So it took about 30 minutes at the Genius Bar of my local Apple Store, but Joe got my baby up and running again.
Something trying to load on start up was corrupted. I would get to a "flash" of the desktop screen, but it would fade to pale blue with the spinning wheel of death showing up every minute or so. Since I had a screen showing and some signs of life, I figured I could probably take the system back to zip and reinstall everything, but I hoped to avoid that action.
Joe hooked up a hard drive, removed some problematic files, and loaded the latest system update (he doesn't know any more about the release of OS Lion than I do). Then, the moment of truth: we unhooked the external drive and hit the power button.
Beautiful chimes were followed by my lovely photo-of-the-day desktop.