A reporter's little notebook is everything. Etched inside are scribbled records of events and the words of people great and unknown. Without a notation in some worn tablet, the world would never remember such lines as Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death"...Um, wait. Bad example. Someone added that stirring phrase after the fact. How about "there stands Jackson like a stonewall, rally behind the Virginians," which...oh. That one was altered from the original--and more derisive--utterance. Just take it from us, the notebook is important. And for those not employed by Fox News, it allows us to abide by the rules of accuracy, attach names to comments and so on.

Of course, in our case, the notebook also serves a more fundamental purpose: There are traces of evidence; fragments of sentences in an unrecognizable hand; a name no one remembers--a record, in other words, of Burning Question crew outings, evenings of debauchery that would otherwise be lost in a haze of alcohol.

Hey, who knew the stuff damages brain...things?

While researching this week's topic, we apparently visited six or seven venues. At least according to our notes. We spoke at length to someone named Ashley (obviously without success; there was no Ashley here in the morning). And a person whose name appears as a set of squiggles over two broad strokes resembling intertwined Möbius strips said, quoting directly from our notebook, "Hoi ing jesh ther rosei, rel sug at f. Ir cos otober I tod dag."

Like we said: Who knew?

Yet alcohol is an essential ingredient when men and women interact with amorous intent. "It all depends on the proof," explains Bruce Bauman, bartender at the Green Room, when asked about the odds of hooking up on a given evening. "What proof they're drinking and how much." Alcohol causes people to relax their inhibitions and lower expectations, factors crucial to a successful sloppy encounter. Women will sit along the bar waiting for men to buy them drinks and initiate an evening, claim bartenders at Duke's in Addison, although that alone is no guarantee of a pickup. "It depends on the mix, the night, the vibe they're putting out and the alcohol content of the individuals," says Brett Fountain at Mick's Bar.

Now, you may believe that the feckless crowds flowing through Dallas bars are not necessarily searching for accompaniment, but others scoff at such naïveté. "Most people who come here by themselves or in same-sex pairs are seriously looking to meet people," says Janna at Duke's, who seems to have thought the question through.

So everybody's looking, but what are the odds of hooking up?

"Males can expect to experience more failures than successes," contends Chris O'Hagan, Dallas aficionado of all things alcoholic. "As is the case, females control the G-strings"--clever, must steal that line someday. "If they are to be undone, it will be her decision based on a seemingly arbitrary assortment of conditions being met."

Ah, conditions. If the male mind were able to comprehend this arbitrary process, odds might shift in their favor. Men, however, miss obvious cues, expose their shortcomings (no, not what you think; we mean insecurities, arrogance and the like) or just employ downright ineffective approaches. Matthew, poet laureate of Dallas nightlife, contends that guys slip salary figures, automobiles and other accoutrements of wealth into a conversation within two or three minutes of meeting an intended victim. Women, on the other hand, scan for more revealing clues. Pam, sipping drinks at Candle Room, narrows her examination of a man to a couple of items that she can read with a quick glance: "His teeth, eyes, body and his wallet--sometimes."

"He may be a man who wears nice clothes, but the most important feature is his teeth," agrees Amber, hanging out at Sense.

Yep, guys can study Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, dab their face with skin product like an avowed metrosexual and shop at Neiman Marcus. Doesn't much matter.

"It's teeth, and then everything else," says Michelle, another denizen of Sense.

Yes, there are other factors involved. Eye contact, generosity (when buying drinks, anyway), shoes, basic communication skills, a modicum of intelligence, even--as Janet, sitting at one of the bars we visited, explains, "how he interacts with the people around he animated? he participatory?" But teeth stand out.

A good, bright smile is not something that can be learned quickly or acted out. Teeth expose our strengths, weaknesses, habits. Next time George W. sits down with a world leader, he should examine their pearly whites rather than their souls.

In essence, then, a woman will converse with you for hours and allow you to max out your Visa on cosmopolitans. Meanwhile, she's seen all she needs to see within the first few moments.

"It's kind of a game," says the aforementioned Ashley.

As a result, the odds of hooking up are very low indeed. We figured it as an expression of alcohol content over IQ, divided into the male-to-female ratio within a particular establishment, multiplied by the cost of personal care compared to average cost of personal care in the establishment, subtracted by the interference factor, which is an expression of the wingman-to-wingwoman ratio times relative blood alcohol content.

Or, in the words of O'Hagan, "Only those who deal in volume have a somewhat decent chance of making the love connection. Obstacles include the wingwoman, inability to cull a candidate from the pack of friends and the always difficult to comprehend 'chick logic.' Try too hard, no go. Don't try hard enough, no go."

The odds depend--that's our answer to this week's Burning Question. Wherever a mix of people mill about in reasonable comfort, the odds improve. From our experience, places like Dragonfly, Sense, Candle Room and Duke's provide the greatest opportunities for success. Each attracts convivial crowds and generates a pulse designed to enliven conversation.

"If you can't make it happen here, it isn't gonna happen," says Gorilla Dave--or perhaps Guerilla Dave, although we found the former more appropriate--drinking at Duke's.

"A lot of it depends on the club," Bauman agrees. "At a dance club you have physical contact going on."

Yeah, dance clubs force the odds a bit. Bartender Adam Salazar claims that a visit to Seven is akin to "shooting fish in a barrel."

Ultimately, the odds are low but not impossible, unless you're British. Let's face it, whitening strips can only do so much.


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