are Fans Ruining Football?"
They'd paid well, and on time.
In a corner by the sliding door is the slot machine from one of Al Capone's joints that was about to be hammered into oblivion before Allen decided to accept it as payment for a speaking gig.
Across the room are pictures: of Allen as Pro Bowl coach, with John Unitas and Bart Starr; of Allen as a college quarter-miler; of Allen in an ad for WMAL radio that insisted, "He'd Rather Win Than Breathe."
The guest is a reminder that for Allen, football took a sharp and greasy slide after he left Washington. Sensing wavering loyalty from Redskins President Edward Bennett Williams after the 1977 season, and unable to buy stock in the team, Allen grabbed what he thought was a better deal and club: the Rams.
He was fired two games into the preseason.
"No one has ever had the experiences and the life I had in coaching," Allen said. "One of the first trades I ever made (when he became coach of the Rams the first time, in the mid-'60s) was with Vince Lombardi."
From the innovative and plush Redskin Park he designed and supervised to completion in 1971, he was reduced last year to practicing on a high school field lighted by headlamps from players' cars.
Still, those Arizona Wranglers made the championship game of the U.S. Football League. And, even though he resigned his position with Arizona, he still can coach the hell out of a team. Sadly, football is being played and Allen is on the sideline.
"But if I were coaching," he said, suddenly cheery, "I wouldn't be doing this." He meant selling everybody in the country on health and the well-to-do on funding a U.S. Fitness Academy.
The academy is a $40 million project he plans to build near Los Angeles, where seminars could be held and teachers trained. He envisions a centerpiece to the Academy, a Gateway of Strength that would include five or six pillars, each inscribed with such basics as discipline, character, endurance, etc.
The more immediate appealing idea was that trip to China. If he were still in football, such frivolity would not be tolerated. Now: "I'm going to jog on the Great Wall."