A friend was showing me a book he had just bought. Now I have it too, an early Christmas gift.
It's called "Global Faces" ($40, Glitterati Inc.), and it's a beauty.
If you are not immediately drawn into it by its cover -- a young boy on horseback in Cambodia at Angkor Wat -- you will ultimately find yourself muttering to yourself, page after page, why can't we all just get along?
What better thought at Christmas?
The man who took these photographs is Michael Clinton, not only executive vice president and chief marketing officer and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, but a former Pittsburgher whose family still lives in Mt. Lebanon.
He has released other books: "Wanderlust: A Personal Journey" in 1980, which was a set of essays and photographs from 100 countries he had visited. Then came "Global Snaps" in 2005.
His latest book, released on Oct. 1, was born after Mr. Clinton exhibited some of his photos in SoHo, followed by other exhibits.
"The editor in chief of Esquire, David Granger, came to that first show, and he remarked I didn't do many people," explains Mr. Clinton, 53. "Most shots were landscapes.
"That set me on a course and now, seven years later, I have done this book with faces of the people I have seen on my journeys."
Mr. Clinton has been taking pictures since he was a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh. When he went to Antarctica in 2004 he switched to digital, and he travels with a D100 Nikon and several lenses.
I knew him when he was at GQ.
"Those years were great fun, but I never had an inherent interest in clothing. But I learned all about the business with its amazing people, and I met Burt Tansky, head of Neiman Marcus and another former Pittsburgher, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren. I do business with them even today.
"My father was from the West Side of Manhattan so I went to the city the week after I graduated from Pitt. I knew I wanted to be in the publishing business and always had ink in my veins -- even delivered The Pittsburgh Press as a boy and was editor of my high school newspaper and business manager for Pitt News."
Today he oversees Esquire, Bazaar, Town & Country, Oprah's O magazine, House Beautiful and Popular Mechanics. Five of the Hearst magazines are more than 100 years old.
Like most young people he wanted to see the world. He was just 12 when he had his first trip abroad and visited his father's relatives in Ireland and England. He has been to 115 countries and would like to visit another 30 or more.
"Since I have traveled the world," he says, "I've come to appreciate how much Pittsburgh has to offer as a city, and also how warm and friendly Pittsburghers are compared to others."
He says his Carrick High School English teacher, Richard Price, was a great influence and made him see that there was a big wide world out there.
"My grandmother, Irene Wenslovas, born on the South Side, was one of 10 children, and her parents came here from Russia and Eastern Europe. She gave me the gift to visualize my dream future," he says.
"When I went to Pitt it really came together, and I loved the stimulation of Oakland, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill. While my school years were spent at Pitt, I spent summers in New York City, so I learned to appreciate both places."
His mother, Nancy, who lives in Mt. Lebanon, has traveled to 37 countries, so wanderlust seems to be genetic.
"I'm in awe of what has happened on the South Side and what has happened on the North Shore and the Strip. When I met Teresa Heinz we talked about how dynamic and exciting Pittsburgh is today, reinventing itself constantly."
Pitt thought enough of Mr. Clinton's accomplishments to create a Michael Clinton Award about 15 years ago, and he often comes back to present the award.
In addition to working on two other books, he has found time to run in five New York City marathons. He and his sister, Peg Pardini, of Mt. Lebanon, are training for the London marathon next spring.
His next trek in the new year? Mongolia.
Barbara Cloud's column appears in the Post-Gazette Magazine on the first Monday of every month and has an exclusive home on the PG's Web site all other Mondays. To access her columns on the Senior Class Web page, visit