Ron Orr, a tobacco pipe smoker for just over a year, is a graduate student in Lubbock, Texas. Once a month or so we share the stories of pipe collectors at all stages. In the third installment of our continuing series of Tobacco Pipe Collector Spotlights we talk with Ron about seven day sets, Friday night rituals and the aura of a pipe smoking professor.
Ron Orr is a graduate student in Lubbock, Texas. 24 years old, he is pursuing a career as a professor, studies ancient languages and plays seven instruments--a wholly different picture than the apathetic millennial glued to a cell phone which is the millennial cliche.
When I talked to Ron, it was easy to forget that it's 2014 and our shared pipe-smoking hero, J.R.R. Tolkien, was gone over a decade before either of us showed up as a blip on an ultrasound screen. Ron is a gentlemanly example of the millennial involvement with the pipe smoking community we talked about last week.
A conversation with Ron Orr
Ron, you’re significantly younger than the other collectors I’ve interviewed. Tell me how you started smoking a tobacco pipe.
I have a tinge of nostalgia for the tweed-jacket-wearing, pipe smoking college professor. I’m studying the classics and feel like I want my style as a teacher to typify that image. Old photographs of J.R.R. Tolkien are a little responsible for my hobby.
I first picked up a pipe for image. These days, it’s more about the relaxation. My days are pretty hectic with school and student teaching. It feels good to sit back in the garage and enjoy a bowl in my Churchwarden or one of the Nordings.
So I guess that tells me who you would sit down for a smoke with if you could.
Yeah. Tolkien is one of my heroes. He did something few writers have ever done--created a completely self-contained world AND a successful story.
You’ve referred to a number of tobacco pipes. How many do you own?
Right now I have a seven day set. I usually only smoke one bowl per day, sometimes less. It works perfectly.
Do you have a favorite pipe?
It really depends. With most of my pipes I only smoke one type of tobacco in them. I do love my Erik Nordings. I only smoke Periques in my Nording Freehand and Orlik Golden Sliced in my Churchwarden.
So do you feel the same way about pipe tobacco, that it really depends on the pipe?
Well, I really like aromatics. That’s the first thing I smoked. In fact, the guys at my local pipe shop, Smoker’s Haven, won’t let me live down that I got carded buying it from them for the first time. So it tastes good and has fun memories attached to it. But the Orlik Golden Sliced has become a favorite, possibly because I really like smoking my Churchwarden.
You’re lucky to have a local pipe shop. Most of the people I talk to don’t.
Yeah, the guys at Smoker’s Haven are like family to me. Every Friday night we get together at the shop for what we call ‘Assholes with Pipes’. We joke around, share some scotch and smoke together.
So you prefer to smoke with a group?
Either way. I like the interaction, but I also like to smoke a bowl in my garage in the evenings. I have a sofa out there and I can just sit and unwind.
As a ‘newbie’ yourself, what advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Actually, I get to answer this question a lot. If I’m at the shop and the manager gets busy some of us will give suggestions to the customers. If the guy’s new, I always tell him to start with the right tobacco. Choose an aromatic to begin with, then move to virginias and work your way up to burly. That, and find a pipe that is aesthetically pleasing. Looking the part is some of the fun!
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Smoking a pipe pairs well with whisky, craft beer and thick books. It’s a throwback to the art of gentlemanly behavior that we don’t see much of these days. It’s rewarding to reclaim a piece of it.
Thank you for taking a break from your crazy schedule with us Ron! You can follow him on Instagram at @PHILOKRATES559.