I finally was able to get all the way through a re-installation and through the help of my forum buddies identify the original culprit -- a folder in the install directory that contained bad patch information. Upon resolution, I was actually excited to be able to watch the introductory cinematic -- but, of course, the servers were down, and were expected to remain unavailable until 11:45 PM PDT, so I wasn't able to play. That is just a little too late to start with a character (for someone who has to work tomorrow), so I'll need to wait until day two.
To everyone else more committed than I to getting in to play the game, best of luck! I hope that you find the experience worth it when you finally get in!